No. no. no. I don’t think anyone likes to hear this word, whether its a two year old that wants to touch everything he sees, or an adult just trying to get by in this world. The word no represents a door closing, a pathway not available. The word yes lets us think that we are going to be able to move forward, realize a dream, or at least try something new. The word yes is full of color, opportunity, and light. The word no is dark, narrow, and depressing. At least that is how these words feel, but the truth about these words is somewhat different.
There are times in our life when no seems to be all we hear. No, you can’t finish school right now, no, you are not going to get that job, no, we don’t want you here. No, we don’t want to buy your book, your house or your car. No, we don’t want to read your articles, listen to your song, or call you on the phone. There is a saying that whenever a door closes a window opens. My version right now could be that whenever the word no is thrown at me, the word yes is lingering in the shadows. When we hear the word no we can walk away with our head hung down, or we can look among the shadows, search in the woods, and find the word yes waiting for us. It just might have a different look than we expected.
I recently read an inspirational book that had a lot of real world and historical illustrations. One very interesting illustration caught my attention. A man had invested his entire life into a career, only to loose the job and what he felt was his purpose and direction in life. He came home to his wife, gave her the bad news and sat at the dining table depressed. She listened quietly to his news, looked at his sad face, and then walked out of the room. When she returned and laid a pen and some papers on the table in front of her husband she said, “Now that you have lost your job, you can write that novel you always wanted to write.” His name was Nathanial Hawthorn, famous for The Scarlett Letter. The word no actually enriched his life, and the lives of all the readers that have enjoyed and learned from that novel.
I love to read adventure books, books that involve hiking, biking, exploring new places, and generally involve a person testing his limits and abilities in different ways. My son gave me a book about a man walking the Amazon River, and I have been pouring through this book all week. One reason I love these books is that I can have the feel of the adventure without the mosquitoes and blisters. There is one singular thing that I learn from all these books, whether the book involves sailing or walking, kayaking or flying, exploring uncharted areas or walking the Appalachian Trail: The biggest enemy or danger isn’t the wilderness; it’s the adventurer himself. When a person sets sail he takes his own mind, his own fears and his own problems with him. Self-doubts are the real danger for each adventure. The man walking along the Amazon river records many times when he wanted to quit, and when he was hating the journey, wondering why he was there and wanting it to end.
I watched a PBS special many years ago about through hikers of the AT. A large group of hikers that planned to do the trail were given video cameras and asked to record their adventure, their thoughts and feelings along the walk. This was a multi-part series, and it was interesting to try to guess who would finish the walk and who would have to give up along the way. I guessed based on physical fitness and desire, assuming that the real through hiker would be in great shape and eager to enjoy the wilderness. I still believe those traits are important, to do a thing you have to want to do it and to prepare to do it, but what really made the difference was a mindset to finish the job. The people that finished the trail had decided that they would finish, not that they would enjoy every moment. They were taking on a goal. The person that was so focused on enjoying the hike was derailed when it got hard, blisters showed up and exhaustion took over. The ones that finished knew that it would not all be fun, and that at times only determination would get them through.
What does this have to do with the word no? I have always thought that our life resembles a journey, a pathway. We walk along the pathway sometimes encountering obstacles and sometimes we walk in beautiful vistas. Sometimes a huge river blocks our way and the bridge is out, other times a friend picks us up with his boat and carries us across. We are going to hear no a lot of times in our lives, there is no escaping that fact. We can only choose how to respond to that no. I can choose to get depressed and discouraged, or I can choose to find another way. Today I am writing. I hope that a few people will read and enjoy these words, but even if not, I am learning and enjoying the process. Good luck on your journey, and I hope your “no” will lead you to great places!