Letting Life Lead
My favorite line in one of my favorite books is: There was no one there to tell her she couldn’t.
It’s a line from Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean Auel. A pretty long book for a twelve-year-old. It certainly had the smallest print I had ever encountered at the time. The main character, Ayla, had taught herself how to toss stones with a sling shot and began hunting predators in secret because she wasn’t supposed to be touching a weapon much less hunting at all. A very dangerous encounter with a larger predator planted the idea in her head that she needed to learn to toss two stones in rapid succession in case she missed the first shot. It never occurred to her that learning to use the sling was hard, but learning to throw two stones most certainly impossible. She did it because no one was there to advise so.
It wasn’t until I wandered into my late thirties and entered my forties that I began to see that we live in a land of no. No, you can’t wear white after labor day. No, don’t mismatch your socks. No, don’t mix patterns. No, don’t put mayonnaise on your french fries. No, you can’t do that. And we say no a lot to children without realizing how often we are saying it, and then we are surprised when “no” is among their first words.
Saying yes in a land of do nots, can be a difficult habit to form. It can be even harder to let go of old habits and rules we’ve held onto without knowing why they exist or why we continue to do them. It can take years to sort through the lot and discard things you do absentmindedly, and it can be surprisingly hard to let others go. And when you get called for the hundredth time to play a game you have no interest in while you are in the middle of the perpetual toilet cleaning task, you can’t help but growl, “No!”
Yet, there are opportunities where we can say yes. Yes, you can go sledding in the backyard in the dark. Yes, go to bed without changing into pajamas. Yes, end a sentence with a preposition if you want to! What are you afraid of? Yes, paint with your feet. Yes, make mud pies. Yes, eat dessert first. Yes, run out in the rain with no rain gear. Yes, dive into the twelve-foot end of the pool even though I can’t join you and your only hope is the lifeguard — I know you can do it!
I want my children to have a moment in their lives that sticks out for them and tells them that impossible doesn’t mean you can’t try, it just means that you might not succeed right away. I want them to be able to tell themselves, yes (and save the no for the stuff that counts)! And, most of all I don’t want myself to tell me I can’t do something anymore because it is really starting to piss me off.
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