The Watering Hole Blog

When Our Body Says No…

When Our Body Says No
We’d Be Wise to Listen

I’ve heard it said our soul speaks to us in soft whispers. And my mind certainly has no problem communicating to me through that nagging little voice that says, “You probably shouldn’t do that…”

Now I’m learning to listen to what my body is trying to tell me.

Last October, I went back to Calgary for Thanksgiving – and to give a workplace safety presentation at a company.

The presentation itself went fine. I’ve done an awful lot of them now.

But I do remember thinking, “Hmmm…I wonder how healthy this is for me, telling people over and over again about the circumstances that led to John’s (my husband) death?”

The next day I had my answer, delivered to me through my body. I was sick as a dog with the flu.

The presentation itself didn’t make me sick. The actual flu bug came courtesy of the female passenger hacking up a lung next to me on the plane to Calgary. But I bet it was my body’s weakened immune system that let the bug go to town, once the stress of the presentation was over.

I did a lot of thinking that lousy Thanksgiving weekend, spent entirely on my mom’s couch. And what did I suspect my body was telling me?


The soft whispers and nagging little voice hadn’t done the trick. But sickness sure did.

And so, I promised myself that weekend to ease up on giving presentations. I would commit to giving one or two a year. In fact, I’m presenting at a Victim Services Conference in April. But that presentation is a personal one about the emotional and psychological effects of grief, so it is best delivered by me.

The workplace safety presentation, on the other hand, does not have to be delivered by me.

But the presentations themselves do still need to be delivered…because they work. People in the audience are impacted by the story of Johns’ death – and get the message loud and clear: make your workplace safe for everyone, including emergency responders who may have to attend.

Other members of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund (JPMF) also give these workplace safety presentations – but they can only give so many, due to their work schedules.

So…we did some brainstorming and came up with the idea of hiring a professional speaker to deliver the safety presentations. Then we pitched the idea, of setting up a professional speaker program, to a potential funding source and voila! Within a week, we got our first round of funding to hire our main speaker.

And we found a perfect gal for the job…someone whose passion is, strangely enough, public speaking!  She is chomping at the bit to do her first presentation on March 7th.  She’s even married to a police officer.

So what I’ve learned is this: it’s almost as if the universe was just waiting for me to a) say the word (NO!) and then b) take the next step of asking for help.

For it was only when I got out of the way and stopped doing something I didn’t enjoy doing, wasn’t particularly good at, and took a tremendous amount of time and energy away from the things I do enjoy doing (and am better at, such as writing) that the right person – and the funds – could fall into place.

And here’s the best part: the professional speaker program means the JPMF will now be able to deliver hundreds of powerful workplace safety presentations in communities throughout Alberta – versus the handful we were doing before.


Is there anything you are doing in your life that is no longer healthy for you? If so, what would happen if you stopped doing it…and let someone else give it a try?

We can’t do it all. We’re not supposed to.

And as I’ve learned, sometimes it is only when we finally admit we are not necessarily the best person for the task or job that the right person gets a chance to step up and get it done – with passion, purpose…and a profound appreciation for the opportunity 🙂

Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening and the Board Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. The Fund is currently seeking corporate & industry sponsors for the professional speaker program. Please contact Ian Wilson at – and help us get the number of preventable workplace injuries and fatalities down.

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7 thoughts on “When Our Body Says No…”

  1. I had a similar revelation about saying NO! about a month ago when I was sick.

    NO…I finally said to myself one night as I was coming down with a migraine, had 2 kids sick at home and one was coming home from the hospital. Even with all this going on, I had other people in my life dragging me into their little problems.

    Finally I had this epiphany: No, enough of this. I decided at that moment to say NO to them, now and in the future. To just gradually/gracefully get
    out of their clutches. It’s hard. I have 4 kids of my own to care for…THEY are my responsibility.

    And you know: IT FELT GREAT! (And I’m sticking to it.)

    So a great blog! I can relate and I LOVE the photo. It’s how I was feeling at that time — and have felt at other times — is like that Britney Spears song “Piece of Me”– everyone wants a piece of me and sometimes you just have to say NOPE.


  2. This comment came in from Sandra through Facebook:

    Great news Maryanne about getting someone to help deliver the message. Loved your article as always, wish I could listen a little better myself….

  3. And this came in from Ellen on Facebook:

    This is excellent news! ..since you know this is something I worry about for you. Yay for listening to the flu and for finding a great new speaker!

  4. HI MA,
    Thanks for the reminder; yours are always so timely for me…did ‘my’ presentation last night and i think i’m finally ready to admit that it does take a lot out of me; a good reminder…ps have you read the book ‘the body speaks’?


  5. While I realize this is a hard lesson to learn, the resulting internal feeling of release is undescribable. Kudos to you for listening to what your body was telling you… it tells us for a long time but when we do not listen, it has a way of knocking our feet out from under us to get our attention. I learned this lesson over the 4 years it took to stabilize rhuematoid arthritis – a very hard process whe one is used to being on the go and in a physically and mentally challenging job. Over this period of time I truly learned what it meant to be happy in your own skin and learn that inner quiet can be very restful and fulfilling. While the disease process has been stable for the past few years, there is still the odd time the body says, enough is enough- if I don’t listen- down I go. Needless to say, I am listening not only to my body a lot more closely, I am able to appreciate more in life and around me because of the inner calm this has brought to me. A deep breath and relaxing one’s shoulders does a lot for opening the mind. Thanks for your unselfish sharing of your life’s experiences. You have no idea how much of an impact it has on people and how much it contributes to making the world a better place to be; in our own environments and those who come into our lives. Always appreciate you. Take care of yourself.

  6. Hi Rosemary! I just read your feedback on this blog, “When Our Body Says No.” Thank you!

    You are so right in your comments…the time comes when we HAVE to listen to what our body tells us.

    It’s funny but your comments came at a perfect time today because I too, am starting to experience that inner sense of calm that comes from realizing that slowing down is a gift.

    Although the pile of work on my desk is in danger of tipping over (!) I am, strangely, not stressed. I just know that the only way to tackle it all is slowly but surely…and enjoy each task!

    I am also setting my egg timer for a break from the computer every 50 minutes – and when that buzzer goes off, I actually get up and take a break – both for my body AND my mind…and spirit 🙂

    Thanks again,

  7. This comment is from Lorraine:

    It always seems your e-zine has something important just for me. I loved your story last month about getting sick and listening to your body. I, my husband and both kids went to Mexico recently and my husband got really sick before we even left our hometown….he had laryngitis, bronchitis and possibly Pneumonia and was in bed mostly for the whole trip. I was some upset….and I just felt the timing couldn’t have been better for this article.

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