I am loving the posts of my fellow bloggers this month: so many beautiful reminders of the way that “No” can be a necessary step on the way to “Yes,” a condition for making “Yes” possible. The posts have provided eloquent testimony for the claim that “Yes” might be the fundamental word for writers, for all creative people, indeed, for all people trying to live a full and abundant life. When I was younger, I used to describe myself as “a yay-sayer to the universe.” (Some of the things I said yay to turned out to be terrible mistakes that anybody but me could have seen at the time, but that is a story for another day). “Yes” is the wonderful refrain of Molly Bloom in Joyce’s Ulysses: “and yes I said yes I will Yes."
So now I’m going to put forward the sobering truth that every glorious, life-affirming, celebratory yes actually contains within itself a multitude of no’s. This has been a hard lesson for a yay-sayer to the universe to accept. Once I prided myself on being a person who says yes to everything; I used to boast that yes was my default-setting. But now I know that it is impossible to say yes to everything, if only because yes to this inevitably carries with it no to that.
If I say yes to a request to write a book review (oh, how I love writing book reviews), I’m thereby saying no to using those same hours to write a chapter of my own book. If I say yes to an invitation to serve on a church committee (oh, how I love the sweet fellowship of time shared with my church family), I’m thereby saying no to using those same hours to spend time with my family-family, or to take a walk with a dear friend.
This isn’t to say that I shouldn’t write the book review or help out at church. I want a life that involves saying yes to writing, to reading, to exercise, to family, to friends, to church – even to delicious idle hours doing nothing at all. But I can best say a balanced yes to all of these things by realizing that yes isn’t cost-free. The older I get, the less I want to say yes to spending a single hour, day, week, month, or year doing something unless I really mean it, unless I truly want to spend the very stuff of my life doing that thing.
I’m no longer going to say “Yes” unless I can say “and yes I said yes I will Yes.”