“I imagine that Yes is the only living thing.” ~e.e. cummings
During the fall of 2017 I began openly dating, four years after my separation and divorce of a twenty-plus year relationship. It was scary. And I was clear—I didn’t want a commitment, I just wanted the experience and some fun.
My third round of online dating, I finally went out with some younger men who I assumed lined up with my non-commitment goal. It was different and fun, but also not quite what I wanted.
In December of that year, my friend, who was interested in getting to know me more and had been asking me to lunch for months, called me out on my non-commitment. I always had the perfect excuse as to why I couldn’t go. But none of them were as valid as the truth: I was scared.
What if I enjoyed my time with him? What if he liked me and I had to let him down because I wanted nothing to do with a real relationship? My biggest fear is hurting other people, so I didn’t want to even consider that option. Until he said, “Why don’t you stop avoiding and commit to lunch.”
I really dislike being called out, especially when it’s right. So I went.
And you know what happened? What I feared. I enjoyed myself—for four hours. It was filled with great conversation and great company. We closed down the restaurant with our lengthy stay. For someone who listens to people all day long as a professional counselor, I thoroughly enjoyed being listened to and heard. It was wonderful.
And from that moment, my goal for 2018 was born. The Year of Yes.
For the entire year I would commit to saying yes to opportunities that scared me. Ones that made me squirmy and uncomfortable and that promised to teach me something every step of the way.
In 2018, I created podcasts, which I had been avoiding. It scared me to put my work out there and expose myself. As I created them I discovered I loved them. They inspired me to continue doing the work I’m passionate about and still do.
I also opened myself up to doing a number of interviews that completely took me out of my comfort zone. If someone contacted me or an opportunity arose that made my heart beat fast, I said yes without thinking.
When my voice of inspiration popped up and guided me to write and post, I did. When I felt the pull to take financial risks that made me question my stability, I took them. If it felt scary but exciting, I said yes. And didn’t look back.
When the days were sunny and I had a ton of work to do, but a fun option presented itself, I chose the fun. Not an ounce of regret.
I said yes to adventure. I traveled more readily and confidently in 2018 than any other year of my life. I’m an anxious flyer and I jumped on a tiny plane up the coast and large planes across the country. I explored. I stayed open. I was scared, but I did it anyway, and loved it.
I also said yes to a new relationship—sloooowly. Very, very slowly.
In that relationship I noticed things in myself I could not have seen on my own. How quickly I want to bail if I’m uncomfortable. How hard it is for me to receive kindness and love and allow it to be a comfortable part of my life. How much I clam up when I want to run and how easy it is for me to shut down, all while teaching others how to do the complete opposite. Which meant I too, had to practice what I preached.
I learned to communicate like a champ. I shared my feelings when I would normally close them off. I let myself get close to people when I’d rather stay much, much further away.
I chose to say yes. I said yes to myself. I said yes to my life.
And I lived.
I lived in a way I’d been wanting to. I let the yeses guide me to the next step and the next place to grow and enjoy myself. I proved to myself over and over again that the rewards far outweighed the risks of what I thought it would take to be enjoying—truly enjoying—my life.
I reaffirmed what I believed to be true: When I follow my heart, my intuition, my knowing, life has a way of working itself out. Not without some level of discomfort. Not without experiences of pain. Not without changing some tough habits to shake. But all with a value that lasts and creates experiences I’ve desired all along.
I learned that my fear was also my thrill. My shaking and restlessness were also my courage. My pause was my inhale before the exhale to true joy.
We are trained to fear, to hold back and question all the things that can go wrong. We are masterful at saying no to living, to taking chances and being uncomfortable.
We want proof we will be okay. I know I do. And luckily, it already exists.
We have years of being afraid of worst-case scenarios that never played out.
We have memories of taking risks and things turning out even better than we expected.
There may also have been times when things didn’t work out better than expected, or even close. But when we didn’t get what we wanted, we usually got what we needed—we learned, we grew, and we opened ourselves up to new connections and possibilities.
From all our assorted adventures, there were pains that helped us grow stronger and triumphs that helped us feel braver.
We have proof that when we follow what feels right, we’re always on the right path for us.
We have a life that lovingly and courageously wants to be lived.
What would happen if you started saying yes? What would your life look like if you let yourself live? If you pushed through your fears and excuses and let your curiosity and excitement lead the way?
You have all the reasons you can’t. But you also have the reasons you can.
What will you choose?