You don’t have to do it all. If you’re going to live from a place of yes, some things need a no.
When my daughter Audrey was eight, she had her life plan mapped out. She didn’t yet have a full-time career, obviously, but her intentions were somewhere along the lines of Astronaut-Jedi-Artist-Archeologist-Magician-Bus-Driver-Librarian-Pet-Sitter-Go-Kart-Engineer. (In her spare time, maybe she could take up astrophysics.)
When I was her age, I wanted to be a doctor-artist-ballerina.
For those “what will you be when you grow up” assignments at school, I would draw pictures of myself holding a paintbrush and wearing a lab coat over a tutu. I had the uniform down. What the daily schedule would look like was less clear.
I’ve given up on approximately three thirds of that plan, because that would never work, right? I would end up splattering patients with watercolors and taking the pulse of my paintbrushes. My pliés would knock over the easel. Everyone would end up diagnosed with Sculpting Deficit Disorder.
None of us would try to do all that, would we?
No, all we’re trying to do, most of us, is eat and sleep and work.
Well, eat and sleep and work and parent.
Oh, and be part of an extended family and a community, maybe volunteer, do a little yoga, run the occasional marathon, make Halloween costumes, prepare the meals, tend to the pets, do the dishes and the laundry and take out the trash, kill a bunch of plants in the name of “gardening.” Plan holidays and birthdays and traditions. Keep up with current events. Attend book club. Have a hobby, why don’t we.
And then we’re supposed to Read All The Things, and Listen to All The Other Things.
Watch All The Things, Scan All The Things, Be Pinged And Notified By All The OTHER Other Things. Generally Know All The Things. Why is your phone buzzing?
Buy some apps, buy some shoes. Upgrade the phone, the laptop, the fridge, the car. More, better, busier!
But that’s all! No lab coats required!
Wait. Deep breath.
You don’t have to do it all.
No one does it all.
We don’t even have to agree on what “it all” is.
When we try to do it all, we spread ourselves too thin. We end up doing everything kind of okay, and nothing really well. Nothing satisfies. Nothing is ever thoroughly DONE.
Why do we even think we need to do all those things?
What do we think will happen if we say no?
What I really have to do, what I have to practice, is to spend more time on fewer things. That way there’s more of me to go around and fewer places I have to go. It’s an end to frantic. It’s an end to busy-ness. It’s the only way I’ll ever be able to go deeply into the things that matter to me.
I want to be a person who gives an enthusiastic YES to the things that make me, me. I want to say yes to family and faithfulness and community and creativity.
But that means I have to give a big old NO to pretty much everything else.
For my “yes” to mean something, my “no” has to be clear.
How you spend your time matters, because your life is made up of TIME. That’s what it’s built on. How you spend your time is how you live your life.
But guess how easy this is, this saying no so you can say yes? ZERO PERCENT EASY.
All that busyness is so tempting! PLUS, other people have other priorities for your life. They would like you to say a different yes and a different no. Your kids would probably like you to say only yes and never no.
If you choose some unpopular NOs so you can have a whole heart full of YES, not everyone will be thrilled for you, is what I am saying.
And I guess to that I have to say: OKAY.
Okay, you don’t have to like my YES and my NO.
Okay, you can choose differently. Okay, I will survive without that approval. And I really will, and you really will, too, because the trade-off is: we get to live from that place of yes.
And no. And yes.