In Fine Fettle: Saying yes to saying no

By Ammi Midstokke
Reader Health Columnist

All winter long, I fantasize about the activities of the summer. This is going to be the summer, I think, the summer I get wicked ripped, learn how to water ski and beat my dad’s legendary Gold Hill time.

Ammi Midstokke.

I also commit to not making the same mistakes I make every other summer: over-planning, over-committing and over-consuming. Come to think of it, I make that commitment every holiday season too. Then on New Years. Then when school starts. I see the pattern, I’m just not sure how to break it.

If there were a magical word, some sort of spell I could utter while waving my kid’s Harry Potter wand (“You can collect them all!” she says), I would. I don’t know why it took me 40 years to figure out that word is “no.”

We live, after all, in a yes town. If ever there was a yes town, it’s a mountain town that panders to pretty much any outdoor sporting activity you can hope for: a farmer’s market, a music festival, fantastic dining opportunities, theater, pubs and more. Yes! I want to do all the things! Especially after a long winter when all the things involved the singularity of snow removal.

Summer is a time of replenishing and growth. We eat lighter, brighter foods, the salads and fruits that add hydration and nutrient-density to our active lifestyles, be it weeding or mountain biking. And yet, it is also a time of outward energy: heavy on the socializing, hosting of friends, playing hard. 

I often fail to maintain the balance in those things. In Chinese medicine, this is the yin to the yang, which nature will reestablish on its own terms if I don’t pay attention. Usually by walloping me with a flu, which all of us know just incapacitates our ability to send energy outward. 

Worse even than getting the flu is when I stop enjoying the activities, friends or family I am engaged with. 

Someone once asked me (likely regurgitated from a Tony Robbins spiel), “When you say no to something, what are you saying yes to?” This appeals to my Fear of Missing Out persona. 

Today, I said no to CrossFit, and I am battling the fear that I will never be able to do an unassisted set of pull-ups, or I will miss some hilarious exchange between friends. I therefore said yes to sleeping in past sunrise, drinking a cup of coffee on the sun porch while my daughter explained the intricacies of her latest art project, getting caught up on laundry, finishing several tasks that were spinning in my head and feeling surprisingly less stressed. 

Most of the time, when we say no to one thing, we are saying yes to a number of other things that nurture and replenish us. When we say no to more cocktails, we’re often saying yes to more water. When we say no to that umpteenth summer barbecue, we’re saying yes to that book we’ve been enjoying, or a quiet conversation with our spouse, or just a good night’s sleep.

It is all a reminder to live with intention, rather than just set intention. Most of us are great at that initial step. Getting distracted is easy. Take a moment to yourself this week to breathe, say no a few times, and embrace all the nourishment that results. And also, eat some salads and fresh fruit because the Farmer’s Market is hopping and those are always good for the soul.

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