Me and Muddy Waters

Molly Dugger Brennan

Here we are.  We're already ankle-deep in a brand new year, 2013.  No New Year's resolutions for me, though.  I'm too cynical to be played by good intentions and resolutions any more.  I have not kept a one, not a one, ever.  So, now I issue a single declaration.  More festive, more regal, more likely to become reality.

Hear ye, hear ye, I hereby declare that 2013 is the year that I get my Nojo working.  Yep, I meant Nojo.  With apologies to that great blues singer Muddy Waters, it's not the same as Mojo.  Nojo is the art of telling other people no to keep yourself from getting stretched too thin.  Nojo knows the difference between being helpful and getting used.  Nojo protects you from others and more importantly, it protects you from yourself, or rather your fantasy version of yourself where you are some sort of 24/7 super hero.  Who doesn't need a little of that in their lives?

Nojo is the magical charm to deflect people who ask for your help, just because it is easier than doing the work themselves.  (Hint: it's not a compliment that they ask for your advice.  They want you to fix their messed-up life because it (1) gives them someone to blame, and (2) lets them avoid responsibility.  They also get your attention, which they crave.  Don't fall for it.)

Nojo allows you to stop running yourself ragged.  "No, it is not possible for me to make cookies for your bake sale."  If I truly believe in the group, I'll toss them a $20, which is more than they would have gotten from my lame-ass cookies.  I bet charities who hold bake sales would make far more money if they held unbake sales.  All the people they regularly hound to cough up homemade goodies alternatively hand over a twenty.   Then everyone sleeps in on Saturday morning instead of standing behind a rickety card table at the local Piggley-Wiggley pushing squished brownies.  This is a Nojo winner. 

Nojo is the protective reflex that averts charities that you have never even heard of requesting your hard-earned money.  "Who?  The Foundation for At-Risk, Underprivileged, Left-handed Teenagers (FAULT)?  Yeah, no.  Not gonna happen."  Right there.  Feel the power of the Nojo.

The beauty of having your Nojo on is that the benefits are immediate.  Your calendar starts to clear.  You relax.  You begin to take care of yourself.  You finally look like you own a hair brush.  You drink a cup of coffee in one sitting, while it's still warm.  You finish a book.  You moisturize your face.  You look your children in the eye and honestly listen to what they're telling you.  You breathe.

The best part of working your Nojo is that it is so simple.  I just say, "That won't be possible."   End of story.  It's hard to argue with that.  I was raised Southern, so even though I'm actually thinking "Oh hell no, you needy bitch," I can't bring myself to say that to someone's face.  "That won't be possible," and then changing the topic works exceedingly well for me.  If you're comfortable with "Hell no," please use it regularly and with gusto.  In fact, I encourage it.

You do not have to explain why you're invoking the amulet of No.  It's just no.  In fact, it goes so much better if you don't explain.  Just shut up after No.  No, I'd rather take a bubble bath.  No, I'd rather make pizza with my family.  No, I'd rather go to the library.  No, I'd rather sit on the porch swing with my significant other.  No, I'd rather play with my dogs.  No, I'd rather eat a bowl of dirt than spend my precious free time propping up your event.  See?  None of that helped.  All of it invites argument.  To quote Nancy Reagan, who often had trouble saying no herself, "Just say No."

Once you have command of your Nojo, people start to notice.  There's just something different about you.  You look rested.  You look confident.  You look like you've grown a spine!  You have the luxury of contributing what you want, when you want, to whom you want, and not one smidgen more. 

This year, let's all take control of our own lives since it's pretty certain that it's the only one we'll get on this planet.  Make your precious minutes count for your benefit and the benefit of your immediate family.  Practice saying "no."  Practice saying "That won't be possible."  Practice saying "Oh hell no, bitch!"  Bam!  Feel the Nojo.

 (If, like me, you sometimes need a soundtrack for your life, here's the link to Muddy Waters singing Got My Mojo Working.  Just hear Nojo whenever Muddy sings mojo and it'll be all right. I promise.)


The great Muddy Waters at the 1981 Chicago Fest singing Got My Mojo Working (2 mins) 



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