No.

I am totally unprepared to talk about “no” in its literal sense, in the sense that Liam Neeson will not date me and the Sunshine Cracker Company has no interest in using me as their spokeswoman. In the sense that I will not jump off a bridge, give you five dollars, or eat my boogers (you know your smartass-six-year-old-self was thinking it).

No, today I want to talk about the fundamental No. The no with a capital N and a period at the end. The No. that led me to the Yes! And…

I once knew a girl who would say terrible things in a silly voice, and if you became upset she would snap, “Geez! I’m just KIDDING!” My blood would boil, but I was incapacitated, incapable of recovery. From that moment forward, I couldn’t contribute to the social interaction. Though she never said the actual word, I was facing a form of No.

This girl had bizarre power over everyone around her. See, you never knew what world you were playing in: if the gun she was holding was a real gun, a bb gun, or merely her finger poised to tickle you. She was always changing realities without telling you. By claiming “just KIDDING!” she was denying the truth of her behavior, masking the reality of her cruelty with the facade of humor. In light of the abrupt shift, your anger looked ridiculous. You looked ridiculous. She was in charge and she was saying No.

It’s okay to say no, obviously. It isn’t necessary or even advisable to agree to every proposal. But you must, must, must acknowledge the truth, the power, the possibility of every proposal. Whether you agree or disagree. Actively ignoring what is, doesn’t change the situation. It does however halt all forward momentum, growth, the conversation, because

Everything stops at the period.

The fundamental No. is so sneaky. It disguises itself in words like “weird, just, can’t, stupid, different, scared, shut-up,” and “impossible.”

Look for it, but be wary when you find it. Because it has bizarre power over everything around it.

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