In the past eighteen months, I’ve learned to say ‘no.’ ‘No’ to the strenuous physical activity that I used to love. ‘No’ to sugar, to refined carbs, and to other foods that exacerbate my symptoms. ‘No’ to late nights and to stress-inducing movies or shows. ‘No’ to pushing my body. ‘No’ to people pleasing. No more straining to live up to others’ expectations. No more straining to live up to my own expectations.
Saying ‘no’ to all of these has allowed me to say ‘yes’ to healing. My healing is ongoing and incomplete. It’s non-linear and up and down, with plenty of surprises along the way, some of which I like and some of which I don’t.
When you have to say ‘no’ over and over for eighteen months, it becomes a reflex. Sometimes, you slip up, of course, because that chocolate éclair just looks so good or because surely walking just one more mile can’t hurt. But often, you say ‘no’ without so much as a pause, turning down the things you used to ‘yes’ the hell out of. Or at least I do.
Lately, I’m realizing I don’t need all of these ‘nos’ all of the time. At the stage of healing that my body is in, ‘yes’ is sometimes the healthiest answer. This past week, I said a big ‘yes’ and boarded an airplane for the first time since March of 2020. I met up with my four dearest childhood friends, and we spent several days together on the coast of Delaware. I stayed up a bit later than usual, ate more sugar than usual, and even braved some wine. I also laughed until my belly ached, cried happy tears, and felt completely enfolded in love, connection, and belonging. If time rewound to the moment when I was deciding whether to go, I would say ‘yes’ again, a hundred times over.
We are all at different places in this topsy-turvy healing journey. You might not be in a place for big, new ‘yeses’ today. It may instead be a day when you need to muster the courage to say another hard ‘no’. When I’m in that hard, backed-into-a-corner place, I try to remind myself that the reason for each ‘no’ is in fact a bigger ‘yes’—my desire to say ‘yes’ to healing, for example. Wherever we are and whatever is happening in our bodies and lives, though, it’s worth pausing to notice our reflexive ‘yeses’ and ‘nos’. Are they aligned with the realities of the present? Are they aligned with our deepest values? Do they reflect and nourish compassion for ourselves? Do they allow us space to live and discover and grow, while also honoring the needs of the present moment?
What new ‘yes’ or new ‘no’ might you live into today?
P.S. If your life is a little better because of Corona Cafe, please take a moment to consider whether anyone else in your circle might benefit from it, and share if you feel so inspired! You friends don’t need to be Covid-19 long-haulers to subscribe, and my hope is that the themes I write about are applicable to anyone living with chronic illness or pain, and also to people inflicted with that most onerous of conditions called Being Human.