Have you ever listened to “Close to the Edge” by the progressive rock band Yes?
It’s a real emotional tornado—from adrenaline to intrigue, revelation to dedication, mystery to carelessness.
I sort of spin in these sensations for ten minutes; one of my favorite parts is when a symphony of organs takes over and all I can think to do is let my head fall back in some sweet surrender.
That’s the only way I can think of to describe the feeling of exploring “yes.”
Not the band—the affirmation.
The incredibly small three-letter-word that seems to suck me into a new, sparkling galaxy. You see, I have a bad habit of taking control in too many situations. Don’t get me wrong, taking control is not taboo, but it’s definitely not all that it’s cracked up to be.
I’ve spent the majority of my life with clenched fists and, as my yoga intructor reminds me, too much tension in my back. These are physical reactions to my obessive relationship with “no” mirrored by my psychological processing.
Let me explain: There are a billion little situations throughout the day that are not as trivial as they appear to be—mechanical interactions with the grocery cashier, choosing whether or not to smile at a stranger, considering an enemy.
As for me, I usually fall for premonitions I have about others. I convince myself that the stories, the generalizations that have been passed down for years on end, are true. An adopted child will always be emotionally scarred with rejection, a laid-back boyfriend will always become a drunkard and senior citizens are horrified when a young person attempts to help them in public.
A couple of months ago, I found the last story to be quite false.
I’d just pulled into the metro station by my home in Providencia, Santiago de Chile. In this stage of my life I was juggling three ESL teaching positions in three very different parts of the city. Needless to say, I was often pressed for time.
So, that day the metro doors opened and I went flying into a crowd of suited business men and women. My mind was racing: where to be, where to be, what to do, when to arrive, how to talk, what to do, what to do…come to think of it, I strongly resembled the likes of the White Rabbit in Wonderland. Anyways, I was consumed in my organised world when, climbing to the top of the metro stairs I noticed a sweet hunched-over lady who looked more than flustered.
She was all dolled-up and sweating in the dry 80ºF weather, bracing herself for the journey down the dozen or so steps into the teeming metro station.
“What a shame” I thought. I told myself a little story about how the lady would be embarrassed were I to assist her down into the station.
As the story played back in my head, my hands and back twitched with the terrible feeling of “no” and I left her behind me on the steps. I tried to shake the situation out of my head, telling myself it was useless, trivial, but for some reason my heart wouldn’t listen. I pivoted about a block away and rushed back to the top of the metro stairs.
There she was, still waiting. I touched her shoulder, and with the gesture, threw “no” to the ground.
I chose to explore the option I usually wouldn’t.
I chose to explore a situation I would normally deem irrelevant.
It’s quite funny—the stories we tell ourselves. So, I touched her shoulder and asked if she’d like help down into the station.
This is when my nasty relationship with “no” fell apart and “yes” rained over and through me. The lady stared into my eyes and broke into a beautiful smile,”Yes, I’d love that!” she beamed.
Comforted, I explored “yes” a little further. I asked her what she was doing and why she was all alone. Somehow, our five minute totter down the stairs made both of our days.
That tiny little situation, what I thought meant nothing, meant everything. That day, I understood the beauty of exploring “yes”.
Now, I’d be lying if I said my nasty habit of “no” was dead and gone.
I still find myself choosing the comfortable option…on a daily basis. I still find myself believing the stories passed down from who knows where, but not as much. My life with “no” is growing apart now.
Every day, I feel the urge to throw back my head in some sweet surrender and explore “yes”.
She is a galaxy of emotion, a space of new creations and sparkling revelations.
She is what we are not…which is why I, for one, am so intrigued.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Apprentice Editor: Guenevere Neufeld / Editor: Renée Picard
Photo: courtesy of Olga Ferrer Saladie via Flickr