I’ve been wanting to give you something, and it finally dawned on me: the perfect gift! And what’s more: it’s a gift that you can use, and yet you can also re-gift as often as you would like to.
Here it is: I give you permission.
Let me explain with an example. In my last pregnancy, things got increasingly difficult as my baby grew from enormous to gigantic in that eternal final trimester. At one point, I was barely able to walk. In an attempt to keep-it-real while still keeping-it-funny, I posted a status update on Facebook saying that I wish someone would just write me a note to put me on bedrest, so that it would be officially okay to spend all day laying down. A kind friend hundreds of miles away left this comment: “I am a nurse practitioner, and I hereby prescribe bed rest for you.”
I laughed and I laughed, and yet even though she was no longer practicing medicine, and was not even my care provider, her comment gave me the freedom to lay back for the first time in several days and gave my body the rest it needed without feeling guilty about it.
I don’t know what it is about us, that even as adults we so often feel that we need permission. Someone’s permission. Anybody’s permission. But we feel we need someone else to say that our needs are valid.
This story came to mind yesterday as I talked with a newly-pregnant friend who was preparing to attend the first of three Christmas dinners this week. She was exhausted and things had hardly started yet. I wondered if she, too, needed permission.
So, even though it’s not official, and even I’m miles away, I want to give you the gift of permission.
I hereby give you permission to say NO. To say no to baking another batch of cookies, to doing that craft, to taking that class, or to going to gym today. To say no to that birthday party (there will be others), and no to going to that family event that always leaves you tapped out.
You can say: “Thanks for thinking of me! I can’t this time but I appreciate it,” or “That sounds great, but it just isn’t possible right now.” You can say a simple “no thanks,” or “maybe next time”, or (if it’s to the gym-voice in your head) “speak to the hand: I just don’t want to.” But know this: you have permission to say no because you want to. You do not owe everyone (including yourself) a ‘good enough’ reason to say no.
You have permission to say No: a firm no which shows respect for your family and your time, and yet a loving no which leaves space for you to say yes to some of the other important things out there. And on that note…
I give you permission to say YES. To say yes to painting your nails, or phoning a friend, to reading a magazine, or accepting a friend’s offer to watch your kids or run that errand for you. Say yes to naps and walks and breathing and things that make you laugh.
Say yes to kindness. Say yes to life. Say yes to real moments to connect, even if it means other things might get put on the backburner. Some of my most precious moments with my children have come because I said yes to their sweet requests which came at truly inconvenient times. You have permission to say yes.
I know, I know: it can be hard when feelings might get hurt by your yesses and no’s. That’s where the guilt comes from, doesn’t it? But let me suggest this: if you are saying ‘yes’ to an opportunity that isn’t your first choice – then make sure you are saying a love-for-others-motivated-yes, and not a martyrs-yes. Say yes because you are choosing to love this person sacrificially, not yes because you felt guilty about denying them.
I thought long and hard choosing out this gift. I know it may seem presumptuous: who the heck am I to go around giving permission? But you know, I’ve been on the receiving end of these gifts and somehow, in the moment all I needed was for somebody (anybody) to tell me that it was okay to feel what I was feeling.
I hope you will find it as useful and life-giving as I have. If you don’t need this gift, I won’t be offended: I just wanted to pass it on in case you sometimes might feel you need permission too. Please feel free to re-gift to others, because I have a sneaking suspicion that so many of us need it.
Permission granted. May this gift bring you much guilt-free joy.