Do you have trouble saying “no”?

I do, and I am not alone in this. I was talking to a friend the other day about this issue and she told me, “saying no to them was like a knife in my gut!”. Why do some people have such an issue with a tiny two letter, one syllable word?

You can call it the “disease to please”, people pleasing personality or full-blown codependency or “interconnected”.  Not being able to say no can come at great personal expense. Have you ever found yourself up at 2 AM writing someone else’s assignment? Making cupcakes for a party you were not even invited to? Packing for someone who needs to be at the airport at 6 AM? Come on! Let’s be honest here!

When you say “yes” to everyone and everything presented to you, your life gets off track. You become like that the little train on the stump. Stuck and going nowhere fast…

Why don’t you ( or I) exercise our right to say “no”? For me it boiled down to fear. I was afraid to say “no” because, 1. I didn’t want to make anyone angry with me 2. I didn’t want to disappoint anyone.  3. I love fixing things and if I take on your problem I will be your hero, right?

Well that may be true, but most of the time I felt more like a doormat than a hero. I felt like a train off my tracks and out of control.

Being up at 2 am doing someone’s else’s project did not one thing for my own self esteem, my need to rest. I often felt resentful and angry that I was doing something I did not want to do and in many cases should not have been doing.

As a codependent, saying “yes” immediately was an anxiety reducing behavior. I got a little satisfaction from playing “girl Friday” and fixing other’s problems, but that immediate relief was short-lived. I had no boundaries. What is a boundary? The dictionary defines a boundary as “something that set limits”.

Now in 2017, let’s get very real and very honest There are limits to what you can do.

Your time and your health are your two most valuable possessions. Spend them wisely. Survival is not selfish.

You must make good decisions with your time to make it to your own finish line. So you must know and respect your own personal limits and have a boundary line around your time.  Take a deep breath and think of the last time you flew on an airplane. The safety speech from the flight crew, even if you have never paid attention to what they are saying you could not miss the little oxygen mask part. If that thing pops out you put yours on FIRST, before you help anyone else. Even a child…

So as a codependent, people pleaser, whatever your label is, how do you say “no” without the crippling fear, anxiety and guilt?

It just takes practice and knowledge about what is really going on. Do you say “yes” out of fear? Are you afraid of the anger of someone being told “no”? Why are you afraid of their anger? Why are they angry at hearing a tiny two letter word, really? Give yourself some time to think this through. Do you always say “yes” out of guilt? Why does saying “no” make you feel guilty? Sit down with a journal and write out answers to these questions and give this some serious thought.

There is a Chinese proverb: “Give a hungry man a fish you feed him today. Teach a hungry man to fish you feed him for life.” Think about what you are doing. Do you have teenagers who can’t work a washing machine? Who is going to wash clothes for them when they go to college? Do they have a clue that this is a lifelong chore that needs to get done so school and work clothes are ready for the week ahead? This is a reality of life, so while it may make YOU feel good to take such wonderful care of your little darlings are you really helping them?

My first successful boundary was in the laundry room. When I went from being a stay at home mom to working two jobs post divorce I did not have the time or the energy to do all that extra laundry. I showed my kids how to use both machines, got them each a basket and that was that. Everyone was responsible for their own laundry. My kids resisted this, they had  never thought about clean clothes, how clothes get clean or folded and returned to their closet.  I held my ground, and had to hold my nose a couple of times, but everyone takes care of their own laundry now. It’s a wonderful thing!

Back to our little nemesis, NO. If just reading that word, saying it, is causing your heart rate to rise and your stomach to tie up in knots, let’s say in 2017 we are going to say YES to LESS! There! We can DO THIS!

I have noticed that back in my no boundaries days I would get attacked. I’m serious, I had one friend who would drop her kids off on my doorstep and be in her car pulling out yelling out the window what time she was going to pick them up when I opened the door! Or you are in the carpool line and “We need 6 dozen cookies for home room tomorrow, I appreciate it.” You’re in the parking lot at work and someone runs up to you and breathlessly says, “Hey! I need you to cover my shift at___”.

I call this the ambush ask.

But you can still say no. You are never backed into a corner until you agree to do something.

Take a deep breath and say, “Hang on, I need to check my schedule before I agree to that and I will get back to you with an answer.” Then do check and get back to them with an answer. If someone gets angry with you for making them wait until you can check your schedule is that someone you want to give your valuable time to? Think about that…

So when ambushed like this, take a breath and give yourself time. Put your hand up if you have to.  Once you do this a few time the ambushers will likely stop this approach.

If you are asked to do something you already know you cannot do but you feel guilty for saying “no”, and you are about to cave in, shift the focus. State, “I would like to help but I already have a commitment at that time to kids activity, work, spouse…” whatever, take the focus off of you saying “no”.

Or you can say no with a compliment, “I am so pleased you thought of me for this project. I am flattered but I already have plans for that weekend.”

If a person is insistent that they need you for this project, and you will run into this from people who are accustomed to you always saying “yes”– offer an alternative. State, “I cannot help on that date but if you still need help on ___ I could pitch in then.”  OR “Is there something I could do that does not include___?”

Please in 2017 let’s resolve to respect ourselves. Respect our limits and set boundaries that ensure our emotional integrity. Don’t allow yourself to be backed into a corner. Do not be afraid of a two letter word or the person who needs to hear it. You can say “no”! Start small and practice. In time saying no will be as easy as saying yes, then you can say yes without guilt or resentment. In time you can say yes to things you truly want to do and can give 100% of your best to.

Let’s get our train off the stump and back on track!

Remember the oxygen mask? Put yours on first because if you pass out NO ONE is left! One more time: Survival is NOT Selfish!

2017 has a motto: Say YES to LESS!




God Grant me the Serenity…


Photo courtesy of Zan Phillips Photography, Jackson, Mississippi. Please visit Zan on Facebook to see more of her wonderful work.

God Grant me the serenity…

Such richness in this sentence, five simple words.

First as we address God, we acknowledge our Higher Power. The only power who has power to restore us.

Second, we ask for a grant. To grant means to bestow or confer, especially by a formal act or to agree or accede to a request.

Third, we are asking for ourselves. We are not focusing on anyone or anything but our own need, our own circumstance, our own heart.

And fourth we are requesting serenity. God’s own peace to be granted to us. But does God just give us serenity? Is it gift wrapped and handed out Christmas morning? Can God’s peace be poured over a restless heart and instantly soothe or is there some part we must play? Does water poured into a cracked pot stay or run out?

I think the key to being able to hold God’s peace in our heart lies in the next sentence of our prayer: to accept.

The key to being able to receive God’s grant of serenity is to accept it. No gift can be bestowed on an unwilling heart.

To accept that His peace surpasses our circumstances, our emotions and our powerlessness. To accept that our Higher Power is in control of each and every situation.

And once we do that, we are able to accept the priceless gift of serenity.


Acquaint now thyself with Him, and be at peace: thereby good shall come to thee.         Job 22:21

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.      Philippians 4:7  NKJV


This post is an excerpt from Alana’s book, The Little Engine who Could Not… available on Amazon in Kindle and Paperback.

Photo courtesy of Zan Phillips, please see Zan’s FB page for more examples of her amazing photography.  


Books matter


Books matter. They are vessels of knowledge but also friends. A good book is much more than company or entertainment. In times of hardship, I have pulled a beloved book off the shelf to read it again for the comfort it provided. I decided to share a few of my favorites with you today.

The Listener by Taylor Caldwell. I first discovered Taylor Caldwell when I was in the seventh grade. I was already an avid reader and The Captains and The Kings was a big fat paperback I found in the library. I figured it would occupy me and give me a good excuse to procrastinate in math class. I was swept away into the story and seven times I had to set the book down and have a good cry over the tragedy’s happening to these characters I came to dearly love. That is a good story and even better writing. Mrs. Caldwell was a master of her craft. She knocked out almost one novel a year from 1938 to 1980! You can’t go wrong reading any of them.  The Listener was published in 1960 and what is  amazing to me is even today we experience the same dark night of the soul that the characters in this book went through. Will you find yourself in this book? Will your soul resonate with the Betrayed or the Betrayer, the Doctor, Teacher or the Magdalene? And will you be changed when you meet The Man who Listens?

I hope you will read it and find out for yourself!

Jesus Calling by Sarah Young, this is a 365 day devotional and a dear friend gave me the  leather-bound as a gift. What a gift it has been. These devotionals are short, sweet, simple, yet very deep and thoughtful. They remind me to “be still and know” and in our current harried and hurried world the thing I need most is to “be still”. This book is a gift in many ways.

How Al-Anon works for Friends and Families. This book may have actually saved my life. I did not go to my first meeting willingly, I was entrenched in denial, anger and fear. I knew if I could just figure out the magic formula I could FIX IT. The same friend who gave me the copy of Jesus Calling had cheerfully informed me that “if you don’t go to that meeting tonight I will come get you and duck tape your fanny to the bumper of my car and take you myself” One look in her eyes flashing blue lightning and I knew I better go. I did. I made a horse’s butt of myself ( a subject for a different post!) but I did decide to get some literature. And I went back. And I read this book.  My first trip through this book I cried so hard reading was slow and painful. But it was the first step on a healing journey that continues today. My second trip through this book was done with highlighters, note taking and willingness to learn. I remember setting the book down and taking a deep breath thinking, “whoever wrote this has been bugging my house for the past five years!”  I learned I was not alone,  and neither are you. No matter how bad your situation there is someone who has already lived it and if you want help– it’s out there. There are millions of people just waiting to share their experience, strength and hope with you. I am one of them. Get in touch!

Addictive Thinking  Understanding Self-Deception by Abraham J. Twerski M.D. Once I was on the road to recovery I took to heart the advice to learn all you can about addiction and this book curled my hair. But not in the way you may think. This book exposed the truth to me about my own addictive thinking and the compulsive destructive behavior coming out of my mind as I played my part on the merry-go-round . This book is not an “easy read” but if you want illumination this is it.

Battlefield of the Mind by Joyce Meyer.  Have you ever though about what you are thinking about? Thoughts are powerful and if you are not thinking the right thoughts your actions will not be that great either. In AA and Al-Anon we call it “stinkin thinkin!” and it can be fixed. This is an amazing book, and after you read it you can get the workbook and work it! Like anything good– “it works if you work it!”  You CAN fix your thoughts on things that are good and true and lovely and THINK ON THESE THINGS! This book has been a life changer for millions of readers. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Dying for a Drink, what you and your family should know about alcoholism By Anderson Spickard Jr. M.D. and Barbara Thompson.   This book is a fascinating journey through Dr. Spickard’s medical career and his personal perceptions of the medical establishment’s treatment of addiction and the improvements that have been made. He co-wrote the updated edition with Barbara Thompson “to equip readers with the information, tools and confidence they need to participate in the recovery process.” (page 16 of Dying for a Drink) This book address’ all aspects of addiction, the scientific, spiritual and cultural. It address’ the family aspect of the disease in several chapters devoted to family recovery down to an appendix that is a “Letter to Grandchildren”.  Even though I was working a program and getting my co dependent issues under control I was not at a place of forgiveness or understanding until I read this book. Dr. Spickard quotes a female alcoholic who describes with eloquence what she goes through physically and mentally when she is craving alcohol. It is shocking and will move you from anger to a place of compassion. That is when you start to heal, when you can feel compassion for someone who is suffering.

These are all great books, fixtures on my shelf and my life. BUT– if I were marooned on a desert island and along with my hunting knife and lip gloss, ( I go no where without lip gloss. Period. The end!) and I could only have ONE book– I would have to have my bible. It is THE BOOK. Everything I need is in there, poetry, drama, history, instructions, love story’s, wars, recipes,  prophecy, tragedy and hope. Mostly hope. Lot’s of hope. It’s always the best read!

I would love to hear from you. What books have made a difference in your life? What’s on your bookshelf now? Feel free to leave me a comment or drop an email and join the discussion. Till next time– Alana