The Power of Yes

Time to start carrying a towel…

Recently I wrote about the feeling I had, a couple of years ago, that I’d given (up) the best years of my life to being a trailing spouse and having babies.  I entered my forties at that time, thinking my peak years were behind me, work-wise.  Irrational though I knew that to be, it spurred me on to a period of grasping opportunities and saying yes to myself.

In fact I’ve been concentrating on Yes for a while now.  Any expat knows that that first crucial ‘yes’ is bold and life-changing, although they don’t always grasp its long-term ramifications.  It was definitely an easy yes for me at the time.  A couple of years before that, I read Yes Man by Danny Wallace (a really fun read whether you want your life changed or not, and only very loosely adapted by the Jim Carrey film), and within weeks was inspired to break all my dating rules and say yes to dinner with MT.  (I still have the diary where I scrawled ‘Best first date ever!’ across that weekend.)

These days I try to stick with the philosophy that unless there’s a very good reason to say no to something, I might as well say yes.  Other than prior commitments, the most compelling reason for saying no to something is to look after myself on some level – saying yes to myself.

It’s 8 months ago, and we’re still newbies here. I step outside our apartment building into the tropical heat, where couples and families are milling about in the shade of trees and canopies.  Most are gathered in clumps around tables with posters and information leaflets – detailing the various sports and activities available to us, via our company and other organisations in town.  Momentarily I’m taken back to the university freshers’ fair.  But I gather up my adultness and step across the car park, inwardly practising some French phrases.  I’m surprised by how eagerly our middle-aged neighbour approaches me about the bridge club.  Do I really look the type?  I’m not as adult as that.  Anyway I’m really here to see what the kids can get involved with.  I manage to politely say no to various craft clubs, voluntary organisations and over-demanding sports.  There aren’t a lot of options for children as young as mine. On my way back, I realise there’s a lady sitting at a table with no posters or leaflets, just a small sign saying Théâtre, and a notebook.  I wait patiently for her to finish chatting to another neighbour, then ask at what age her classes start.  It’s 6.  Oh well.  Tant pis. Merci. But she continues …et pour les adultes… and she has my attention again.  Moments later, after a beaming Oui! I’m writing down my email address.  She explains that the first meeting is Tuesday night if I want to try it.  ‘No,’ I tell her, ‘I’m not just trying it, I’m saying yes!’

That particular yes has led me to performing for my children’s school in their Christmas show, meeting a diverse, dynamic, talented group of friends, brought me much closer to local culture and helped me become just about fluent in French.

A big bonus ‘Yes!’ from me if you can figure out this reference…

And now, this weekend, I will turn 42, perform on stage in French for the first time in public, and become a published author.  (Did I mention I’m in a book??)

Who could say no to that?


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2 thoughts on “The Power of Yes

  1. […] Within two weeks of arriving in Congo I turned up at a stranger’s house for her kid’s birthday party, I’d been to boot camp (very out of shape), book group (having not read the book) and a coffee morning. I quickly joined a Biggest Loser group (with no expectation of winning), a yoga class, an Indian cooking class (you won’t be surprised to know that was a one-off) and hustled to organise the babysitting for an event called Martini Madness (I don’t drink spirits). I stood in front of a new acquaintance and said oui to a French theatre group (which was life-changing – more on that here). […]

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