Joseph Campbell, the author of The Hero’s Journey, says: “The warrior’s approach is to say, ‘yes’ to life; ‘yes’ to it all.” How many of us do that?
It’s easy to say, “yes” to our favorite dessert; it’s more difficult when a plate of our least favorite vegetables is placed in front of us. Saying “yes” doesn’t make us better or stronger than someone who says “no” — even when that person is us.
However, it is important to explore our reasons for saying “yes” and “no” and to trust when it may be best to change our answer.
I was recently asked to present a two- to three-minute prayer that represents my spiritual path at the National Day of Prayer for Unity and Reconciliation. The Lake Worth Interfaith Network is sponsoring the event, which will be held on Thursday, May 6, from 6 to 7 p.m. at Bryant Park in Lake Worth Beach, Fla.
In the past my inner judge and critic would likely have shouted “No! I’m not doing it!” Speaking in public can fill me with anxiety. Then I would have beat myself up for not having the courage to do it anyway.
I might have rationalized my decision in any number of ways: I have too much going on, which is sort of true; I’ll just be getting back from a 9-day stay in Mexico, which is definitely true; or, my favorite argument, surely, they can find someone more worthy than me. I have no idea if that one is true or not — but I can convince myself.
Under all these excuses, of course, is fear. Fear of being judged. Fear of not saying something inspirational enough for the occasion. Fear of identifying in public as a Mystic. Fear of making a fool of myself.
Perhaps my biggest fear is moving and being “seen” in front of others. It started when I was a kid and someone in seventh grade asked me why I walked so funny. I was certain it had something to do with being gay because nearly everything in my life did at that time. I became self-conscious of the way I walk and move ever since.
As an introvert who is more comfortable on a screen than a stage, Zoom has been a safe space for me. I have been able to be seen in a setting where I have more control.
Fortunately, our world is opening again, even though it means people like me have to begin to integrate back into the old way of being. On Thursday, May 6, I will be doing that as I stand on stage in an outdoor amphitheater in front of a large crowd.
“No!” I mean “Yes!”
Sometimes we have to move out of our comfort zone to show up in the world. This is one of those times for me.
Fortunately, my inner critic and inner warrior are not as much at odds these days. I am usually able to override what is holding me back to do what is right instead. In this case, it is to help celebrate prayer, unity and reconciliation.
If I walk in a jerky or robotic way as I leave the stage, if my legs feel like they are going to go out from under me, that’s okay. It’s worth it.
Tomorrow my partner and I will be putting our beloved Mikey down. He is completely deaf and blind. His dementia is growing worse every day. He spends hours walking in tiny circles. But his tail still wags when he pees, and he acts like a puppy when he smells his food being delivered.
Mikey’s been a member of our family for 17 years. He is the quintessential “good boy.” Even though we have never cured him of his passion for eating poop, or his unpredictable bathroom habits (one time he even peed in his own food bowl), we are going to miss him — a lot.
We have been saying “no” to euthanasia for months now, rationalizing along the way: Is he really that bad? Are we just growing tired of tending to his incessant needs? Is this yet one more reminder of our own mortality?
In the end, though, we finally realized that saying “yes” in this case is the humane thing to do. To say “no” would be thinking only about ourselves and not Mikey’s highest good. It would be saying we don’t trust in the eternal promise.
Every day, each one of us is faced with decisions. No matter how insignificant or monumental they may seem, our response matters. Sometimes we have to say “yes,” even when it means being in discomfort or letting go.
As Regina Sara Ryan says in Praying Dangerously: “Let us say, ‘yes,’ again and again and again. And ‘yes’ some more. Let us pray dangerously. The most dangerous prayer is ‘yes.’ "