The Power of “Yes”

Ever notice a new pattern in your life, and wonder when and how things shifted?

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I recently noted that interesting things were happening to me, with some regularity. For example, I was asked to be an extra in a TV commercial. (Yes – random, unexpected, fun.) The morning of the shoot (look at me already using the lingo), I had a fleeting thought that I might meet another kidlit author that day. And I did. The actor in front of me in the “bank line” that I stood in for several hours told me all about his middle grade novel and his popular anti-bullying school visits.

Then, as I was reflecting on how fun it was to see the behind-the-scenes making of a commercial, I was asked to do an (unrelated) televised interview highlighting a local service I’d used and been happy with. Yes, I’m ready for my close up, I thought.

Before that, as I was sending my littlest off to school and contemplating next steps, I was asked to teach a few courses at the local university (UCONN). It was the clear-out-the-cobwebs/rejoin-the-adult-world kick in the pants I had needed.

I’ve also been asked to test and rate products, and have gotten paid to 1) eat crackers, 2) give my opinion on Lego toys, and 3) choose a decking material.

Oh, and I win things all the time. Annoying, I know. It’s always little things like books and baked goods. But still.

Things just keep…coming at me. Is this some kind of cosmic force I’m pulling to myself a la “The Secret”? (I never did read that book, but I know it talks about the ‘law of attraction.’)

No. I don’t think that’s it. It’s much more basic than that.

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I think it’s this: I simply started saying “YES.”

Yes, I will try this new random thing that scares me. Yes, I’d like to go somewhere new, and meet interesting people. Yes, I’d love to get out of my comfort zone for a bit…um, I think….yup, okay, I’ll do it. Yes, I’ll enter that contest. By saying yes, maybe I am sending the universe the message that I’m open to new ideas. I just hope it keeps answering. Because I’m having a LOT of fun.

What else, though, can we challenge ourselves to say yes to? It could be something small but significant, like: Yes, I will listen with an open mind to the varied opinions around my Thanksgiving table.

Last weekend I had to start with Yes, I will watch the news reports that are hard to digest, so I can know who needs our help the most. And how about yes, I am willing to learn about other religions and cultures, and open my heart and mind to their struggles? As I write this, people in Connecticut are arguing about our Governor’s decision to continue to welcome refugees from Syria. Really? If the tables were turned, and your family was casting about for a country to safely call home, wouldn’t you want to be given the benefit of a yes, you are welcome here? Honestly, if you are sitting on something comfortable as you read these words, you have so much more than millions of other humans on Earth. How simple your yes/no decisions would seem to them.

So many “No’s” come from fear, ignorance, and harmful generalizations: I’ll never succeed, why try? All Muslims are violent. People who don’t look like me don’t have the same emotions I do. One person can’t make a difference.

Let go the NO. What will you say YES to today? Tomorrow? Next month? Next year? I’d love to hear where your positive attitude takes you.

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If you’re interested, here is my small screen debut. I’m available for autographs, or to stand in line for you at the bank.

 

 

PeRsPeCtIvE

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It took me quite some time after graduate school to find my first paid position as a speech pathologist. What didn’t take long was figuring out why my employer, an inner-city rehabilitation center, had used the word “unique” in their help-wanted ad. The majority of patients there were under 50, and missing at least one limb (due to complications from untreated diabetes). An overpowering stench permeated the building. But what really stood out was the volatility that hovered over every interaction. Outbursts were common, and the whole atmosphere was loud and unsettled. Early on, I was charged by a screaming, arm-flailing man because I had turned down his television set (never did that again!).

One day I sat across from a middle-aged, toothless man. We were working on his expressive language skills, including speech intelligibility, after a mugging had left him brain damaged. Just before our session, I had learned he would be heading to his mother’s house the next day.

“Are you excited about getting out of here?” I asked him. After all, I cried in my car every morning before walking into work, and assumed that actually having to stay there would be a horrible experience. But his answer surprised me.

“Oh, I hate to leave,” he told me. “The bed is so soft and clean. And the food is so good. I’ll be back on the streets soon, and I’ll be hungry again now.”

After we finished, I wished him well and then escaped into the dark back staircase, one of my regular hiding spots. I stood on my tip-toes so I could see out the cinder-block sized window, and I cried. But this time it was not because I was scared and overwhelmed, but because I hadn’t seen any goodness in this place before that. I had assumed this was the bottom – the worst case scenario. And that man’s words showed me how naive I was, and how much worse things could be.

IMG_1130Years later, I was teaching an introductory speech and language course at The University of Connecticut. I was my first college teaching experience, and I was very anxious for everything to go smoothly. When I walked into the building on the first day, I noticed a large group of students standing outside the classroom I’d been assigned to. I immediately panicked. It was an 8:00 a.m. class, and I didn’t have a key. I had no plan B! Then, I noticed a second door to the room, further down the hallway. I walked over to it, opened it, and went inside. The students followed behind me and the class proceeded. On the way home I laughed at how thin the line can be between student and teacher: the teacher is sometimes just the person who tries the second door!

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It seems that where we are on life’s journey often determines our perspective. Don’t we all, at some point, feel like we’re at the bottom of the heap? During those times, all we can do is look up, and see others who have achieved what we had hoped to by now. But don’t forget, there are people behind you, wishing they were as far along as you are. Reach back with encouragement, and look forward in hope. Take some time to adjust your perspective: maybe where you are right now is where you are supposed to be.

So, appreciate what you have. But, don’t forget to look for that second door. It’s probably sitting there, unlocked, waiting for you.

Turning the Page

Image Are these girls looking back at summer, or looking ahead to fall?

It’s the middle of the night groping for the blanket you kicked off some weeks ago.  It’s the arms-crossed coffee clutch at the bus stop.  It’s trading beach towels for sweatshirts on the laundry room hooks.  It’s the screech of the school bus brakes and an abruptly quiet home.  It’s a dozen little things that in concert tell us:  fall’s here.

Most people lament summer’s end, but few, especially here in New England, can begrudge fall its season.  It’s hard to resist the crispness of the air, the apples, the new sheets of paper.  Something about that change in the air always reminds me of going back to school, and moving forward on new adventures.

For many, the road ahead is prescribed and welcoming.  Kids move through their school years and many go on to college.  Some of their parents find themselves returning to jobs, starting classes, or rekindling dreams that have been lying dormant, waiting patiently for their turn.

For a few, the next step has a definite start date, and the plan is laid out clearly for you.  For others, the path ahead may seem like that first piece of blank paper that I set out when starting a new story.  The paper is waiting, the pen is in your hand….now what?

Best of luck to all of you who have figured out the “what’s next” piece of your story.  Starting a new field of study, going back to work, getting your business plan off of paper and into the real world: it all takes real courage!

And for those of you who are wondering what turn your story will take next, join the club!  We call that a “work in progress.”  The best part is, in writing and in life, you can revise as many times as you’d like until you find the path that’s right for you.

Sit still in the silence.  Feel fall’s gentle chill on your shoulders.  The rest will come.