From the age of two, human beings learn the complexities and limitations of the word, “No.” At first, we rebel and scream and cry and try sneaky ways around this all-powerful two-letter obstacle. One of the earliest signs of intellectual maturation is learning and respecting the reasons for “no,” be they physical (pain, suffering, injury), economic (family class status), or cultural (don’t pull down your underpants in public).
Almost everyone remains uncomfortable with some aspects of no, unless they are psychopaths. We hate to say “no” to the requests of friends and family, we dislike setting the limits that injured our spirits as children, and we secretly get a kick out of ignoring certain social no-no’s.
Some no’s are just plain dumb, like the current law in Hawaii against feeding the birds. I love the irony of this GIF with the bird and the “No Fishing” sign, because it’s just so obvious that we can’t negate nature’s necessities. It reminds me of how starving orphans were deported to Australia from England if they stole a loaf of bread. How is it even appropriate to say “no” to starving, injured, suffering living beings when it comes to something essential like food, clothing, and shelter? Yet we do this everyday, shaking up homeless encampments, saying “No Tents,” “No Loitering,” “No Trespassing” and expecting the deep complexities of poverty to poof and disappear.
Then we face the “no” of time and gravity, space and matter. I have been living in a state of no for some months now (my apologies to those authors to whom I owe book reviews!). Twenty-three years ago I was hit by a truck, which forced me to encounter some unavoidable no’s connected to velocity, gravity, and the ultimate fragility of our human frame. To this day, while extensive physical therapy had me back on my feet, running and dancing and white-river rafting for years despite two fractured spinal vertebrae and herniated discs in my neck, thoracic, lumbar, and sacral spine, I live daily with a high level of pain. Suddenly about a year ago I began having trouble sitting, standing, and walking. The “no’s” are back, and I’m not very happy about it…living in constant pain is depressing and extremely limiting, especially for a dancer.
And because of that weird universal law that says hit you while you’re down, I also hit the biological “no” of potential motherhood, and two betrayals by long-time friends, the kind of no that burns your soul and never stops feeling impossible to accept.
I always had an eager, open spirit that said “yes” to almost everything; as a writer I crave experience, and unless I know that some action is dangerous to me or to others, I want to know and feel and be transformed.
So I admire this little bird and want to say “f*** this s***” and break through some “no” barriers. I’ve been patient. I’ve been grieving. I insist that my days be filled with “yes” again…to the point of practicing new forms of mindfulness and meditation. Not all “no’s” are permanent–some are more like “wait and see.” For now, I am practicing the magic of turning no into yes.
Once I learn the secret, I will pass it on!