Tuesday, March 24, 2015

On saying yes (Mistakes We Knew We Were Making)

by Jean-Etienne Minh-Duy Poirrier on Flickr
Hey, remember when I was all excited about getting to meet Dave Eggers? Yeah, that didn't happen.
It didn't happen for reasons that were stupid and missing it didn't have any sort of lasting impact on my life (my favorite quote these days is Carol on the Walking Dead saying "None of these are problems."), but I wouldn't be me if the nonoccurrence of this event didn't lead me down a vast spiral of over-analysis and self-loathing. It's what I do best, and among my collection of great gifts that sadly can't be turned into any kind of lucrative venture. And sometimes going down that road does end up leading me to something I can use. What I've arrived at this time, lying discarded at the bottom of this spiral covered in rubble and years worth of dust, is the word "yes".

I can't remember when or why I left it there. In fact, I didn't fully realize it was lost to me, but there it was, blinking at the light as it gazed up at me with its eternal naive optimism, never blaming me for anything, like a puppy that's never been beaten, never been buried beneath an avalanche of no's.

I'm going to try and dust it off as best I can.

I've been spending a lot of time with people who claim that they have difficulty saying "no" and would like to learn how. So many blog posts have been written about this. We have to learn and say "no" so we can carve out slices of time for ourselves, to recharge, to take care. The problem with being as high maintenance as some of us are, is that this act of taking care can turn into a full time job in itself, and by trying to perfect this, we end up smothering ourselves with love and using up all our energy to defend our comfort zone. We forget what it's like to say "yes".

It's so easy to lose this word, especially for us anxiety folk with our long list of safety rituals. Those rituals are needed, and we have learned this the hard way. We have fought for them, explained them again and again to the people who we've chosen to allow inside our inner circle. Simple things like sleep and alone time can be matters of life and death to us. But our dedication to self-care can sometimes end up being just another thing that harms us. After a while we have so much wrapped around us to protect us from outside invasions that it becomes increasingly difficult for any "yes" to slip through the cracks. We reinforce the cracks, because we've had a lifetime of practice and commitment to that and with this practice comes automation and, if we can manage it, efficiency.

Saying no becomes a reflex, and the things we might have said yes to glimmer in and out of existence way too fast for us to correct that, even after we realize that our reasons for saying no were stupid and might not even apply this time, no matter how well intended they were.

Turning this around is an undertaking that's frightening but not as frightening as the thought of wasting away in a fortress of no's.

I'm going to try and let my fortress crumble a bit, and save some of the energy I would have used to maintain it so it can be spent on other things. It might not be such a bad thing to allow some of the walls to crack. After all, they say that's how the light gets in.

It also allows us to spend more time with the people who matter most to us, and who still manage, after all this time, to amend our stupid no's with a resounding "yes" of their own.

Thanks, Dave. I kyze we meet someday, too. :)


  1. Aw, Dave Eggers is so nice!

    It's good to say yes to stuff. I have seldom regretted saying yes to stuff that is not obviously stupid/dangerous/ill-advised etc. I take it as expanding my body of experience, so that I can write better some day.

  2. Are you saying that based on what he wrote in my book or have you met him yourself? (fwiw, my sister said he was super nice to her too)

  3. Based on what he wrote - I doubt he ever did a tour of small European countries. It would be great to meet him, though. I've only read A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. I love what he says in it - "We're either sad and sickly or we are glamorous and new."

  4. I love that book, obviously. Would have loved to show him in person how much of it I underlined though. Ah well. ;)

  5. I always worry when I say something supportive that I come off as insincere, but you're awesome, and good luck. :)

  6. Wow, thanks. Coming from you, that means a lot! I always feel like a bit of a wuss after reading your stories ;)

  7. Ugh. I'm all feeled out for the day :P
    I'm just an asshole with a conscience, I'm only really good in times of conflict. Around "normal" people and situations, not so much.

  8. Yeah, normal situations suck. It's why I personally can't wait for the zombie apocalypse.

  9. Ah yes, that spiral. That critical inner voice. And the best way to combat it is to let the walls crumble a little and just accept. This was a wise post . . .

  10. You get me, Trillie. You really get me. I think I've said No so many times (like on autopilot) to people that they've pretty much given up asking me to do this or that. I did shock everyone back in the fall when I said Yes to a girl's weekend. I even shocked myself. And it was good, I had fun. But I still find myself struggling to say Yes.

  11. It's not always going to be that good, but we're never going to find out if we never say yes, right? :)