A Year of F#ck No

I don’t know what happened. I was living my life, volunteering here and there, signing up for stuff, being where I said I was going to be, doing what I said I was going to do and then last week…

Nothing. I un-signed up from stuff, I bought muffins when I said I would bake them from scratch and instead of baking and volunteering, I rewatched all of the BBC’s version of Sherlock. The very idea of driving Six to his dance or jujitsu classes, putting together IKEA furniture for teacher appreciation week or just doing anything outside the absolute basics to keep us clean and fed felt unbearable.

I have been moved out of my married life for a year, I have my parents’ burial pretty much all planned (June 10th, if you would think of us on that day it would really help) and Six’s summer is scheduled and paid for. So I am not mammothly behind or unsure of what we are going to do this summer.

What happened?

Well, no matter the why of it, the fact of it remains that I have hit a wall.

And that wall is spray painted with the word “NO!”

The very idea of doing more than I already do makes my spine itch in ways it never has before. I liked taking the kids to enrichment classes. I was one of the better field trip chaperones. I was always ready with a hammer or a glue gun, whatever was needed to help out.

This weekend, it would have taken a court order to get me out of my house for any other reason than going to see the historic light bulbs and blooming roses at the Huntington Library, Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

And as I sat in the Dibner Hall of Science, looking at a truly beautiful collection of handmade light bulbs, it occurred to me that I don’t have to take Six to enrichment classes. We have memberships to a few local museums. There is a program through the LA County Library (Discover and Go, check to see if your local library takes part in this excellent program) that gives library cardholders free entrance to a variety of high quality museums around the city. And LACMA gives free entrance to every resident of LA County under the age of 18 along with one adult as part of their NexGen program.

Maybe what we need is less structure and more museum gift shops?

And then it occurred to me to do something I have never in my life done. I am going to commit to saying ‘no’ for an entire calendar year. It is a respectful reversal of Shonda Rhimes beautiful and life affirming journey, A Year of Yes. It might be the very inversion I need.

The last five years have taken it out of me. This past Saturday I was genuinely concerned that I might have hit my limit, that it might be time to pull the ripcord, call in reinforcements and put myself on a 72 hour hold at the local psych ward. It all seemed to come down at once and I felt unmoored.

But Sunday morning dawned beautiful and bright and I remembered that it was early May and the roses in the botanical garden one city over would be in riotous bloom.

“If I can get up for roses, maybe I’ll be okay,” I announced to myself.

And I got up! And we saw the roses. And we had Chipotle for lunch. And I remembered how much I love Chipotle and roses and being outside (in the shade).

And that is when it occurred to me to instate A Year of Fuck No. I would do nothing that didn’t:

  1. Maintain health, safety, sanity and sanitation for Six and me
  2. Keep the business going
  3. Keep Six moving forward academically in school
  4. Keep my friendships thriving
  5. Light me up from the inside

And it felt right. I stopped feeling internally shredded. I checked my calendar and the only thing left was “Bake muffins for teacher appreciation week.”

And I thought, if they knew how I was feeling they would say, “Don’t you dare bake a damn muffin!” Because most teachers are parents. And all teachers are humans just doing their best.

I know what I know and I know that I am burned out. My being a volunteer is just going to add a bad vibe to whatever good someone else is trying to accomplish, so best for me to stay far away.

It’s trips to the museum and afternoons at the botanical garden and swimming in my cousin’s pool from now until school starts again in August. Then we will revisit what Six wants to do and what I can manage.

A Year of Fuck No began on Saturday, May 4th 2019 and extends to May 4th, 2020. For the next year my time is my own. And something inside feels apprehensive about how that sentence will be received but I can’t keep acting as if my entire life wasn’t torn to shreds and then taped back together.

I need some time to figure out what is left and I can’t do that running the register at the school book fair.

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