Inspired by Jonathan.
This is a post about saying yes.
In the very late spring of 2012, a young man struck up a conversation with me on Facebook. I’d seen his name in discussions and under comments made by mutual friends we had – and we had quite a few mutual friends. I don’t usually engage in conversations with people I don’t know who randomly hit me up on social media. And I was in the midst of a really bad breakup at the time and just didn’t want to be bothered. For those two reasons, I initially decided to blow him off. As he introduced himself, I prepared myself to be coldly polite but uninviting.
But then I did something unusual. I ignored my logical rational self and said yes. And I talked to him.
I found I enjoyed talking to him. He was intelligent and interesting and funny and quirky and nerdy like me. We both loved food and music and the arts. We talked for weeks and weeks. I found talking to him to be a welcome distraction from my broken heart, and I looked forward to our conversations. He let me rant and rave and cry about how I was hurting, and he became part of my healing. He was very gentle with me, never applying any pressure or pushing me in any way. It was if he knew how fragile I was at the time, and he was going to make sure he didn’t damage me in any way.
As summer started drawing to a close, he asked me out on a date. Now while I might have agreed to becoming Facebook chat buddies, I definitely wasn’t going to go on a date with him. And to make matters worse, he had the exact same birthdate (both born on 2/16) as my ex did. I was so traumatized from my ex that I couldn’t imagine dating a man with the same birthday. I felt it was a sign. I had put Aquarians on my list of Zodiac signs to never date. I was all prepared to turn him down.
But then I did something unusual. I ignored my logical rational self and said yes. And we went on a date.
We met for drinks, which became dinner. We walked through the streets of town, talking and talking like old friends with a lot to catch up on. It was wonderful. It was beautiful – right up until I asked how old he was. It turned out that he was a LOT younger than me. He knew I was a few years older than him, but insisted he didn’t expect me to be significantly older. We exchanged driver’s licenses, both shocked and at a loss for words as we compared our birth years. I did all kinds of equations in my head, calculating how old I was when he went to kindergarten, how old he was when I got my first job, how old I was when he graduated high school, etc. But he said he did not care, and asked when he could see me again. I knew I couldn’t date someone so much younger. It wasn’t a smart move to get into something that couldn’t possibly sustain itself. I approved of all the good common sense ringing through my head.
But then I did something unusual. I ignored my logical rational self and said yes. And I agreed to our second date.
We continued to date, and eventually our dating became a relationship. We were very happy together for a while.
After being together a few months, we had a break up that I honestly thought we would not recover from as he left town for work. I agonized when we parted, and coupled with the previous breakup, I felt supremely defeated when it came to matters of the heart. I was dying inside and very lonely. Worst of all, I was angry that he’d taken me through this, especially after knowing how wounded I was when we met. I hated all those yeses I had just thrown about willy-nilly to be with him. Yes. Yes. Yes. Over and over again. Hadn’t my last relationship taught me anything? Had I said no to that asshole, I wouldn’t be the wreck I was now. All I needed was to have used my no, but I hadn’t. And now I was a mess.
But after a few months of us being apart, he contacted me, asking if we could try to reconcile and be together again, saying he missed me and missed us and didn’t want to continue on without me in his life.
I wanted to turn him down. I wanted to send him away. How dare he! I didn’t do that kind of thing – take men back after they’d decided they didn’t want me anymore. Once I was gone I stayed gone. A man lucky enough to have me should get it right the first time, and not assume they could come back to me after some epiphany. I was going to tell him hell no, he couldn’t come back after he’d hurt me like he had, especially after knowing all my history. I yelled at him. I cursed at him. I cried. I prepared my “go to hell” speech.
But then I did something unusual. I ignored my logical rational self and said yes. I agreed to try to work things out with him.
I’m so thankful that I did, because we’ve been together and happy ever since. From the outside looking in, it makes absolutely no sense. It shouldn’t work. It looks strange as hell. He and I shouldn’t fit. We are two opposite ends of all kinds of spectrums. He is young, me not as much. He is hyper, I’m laid back. He is gregarious and outgoing, I’m more introverted. Even our complexions are opposites. But it works. We work. He and I as a couple make perfect illogical sense.
The moral of this story is that you have to say yes to things sometimes that from the outside looking in you think you should say no to. Every yes I said to that man was scary. Every yes I said to that man was said while my brain was screaming no. Every yes I said to that man was the opposite of what I was “supposed” to do. Every yes I said to that man made me uncomfortable, and made me face my fears about myself and my deepest insecurities. Every yes I said to that man challenged the stories I’d always told myself about why my relationships never seemed to work. But ultimately saying yes to that man instead of saying no brought me what I said I always wanted, though it looked nothing like I thought it would (which means I wouldn’t have recognized it anyway so it’s just as well.)
The tricky part of course is knowing what no things you should say yes to. The best recommendation I can make is that having as little fear as possible helps when considering a yes when you might have said no. Saying no to things comes from fear – fear of what we may lose, fear of what may happen to us, fear of experiencing things we don’t want to experience. We protect ourselves by saying no. I understand that, because I’ve done it. But you have to reach a point where you feel like your no doesn’t work for your life anymore. You have to believe your no is doing you more harm than good. You have to see your no as a deterrent to your life, not a protector of it. I have said no to a lot of things, and I can’t point to anything that I am absolutely sure my no gave me that improved my life. Sure, MAYBE it saved me from something, but I can’t say that with any certainty. But for all the no no no I’ve been doing, I should have something to show for it. You should too. Do you? So why not try something else, like a yes? Was me saying yes a risk? Sure. But I was sure risking nothing was giving me just that – nothing. Once I wasn’t afraid of whatever the yes brought me, even if it was not pleasant, I didn’t run from it. I embraced it. So you have to get fed up with your no before you can let it go.
Are you fed up with your no yet?