In 1991 a man fell off a ladder. That slip, on that multi-runged tool, lead to my mother building houses in Helena, Montana for over 25 years. A man shatters his elbow in a freak, once-in-a-blue-moon accident that no one can remember ever seeing happen before, whilst pitching in a baseball game. 50 years later, that man is still coaching baseball at a professional level, award winning for his service to the sport and the shaping of young minds and careers. Half the battle, they say, is showing up. The other half, they don’t say quite as often, is saying Yes when the Universe asks you strange questions, when it opens doors that you previously didn’t know existed, or worse, previously told yourself you’d never walk through.
I’ve never actually asked either of them this, so I might be talking out of the sun-starved part of my anatomy, but I would wager a guess that as my Dad worked his way up the professional baseball ranks as an extremely talented pitcher, the idea of being a coach never entered his brain. I can say, with relative confidence, that I don’t believe before that man fell of that ladder, my Mom ever considered a career as the only female-contractor in our town that would span a quarter of a century, not when she was raising three kids, not when she was a package handler at UPS, not when she was a full-time substitute teacher. Still, here we sit, my Dad having just completed another season at Spring Training, my Mom still on a first name basis with just about every employee at every hardware store in town. Magic, I guess, lives in Yes.
I’ve spoken of this before, the power of Yes, and while even typing that makes me feel like Tony Robbins or Deepak Chopra, dammit, the truth of it remains:
If half the battle is in fact showing up, then it is true, and it’ll always be true, that saying Yes is the other half.
A half dozen or so years ago, a random message came into my feed on Twitter offering a guided tour of the U.S. Capitol while Lady G and I were photographing a job in Washington D.C. We had no idea who the offerer was, but always up for a random adventure, for another strange story to tell when we’re old people, we accepted the invite. Within 30 minutes, we were taking Obama’s little underground train and got a personally guided tour of the entire U.S. Capitol, even getting to go places the normal tours don’t get to go, by a Senator’s aide. It was one of the most fun, interesting, and random things, but to this day we remember it so fondly. We said yes when the inspiring Mary Alice Stephenson reached out, about 10 years ago, and asked us to fly to Brooklyn to be part of her charity project, Glam4Good, something way outside what we normally did photographically, and we ended up meeting so many inspiring people that were helping girls that lived in New York. We said yes when two crazy Malibu artists reached out and asked us to help promote their stunning kantha fuzz blankets, and ended up making lifelong friends in the process. We said yes when two other LA ladies reached out and asked if we wanted to collaborate on a jewelry project, we now call them amazing friends, and we’ve made almost a dozen different collaborative pieces together.
When Sarah came to me and gently asked if I’d be willing to share the poetry I was writing with a larger audience, if I’d be willing to post photos of them on Instagram despite the fact that I never intended on anyone, anywhere, reading them, I said yes. My entire life changed with that Yes. Chasers of the Light was born from it, the book, the company, the ethos. Our friendship grew, blossomed into a love, into a passionate, deep, and wild love that never stops evolving, even as we say yes to a million other possibilities.
What’s fascinating to my little brain, is that in today’s world, we seem to all need to cultivate the skill of saying No more, as we’ve become so conditioned to just saying Yes at our own expenses, we get lost along the way. My argument, and one I’m sticking to, is that while we do need to improve our “no” skills, we still need to say Yes, we just need to get a hell of a lot better deciphering between things worthy of a Yes, and things that demand a No. Oof, that was a sentence. I’m not going to stand here and say we just have to arbitrarily say Yes to everything, no matter the danger it puts us in, the warning signs along the way, that we disregard our own safety, exhaustion, or emotional integrity, as that couldn’t be the furthest thing from what I’m advocating for. What I am saying is, saying a triumphant if terrified YES to strange invitations from a delightfully strange universe. YES to the things that stretch our comfort zones, that are that bombastic mix of random and oddly, perfectly timed. I suppose then, we should be better at saying YES to saying No from time to time, as no will always have its reasons, and its justifications, but it remains to me, yes is the key to the magic. Always will be.
I lived a life half-afraid of saying yes for far too long, and while it probably felt safer, more secure, more routine, and comforting, it also locked me into the house I called home, the block that house sat on the tiny town in a great big state that I’d known so much of my life. I forgot of the world outside my door, outside my comfort zone that I had so carefully cultivated, and in that heartbreaking process, I forgot myself. That’s the key about yes, in my humble opinion, it doesn’t just unlock the magic in the world beyond, it unlocks the magic in ourselves. Yes becomes the permission to reach higher, to stretch further, to see ourselves not as spectators in this wild world, but participants, but main characters in the grand tale the universe is telling. What a thing.
A man falls from a ladder, a man shatters his elbow, a man posts a poem onto a social media platform built for photos, not poetry, and then, for each, a life explodes into focus, a path is rearranged, a journey begun. If half the battle is showing up to this life, the other half is saying yes when it asks.
I don’t know what questions the universe is asking you, but I’m going to ask you one now, and I’m going to hope you say Yes, even if it’s the first Yes you’ve said in a long time. Let this be the first of many, let it be the slip off the ladder, the elbow, the shatter, let it be the caution thrown to the wind:
Will you say Yes, for you, for me, for the universe that’s asking, to the next question that stirs your soul?
Say yes. I’ll say it too, and we’ll see where we meet up.
See you there.
No has its reasons,
excuses for our safety.
Magic lives in Yes.