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Acceptance May Mean Saying "No"

Acceptance May Mean Saying “No”

It was a dream job. One of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to do meaningful work you enjoy with people you respect at a generous salary. Those jobs are rare to begin with but when you’re, like me, at the end of your career, they are all but nonexistent.

I truly tried to figure out how to do it. I had even convinced myself that I could do it even if it occasionally meant the 70 to 80 hour week, frequent travel and high levels of stress. I liked the person who would be my boss. I appreciated the talent and dedication of my fellow co-workers. I could make a difference. It would pay incredibly well. I really, really wanted that job.

In an earlier article, I wrote that acceptance is not submission. And I have accepted the fact that I have a chronic disease that has cost me four joint replacements and two spinal fusions in the last 10 years (and numerous other surgeries). Unfortunately, that also means accepting the fact that I can no longer work those intense jobs that demand the balance of my life shifts from work-life to work-work.

I had convinced myself I could do the job because I’m doing well. But I am doing well because every six weeks I go in for an infusion of what is essentially chemotherapy as well as inject a powerful drug at home. I am able to take time to exercise, sleep, and eat a generally healthy diet. I am doing well because I have accepted the fact that I have a chronic disease and I am managing it. At the point that I abandon that management plan, then I also abandon any hope that my RA will be reasonably well controlled.

Sometimes it Doesn’t Mean “No” but “Maybe”

I once heard another RA advocate talk about going to a wedding. He could no longer dance, he said, but he could go and listen to the music and enjoy other people dancing. Just because he couldn’t have the whole experience, didn’t mean he couldn’t enjoy many parts of it.

I’ve reminded myself of those words of wisdom many times in my RA journey.

So I’ve turned down the full-time position. I have to say it hurt because I wanted it a lot. But I’ve pitched the company a “Plan B” that gets them what they need but also allows me to participate at a level I think I can actually manage. If they accept it (and I think they will) I will still get to work with great people, made a difference to the company, and make extra income. I won’t be the highly paid rock star, but, in the words of my friend, I’ll be there enjoying the music and other people dancing. One of the hardest parts was explaining to these people who believe(d) I was a rock star that I have a chronic health condition and so I might not be Superwoman after all.

We so often get caught up in saying “yes” to people that we sometimes forget that, for our own sakes, we should occasionally say “no” (even to things we really, really want). But what we shouldn’t forget is that we can also say “maybe.” If we offer people a solution that works for them as well as for us, it’s amazing how many times they’ll accept it. I’ve been finding this out lately.

And remember, even if you can’t dance at the wedding, you can still enjoy the music.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Kelly Mack moderator
    1 year ago

    Carla, this is so helpful and important. I personally have a hard time saying know and have experienced more RA challenges because of not taking care of myself properly. I’m on a path now where I say no more often and just take a lot more time for myself so that I can better manage my RA. While there are things I may miss, the stress of not taking care of myself as best I can is not something I regret! Wishing you the best. -Kelly ( Team)

  • Lawrence 'rick' Phillips moderator
    1 year ago

    Sheryl has such a wonderful outlook on saying no. She says she never says yes out of a sens of obligation, to others, or herself.

    She only says yes out of a sense of yes she can and yes she wants to.

    I think that might be good advice for me.

  • Kelly Mack moderator
    1 year ago

    Thanks Rick (and Sheryl!) that is fantastic advice. Will keep that phrase in my head to help me with saying yes when I can’t and no when I need to. Best, Kelly ( Team)

  • Jo J
    1 year ago

    This so perfectly describes the effect of an
    “invisible disease” and it’s effect on our lives as we adjust our fulfilling roles as productive members of our family, work and community.

    “One of the hardest parts was explaining to these people who believe(d) I was a rock star that I have a chronic health condition and so I might not be Superwoman after all.”


    The most effective action, beyond medication, I have taken to improve how I feel daily, was to retire early from a career I loved. I know I touched the lives of many young children and their families. For now, I will focus on the members of my inner circle and hope to gain enough energy to move into community volunteering on my own schedule.

  • Carla Kienast author
    1 year ago

    Thanks for your comment. It is hard letting go of things we love and want to do. But I’ve found that there are a myriad other things to enjoy that are within my reach.

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