Accommodating. Agreeable. Cooperative. People pleaser.
Whatever you want to call it, I have pretty much said “yes” to putting others first most of my life. I have always been under the impression that it was just easier to acquiesce and keep the peace. In fact, I prided myself of those qualities. However, in 2017, my comfortable life came crumbling down as I navigated the divorce process and with the assistance of a life-changing therapist, I began to learn and understand why I am the way that I am. I realized those identifiers that I was so proud of, meant I had the tendency to sweep my emotions and issues under the rug. I’ll spare you the details of my divorce, but it turned out for me that the place I was used to, wasn’t necessarily the place I belonged.
For the first few months of divorce, my life was in pure chaos. I was living out of a suitcase, bouncing between my sister’s and parent’s houses. For the first time in 10 years, I was unsure of what the day would bring and what was next. So many questions swirled through my mind all day: What am I doing? Where am I going to live? How is my daughter going to handle this? Will I be alone for the rest of my life? Would I ever feel like eating again? I was basically just trying to survive day-by-day, wallowing in a toxic mix of sadness, frustration, hopelessness, unease and depression. I was letting myself get consumed by the negativity, but I didn’t know how to “snap out of it”. My dad suggested I go talk to one of my pastors. Unlike my therapist, my pastor and I had history. She listened, she cared, we prayed and by the end she basically told me to stop having a pity party and start finding the positive (I’m sure she said it in a much kinder and thoughtful way, but that was the gist). She told me to find one joy, just one, throughout my day. It could be the feeling of the warm water hitting my face in the shower, making a green light when I was running a little late, a small occurrence in the minutia of day to day life. I was instructed to stop, notice it, appreciate it and find joy in it. She said, “When you’re able, start finding 2 things…and then 3. Then it will slowly become a habit to start looking for and noticing the good.” So I started looking for the positive in my life. I started following women and platforms who inspired me or whom I could relate to on social media: Glennon Doyle, Alison Chrun, Barb Schmidt, Kristen Bell, bloggers on ScaryMommy and so on. I began living by the motto that my mom saw tattooed on a strangers foot: Be relentlessly positive. Being relentlessly positive doesn’t mean being happy all the time. It means that even on the hard days, you know there are better ones coming. It means you’re consciously choosing to find the joy and happiness in any situation you are confronted with. And since it sometimes feels really hard to do, you have to be relentless about it.
So with this new positive mindset, I decided 2018 would be my “Year of Yes.” This would be a different “yes” than I had used so many times before. This wouldn’t be the accommodating and agreeable “yes” to keep the peace. Instead, my “Year of Yes” would mean saying “yes” to myself. It meant saying yes to opening myself up to new opportunities, relationships, experiences and adventures that would get me out of my comfort zone. In my former life, I often was declining opportunities so I wouldn’t be away from my family. By saying no to those opportunities, I was neglecting my own personal mental health and growth. So 2018 was a time for change and I decided now was the time to let myself be vulnerable and get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Throughout 2018, I said yes to meeting new people and developing new friendships. I said yes to opening up to them about my story, my pain, my thoughts, my feelings. I said yes to listening to THEIR stories, pain, thoughts and feelings, free of judgement. I said yes to friendships – inviting new people in to my life and reconnecting with some relationships I’d let fade. I said yes to my first tattoo and then got two more! I said yes to a relay race that involved being in a van with 6 other people for 33 hours straight and running through the night (overcoming my debilitating fear of being alone in the dark on my 2 am leg). I said yes to a new job, a new house, a new life as I knew it. I said yes to asking for help and started seeing a therapist, no longer viewing therapy as a sign of weakness. (Seriously, everyone should have a therapist like Amy in their lives!)
And what’s really cool is that my friends and family said yes along with me.
They said yes by responding to my texts and calls when I needed to talk. They said yes to grabbing a spontaneous drink because they knew I didn’t want to be home alone. They said yes to trying Keto because I read somewhere it’d give me more energy and better mental clarity (It didn’t…sorry for talking you into that one, Danielle). They said yes to supporting me, even if they didn’t agree with or understand my decisions. They said yes to second chances.
Some people need a year of no – time to set boundaries, take time for themselves and grow through nurturing what they already have. And if that is what you need, I encourage you take that mindset and stick with it whole-heartedly. But if you feel stuck or like you need a change or time to experience something new, try saying “yes”. It doesn’t have to be for an entire year, but just start with one day. Start with pushing yourself a tiny bit outside that comfort zone and experience what it feels like to be vulnerable and push your boundaries.
I have changed, and at 34 years old, I finally feel like I am me. I have new adjectives to describe the new me:
Vulnerable. Real. An open book. Confident. Genuine. And I like those better.
By the way, I have dubbed 2019 as my year of “Bucket Listing.” So if you have any adventures or experiences you want to try but are a little scared to try alone, let me know. The chances are, I’ll say “YES”.