The Unexpected Value of Saying Yes

by Pari

I’m not sure if this is a truism, but it seems the older many people get, the more closed and self-protective they become. I get it. I really do. Life has a way knocking the impetuosity out of a soul. You get the wind slugged out of you a few times and more fool you if you step into the storm again without so much as a raincoat or umbrella.

So how to reconcile that natural tendency with the very essence of creativity, the stepping out onto the ledge with one foot in mid air because, let’s face it, we have to put it there?

The business of living life and surviving challenges often forces us to curl in like a morning glory at the sun’s zenith. And yet, we writers are collectors of experiences. If we don’t have them, we can’t then process them through our particular sieves into whatever mush we are compelled to produce.

For those of you who have been walking my journey with me through the prickly landscape of the dissolution of my marriage, it will come as no surprise that I’m realizing now how many times I’ve said, “no,” without intending to during the last 18 years. Being first part of a couple and then a parent, I found myself putting on the protective layers of those identities to the detriment of allowing myself to be open to the unexpected.  As with much of my current realizations, there is no blame in this – no regret or finger pointing – just a curious fascination with the process and the results.

And in this case, I’ve noticed the nos in my life and have decided to intentionally shift the balance back to a more interesting center.

In short, I’ve begun saying yes again. 

When I re-read the above statement, a stereotypic image comes to mind:  A woman standing on a large boulder in the middle of a gorgeous lake, a gentle breeze blowing her long auburn hair and gossamer blue and white gown. Ah, there she is, a symbol of freedom with her arms outstretched – embracing all that life has to offer  . . . .

Nah. That’s not quite what I’m talking about here.

I’m talking about little yeses . . . yeslets — the allowing oneself to let go of the no in small ways — to invite tiny but welcome experiences in like going to the Draft Horse Pull at the New Mexico State Fair with a group of friends. It’s something I’ve never done before and might not have done if I hadn’t decided to say “yes” more. Another yes: hanging out with a friend with no purpose other than to hang out and talk. Another yes? Going to the Albuquerque Youth Symphony concert on Sunday just because I wanted to experience — and support — young people who through hard work can make something truly beautiful.

With each of these small yeses, my creativity grows in energy and dimension.

Simply put, I didn’t know it would happen, but I’m enjoying my writing, my forays into visual art, and my life more because I’ve let yes back into my life.


Today let’s talk about yeses.

When was the last time you said yes to something you wouldn’t have before?
What was it to?
What was the result of that yes on your life/perspective/creativity?

26 thoughts on “The Unexpected Value of Saying Yes

  1. Reine

    Wow . . . I needed this today. It's like you knew I needed a new word like "yeslets."

    The last time I said yes to something I wouldn't have before? But, Pari, the reason it was the last time was because it turned out so awful!

  2. Sarah W

    A month ago, the city sent out a call for employees willing to learn how to teach other employees how to use the new automatic defibrillators that have been added to ever public building. So I did, thinking it would be an hour-long course in how to flip a switch, push a button, and do the paperwork.

    I found out last week that they'd decided to train the volunteers on Basic Life saving, too, so we can teach a course in that, when needed. It's intensive and takes a lot of training hours. And it's a huge responsibility. We were given the opportunity to back out. . . but I didn't.

    I'm halfway through, but I'm giving myself little mental pop quizzes, and carrying around a one-way valve and a couple of barriers, just in case. It's both empowering and terrifying. The rewards and the risks for helping someone in trouble — or teaching others how to help — just went up . . .

  3. Pari Noskin

    I'm glad for the yeslets . . . not so much so that the last yes you said was the last <g>.

    That's what I'm talking about, though your yes is a full blown one with sparkles and rainbows and storm clouds too. What a wonderful thing you've agreed to do. And I sense that it is changing your life and self-perception. Very, very cool.

  4. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Pari

    I'm so pleased you're enjoying new things because of your regained willingness to say "yes" to them ;-]

    I said "yes" on Friday to doctors – a triumph of hope over experience, sadly.

    When I can sleep again at night properly, I might stop regretting it. Meanwhile …

  5. Tammy Cravit

    Hi, Pari,

    I'm thinking about the interplay between your post and JT's recent one about saying no, and it strikes me that there's a fine balance between saying "yes" and saying "no". For myself, the struggle has been finding ways to say "yes" to more of the things that take my life where I want it to, and saying "no" to more of the things that preserve the unwanted aspects of my status quo.Circumstance and peer pressure have forced a lot of yeses that I regretted before the word was even out of my mouth. I'm starting to say "no" to some of those, and though it's created friction in places I don't want it, I have to believe the outcome will be better for my doing it.

    My most recent "yes"? I mailed in the paperwork for my city's Citizens Police Academy course, which had been sitting in my Evernote file for some months. Not sure when they'll be holding it — the paperwork says, "we'll let you know when we get enough applicants to do it" — but I'm definitely glad I sent in the form.

  6. MJ

    Very good topic. I've gotten so weary at a stressful job that I started saying 'no' to anything other than 'getting the job done.' But then I said yes to a lingering interest in music lessons, and went to adult instrument camp (MOST FUN EVER) and those yesses have brought me more joy and mental refurbishment than anything in years. It doesn't directly get the job done – SO WHAT!

  7. Allison Davis

    Pari, the yeslets are — perhaps, overcoming fear? In contrast to the pleaser "no's" of JT's post, these are like when my brother and sister in law said come to Sake Day, brewers will be here from Japan, so I relunctantly go out, put on a red dress and have a fabulous time (Hai! So des!). Go ahead and get out there, try something — like the oil paintings I did in NY, second time ever, and it was great. I dedicated two days to just painting. So, it's straying out of the old groove, new routine, different parts of the brain…yeah, overcoming trepidation if not fear. Nice.

  8. Jenni L.

    Hi Pari,

    My problem is not learning to say yes, it's learning to say no. But saying yes has led to some great experiences. I said yes to an officer position for a student association when I went back to school a couple of years ago, and that position led to me attend a conference in San Francisco, all expenses paid! And I'd never been to San Fran before, so it was a great trip and a good experience. My husband wasn't wild about me taking on the officer position when I already had so much else going on, but it was a great way to meet a lot of people, expand my outlook on the profession I was training into, and feel like I was contributing something valuable to the other students in my course. Saying yes has gotten me involved in a neighborhood cleanup; in an officer position in a state-chartered writing group, and speaking publicly about my war experiences growing up in Africa and Asia – each time bringing me out of my shell and in touch with new people, and giving me a sense of community and an opportunity to contribute something meaningful.

    I think it's a balancing act though – it's very easy to get sucked into things that eat up a lot of time when you say yes. But in general, I agree that a lot of good comes from being open to those new opportunities. 🙂

  9. Alafair Burke

    I also love the word "yeslets" and am thinking about the nice message coming from this post in combination with JT's. It's all about deciding why one is saying yes, out of curiosity and adventure (yes!) or out of obligation (no!). Good for you for starting to say yes again.

  10. Judy Wirzberger

    I, too, am thinking of the balance between yes and no. A wise person once told me that maturity happens when we learn to say yes or no to what we want rather than to spite someone (usually our parents for a great portion of our lives). And Pari, I love yeslets. Little yeses that enrich our lives, bring us closer to ourselves and to others. I said yes to a slut day when I stayed in my jammies all day and ate whatever I wanted and just red and napped. Whether it's yes or no, the goal should be that we are better for it.

    Louise, I'm with you about Zoe. Funny how attached I've become to the group here, most of whom I've never met…including Petunia and Duffer and David's Vallejo.

  11. Reine

    Hi Pari,

    Actually, now that I've thought this over a bit, I think maybe I am just too happy in my routine of near-aloneness. It's difficult getting around, even with paratransit, so that makes it much easier to beg off. Plus the cost of taking local paratransit has doubled this year from $3 – $6. That makes it a lot easier to say no. I know I should be more of an active participant, but I am pretty happy just staying home and writing.

    Also, I hate when people pay too much attention and are overly helpful. They mean well, I know, but I have other things I like to think about. Being semi-reclusive is not a good solution, but the Internet takes care of that aspect. I have one neighbor, a lovely woman, who wants to pray for me – right then and there – every time she sees me. Honestly, that's the sort of thing I'm avoiding — really nice people who can't see past my chair and my service dog. It freakin' wears me out.

  12. Pari Noskin

    Thank you. I hope the sleep comes quickly and well.

    I think you're right and thank you for the reminder. For me, the yeses aren't to things like chairing a convention any time soon 😉 . . . but to things that may be enriching or just plain enjoyable.

    Congrats, btw, on sending in the forms!

    I so hear you! What instrument?

  13. Pari Noskin

    Thank you, Louise and JT.
    Louise, yes, we'll keep our eyes on Zoe.
    JT? Refilling the well. I like that.

    You may be right about the fear or trepidation — I'll have to think about that some more. My sense — at least for me — is that it's about allowing rather than deciding beforehand the value of an activity.

    I've had my share of those yeses that nearly killed me with the effort they demanded. I'm talking about yeslets <g> much smaller things, here.

  14. Pari Noskin

    I didn't intend to dovetail so nicely with great post from JT. I love when that happens here though, don't you? It makes the blog ever richer.

    You made me laugh with your last sentence. And I think you've hit it well with the idea of personal intentionality with yes and no. I'm going to try that one on for a while.

    I really appreciate the window into your life that you give us from time to time.
    For me, it's not necessarily a question of being out in the world more — but just allowing more opportunities in. I've done it by going out. You do it by being active on the 'net. I'd argue that the WHAT of it isn't as important as the experience of that what.

  15. Reine

    Zoë, dear one, if saying yes to no is what you need, I am glad you are able to do that – but of course I will worry. It is my nature. And I love you, as you can see we all do.

  16. Reine

    Pari, your warmth and kindness are brilliant. Knowing what you have been going through these past few months, those pieces you've shared, add even more to the experiencing of your insight.

  17. Gar Haywood

    To all my fellow Murderati: Okay, JT's claimed "NO" and Pari has just done "YES." I've got dibs on "MAYBE." So nobody can do a post on "MAYBE" until I do one.

    And now that that's out of the way…

    Pari, "yes" is a tough one for me, because it almost always involves taking action of some kind. NO is easy. What's required of one to follow through on a "no"? But "yes"… You have to get up off your ass and actually DO SOMETHING to follow through on a "yes."

    Great post.

  18. Susan Shea

    My late S.O. was a professional artist, and he believed in saying "Yes" to almost everything. He felt you could always add, "Maybe later" if it turned out not to be a good fit. His mantra was "Go for it" and a lot of young artists have told me that little push was what they needed to get out there and DO. I, too, had a long marriage before him in which the tradition was different, and I felt like a brand new butterfly when I adjusted to a new way of being in the world!

  19. Pari Noskin

    Thank you, Reine. What kindness.

    Sorry, Alex. But you're a Pisces; indecision is just part of the ride, isn't it? <g>.

    Gar, I'm not sure that YES requires action . . . I'm going to have to think about that too. Sitting with a friend and just enjoying being together without a ton of baggage was one of my yeses and it didn't feel like I was "doing" anything other than being in the moment . . .

    I don't know.

    Susan, Thank you so much for sharing that. I used to think the phrase, "Why not?" worked well . . . but I like Go for it and Yes a lot better. I'm going to hold on to that butterfly image. Thank you for that, too.

  20. Fran

    Saying "yes" or "yeslet" to something that you might have avoided because it takes you outside your comfort zone is, in my opinion, a good thing. Saying "no" to psychic vampires or situations that are going to stretch you too thin are necessity (and it was much easier to write that than it is to do).

    Most recent "yes" was to buying a gun and getting a concealed carry permit. It took me outside my comfort zone and made me examine my beliefs and self-perception. It was a good thing.

    But I've enjoyed saying "yes" for years now, from saying yes to dessert first to going to movies by myself. They haven't all been fun — some restaurants I said "yes" to were serious mistakes! — but hey, if I hadn't tried, I wouldn't have known.

  21. David Corbett

    Most important yes in my life was stopping the typically male approach-withdraw of male dating and said yes to my late wife Terri. Everything just got better between us from that point on.

    Love isn't made up of maybe's or yes-but's. It's made up of big and litted yesses. IMHO.

    Nice post, Pari, sorry I missed the boat yesterday.

  22. Pari Noskin

    Wow, one of those sounds like a large yes . . . the gun. I expect it was something that really made you think and I hope you're pleased with the decision. As to movies and restaurants, yes indeed.

    Psychic vampires, destructive relationships, work for free when there's no soul fulfillment in it? NO.

    Yes to all of those yeses, including the big one you mentioned. And yes to living again.

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