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This week seems to have been laid out to provide practice for me to say, “NO!”  I Am not very good at “No.” I say,”I’d rather not.”  I dodge with a version of, “Maybe, we’ll see.”  I’m helpful, “Wouldn’t it be better if….”  I am perfectly comfortable with, “Yes.”  If I actually say, “Yes” I’ve committed and will follow through.  It’s clean dependable communication.  Not so much with “No.”

Spirituality is a balance of compassion for others and compassion for yourself.  It requires the ability to set and maintain clear boundaries.  It includes being true to your word as well as being true to yourself.  I’m really working on the piece where I develop compassion and an ability to take care of myself.  This ‘no saying’ is important and I clearly need the practice.

My first opportunity to say “No” was much easier than I anticipated.  I had spent plenty of time and energy fussing to myself about not taking on a leadership role for a Spiritually based community project.  I’m involved in the project and it currently appears leaderless.  Time had gotten short, we hadn’t made adequate progress and there was no way to turn out a quality product in the time remaining unless someone really stepped it up.  I was very much in an “I don wanna!” mood.

Thankfully, our host opened the meeting with an apology if he was stepping on toes followed by a statement that he didn’t think we could pull this together given the timeframe.  He was clear that he personally couldn’t commit to what it would take and proposed we shelve the project.  This was greeting with cheers.  “No” came out as an enthusiastic, “Yes!” Unanimous agreement followed by a meeting to rework the project in a timeframe we could manage.  A very easy way to say, “No.”

The second opportunity came in a package laden with guilt.  I was asked before Christmas if I would be willing to work (implying some small compensation for gas) as a patient advocate (Are you asking me to be his patient advocate?  Yes.) for my ex-father-in-law.   Since that time I have taken him to 1 of the 5 or 6 appointments he’s had scheduled.)  I have not been kept in the loop about his health or housing except when I asked directly.  I have not gotten any support for the suggestion that we create a binder to coordinate his immediate medical information.

At least 3 of the missed appointments were due to an assumption that I was not competent to manage the appointment, for whatever reason.  I didn’t have the history (and wasn’t going to get it unless I went).  I didn’t have a relationship with the doctor (again I wasn’t going to by staying home).  I couldn’t handle the transfer (something I originally trained to do 35 years ago and have kept in practice with myself, my son and others over the years).  I get very mixed and conflicting messages about what the family (4 sons including my ex) actually expect.

Additionally I am really treated badly by the boys.  I was practically ignored the last time I joined them for a meal (which I’d bought and helped make).  I am regularly reminded that the “exes” have no place in the family (I’m the only one who has maintained any kind of relationship).  I am called upon to step in and help out when no one else is available, but I am neither appreciated or welcomed.    My ex is incapable of treating anyone “badly” he’s just not supportive and tends to maintain an ‘out of sight out of mind’ practice for attentiveness to details.

None of the above is any fault of my ex-father-in-law.  He’s happy to see me and give me a hug and a kiss.  He’s grateful for my company and my support.  We chat on the phone about what’s going on in his social life and mine.  He’s always been there for me when I’ve needed advice and I’m happy to help him out in any way at this time in his life.  However, I am fed up with dealing with the boys who aren’t communicating with each other, much less me.  I had resigned myself to having a chat with my ex-father-in-law about what I was and was not willing to do for him and for them.

Then I get a phone call from my ex.  He’s calling about an appointment that I have never had on my calendar.  He’s calling after 730pm for an appointment the next day.  He’s only asking if I am available, just in case.  He doesn’t actually know the time of the appointment, the place of the appointment or what kind of ‘available’ I might need to be.  I suspect it involves one of the brothers not wanting to get up that early after working the night before.  I asked a few questions and got some of the information, but not all of it.  He’d get back to me.  At 9pm I said, “I can’t.”

It may not have  been “No” but I really didn’t want to seem harsh.  The serving of guilt coming from a genuine desire to be helpful was showing.  At least it was clear and succinct.  I felt much better having said it.  Any guilt was washed away in the knowledge that this was not an emergency appointment and also that I originally asked for as much notice as possible.  The following morning I enjoyed snuggling back into a warm bed on a cold morning and taking a nap.

The third “No” is as yet unresolved.  Again, I am being asked a favor by a group of people who have written me off.  It is to support their collection of a history for a group I have been actively involved with for over 20 years.  The history as they have written it thus far elevates the contributions the writers have made over the years and does not make any mention of contributions I made.  In fact there are a few places where the writers have actively taken credit for things I did, or we did together.

I am not interested in lending my historical documentation.  There are things I have lent these people in the past that still have not been returned to me.  I am told that my relationship in intimate spiritual settings with at least one of these people is entirely a lie.  Time and again I have seen these people commit to something and then be unable to follow through when things became difficult.

I am marginally interested in setting the record straight and the documentation I have does, to some extent, establish my position within the group.  I do not believe that having this collection in an archive will change anything about the way the history is currently being presented.  I do not believe this documentation will be utilized in any direct way to support the group.  I’ve already let a member of this group make a complete copy of my collection and they’ve apparently lost track of it.

I’ve not yet come to a place for myself where my “No” is clear.  I have determined that it is not in my best interest to track these people down.  They know where to find me.  They have all of my phone numbers.  I’ve returned a call and been told they would get back to me.  I’m not waiting by the phone holding my breath.

I don’t want to ask for it, but it looks like I need more practice.

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