As a mom, so much of child rearing is telling my sons no. And as any parent can attest, we say no ALOT. One of our favorite kids songs is this song, No Means No. No, don’t eat the cat’s food. No, you can’t eat Halloween candy for breakfast. No, you can’t skip bathing for three days. No, you can’t. As they get older, my no becomes a petition or request. Don’t drink so much Coke. Don’t let girls draw all over your jeans with Sharpie markers. Don’t let me catch you downloading porn. (But if you do, make sure you run your spyware and malware programs regularly so you don’t crash the really expensive computer I bought you for your birthday…with that great graphics driver for playing online games…and apparently watching porn).
Eventually, we say no out of a lame sense of hopefulness that they won’t do that thing….that we know they are going to do….We say no like a parental disclaimer, the fine print warnings about side effects, adverse outcomes and lethality. No drink. Don’t smoke. Don’t do drugs. Don’t gauge your ears or get a tattoo. Don’t get in a car with someone who has been drinking. Don’t have sex.
We hear no so much that by the time we are adults, we say No! to ourselves. We pick up the torch and run the No! track in our heads like sitcoms use the laugh track.
What happens when we say yes? Clive Owens did this lovely, wonderful movie The Boys Are Back. It will break your heart but it will reveal how powerfully healing and restorative saying YES! can be when you are lost. Saying yes shifts everything.
Saying yes is really difficult. Unless we had totally iconoclastic, hippie parents, saying yes goes against all of our programming. Saying yes feels subversive, rebellious, dangerous. Yes, you can eat apple pie for breakfast , or chocolate cake, or cold leftover pizza (when you are ten years old). Yes, you can hang out in your pajamas ALL day because where are we going today? Nowhere! Yes, you can wear purple and orange together at the same time. Yes, you can climb that tree. Yes, we can have breakfast for dinner. Yes, you can study medicine. Yes, you can be an artist. Yes, you can be the boss. Yes you can do this. Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.
And while our national debates seems to revolve around whether we can or can’t do something, I feel like it boils down to parents wagging their fingers, scowling and say no, no, no because we MIGHT fail or get hurt or make things worse off. Just stay put, be content. Why can’t you be thankful for with what you have? Why rock the boat? Why, indeed?
You rock it because you are naturally curious. You’re adventurous. You want to explore and experiment. You want to invent something new, read something new, eat something new. Learn something new. You want to grow and discover and expand. Yes is the only way to those experiences. No means you accept ONLY what you already have and no more; you actually must DENY things because it is part of the human spirit to be nomadic. We want to roam. Saying yes means that you accept the risk. It means you are free to find new things, but also free from the fear of losing what you already have. Yes is a gamble. Yes is risky. But yes is the only path with the potential for dividends. Stuffing money into a mattress means you will have dollar for dollar what you put away. Taking SOME of that money and being a bit risky means you might have less cash but be rich with experience. Or….you might be rich with experience and not lose a dime.
I like saying yes. I like breaking the rules of our culture and being a tiny anarchist. Yes, means you deny the chorus of anxious, fearful worrywarts who secretly covet your moxie but can’t leave their Laz-e-boys to do it themselves. And they love to mock and ridicule when your fail. “Well, who did she think she was? She’s just a little big her her britches, ain’t she? She is just so selfish, can you believe her?”
Fearlessness is different than foolishness. Willingness to take risks is different than recklessness. Confidence is different than conceit. Being assured is different than being delusional. I think about all the people in that said yes or who almost got stopped because of the chorus of NO! Moses wrestled with no. No, they won’t follow you. Noah and that stupid ass boat. He was certainly a fool, right? Martin Luther King is crazy if her thinks white people will fight for black people’s rights to be considered equals. Jesus was a madman, too. The rabbis and the elders were constantly wagging their fingers and tsk tsk tsking. Who does he think he is, breaking all the rules. You CAN’T DO THAT! And Jesus was one of the few with a Father that was saying YES! Yes to love, yes to risk, yes even in the face of death.