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The perils of saying No

I was a bit silly this week. I thought, Why not be more honest this year? Why not just open my mouth and say what I think, and feel, at the time I am actually thinking and feeling it?

I could cut through all the stupid, soulless, mindless, meaningless clap-trap which acts as padding to some relationships and say, 'No, I don't like turnip,' or 'No, I really hate your friends,' or 'No, I have never ever ever enjoyed that.'

It was only once I'd thought about it more closely that I realised I would be saying No an awful lot - that most of my 'dishonest' moments are when I am trying to please or, more accurately, avoid the wrath of people who expect me to behave like they do.

When I'm honest, it's brutal and unflinching and usually accidental. Like when I looked at my mother's new hairstyle and informed her it was better when it was longer, less butch. This one throwaway phrase condemned every other hairstyle she'd had for the last 38 years. Amazing what a few words can do.

Given time to focus, I'd have lied and said it was great, nice, what a good cut, asked her where she had it done (I'm exaggerating now, I never make it to the heady heights of feigning real interest). The thing is, even though I'm remarkably bad at lying, she would have preferred this from me - expected it, even - rather than have the truth that her usual hairstyle owes more to her years in the RAF than a need to look nice.

Crikey, I think I just insulted her lifelong hairstyle all over again. Sigh.

So, putting aside awful honesty, I'm faced with the number of times I agree to things or go along for the sake of other people and what they want, most especially their need not to feel aggrieved by me. I have no wish to go to tea with Aunty Joan, can think of a gargantuan list of things I would rather do. But I end up going as it is often better than the fallout from being completely honest and refusing to play the game of civilised living.

If we were all honest, the whole time, we would find our social circle pruned, leaving the stalwart, the loving, the genuinely needy and the ones who would stick by us No Matter What. We would also suffer more situations where we have to justify saying NO.

And there's the crux of it. By saying Yes, I suffer but avoid a cross-examination. By saying No, I suffer and then have to explain why I said No, why I don't care about anyone other than myself, why I feel this way, why, why, why!

A miserable conundrum when all I really want is to be left alone, without the expectations of others or the need to be pulled along in the riptide of what I should be doing, as opposed to what I want to do.

It seems that total honesty requires a level of emotional endurance I don't yet have and an ability to face the oncoming storm without flinching. I have to separate what I want from how other people feel, so that saying No does not leave me feeling worse than saying Yes.

I'm guessing this could be developed though, like a muscle. A good, strong muscle that doesn't need spinach to pop out and save me from the dread of letting people down. A nice, springy muscle that might let the disappointments and guilts bounce right off, leaving me calm and confident in my No-ness.

Like all exercise, it's better to build up than jump right in and hurt yourself. So I'm practising small, little Nos first, then I'll move up to bigger Nos and hope to just be able to No whenever I want, without even warming up.

I'll know it has worked when I do it without thinking and only realise later, without guilt and without any worry of doing it again. Until then, I'm limbering up as we speak. Get ready for it, readers: NO!


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