Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Saying Yes! by Amy Halloran

A guest post today by one of my favorite writers: Amy Halloran, from Troy, New York—author of the new book: "The New Bread Basket”:

Spring makes it so easy to say yes. The sense of potential and beauty in each burst daffodil, each exploding peony makes me accept every offer that heads in my direction. By May I’m a tumble of projects and commitments I’m not sure I’ll be able to finish or keep. Then I wish I were a little more hesitant, like my sister, who carefully weighs each opportunity and impulse. Elissa is glad, though, that me and my yes’s were with her one cold January morning a few years ago.
We were taking a walk near her house in Albany’s Washington Park. Waiting for a light to change, we stood with a little black and white dog and its owner.
“Nice dog,” Elissa said. 
The woman held out the dog’s leash, which was not attached, and said, “Do you want him?”
My sister immediately said no. 
“Yes you do,” I said in a big fast voice. We had been making this decision for years. When she first opened her jewelry store on Lark Street, she longed for a dog. I babysat for a family who had a Jack Russell terrier, and its personality seemed good for a shop dog, so I told her she should get one.
Almost fifteen years later, this little dog was skittish in the cold, and lunging toward morning traffic. Elissa reached for him, and held him by the collar. 
"I came out here to find somebody to take care of JoJo," the woman told us. She’d just had knee surgery and couldn’t take care of the dog. 
“What should I do?” my sister asked me.
“If you don’t take him, a car will,” I said, handing her the leash. “We can always give it away again.”
Elissa suggested we walk the woman home. This way, she, we could see if the woman was giving away someone else’s pet. 
Elissa and the little dog walked in front of the woman and me. They looked so natural together. I got absorbed in the woman's story. She was telling me that she was going to rehab. She was selling the pain pills from her knee surgery so she could buy alcohol. She loved JoJo but the only person she knew to take care of him was on a suicide watch. So she had to give the dog away. When we got to where the woman lived, Elissa asked me if she should do this. 
“Yes,” I said, big sister sure.
JoJo landed perfectly in her life. She has always loved animals, and loves having a dog. I can’t believe she didn’t have one for so long. He has a bed at the store and at home. He comes on visits to my house and to our parents’ house. He walks with us in parks. I call him my nephew. 
I love that little lesson in yes. Even though I’m a habitual Yesser, I still need to see what kind of doors that single word can open. 
Six years ago, I almost said NO to a new friend who suggested we take a Pilates class at the gym, but I dove in against my fear. Organized exercise intimidates me, but I wanted to spend time with this person, so I said yes.
Tuesday and Thursday mornings I moved my body as instructed, and pretty soon, I exercised my most prominent muscle: storytelling. From the stories I told and heard, I got ideas for articles to write. Pilates also led to a job teaching at Russell Sage College, and cooking at Unity House. I marvel how one little yes stitched me to so much of my future. 
A friend of mine teaches improvisation in theaters and less likely places, like businesses and schools. When I told him about my love of the affirmative, he said that the first rule of improv is to enter a scene saying yes, and expanding on that yes together. 
But yes is hard to achieve in established relationships. At work and home, we hurt each other and those hurts make us defensive. Trying to be open to each other and grant each other more yeses than no’s is tough.

I’m not saying everything deserves a Yes. Some offers and ideas deserve no’s: the ones that will lead you into debt, diabetes, or other burdens. It is hard to know which hesitations should be obeyed, and which are just feathers of fear you have to blow away. 

I don’t know if I will ever be able to tell the difference, but I am trying. And I am happy I was there to guide my sister to JoJo. He is maybe my favorite Yes yet. ********
Amy Halloran is a writer and cook in Troy, New York. She is curious about change and food. Her book, The New Bread Basket: How the New Crop of Grain Growers, Plant Breeders, Millers, Maltsters, Bakers, Brewers, and Local Food Activists Are Redefining Our Daily Loaf.”
You can read more of Amy’s writing at http://amyhalloran.net.

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