What happens after the “no”?

Last week, I wrote about how and when to say no. This week, I took my own advice and stood up for my needs. My RA-related fatigue, despite my doctor’s and my own best efforts, made working outside the home late at night dangerous. After a week of handling 33 hours of lecture, 15 hours of which were on Monday and Tuesday of this week alone, I was irritable, exhausted, and resentful. So I asserted my need for a change and expressed my growing distress at the workload. What followed was surprising.

Wednesday morning, my boss called me into her office as I was on my way to my first class. As I walked, I recounted all the things I imagined I had done wrong, figuring I was about to get chewed on for saying no. But then something inspired me to take a deep breath and consider the possibility that maybe I had done something right.

To make a long and emotional story short, I decided to stop teaching and night and to allow my husband to stretch his legs and pick up my classes. Somehow, I felt ashamed that I had given in to a weakness. But then something wonderful happened: I received an incredible outpouring of love from nearly every single person in my life. I got affirmations of how brave I had been, how much I would be missed, and how much of a difference my work had made in people’s lives. My daughters were beside themselves with joy that mommy would be home every night for the first time in their memory (they were 1 and 3 when I first started working nights). My husband was happier to be appreciated for his teaching skills.

Was it easy to say no? Of course not! The decision took a lot of tears and soul searching to reach. I felt (and still feel) like my RA had taken yet another activity from my life. I didn’t choose this awful disease, but allowing myself to cope with it as a partner in my life has opened some wonderful doors that I would have never noticed because of the overwork.

As a former friend used to say, you have to get one cat off your lap to let another one in. Saying no may end up being among the best things I have ever done. Who knew?

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