The Circle
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The Circle

The refusal.

As we get older, we spend a lot of time in our lives, lamenting over the times we said ‘no’ to the little things.

The slice of cake, that in the end probably would not have made a difference to our waist, but means we’ll have never tasted that vanilla frosting.

The last swim at the beach, the absence of which tingles on the way home more than the water itself.

That extra time, that might have meant met them, made it, or knew.

It’s exhausting.

On the other hand when we do celebrate the art of refusal, it is a weapon.

Our successful leaders refused more than they accepted, and that is how they reached the top of the hierarchy. Our great sportspeople made sacrifices, that allowed them to rise above the 99.9% of mortals to achieve the gold medal.

If we believe the hype, then the art of successful negotiation of life, appears to lie in the strategic and habitual use of the refusal.

So which is it? Should we always say ‘no’, or never?

Refusing, seems to be the extreme sport of decision making, with great highs and lows. Great achievements and sacrifice. Deep thought and emotional labour. Obligations and irreversible implications.

Was it always like this?

When we were young, wasn’t it just another word? Just another option? Did we not just wear acceptance and refusal as lightly as each other? Didn’t we just refuse, and move on?

It doesn’t matter, I’ll do it next time. I’ll have another chance. I don’t feel like it right now.

But the weight of ‘no’ seems to loom as we get older.

We become overwhelmed by the heavy weight of implications. The comparisons to others, who have been impossibly successful by saying-no-to-these-seven-things. Or those who know the-secret-to-saying-no.

We become paralysed by the inability to walk away from anything, because everything we ever refuse is analysed and over-thought. Whatever we refuse, feels like somehow we are starting again.

We keep saying yes. We forget the breathe. We believe our path, is our path.

The modern world feeds off this scarcity. It plays with us. It convinces us to wear ‘yes’ lightly, but to search the depths, the expanse, the great plains of ‘no’ until it consumes us.

It convinces us that refusal is the riskiest option, whilst even portraying acceptance as a leap. But a leap of faith, not a leap into the abyss.

Let’s instead, start treating ‘yes’ and ‘no’ in the same way.

Understanding that every choice comes with things you will gain, and that you will lose.

And that’s OK. Because neither is a snowball on a mountainside. There is no hurling descent, we can accept or refuse the same thing the next time, even if it seems like we are changing our mind. Maybe we are. And maybe it’s because we just feel like it, this time.

We don’t need to examine either more closely than the other.

If we really want to live a life we love, we have to learn this principle. We need to learn to take each decision in the moment on the weight of information we have right now. Because right now is all we have.

Right now you can be vulnerable enough to be wrong. Right now you can be brave enough to change your mind.

To edit, and re-edit our lives continuously, taking each twist and turn as a gift from the past.

When we refuse, we are not running away. We are just at a junction. Both paths are the same, they just lead in different directions. We can turn back. We can keep going. We can walk. We can run.

Trust yourself.

What do you feel like today?



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Ian McClellan

Ian McClellan

Writing for meditation. Reading to learn. Independent writer. Aspiring human.