Wednesday, January 4, 2012

attempting to balance

I thought I would continue writing about Christmas crafts today but SouleMama has led my heart in a different direction.  You can read her full post here (and I would encourage you to do so!) but what caught my attention was this paragraph:

I spent the rest of that summer reeling with delight, really, at the new revelation. My "No, thank you!" responses to similar opportunities carried with them an internal tickle - a giddy feeling of freedom. Because sometimes, saying NO is just as liberating and freeing as saying YES.  Because in the space of letting go of the expectation I had of myself - one I'd carried around my entire life - of who I thought I should be, of what I thought I should do - I found the room, the freedom, and the deep comfort to just be myself. To embrace the quietness of me.  [emphasis added]

As I started writing in her 'comments' I realized I have a few thoughts on this idea, as follows ...

In my college theater group we often used the phrase "Consider saying 'no.'"  
In a world where everything is always moving and going and going and we accept a great many responsibilities, we find ourselves saying 'yes' more out of habit than out of true acceptance.  We take on what we think we should  rather than what we will - and sometimes we don't even think, we just do.

Of course there are things to which you need to say 'yes' but you'd rather say 'no' and that's where the balancing act begins - but it is a balancing act with 'no' as a real option on the other side.

We also used a concept we called 'macaroni.'  The word itself has a strange origin but you use it to say, "stop" or "I'm out."  It was a signal to those in the scene or room with you that you could not continue, often because you felt unsafe either emotionally or physically.  Sometimes in acting (and in life) you need to abandon ship and 'macaroni' lets you leave without questions - well ... without questions in the theater world, in the 'real' world people may still ask questions.

Again,  there are things that you commit yourself to without the option of abandoning ship - your spouse, your children, your faith.  The strength and stamina to maintain these commitments, especially in difficult times is still truly a virtue but there is also a time and a place for macaroni.

Between these two concepts of 'no' I think I have been able to strengthen my resolve to do what I love and also what needs to be done and to let go of the things that are not important.  My 'yes' is more firmly 'yes!' and my 'no' more freeing-ly 'no.'  Because when you have the ability to decline, to accept is more valuable than if it were done by compulsion.  And often to decline one thing is to accept another. 

Carpe diem - seize the day.  Make intentional, thoughtful and passionate choices.  To act with intention you must think first; to make a choice you must consider 'yes' and 'no'; when you act on choices that you have considered, you can embrace the consequences and live fully.

Today I am reminded again to stop and consider.  I don't always succeed in maintaining stasis but I try to remember what it is that I'm striving for.  Here's to a day (a year!) of intentional choices, friends.


  1. I always struggled with "consider saying no" in Arena classes. I'd spent so much time learning "Yes, And" in improv that it's tough to switch gears.

    "Yes, And" means completely supporting someone else while also adding your own ideas and actions to theirs so that, together, you can build something more awesome than either of you could build apart. "Yes" alone has the potential to be passive and to force your partner to do all the work, but "yes, and" is active and strong for everybody.

    I suppose the balance is to consider saying no, but, if you decide to say yes, to say yes firmly, like you said.

  2. I completely agree. I actually always struggled with the phrase as well, but more from a realization that people will use it to shirk responsibility or to enable selfishness (the kind that loves self more than neighbor as opposed to self as neighbor). While I never did improv, the "yes, and" idea is one that I love. It clearly means that you're going on an adventure together! I would prefer for all of my 'yes's to be 'yes, and's. Thanks for reminding me of the idea. Now for adventures ...