Learning How to Say ‘No’

Notwithstanding inasmuch as which my reputation as an editor at Your Favorite Weekly Professional Science Magazine Beginning With N, I’m just a girl who cain’t say ‘no’. I’m in a terrible fix. I always say ‘come on, let’s go,’ just when I oughtta say ‘nix’.

You’ll both recall that I’ve been waging pharmacological war against my demons for some time now. After a year or more in which I’ve been on a psychedelic odyssey, trying practically everything in the psychiatric gander bag, I’ve lately been on some bongo juice which in the lab is called (RS)-1-[2-ditheylamino-1-(4-methoxyphenyl)-ethyl]cyclohexanol, or, on the street, The Embalmer. A slug of 225 mgs of this a day usually does the job.

Except that, just lately, it hasn’t.

So it was that Mrs Crox sent me off to the psychiatrist yesterday with a long list of symptoms including sleep disturbance, going around in tears, irritability, paranoia and general feelings of guilt.

The shrink cut to the chase even before I’d sat down. I’ve been working too hard, he said. Doing too many things, he said. Being, as many of us are, an overachiever, I’ve been and gone and overachieved. Constitutionally unable to do anything other than fill each goddamn minute with sixty Kiplingesque seconds’ distance run, I find it almost impossible to relax. Relaxing is very hard.

I am, however, under medical orders to cut down my general activities by a third.

This will be bloody difficult.

It means that I’ll have to learn to say ‘no’. Well, saying ‘no’ while handling manuscripts is not hard. It’s what I do during waking working hours anyway. It’s all the other stuff. What follows is therefore a generic apology, which you shouldn’t take personally.

I am very sorry, but apart from already existing commitments, I shall no longer be able to

* write or review a book;
* contribute an article, introduction, preface or story;
* give a lecture or seminar;
* chair a meeting.

I’ll probably not be disporting myself quite so frequently on this blog or on social media for a while, too, which I am sure some of you will regard as a relief. For the forseeable future, I’ll be restricting myself to my job; my regular column in BBC Focus magazine; and playing with my beat combo at weekends.

Please understand that I hate saying no. But at the moment it’s either that or my sanity.

About cromercrox

Cromercrox is a recovering palaeontologist, author and editor who lists his recreations as writing, beachcombing, playing hard rock organ, supporting Norwich City FC and falling asleep.
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12 Responses to Learning How to Say ‘No’

  1. rpg says:

    You go and look after yourself and the Croxii. We’ll be here when you get back x

  2. Take it easy, Henry – you’ve earned a rest.

    BTW, now that the semester’s teaching has finished, am looking forward to getting stuck into The Accidental Species..

  3. John Wilkins says:

    Get some rest. If you haven’t got your health, you haven’t got anything.

  4. chall says:

    Good luck with the resting and cutting down on the obligations! (it’s always harder to say no to fun things too but too many of everything goes pear shaped in the end at times). Read a book and hope you can enjoy family and laugh with them. (and sleep some, that is very important for sanity points. Like my GP said to me “sleep deprivation is a form of torture for a reason”). All the best!

  5. Frank says:

    Thinking of you. Once you get into the habit, saying ‘No’ becomes quite easy to do.

  6. alejandro says:

    Always is best take a rest on when you are over charge. So you can give more time to your family. Yesterday I send an merry christmas card (Family Gee). You confirmed me after 25 days, Ok?

  7. Pat Shipman says:

    I find it useful to stand in the bathroom, facing the mirror, and practice saying “no” aloud every day.
    One of the great insights from this mantra is that “no” is enough. You don’t have to apologize or explain or anything else. Just “no.” (It ain’t easy.)

  8. Anna says:

    Peace and blessings to you, one of my favorite writers — may learning to relax give you energy, joy, inspiration and restoration.

    It certainly has done that for me — though what that’s worth coming from a stranger on the internet, who knows? ;-)

    Mrs. Crox sounds like a gem….

  9. John the Plumber says:

    Not being able to say no is a fault in those who care for others rather more than themselves.
    Time to take the pressure of yourself Henry and let others take the strain for a while.

    Your wit and wisdom will be sorely missed till you get back on form – but the sooner you learn to do less, the sooner you’ll be back to doing more – so as Shakespeare said, ‘Get well soon.’ (It was Shakespeare wasn’t it.)

    All the best Henry.

  10. Laurence Cox says:

    Get well soon. I’ve been there (except for the psychiatric and medication part). In my case it was when I was combining being a local councillor/deputy group leader/scrutiny committee spokesperson with a full-time job that required a 90 mile-round trip commute by car each day. Fortunately an experienced ex-councillor who was working as a trainer at a weekend conference I attended was able to diagnose “councillor burn-out” (it’s more common than you might think). and give me similar advice about cutting down.

    The important thing is that your psychiatrist has given you the authority to say “no” without any feeling of guilt. Use it. Some days you may say no half the time; some days only a quarter. That figure of one-third is no more than an estimate that comes with a pretty big error bar. You can only find your limits by going beyond them, but now that you have it’s just a matter of throttling back until you are inside them and can leave a bit of headroom for unexpected events.

  11. Phew! What a relief! Fewer Henry Gee books and blogposts to read.

    Sorry, that was probably too flippant. What I really meant was “what they all said above”.

    Take some time and be well. I hear you have a rather picturesque beach for walking on (just avoid the pier-shattering waves). I’m sure some grooving with Stealer will be therapeutic, too.