“I’m just so overwhelmed,” she said, and we could see clearly that what she said was true. She hadn’t been smiling as much as usual, and even coming up with the words to describe what was going on in her life seemed to be a chore.
I can’t tell you who she is, because this conversation took place within the sacred boundaries of a private conversation, but I bet you don’t need to know her name to know exactly how she felt.
“There’s just so much going on right now,” she explained.
“Are you taking care of yourself?” one of the other women at the table asked.
“I’m trying,” she said. “I got my nails done, I have an appointment to get a massage, and I’m eating well.”
“Do you practice any sort of daily self care?” I asked.
She was quiet for a moment before shaking her head. “Not really. I probably should.” Her shoulders sagged a little more under the weight of something else that needed to be done.
“Maybe you don’t need to do more,” someone else suggested. “Maybe there’s something you can stop doing. Sometimes feeling better is about what you can take away from your life instead of what else you can do.”
For the first time since she’d started talking, she exhaled completely.
I scribbled a note on the paper in front of me: ***TAKE AWAY***
I spend a lot of time encouraging people to say yes. I tell other women to say yes to new opportunities, to say yes to their secret ambitions. I remind myself that being brave means saying yes to the things that scare me.
As I promote my book and build my speaking resume, I am saying yes to practically every invitation that comes my way – and I’m starting to feel the wear and tear of being busy.
Perhaps that’s why it resonated so much to hear that saying no could make my friend happier.
I know that saying yes tends to mean saying no, too. Saying yes is a choice, and when you choose one thing you simultaneously don’t choose something else. You say yes to dinner with a friend and no to a quiet night home alone. Saying yes to a new job is saying no to the familiarity of the old one.
I don’t want to say no to movie nights with my family or mini-adventures with Jared. But in all my saying yes recently, that’s exactly what I’ve done.
So, I’ve been thinking about what I can take away from my life.
I don’t want to take away writing or speaking, because that lights me up as much as a date night does. I don’t want to take away meeting new people or hanging out with friends. I want to continue to say yes to all of those connections that make my life meaningful.
I have to look more closely to see what can be taken away.
Fortunately, I’ve already spent a lot of time and energy in the past taking stuff away from my life. I’ve taken away bills, obligations, and most of the tangible items I once owned. I’ve taken away the bulk of my wardrobe, and I’ve even let go of a few relationships that weren’t making me happy anymore.
What I’m left with is a life that is mostly full of what I cherish. That’s fantastic, but it also means that it is getting harder and harder to prune in the name of progress. Letting go now almost always means saying goodbye to something I love. I keep thinking I’ll get to a point where I won’t have anything left to take away, but that’s not how a life of forward motion works.
If I’m going to make room for even more good, I have to get rid of something. For the first time in a while, I’m finding that pretty dang difficult.
What could you take away from your life to be happier?