By: Mary Pat Baldauf
“Say yes more.” – Danny Wallace, Yes Man
Have you seen the movie Yes Man? Carl Allen (played by Jim Carrey) is stuck in a rut with his negative ways. Then he goes to a self-help seminar and learns to unleash the power of yes. Living in the affirmative leads him to all sorts of amazing and transforming experiences; he gets a job promotion, and even finds a new romance. But Carl finds that too much of anything, even positive thinking, is not necessarily a good thing. I have my own Yes Man experience.
The week of March 2015 was not unlike any other week for me. Easter was upon us, and people on Facebook were starting to post about what they would be giving up for Lent. After I saw a third friend giving up chocolate for Lent, it occurred to me that I wanted to give up something more meaningful than chocolate, something that could change my life. I decided to give up my comfort zone.
In true Mary Pat fashion, once I decided what to give up, I jumped right in. That week, I went out with a guy I would have never gone out with, to get out of my comfort zone. We went to a concert in Charleston, again out of my comfort zone, especially on a first date. We saw Modest Mouse, a band I was unfamiliar with, you guessed it, to get out of my comfort zone.
As I was thinking of more ways to get out of my comfort zone and eating way too many dark chocolate covered espresso beans, I had a strange sensation in my head. It felt like pins and needles down my part line. Then it felt like someone poured a Sonic slush on top of my head. Freezing cold sensation ran down the sides of my head. I told my sister that something was wrong, that I thought I may be dying. She asked about going to the ER, but I chalked it up to a caffeine overload from the espresso beans and chocolate. So I went to bed.
Two weeks later, I woke up in the hospital. I was told that I’d had a brain aneurysm rupture. I had a trach, and I couldn’t talk or walk. Y’all are familiar with the rest of the story. That was the beginning of a four month ordeal that included nearly dying, coming back to and then going to Atlanta for rehabilitation.
I could speak forever on the challenges I overcame and trials I experienced, but the point is this: it left me with a burning desire to experience life to the fullest in the second chance I had been given. And while many of you made resolutions to say no to more things in 2016 to preserve your sanity and your time, I made one to say yes more often, and I encourage you to do the same.
Mother Theresa once said: “Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.”
I am beginning by trying to say yes more often.
Before the aneurysm (B.A.), I was a bit of a homebody. If something occurred after work, I would either say no or wish I’d said no. You know the feeling. You agree to something after work because it sounded fun at the time, but when the day rolled around, you just wanted to go home, get comfortable and enjoy your evening on your own time. You may’ve even told a white lie to get out of doing it.
Over the Christmas holidays, I was like the character in Yes Man. I could’ve missed Christmas 2015, so I set out to enjoy my second chance by experiencing it to the fullest. I don’t think I turned down even one party invitation. I saw the lights at Saluda Shoals Park – twice. I lit the Advent candle at church. I volunteered to help homeless children shop for their families. I went to tree lightings, holiday celebrations and wore seasonal clothes. I sat on Santa’s lap multiple times. (And I got pictures each time.)
It was a great holiday season, but by Christmas Eve, it had really taken a toll on me. I realized that unlike the character in the movie, you can’t always say yes. You have to weigh your priorities, health and well-being, along with some good common sense. I had a great holiday season, but by Christmas Eve, I was exhausted. And likely because I was pushing myself so hard, an infection I picked up in the hospital came back with a vengeance.
Now, I am in the yes mindset, but more reasonably. Hopefully, I still have plenty of time to experience the things I want to experience, so I don’t have to push myself as if it were my last month on Earth. But I am trying to say yes to more opportunities presented to me. I don’t want to miss anything.