The other day, a suggested post in one of my social media feeds introduced me to the idea of NO-vember. In a nutshell, you are free to say no to ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING this month if it drains your energy.
This isn’t necessarily a new concept, but I like to think of it as Marie-Kondo-ing my so-called and quite often self-inflicted obligations (instead of my home). If it doesn’t spark joy, then you can say no to it with no guilt whatsoever. Honestly, it shouldn’t take social media posts or witty phrasing to help us understand something we should already be doing. There should never be any guilt associated with doing what is best for you, even if that means saying no, to find balance in your life.
After a particularly busy October (or JanuaryFebruaryMarchAprilMayJuneJulyAugustSeptemberOctober201920202021), I am burned out. Years of political ugliness coupled with pandemic fatigue have left me feeling threadbare – like too little butter scraped over too much toast (BLESS my precious therapist for THAT analogy). After the beginning of a school year where my husband had to travel out of town for work TWICE for several days in a row, a hurricane that left us without electricity for nearly two weeks, and just regular mom life stress, October arrived.
And October is my JAM.
I am an avid SPOOKY SZN enthusiast. It is one of the few times that I actively try to be extra, which means that I end up saying yes to a lot of things that should probably be HARD NOs. A Halloween-themed shirt and accessories every day in October? YES! Custom-made costumes for my kids and my husband? SIGN. ME. UP! Spooky-scary treats in festive gift bags? ABSOLUTELY! DIY witch yard decorations and new handcrafted spooky wreaths? ALL DAY, ERRYDAY!
All of those things bring me joy – or at least they used to. This year, on top of all of my … spirited … extra in October, I also painted our wooden fence, signed up to work two middle school athletic events after my regularly scheduled teaching duties, helped to host a baby shower, and scheduled what seemed like 98268490 extra after school/work appointments or social events.
Saying YES to everything meant that I wasn’t doing ANY of those things well, and in some cases, not at all.
All of those DIY hopes and dreams lay spread out across my kitchen island- a craft graveyard. The witches stood up proudly in my front yard for exactly one day before a storm knocked them into a ditch. I rather unceremoniously stacked their bodies in the garage after that. The wreaths never got finished, much less hung. Costumes were completed at the very last minute, with some pieces suspiciously missing. In essence, my home was the very mirror of my spirit: messy, incomplete, and half-dead.
It was a rather sobering reality. I had to stop being a yes-woman and start saying NO, even to myself because, honestly, I am often my own worst enemy when it comes to lofty expectations. And then when I couldn’t meet those imaginary expectations I’d set for myself, I’d feel like a failure (And OMIGOD I feel this exact same way every stinking Grinchmas, I mean Christmas, season).
It was time for what really mattered to be my focus.
When I evaluated what was truly important and essential to my everyday life, it became very clear what needed to be on my YES list. Things that didn’t make the cut:
- decorating for Christmas in early November
- any social outing that the mere thought of induces hives
- DID I MENTION DECORATING FOR CHRISTMAS IN EARLY NOVEMBER?????
- volunteering for ANYTHING at all
- any and all home improvement projects
- anything for work beyond my regularly scheduled teaching duties between the hours of 7:10-2:30
- DECORATING. FOR. CHRISTMAS. IN. EARLY. NOVEMBER. FOR. F*CK’S. SAKE.
So what am I saying yes to this NO-vember? I’ve narrowed it down to four essentials, in this EXACT order:
- My mental health. If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy, am I right? Truly it isn’t even about happiness. Your children don’t need you to be happy, but they do need you to be okay. This NO-vember, I’ve got to make choices that best serve my mental health needs so that I can be the best version of myself for myself and my family.
- My family. Because why would I be taking care of everyone and everything else before I take care of them? This month (and every month, honestly), my family deserves to come FIRST after taking care of me.
- My home. I can’t continue to concern myself with all of the extra when my home is in a constant state of mess, mess that sends my anxiety into overdrive. I’ve got to say YES to making our home a functional, uncluttered space to unwind for all of us.
- My career. Whatever I have leftover in my tank after taking care of the first three things- THE MOST IMPORTANT THINGS- should be dedicated to my job. If I’m being candid (hell, if you’ve read enough of my posts, you know I’m being MORE than candid), I’ve often let my job (as an English teacher) rule my life. Teacher guilt is a real thing, my friends. I’ve got to learn to be okay with giving only what I need to give to my job so that I can give the most to my family.