I mentioned before that saying yes can often be really hard for me. Even after working for years at a summer camp where that was part of my job requirement(seriously), I still struggle with it. Sometimes it can be incredibly difficult to give up even a little bit of control, and this can be especially challenging in the world of anxiety.
Here’s what I’ve spent most of my life thinking(and still think sometimes): yes means fear. Yes means I have to go to the bathroom 17 times. Yes means I might cry, or be grumpy because I’d rather be home watching Gilmore Girls. Yes means giving up something. Yes means I may not be able to help myself if something goes wrong. Yes means being vulnerable, and we all know how much I hate that, though I have definitely improved thanks to Therapist and the dude and Brene Brown. Yes has been a thing that has filled me with anything from mild wariness to complete and utter terror. Yes has been the enemy.
As I’ve written about before this school year has been my most challenging to date, mostly because of adding AP Psychology to my schedule but also because of some other things at school. It has been overwhelming, time consuming, constantly stressful, difficult, unpredictable; you name it, it’s been that. You know that saying about how you don’t know how strong you are until you’re forced to deal with something that tested your limits? That was this year for me. Almost every day felt like a struggle in one way or another, and I’m genuinely shocked that I didn’t have multiple panic attacks. Things ran the gamut from a student who tried to tell me she missed me when I was out for a training by yelling “Miss, what the hell, you left me for two days!!” to being directly threatened by a student for the first time in my career(FYI, it wasn’t about me, they’re ok and so am I, and we’ve been able to maintain our positive relationship. It’s all good). I honestly don’t know how I’m still standing. Well, I do, actually, but there is definitely an x-factor involved that remains a mystery to me.
There have been multiple times this year when I’ve had no choice but to say yes to something that I would have preferred to run screaming from. I didn’t get any of the AP resources I’d been promised by the organization providing AP support for New York City schools, and I couldn’t just not teach the class: yes to giving up my weekends and social life and regular yoga practice for a while. I was asked to plan and teach a 4th curriculum that I hadn’t anticipated in the middle of the year: yes to diving back underwater when I’d only just begun to tread it.
And it wasn’t just yes to things I wanted to say no to; sometimes yes was a choice between two things that I wanted. Yes meant I got to do something awesome while simultaneously causing more stress in my work life. Some friends have had really big events that meant I didn’t get the time I needed to work: yes to friends over planning. There were times I would have preferred to just stay home and sit on the couch: yes to going out and to traveling. There are times when all I wanted in the world was a nap, but I hadn’t done yoga in three days: yes to the mat.
The thing I discovered is that sometimes yes is a wonderful surprise. I have particularly fond memories of our trip to Raleigh in April. I just kept saying yes the whole time to see what would happen, and every single time, it was great. Saying yes means I’ve developed new and deeper friendships with my colleagues instead of just staring at my computer while I eat. Saying yes even when I’m dead tired has lead to some really great evenings with my friends. Saying yes during yoga means that I can actually hold crow pose for a few seconds instead of skipping it entirely. Sometimes it’s the reason I’m even on the mat in the first place.
The thing I struggle with is that most of the time I still feel like saying yes means sacrificing something else, and I’m working on that. It’s hard for me to say yes when I know exactly what I’m giving up to say it; sometimes it can be really hard to agree to hang out instead of going home to hit the mat because I feel like I haven’t done enough yoga lately/this entire year. Sometimes it can be hard to say yes because it makes me feel like I’m not living up to my expectations of myself. But I’m trying to embody the spirit of Elna Baker, who tells my favorite Moth story ever about saying yes. I listen to this story often, both because it’s funny and because it reminds me that saying yes can be an extraordinary thing.
I don’t think I’ll ever get to the point where I say yes to everything and become this adventurous, spontaneous person, and to tell the truth, I really don’t want to. I like taking an hour out of my day to get on the mat. I like spending my evening on walks with the dude or watching Brooklyn 99. I like planning and organizing and reading. I like that I know myself well enough to really say no when I really need to. Saying yes doesn’t always have to be to something new or a loss of control; sometimes saying yes means doubling down on the things I need to do to take care of myself. And sometimes yes means making a great memory when I wouldn’t have otherwise.
To that end, this summer is going to continue to be a time of yes. Yes to outdoor yoga. Yes to going home to see my mom. Yes to whatever games my nephew wants to play. Yes to walks. Yes to whatever the dude’s family wants to do for vacation. Yes to cold brew and writing and stroopwafels and new books. Yes yes yes.