Knowing when to say “no”

I know it may seem odd to start off a blog that has the tagline “Inspiration through action” with a post about inaction, yet here we are.  And I am odd, so get used to it.  My plan for this blog is to talk a lot about saying “yes”  as a life philosophy, but today, I find myself steeped in the fact that I find it difficult to say “no” and to be inactive.  In Buddhist philosophy we talk about the wise aspects of our character and know that with each wisdom, there is a corresponding neurosis.  The “no” I’m talking about is not saying “no” to others.  I’ve always been very good about drawing boundaries with others and realizing when I’ve taken on too much in terms of commitments and scaling back.  But, when it comes to myself and to my own goals, I have a very hard time of knowing when to push and when to hold back.  I have a problem saying “no” to myself.

Today, I woke up at 11AM.  I have not slept that late in decades.  Yesterday, I drove 1.5 hours to clean out my dead car in the city it had died in and have it hauled off to a junkyard.  I then went straight out and ran 4 miles in the unfamiliar city I was in, despite the bitter temps and wind, because, to me that constitutes “fun.”  I then drove the 1.5 hours back to my boyfriend’s house, where I spent the rest of the day just hanging out with him and his daughter, which made me feel lazy (I am a bit crazy).  I started to feel like I was getting sick, so I went to bed at 11 and slept 12 hours.  I don’t sleep 12 hours.  Ever.  I didn’t sleep 12 hours after 24-hours of labor.  I couldn’t because baby and nursing,  so maybe that’s a bad example, but I don’t sleep 12 hours.  I woke up with a sore throat and not great stomach, but, I had a run to get done and a hot yoga class at 4:30.  I ended up doing neither of those things.  Just doing the Sunday chores of laundry and food shopping made me realize how ill my body feels.  I forced myself to cancel yoga and skip my run even though a lovely, soft snow was falling and I was dying to put on my Brooks and my Skirt Sports tights and make tracks in it.  So, I sat at home and shredded old papers and binged The Crown.  I am very cranky about it.  Saying “no” to activity makes me feel like a failure and like I’m wasting my day.  I texted my boyfriend that I felt like I was wasting a day in what was a very short life.  That is literally the degree to which I feel the pull to be active and out in the world every day in case a bus hits me tomorrow.  I realize it’s a bit ridiculous.  I realize it’s over-dramatic, even, but it’s fertile ground to explore.

Perhaps it is my anxiety over death which has always propelled me into activity.  It wasn’t always through fitness and the outdoors that I channeled this energy to move; quite the contrary.  In my teenage years it was being involved in theater productions, music, and touchy-feely youth retreats.  In my twenties, it was through traveling; studying abroad, backpacking around Europe, moving from city to city as I bounced between educational institutions.  In my mid to late twenties, I got the energy I craved just from the sheer fact that I lived in New York City, a place that hums with the very vibrations of movement, opportunity, and life on a daily basis.  I’m 40 now and things are very different in my life.  The neurosis with which I infused the need to move and be always and exhaustingly alive, has lessened somewhat.  The anxiety that accompanied this neurosis is much less, due to therapy, the help of anti-anxiety medication, and by dint of being older (it has also lessened considerably because of running and yoga).  The neurotic side of it all creeps up on me on days like today, when I must take a step back and rest, not because I want to, but because my body is telling me I have to.

In my 4 years of running, I have learned the hard way that sometimes you have to trust your body and sit out the planned run or the race.  Early into my running career, I ran a trail race in the middle of having a stomach flu and ended up having to take heavy antibiotics and miss some days of work because I messed my gut up pretty good.  I did not have fun during the race and the best I can say is that I did not come in DFL (dead fucking last).  The president of the running club I belong to won the race that day (as he often does) and looped back around to cheer the rest of us on the trail (as he also often does because he’s supportive as fuck).  He saw me struggling and doing an approximation of a run and I yelled “I don’t think the stomach bug is quite done with me!” as I ran by him.  He yelled back something about how the leaves on the trail double for toilet paper (true, but they are definitely not Charmin).  I know that showing up is 90% of the game (or whatever the percentage is we are using these days), but I think I learned my lesson that having diarrhea in the public bathroom right outside the starting line 5 minutes before the gun goes off and then showing up at the line anyway, is probably not the best of ideas.  This is an example of a time when I should have said “no.” It’s also an example of how much I’m going to talk about poop on this blog, so get ready.  This is, after all, a blog mostly about running, and us runners love us some good poop talk!

I am still learning when to push and when to say no.  I could have pushed today.  I’m getting sick anyway, whether I lay on the couch or not.  But, it’s my down season.  I’m not training for anything and I didn’t want to bring illness into the petri dish of the hot yoga studio.  Besides, I knew I’d be feeling awful out on a run or in three-legged downward dog, and that I would just be trying to prove something to myself, and perhaps to my social media following (scant as it may be), that I could muscle through.  I’d rather get better quicker so I can enjoy some runs, yoga classes and socializing with friends later this week.  My situation is compounded by the fact that I’m a single parent.  Every other week, my kids are with their dad and I have to CRAM IT ALL IN.  Or so it feels.  I’m working with that urge as well.  My goal sheet for this year, highlighted on another mother runner, includes talk about finding balance.  I struggle with that.  I can get up and go and keep going, but knowing when to slow down, that is something I have to actively work on.

How I’m handling saying “no” today is by wearing workout clothes around the house  in case I want to spontaneously bust out some home yoga (IT COULD HAPPEN), watching an addictive TV show, ordering sushi, planning my week’s fitness activities in my Believe Training Journal, and starting my blog (hi!).  And sitting with the quiet.  Just me, my cat, and the sound of the snow turned to rain falling peacefully on the back patio.  How do you deal with days, weeks or even prolonged periods when you have to make a choice between rest and activity because of illness, injury or other life circumstances? How do you find balance?

PS I just remembered that during those 12 hours of sleep, I mostly dreamed about racing.  Specifically, running a trail race in a raging snowstorm that many of my friends refused to race in.  So, even in my dreams, I can’t say “no.”

PPS I am a Skirt Sports Ambassador and I’m supposed to say that for legal reasons if I mention them in a post.  Or something.  I’m not an attorney.  Oh, wait, yes, I am.  But, not an entertainment law attorney  If I was, I’d be rich and probably hire someone to write this blog.  Someone who curses less and doesn’t talk about poop so much.  Here’s a picture of my cat.IMG_7864


4 thoughts on “Knowing when to say “no”

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  1. I am very good at not doing anything, although ironically having to stop all activity (when I’m sick, like now), makes me super antsy. And I’m not actively training for anything right now, either! But I also know when my body needs to rest. Although I do envy those 12 hours of sleep — I have never slept well, and if I get 7-8 hours it’s a good night (although thankfully I do get 7 hours on a fairly regular basis).

    Feel better. The snow & trails aren’t going anywhere. 🙂


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