The power of no

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I just got through a rather busy weekend:  There was music to play, music to listen to, a pot luck supper, and a ski lesson.  After hauling food, instruments, sporting gear, various passengers and myself back and forth across the city for two days, I finally stumbled into the house at 10:45 on Sunday evening and had a bowl of leftover stew for supper to celebrate surviving it all.

The weekend was a success, but until I made a critical decision early Sunday afternoon there was a very real chance of things going horribly wrong.  In short, there were too many events in too short a time.

In the case of Saturday night I had had to choose between a potluck or going to the opening night of the Winnipeg New Music Festival, both in the same time slot.  Rather than driving downtown to the Concert Hall, I opted for the party (in fact, I had somewhat biased the choice the night before by baking a cake to bring along).  It was still a bit touch-and-go because the potluck was immediately after the ski lesson — drive home from class, park car, carry gear into house, double-check address of party, grab cake, head right back out to the car.

Sunday had the potential to be positively dangerous to both mind and body.  I had a firm commitment to go to the Music Festival, and a “squishy” commitment to go see another show in mid-afternoon.  Tentatively, the plan went something like this:

  1. Go to afternoon show, way out in the east end of the city, and hope that it doesn’t run too long.  If necessary, slip out of show around 5:30 even if it’s still going.
  2. Drive back downtown, grabbing a bite to eat at a fast food joint along the way.
  3. Go to Festival.

This is where sanity prevailed, and where I said “no” to the afternoon entertainment.  The decision was informed somewhat by various aches and pains from doing silly things on cross-country skis the day before, so instead of rushing across the city like a total maniac I puttered around the house and goofed off on the computer.  When it came time to leave for the Concert Hall, it was in considerably more laid-back style than 24 hours earlier.

Over-scheduling and over-committing are chronic problems for me.  There’s a twisted part of my brain that seems to think it can be in two places at once, and that I should seize every possible opportunity no matter how much it hurts.  Complicating this is a vague sense of guilt when I have to change course and revamp a plan.  It feels like I’ve failed someone, even though the “someone” is myself, and even though I was the one who came up with the plan in the first place.

But it isn’t a failure, is it?  A failure makes things worse.  Saying “no” to unreasonable demands, even self-imposed demands, makes things better.

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