Let it be said, even though it has been before, that there is a liberating power in saying no. Especially, quite frankly, for women. We are cultured from birth to say yes, to keep everyone happy, multi-task, overextend to meet everyone’s needs.
An argument can also be made for the power of yes. I love the movie The Boys Are Back with Clive Owen when his wife suddenly dies and he becomes a single father to two boys. He decides his parenting technique is to just say yes to everything, with interesting results. New experiences, relationships, circumstances that result from saying yes are amazing things, a blog post in itself. But when you say no, you put yourself first in a way that can only be described as feeling pretty damn good.
Very recently, I have been learning how to say no. I have said no to a job that would have offered me more money than I’ve ever made before because there was no passion in it for me. I just couldn’t picture signing over 40 precious hours of my life per week to something I couldn’t even begin to get excited about. Not to mention the additional logistical commuting hurdles and costs. I also said no because it doesn’t take me closer to the mountain as Neil Gaiman so sagely puts it in his now famous commencement address, "Make Good Art." The mountain for me being life as a creative professional - a writer, filmmaker and entrepreneur.
I said no to sleeping with someone I wasn’t in love with because I didn’t want to wake up in the morning with that deeply sad feeling of wanting something that wasn’t there. “There ain’t no fucking chocolate, lady!” as the punch-line line to the classic joke goes. I’ve nothing in the least against sex just for sex, but the carnal won’t do when what you really want is 70% dark chocolate with sea salt and you have to settle for a Hershey’s Kiss.
I said no to spending time with friends I like in order to be alone and walk in the woods. Just simply to be, to refuel, to prepare for our transition back to America.
I said no to selling my furniture and TV for a fraction of the price I paid in order to assuage money worries. I decided I’d rather give them away to a furniture reuse store as a charity donation than take fire sale prices for them. It feels cleaner somehow. And I have learned that the more I worry about money, miraculously the more there are money worries. When I trust that everything is going to work out OK and I have plenty. There usually is. Funny that.
These are my thoughts on saying no for the week. What about you? Have there been times that saying no has been absolutely, unequivocally the right thing to do even when it didn’t make others happy?
Let me know what you think!
As the boy and I prepare to cross the Pond back to America, this time to put down some roots for a while, it is amazing to be able to come back to a place where we lived. Over the past two years, we spent nearly a year in Italy and a year in England. Returning to a place you once called home, even for a while, is a chance to measure where you've come from, not necessarily how far, or to suggest that all our journeys are linear. Far from it. My life seems like one big serpentine-like circle, constantly revolving in on itself.
It's just that to see a place you had come to know with fresh eyes again is a great experience. The things you took for granted or made you crazy, are now seen through the lens of 'isn't that quaint?' Or 'Isn't the gruff, never-smiling owner of the cafe where I used to write a lot so charming?'
The boy was always annoyed by the staring eyes of the local Vicentini (Italians aren't shy about staring). This time it didn't bother him. Either he blended in more, after having lived outside of America for so long, or his self-conscious teenage sensibilities are parked in neutral at the moment. He even went so far to declare he loved all things Italian, which just goes to show, visiting a place is never ever the same as living there.
We came back here for a few days to visit dear friends before heading Stateside for a decidedly longer stint this time. The boy has declared he wants to go back to a real school (no more homeschooling for now) with his friends of long standing. So he'll start 8th grade in the Fall on home turf and Have Son, Will Travel will be relegated to mostly summers. It seems like a fair deal and he has been an amazing traveler and adventurous sport these last few years. But now it's time to go home, grow a garden, get a dog, and unpack the suitcases -- for a while anyway!
actor-writer-director, improviser, mother, traveler, general renegade and rabblerouser.