We live in a world in 2022 where two opposing mindsets seem to prevail. One has an acronym– FOMO– “fear of missing out”, which results in saying “yes” basically to everything for no other reason than the worry of missing something, and the other is the long-standing concept of the art of saying “no”. I thought about this the other day when I went to True Nature Healing Arts in Carbondale, CO and settled in their sunroom for a few hours, devoting time to think about this coming year and my life, notating my aspirations; assessing and planning how to savor the gift of this life I love so much. It’s stressful to me when it feels like my life is passing by in inertia. I can’t live like that, especially after the experience of Peyton’s childhood cancer. Life is too precious. I am most comfortable with a good mix of planned focus and spontaneity.
When we make plans or think about those things we desire most, there is a juxtaposition of yes and no. We say “no” to some things in order to say “yes” to other things. And the opposite is true – “yes” to some things, means “no” to other things. I thought about this while considering and imagining good things for this year, and while doing so an article I read way back in early 2010 came to mind. I still think about this article from time to time, and even twelve years later, because it was that life-changing for me. Later that same year in 2010, Peyton would be diagnosed with leukemia and the wisdom in that article was a major guide to me during his cancer treatment years.
I picked up a magazine in a waiting room and opened it to a page with an image of a woman in a bright, red jacket looking down at her son as he looked off into the distance. They were holding hands, standing on a rock on a high mountain peak. Written in first person by the woman in the picture, she described that in that moment looking down at her son she wished for more time to say many more “yeses” to him.
She asked the question both of herself and the reader – ”We say ‘no’ too easily to so many of the most important things in life. Why?” I remember reading and rereading her very personal thoughts she shared accompanying this question that I have had it memorized all these years – “How often I said “no” when I should have said “yes”. How many times I knew I should have said ‘yes’ to him, but thought there is always another day.”
Ten months at most. That’s how much time her 9-year old son was given to live when he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. She wanted the rest of the time he had to be filled with “yeses”. She vowed she would not say a single “no” to him, that she’d find other things that were a “yes”, if the things he wanted to do could not happen.
That was the first story I had ever read about childhood cancer. It left an impression on me because it was the first child I learned of that died from cancer, but it also left a strong impression on me because it began a practice of considering where I say no or yes and what the reasons are for either. This has become a great gift to me in my life to have this perspective. I’ve seen my happiness wax or wane depending on what I choose or allow to affect those yes/no decisions.
It’s a new year and I hope to fill it with “yeses” that I know should be “yeses” and not “no’s”!
There is a grave truth (one of many) about childhood cancer and that is – although no one wants children to experience, endure and even die from cancer, there will always be some of the greatest wisdom in the world that comes from it. It’s the kind of wisdom that can only come from something that is connected to children and it truly changes you, changes your heart, the way you see and think and listen and love…forever.Jess is Peyton’s mom and co-founder of Peyton’s Potion. She is a Life Story journal writer and storyteller. Jess has been keeping journals from a young age. Her journal entries throughout Peyton’s cancer treatment were also posted regularly on caringbridge.org.