When No means Yes

I used to hate endings and I’d avoid them at all costs. I especially hated last days in jobs and wished I had the audacity to pull a sickie as some others do. My aversion to endings meant I’ve stayed too long in work situations, in relationships and probably even overstayed my welcome at parties. I’ve waited to be made redundant rather than walk. I’ve chosen to be dumped than be the dumper. And I’ve been shown the door.

As part of my counselling studies I took classes in endings and I’ve come to appreciate their potency and place. Endings evoke strong emotions. They bring feelings of abandonment, unresolved loss, anxiety, fear. But a well handled ending can be an opportunity for reflection and closure and set you up for what comes next.

After two years as a volunteer reading group facilitator at the library I led my last meeting yesterday. My role didn’t involve a big commitment but it was yet another draw on my time. We’d meet mid morning on the second Monday of each month though we went for the first Monday in December. I’d pitched the idea to the library in the first place – a reading group with the focus on memoirs and biographies. I’ve been introduced to so many fine lives since we started. Chaplin, Gandhi, Joan Crawford, Coco Chanel, Robert Graves, Anne Heller to name but a few.

The memoir group was very well read. They members were older than me and I enjoyed a glimpse into their worlds. With a young family and parents living away I rarely find myself in the company of elders. In her prime Victoria* was an arts critic with a national paper. In the fifties she reported from Africa for the BBC world service. Her love of literature remained in spite of her dementia but over the time she’d been joining us her condition deteriorated and she wasn’t reading the books any more though she could still tell us about her days in Fleet street or her impression of a writer (famous or infamous) she’d encountered.

Patricia’s husband ┬áis 85 and he makes his way to East London once a week to ice-skate. He was a World champion skater back in the day. Tom is a retired lecturer and the most knowledgeable of us all. He makes fantastic use of his Freedom Pass (free travel) with constant trips to the city for concerts and events. I loved to get his recommendations and more often these were to free performances and exhibitions. Of all our group, he was the one who never missed a meeting. So I felt I’d be letting Tom down in bowing out. Though I’m hoping the group has gained enough momentum to carry on without me. On Monday Tom gave me a little pot of white hyacinths. It meant a lot. It means a lot. I made a decision and I said No to carrying on something I enjoy so that I could say Yes to other projects in my life that I want to pursue.


“Sometimes you must gently refuse even some things which appeal to you, so that you can focus your limited human attention not only on what is important, but on what is possible”. (Elizabeth Gilbert)

There are other things I need to decline and cull to do the stuff I know I want to do. This was a start.


*Names have been changed to keep anonymity.







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