Thursday, June 11, 2015

Working the YES!

I grew up in a outlying part of town. We had maybe eleven houses on our street and a disproportionate amount of boys--mostly older than I was.  Most of my friends lived in clusters in neighborhoods that were further away than my bike could reasonably take me on a daily basis. In addition to being geographically remote, I was also put in my own reading group in elementary school because I was advanced. Stuck in a corner to do my work--at my own pace. Sometimes, I deliberately slowed my pace in my reader, hoping that one of the reading groups would catch up to me. They never did, and when I came to a play in my reading book, I never had to perform. I had nobody else with whom to act it out.  Nobody with whom to start a discussion. Because of these conditions, I felt very isolated as a kid.  Good for the imagination and a boon to literacy; books were my friends. I also had all the social awkwardness for which bookworms are famous. I was just missing the geeky pair of glasses.

I spent a lot of my childhood on the outside looking in. I watched my brothers play baseball in little league after they outgrew the backyard games I enjoyed playing. I heard of my friends' exploits second-hand because I was never there. They took the bus to the mall or the train to Duran Duran concerts, things I would never dream of asking my parents if I could do. It took me until 10th grade to work up the nerve to ask to go to a school dance. On so many occasions, I would hear of the parties or happenings, after the fact, and feel jealous that I hadn't had the experience.

I felt the same way living in Reinholds. I was so far outside the cultural center of Lancaster where we felt the greatest pull. Our church was in Lancaster, but we missed out on so much being so far away. Again, I was the kid on the outside looking in. I do have to remember that part of that period in our lives was also about raising kids and not being able to leave them so we could bop around on the arts circuit. Our move to Arden came at a great time when our kids were old enough that we didn't have to worry about leaving them for a night out or for a Sunday hike that lasted all morning. We are in the thick of things here, socially and culturally. I am in heaven. Always something to do.

About a year after our move to Arden, one of my friends said something off-handed about the way I said "yes" to everything.  All invitations. Any proposed adventure. Practically all the activities that are listed in the Arden Page. Jill will do it! She meant it as a compliment--the openness I had to it all. But it got me thinking,  Am I saying 'yes' to everything because all these opportunities are enjoyable to me or because I don't want to be the kid who is on the outside looking in?  My fear of missing out was so bad that Mark and I had to force ourselves to take a vacation last year. We wanted to go somewhere, but we did worry that we would be absent for some big Arden event while we were away. I specifically remember looking at the dinner gild menu for the week we would be gone and sighing that we would miss it. Never mind that we would be in the south, experiencing the bourbon and whiskey trails and eating BBQ, Hot Brown sandwiches, and Nashville Hot chicken.

Now that we are in Arden almost two years, I am being more discerning with my "yes"answers. It is true that we had to try out some of these happenings to see which activities we liked and what would stick. From all those yeses, we were able to figure out what was important. Yes, I want to walk with the Misty Morning Walkers and meditate with the Arden Sangha, but neither work with my schedule. I did want to go to Philly Beer Week with my hiking buddies, but I don't like big crowds and waiting in line, so I opted to see (and cry my eyes out while watching) the play Steel Magnolias at the Candlelight Dinner Theater.  We don't say yes to every concert opportunity, though we probably won't miss a Barn Concert at our friend Cynthia and David's venue if we can help it. We have learned to pass up invitations if we are tired or have had a string of activities. We, who at one time had a six month attendance record, have missed a Sunday hike here or there. And we have started planning a vacation with little thought as to what we will forgo while we are gone. (Okay--this isn't completely true. We asked Ron Ozer what Arden Gild concerts were going to be going down in the new season of shows.) But I am working on being in the moment. If I am enjoying what I am doing at the time I am doing it, then missing another event is not a reason to fret, and it is definitely not a reason to forgo enjoyment of the event that I chose--even if that event is a nap.

I know I needed those months of opening myself to all of it, so that I could figure out what my priorities were. My yes-giving is a work in progress. I will continue to add meaning to the word until it becomes the shape of the life I want to live. For now, my child-self is particularly pleased to be part of the larger circle of life in the Ardens. To have so many friends and cultural events that are in walking distance is a complete luxury. I will continue to take advantage of all this abundance around me and say yes often,  but I am learning that saying no can sometimes be the most powerful yes of all.

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