A Year of Yes

I live my life in constant and unsuccessful attempts at avoiding feeling.

The realization is not a new one, nor is the underlying problem a recent thing – I just don’t like to feel.  Feel good, feel bad, feel up, feel down, feel anything.  Though life is a sine curve, I’m trying valiantly to live on the center line.

Put another way, I push away every feeling I encounter — and by association, every possible good thing that might happen.  I always have. I decline invitations to book clubs, dinners out, trips with friends, and Twister for no other reason than maintaining some strange internal equilibrium.  When I give in, it’s most often to anger – to cover up hurt, which hides anxiety, masking insecurity.  Why not to joy, begat from excitement, which comes from looking into the unknown with my face turned into the sun?

“The ankle bone’s connected to the….”

Last year, after a really horrible August, I spent September looking on the bright side.  The impact on my general happiness was striking, but after a month, I stopped.

And yet, every good thing in my life has happened because I opened myself up to a new experience.  I met Joey when I went to a brewery for a drink — by myself — and talked to the guy next to me (that was him).  “If you want something different, do something different.”  This from my exasperated sister.

I met Jennifer when I took a friend up on an invitation to have drinks with a few other friends and showed up despite much internal anxiety about meeting new people.  “Never turn down an invitation,” my abuelita (grandmother) always said.

We bought this house when I sucked up all the worry and what-if’s and listened to my gut, my mom, and my therapist when they told me to go for it. “Just do it.  It’ll be okay,” says my mom anytime I call in a panic. Puppies, jobs, cities, marriages, friends – all happy by-products of stepping into the unknown.

I’m tired of living in fear of something changing, all while declaring my need for constant change.

Five years ago, with one relationship ending and another struggling to survive long distance, I wanted to be able to just be.  I was tired of finding words to describe feelings I didn’t want to feel, exhausted by trying to figure out who I really was without another person to reflect off, depressed by the idea that the only person I could really ever count on being in my life was me.  I wanted to find the off switch on my brain.

Today, I’m still in that place.  Through the collective efforts of my family, friends, and the internet, I’ve managed to eke out a pretty solid relationship built on joint heroic efforts and determination.  I have a great career.  I want babies.  But still, I gnash my teeth and struggle against the flux of life.

Should I want babies? What if my life becomes a long march into normal? I want to be unusual.  I want to live a life of growth and change.  Are we in a good place to start a family? How will we ensure that our relationship will survive? Is now a good time? How about… now? Now?

While googling for a long-lost quote about the inevitable flux of life, I find this: 

The flux of life finds a resting point in silence. (from here)

So instead of a month of looking on the bright side, I’m going bigger: A Year Of Yes.  For the next year, I’m going to lean into every feeling that comes my way.  I’m going to accept and enjoy happiness and excitement without trying to balance with fear and anxiety.  I’m going to stop trying to balance anything at all, actually, and rather just be.

I debated waiting until my birthday in July, as if any big thing needs to be tied to a milestone, but then I laughed at myself and leaned into the feeling.  Why not now?  And so, now it is.

My favorite Frances Mayes line comes from “Under the Tuscan Sun”:

“What if you did not feel uncertainty, the white writing says.  Are you exempt from doubt? Why not rename it excitement?  Think: What if the sky doesn’t fall? What if it’s glorious?”



7 thoughts on “A Year of Yes

  1. Wow! That’s huge. I’m pretty similar. I’ll try to find every reason not to say yes to certain things. And if I said yes and it didn’t turn out OK, I use that as a reason to not say yes for a long time. For some reason, the only thing I don’t say no to are work related thing unless it not good for the team (my husband and I). If it’s something I think will only affect me, then it’s usually a yes.

  2. You are not alone! I have a lot of anxiety about trying new things, meeting new people, etc, etc. I say “no” quite frequently because I would just rather stay home and watch TV and eat ice cream and be comfortable. I can’t imagine saying “yes” to everything, but you are inspiring me to make more of an effort to put myself in those uncomfortable, yet rewarding, situations a little more often.

    • @Amy, I probably won’t actually SAY yes to everything, but I will look for the yes. And I totally do the same thing with wanting to sit on my couch — then I complain that my life is boring. 🙂

  3. This post is such an interesting read for me because it shows the negative side of a personal tendency that is typically viewed positively–the ability to live a balanced life. Balance is all about peace for me, and nothing seems to bring me the greatest sense of sustained happiness and peacefulness than feeling balanced. Balance and stasis are not the same though, and it seems like maybe you cry out for is stasis (make everything stable and worry free, universe! Cut me some slack!) but what you really want is balance (feeling at peace with the ebb and flow of life without the need for active re-direction toward what feels guaranteed or stable). I found it confusing that searching for balance could have negative impacts unti lI thought about it this way. Glad you’re back, I was tired of re-loading that post photo of your camera case for days on end:-(

    • @Christine, Woman, you need to use a feed reader!

      I love talking about the finer points of words. I use the word “balance” like this: “He had a very balanced view of the situation, clearly understanding the pros and cons of each option.” So finding “balance” is a constant need to look for the opposite, which is exhausting. Can’t be sad without looking for a bright side, can’t be excited without searching for the risk.

      Of course (here I go, balancing that last remark) it also means that I look for the bright side constantly. My best friend in the whole world moved across the country. As of this morning, she’s gone, and so are our almost-weekly long lunches to catch up on all things honest and snarky. On the bright side, we’re about to have to learn how to maintain a long-distance friendship, something neither of us have been particular good at.

      What you call “balance,” then, I call “peace”: the accepting of life as it is, not as I wish it would be. Even more, though, I want to stop reflexively pushing away any and all feelings to maintain some stupid internal stasis.

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