Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Mirror Wisdoms: When Yes Means No

I used to have a friend who was a jazz saxophone player. I say "used to" because I'm dead to him now. But that's another story entirely, and not really relevent to today's topic.  Anyway, before I was dead to him, he shared with me many, many unsolicited facts about himself.  One particular fact I found notable: he liked to write down sayings, quotes,  regional colloquialisms, etc. in a tiny book that he carried around with him. As he traveled around the country, he wrote down anything that interested him for future reference. He often felt compelled to share quotes from his little book with his friends.

I love quotes.  I like to cut out little motivational/inspirational revelations I find and tape them to my bathroom mirror so that I see them every morning. I tape them to my computer screen. I write them down and carry them in my pocket - little affirmations to float me along the on current of my day.

A while back, I happened onto a tidbit that was really helpful. (Unfortunately, I don't know the source - I only remember it was from an  unconventional place).  Wherever it came from, it was something I really needed to hear and still need to remind myself. Therefore, it's currently posted on my bathroom mirror:  

When you say yes to something,
especially something that takes your time,
you're likely saying no to a host of other things by default.
Leave yourself open to saying yes
to the opportunities that really matter.

I tend to be a yes yes yes person. I feel guilty saying no no no. At least, I did before this little cheese curd of wisdom came into my life. So simple, and so profound -- the mirror hath spoken!


  1. Great post. So very true. And especially from a creative perspective, one has to ask -- Am I saying yes to stuff that will please other people, and short-changing my time and energy so I can't create what I dream about creating?
    Am I saying yes to projects that will use my creative energy on what I love, or on projects that will require me to say "no" to what I love?

    Sometimes being true to your own creative goals means having to disappoint other people, and that's hard. Which is why we have to keep reminding ourselves that yes, this thing I'm trying to do IS important to me, it has just as much worth and value as someone else's project, and is deserving of my time, energy and focus. Saying yes to my own creative vision is not being selfish. Think of the great masters of art and music and literature--we still enjoy their works to this day, but those things would not have come about if they weren't saying "no" to some things. Even Bach, as he became inspired by new influences, had to struggle against his conservative congregation and church authorities who didn't like his new 'strange sounds'.

  2. From a biography of Bach:

    In October 1705, the Church Council granted Bach leave to visit the north-German city of Lübeck to hear the great organist, Dietrich Buxtehude. In Lübeck he took every chance to hear Buxtehude play, and to attend the famous evening concerts in the Marienkirche when Buxtehude's church cantatas were performed. Bach was so fascinated by these concerts, and by his discussions on the arts with the great master, that he remained in Lübeck over Christmas until the following February.

    He returned to Arnstadt three months late, having also visited Reincken in Hamburg and Böhm in Lüneburg on the way, full of new ideas and enthusiasm which he immediately put into practice in his playing. The congregation however was completely surprised and bewildered by his new musical ideas: there was considerable confusion during the singing of the chorales, caused by his "surprising variations and irrelevant ornaments which obliterate the melody and confuse the congregation".

    The Church Council resolved to reprimand Bach on his 'strange sounds' during the services, and they also asked him to explain the unauthorized extension of his leave in Lübeck.

  3. Thought I'd give you fair warning: that saxaphonist whom you are dead to is coming here at the end of the month!

    1. i suspected as much. i felt a blast of hot air followed by a feeling of deep exasperation, and i knew.

      as you know, i prefer to avoid situations in which i am dead

  4. thanks so much for this input. it DOES feel selfish sometimes. but if not for us creative types, the world would be all math and science! people would sit around calculating formulas for their only amusement.