Those are NOT my monkeys!

propic11_1This post by L.Leander, Author of Fearless Fiction

Those are NOT my monkeys!3monkeys

Ever get into one of these predicaments? How do you handle it?

The school calls. The person calling apologizes, but the parent who was supposed to make 100 cupcakes for tomorrow is ill. Could you please take her place? What do you do?

  • Nicely ask your monkeys to get in their cage and give them a toy to play with?
  • Say no, sorry, I’m too busy but maybe next time, then spendcms_cupcake_1 the evening feeling guilty, even though you have a report that needs to go to your boss in the morning?
  • Say yes, feel totally overwhelmed, rush to get the report done while you bake and frost 100 cupcakes that you now have to drop off on your way to work and you haven’t even had time to sleep?

A friend calls with exciting news, although it isn’t about you and it isn’t about her. It’s a juicy tidbit about someone in your circle of friends. Do you:horses_1

  •  Shove your monkeys in their cage, say dinner is burning and cage_1you have to go?
  • Listen to your friend and file the information away in case
    there might be more to the story?
  • Add your take on what’s going on and gossip with your friend.
    You can’t wait to call another friend to tell her/him?
  • Tell your friend you really don’t want to talk about this and change the subject to something neutral, like making a fantastic dessert, or the awesome shoes you saw on sale in your favorite department store?

hotdogYou’re on the baseball food stand roster for your 5th grader. The game is in two days and the roster coördinator calls frantically, asking if you can pitch in and take over for her in Saturday’s game? Oh, and by the way, the candy bars, soda and sandwiches are low.
Could you please go to Sam’s Club and get them? You can bill them to the baseball fund. Please be sure they are there and put away in time for the game. Do you:

  • Immediately become frustrated that the chairman chooses to call you this late in the game, but put on your syrupy voice, and as you scowl, tell her “Of course, “I’d love to do it”, while you silently punch your thighs?
  • Suggest another person on the panel who might have a little more time?
  • Tell her your monkeys are ill and you really need to stay home with them because they might have monkey fever?
  • Explain that you and your beloved have a getaway planned for the weekend, but if she really cannot find another person, you’ll pitch in, then break the bad news to your spouse and feel extremely guilty?

Your boss comes into your office at quitting time. He wants a teamboss of managers to stay late and confer about some problems with staff and make some changes. You’re supposed to meet your friends at a restaurant across town in an hour. You have just enough time to swing by the house and change. You’re on salary. Do you:

  • Tell your boss to get a life?
  • Tell your boss YOU have a life?
  • Tell the boss you have to get home to take your monkeys outside because you don’t want them to pee all over the carpet and destroy the house. After all, you’ve already worked 9 hours without a break.
  • Say “what room are we meeting in?” make a hurried call to your friends saying you won’t be able to meet them, feel guilty about that and hope your monkeys behave?

Let’s look at the ramifications of each.

In situation one, you know you can’t possibly get 100 cupcakes done and at the school tomorrow unless you stay up all night and drop them off on your way to work and leave for work right after you drop them off. What would happen if you said NO, not this time, but you can count on me for another occasion, as long as I have enough time to make those little critters?

2monkeysSituation two is an ethical question. Should you be gossiping about your friend or even think of passing it around? Wouldn’t it be more fun to take the monkeys out for a walk (RIGHT NOW)?

And the third predicament.  Why don’t you say NO, I can’t do that on such short notice but you can count on me for another time.  I have a work project that needs to go to my boss in the morning.  As long as I get fair warning there’s no problem.

And situation four involves your boss.

Your boss just gave you a raise so you feel obligated. Do you worry that if you say no he’ll fire you on the spot? (You’ve just received a superior evaluation and got a nice bonus along with it).

I have a very dear friend I met in Mazatlan and she phoned me the other day. Imagine my delight when I heard her voice. We chatted about the hot weather and sunshine there and the snow here. She’s from Canada so knows all about cold weather. As we talked and caught up she mentioned that she had taken a part-time job she’ll be able to do on the Internet as she and her husband travel. She is excited about it and I’m happy for her. She’s been writing a book and I asked how that was coming along. She told me she shelved the project about six months ago because it was just not coming together and she had spent a lot of time worrying about it. I remarked that in therapy I have talked about the fact that I always feel guilty saying NO, so I put my personal life on hold and give the other person what they need or want. Then I feel overwhelmed and anxious because I’m not able the work done I need to do. My friend hesitated for just a second. Then she said something that has had me laughing (and thinking) a lot this week.

Her remark? Wait for it…………..

“Not my Monkeys, Not my Circus”




“Hmm,” I thought. Not my monkeys? Not my circus? Of course I think I’m a bit of a circus expert because my books are about a circus performer. I already have a circus. Do I really need another one? And, why in the world would I want monkeys at home anyway?

Take a deep breath. Isn’t it easier to say no than give your life up for someone else’s problem? What’s the worst that can happen? Even if it were a close friend, wouldn’t you rather be truthful? If you say no, won’t you breathe a sigh of relief and get those monkeys off your back? I’m not talking here about things you want to do because you have time set aside, rather expectations that come at you out of nowhere that you don’t have time for or want to do.sock monkeys
Of course, you don’t have to say “Not my monkeys, not my circus”, as you firmly and politely say no, but you sure can laugh inside as bigbanana_1the monkeys are jumping for joy. Think about this the next time you are called upon to do something you really don’t want to do. Just say no. You don’t have to make excuses. It’s your life and it’s in your hands. You have to stand up for yourself. No one else is going to. Oh, and give the monkeys a banana. It’s not their fault!

For a good article on saying NO, read this report at Mayo Clinic.


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21 thoughts on “Those are NOT my monkeys!

  1. Very good blog! I was feeling guilty for turning down working today after I put in 13 hours yesterday as a nurse at hospice. I also have trouble with no for other things. I read the Mayo article too. Had heard the term, “not my monkeys, not my circus” before but had forgotten about it. You made my day!


    1. Thank you Neva. I love the saying now and plan to think of it every time someone asks me to do something. I’ve always had a really hard time saying no and it totally throws my own little world out of whack when I say yes all the time. What you said about working is exactly how I was when I was working. I’d give 110 percent, get asked to do it all over again the next day, and even though I knew it wouldn’t be good for me I always said yes. No more! Glad I made your day! Have a good one.


  2. I’m the quilt-ridden person who can’t say no. I’m always in over my head, and totally frustrated with myself. This is a great blog, wish I could just say no. Cher’ley


    1. There’s help, Cherley. I am a good example. I have never been able to say no, but I am learning. Before opening my mouth to say yes, I say “I’ll have to check my schedule and get back to you.” Sometimes I decide it’s worthwhile and say yes, other times I respectfully decline, leaving an opening for another time. Amazing how it cuts your stress and being overwhelmed in half. I’ve been learning this through therapy and I am much happier! Glad you enjoyed the post.


  3. Great post! I heard the saying last year and have been using it ever since. I am learning, after years and years of always being the go-to gal, that I do have to say no sometimes. Trouble is, I like being the go-to gal. Must get over that.


    1. Thank you Kaye. I’ve been exactly where you are. I’ve always been the “go to gal” because when others would say no, I’d always pitch in and rearrange my schedule to help. You really need to pick and choose what you have time for and want to do. It’s not that hard to be honest and say that right now you are on overload but you may be able to help next time. It goes against everything I’ve ever done, but slowly I am learning that I am not SuperWoman!


  4. I understand right where you are Abbie. Been there, done that. But believe me, it feels good when you say no and you realize you have stood up for what’s right for you at the time you are asked. You don’t have to do everything – your time is important too and I doubt friends and others who ask for your time will be upset, in fact, they will probably respect you!


  5. Fun column, Linda. I find that the older I get… the easier it gets to say “no.” Although now that I’m retired, I probably should be saying “yes” most of the time.


    1. Thanks Mike. It’s actually since I’ve retired that I feel it harder to say no. A lot of people think that because you have more time you should help out more. While I volunteer and do things I like to do, I’m ashamed to say that I sometimes resent the things people try to heap on me. But for me learning to say no is like not brushing my teeth for a year – I feel obligated. Working my through, though.


  6. Great column, Linda! Never thought about monkeys before (although I had heard the term “monkey on my back” years ago and never fully understood it — but, then I was young and not juggling so much!) I am less prone to “give myself away” these days even though I stay busy … at least it’s with things I enjoy! (but sometimes I still overload myself with those “good” or “fun” or “paying jobs” … and I need to take more time to ponder if that one more obligation is really good for me in the long run — sometimes it is and sometimes it’s not). Thanks for the great reminder!


    1. Thank you Gayle. As I just mentioned in my reply to Mike, I sometimes resent giving away bits and pieces of my time when I’d rather be writing, reading, or anything else that gives me pleasure. Believe me, when my kids were young I was first in line to help with anything they needed, but now that I’m older I need to pay more attention to me. Even when I do that, I overwhelm myself many times because I try to do too much at once. I wonder if there’s any hope for me? lol


  7. Linda,
    I’ve always loved that phrase and thank you for letting the rest of the world know. Well said, and well done. Thanks. Doris


    1. I love the phrase, and am using it a good bit now. There are things I like doing and I give freely by volunteering to those causes. I’m learning that saying no to the things that I don’t want to do or have time to do makes me feel grounded and I can continue to volunteer where I’m needed. Thank you Doris.


  8. Very enjoyable post, Linda! I try to avoid situations where I might need to say no but …it’s nearly impossible when put on a spot. That juggling thing happens where I try to accomodate- something goes up and something goes down!


  9. It is hard when you’re put on the spot, isn’t it? I’m getting better (but definitely not cured) about saying no when I know I won’t be able to fulfill the obligation, it’s something I’m not interested in or don’t want to do, or it’s too short notice. I agree about the juggling. It’s usually my life that gets juggled and that creates me a lot of stress! Thanks for the comment.


    1. I love the comment, too, Stephanie. When my friend told me I laughed and told her I was going to use it every time someone asks me to do something and I’d rather not. I have a VERY hard time saying no, but I’m getting so much better thanks to therapy. Thanks for your comment!


  10. I spent many long hours doing things that I would rather not do before I finally decided to put myself first. I resigned from organizations that I felt didn’t appreciate my efforts and weren’t going in a direction I wanted to go in. Now I concentrate on things that are more important to me. Yes I would rather be in the woods taking pictures or submitting my work to publishers, or tagging butterflies. I no longer spend all my free time organizing events for people who don’t pitch in and help. I don’t do the grunt work for people who feel they are superior to me. But I will go the extra mile for friends and like minded people who don’t mind getting their hands dirty for a common cause. I think we all get to this point, it just takes some of us longer to get there.


    1. Awesome comment! I’m one of the slow learners but am in pretty good shape right now. I really try hard to say no if it’s something I’m not interested in, but I always seem to feel guilty. With the help of my therapist I am learning ways to stop that!


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