There’s truth in the idea that the hardest word to learn to say is “No.” Really, it shouldn’t be that hard, right? Two little letters, but they can literally carry life-altering decisions in their combined voice.
I had to say, “No,” this week. And it wasn’t easy.
If you know me in person, you probably know that I’m a little horse crazy. I grew up riding my sassy three-quarter Arabian mare and I learned to drive draft horses in college. Now that I’m a married “city” girl, opportunities to get my “horse fix” are fairly rare so I’ll jump on just about any chance that comes along.
The other Sunday, one of my writer friends approached me about just such an opportunity. She and her family had recently taken a ride on a replica Conestoga wagon pulled by a team of drafts. In talking to the owner/driver, she learned that he was looking for more drivers because he had some big groups coming soon and he needed more help to man his wagons. She could give me the driver’s information, if I was interested.
Horses?! Driving?! The Oregon Trail?! Of course I was interested!
The following Wednesday I met the owner for coffee and that evening we went on an overnight training/trial trip. The horses were beautiful and well-mannered. The wagons were authentic. The scenery was gorgeous. The guests were amazing. The owner was a patient teacher and was sure that with, with one more training run, I’d be fully capable of taking a team on my own.
But I wasn’t so sure. To be honest, I didn’t enjoy the trip as much as I thought I would. Small issues repeatedly cropped up, making me uncomfortable. Concerns crawled around in the back of my mind. My own lack of ability and experience daunted me in light of having to be responsible for the lives of a wagon-load of people.
When I finished the trip and came home, I spent probably two or three hours trying to process all of the thoughts and emotions in my mind and heart. I talked with my harness horsemanship instructor from college and I poured out my heart (and tears) to my husband.
Part of me kept saying, “Get it together. You’ll be fine. This is one of your dreams and passions – it’s working with horses – are you really going to turn that down for pity’s sake? Are you just being a wimp? You can learn sooo much from him. Anybody from your draft horse class would have jumped at this opportunity. And he needs help; are you really going to let him down? Really, doesn’t it seem like God just dumped this in your lap? If you back out now, you’re a failure. You’ll disappoint a lot of people – the friends who hooked you up with this job, the horse owner, your draft horse buddies from college, yourself…do you really want that?”
But another part of me kept whispering, “I’m not comfortable with this. Some things didn’t seem safe. I really didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would (should?) and I’m afraid it’s just going to add more stress to my life. The time commitment is way more than I planned on…I think it’s more than I can afford considering how many other commitments I have. And the ability and strength required…to be honest I don’t feel confident in my ability to safely do everything that is required of me, especially if I have several people in the wagon with me! I don’t want to be responsible for their lives when I perceive my skill level as being potentially insufficient.”
Perfectionist, Give-110%, Wanting-to-please-everybody Lauren VS. Cautious, Already-stressed-out, Trying-to-actually-do-what’s-best-for-me-as-well-as-for-those-around-me Lauren
Do you know which side won? The latter. The side that was actually willing to disappoint people, to not be perfect, to back out if doing so was truly the wiser, safer option. I didn’t reach that decision on my own (huge thanks to my husband and my college instructor) or without any tears, but I finally said, “No.”
A part of me still feels hugely guilty, as though I let everybody down, as though I turned down an incredible opportunity because I was too cowardly, as though I’m a failure.
But another part of me is quietly realizing with every passing hour that I made the right decision. That maybe God was simply giving me this opportunity to make me more thankful for the life I do have as a homemaker with my husband, dog, and a quiet house. That maybe this is the safer option not only for the wagon guests but also for myself. That maybe it’s okay to turn down something I love because I love other things just as much if not more.
That maybe it’s a good thing to say, “No.”