By Thalia Lauzon

I’ve never been good at saying “no” to things.  

Sure, if I have a viable reason that I physically can’t do something, then I say no –– but not before going over my entire life in my head for the next week to see what I can possibly move around. I check my planner, my to-do list, my reminders and my phone notes to see what I have going on.   

Most people who know me call me hyper-organized, but my life also feels like it’s in a constant state of fluctuation because I take on anything that springs up. 

Inevitable hours-long phone call with a friend? A small or big favor? A photo that needs to be taken? Or even a project someone needs help with? Whatever it is, I’m there. 

It feels weird if I don’t help just because I don’t want to or because it will add a little more tension to my life. I feel guilty if I don’t do it. 

I somehow work on the motto: “I’ll get everything done in the end.”

I’m like a lizard who grows to the size of its environment. If I have more work, I’ll find a way to do it all within the time I have –– no matter what. 

But this year has been harder than most. As a generally calm person who doesn’t get stressed or anxious, I’ve found myself on the edge. 

With everything in upheaval since mid-March, my loss of control has me off-kilter. I’ve had to learn to take care of myself more and control what I can, which means I’ve had to learn to say, “No, I can’t.”

While my schedule is still flexible when some new things pop up, I’m learning to really look at what I can take on instead of worrying about guilt. If I can’t do some inconsequential thing because it would strain my time and energy too much, I now say “no.”

It’s been weird turning people down, especially in the beginning. I felt like I needed to explain myself and I still sometimes feel that way, but I’ve figured out that solidly committing to my choice not to do something has really helped. 

Instead of saying “sorry I can’t, unless” or “no, but,” I’ve figured out that I feel better knowing there isn’t a possibility of my schedule changing later because I’ve made an unsteady promise. 

It feels selfish knowing I could probably do whatever someone asks of me and fit it tightly into my plan somewhere, but I know what that would take. I’d need to move around my schedule, stay up later, possibly pull an all-nighter and feel out of control. 

Unless it’s something really important, I don’t want to feel that way. And sometimes being selfish is fine –– which has been a hard pill to swallow. 

I haven’t fully mastered this skill. I somehow still end up picking up the phone when my friend calls me at 3 a.m. to talk, complain or cry. But I’m getting better. I know my limits and have figured out when I should stop toeing the line. 

I don’t say “no” to everything –– or I’d have to deal with a lot of guilt –– but it’s been a lot better overall for my schedule and control.