Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The "Yes" That Means "No"

Mark Nepo continues to enlighten me with his daybook, "The Book of Awakening." If you haven't seen it, I recommend you check it out from your local library or bookstore. A few days ago, his topic was, "I Say Yes When I Mean No."

Have you ever done this? I have, with consequences ranging from unpleasant to disastrous.
My mom gave me a calendar with a photo like this for each week (thanks, Mom!).
Though this photo is funny, anyone who has ever said "Yes" when she meant "No" knows it is not a joke. It is painful to override our own inner voice - our own deep desires and gut feelings.

I'm not speaking of choices like "vanilla or chocolate?;" I am talking about things that evoke a visceral NO, but are ignored. Things like, No, you may not touch me that way.  No, the way you speak to me is not acceptable. No, I 'm not ready to take action on this. No, that job isn't in my skill set, or my heart's path. No, I don't want another drink. No, thank you, I am not hungry. No, thank you, but I do not want to marry you. No, that is not what I meant. No, I do not have the time/money/energy to invest in your cause. No, I will not do your work for you. No, I will not abandon myself. No, I will not jump on this bandwagon. {Insert your own "No" here.}

In our family, we have a joke called, "The Yes that means No." This is the long, drawn-out syllable of "Yeeeeees," spoken without conviction, when one really means (and doesn't want to say) "No." We point it out - "Ah, there's the 'Yes' that really means 'No!,' " and we laugh about it, clear the air, and then, our true voice is heard on the subject: No. And I want to hear that true voice, even if I am disappointed or disagree. That has been one of the interesting things about this marriage: I love Gregg enough to want him to have his way, as much as I want my own. That was new, for me.

I grew up in a traditional household, the product of a 1950s marriage as it evolved through the 1960s and 1970s. There was not an equal balance of power between my parents in those days, and it was felt by all of us (they have since established a happier balance). I grew up feeling that I hadn't had enough of my own way, or the opportunity to self-determine. I'm not sure if this is a universal quality of youth, or if it was an effect of growing up in my family of origin; perhaps it was due to the overbearing nature of the religion we practiced, or to observing people outside of our circle who had more freedom than I. I just knew that I wanted some control when I became an adult, and when the time came, I did my best to assert it. I didn't always do it gently or gracefully, and made plenty of mistakes in the process.

Mark Nepo says, 
"There have been many times that I said yes when I meant no, afraid of displeasing others, and even more afraid of being viewed as selfish. I think the first time I decided to get married, I said yes when I meant no. Young and inexperienced in being myself, I agreed to  be a fish out of water for as long as I could, so as not to hurt or disappoint or displease. Not surprisingly, it all ended badly."
That passage could have been written about me; I did the same thing, and it was a mistake of large proportions. I ended up hurting the man (and myself) far more in the long run than if I had simply faced the truth at the beginning, and said - and acted upon - the NO which I felt so deeply.

Because I did feel it, but was afraid of it - afraid of what it meant I would have to do.

After divorcing, I have tried to learn from my mistakes. When I met Gregg, I learned that not everyone is driven to have his own way. Gregg freely shared the power in our relationship. This shifted my consciousness; I found the pleasure of giving way, of asking, "What do YOU want to do?" - and meaning it. It took some time, as I am strong-willed and tenacious, but after a little while, I had enough of "my way," and began to enjoy seeking and finding out what Gregg really wanted (when he had a preference), and giving it to him.

Nepo goes on to say,
"...those who truly love us will never knowingly ask us to be other than we are...when we agree to any demand, request or condition that is contrary to our soul's nature, the cost is that precious life force is drained off our core. Despite the seeming rewards of compliance, our souls grow weary by engaging in activities that are inherently against their any piece of nature doing what it does--tree, moose, snake, or lightning--[and] it becomes clear that the very energy of life is the spirit released by things being what they are."
"God holds in power the soul of every living thing,
And the breath of every human body." -Book of Job, Chapter 12

If our soul, our true self, is God's gift to us, and our gift to the world, there can be no benefit in putting it "under a bushel," or on "mute." May we each have to courage to give (and to receive) whole-hearted "Yes" and "No," from attention to the soul of who we truly are.

"The Glory of God is a human being fully alive." - St. Irenaeus


Kim Andersen said...

I say yes to many things that should have been a no. It's like a sickness. Is it pride? In the end it can be very humbling.

Karen Gerstenberger said...

Kim, I have wondered about pride as well - not overt pride, but undercover pride, masked as helping. It masquerades in the fear that no one else will or can do ___(fill in the blank), if I don't. It's not true, of course, but somehow, sometimes I fall for it.

Daisy said...

Amen, Karen. I very much get it. I also learned the hard way that the price of being "nice" is way too high. Oy.

P.s your reCaptcha thingy and yes. trust. me. I. am. not. a.