The ‘aging badly’ category

The Nevers and Yeses

September 22nd, 2017

Lonely Vermont Sky

A favorite client recently checked in to tell me she hadn’t been in touch in a while because she had gotten stung by a bee while riding a bike, crashed, and broke everything. “Life is crazy,” she reflected. “You just never know what’s going to happen!” 

“Tell me about it,” I said. “I got surprise pregnant at 42.”

My surprise was a happy one; hers, not so much.

Still, it gave me pause to think of all the ways my own life has surprised me. Basically, it’s all in the nevers:

  • I will never move Back East, where I grew up.
  • I will never let a man pressure me into snow sports again.
  • I will never let my kids eat candy before lunch.

It’s the nevers, I’m convinced, that determine your fate. Probably my client once said, “I will never get stung by a bee while riding a bike!”

I try not to say “never” anymore. I don’t want to end up a vegan living on a mushroom farm in a state without a seacoast. And I definitely don’t want to end up at Burning Man.

Similarly, I have learned to be much more selective about when I say “yes.” Saying yes is a catalyst for catastrophe, contrary to what most of the spiritual sorts will tell you. I went through a prolonged period in my life where I felt like I had to say yes to everything, having been brainwashed into believing that I must always be willing to take risks and step out of my comfort zone at every turn.

I said yes to a lot of things in my heyday that, in retrospect, weren’t all that spiritually enlightening and may have even set me back quite a bit. For instance, I probably didn’t need to quit my decent-paying UX job and become an uncertified Bikram yoga teacher at the age of 29, but when a friend and owner of my local yoga studio asked me to start subbing, I said “yes.” (I am pretty sure I had previously also said: “I will never be a teacher; that’s not my thing.” — I was actually right about that one.)

I also didn’t really need to quit my decent-paying yoga-studio management job a few years later to travel the country with a celebrity yoga teacher who aspired to world domination but wasn’t really big on monetary compensation.

When they tell you to “always say yes,” sometimes they don’t anticipate the questions.

I’ve said “yes” to a lot of things that later turned out to be bad ideas. Some of them were worthwhile experiences anyway… or at least subject matter for a future memoir. 

My husband (and most people with a shred of spirituality) believes that you can’t have regrets, because every decision you have made has led to now. I struggle with this philosophy. I think it’s possible to admit that I made a lot of bad decisions, wish I’d been smarter and known myself better, and still be supremely grateful for the family and life I have now.

These days, I never say never, and I’m taking a break from saying yes for a bit, too. 

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