Last night was one of the those delicious moments in life when you end up having dinner with friends in a place you love and it was never on your radar to begin with. As we stood on the sidelines in Saco watching our girls play soccer, grey clouds rolled in, the winds stirred up, and raindrops fell from the sky. We braced ourselves for a downpour but it never came, just lite sprinkles. The weather has started to turn and sixty degrees can suddenly drop into the high forties. Our bones were chilled, our cheeks rosie, and our toes becoming numb. The change in weather opened us up for a little midweek adventure. We ended up taking our girls out to dinner in Kennebunkport, yes on a school night.
One of the moms said that she had read something that she thought I would love. I can’t remember the wording exactly and I’m pretty sure it was a quote from Brenèe Brown, but “don’t quote me.” It was something about not being shy saying no to things you don’t want so that you’ll be able to say yes to the things you do. When she shared it with me I smiled and nodded my head yes. “I love that.” I agreed that it was a good thing for me to hear. Today after falling asleep somewhere after three in the morning and waking up out of a dead sleep after eight, I think I needed to hear what she said. I not only needed to hear it, I need to now believe it and act on it.
How do we get to that place in life where work equals play, passion is our motivation, and our intuition leads us to where we most belong? Throughout my life I’ve never been shy of taking risks, jumping out of my comfort zone, and willing to start a new venture or change careers. I seem to embrace change, the new energy it brings where anything is possible and it’s only our own imagination that limits our choices of what to do next. Inevitably I’ve always arrived at the place where the dark storm clouds roll in, I’m challenged beyond my perceived abilities and more times than not I throw in the towel before I’ve realized my dream or seen a project or goal all the way through. This is something I like to refer to as self sabotaging. It’s something that I’m really good at. No doubt storm clouds will roll in, they always do. I just have a way of letting them blow me off course. When my friend shared the idea that saying no to others can lead you to the things you want most out of life, something clicked.
We all have that one thing that seems to cheer us up when we make time for it. Some of us might haven’t even tried it yet but there is something inside that assures us that it would fit perfectly if we did. Yet a lot of us continue to hold ourselves back, talk ourselves into a life profession, habit or routine that makes us miserable and leave us feeling unfulfilled. We do so in the name of financial security or being an adult. We have become accustomed to rationalizing the needs of ourselves and family to the point of putting ourselves in debt or leveraging our free time to where it no longer exists. I’ve just come off of three years of working seven days a week at multiple jobs and having virtually no time for myself or worse my family.
Then I woke up one morning feeling exhausted, cranky, disenfranchised, and feeling like I was doing what everybody else needed. So I began to say no. Quietly at first, almost a whisper. I was like a toddler trying on my independence for size and not really sure how others around me would respond. Then I grew louder and bolder and pretty soon free time started showing up in my life. I woke up one morning and said hello to my home, after school practice pickups, and events for Anna I had missed the previous years when I was working weekends. This past Sunday Kyle and I jumped into the car for the first time in ages and found ourselves exploring, one of our favorite things to do together. Is my life perfect? No, but it’s better. I have time to breathe and experience life. There is a gift in the moments when we find ourselves able to sit and just consider life around us and wonder what we would keep the same or perhaps we’d like to change. The gift is a sense of ease and lightness that begins to settle as we realize the sky hasn’t dropped, and the world hasn’t stopped turning. I’m still very much here and now seem to be finding a little bit more joy and enthusiasm in my day as it unfolds. I’ve been able to reconnect with old friends, make new ones, and be present for the girls and Kyle. It feels good and I’m looking forward to being able to say yes to the things that make me excited about being alive and here on this planet we call Earth.
Saying no to things you don’t want, so that you are free and available to say yes to the things you do? Huh? I have two thoughts that I am not sure are connected or not.
First, My life is such that I don’t have nearly the demands on my time that most people do. My job is one where I can mostly work from home and I can generally make my own schedule. I have no kids, only four dogs, and a very, very small social circle. I can literally go days, if I choose, without any meaningful human contact. But, I once had a very different lifestyle. One where there was a spouse and stepchildren and a 9-5 career. My life’s journey has taken me far away from that now, both by choice and circumstance. I can’t say that I miss it. I love the freedom I have to choose what I want to say yes to. Which brings me to my second thought. What do I want to say yes to?
There is my struggle. Since my wife passed, I am not sure what it is I want anymore. I had a long conversation with a friend about this recently. I am not sure that we resolved anything, but it did cause me to pause and reflect. I don’t ever recall another time in my life when I couldn’t answer that for myself. I always had my idea about the next job I wanted, the next home improvement project, the next toy to buy, the next vacation. My list was long and comprehensive of my “wants.” But, none of those will bring Kristin back and ultimately, none of those things mattered to her and I while we faced her cancer.
So, what do I want to say yes to? Anything that makes me feel light and brings me joy. All of the aforementioned “wants” at times may have brought me a fleeting feeling of happiness, but I can’t say that any of them ever brought me joy. Loving Kristin and feeling her love for me, was the single greatest source of joy I have ever felt. It forever changed my calculus. I feel as though living, and dying a little, with Kristin has afforded me a healthier perspective on life than I have ever had before. I now understand what truly fills my heart and what I was using as mere substitutes before. I think when I figure out my answer to the question, “What do I want to say yes to?” it will be one of experiences and connections. I think I too would have chosen a rainy soccer game and a dinner with friends, even on a school night.