Monday, July 14, 2008

Saying No = Opening to Yes

“I’m learning to embrace the word no, for balance, for equilibrium and to honor my intuition. Like a box, no provides walls and boundaries. It’s a container, a framework in which creativity can come forth with controlled abandon. No stops me in my tracks and opens up a new place for me to begin. It can hold possibilities. Time for me and my ambling.” --Susan Wooldridge, Foolsgold: Making Something from Nothing and Freeing Your Creative Process

“Soon I realize I am saying yes, and inner yes, supported and held in place by an outside no. Yes to doing what I want. Yes to how I feel.” --Susan Wooldridge

While in Hawaii with my family over the past week, I was immersed in constant activity and interaction. It was heaps of fun. Well, most of it anyway. But since being back home in Seattle I realize that I hadn’t had much privacy or down time. You see, we were all sharing a small condo together. (We = six adults and a baby.) Boy was it noisy, cluttered, and alive with movement!

During the first half of the trip I hadn’t really noticed the close quarters and lack of private time so much. In fact, I was enjoying the shared space and constant stimulation, introvert though I am. But this soon grew overwhelming and a tad exhausting. One day I realized that I hadn’t even had a moment to use the bathroom without a worry that someone else was waiting to use it! And I noticed that I had only read seven short chapters in Foolsgold, when normally I would have devoured one or two whole books.

So when I was asked whether I wanted to join the evening festivities of a road trip and dinner on my last evening of the trip, I heard myself utter “No thank you.” I felt a little ripple of a wave inside my stomach guide me to stay home with my books and journal and computer—and the silence. Oh, the silence. Except for those rhythmic ocean waves, of course. And the tropical birds cooing about. And the clicking of my computer keys. My body softened the moment I said no.

Susan Wooldridge is right: sometimes when you give the world an outward no, you are actually giving yourself a powerful inner yes. You are giving yourself permission to be yourself in this very moment with what you feel you need. She’s also insightful when she notices that no can hold possibilities. When I say no thank you to one thing, I say yes, please to a multitude of other things. And most importantly, I say yes to me.

Try this:
Listen to your gut when you are asked to do something. Perhaps you really must do this thing (after all, there are tasks that we must complete even if we don't want to), but if you do truly have a choice, consider asking yourself what you really want. Try on "no thank you" once in a while. See what possibilities open up for you when you say yes to yourself and your desires.


Lori said...

Hi Courtney,
It is difficult to say no but when you do you feel better inside because you know you are listening to your authentic self. Love your writing and art work. Very inspirational!

Courtney Putnam said...

Hi Lori~

Thanks for your comment!

I love what you write about the authentic self. I feel there IS an authentic self that we are listening to when we say "no" (but "yes" to ourselves).

Thanks for visiting!


PhinneyS said...

Great points, Courtney. I heard a few years ago that, as a culture, most of the illnesses we now experience are a result of an overabundance of something, rather than a scarcity. So rather than things like scurvy (a lack of vitamin c) or malnoutrition, we may experience diabetes or heart disease. Living in a world of abundance offers so many choices, and also challenges. It feels like it takes some maturity and character to hold true to myself in the face of such a huge buffet table. The temptation to gobble myself to sickness can definitely be there. I love your thought that saying no to one thing is saying yes to other things.