My year of yes is more than halfway done and I’ve got to say that saying yes to everything I possibly can has been both exhilarating and exhausting. It has led me down strange paths that I never would have explored, or would have explored eventually after spending many long hours of planning. In this year of yes, I’m just going for it, perfect or otherwise. (And it’s almost always otherwise.) But I’m also learning to let go of outcomes at breakneck speeds. I’m learning the power of staying present and doing what I can and want to do in the moment. It’s made me much more spontaneous. It’s making my curious brain and extroverted personality to try new things just for their own sake and value and not what they may lead to. And that has been a gift, albeit it a tiring one, that I’m very grateful to receive.
A Year of Yes: Don’t take yourself out of the running—a lesson from author Jodi Picoult
“I wondered about the explorers who’d sailed their ships to the end of the world. How terrified they must have been when they risked falling over the edge; how amazed to discover, instead, places they had seen only in their dreams.” ~Jodi Picoult, Handle with Care
Sometimes we don’t know what we’re driving toward. We just have the insatiable desire to try something new, to explore, to discover. Don’t worry that it won’t work, that you won’t be right for an opportunity. Leave yourself in the running to have a new experience. Trust that who you are in this moment is enough to become who you want to be in the next moment. Take a chance. Be an explorer. That’s the only choice that fosters change and creates a new reality out of dreams.
A Year of Yes: Balancing the head and heart takes time
I’ve been using this piece of art as a focal point for my meditation since I found it about a week ago. I bought it immediately, and added it to my art collection. Balancing the head and the heart is the challenge of our lives. It’s a daily process, and one that I’m intently working on. Like a tightrope walker traveling among the stars, all I can do is put one foot in front of the other. I’m learning, one decision, one choice, at a time.
A Year of Yes: It’s better to put your heart out there
“Better an ‘oops’ than a ‘what if?”” ~Beau Taplin
Why are we so afraid of making a mistake or looking like fools? Are we afraid of embarrassment? Of ridicule? Of pain? Of failure? I got over the feeling of rejection a long time ago. I have seen too many people miss their chance, too many people settle for lives that are less than what they really wanted. And by the time they could really admit that to themselves, the time was gone. It was too late. Their lives have been a cautionary tale for me. I stopped waiting and hoping and wanting, and I just decided to give it all a whirl. Everything. And a lot of things haven’t worked out, and a lot of things have. And none of it would have been possible if I didn’t decide to try. So now at least I go to bed at night knowing I didn’t leave anything on the table. I play every card I have every day, knowing that tomorrow I get a new hand.
A Year of Yes: Don’t apologize for hearing the music
“And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.” ~Friedrich Nietzsche
It can be hard to see the future so clearly while living in the present. We see change marching in our direction, and we want to adapt, we need to adapt. Others refuse to recognize it, and do everything we can to help others see what we see, hear what we hear, and they can’t or won’t.
Years ago, Brian told me that I see what I see and I know what I know, and that’s what’s made all the difference in my life. That’s the basis from which I had to make my decisions, and so I did. I stopped worrying about what other people thought about my choices. I stopped worrying about being judged or criticized or misunderstood. I just decided to do the best I could with what I had and what I knew.
And you know what? It was the best decision I ever made. I chose to be free.
So you go right on dancing and believing and creating. Let your life be a beautiful expression of exactly who you are.
A Year of Yes: Climb your mountain
“Because in the end, you won’t remember the time you spent working in the office or mowing your lawn. Climb that goddamn mountain.” ~Jack Kerouac
Sure I could have made choices that were safer, and quite frankly, a hell of a lot easier. Despite the tough journey to this moment, especially these last few difficult years, I’m in love with my life. My friends, the city I call home, my work, my creative projects, my writing. I climbed the mountain, and the view is spectacular. And I intend to keep climbing. No regrets.
A Year of Yes: Be a firestarter
“If the world is cold, make it your business to build fires.” ~Horace Traubel, author and leader of the Arts and Crafts movement
The world is in need of people who can bring their best selves to it, who can see what’s needed and then have the fortitude to make it happen. Before I jump to the conclusion that this or that could never happen, I’ve lately found myself looking at challenging situations that I’d like to see come to fruition and asking, “What would it take to make it so?” And then I get to work.
A Year of Yes: See what’s possible before you decide what’s right
In our work and in our lives, exploring our full slate of possibilities before deciding what to do is a critical step that can’t be minimized or hurried. Before we rush to judgement and decide, let’s take a moment to think about what we’d like to do without determining whether or not that’s the best course of action. Let’s lay every card on the table and give it its due before we decide whether or not to set it aside. Let’s dream a little.
A Year of Yes: Native American culture sets aside time and space for reflection
As I think about my own storytelling projects, I am reminded of my introduction to it when I was a young child.
I grew up in a rural area where Native American culture is still very much alive. We had a family friend who was a Mohawk chief, Chief Black Bear. We would often go to visit his trading post. He was a very tall, solid, regal man. I was fascinated by him. I remember the jewelry, items fashioned from animal skins, the art, and the tobacco pipes carved from natural items. I have no Native American heritage in my blood, but I somehow felt very much at home in his culture. I still do.
One year for Christmas, my mom bought me several books about Native American history. The way they live and what they believe makes complete sense to me. They take care of the planet and each other. They believe in the connectedness of the heavens above and the Earth below. And their storytelling—that’s what captivates me the most. They make deep wisdom palpable, even to a child.
Yesterday I learned about how some members of some tribes welcome people back from war. There is a recognition that they must have transition time. They go with the medicine man for a number of days to literally and figuratively have the blood washed away. The trauma of war is recognized and processed. They deal with this in the light so that it doesn’t get subsumed into the shadows. They grieve. They’re cleaned. They’re healed so that they can return whole.
Setting war aside, if we just look at our own grieving process today with any lens, we often don’t allow space or time for it. We are supposed to move on quickly and in earnest to sunny skies and smiles. We are told to let it go as quickly and cleanly as possible. Though truthfully we hang onto things inside of us. We don’t always give ourselves time to adequately mourn our losses and reflect on what we’ve learned. And so it piles up, and up and up and up until we literally collapse under it. We do ourselves a disservice all in an effort to get on with it. Except we haven’t gotten on with anything. We are playing a role, and eventually we will have to leave the stage and all of our grief will be there waiting in the wings. And we will feel alone and isolated and ashamed of it. And we will bear it until we can’t.
Our society is dealing with massive public issues now, issues that have been ignored and swept under the rug for too long by too many. Of course they now seem unwieldy. Look how much time they’ve had to grow unattended. We cannot and should not shrink away from dealing with them now, no matter how large they loom. If we don’t recognize and set ourselves on a course to solve them, that task will fall to the next generation and the generation after that. Bringing them into the light is painful, but it is the only way to create a better tomorrow. Have faith, and let’s get to work. We can do hard things, together.
In the pause: How writers can deal with naysayers
“The world is full of people who say it can’t be done. If everyone listened to them, we’d still live in caves—and there would be no such thing as books.” ~Dean Koontz #NaNoPepTalk
I’d like to talk to you about naysayers. Some are valuable. When I was deciding to go to grad school and expressed my desire to work part-time and go to school part-time, a friend of mine told me exactly why that was a terrible idea. (He had gone part-time and deeply regretted it.) He was right. It was a far better idea for me to go to grad school full-time. After I got my MBA and a good job, and decided I want to work on my writing on the side, that same friend said I was wasting my time and that I should really focus on important things like climbing the corporate ladder and finding a husband. (He never climbed the corporate ladder, he’s not a writer, and his spouse is less than a good match.) That time he was wrong.
To find out if naysayers are worth listening to, I consider the feedback as if a friend was telling me my own story. That objectivity helps me sort the BS from the gold. Also, consider the perspective of the naysayer. Are they offering you advice from experience, or are they just stating their opinion as fact? I’m glad my friend gave me solid, informed reasons to go to grad school full-time. It’s one of the best decisions I ever made. I’m glad I ignored his opinion about my writing and how to spend my time. If I had listened to him, I wouldn’t have the writing career I have today.
Ultimately, the one who lives with the consequences of your choices is you. What matters most is your opinion of your own life.