Don’t be a No-To-All

I was thinking of how my brain works these days, when it’s on autopilot, while I am busy doing whatever it is I am doing on any given day. I must confess that while I am knitting, I can lose count in a heartbeat, more often than not, completely forgetting what row I am on and these forgetful moments sometimes accelerate into “burn the house down” moments, until I am able to calm myself, practising my inner zen. But I digress. An old friend and I were chatting on the phone the other day and he said he is consciously trying to avoid having “no” as his default reaction to requests made of him, at least not before he has had a chance to pause, ponder, and proceed, the three Ps, if you will, and … it got me thinking.

I posed the question to myself, after I got my own attention, snapping my fingers in my face a few times, stomping my feet and waving my arms, and eventually I listened up. Are you a yes person or a no person, I inquired of myself? I like to think I’m a yes person, but I’m pretty sure I’ve slid down the embankment into the no territory as of late. I’m not sure it could be helped, because it feels as if my world is shrinking and venturing out, no matter the precautions I take, fills me with a kind of uncomfortable uncertainty, if that makes any sense at all.

I was listening to Now or Never on CBC Radio last week. I love that program. It is filled with heartfelt, relatable stories and the hosts are quite dear, two of my favourites – Ify Chiwetelu and Trevor Dineen. They were talking about wake-up calls and what that has meant to the people they interviewed. One young couple, Gaetan Benoit and Katrine Deniset, had a very serious wake-up call recently. Gaetan has terminal brain cancer with a prognosis of surviving two to five years. That’s a slam-you-into-the-wall kind of wake-up call, but the reaction of the two of them was quite inspiring and worth the listen if you get a chance to go to the podcast. Trevor Dineen, one of the hosts, asked the couple if they could describe what the future looks like with one word, what might that word be. The two thought for a moment, and Katrine gave her response with conviction – yes. Yes, she will go for a walk with Gaetan with a moment’s notice. Yes, she will listen to his creative ideas to emotionally battle this formidable foe. Yes, she will treasure each second they have together, both while it is simple and when it gets complicated.

Though not as dramatic or significant, I have engaged the notion of yes these last few weeks. When the sun is shining, yes, I will take myself out and walk and breathe in the fresh air even if the to do list is a long one, because anything on that list isn’t going anywhere. Yes, I will eat the sweet honey from Seven Bends Honey Farm in Stratton, sent to me by Ken and Lorraine McDonald even though I was tempted to save it as a reminder of their kindness. Yes, I will take every opportunity to tell those who are precious to me that I love them. That’s just for starters.


I think maybe this pandemic has been a gigantic wake-up call, a reminder of what is important and what we can do without. It has been a huge pain-in-the-neck for sure, but there has been an upside to it as well. I think we have woken up to realize that things are not as important as relationships, relationships with our children, with our parents, with our friends, with people we encounter in our neighbourhoods, with people we collide with in the grocery store. I think we have woken up to realize that we can provide services differently, we can deliver education using alternative tools, we can make do with less, we can be creative in how we communicate, and we can make certain those we love and cherish know how we feel about them. And this pandemic has taught us that saying yes to kindness will always lead us to where we need to go.

wendistewart@live.ca