My Boyfriend Jason: Babeeee.
“Hey…”, I dryly responded. Jason found his way into hot water with me the night before when he informed me last minute that he would be going away on a “boys trip” this upcoming weekend. Normally this wouldn’t annoy me, but the last minute announcement was definitely a “nah” in my book. I knew that I couldn’t do much, so I gave up mid-fight and went to bed. This didn’t mean that I was going to retire my attitude though. “Babe don’t be like that, I love you”, Jason said. “Mmmhhmmm”, I responded. “I actually have a favor to ask Syd”, Jason’s voice seemed nervous on the other end. “Whasup?”, I asked while rolling my eyes. I was unsure where this conversation was heading, but also knew Jason quite well. He always needed a favor. “Well you know my car is flaky, and I’m not sure if it’ll make it on the boys and I roadtrip. So I was wond — -”, I cut him off before he could finish the sentence. “Are you seriously about to ask me to borrow my car, when you know good and well I’m not happy about this damn boys trip??”, I asked with pure annoyance in my voice. “Pleasssseeeeee, I’m sorry I told you last minute. It’ll never happen again, but I really just don’t trust my car”, he pleaded. Just say no Syd. Why can’t his friends drive?! Syd, just say no!! “Alright fine”, I said ignoring the disappointment in myself. “Let me take you to dinner tonight Syd, I really appreciate this and I’m really sorry — -”, he continued to talk my ear off repeating how thankful he was. “Jason!”, I snapped, “I gotta go”. My quick hang up robbed him of a chance to respond. I turned back to my desk to get to work, I definitely wasn’t making it out of the office by 5. I had to finish this report, and at least work half-way through this to do list. I pulled out my headphones, pressed play to the sweet sounds of Lila Ike, and was heading down a lane of concentration until…
“Ughhhhh!!!!! HELLO??!!!”, I was practically screaming into the phone. “Oh no, no, no Sydnee! That is not a way to greet your mama”, the Caribbean accent snapped through the phone“I’m sorry ma, I had a long day and I have to get work done so I can’t stay on the phone too long, whats up?”
“Well I was calling because your cousin called me and she needs some help…”, my mom started. I knew exactly what that meant. Money. Help meant money. This was the third time this month that my cousin needed “help”. As a daughter of Haitian immigrants, it was expected that we “helped” our family back home. Except I had never met this cousin. Well not in person at least. Occasionally my mother would put me on the phone with her, after bragging about my accomplishments. The long term consequences of this was the expectation to consistently send funds. Normally I wouldn’t have an issue contributing. I was well aware of the way my cousin lived in Haiti, but I couldn’t help feeling taken advantage of. I knew I was asked to give, because even to my immediate family I was viewed as the financially stable one. “Ma, I don’t know — ”. “You don’t know?? Sydnee, this is family, you’re supposed to take care of family. They don’t have much, and since God has blessed us with so much, it’s important that we take care of our own”, she rebutted. I wanted to let her know I felt taken advantage of. I wanted to let her know that I too had bills, and financial goals. I wanted to complain about how I did not sign up for this responsibility. I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs “NO”. But I didn’t. I quickly agreed to send the funds and rushed my mother off of the phone. With only three hours left until five o’clock, I had to make sure I finished my report. My therapy session was scheduled for six and after the day I had, I couldn’t skip an opportunity to vent.
The world is not going to stop because you say no. Your relationships won’t change because you say no. And if they do, to hell with them.
I hit send and let out a huge sigh of relief. The time was 4:56PM on the dot. Grabbed my purse, keys, and sprinted out the door. As much as I wanted to head straight to happy hour, I knew that I couldn’t drown my feelings of overwhelmingness with the Jameson and ginger ale that I yearned. I headed down the freeway in silence, replaying the many moments of my day.
“Sydnee B, here for Janet Well”, I was a couple of minutes early for my session, but I knew Janet wouldn’t mind. The secretary signaled me to enter the office, and I rushed through the now opened door. I threw my purse to the side, flopped into the chaise lounge, and closed my eyes. Janet was my third therapist, the others just didn’t get me. She also was the only one with a chaise lounge, which earned her extra points in my book when I decided she was a good fit. Her good ear and ability to make my life make some sort of sense were factors too, of course. “Well alright Sydnee, bad day?”, Janet laughed, “Let it all out, what’s going on?”.
I ran through my day’s event venting about my job and my boss, Jason and his antics, and lastly my mother and her demands. I carried on and on, barely giving Janet any room to interject. “I just wish I could put my foot down. Someone asks me for something, and I want to say no but I don’t”, I finished. “And why can’t you put your foot down?”, Janet asked. “I don’t know”, I muttered. I knew I sounded confused or lost. Confused and lost, maybe. “I really want you to think right now, why can’t you put your foot down?”, she asked again. “I’ve just always been the reliable one… like the one people knew they could count on, no questions asked. I feel like I have a sense of pride attached to it. I’m reliable. I’m hardworking. I’m giving. I’m kind. I like to be kind…”, I stopped and continued to think.
“Sydnee, there is nothing wrong with being reliable. There is nothing wrong with being kind. Those are all great characteristics to have. Truly. But let me ask you something, what do you think will happen if you “put your foot down” or say no?”, she asked. I sat quietly, and pondered on the idea of saying no to my boss, no to my boyfriend, and no to my mom. “Ok let me put it this way”, she continued while interrupting my thoughts, “What do you think their reaction will be when you say no?”. I thought hard again: I wouldn’t want them to be upset with me, or feel like they could never ask me for anything again. “I don’t know…”, I replied. “The world is not going to stop because you say no. Your relationships won’t change because you say no. And if they do, to hell with them. I want you to try it, say no to just one demand or ask this week. Especially if it’s something that you know you do not want to do. Lastly ask yourself: When I say “yes” to others, am I saying “no” to myself? If that is so, then you certainly don’t have a problem saying “no”. Janet closed her notebook and peeked over her glasses, “In addition to this, I have a task for you. Over the course of the rest of this week, each time you say yes to a request when you really wanted to say no write down what you should have/would have said. Writing and rereading what you wish you could have said will at least get you in the habit of exploring different ways to say no, and hopefully ease you into using these words the next time. Does that make sense? ”, she asked. It did.
I headed home thinking about my session with Janet. She was right, I clearly did not have an issue saying “no” to myself, and I could not deny that my struggle with saying “no” and setting boundaries made me feel uncomfortable. I was constantly living in regret of fulfilling commitments I wish I hadn’t made. I drove back down the freeway, and that night I knew I wasn’t only heading home. I was on a voyage, a journey to “no”. My hands felt sweaty against my steering wheel, and my heart began to race. At that moment I knew why my anxiety quickly hopped in the passenger seat. I had begun reaching for my phone, and it watched as I held it tightly in my sweaty hands. I counted to 10 and calmed myself down, and softly said out loud:
“Hey Siri, call Jason”.