I just went to see Jim Carey’s new movie, “Yes Man,” and YES, I recommend it. The main character makes a covenant to say “yes” to anything that comes his way. ANYTHING. Of course, the fun is in watching that idea played out to its ridiculous extreme, but I admit it really made me think about how playing it safe is a learned, and sometimes dangerous, behavior. Just a few weeks ago, Barry and I were getting ready for a trip, and in the madness of wrapping up work projects, arranging for the dog sitter, cleaning house, paying bills, and doing all kinds of last-minute errands, I suddenly remembered the days when I could just throw a change of clothes (or not), a clean pair of underwear (or not), and a toothbrush (or not) into a bag and GO!For our honeymoon, we had a plane ticket to Greece and the first two hotel nights booked. That was it. And we had 4 weeks off! Nevermind that the trip turned out to be a total disaster. We’ve enjoyed years of storytelling mileage from it. And even though that trip ended with us literally panhandling on a German train to get back home to Amsterdam (long story), we have great, albeit quirky, memories–like waking up to a Mediterranean sunrise on a ship to Crete. Or like the waiter in Crete who kept giving us the “nudge, nudge, wink, wink” and asking us how many times we “did it” when he found out we were newlyweds. Or the old men who sat around the open squares gossiping and playing with worry beds. Or the lone mountain goats on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere. Australian hitchhikers who were grateful for a lift in our rental half-car. Bored cafe owners who would send us into the kitchen to point to our dinner selections. If we had not said yes to the disastrous bits,we’d have missed all the fun bits.
I can think of two reasons we learn to say no: 1) We are wiser. We’ve been there and done that, and we SHOULD say no, OR 2) We are afraid. We have been there and done that and we are scared. We’re afraid to be vulnerable to hurt, pain, loss of control…whatever. Maybe the good thing about getting older is that if we are really honest, we can know when we are being wise and when we are just chickening out. I think risk-taking is probably like the “use it or lose principle” in exercise. The less risk we take, the less we are able to take. I’m going to work out my risk-taking muscle a little more by challenging myself to one new “yes” a day. I’ll let you know how it goes.
© 2009 L. Kay Johnson, L is for LaNita. All rights reserved.