Over the weekend, I heard a powerful podcast centering on a single question, “Who is the poorest person on the Earth?” The answers range from the obvious to the philosophical. I urge you to listen to the 1o minute podcast. It will push you to consider your own perspective about this inquiry.
The most interesting part of the discussion involved the word, “no.” How many times do you say no? The podcast points to one crucial point: “Saying no is its own power.” I massaged these six words in my mind and contemplated all the times I wanted say no, but buckled because of various reasons – whether it involved my fear of missing out, activities involving my daughter or some societal obligation. It is sometimes difficult to draw the line between pursuing what you desire to accomplish in your life, but also practicing mindfulness about your personal roles. In the last few months, I’ve noticed a shift in my thinking and am getting closer to trying to balance the tug and pull of pursuits and obligations.
Cemented in midlife, the ideas and assumptions of my twenties and thirties are fading away. I don’t spend hours of my time contemplating why I am not included in certain circles or wondering why I am unable to fit in – sometimes saying no means stopping behavior or a mindset which fixates on less important matters – to offer room for what is the sustenance in your life. For me, it means saying yes to more nights at home, with my family, eating dinner together and bantering about our days or acting silly with one other. Recognizing those tiny slices of an ordinary life – an impromptu hug from my daughter, a meaningful glance with my husband or quiet time in my office contemplating a new piece of writing or reading are all experiences which offer connection and simple joy. To gather more of these moments, I realize it requires saying no to situations and people who don’t necessarily support what might matter the most.
I’ve started whittling down what fulfills me at the core level. It isn’t days of being overbooked or superficial conversations which never push past discussions involving the weather. I’ve reduced the number of self-created errands and obligations that only serve as distractions to my goals. This philosophy is in line with my word of the year, quiet. And much of what I wrote midyear about this word still holds true: The key is determining whether my yes trumps what I am choosing to decline. Saying “no” isn’t always the comfortable or easy choice, but continuing to lose my footing in my personal slipstream creates a resentment I am unwilling to ignore. What bothers me about this path is I am ignoring the heartbeat of my life. Why am I fighting the current? I hurt only my personal well-being and mind. The words of Norman Juster come to mind, yet again:
“Have you ever heard the wonderful silence just before the dawn? Or the quiet and calm just as a storm ends? Or perhaps you know the silence when you haven’t the answer to a question you’ve been asked, or the hush of a country road at night, or the expectant pause of a room full of people when someone is just about to speak, or, most beautiful of all, the moment after the door closes and you’re alone in the whole house? Each one is different, you know, and all very beautiful if you listen carefully.”
There is power in saying no. It means allowing more room for quiet. And for me, it means a more contented life.
Image: No by Nathan Gibbs via Flickr
So beautifully written Rudri. Happy Diwali
Thanks, Vani. Happy Belated Diwali and New Year to you. xo
I love what you say here, Rudri. I’m going to look at saying no as to saying yes to something else. Learning to say no (though I still say yes sometimes when I don’t want to) was one of the most empowering things I’ve ever done for myself. Now, I realize in saying no to someone else I am saying yes to my true self. Thank you.
Those are the most important yes’s – the ones to our selves. I am glad to hear you are empowering yourself, Susan. xo
Beautifully said. Loved this, “sometimes saying no means stopping behavior or a mindset which fixates on less important matters – to offer room for what is the sustenance in your life.” That is so true. It’s about more than just not going to certain events or serving on boards that don’t interest you, etc. It’s a complete change of mindset. It’s something I’ve become better at as well.
Glad to hear you are integrating “no” in your life. I find it so liberating an it offers a peace I had not experienced before. It helps me carve out more time for those pursuits and people I enjoy.
Happy Diwali and thank you 🙂
Happy Belated Diwali and New Year to you! xo
It’s funny Rudri, I just saw a blog post about saying Yes, and I thought, hmm need to do more of that, and then I saw yours and thought the same! I guess it means, for me, saying yes to the important heart matters and no to the noise. Speaking of which, I have a terribly hard time being quiet, and I know I’d benefit from more.
Quiet is a place I’ve learned to enjoy, but at times, I gravitate toward noise because it is what I know. There is a comfort in familiarity, but I am learning the uncertainty of stillness holds richer treasures.
I’m going to listen to the podcast now. Silence is so beautiful – I agree. And a balm. When I wait in silence, with no expectation – I receive my most intuitive information. Thank you for the link and the like thinking.
Silence without expectation is such a gift. I am still working on getting to that stage.
I really love all the thoughts you present here, Rudri. And I’d love to read more about what your personal balance looks like. It’s something I’m always working toward (really, who isn’t?) and so your line about how it is “difficult to draw the line between pursuing what you desire to accomplish in your life, but also practicing mindfulness about your personal roles,” really struck home.
I love your inquiry about balance and I think I will address it in a blog post. Thanks for asking the question and giving me something to think about.
I’ve had to say no lately because I haven’t been feeling well and I say “yes” to everything. Seriously. It’s ok to say no. The quiet and the content – it’s what I seek most of all right now.
I think when we realize it is ok to say no, the resulting emotion is liberating – once we get over the guilt associated with it.
I struggle so much with this. “Saying no is its own power.” I absolutely love that. Now I need to power up. 😉 Thanks for sharing. Off to listen…
I hope you enjoyed the podcast, Sarah. I do agree that phrase has so many gems in it and has the power to reframe the choices we make.
Hmm. This is a really important thing for me to think about right now. I am having a year of ‘paying for’ all the yeses which has left me so little time for reading, writing and quiet. This is a piece I should come back to again and again.
Maybe you can use your feelings of saying yes too much this year to carve out your word of the year for 2016 – one that encourages you to make time for yourself and what you enjoy.
What you described is what I experienced in 2014 – I decided I needed more time for the things I loved and electing quiet as my word of the year helped me hone in on what I really need to foster a contented life.