I'm not saying it was a particularly good movie, but I will say it got me to thinking. The main character, Carl, attends a self-help seminar where he is challenged to say "Yes'" to everything. Yes to every invitation, yes to every opportunity, yes to everyone.
Of course he misunderstands the "everything" and takes it literally, saying yes to things one obviously shouldn't (endangering your health, allowing the elderly, dentured next door lady to, well, uh, nevermind...) but you get the idea. The general lesson is that by saying yes to life, and saying yes to people, Carl's life goes from being somewhat lonely and meaningless, to being full and engaged.
I say yes to a lot, but I also say no to a lot. My excuses are the usual litany of: I'm tired, it's late or I'm too busy. The trouble is, when you look back on your life, it's not the times you said "no" that you'll remember, but all the times you said "yes."
I lost an old friend last week. I've written a blog or two about it but I haven't been able to get the words quite right. Even writing about it right now feels wrong because these words are all about me, and not about my friend. But the overwhelming feeling I've been having is one of regret. Regret for not making time for my friend. Regret for not staying in touch. Regret for not being there.
All the times we said "no" are the times we regret. Do we ever regret "yes?" Yes if it comes from a friend, an opportunity, a charity? The words "Make Time" keep running through my head. Make time for friends. Make time to catch up. Make time for the park. Make time for volunteerism. Make time for coffee. Make time for your child's classroom parties. Make time for life.
It will all be gone before I know it. My friend had just turned 40. My friend was teaching and coaching up until three weeks ago. I did not make time for my friend. There is no way I can make that up to her. The only thing I am left with is the rest of my life, and the friends who are still here.
In her honor, in her memory, I vow to make time. I will say yes. I will reach out. I write these words and realize they may sound hollow. Perhaps for people who've dealt with death more than I have, they will recognize the folly in thinking I can change because of the immediate pain of loss. But I think for those of us who've managed to overcome a whole helluva a lot in life, we have a sort of faith in ourselves and know that we are capable of amazing growth and change. I don't think it's ever too late. I believe in the redemption of souls and in second chances.
I think my friend is whispering those words to me. I can hear her telling me it's not too late.
I've been in survival mode for so long now, it seems I'd forgotten how to live. Sure I've managed happiness, I've managed to find love again, I've managed to not only raise a child on my own but I've watched him thrive. But life is more than just our immediate demands and our immediate family. It's time to say "yes" to a much broader range of people and experiences. Yes to all life has to offer. Yes to friends. Yes to work. Yes to risk. Yes to inconvenience. Yes to strangers. Yes to things I think I won't like but maybe I will, if I give it a chance.
Perhaps that's all life is in the end: a long list of opportunities you can either embrace or reject. Those opportunities are attached to people. Those people are the relationships that make up your life and fill it with meaning. Saying yes is really about saying yes to the people you love or the people you may grow to love.
Yes, yes, yes.
It's never too late to say yes.