I WON’T TAKE “NO” FOR AN ANSWER!
How to let go when life gives a “no”
I learned many things while working with preschoolers for more than 4 years. I now understand that their attention spans are less than a nanosecond. It’s clear to me that chicken fingers and mac-n-cheese are considered world-class meals. More refined palates may go for spaghetti and meatballs but only on rare occasions.
Beyond the preschoolers’ eating habits, I quickly realized they possessed complete mastery of certain words in the English language. Without prompting or formal training, these mini dynamos would all yell “mine” whenever unsuspecting counterparts eyeballed their toys, games, or floor spaces. While the word “mine” was a fan-favorite among my cluster of tots, one word outpaced it. This word trended moment-by-moment. Children of every race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic class uttered it with the elocution and comprehension of a well-seasoned sage. If you’ve spent any time with children between the ages of 2-4 years old, you already know the culprit.
The word is, “no!”
Plans to eat snacks, end circle time, and enjoy outside play time came to a screeching halt when my preschoolers uttered this word. Nothing made me cringe quicker than a chorus of “no’s” at every suggestion to take a nap, brush teeth, or stop whining. Quiet as it’s kept, though, adults don’t like this word even when it is uttered from adults! Corporate culture mottos insist that a no is a yes turned inside out. The store manager who refuses to discount that must-have dress is met with our fierce opposition. Spouses and love interests can expect rocky roads if they deny our requests – regardless of the reasons!
With these thoughts as a backdrop, you can only imagine how hard it’s been to grasp that after 9 years of an amazing marriage, we have “no” children. Marrying in my 40’s meant working double-time to get pregnant. I have had five fibroid tumors surgically removed from my uterus; taken rounds of ovulation meds that led to hormonal fluctuations; and am living through the devastation of a failed adoption. Despite my best laid plans, we still have no children.
All of us can relate to the pain and trauma associated with failed plans. Perhaps your marriage or health have collapsed. Those extra pounds may have resisted your best efforts to shed them. What do you do when the request for your heart’s desire doesn’t get the response that the famed Simon Cowell gives during X Factor UK or American Idol: “it’s a no for now.” What do you do when the response to your life request is, “it’s a no for good”?
I believe that there’s still hope. When your “no” is final as a child’s wall art with permanent markers, there’s still a bright side. You don’t have to drown. You can stay afloat and live above life’s stormy waves. How do I know? Because I’ve been doing it for about 3 years. It hasn’t been easy, but I continue to persevere by taking time to R-E-L-E-A-S-E. Let’s consider these thoughts:
Realize “no” is an answer: Growing-up as the spoiled brat of the family meant getting a lot of the things I wanted. Can you imagine the shock when I entered my tweens and young-adult life? I’ve had to understand that requests from God, friends, family, and professional colleagues can end with a “no.” I’m making peace with the understanding that happiness doesn’t mean getting everything that I want.
Expect to get mad: You better believe I was piping mad! All of the effort that we went through and no children? It was unthinkable. Now, in time, I have worked through these emotions. But the first step was to give myself permission to feel them. So often, women are taught not to express less-than-perfect emotions. Nonetheless, after my experience with infertility, I’ve been angry, jealous, envious, depressed, and sad. Are these emotions the most feminine? Society says “no,” but they were a true reflection of my heart during different phases of my journey. In time, my degree of recovery ensured that these emotions wouldn’t drive my actions in unhealthy ways.
Laugh when you can: Ugh! I remember coming back to the office after the adoption failed. A few of my colleagues knew that my husband and I were trying to adopt. When I came back into the office, one of my well-meaning, male co-workers looked at my flat stomach and remarked about how the baby didn’t take a toll on my body! I guess he didn’t know that adoption means carrying a baby in your arm, not your belly! I had to chuckle and have had to do so throughout this trek. At low points, I now purpose to find a funny video, call humorous friends, or intentionally seek the lighter side of my story. It’s been said that laughter is good medicine. These wise words are true, so get a good dose!
Expect brighter days ahead: For a while, I could NOT walk through the children’s department store without crying. Thank God the children’s department in Macy’s was close to the bathroom! Almost 3-years later, I can move through these areas of stores and shopping malls a lot easier. I still think some of the baby clothes are super cute. I’m able to express my appreciation for them, now, without linking everything back to the little girl my husband and I hoped to have. I often say, “change doesn’t come over night, but it will come over time.” This has been true for me and is true for you.
Ask for help: Broken places in life have a way of driving us to help. About 10 years ago, I was sexually assaulted; after this experience, I was able to heal with the help of a professional counselor for the first time in my life at 40-years old. My willingness to get helped me navigate the choppy waters of motherhood. As women, we often think that we can do everything for ourselves, by ourselves. I’ve had to learn that pain is the one dish in life that can be shared. My counselor, prayer, and family/friend support has made all of the difference. Don’t go it alone. Sometimes the help you resist is the help you need.
See the victor in you: How much strength does it take to overcome infertility, family challenges, or professional hiccups? Let me assure you that living through these and other life seasons means you are tough! Overcoming my personal life challenges has been directly tied to my ability to see myself through a positive lens. Many women are in love with labels. High-end designers or century-trusted brands are labels we seek. Check the labels you personally wear as you move to handle, “no’s.” Put the right label on yourself. I have been weakened by my experiences, but I am not weak. You may have been knocked-down, but you will bounce-back!
Embrace the life that’s left: One weekend with my nieces and nephews makes me appreciate uninterrupted sleep and TV programming options beyond Peppa Pig and Teletubbies. I can admit that I dearly love these little sweeties, but I also love the life that my husband and I have. It’s nice to be able to take spontaneous trips. I enjoy being able to accept additional work without coordinating sitter schedules and playdates. Was I willing to do this? Of course! But since I don’t have to, I’ve decided to accept the life that’s uniquely mine. It’s not everything that I hoped for but it’s made me rich in ways I never dreamed. I have learned that recovery doesn’t hinge on embracing what you’ve lost. True healing comes when we embrace what we have left.
For 25 years, this writer and media specialist has been dedicated to helping people become their personal best. Whether blogging, coaching, or presenting, she enjoys seeing people realize their potential. Michele has trained audiences throughout the United States and Bangkok, Thailand to write effectively and develop healthy cross-cultural interactions. Like a bee is drawn to honey, Michele is attracted to all things creative. The native New Yorker loves to crochet and compose songs. She and her husband Kyle live in Maryland. Her non-fiction book Hairlooms: The Untangled Truth About Loving Your Natural Hair and Beauty (HCI Books) will be released February 2017.