I wasn’t allowed to say “no” as a child.
Maybe you can relate.
I wasn’t allowed to decline an invite or sit this one out. My mom carried me once, like a flailing, giant swordfish, to a birthday party in my yellow feetie pajamas. It was at a roller rink. I sat on a swivel chair at the pizzeria sipping Sprite through a self-made Twizzler straw, refusing to participate, while Cyndi Lauper shrieked from the speakers and the other patrons glided around, over and over again, tracing the circle of the rink into eternity.
Children (at least the ones from my generation) learn early that while their “no” has little power, their refusal to participate is meaningful currency.
The almighty veto.
You can drag a swordfish to a roller rink but you can’t get her to change out of her feetie pajamas, slap some skates on her feet and have a good time.
How many good times did I sabotage for myself because I couldn’t come down from my position?
I heard Michael Pollen, in an interview about plant intelligence, talking about how plants, being rooted creatures who can’t run away, only ever have two choices: they can either draw things to themselves or repel them.
All throughout childhood I chose repel. A lot of us did. Because drawing things toward us is a skill that requires a certain degree of esteem and entitlement that can be hard to come by in the early years.
The spiritual curriculum of my adult life has involved a lot of “no” practice. I’ve been working on reclaiming my no. But also, in the process, becoming acquainted with my “yes”. Because I’ve learned that the happiest, most powerful people are the ones who’ve mastered both sides of that coin. They know what they’re unwilling to do and they know what they want most for themselves.
The holiday season, with all of its ultra tricky expectations, always feels like a masterclass for this work.
Will we cooperate? Will we rise to meet the bar? Will we show up? Will we fake it? Will we peel our yellow feetie pj’s off, change into the clothes someone else picked out for us, and head out to the dance floor to trace the circles with all the other patrons?
Or will we sneak out the backdoor to the parking lot? Play something off our own mix? Dance in our own way, under the stars, instead of the dropped down ceiling? Attracting to us, all the nectar, all the love, all the grace, all the YES in the universe?
The trick is to stay so close to our own awareness that we can't be swept up in the tide during accelerated times.
This way we don't forget our "no" and we don't forget our "yes" either. We transcend the tug of guilt. We side step all the programming of our culture.. We dance our own dance to our own song. We don't have to pull or repel. We can just stand exactly where we're planted, grateful for all of it, protected by our own capacity to be exactly who we are: love incarnate.
See you next time!