I do not remember the number of times I have said NO in my head. That count runs towards infinity. And, therefore the number of times that NO left the tongue as YES. Yes, it was always a YES.
So, my pet peeve about YES takes me back to my hostel days. Those were the best days of my life. I found the soul sisters who helped me evolve and grow into a person I am now. It is those beautiful sine waves of best laughs and worst fights that strung us into a beautiful friendship where we as adults just let each one be, the way they are. That respect is not only hard earned but comes into the circle only when we all learned to fight our own battles without succumbing to the sympathy wave that would often accompany dark times. However, in the early days when we were young females transitioning through fairy tale friendships, infatuations and college romances that never left the college (some however did and culminated into blissful marriages), I had trouble saying NO when I wanted to say NO. For the unitiated, we were a group of 8 and were popularly known as the Octopus. And, we would have food together, no matter what! Well, the food was not always bearable but what made it bearable was the company we had of each other. I still remember the beautiful manner in which one of the group members would neatly stack the rotis to one side, place all the bowls having dal and the sabzis to another and position the rice in the centre. The food was never tasty but the manner in which she would arrange the food in her plate could invoke hunger even in a stomach that was full!
Well, the sight of this friend arranging the food neatly and eating them in small bites helped me savour the food in a different way. However, the timings couldn’t catch up with all the asthetics. The group would always be late for lunch and on most days, we would end up eating lunch and dinner a few minutes before the closing hours. I, for one needs the food hot. It took me a lot of contemplation and thought before I walked up to my friends and said, “I am going early for lunch and dinner.”
I think it offended the group that day and, they may have felt I couldn’t hold for a few more minutes. However, the truth stayed as truth. Hunger pangs bit me at 12pm and 7 Pm sharp. And, it made me miserable to eat the food cold that I could have had hot considering how unappetising the food usually was. That said, years later we still are a group of great friends who are the best shoulders to lean on. No questions asked and no judgements. Those kind of soul sisters are keepers for life.
Well that said, saying NO is not quite the cake walk I had imagined. Years later, I struggled with this syndrome wherever I went. It was never about what the world will say. It was the doubt that lingered behind, the doubt about whether saying NO was the right thing to do and, if it was, was it timed well?
Frankly, I have never been sure of the NOs I have mouthed. But, have I felt a relief after saying so? Definitely.
A NO to attending weddings that I was invited to, a NO to dinner parties that we were expected to be a part of, a NO to social obligations I never followed from my heart, a NO to people who bully, a NO to people who sweet talk you into saying a YES & a NO for a million reasons!
And yet again, I am reminded of a different timeline that saw me as a worker bee in the corporate. Those were the days when I loved to shop and loved to savour food at all fancy restaurants. However, there were those days too when I could be spotted cozying up at a C-Cday with a book and a hot chocolate or, a chocolate truffle. My roomates could never understand how I was able to visit cafes alone. Well, post marriage when I worked as a content writer at a firm, I would often stop to have breakfast at an Udupi outlet neat my office. It wasn’t quite abnormal for men to breakfast alone. However, for a lady to do the same, it seemed unusual to many eyes. This was about a decade back. I hope, the perception has changed. For many of my friends and acquaintance then, this was perceived as odd. However, I felt quite in my element in that alone time. It helped me figure my day out in my head. It also kind of explains why I felt motivated to write 3 to 4 articles a day on any topics osciallting between extremely mindboggling and absolutely boring. Well, one might wonder where the NO fit here. Well, it does. A NO to the patterns we have been conditioned to follow often opens up paths we never knew of.
Writing happened for me because I closed one door by choice only to open another with absolutely no expectations. While I closed the first door NOT because I hated where that door led me to, but because I couldn’t date myself while that door was open. And, losing connect with self is like a termite attack! It happens slowly and steadily and one wouldn’t know when and where the whole tree of life went!
NO is a powerful word. In fact, it is a one word powerful sentence too. It cannot be used frivolously. It cannot be flung on a whim. It cannot be thrown like a stone at the world just because the world continues to be depressing and regressive by design.
It has to be earned. Saying a NO has to be a right that you have rightfully earned only because you realized the YES MAN/WOMAN syndrome has a crippling effect on your persona and it is changing you into something that your conscience won’t embrace. And when that right is earned, NO becomes a powerful cannon that instills either fear or respect or both wherever it goes.
That said, even the most indulgent mind will always be left with the a tiny guilt – the guilt of saying NO.
For humans are innately designed to be social animals. Offending the tribe causes bad blood and pain. Animals on the other hand do not mind being ostracized. If the territory is lost, it is lost. There is no onslaught of depressing thoughts on how a battle that was lost could have been won. And it is here, the mind of a man differs from that of an animal.
Expectations must be met. Else, disappointments unload themselves into deep resentment and unfulfilled passions.
Some continue to slog knowing that expectations are seldom met.
Some continue to dwell in laziness and self apathy knowing that expectations are seldom met.
And, there is this thin line between expecations to meet and expecations to be understood. And, it is walking the tight rope as the guilt of saying no looms large over the walk. Will that guilt ever die completely?
That is the elusive answer that no mind shall ever disclose. Because, that answer is not meant to be known. It is meant to be accepted. Not by the world. But, by self. First.