You Can Count on No.

Due to spreading myself too thin and my total inability to use the word “No.” I have managed to confuse and/or create new and uncomfortable relationships up and down the U Street/Logan Circle/Dupont Circle area.

The Gap-wearing hippies I mentioned some time ago (you know the ones who have asked for 6 revisions and have more recently began sending me other existing yoga studios’ logos to copy) have been calling me like they have a baked birthday cake for my dead son. Their urgency is freaking me out. Their lack of couth is admirable. Their readiness to rip people off is shocking. Their ability in leaving so many phone messages is unnerving.

(Someone write them and tell them I can’t help them any longer. They’ve taken this to level abusive).


The other yoga studio? Hell, I’m just now starting to drop the ball on. (Though it hasn’t been that long). I should just write and explain that after the project shifted from design to production, I’m not the right person for the job. I should have just said,

I don’t do HTML templates. In fact, I sort of suck at it. I’m more of a designer. I should just stick to that.

But I did not. I was just sort of thinking maybe I’d grow a new me who is in fact great at HTML templates.

(She’s not sprouting).

I watched a movie once. It’s by far one of my all-time favorite films. It’s called You Can Count on Me. I think I liked it most because of my instant fondness and affinity for the main, female character. There is this one scene where she’s talking to a priest after having an affair with her married boss (who has a pregnant wife at home) and having a relationship with a man who wants to marry her but whom she is rather bored with. The priest is asking her why and when, basically trying to understand how it is he can help her. He says to her:

Why did you do it then?

And she answers, as if realizing it for the first time herself:

I felt sorry for them. Isn’t that stupid?

Her saying this, I can assure you, doesn’t mean in any way that she feels these people whom she’s invited into her life are lesser than she. Sometimes it’s not what is said, but where what is said is placed. (I’m explaining this as I don’t want people to directly parallel my saying yes to every job relationship that comes my way because I feel sorry for them. There’s a lot more to it than that.) It’s more of a realization that she’s not all that, that her being there doesn’t help them at all. That, in a way, her playing an active but complacent roll is causing everyone (including herself) more harm than good. The scene leaves one wondering if the relationships she’s created are a mere guise, helping to distract her from taking control herself.

Anyway, the scene has a level of desperation and sadness to it. There’s a feeling of remorse and shame. She gives the impression of having little to no control over the events unfolding around her. The story is about real-life struggles-struggles we can all relate to. It made me feel better knowing that there are others who have trouble being strong about the little things-the chores in life. That’s what life is ulimately made up of—thousands of little things we need to finish and do, held together by even smaller things, stress-division. And, for me, It’s the little things which are easiest to relate to yet the hardest to confront or control. I guess you could say that I loved this movie for waking me up to this.

So ever since then, not only do I have a really huge adoration for Laura Linney but I’ve been trying to figure out a way to change the one thing about me I have never been able to help and that’s my inability to say no and a many yes’s ability to create turbulence. I need to realize that I can’t do everything. And that if I think I can do everything I will eventually lose site of everything and end up old and alone, fat, poor, and married to a hundred cats.


  1. Kudos on the pun about “losing site”. Freudian slip?


  2. heh. Good catch!

    Will you be my therapist? Take me to the Land Down Under.


  3. The word “no” is indeed a small good thing.

    This might sound horribly selfish and bourgeois of me, but I’ll share this with you anyway. My wife and I came to the realization that we needed someone to clean the house. We have three kids, we both work a ton, and neither of is particularly gifted when it comes to cleaning. We asked around, and some friends of our had someone whom they love. She was supposedly available, so we invited her to come out.

    (note: our friends have a LOT more money than we do and live in a house that is literally 3 times the size of ours in square footage).

    So their person doesn’t come, but she sends her friend. It’s a long, drawn out story that goes on for months. We pay the same $ for terrible work, are constantly asked for the next’s week pay in advance, etc. Finally we decide to fire her. It wasn’t pleasant, but I knew what I had to do. I wrote out exactly what I wanted to say, and that’s all I said. No more details. I just repeated select sentences.

    I recommend you write down what you want to say … something to the effect of “When I volunteered to design your logo, I intended to provide you with a selection of designs and take this much time. Doing more work on this has been eating into my other clients’ time and business. If you want more work, I’d be happy to do it under these terms. I’m sure you understand.”

    Don’t apologize for putting an end to this. After all, they are abusing this relationship, and you should not be apologetic for refusing to be abused. They don’t apologize for charging for yoga lessons, do they?

    Remember, the Carver story you allude to ends when the air is cleared. The parents go to the bakery, eat warm bread, and everything works out. Rehearse your story, stay on script, and smile. Come up with 2 or 3 additional sentences that you can use if you feel the need to expound. The important thing is not to think, otherwish you may find yourself doing more work for free.



  4. GotJesus (Charlie), I just sent you an email.


  5. Mihow…excellent taste in movies!!! I am getting married in a town near Phonecia, NY (where the movie was filmed) this summer. Chin up…all will be good (and congrats on the new job).


  6. I visited that town with a dear friend of mine a few years back. Even took pictures. (I’ll find them and link to them). I love that place.


  7. I remember climbing up this HUGE mountain (it seemed) and then being told you could see like 7 states from the top. Do you know the one?


  8. i can alleviate your html template work for you, if you’d like.

    help me fund my wedding budget :)


  9. One word: E L O P E. (Though I know that people ain’t into that sort of thing.)

    You do HTML? Good to know. Good to know.


  10. Yes, eloping would be nice, but we’re keeping it small (30 guests) just for our family. Even then it’s running up into the 5 digits area.

    I’m primarily a IA/Interaction Designer but also handle HTML production work (along w other light hack skills). Check out my url for some of my past work.

    (Oh, & shoot me an email. I realized I don’t have yours)


  11. John I feel your pain…we wanted to do the small wedding/elope with a big party (a la Mihow) but my mom and her mom would have none of it!

    Mihow…if it is the mountain I am thinking of…it is Hunter Mountain (was there a ski lodge at the base?)…that whole section of the Catskill range is amazing! We are gerring married about 15 min from Hunter Mt., in a place where Mark Twain spent many of his summers…


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