Rev. Catharine Is Currently On Medical Leave

Rev. Catharine Is Currently
On Medical Leave

Rev. Catharine Is Currently
On Medical Leave

Time to Say No

Time to Say No

Hello, Beloved –

Today, I share some words for you that have come to my mind, and one word in particular, that I wrote about at the beginning of 2018.

These words are about the importance of saying NO. Saying NO to overwhelm. Saying NO to beating ourselves up, yes.

But especially, right now, right here, in this place and time, to saying NO to how the United States government is behaving. How the “speed of the machine” is entirely too slow, and people are dying – from climate crisis, to deaths caused by police, and most on my mind these days, from the overcrowded and entirely inhumane conditions of refugees and undocumented migrant people at our southern border.

This seems like a perfect time to promote Making Hard Choices, doesn’t it? But that’s not why I’m including the message below. I’m including it because we are a little way over halfway through a year, and I need to be reminded of the compassionate NO. The compassion that says, This injustice must STOP. Overwhelming greed and pride and the “personhood” of destructive corporate consumption must stop.

I know that I am called to speak with, engage with, talk with those in my community who are in relationship with me, whom I trust and who trust me. And so I am writing to you, I have written to you, and I will continue to write to you. And write to me, please. Tell me what you’re doing, what you’re feeling called toward, what you need to do or have to do in order to do what you are most called to. And let us all get together to enact our callings—together, each doing our part, each coming together, ALL together, to make the United States a safer place to be for all of our residents and citizens.

Blessings, and may you enjoy the words below, the reminder that we need to say NO.

I love you


I want to comment a bit on a spiritual practice of mine I have engaged for the upcoming year. I have allowed a word to surface, to emerge through discernment and waiting, to be a guide, an aspiration, or a reminder.

Last year’s word was “Juicy.” I spent some time explaining why I chose it and what it meant. What I don’t think I told you is that a little over half the year, the word “Radiance” also emerged. I heard myself called “radiant” by others, I wrote about it in my journal, and it became clear that it was part of my identity.

Not only part of my identity, but something I wanted to cultivate. Juiciness, yes—the richness of the ripened pomegranate pip; the slurpy, messy joy of a new summer peach; the slide and delight of lovemaking—these were important images.

Radiance, now, that was something else again. It wasn’t something I thought up. It was something that surfaced, that emerged and was reflected in the language and understanding of others.


This year I thought I might choose, “vitality” for my word. Energy. Life. Mobility. All things I want to encourage in myself, yes. I did say, though, that I knew it was provisional. I knew I had “thought it up,” as I mentioned above. It’s a good word, “vitality,” and definitely does go with “radiance.”

But it’s not the word that’s been given.

The word that has been give to me for this year is “no.”

I am a yes-sayer.

I want to take on All the Things, even knowing, if I take even a moment’s reflection, that I cannot.

I want to make everyone happy, especially people whose judgment I fear.

I want to do everything perfectly, and berate myself when I fall short.

I know I am not alone in these matters, friends. I know that there are those of you who do similar things.

There’s an expression, “No is a complete sentence.” This phrase, this sentence, has always terrified, attracted, and repelled me. All at once. How can I say, “No” by itself? Or even just “No, thank you,” when someone asks me to do something extra, or when I get an idea myself to which I need to say no?

Here’s another one: “No means no.” It is most commonly used to refer to sexual assault and abuse. As a survivor of multiple rounds of assault and harassment, I learned that “no” did not always succeed in being what I meant. Whether I said it with words or said it with my terrified, rigid body, “no” didn’t always get me very far.

Finally, there’s the idea of compulsive niceness. I am a kind person. Compassion and kindness, real, radiant loving kindness are things I value about myself. But sometimes, as you’ve read here before, compassion must put up the hand that says “no.” Sometimes, kindness is teaching someone else about boundaries. Sometimes kindness to myself or even to others is setting a simple boundary: No, I cannot do that. No I’m not free for that meeting. No, my schedule is already full that day.

I share all of this with you not just to give myself accountability (though doubtless that is part of the picture), but also to encourage you in your New Year’s ponderings. What are your hopes, your aspirations? What is reflected to you in the language of those you love and whose opinion you value?

I know I’ve been hearing loud and clear that I don’t need to do everything that is offered to me. That my life runs much better, my relationships are closer and more fulfilling, that my mind is clearer when sometimes I say, “No.”

One last thing about this word, in case it’s not clear. I don’t WANT it to be my word for 2018. It’s making me very uncomfortable. I feel a bit like a toddler stomping around, even though underneath all the stomping and the griping there is an essential peace. A peaceful knowledge that this word, “no,” can help me, teach me, see me through.

What is leading you? Where do you feel at peace in your discernment? How does the Divine bloom in your heart this season, reflected to you in others’ words and the stirrings of your own deep, wise Self?

I’d love to hear. There’s a thread on The Way of the River Facebook Group on this very topic. Feel free to join, or to send me a note about your musings. And remember, of course, that nothing here is set in stone. The year moves on and so do we. We learn and grow, and our sense of ourselves and the things around us changes. Don’t be afraid to choose, just to let something gently emerge.

You don’t have to get it right.

There is no wrong answer.

I love you


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