It’s nothing to do with drinking, but it’s a glass-half-full or glass-half-empty sort of thing: faced with a choice I would always, by default, say no rather than yes. Over the years it had become such an ingrained habit that I never questioned it, and fact when it was pointed out to me that this was my response to everything, for a long while I refused to believe it and then got defensive – wasn’t I just being cautious, sensible, avoiding difficulty? Even the most mundane, everyday choices brought an automatic refusal. Did I want a cup of tea? No (I didn’t want anyone to go to any trouble on my behalf); shall we make a trip to the garden centre next week to look for bedding plants? No (we might spot fence paint and remember the fence needs painting and I haven’t got the strength); how about making a cake tomorrow? No (we’ve said we need to cut down on saturated fats and sugar and gluten, and I haven’t got a recipe for gluten-free low fat reduced sugar cake, and then if there’s a cake in the cupboard we’ll just have to eat it….) You get the idea.
It started to cause tension, and then arguments, and then I did start to think about what I was doing and wondered why.
I could see that in fact, saying no was really taking the easy way out. To say no is to stay safely rooted, protected from the effort and confusion of dealing with anything different. To say yes is to make an active decision, to take part, to make not one choice but the first of many – to step out into where things are happening and move forward. Lots of life events had brought me to a condition where I felt safer saying no.
Not that this made me happy. I think I thought it would or I wouldn’t have done it, but at that time I didn’t understand what I was doing or why, so it was my response to everything. So much so that when I finally came to try to behave differently it was extremely hard.
For a while I thought I would just try the experiment of saying yes to absolutely everything. This was an alarming idea but I thought I’d give it a try, and then found it was easier said than done – no just popped out so quickly and yes often seemed so unwise. But I told myself I would exercise caution only when I could see it was really necessary. I am after all equipped with instinct and a lifetime of experience; I would know when to look out for signs of danger and when to say No was the only option. The rest of the time it would just be for fun.
I soon discovered that saying yes may be a little more complicated but it’s also a lot more enjoyable, and after a while I began to get the hang of it. It’s not a big deal, really, but it makes a big difference because far from propelling me unwittingly into difficult and stressful situations (my strategic argument against yes), it did nothing of the sort, and only made me and everyone else around me feel better. To say No is to stay hiding in a dark room, refusing to open windows and venture out of doors; it’s to stay stuck on the bank when you could be floating out freely into the current of a world of possibilities. And venturing into the stream is absolutely fine, once you let go and realise that it’s really no more dangerous than just letting yourself be gently directed into the flow of where you really want to be. It’s no more complicated than that.
I wasn’t born a pessimist, and actually never thought of myself as one until I came to realise what chronic anxiety, worry and fear were doing to me. After that it was a question of discovering how I do in fact have the power to choose; to choose how to think, and whether to say yes or no. And I choose Yes.