I got sick because I spent too much of my life indiscriminately saying “yes”. So, my body taught me how to say no…but it did it in a way that almost made me forget how and when to say yes-like the kind of numbness we feel when our brains want to protect us from feeling pain, so we forget how to feel happy too. Sometimes the need for a lesson or a reprieve or a change trumps selectivity. Like how we can’t “spot reduce”, but losing weight is so important that we don’t mind losing our butts with our guts. Our bodies and brains have built in defense mechanisms and short cuts that are known to go to far.
As we get older, or sick, or more anxious, or more logical, we start to overcompensate-we say no too much. We say “no” on autopilot. We say, “I would, but” when we really want to say yes because we are concerned-and sometimes for good reason. We are concerned waking up the next morning will be hard. We are concerned our bank accounts will go below the minimum we decided was okay. We are concerned our bosses won’t say yes too. We are concerned our bodies aren’t as reliable as they used to be.
Now that I’ve been sick, I’m literally always concerned. I hesitate. Because I know no matter what I do, something about it is, at the very least, going to be incredibly uncomfortable. At the very most, it will send me to an early grave. Somewhere in between is “I won’t physically be able to do it”. And if it’s a push for the average person-an adrenaline rush, an out of the norm trip or activity-it’s going to only be amplified for me (yet of course, not as difficult as for many). The truth is, I am scared every. Single. Day. And maybe that’s not as cool as “yes” me was. But you know what? It taught me when I REALLY want to say yes. If “no” is the default, and part of me-despite the tingling sensation of worry, despite the gut flipping prospect of being out of my comfort zone, despite the knowing that whatever I do will be more DIFFICULT than it is for the average person-Still wants to say YES…it must be important. It must be worth it.
The new me says yes when she really wants to. The new me still says yes DESPITE fear. That’s like hypothermia cool! But literally, because I got it when I said yes to the creek adventure in the included photo.
Me, another time I said “yes” to a photo shoot with a stranger (to commemorate my trip) and got partial hypothermia, but it was worth it. Also, this is a genuine smile, so it seems fitting.
Photo by: Erik Ganut
Oak Creek, Sedona, AZ
Like the time I said “yes” to the one whale watching expedition that used a speed boat with no restroom even though I knew I’d be in it for 4 hours. Or the time I said yes to the hot air balloon ride, even though I’d already postponed due to a flare and knew I’d be waking up at 3:30am to be stuck standing in a basket with strangers and no bathroom for 4+ hours. Or the time I said yes to being a mermaid even though I would be at someone else’s mercy to go to the bathroom every 4 hours. As you can see, a lot of my concern revolves around my bladder (though fainting, incredible nausea, seizures, excessive thirst, weakness, and extreme discomfort are always on the table too), but the point is…Every single time a part of me wanted to say no because it seemed impractical or impossible or uncomfortable…But I said yes because that part was even the slightest bit bigger…I won. And I lived. I didn’t know how they would go ahead of time. I couldn’t guarantee anything. But I did it anyway: I sat in my discomfort. I made unusual concessions. I required extraordinary recovery time. But…I did things that make life worthwhile-from being completely mesmerized by a whale watching trip that “doesn’t get any better” than it was that morning to making something people dream about their whole lives a career.
I can’t wait to say more about how to know what’s a yes or a no, and a big YES I recently gave, but for now…if you feel driven to do something, heed the words of my idol Tina Fey. “Say ‘yes’ and figure out the rest later.”