There is nothing an adult woman hates to admit more than this – my mom was right. 

Perhaps I can only admit this now that she died, which was almost three years to the day that this weekly essay is going out. Needless to say she has been on my mind a lot in the last few weeks. 

One of the things my mom always told us was, “When in doubt… Don’t.”

  • Iffy about that skirt I was trying on during back to school shopping?
    • When in doubt… Don’t.
  • Unsure about accepting the invitation to the party?
    • When in doubt… Don’t.
  • Afraid of crossing that empty parking lot in the dark?
    • When in doubt… Don’t.

What makes so much sense now drove me bat shit crazy when I was a teenager. No one wanted clothes to fit her more than 6 foot tall 15-year old Sue. Pants were too short, all sleeves were jersey length, shoes for my boat-sized feet might as well have come from Dorothy Zbornak‘s closet. 

I knew I was not comfortable in these clothes, but I wanted to fit in so badly. Then came The Phrase: When in doubt… don’t. 

I knew those Guess jeans were going back on the rack for a shorter girl to buy later. 

But Today Sue has been in my mom’s shoes (proverbially, I could not fit in her stylish shoes either). I know what regret can do. I know my mom was right when she encouraged a moment of pause before making a bad decision. 

The Pause

There is so much power in that pause. 

The pause can be a moment. For example, the moment in an argument when it goes off the rails. You know, when “you did not put your plate in the dishwasher” becomes “I do everything around here!”

The pause can be silence after no thank you. As in a response to that weird feeling when a stranger at a bar hands you a drink you didn’t ask for. Or something that seems more benign like an invitation to join a committee or volunteer program.

Stop talking. Pause. Because see, no is a complete sentence. That pause is where you used to fill in nonsense syllables because you felt like you had to fill the air. 

The pause can be more final than that – a decision of no when it is not a HELL YES. 

I know it will feel weird. But weird is just another feeling.

The Weird

Whenever you start to do something different, it will feel weird.

  • Learning to shoot with my left hand felt weird when I was 10. 
  • Lessons behind the manual transmission car felt weird when I was 16.
  • Becoming a step mother at 34 was a step beyond weird (I still often look for the parent in the room before realizing it is me).
  • Learning to live without alcohol when I was 43 – definitely weird. 
  • Saying no thank you <<PAUSE FOR SILENCE>> now that I am 48 is weird. 

If you can get through the weird, you will find that it fades pretty quickly. Science tells us that emotions that go uninterrupted by thoughts will fade after about 90 seconds. 

Ninety seconds. Maybe we could amend what my mom said to this:

When in doubt don’t. Then count to 90. 

You might just be amazed at what comes your way when you stop chasing what you give a doubtful yes. 

Sustainable You Questions

  1. Reflect on last week or notice this week if you give doubtful yes answer. 
  2. Where did the doubt come from? 
  3. Why did you feel you could not say no?

If this weekly essay resonated with you, please share it with a friend. I am trying to grow Sustainable Sue and spread the ideas of Sustainable Productivity. The best way to do that is for you to share with someone you know. 

Until next time –