Monday, 9 March 2020

Mondays writings: Learning to say no

One of the things I was determined to do when I retired was set aside quality for writing and other creative pursuits so, soon after I left work, I firmly announced that I was blocking Mondays for writing. So much for good intentions. As it turned out, I only managed to carve out time for writing on two or three Mondays at most over the past year.

This past weekend, there was a writing workshop I was interested in attending but opted not to go because I've written so little lately. What was the point, I thought?

The point was and is that I still want to write. Or, at least, I think I do. So yesterday I recommitted to "Monday writings".

Now here it is Monday morning, and I've managed to get myself to sit down in front of the computer, with hot coffee and Irish jigs to inspire. It doesn't feel comfortable, but that's hardly surprising, given how little I've done this lately.

The next question is what do I want to write about? There's been lots on my mind lately - the climate crisis, the ongoing mistreatment of indigenous peoples in Canada and elsewhere, the difficulty of building and maintaining strong, healthy communities when so much in our culture fosters selfishness and narcissism, the challenges of aging...

But the thing I want most to write about today is the thing I'm struggling most with these days, which is learning to say "no". No to roles, responsibilities and commitments that don't interest me. No to spending time with people who consistently drain my energy. No to useless distractions on social media and elsewhere. No to being silent because the things I want and need to say make some people uncomfortable. No to living my life the way others expect me to.

I hear other women my age talk about how much freer they feel to be themselves - to say what they think, follow their dreams, etc. That hasn't been my experience.  Certainly, I'm more forthright about my political views now that I'm retired, but saying no to expectation, disappointing people who request my help, angering people I care about, and minimizing interaction with social media are still real challenging most days.

On the one hand, I think, so what? I'm retired after all. Why not just go with the flow? To some extent, I needed to do just that for the first year or so of retirement, while I recovered from working all those years and contemplated what I wanted to with the next phase of my life. Thirteen months in, it feels like time to make choices, which means screwing up the courage to say no much more often than I have been to create space for the things that matter most.

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