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the strength to say no

There’s something very hard but very empowering about saying “no”. It’s not something I find very easy at all.

It is easier when it pertains to someone else. Like the time both my bosses at work wanted me to talk to one of my soon to be ex-colleagues out of leaving the radio station (partly because they wanted to keep her, partly because they considered her move – how do I put this? – too….ambitious?). I didn’t agree. This may have had an influence in the sudden demise of my own job. It was the first time I had ever said “no” to either of them. I’m still glad I did though. And knowing what I know now, I still would have said “no”. Every bit of my gut told me that I was doing the right thing, even though I blushed and my heart quickened and I thought about it for weeks afterwards. It’s a gut feeling that I have certainly had before.

Usually, it’s a relationship thing. Finding that core strength to say:

“Do you know what? This isn’t for me. This isn’t good for me. I don’t want it any more.”

It’s not something everyone can do, I’m beginning to realize. You have to have the courage of your convictions. You have to believe that it’s the right thing to do, even when the rest of the world seems to be turning in one direction and you are hopping off it to do your own thing in the blind hope that you might meet someone else who’s taken a similar diversion. I used to think it was about being selfish. But actually I think it might be about self-preservation. Because it’s about being honest. Being true to who you are. And sometimes that is the hardest and most dangerous thing of all.

Take my Mum. Last time I was up in York she was talking to me about her first husband. It’s not a subject she has ever really talked about before. I won’t tell. It’s her story. I hope she won’t mind me telling you this bit though.

When she and he split up, she moved back in with her Mum (my Nanna, Grace Recchia; an amazing Yorkshire-Italian accented woman). He had wanted his freedom. But she knew he’d be back.

Sure enough one day, weeks on, as she made her way to the bus stop, there he was. Sat, waiting for her in his smoke filled car. He said she should get in and he’d drive her to work. After the third time of asking he was getting a bit annoyed.  So she did. She was used to doing as she was told. He declared he’d made the biggest mistake of his life and wanted her back.

She thought about it. Then from somewhere deep inside, and this was a man who had bullied her for a long long time, she found the strength to say “no”. She knew exactly what he was capable of.

“No, I don’t want to come back”. He sped up and drove head on towards a lorry, intending to kill them both. Something happened though (Mum says God had his hand on her) and at the last minute he swerved, slowed down, turned around and drove her to work.

Many years later this man, who nearly killed my Mum before I was even born, went to make his peace with my Nanna. She knew.  She always knew everything anyway but in this case she had heard the story from Paulina years before. Do you know what he said to my Nanna?:

“I’ll never know what gave Pauline the strength to say no to me that day”.

Such arrogance. Before that moment, he clearly believed it impossible that my Mum, my amazing,  courageous, compassionate, incredible Mum, would have enough strength to reject the future he was directing her towards. But she did. And that’s what stopped him. You have to respect someone who respects themselves.

She had to say “no” that day in his smoke filled car. Even though it was the hardest thing in the world.

And that was it. She was free. She had to say “no” first though. And mean it.

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