Learning to Say Yes Again

by Belinda Munoz on February 11, 2010

rock sculpture

The big question is whether you are going to be able to say a hearty yes to your adventure. ~ Joseph Campbell

Yes is one of the most life-altering words we can declare in our lifetime.  It can add palpability to potentiality.  It can fashion a roaring, blissful reality out of what once was merely a hibernating, quiet possibility.

Think about the pivotal moments in life when we say yes.  Perhaps to a calling, a partnership, a marriage proposal, a notion outrageous enough to work, or a burning desire so hot we’re ablaze with passion to choose a path different from the ordinary.  Affirming what once was imagined.  Verifying what once was unofficial.  Unlocking what once was caged.  Jumpstarting what once was stalled.  The change that follows a yes can be staggering, to say the least.

Not to say that saying no does not have its merits.  Saying no can save us precious time and resources, preserve sanity, protect the status quo (which may sometimes be of questionable value) or even reclaim some semblance of balance (anyone familiar with this word?), of self-respect or simply of self which, at times, gets knocked out of our grasp.

Of course, we must say no to some things.  To so many questions, it’s the only answer.  And we must speak it.  Loudly.  Proudly.  Defiantly.  Unequivocally.  To abuse, inequality, threats, rape, prejudice, bigotry, discrimination, xenophobia, and their siblings, cousins, in-laws and neighbors.

Saying no is often borne out of self-preservation.  After having said yes too many times, we eventually learn to say no.

Think of a newbie momma whose instinct is to say yes to her child’s every request.  She learns of the power the wee one wields after having been conditioned to get his way.  She capitulates every time up to the point where she learns the need to say no.  For her own good.  For the wee one’s welfare.

No is necessary.

But saying yes again after saying no for so long, ah, that’s where the magic lies.  Yes can instill hope within the hopeless.  Yes can provide refuge to the despairing.  Yes can stir the inner strength within a moment of weakness.  Yes can deliver the goods.  Yes can break a bad habit.

Yes is vital.

But.

Yes has a catch.  No, the road from yes, to no, to I don’t know, to yes again is not without its perils.  How we navigate this terrain takes some discerning skills if we hope to arrive in mostly one piece at fulfillment, satisfaction, happiness or at least a restful pit stop before moving on to more yeses, nos and I don’t knows.

After mastering saying no to the demands, the requests, the obligations that often seem urgent but rarely are, I’ve begun to regain the feeling (perhaps an illusion?) of control over my time.  And so the time has come to say yes again.  And I’m learning and it feels right.

Here’s a list of questions that I’ve found myself asking before I say yes:

What am I saying no to?
Often, when we say yes to one thing, we tacitly say no to another.  Yes to a marriage proposal means no to single life.  Yes to a startup means no to plentiful leisure time.  Yes to trust means no to doubt.  It’s critical to have clarity about and acceptance of what saying yes to one thing precludes.

What am I saying yes to? Sometimes, we mistakenly say yes to a false notion of a dreamy dream instead of a real reality.  It’s critical to know what I’m signing up for.  Is it real or just some romanticized notion in my head?  If it’s real, them I’m in.

How much don’t I know?
Well, the answer to this will always be a lot.  The questions will always be in the foreground as well as  in the background, but asking this question prompts me to think whether the I don’t knows bear a considerable weight.  If I’m really compelled to say yes, then the unknown is acceptable.

Why am I saying yes? The simple answer to this, I hope, is  because I want to.

Yes.  A promise made real.

Yes.  To life.

Is there another word that gets the heart beating faster?

++++++++++++++++++

Are you more of a yes person or a no person?  Do you think those who are close to you perceive you the same way as you project yourself?

Are you good at saying yes or no?

Do you find yourself questioning your yeses and nos?

Do you ever find yourself saying yes when you mean no and vice versa?

++++++++++++++++++

Image by Derek Lassiter

{ 5 trackbacks }

Learn to Say No!
February 13, 2010 at 12:52 pm
Saying Yes To Life!
February 15, 2010 at 6:39 am
The Power of Yes « Motherese
February 24, 2010 at 3:03 am
Yes Is the Answer. What Is the Question? — the halfway point
May 18, 2010 at 2:31 am
Can We Turn Pain into Joy? — the halfway point
March 14, 2011 at 12:27 am

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Patty - Why Not Start Now? February 11, 2010 at 12:28 am

Hi Belinda – With this post I just want to go out and say “yes” to nothing in particular. Just to give voice to it, because you’ve so perfectly captured its energy and exuberance. I think I am perhaps a person who has said “yes” too often. Yet, I don’t regret it. There are just so many possibilities and I used to want to say “yes” to all of them. Hmmm, I just had this conversation over dinner with a good friend. We both agreed that as we’ve gotten older, and perceived time to be more precious, we’ve learned to say “no” more often so we can give a big resounding “yes” to those things that truly matter. But it’s still hard!

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2 Nicki February 11, 2010 at 8:28 am

I am with Patty, Belinda. I want to say yes!

I tend to say no more than yes and want that to end. I want the people who ask me questions to know me well enough to know what the answer will be. I recall a friend saying to me a few months back, about a question that had been asked in August, “couldn’t believe you said no at first.” I did say no but then thought it through and said yes. I am, to this day, glad I thought it through.

I constantly question my yeses and nos. I think it is part of a growing process.

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3 Belinda Munoz February 11, 2010 at 12:59 pm

@Patty ~ Thank you. I’m feeling a lot of yeses daring to leap out of me these days. I can relate to feeling like I’ve said yes too often. I’m a sucker for great possibilities. There’ve been times when I did say yes to things that were inherently joyful but felt joyless because I wasn’t in the right space to say yes. I developed a pattern of saying no to protect my time with my family, which never feels enough. I got so good at saying no that I started missing saying yes again. It dawned on me that I’ll probably never feel like there’s enough time for anything and all I can do is relish the time that I do have.

@Nicki ~ Amen to thinking things through before saying yes. I’m glad you mentioned that questioning our yeses and nos is part of our growth process. Because we all have questions and we all go through phases in life cloaked in doubt. I’m tending to side with you and Socrates that an unexamined life is not worth living. Because in examining our lives, we stumble upon revelations. And in revelations, we glean truths. Truths that may lead to more truths or more questions. At any rate, I’m all for taking an active part in shaping our lives, regardless of how real or illusory that may be.

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4 Sara February 11, 2010 at 1:07 pm

Belinda — I say a resounding YES to this post! I loved the lines, “No is necessary; Yes is vital!” This is so true. Yes can be challenging at times because it can be so easy to just say YES without thinking and then end up wondering how you got in so much trouble:~) Then again, not saying YES can do the same thing.

This is why I also enjoyed the questions you pose in the post. I think they’re really important to consider. I used to struggle with the question, “What am I saying NO to?” I liked the way you put it. When you say Yes to something; you are also saying No to something else. That I can relate to!

I’ll have to think about the other questions at the end of your post. I’ll get back to you on this. In the mean time, thanks for this post:~)

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5 Zengirl February 11, 2010 at 1:22 pm

Yes to life, laughter and, no to sad and dreadful tasks.!!! like it.

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6 Quinn February 11, 2010 at 3:04 pm

I think we all must try to find the proper yes no balance in our lives. some times we must say yes to the things we don;t want to do because they are necessary and some times we have to say no to things we want because we already have to much and it would go to waste 9or for that mater waste us).

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7 Walter February 11, 2010 at 6:15 pm

I’ve said a lot of yes in my life and I have suffered a lot from my yes’s. There are times when it’s hard to say no, especially to the things important to us. We may regret if we say no, and we still regret if we say yes.

I guess whether it’s a yes or no, we have to face the consequences. 🙂

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8 Kristen @ Motherese February 11, 2010 at 6:17 pm

Hi Belinda –

I love these questions. I think about them all the time. For me, the guiding wisdom comes from Anne Lamott who writes: “My therapist, Rita, has convinced me that every time I say yes when I mean no, I am abandoning myself, and I end up feeling used or resentful or frantic. But when I say no when I mean no, it’s so sane and healthy that it creates a little glade around me in which I can get the nourishment I need. Then I help and serve people from a place of real abundance and health, instead of from this martyred mentally ill position, this open space in a forest about a mile north of Chernobyl.”

My general tendency as a people pleaser is to say yes before thinking. I work everyday on trying to say yes when I mean yes and no when I mean no.

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9 Belinda Munoz February 11, 2010 at 10:52 pm

@Sarah ~ Thanks, Sarah. I can think of a few times when I took on unnecessary stress by saying yes without thinking first. And I’ve also found myself wishing I’d said yes to something else instead of what I signed up for. Luckily, not with big things. Yet. 🙂 But yes is the sweet and savory part of life that bring so much flavor to our existence. All that deliciousness comes from yes!

@Zengirl ~ Yes! Yes!

@Quinn ~ Good to see you around these parts again! I hear you. I also think it’s possible to wholeheartedly say yes to the necessary things; to defy the gravity of no (because it’s not a sexy task or it’s simply unexciting). One example for me is grocery shopping. I didn’t love saying yes to buying groceries. The act of walking up and down crowded aisles, looking for things that for whatever reason in my mind are never where they should be (why are the wine bottles on the very top shelf where not everyone can reach them?), checking items off a list, standing in long lines — not thrilling, right? I mean, I always forget something or not everything I need is in one store so I often have to make two trips. But when I started focusing on the thought that I get to create meals for my family — a very big YES and a happy, loving act on my part — then I begin to dread grocery shopping a little bit less.

@Walter ~ Great to see you again here! I can relate to having to face the consequences of our yeses and nos; when neither choice is appealing. Hopefully these situations are rare compared to the vast possibilities that yes brings. Even something small like waking up and saying Yes to another day can impact one’s mood in a positive way.

@Kristen ~ Oh, that Anne Lamott is so eloquent. Thank you for sharing that quote! I’m glad you brought up the topic of people pleasing. I think it is a universal tendency that comes from a noble place — a desire to connect and get along. And how great that with each new day, we have a chance to create that glade that nourishes us when we say no when we mean no, so that we can say yes when we mean yes.

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10 BK February 12, 2010 at 11:54 pm

Personally, I don’t give straight yes or no answer. When I promise or say that I will do something, I will do my very best to keep to it. Thus before saying yes or no, I will ask myself if I can keep to my words. If the answer is ‘yes’ then most probably I will say ‘yes’ otherwise I will say something like, “I can’t promise you but I’ll do my best.”

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11 Nadia - Happy Lotus February 14, 2010 at 10:43 am

Hi Belinda,

I have always been a person who say “yes”. However, I have come to learn that sometimes it is wise to say “no”. I will admit there are times when I do not know what to say and I tell someone “let me think about it”.

I think many times people respond without thinking. So I like to take my time and think about my answer. Plus, I think it is important to keep our word. The worst thing is to tell someone yes and then change our mind. I do not love it when people do that to me so I do not want to do that to another.

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12 Eva February 18, 2010 at 9:47 am

Belinda, great thoughts on the Yes/No debate. The last question – Why am I saying yes – is so valuable.

In my life, there are times when I say yes because I have to. I’m not saying I say yes out of guilt or obligation, but I’m also not doing it wholeheartedly. For example, rearranging my schedule to bring my mom to the airport. Or dog-sitting for a friend. Or going to a scary movie with my husband. There are other things I would rather be doing with that time, but I say yes because I love these people. (And sometimes, I admit, I say yes hoping the favor will be returned in the future.) So it is worthwhile, in my evaluation, to say yes sometimes I would rather say no.

Does this make sense? Thanks for a great post!

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13 Josh Hanagarne February 18, 2010 at 6:10 pm

Belinda my friend, now we just need a great post on Maybe and all of life’s questions will have been answered on The Halfway Point. Let’s have it!:)

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14 Zoli Cserei February 20, 2010 at 2:28 am

Hi Belinda –

Interesting post, it reminded me of one of my friends’ post: Dragos Roua had a fairly similar and very interesting article, “14 ways to say yes” 🙂 http://www.dragosroua.com/14-ways-to-say-yes/

Yours and his create a very valuable combo! 😀

Cheers,
Zoli

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15 Stephanie December 8, 2011 at 3:05 pm

Belinda – I am just discovering your writing through a recent article on gratitude in Spirituality and Health. I am very moved by your perspective and your writing, and will start sharing your blog with my clients who are in career/life transition. Thank you!

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