The Art and Grace of ‘No’

Life is full of questions, and questions are a substantial aspect of life in general. The insomniac dilemma of should or should nots; the severeity of decision making; the worry of whether to move forward or not; the anxiety of the answer. Questions in life are like the water in a watermelon, comprising about 90 percent of the entiriety. Except, life doesn’t derive it’s name from ‘questions’.

Thankfully not – it’s the apparent hiddenness yet omnipresence of questions affecting humankind which make them even more enticing to a mind. Usually, the appeal is after the solutions are sought and the answers found – prior to that the questions are different beasts; which need to be tackled, fought, defeated or overcomed. It is after the ‘beast’ is down and you triumphantly put a foot over it that one thinks about the learnings and takes them into deeper consideration. That’s when the lessons transform into philosophy. Let’s just say, a philosopher is just a PTSD patient who’s slayed too many of the ‘beasts’, aka questions.

It is pretty evident then, that the dominion of a question depends on the answer. Upon further, easy introspection, one realises that the true power rests in a negative response – a quick positive answer to a question dents the question’s potency to affect and teach. Clearly, the root of all things related to postive growth in a question comes out of a negative answer.

People generally say, ‘learn to say “no”‘. Which is fine, but more importantly I say, learn to accept a ‘no’.

Lots of arguments have been made in support of saying no – it is not an easy task. You need to be sometimes blunt, while you need to be crafty on the other times. It is about staying true to yourself and being honest – either brutally or subtly.

However, if you learn to say ‘no’ to protect yourself, you must also accept a ‘no’ to protect others around you. If it is an art to say ‘no’, it is very gracious to accept a ‘no’.

A no is a no, however skillfully wrapped and presented. A blunt no may hit you like a dagger through you, a subtle one will pierce itself slowly and agonizingly the more time you give it to seep in. A ‘no’ is never easy to handle – even if you expect it; the actuality of it is still difficult to deal with. It is our habits, to visualise a ‘yes’ and build around it in our sweet paracosms. That little high is one of the best feelings around – a smile etched on the face, a happy endevour throughout the day. The extra levels of dopamine can induce newfound traits – hitherto unsuspected patience and acceptance as such. The future is planned on the basis of a decision not in our hands. And then, the ‘no’ comes and it shatters the mirage.

Sometimes, an pessimistic soul can see through the mirage, and can prepare to lessen the blow. The soul then haughtily claims itself to be ‘realistic’, not pessimistic. It berates itself and others with “What did I tell you?” and “What else did you think was going to happen?”

Here, then, comes the part where the ‘protecting others’ concept comes through. Naturally, after a negative response one considers the type, reason and scope of it. “What type of ‘no’ was it? Was it a ‘not yet‘ type of ‘no’? Or was it a ‘never ever‘ kind of no? Or was it plain ignorance? Maybe it was a forced ‘no’?” One tends to over think on it. The more you think, the more obsessed you become. The more obsessed you become, the more you have the potential to ruin things. Similarly with the reasons, and the scope. “Can I convince them if I try again? Should I try again? If I try hard enough, will it be a ‘yes’?” I’ve learnt to accept the finality of a ‘no’. It is crucial to understand that the ‘no’ pings, but pestering further and pushing on is not going to change things. Nine out of ten times it will create more trouble for them – damaging their peace, their schedule, their monotone. From their disturbance, nothing great can stem for you. Thus, inherently, for your own selfish regards, it is wise to let a ‘no’ be a ‘no’.

What about you, then?

You see, sometimes it is about time. Or distance. Both play a huge role, literally and figuratively. A person far off may be ‘just a text away’, disregarding the effect of time needed to reach them, but the actual distance does matter. Nothing will ever equate to an earnestly spoken word, complimented by a pair of penetrating eyes which seep into the heart. However, at times, the text actually hits the mark, and the distance becomes a moot point, and the time spent becomes valuable.

It is then you must understand that not every yes is a victory and not every no is a loss.

Sometimes it is about peace in general – sometimes venting the question is almost the answer. Sometimes the question ceases to exist in it’s former stature the moment it leaves your lips. Sometimes, the question doesn’t exist – it just is a weird manifestation of the overthinking epidemic rampant in our generation. And when it comes to a ‘yes’, you’re never sure that the ‘yes’ you’ve got is what you needed. Sometimes you get a ‘yes’ when you needed a ‘no’. Which isn’t very ideal. Sometimes you think you need a ‘yes’ but you get an actually needed ‘no’. Sometimes there’s a gut feeling of peace, which suddenly sets in. And, as someone very wise told me, “There are two moments when that gut feeling serves right – when you know you’ve done your level best and it is worth it, or you’ve craved and had junk food.”

So, there will be situations when a ‘no’ gives you peace. That, is the dark beauty of a ‘no’.

Not every ‘no’ is a pain.

Not every ‘no’ is a dagger.

It is all about peace.

Yes or no, may peace be upon you.

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We Meet Again

I’m – I’m not the same person that I was five years ago,” she said.

I looked at her. There was the same set of dark brown eyes; her beautifully shaped jawline which was perhaps even more distinct now; same slender arms, one of which still had the silver quartz watch her mom gifted her; and a rather dull colour choice of clothes. She would seem the same to anyone who’d known her before.

Yet I could see some differences. Her eye sockets were a shade heavier than her cheeks, and her once restless, trusting gaze was now steely and fiery. Her hair, which she liked long, was shorter than usual. Once jet black and thick, her hair seemed a little thinned and betrayed a couple of white strands. Her knuckles looked bonier than before, and her skin whiter than before, which made me worry about she skipping her iron supplements. Her poise had changed, it portrayed strength which overshadowed her previously held mild joviality. It was as if she was constantly on her toes.

If she was a cinnamon roll then, she definitely looked like she had left it in the past.

When I had met her initially, I knew straight away that I was going to immortalize her. I knew that my pen would jot her down and prepare a sketch of her in the only way it knew – with my words. If I wasn’t lucky, I would have to do with only a fleeting glance as inspiration. However, I was lucky. Very, very lucky.

Which may or may not have been a blessing.

You see, the moment I saw her, she birthed a range of verses and poetry within me. I knew that this woman was going to be the fodder of my pieces. I knew that she would make me get up from my bed at three in the morning because my heart had just shown me an imagery of her which I just had to write then and there. The catch was, what emotions would weave themselves into the writing. She could be the panache of requited love, or she could be the spiritlessness of love unanswered. The more I knew her the more I could craft, but the more I got of her the more direction our story would get. And then the direction would control the quill. I could imagine me and her entwined in a hug, but that hug could be of union or of farewell. And depending on how things panned out in reality, the subsequent piece would either make the reader giddy in the stomach or heavy in the eyes.

But here we were, years after the hug of farewell. During that time we had been subjected to the phenomenon of change, along with the responsibility of moving on.

Initially, it was just the change in the habit of each other. The first few days were the worst, when every small thing echoed her presence. Her scent was everywhere, her influence engraved on my days. As the days passed her essence slowly diffused, but never really went away. Her absence led to a decrease in her influence, and I learnt to do things for myself again. As the weeks passed by she turned into a reminder of the past I had. This was the buffer zone, wherein I felt I had moved on – only to see her picture on social media and drop back into her. I ended up checking her profile for hours, investigating every face in her pictures to overstating and trying to read between the lines of her posts – until I finally checked myself. Then, as soon as I abolished her out of my days, she barraged into my nights – again. She popped up in one too many dreams, which would ruin mornings and the subsquent days. And then, months later, when I finally started ‘living’ without her, I thought I was through. Until I finally met her again.

The changes in my situation led to many changes in me – I stopped being dependent on the small things she brought into my life. I began doing things on my own, engrossing myself and engulfing her out. I spoke to people with greater cautiousness, which at times helped me out as it passed off as respect. I did not prod around, minded my own business, but never allowed someone to encroach. I was definitely not available. I grew up, I matured. I learnt pain, and learnt how to deal with it. I began to download older songs whose lyrics began to make more and more sense to me day by day. Soon, my playlist was only mine – it no longer was something universally praised. I became a better listner, probably because I feared talking more would make me let things out which should not be out. I became an empathizer from a sympathizer. I learnt how to defocus from a trigger. Soon, I started giving out advice at 2 AM calls instead of asking for it.

The day I would meet her again was the day I feared the most. The prospect of facing her again and telling her, probably untruthfully, that I had moved on from her was horrendous. What would she think? That I didn’t love her enough at all? Or that my love is fickle and easily washed off? Another thing which scared me even more was if she had moved on? What if she refused to acknowledge me? Or worse, even refuse to recognise me? What if, she was still something to me, but I was nothing to her? What if, she has moved on so well that she’s found somebody else?

They say you have to face your worst fears. And that’s what I did when we met again, by chance.

I could see some changes in her which were similar to mine. I saw some changes which were not, and I wished to ask her about them. And then I realised I don’t have the right anymore. Nor do I have the permission, else she’d have asked me about the way I’ve changed. Instead we talked about the good times, and then after we were done we looked into each other’s eyes. I did not back away, but she looked away exasperated. I realised I’d made her uncomfortable, and we awkwardly sat in silence. But there was one question that was nagging me ever since I had met her again, and I willed for her to look at me again. Reluctantly, she obliged, and the fact that we still possesed that telepathic connection made it worse – and gave me half of my answer. Nevertheless, I implored the question with my eyes, and this time, she stared right back, as tears formed into her eyes, which said without voice, “Not yet.

I hope, for the sake of us both, that the “Not yet” doesn’t change to “Probably never.

Maybe we have differently aged, contrastingly matured souls now. Maybe we were in love but incompatible then, and we may be more compatible now as much in love, but probably not meant to be.

I pray, this is a case of “Not yet” over “Probably never.

Whatever it is, but we respect each other’s changes and take certain responsibility for it – to the extent that when she said, “I’m – I’m not the same person that I was five years ago,

I replied, “I hope so,” and smiled.