Saying Yes Less

This week, two theories flew into my mind like large birds who are now sitting on opposing fences with my grey matter garden in-between.  On the left, we have The No Bird and on the right, it’s The Yes Bird.  They’re squawking at each other, determined that whoever is loudest is right.  I’m not going to lie, it’s noisy in here right now.

Amidst the squawking, one bird has the edge.  One bird is chanting a word that we are less encouraged to use and it’s hypnotising my subconscious.  It’s The No Bird. I’ve come to like saying no, since I learned that I actually could.  A word that I used to be so scared of and so programmed against saying has become a word that helps me to feel safe, more fairly valued and in far calmer control.  There’s also a comedy to be found in saying no more frequently; laughter happens, I find, wherever honesty is involved. It’s a great leveller and anxiety killer.

I keep seeing stuff that tells me to say yes.  I keep hearing that I should not only say yes, but also YES!  And hell yeah!  And yes, yes, yessss!  I’m being inboxed and tweeted with motivational memes reminding me to say yes to everything that comes my way today.  Leaflets drop through the letterbox urging me to say yes to diet clubs, takeaway pizzas, a weed free garden and two for one offers at Asda.  I turn on the telly and adverts scream at me to say yes to everything from solar panels to alpaca wool onesies.  We’ve unlearned No by opening the floodgates on Yes.  When did No become such a dirty word?   And why?

Back in the brain garden The No Bird looks less frenzied.  Its squawks are more assertive, less hyperactive.  It has a radiant space around it which, if I’m not mistaken, looks a hell of a lot like time.  There’s a rainbow aura in-between the time and the bird too.  Maybe the different colours are representative of a whole load of choices.  With all this in mind, I’m more inclined to want to hear what The No Bird  has to say.

The No Bird

The No Bird appears not to be pecking at itself with self sabotage busyness.

The No Bird appears to have a plan: time and choices.

As I ponder those last three words for a minute I’m struck with the thought that as well as big houses, fancy cars, yachts and a pony or ten for the charity petting zoo, time and choices are the things that lottery wins buy.

Time and choices are luxury items.  Time and choices are what we get when we’re in a good place and what we crave from a bad place.  Time and choices are coveted commodities, so why are we passing up the chance to have them and trading it in for all these Yesses?

Time and choices are the things I see The Yes Bird does not have, because The Yes Bird is busy giving itself away to anyone who asks things of it.  The Yes Bird has mistaken martyrdom for positivity.  The Yes Bird looks frazzled and is now being asked by another bird to move along the fence.  The Yes Bird should hold its space in the world and say no to this most recent request.  It won’t though.  It’ll move, because HELL YEAH!

My friend’s mother in-law has a fantastic saying.  It goes, ‘If you never say no, what are your yesses worth?’  These are the kinds of words that should become great friends to the overwhelmed parts of us that would be gone with the wind of demands if we didn’t shut the door on it and protect our personal priorities on a regular basis.


How do you say no? How does the word sound when it comes out of your mouth? Do you put a thank you behind it or in front of it?  Do you avoid saying it til the last minute and then squeeze it in, decorating it with a giggle, shushing it inside a mutter?  Do you sing it, so it’s harmonic on its way to someone ear? I had to stand in the kitchen one day saying and then shouting no, No, and NO.  It’s necessary, when your tongue has no muscle memory of the movements a word needs because it’s been AWOL from your vocabulary.

Of course we should all say yes sometimes.  But not when saying yes becomes such a habit that it’s our default setting.  Not when saying no begins to feel like having a sharp stone in our mouth that we have to soften with apologies and excuses and exclamation marks that trivialise our meanings before we swallow it again, unheard.  Not when we’re in a culture where a women saying no means so much less than a man saying no. Not when it’s at the expense of ourselves and our right to live our own life, on our own wee bit of fence where things rarely feel crazy-making.

No, to all of that.  Yes, to time and choices.

52and39/43 Hunker Down

Autumn’s a time for appreciating contrasts.  I’ve been walking and running more mindfully than usual, it’s easy to do in this season of wet pavements, dry leaves, shadowy buildings and bright mid-morning skies.52and39


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The dog stops and waits for me to take photos or scratches his back on long grass or a tree trunk while I admire stuff.  One black dog’s goodness keeps the badness of another black dog from nipping my heels, I believe.

At home, the lamps and heating are on.  I wrap myself into hibernation mode, in Autumn.


52and39/42 Are You Straight?

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A few weeks ago on the number 16 going down Leith Walk a tourist got on, cleared her throat, radiated deep blushes and asked the driver in a beautifully accented voice, ‘Are you straight?‘, while pointing down the big road through the front windows.  The driver replied with,  ‘yes, I’m going straight on’.

She paid, thanked him, smiled a lot and humphed on her huge rucksack and hand luggage.

This week in France I told a farmer I only speak a petit pois of French.

52and39Good enough is amusing.  And good enough.

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52and39/41 Bring Down Your Washing

We’re going on holiday and I’m losing it about suitcases.

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My kids throw jeans decorated with food and grass stains at bags and consider themselves packed.  No big deal.  They’ve forgotten everything from lens liquid to underwear and chargers but they’re ready, apparently.  Were it not for the fact they’d totally cock up the holiday at the other end by being filth packed for a day’s gaming I’d go with it and shrug my shoulders right back at them. 52and39

Instead, I’ve been patient, child-centered and nurturing for 72 hours.

Now I’m freaking.


call it madness

It strikes me that not knowing how to do something is not a good enough reason for not trying to do it.  Lots of people don’t like that fact, if you state it as your reality.

We like to believe that there are things we can do and things we can’t do.  Our minds like to trick us into thinking that if we just stick to the things that we can do then we’ll be safe and everything will be easy.  Yet, when we stick to safe and easy we usually just end up a bit bored and predictable; pink turns to beige and joy turns down its volume to a lightly sighing contentment.

Our minds do us a disservice, quite a lot of the time.  We live in a society that promotes ideas of fear as if they were oxygen.  Our western stream of consciousness screams self-esteem and yet largely still belittles people with the audacity to value themselves.  Our conditioned thoughts place limits on us and shut doors to rooms we can’t imagine ever entering, because we’ve told ourselves they’re not for us to see or enjoy and that they’re for someone more suitable.

Then you hear a story about someone who just stepped into a room that they’d previously cordoned off and how they started making their way, tiny step by step, across the carpet to the window.  If you’re lucky, you’ll hear a person like that tell the story of enjoying an entirely new view and then looking back into the hallway with a reborn perspective on their life and how they frame ideas.  These people then start to say things that are borne from possibilities rather than fear.  Maybe one day they’ll run a 10k, or go to China and take photos of old men in old villages wearing old hats, or cook a full traditional Turkish meal, or swim in the sea.

Some people who hear the maybes will think the person they’re listening to has gone mad.

Other people will see or hear something that tells them the other person has never been more sane.  The person who’s travelled from one way of thinking to another knows that they’ve poked a hole through the matrix and seen reality without the limiting filter on.

And that they can’t go back to where they were.


52and39/40 The Road Less Travelled





I drove to Hawick, last Friday.

I suddenly had an afternoon on my hands and the weather was unseasonably brilliant.  So I pointed the car at a road I haven’t driven before.

I took the A68 for most of the way, wanting to stop and take photos every ten seconds, such is the beauty.

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Scotland in the sunshine is a perfection of sky, landscape and scale.

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It was so ridiculously luxuriant to have an adventure completely to myself.  Time stopped whizzing by and the sun warmed my thoughts and bones.  Blissful.

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