Health

Would you ever say yes to everything for a year?

Sarah Treleaven said yes to everything for a year. It was exciting. It was exotic. It was totally exhausting. Learn how balancing yes and no can bring the happy.

Woan travelling with passport and suitcase

Photo: Getty Images

A couple of years ago, at the end of yet another spectacularly mediocre relationship, after ordering the same vodka soda in the same bar in the same neighbourhood yet again, I felt stuck in a rut and in need of a little excitement. So I decided to alter my approach to life and started saying yes to everything: parties, dinners, favours, work assignments, dates and far-flung travel plans. I wanted to see what would happen if I challenged my comfort zone and let life have its way with me.

I lived out of a suitcase taking many early-morning flights, meeting countless wonderful new people and eating, shopping and mingling my way through the days. I ate five types of Turkish delight in Istanbul, rented a tiny apartment in Paris overlooking the Marais and stood on a hilltop in Jerusalem just in time to catch the symphonic call to prayer. I made out with a man 10 years my junior. I propelled myself forward, determined not to miss a thing.

Alas, as with everything, there are consequences. Juggling friends, family, work and travel became overwhelming; my savings dwindled; and the circles under my eyes grew noticeably bigger.

It was time for yet another change. I needed to slow down, be in bed before 2 a.m., read more books and finally get around to the projects I’ve been putting off forever. (Hello, built-in bookshelves and erotic novel outline!) I decided to bring back ‘no’. I can now focus on appreciating the relationships I already have, rather than pursuing an expanding circle of lovely but transient acquaintances. Trading big-city glitz for down-home comfort may sound boring, but I was happy to shelve my sequined heels for sensible loafers. When it came right down to it, that’s what I needed.

Saying yes to everything was exciting because it offered a sense of possibility. But I’ve also discovered that saying no is actually a way of saying yes to all the good stuff I already have in my life. I now have time to chat to the friends who regularly FedEx smoked meat to me from Montreal, to see my nephews who gain mystifying new skills between visits and enjoy the delicious homemade meals that my boyfriend (who came along when I least expected it) loves to cook. Turns out life doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing proposition.

Right now, my happiness plan involves staring at the frostbitten trees through a lightly fogged window, making pulled-pork sandwiches for friends and family between feeling warm dog breath on my legs at home in my own bed. I now choose to say yes to myself. After such a lengthy period when I almost never stood still, I can honestly say that it’s good to be home.