Posted in A Moment in My Life

“When No Isn’t Enough”

A Moment in My Life – Monday, August 2, 2021

Jeannie Yee Davis

One of this year’s birthday presents was something I had been recently borrowing from the library, the “Ally McBeal” TV series. I’ve seen only some episodes of the series when it aired on primetime TV. Occasionally, some scene from those episodes I’ve watched pops into my head. Like earlier this summer, I kept seeing the one about Ally coming up with a theme song that she’s supposed to play in her mind when she needed a distraction. In this scene, Ally is trying to induce the song while waiting for the crosswalk light to change. Unbeknownst to her, her shoulder began bobbing to her imaginary music, which started the people waiting with her to move their bodies to her rhythm. When the light turned green, she was bemused by the crowd dancing, instant of walking, across the street with her. The memory of that scene always cracks me up, making me want to watch it again. Now that I own the series, I began watching from the first episode. 

It’s a series about a junior law firm comprised of young lawyers. It’s well written with witty one-liners and quirky, dysfunctional, but lovable characters who deal with heavy-duty topics at work while achieving the personal lives they dreamed of living. There’s music and dancing in every episode, and not to forget the humor. After watching just one episode, I laughed more than I had in years. I love this series. It’s becoming my “smile” therapy. If you are not familiar with the series, smile therapy is one of the methods used by the Cage character.

Since I’m catching all the episodes, I came across one episode where the topic was outdated. This series ran from 1997-2002. I was blown away by how different the times are. In this episode, they overly simplified sexual harassment. I don’t care to go into the details, but the topic of “no” inspired today’s writing. 

It’s too close to home for me. Like everybody else, the word no haunted me most of my life. We live in a society where nobody likes the word “no” in any capacity. Nobody likes saying no. Nobody likes hearing no. Society conditioned us to say yes whether we want to or not. For the longest time, my motto was “damn if I do, and damn if I don’t.” Either way, I lose. If I say no to someone, they feel bad, and I end up feeling horrible and guilty for disappointing them. If I say yes, they’re happy, and I still feel awful because I betrayed myself. It’s a lose-lose situation for me, whichever way I cut it. So, I always said yes, then at least one of us would be happy. 

It took years of reconditioning to get off that bad habit because responding against your grain is neither healthy nor beneficial to anybody. Sure, the person you said yes to gets their way, but you’re not helping that person to grow as a human being in the long run. All you’ve done was help that person know which button of yours to press that would get a “yes” out of you. It’s a form of manipulation, which is not healthy or beneficial. It’s like telling a child that they would get their way if they pout and throw a tantrum.

I’m not saying that we should say no to everybody just to say no. I’m talking about those moments when you sincerely don’t feel it’s a proper fit to say yes. If saying yes will leave you feeling negative about yourself, or makes you feel you betrayed your values, then that’s the time you need to exercise your boundaries and say no. It’s better to say a sincere no and offer an alternative or help find someone else who would be the right fit than to say yes and be disgruntled about it. After all, the rule of life is to do everything with joy in our hearts.

On the flip side, we should respect others to be comfortable with us to say no if that is the answer in their hearts. If we do things right, anger should be nowhere near the equation. If we could let our yes mean yes and our no mean no, we could get along so much better without animosity between us. I know I’m sounding Pollyanna, but I can dream. After all, we have one life to live. Why must it be so complicated?

Also, why can’t a no mean no? It’s just like my telling this guy no when he asked me out. Why do I have to repeatedly say “no”? I’ll say it again. We need to respect each other’s responses. Pushing for the wrong answer creates disharmony and stress. Sometimes, there is nothing more we can do when others aren’t playing by the same rules. Then, all we can do is to state our boundaries and stand firm. In those cases, all we can do is all we can do because it is what it is when no isn’t enough.

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