Thank you for your opinion...

A few months ago I became very aware of the strength behind the following:

"Thank you for your opinion, but I didn't ask for it."

Here's the real real. We're all people, people who believe that what we are doing is WHAT YOU DO and how we do it is HOW YOU DO IT. But its just not so. You have to choose how. You have to choose what. And you absolutely must choose why.

People cannot help themselves. They cannot help but spew unsolicited advice on what you should be doing. YOU have to learn to say:

"Thank you for your opinion, but I didn't ask for it."

Let's try it. Here are a bunch of things I have heard recently directed at loved ones in all different stages of life. Each one of these questions stirred them (in the wrong way).

"So are you dating anyone? All of your friends are engaged/ married/ having babies... when are you getting engaged/ married/ having babies?" 

"So what's this job? You say you like it, but whats it really doing for your CAREER?"

"When are you going to grad school?"

"Your sister is having a baby - when are you?"

"So you've been in X city for X amount of years. What's next? Have you thought about grad school?"

People want to connect. They want to share experiences. But sometimes, a lot of times, what you're doing or what you want to be doing just doesn't align. This is OKAY. This is actually what happens in life. Instead of being annoyed/ frustrated/ letting doubt sink in that you aren't doing what "you're supposed to be doing" according to the life doctrine of so and so directing these types of questions at you, look them in the eye and say:

"Thank you for your opinion, but I didn't ask for it."

And mean it. This doesn't work if you don't. There are all sorts of people who will try to make choices for you for the entirety of your life. And they will succeed if you let them. It is very possible (and very scary) that this can and will happen.

So practice. Practice saying it. Practice meaning it. Christmas is right around the corner and you are (most likely) going to be dipping back into some phase of your previous life. You will be on someone else's turf and high school "friends", distant relatives,etc. are going to be asking questions, NOT listening, and giving you their thoughts on just about everything.


"Thank you for your opinion, but I didn't ask for it."

just say no

Obligations - how can I have fewer of them, you ask... As Georgia O'Keefe would say: ELIMINATE the "stuff" in your life that is keeping you from doing the things you want to do - the things you love - with the people you love to be with - in the places you want to be.

To spend your time the way you want to spend it - is that too much to ask? I wonder.

I personally try to avoid theme parties or any party requiring a costume, destination weddings, and wedding or baby showers where you have to play games.  I don't Christmas shop or bake Christmas cookies.  I don't belong to a book club and I don't travel in groups of women - yet.  But those are my choices - yours will be different.

Author and lifestyle philosopher Alexandra Stoddard once admitted in an interview that her secret to happiness is not doing anything she doesn't want to do.  And you ask, how is that possible?  In a world of obligations to others, how can anyone be that selfish?  You might be a "Soccer Mom" and chauffeur, a care giver to aging parents, or maybe you're working a 60 hour week.  Depending on your life stage and your own personal situation, there will be certain things that you can control and certain things that you can't.

But, if you pay attention to the rhythm of your days and your weeks and focus on making the right choices for you, you will probably find that there are obligations in your life that you can, in fact, give yourself permission to eliminate.  And, you will begin to JUST SAY NO more often.

just say no

Let's look at the holidays - when expectations are at their highest and everyone starts complaining about holiday stress in early November.  I've seen Mothers-in-Law stop speaking to each other because they have to share their children and grandchildren on Christmas day.  I've seen adult children travel to five different places to be with fathers and step mothers, mothers and step fathers, grandparents, uncles and aunts.  It's exhausting for them, and takes the fun out of the season.  

More and more of the people in my life are taking a look at how they are spending their holidays - evaluating the traditions and the activities that have meaning and those that don't.  They have begun to pay attention to what comes from love and what feels like an obligation.  And, here are some of the changes they've made - by choice, based on different circumstances each year:

  • Turning Passover dinner for 30 relatives into an intimate Sadir for eight friends of different faiths.
  • Making Thanksgiving a solo meditative Yoga weekend of rejuvenation.
  • Spending a Mother-Daughter Christmas in Paris.
  • Creating "Freaster" [Friends Easter] and Friendsgiving for all your friends who have nowhere to go for the holidays.

So - how do we balance meeting our own needs with the needs of the "Other Special People" in our lives - our spouses, our children, extended family and friends?  Sometimes we need to say NO to someone because there is someone or something else that needs our attention more.  

You might need to rearrange your entire day because a friend needs a "pick me up" - maybe just a long lunch and a chat.  You might say no to book club at the last minute because your daughter has had a tough day at school and needs help with her homework.  Or you take the day off of work to stay home with your sick child.  You might say no to cleaning your bathroom because you want to have a lunch date with your husband.  Or, you might just need some time to yourself - some ME time.

Call it Private Time, Down Time, or Alone Time.  It's a little time to escape - a time to comfort yourself like no one else can - a time for self-indulgence - or for a little planned pleasure.

hello from london town

That’s what the subject line read. No, it wasn’t a travel update. It was an email, from my friend P, across the pond.
P, who I’ve never met in person, who I met over Skype when I played a concert for my cousin’s living in Buenos Aires, who I feel like I know with every fiber of my being, without ever meeting her!

Don’t you just love connecting with people like that?

I laid eyes on the subject line as I was leaving the bathroom. Being that person. Huddling on my phone, my face illuminated by the screen in the dark corner, in a social setting… I had to read the email. Why was P emailing me on a Friday night from London Town?

My heart raced as I read her words. YES, YES, YES. You get it. You got it. GOOD. The importance of not comparing, not wishing you were elsewhere, just saying no, and doing all of those things in the genuine interest of doing exactly what you want to do.

Oh the panic; the swelling fear that everyone is hanging out without you. Right NOW. Where is everyone? Why aren’t my friends texting me? Where are they?  What's happening out there that I don't know about? That panic can swirl and build.

Instead of asking, “what is everyone else doing?” or thinking you should be doing something else… STOP. Okay? Just stop. Why do you care? That’s what you should be asking yourself. Ask yourself why you care more about the hypothetical – what everyone else is doing – and get to the root of the panic.

And that’s what P did! She pulled herself out of that place of panic and said ACTUALLY I DON’T CARE if everyone else is hanging out with me, or if I SHOULD be out partying because I’m 24.

All of those “shoulds” will kill you, darling.

P did what was RIGHT for her. On her own.  She did the stuff that felt right to her. And that stuff, whatever feels right, that’s the stuff that’s not prescriptive. It’s individualistic and special to you. Because we, as our own selves, well we are the only ones that can determine what that stuff is.

But what’s universal? The comparisons, the shoulds, the fear that everyone else is in on something fun and marvelous, but you’re not there to experience it. The delicious secret? No one is having more fun than you. It’s the truth. But you have to believe it.

It’s about choice and deciding what feels right to you. It’s saying “NO” to all of the things your mind tricks you into thinking you should be doing. It’s about just saying “YES” to the things inside that feel right.

And what could be better than that?