photo (14) I like to cook.

(I know this point can be easily invalidated by the fact that I am currently “cooking” frozen chicken tacos from Trader Joe’s in my oven right now, but stick with me. Okay?)

Last year, I stumbled upon a magazine called Everyday Food. Similar to my favorite cookbook, Weeknight Fresh and Fast, both have extremely deceptive titles.  I’ve often thought I should create a cookbook that really gets to the heart of a fresh/fast/everyday dinner. (Hint: it involves cheese, fruit and some kind of chip or cracker. And by fruit, I may mean wine.) Nonetheless, when I have a little more time and ambition, I really do enjoy cooking.  In an effort to diversify my meals and encourage me to eat different foods, I started subscribing to Everyday Food.   While there were definitely some recipes I never planned to tackle, very little of the magazine seemed unreasonable. And what I didn’t cook, I thoroughly enjoyed imagining scenarios when I totally would make these dishes. “Crowned roast will be perfect for a football Sunday when I have eight people over!”

And then it happened. They stopped publishing Everyday Food; in its place I would receive a subscription to Martha Stewart Living.

The first issue, April, appeared in my mailbox a few weeks ago. I was curious, having never read it before, and a little hesitant. While I can cook (when I’m not being lazy), I cannot bake/craft/decorate/sew/match my clothes. Outside of my culinary talent, I am an expert at folding clothes. That’s pretty much where the domesticity ends.

Martha Stewart Living reinforced that for me.

Let’s start with the cover (pictured above), shall we? What beautiful Easter eggs! Something tells me that you didn’t decorate these with a PAAS kit – or you would have a smiling lamb decal stuck to the bottom. Sorry, Martha. I couldn’t decorate eggs to look like this if they were the size of basketballs.

Progressing through the magazine, I see ads for stunning appliances – shiny dishwashers and fancy washing machines. I’m reminded that my apartment microwave is from the ’80s and can’t even cook a bag of popcorn.

Next,we stumble upon Martha’s April calendar – I’m already behind. I did not schedule spring maintenance for cars and farm vehicles on the 4th and I did not get a facial this Sunday. Clearly, I don’t just neglect my home; I neglect my non-existent farm and self, as well. The good news? I can get back on track. Tomorrow, I need to wash my winter clothes and store them with sachets of cedar shavings. I’m sure I bought extras of those last year, right? And on the 28th, I need to sow tomatoes in the greenhouse. Maybe last month’s issue told me to plant the tomatoes. Or build a greenhouse.

I got eager when I saw the next page – spring-cleaning tips. I’m terrible at cleaning but I’m a major sucker for tips on how to do it better. Finally, I thought, something useful and relevant. I was reading one that seemed to make sense – pour white vinegar in your toilet and let it soak while you clean around your house. (And unlike cedar shaving sachets, I actually have white vinegar in my kitchen.) Then I got to the last sentence – “Be sure to not mix vinegar and chlorine bleach, which will produce a poisonous gas.” I could see myself trying to explain to the authorities how I “accidentally” made meth in my toilet bowl and decided to turn the page.

Oh, what’s this? Nine photos of Martha Stewart holding different breeds of live chickens. Perhaps because I am allergic to eggs, raising chickens has never crossed my mind. But I’m happy to know that I can now differentiate the blue andalusian from the australorp. I’ll never make that mistake again.

I thumb past an ad for Crocs boat shoes – if you thought Crocs were bad, you should see Crocs boat shoes. Shudder, turn page. Putting money on Talbot or Coldwater Creek making an appearance before we’re done here. But wait! Why would we buy clothes when we can sew them? Dust off your sewing machine; we’ve got instructions to make a blouse and a dress! Hopefully we can put the leftover fabric to use when we make those darling lunch bags later on in the week.

Next comes food and entertaining. Minus the napkin rings made of twigs, this is actually the reasonable part of the magazine. I won’t bore you with its practical contents.

Flower arrangements and gardening fill the next handful of pages and then we land in straight up craft country. If your Easter basket did not include any of the following: vintage flowers, spread monarch butterfly specimens, a $90 planter pot or blown duck eggs, you failed at Easter. You should have just skipped your tacky gift giving altogether.

Rounding out Easter, we have more food, baking and craft ideas. My favorite is a wreath made of both brown eggs AND quail eggs. You have to pierce the eggs with a paperclip and siphon out the yolk with an ear syringe. It says you need three dozen eggs; I would need about 54 dozen eggs to account for the ones I would break.

By this point, my insecurities have all been confirmed and I’m left with nothing but questions (and perhaps a little envy). Who has not only the time and skills to live this way, but also the money? I’m guessing her ideal reader is married to a wealthy man and has no children. Also doesn’t sleep and lives on a farm.

(And that beep tells me that my 1980’s apartment oven is currently setting my frozen chicken tacos on fire. ‘Til next time.)

Jell-O.
Pita chips.
Wine.
Ice cream.
Cheese.

Sad but true, the items (I won’t say “foods”) listed above have recently served as dinners for me. I’ll admit it aloud – I’m in a major food rut.

Much like other parts of my life, I envy my friends who seem to have it together when it comes to eating and meal planning. On one side of the spectrum, I have friends who plan two weeks of meals in advance, neatly typed on a menu on the fridge. On the other side, there’s me – justifying that macaroni and cheese isn’t so bad when compared to Jell-O and pita chips.

I sat down today and tried to plan one week of meals – unsuccessfully. I pored through cookbooks, sifted through my cabinets and all I came up with was a list of challenges (which is really a nice word for “excuses”).

So here we go:

Challenge/excuse #1: I have food allergies. This tends to rule out a number of options, especially of the frozen/convenient variety.

Challenge/excuse #2: I can be incredibly lazy after work sometimes. Lazy as in “yes, ice cream is an acceptable dinner.”

Challenge/excuse #3: I am a household of one. This is significant for a number of reasons. Most recipes are for 2-4-more people. And to be honest, fractions suck. I’ve found some recipes for one (or I make multiple servings and forget to eat the leftovers) but the amount of time dedicated to enjoy a meal by myself just doesn’t always seem very rewarding. Beyond the cooking, there’s the cleaning. Doing a sink-ful of dishes after cooking an elaborate meal for one is about the least fun thing ever.

Challenge/excuse #4: Food is expensive. While going through my cookbooks to find a week’s worth of recipes, I realized I would be purchasing about 65 items at the grocery store this weekend. And what’s worse is when I’m overambitious, buy said 65 items, cook one meal and all the unused produce-meat-seafood goes to waste that week.

Challenge/excuse #5: Some days, nothing appeals to me. Honestly, I can run through a list of 15 foods in my head and none of it sounds like something I feel like eating, let alone taking the time to prepare. Nothing is worse than spending an hour prepping and cooking a dinner to realize after two bites that you’re not in the mood to eat it.

Truth be told, I secretly want to be one of those super put-together people who eats mostly healthy meals (or at least meals which represent one of the food groups). I just am unsure how to do it, or more importantly, how to motivate myself. I truly enjoy the one “cooking experiment” I take on each week, but know I realistically don’t have the energy to do it on a daily basis. And, as I mentioned, I have run out of foods that interest me lately.

So friends – especially other singles – how do you do it? 

One hour per week, I volunteer at a local high school, presenting the curriculum for Junior Achievement. For those of you unfamiliar with the organization, “Junior Achievement is a non profit organization that brings the real world to students through hands-on curriculum delivered by a trained classroom volunteer.” There are a number of programs for students in grades K-12; the particular one I present is called “Success Skills.”

Tuesday night, I stayed up way too late watching the election results. And to be completely honest, I initially stayed up for the speeches because I wanted to hear Obama’s walk up music. (“Signed, Sealed, Delivered” for those of you who missed it. Solid choice.) By lunchtime, when I volunteer, I was feeling less than spectacular and pretty ready for a nap. I also was ponytailed and had picked off about half of my manicure the night before, due to election result anxiety. Needless to say, I probably wasn’t, in my mind, the portrait of success.

The lesson’s focus was on building rapport and using both verbal and non-verbal communication. One of the exercises involved pairs of students essentially playing Taboo with cards that listed various occupations. In other words, one student would describe a job like “court reporter,” without using the words “court” or “reporter.” Before they began, I mentioned that if a student didn’t know what one of the jobs was, he was to raise his hand and I would do my best to explain.

Looking over the jobs as the students began, I felt a little hesitant about a few of them ( statistician, public relations specialist, welder), but felt the rest were pretty run of the mill. One of the students raised her hand and I asked her which job she needed a description of. She pointed at “tailor” with a quizzical expression.

What follows is why I will never be on a game show.

“Okay. You buy a dress and it’s a little bit too big. Where do you take it?”

She looks at me and responds, “Back to the store.”

Valid point. Next thought.

“You buy a pair of pants and you love them. But they are just a bit too long. Who do you bring them to, to have them hemmed?”

“My mom?”

I realize now that while all of these answers are indeed correct, we’re not exactly headed in the right direction. But I’m determined. We’re gonna get the right answer.

“Starts with an ‘T’ and rhymes with ‘sailor'”

“Tailor?”

Finally I realized that neither of the kids had any clue in the first place what a tailor was or what a tailor does. And from that moment emerged an even more important realization.

That day, I was teaching success skills for the workplace.

  1. No matter how tired you are or how crappy you feel, you’re expected to pretend to be on your A game.
  2. Sometimes, you have no idea what the right answer is, or how to get to it. And you’ll resort to some kind of a cheap, crappy solution – because at the moment it works.

Just another day of inspiring America’s future workforce.

I’m too terrified to Google images of scorpions, so you can pretend this guy is deadly.

In no particular order, I am deathly afraid of the following: cockroaches, needles and heights. Before I moved to Arizona, I had no reason to be knowledgeable (and therefore, fearful) about scorpions. I dodged numerous stories told by co-workers who found these critters squatting in their homes and pretended it would never happen to me … until it did.

On Sunday night, I came home from book club, sat on my bed and plugged my phone into its charger. Facing my headboard, I took my turn on Words with Friends and my eyes wandered to the sea of cords underneath my night table. And amidst the cords, slowly meandering across the beige carpet (NEXT TO MY BED) was the most horrifying thing I’ve ever seen.

My first scorpion.

For those of you unfamiliar with scorpions, consider yourself lucky. Before this moment, I considered palmetto bugs (aka giant winged roaches) to be the most horrifying creature I’d ever encounter in my home. This miniature horned (clawed?) beast was about to take home the gold.

Here are  its stats: it was about as long as the width of my three middle fingers. Evidently this is good, as the small ones have more concentrated venom. It was roughly the same color as my bedroom carpet. And thank God, it was moving rather slowly.

I didn’t scream. I do, however, think I entered some sort of fugue.

While (rather silently) panicking, I made my way towards the kitchen and was immediately grateful that I hadn’t put away Solo cups from a party I hosted about two months ago. I grabbed two Solo cups and made my way back to the offending creature (who thankfully hadn’t moved far). As he moved towards my closet, I deftly trapped him between two Solo cups, ran quickly towards my front door and hurled him off my balcony.

Yes, I’m grateful he didn’t fly back at me in a rogue gust of wind. No, I didn’t try to crush him. One, I hate the idea of trying to crush any creature which makes a crunching noise. Two, this is Arizona in September. Minus my running shoes, I am 100% in open-toed shoes. And I doubt a ballet flat would do much damage. Three, I wasn’t sure how Senor Scorpion would react. What if I aimed with a shoe, didn’t manage to finish him off and he either (a) ran under my bed  or (b) started throwing poisonous daggers at me? Here’s a fun fact – scorpion anti-venom has now gone down to $8,000 per dose. Of all the things I’d love to spend $8K on, anti-venom is not high on my wish list.

Needless to say, Sunday was a rough night for sleep. Yesterday, I made a purchase I hope I never use – scorpion spray. Oh, and a bottle of wine. I figure if I encounter another scorpion and have to spray it, I’ll be grateful I bought that pinot grigio. And if not (fingers crossed), I’ll be more than happy to celebrate my arachnid-free home.

Each day, as an employee of Make-A-Wish America, I read incredible stories about children battling life-threatening illnesses who get to have their most heartfelt wish granted. From the hundreds of comments I read daily, I see what a difference a wish can make – to the child, to the family, to the community. I encourage you to visit wish.org or our Facebook Page to read about the children whose lives we change.

One of my favorite wish stories is that of four-year-old Lauren. While Lauren bravely fights cancer, she relies on her bunny blanket, a gift from her aunt and uncle, to provide her comfort. When asked what her one true wish was, she wished to give. She envisioned every child in the hospital with a bunny blanket like hers, that she hand-delivered.

While there are many ways you can help grant wishes, I’d like to share a new opportunity with you. It only takes a minute and it won’t cost you a dime.

Straight Talk Wireless is encouraging consumers to go to their local Walmart to show their support for Make-A-Wish by taking part in a one-minute demonstration of a Straight Talk Wireless Android smart phone. For every shopper who participates, Straight Talk will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish, with the ultimate goal of $1,000,000.

The event will take place over four consecutive Saturdays starting September 22, 2012 at over 3,000 participating Walmarts under the banner “One Minute One Million.” You can find a participating Walmart near you by visiting OneMinuteOneMillion.com

I hope that you can take a minute out of your Saturday in the next month to help us grant even more wishes for deserving children!

What I'll be eating for the next month

Sad but true, it’s my last official three-day weekend until Memorial Day. And while I was grateful to have a good friend in town for a shenanigan-filled time, I realized this morning that it’s time to get back to reality, to the routines that help me keep it together.

First and foremost (and you’ve heard me mention this before), I’m dependent on a reasonably predictable sleep schedule. More or less, I need to get to sleep and wake up at roughly the same time each day. On the weekends, I tend to stay up/sleep in a bit later, but try the best I can to not throw myself completely off. These past few nights/days have pretty much been the opposite of that. I’ve been up way too late most every night and then I sleep in. Worse than that, it hasn’t been good sleep; it’s been the type of sleep that follows eating-drinking-being super sociable. When I don’t sleep well, the rest of my day tends to fall into a vat of non-productivity.

For the past two months, I’ve been back on track when it comes to working out. My body feels better, my mind is clearer and my energy increases. Like most people, I have to force myself to take the time to exercise, but once I start, I’m always glad I did. This weekend, I only managed to work out one day out of three. Needless to say, when I finish this post, I’m off to the gym.

Another one of my goals this year is to read more. Growing up, I was a voracious reader, and over the past decade, I’ve read less than I’d like to. I’m more than halfway through my most recent selection, Mildred Pierce, and I look forward to picking it back up tonight. I’ve been told that reading is supposed to be a good way to quiet my head before I go to sleep and I guarantee it’s a better idea than texting while half-asleep.

As you can see from the carb-laden photo, I hosted a macaroni and cheese party last night. More than a dozen of my friends brought their special pasta creations and some tasty wine and beer as accompaniments. It was an awesome night – good people, delicious food and drinks and plenty of laughs. Today, I’ve got to buckle down and clean this place back up. Time to make a trip (or two) to the recycling bin with all of the bottles and cans. And after I make it look like a normal and decent apartment again, I still have to catch up on laundry and prepare for the week ahead.

Needless to say, it was a pretty terrific weekend. And sometimes to have the joy of experiences, you have to be willing to bend your routine. But I can’t deny the benefits of structure – with it, I’m more balanced and my actions reflect this mindset.

Papago Park, yesterday

For years, I’ve been trained to believe that the ability to multi-task is a necessary competency, especially in the workplace. After all, proving that you can simultaneously write an e-mail, immediately respond to another regarding a completely different topic, answer a phone call and edit a document shows that you can manage multiple projects seamlessly. And, more so, you can “shift gears” (more corporate jargon), which politely means, “I can stop working on whatever I’m doing to meet whatever need you have at this exact second.”

My brain is never silent. It’s constantly bouncing between song lyrics, personal reflection, what I have to do that night and what I should be focusing on at that moment. The best description I’ve ever heard is that my brain is like a train station, with a dozen trains all trying to find track space. Without someone to schedule and direct the trains, they likely will all crash in the middle. If I don’t take the time to make painstaking lists, which include very specific tasks like “Empty dishwasher. Dry dishes in rack. Wash dishes in sink,” nothing gets done.

On the other hand, I’ve successfully turned a challenge into a strength. Working in social marketing is ideal for me; it’s fast-paced and requires constant shifting of attention. I’ve come to acknowledge that many people don’t possess the mindset to keep up with a workday like mine. But when you task me with reporting numbers and creating a spreadsheet, I’ll probably end up doing 15 other things while working on it, and drag out an hour-long project to a half-day one.

The positive is that my talent for multi-tasking is essential to my career. The negative is that I am challenged when I have to singularly dedicate my focus. I read while I watch TV. I cook while I talk on the phone. And worst of all, I react as soon as I see a notification on my phone, immediately breaking my concentration.

I’ve recently decided that I need to re-learn how to do one thing at a time. Whether that one thing is reading a book, watching a movie or spending time with friends, my focus needs to be solely on that moment.

Not surprisingly, this is less than simple.

A perfect example – I just stopped writing this post because my friend called. Although I feel I haven’t lost the direction of my thoughts and it was certainly worthwhile to take the call, it’s very easy for me to abandon what I am doing. Or to simply do two (or more) things at the same time.

Due to the nature of my job, I’ve come to accept that I need to know what’s going on at all times. The reality is that this isn’t possible. I sleep. I (rarely but occasionally) am out of cell phone range. And sometimes, I just need a break from seeing everything online in real time.

While I pride myself of being on top of my work, I recognize that the world won’t explode if I don’t see an issue brewing on Facebook within the first 15 minutes that it occurs. I used to think nothing of taking my phone out to check in, almost too often. Then I took a hard look at the people I surrounded myself with, many who work in similar industries. Every dinner involved a table of people scrolling through Twitter, replying to e-mail, answering text messages and checking in on foursquare.

Two realizations: people deserve your attention. Sometimes, it feels good to “check out.”

Now, when I’m with my friends, I’m making a conscious effort to keep my phone in my purse. And if I take it out, I’ll keep it face down, as to not see the flashing notifications. Roughly once an hour, when I get up to use the restroom (or something similar), I’ll quickly scroll through to make sure everything’s under control. I’ve had moments when I’m out, that a work “crisis” has occurred. My friends, thankfully, understand the nature of my job and are polite when I have to step aside and fix something online. And when it comes to the non-work stuff, it can wait.

Many activities I engage in (reading, watching TV shows), I’ve come to see as social experiences. When I read an article, I want to know what other people think about it. When I watch a football game, I want to comment on it. But none of this needs to happen in real time. I need to focus on one thing I am doing, and if that means saying “For one hour, I am going to read this book and do nothing else,” then so be it.

I’m training myself to be a better listener, to not be thinking what I plan to reply before someone is done speaking. I hope to become less anxious by forcing myself to think about fewer things. And I look forward to remembering what life was life before everything sped up, one experience at a time.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve read countless posts and articles about resolutions – some generic, some inspiring, and others – downright ridiculous. I’ve seen the reasons that people make resolutions, and conversely, the argument that New Year’s resolutions are a waste of time. In seeing what others wish to change about themselves and their paths in the coming year, I’ve reflected (probably too much) about what I want to improve about myself. I likely drafted five different blog posts in my head, each one detailing all of the specific changes I was looking to make. And I realized that each one of them pointed to one specific fact.

I’ve never lacked goals or vision. I just tend to make decisions that don’t necessarily align with the end result I am seeking.

And that’s not to say I’m out there making terrible, no good decisions on a regular basis. It just so happens that some of my decisions rely a little more on my heart than my head. And more importantly, while they may not be “bad” decisions, I’m not making the choices I need to at this time in my life. When I look at my life as a larger story, I see that while some choices led me to a greater understanding of myself and what I am looking for, not everything needs to be a lesson.

I need to trust my instincts more. If something doesn’t seem right, it probably isn’t worth trying to make it fit. It’s okay to walk away from situations and people and cut my losses early on. That’s something I’ve never excelled at doing, and it’s time that I put that into practice.

Most importantly, I need to measure my decisions next to my goals and vision for my future. Ask myself, “Is this choice pointing me in the direction of my goals, or is it just delaying my progress?” Chances are, many options are the wrong ones. They’re the ones that keep me from getting where I know I really want to be – tomorrow, in six months, in 5 years.

This year, I made some great choices and some not-so-good ones, too. Moving into the new year, I look forward to making more of the right decisions and seeing how much closer I can get to what I truly want and deserve.

I’m not sure how many years I’ve had food allergies. There’s a good chance I developed them in my twenties; there’s a lesser chance that they always existed but worsened as I got older. They were initially diagnosed when I was 26 – corn, soy, barley, peanuts, sesame seeds, sulfites. My first reaction was that corn is in everything … especially the processed garbage that I shape my daily eats around. For a year, I gave up drinking Coke. I gave up eating candy and tortilla chips. (Fun fact: Red Bull and Mentos do not contain corn syrup.)

I still did not feel better. I’d turn bright red and splotchy after eating. I’d cough for hours on end. My chest would tighten up, leaving me feeling like I couldn’t breathe.

Being in New York allowed me access to some of the leading specialists in the field. I made an appointment with a top allergist/immunologist and subjected myself to a full range of tests – eight vials of blood were drawn in one sitting. The results came back a few days later. While I was healthy across the board, my allergies only looked worse. Turns out there are about two things in the world I’m not allergic to – cockroaches and corn.

Yes, corn.

Turns out that the allergy panel (where they inject you with doses of cat/soy/dust/etc. and watch your arm swell to Quasimodo-like proportions) is not entirely accurate. The corn, which I had dutifully avoided for a year, was fine. Eggs were not. Also, add legumes and cherries to the previous no-no list.

Awesome.

I haven’t had eggs in about four years now. I can’t tell you (especially when I’m particularly hungover), how much I crave eggs sunny side up or one of my dad’s amazing omelettes. When it comes to my allergies, I do my best to ask the right questions and to avoid the obvious culprits. For example, “Does this hamburger come on a roll with sesame seeds?” That’s an easy one. “Is this pasta made of egg or wheat?” tends to be a harder one. I asked that a few weeks ago at a conference and received a confused response of “it is pasta.” Did you know candy corn has sesame oil in it? Me neither.

I’m not going to lie. I’ve definitely toed the line, especially when it comes to the following items: Funfetti cake, soy sauce (with sushi), teriyaki (see: soy sauce), Chinese food (see: soy sauce and eggs), beer (copious amounts of barley), grilled cheese (bread = some combination of eggs, barley and soy.)

Then there are the less obvious things – telling a masseuse that they can’t use oils which may contain soy or sesame. Learning that the word “protein” is usually a loosely interpreted word that means “soy.” Sugarfree gum has soy lecithin in it.

Going out to eat flat-out sucks sometimes. I hate playing 20 questions with the server and feel even worse when I forget a detail, such as “don’t sprinkle sesame seeds on my sushi” and I have to give my food back. Appearing that picky feels incredibly awkward.

As I said, I played roulette the past few years. I avoided most of the obvious culprits, but gave in to random cravings and accidental consumption. Some reactions were worse than others, but luckily, I had never landed myself in the emergency room or had to use my EpiPen. (Note: If you’ve ever seen the needle on one of those, you’d think Reese’s Pieces wouldn’t be worth it. Trust me.)

A few months ago, I thought I had an ear infection and went to see a doctor for the first time since I moved to Phoenix. By the end of the visit, she decided that I couldn’t stay on the hardcore (over $600/month without insurance) allergy pills I had been taking for years. Decongestants were jacking up my blood pressure and it wasn’t a risk worth taking.

I’ve felt miserable for months, like I have a cold that won’t disappear. I’m tired, itchy, sneezy, coughy and any other of the dwarves I haven’t named. But what’s worse is the reactions.

I had become brave to a point of foolishness. If a specific allergen wasn’t listed in the first three ingredients, I’d consider it okay to eat. And was left feeling worse and worse each time. Saturday night, I scared myself straight.

Honestly, I’m not really sure what triggered my reaction. I ordered a salad (everything in it should have been fine) with a red wine vinaigrette (possibly sketchy – soy or sulfites), ate a few of my friend’s tots (possible egg wash) and had an Amstel Light. For two hours in bed that night, I felt like I couldn’t breathe. If you’ve never been in this position, you don’t want to experience it firsthand.

And so I made a decision yesterday. It’s time for me to stop messing with foods I can’t eat. I’m tired of feeling like garbage and, likely, few of my food choices are really worth it. The good news is that I have many foods I can eat – seafood, meat, wheat pasta, most fruits and vegetables, cheese. The bad news is that I have to start embracing either gluten-free beer or enjoying the ones that are lowest in barley (Coors Light, Bud) in much smaller quantities. I have to ask all the questions when I go out to eat. I have to make my own salad dressing, like the pioneers surely did. I’m going to have to eat more meals at home (yay, budget) and allot more time for food preparation.

So here’s to hoping I feel significantly better over the next few weeks. Please don’t talk about cake or dark beer in front of me. And if we go out to dinner, please disregard my order of white rice, lettuce and  seasonal fruit.

“To say yes to the right things, you have to say no to a lot of other things.” – William Ury

I cannot say no to people.

Clarification:
– I will not rob a bank for you.
– I excel at deflecting creepy people in bars.
– I am (generally) capable of making decent decisions.

Rather it can be said that I’m an over-committer – and I’ve realized that living this way is beginning to take its toll on me.

I’m a people pleaser to the core. Knowing that I made someone happy is what drives me. Especially given my chosen field (non-profit), it is of the utmost importance to me to do good for others.

On the other side of the coin, I avoid conflict at all costs. If I think that saying no to someone who asks anything of me (that isn’t completely impossible) will result in any kind of discomfort, or worse, disagreement, you can bet that I will give in.

Being helpful and accommodating is a crucial part of my identity. It’s important for me to think that people see me a giving person, one who goes out of her way to help others. And helping people has always given me a sense of accomplishment. Lately though, I’ve begun resenting people. I find myself thinking, “Why am I always being asked to do this?” and “This is the absolute last thing I want to be doing right now.” Especially when I continually prioritize other people’s needs above my own.

You know what? When you start resenting people for expecting you to be helpful, you’re no longer helping people for the right reasons.

I’m scared to tell people no because I’m afraid what they will think of me when I do. Being “nice” and dependable is the single part of my identity (and perceived value) that I feel I can control. Without those characteristics, what’s there to replace it?

I frequently find myself doing favors for people who I don’t know, or even more maddening, people who I cannot rely on in exchange. Although I am hyper-aware of this, I still can’t bring myself to turn people away. I am just far too frightened by the prospect that someone (gasp!) might see me as less than helpful.

How do you convince yourself that it’s okay to tell people no? And, no matter the outcome, feel that you made the best decision?

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