When Nick first started going out to sea earlier this year, I started saying yes to everyone and everything. I was alone, and if I didn’t find things to occupy my time, I knew I would go insane (especially on the weekends). I also wanted to feel productive and useful while Nick was gone, so I took advantage of every volunteer opportunity offered to me.
I remember emailing Nick saying, “whenever someone asks me to do something, I always say yes because I want to be busy.” Need cookies for a command event? Sure, I’ll whip those up right now. Girls’ night? Absolutely, I’ll be there. The Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society needs volunteers? Sign me up. Brand new job? I’ll figure it out.
But I underestimated how difficult it would be with Nick gone. Not only is it physically draining, as I have to take care anything and everything that comes up, but it is emotionally and mentally draining as well. I was not prepared for how emotionally difficult this would be.
There are days where I feel like I have it together. And there are other days where I don’t know how I do it. Mentally, I’m exhausted.
What I am realizing is that each deployment is different. Just because I got through deployments before doesn’t mean I will get through them again with the same ease.
So, saying yes to everyone and everything became harder than I thought it would be. Instead of enjoying those things, every single day started to feel like a puzzle. Where could I fit everything in? I came home exhausted every single night and stressed out about the next day. Plus, I was missing Nick and didn’t have him to rely on. My house was dirty, I wasn’t cooking, and I was stretched too thin to really give anything my full attention.
I found myself only doing the bare minimum for the volunteering that I signed up for, and I hated that feeling. But still, I kept doing more and more, adding to my plate here and there.
And then, for the first time in my 3 years living in Hawaii, I got sick. I don’t think it was a coincidence. Nick had been telling me for a while that he thought I was doing too much, but I didn’t know how to say no or to take a step back.
Well, a week on the couch will make you do just that. I canceled everything that I had committed to that week. The world kept turning.
I think that women tend to feel bad saying no. We feel like we need a valid excuse when all we really have to say is no. Not wanting to do something is a valid excuse. I always want to please everyone, which usually means that I put myself last.
Our mental health is just as important as our physical health, and running around trying to do it all is not good for either, as evinced by me getting sick.
And honestly, part of saying yes to everything was that I was worried about what people would think about me if I said no. How would it make me look? Did I really have a good enough excuse to say no? I see so many military wives “doing it all” and I felt like I needed to too.
We have this culture of business where we feel like we aren’t doing enough unless we are so busy. You can buy mugs, t-shirts, and notebooks that say “I am very busy.” Why is that something to celebrate? I hate being too busy. It’s not fun. It’s tiring. And it’s not good for you. Let’s celebrate slowing down instead.
So I rearranged a few things in my schedule, instead of always working around everyone else’s. Just shifting some things around helped a lot. I cut back on a few of my obligations. I started saying no when things didn’t fit in with my schedule (or if I simply didn’t want to!).
And, when more volunteer opportunities came up, I had to decline, even though they seemed like a lot of fun. I felt bad, but all I had to say was that I didn’t have time. Nothing bad happened, I promise.
In short, saying “no” has enabled me to spend more time on the things that I have said “yes” to. I don’t want to stretch myself too thin that I am not putting my whole heart into something. If I commit to a job or to volunteering, I want to give it my full attention.
Of course, if a friend calls me up and needs a favor, I’m always going to say yes when I can do it. I’m talking about the extra things that we feel obligated to do that we don’t even want to do.
This week, say no to something that you don’t want to. Spend that time doing something for yourself. Or spend it catching up on something you’ve been meaning to do. Or spend it sitting on the couch and watching Netflix. You don’t need anyone’s permission, but you have my full support!