Once you get good at no, it’s hard to change.
I learned early that to survive and be even halfway comfortable in the world, I had to say no.
No to my trans heart, no to expectations of safety, no to my body, no to indulgence, no to so many things.
Once I got good at that kind of denial, I started to get rewards. People were happy that I shut up, tuned into them and offered service, so much happier than when I was a mouth, sharp queer.
Becoming proficient and expert at no had a high cost, culminating in the decade when I helped my parents live their last days and then for the two and a half years when I had to live in the choices of the executor, choices that served her.
Aesthetic denial is a thing. It has its own demands, own price and own momentum. Once you learn to tolerate loss, saying no becomes more than habit, it becomes virtue itself.
There are many good reasons to say no. No clears away the clutter, heightens the focus and sharpens the vision. You cannot live a good and healthy life without learning to say no, to say it graciously and with power.
There are many good reasons to say yes, too. A no habit may be more disciplined than an indulgent yes habit, trying to have it all at once, but when that no habot blocks you, isolates you, and chills you down, it becomes a problem.
I encourage people to say yes more than I have, to go out and be bold in claiming transformation and possibility in their life. I may have learned an enormous amount from no, from that aesthetic denial, but I know that it denies vitality and is not for everyone.
My sister recently told me that my detailed memory is a 70/30 thing. It’s great that I listen close, hold history, make connections, reflect patterns, but it is also a pain in the ass that I remember every cut that laid me out. 70% lovely blessing and 30% really annoying is the balance she came to.
The most memorable moments are not when I said no, rather they are where I could not bring myself to say yes. A year ago TBB offered a new computer, for example, a blessing that came from gratitude, fortune and love, and I diddled and dithered, unable to say yes.
What is the point of saying yes? If you are used to no, have recast your expectations, analyzed not just your experience but the stories of others, you understand yes is just a passing thing, a long shot. The odds of success, well, they aren’t good.
Humans, though, are long shot creatures. “Shoot for the stars,” they tell you, “and if you fail, you still will have the moon.” We know our success will always end up smaller than our vision, so we have an incentive to dream huge and compromise later.
We love dreamers because we love the pure vitality contained in their hope.
You can’t always get what you want, but if you try, sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need. Saying yes to the long shots rarely pays off in the way that you expect, but it almost always brings surprises that are rewarding and often delightful. You cannot have divine surprise, much less a church based on it, without saying yes to long shots.
Yes is what keeps people in the flow of human intercourse and commerce. If you don’t say yes, people will stop asking, leaving you on the sidelines. The circle of community flows on yes, on one hand washing the other, on the economic lift that circular engagement and cooperation provides.
Spend too long, spend too much of yourself on saying no and it becomes quite a habit. Yes just seems too costly, too expensive, too depleting of scare resources. You just can’t afford to say yes. You lose the craziness to say yes, even if you can encourage that in others.
Committing suicide with cash in your pocket, though, seems like missing one last opportunity to claim value in this life. Taking that sure option to leave feels safer than the long shot that may well just hurt you again, stuck in a cycle of diminishing returns.
I often ask myself “So, if you could do anything you want, what would it be?” Trying to tap into my desires, my gut, that part of the brain beyond language feels important. It also feels like trying to reach too far, my no habit evaluating possible outcomes and finding them wanting. The no habit cannot plan for surprises, so it discounts them.
I am clear why I leaned to say no.
I am not clear how I learn to say yes.
That is a problem.