My daughter is almost two years old and our second baby could arrive any day now. People often talk about the “terrible twos” and how “no” is every toddlers favorite word. My toddler definitely likes to say “no,” but not as much as I had anticipated.
I, on the other hand, say “no” dozens of times a day.
No climbing on the ottoman to get Mommy and Daddy’s books off the shelf. No running into the road. No wandering into other peoples’ yards. No throwing your cup. No throwing your food. No eating sand. No hitting. No pinching. No tearing pages out of that book you somehow got a hold of. No climbing on the dining room table. No dropping things in the toilet. No unplugging the vacuum cleaner while I’m in the middle of using it. No unplugging anything. No playing the piano before 7:00 AM–we have downstairs neighbors. No pulling the heating grates out of the floor.
It’s exhausting. And it’s depressing how hard it was to stop writing that last paragraph. I could have gone on and on.
But–there’s always a but–I’m pretty sure I say “no” to myself just as often if not more than I do to my toddler. Maybe not out loud, but with plenty of volume.
No talking to your husband about having a little extra help in the mornings so you can write or just stay in bed awhile longer as you wait for this next baby to arrive. No working out because you’re tired and you deserve to watch TV and eat junk and feel guilty about it afterward. No taking a dance class. No singing in the shower–the neighbors will hear you. No, you will never master picking on the ukulele. No, you can’t try a new recipe, you’ll overspend the grocery budget again and will probably botch the recipe anyway. No you’re too old for gold sparkly shoes. No revisiting that story that you started writing so fearlessly and then stalled. No one takes you seriously.
The funny part is–I had a much harder time coming up with my own “no” list, even though I’m pretty sure I deny myself and refuse things incessantly. Ironically, I kept saying, “No–I don’t say ‘no’ to that” at every idea I had for things that I say “no” to, if that makes sense. The fact is, I say “no.” A lot.
It’s important to be able to say “no.” “No” can keep you safe. “No” creates boundaries. My dad always told me that “my ‘yes’ means nothing until I learn to say ‘no.'” And I’ve always loved and struggled with that motto.
Because, the fact is, I say “yes.” A lot.
Yes, I can run a potluck. Yes, I can direct that church event. Yes, I can feed the baby lunch while I fold laundry. Yes, I can talk on the phone now instead of doing that fun craft project I’ve been putting off for weeks. Yes, running errands is the best use of my time. Yes, I will plan the menu for the week. Yes, I will volunteer for that job. Yes, I will Skype with you and make dinner at the same time.
“Yes” is empowering. It is so good to say “yes” to what life throws at us. But “yes” can also be an excuse–a way to keep us from doing the things that we are afraid to want.
So I guess the point of this word vomit isn’t all that novel–in fact, most of my posts keep coming back to this point. We need balance. We need “yes” and “no” and we need “maybe” to remind us that we have a choice and that not all decisions need to be made right now. Decisions can be even be made now and changed later.
Choice is good. Choice is aggravating. It means we are responsible. It means we have to pay attention for the things that need affirming or rejecting in our crazy mixed up lives as artist parents. No I can’t master picking on the ukulele tonight. But yes, I can practice. Corny? Yes. Did that stop me from writing it? No. Will I actually do it? Maybe.
And it just goes on and on.