In one of my books, I explored how limited some of us get in our thinking. We follow a familiar path, do the things we always did, and have a lot of preconceived ideas about what we can’t and won’t do. Part of that is due to age, but some of us get pretty well locked into our positions even in our 20’s and 30’s, and time doesn’t improve it. I do it myself, and I think I’ve been saying “At my age,” since I was about 25. It has been a great excuse for all the things I don’t want to do (climb Everest, or the Himalayas, hike in Nepal, even go to India, which must be fascinating but sometimes sounds a little scary. I’ve never been on safari, because I’m sure I’ll get eaten by a lion, attacked by a hippo, or strangled by a snake). I play it pretty safe, and for me ‘exotic travel’ leads me from Paris to SF, via New York, with trips to Italy in the summer. I am not a very adventuresome person, and never have been. The trouble is that once you set limitations for yourself, your world gets smaller and smaller, new things seem like too much trouble, and we stick with the safe ones. I’m sure that many of you are braver than I am, and lots of you go to some fabulous places. But I’m not just talking about travel. I’m talking about learning new languages, or meeting new people, or trying a new job, or giving up a bad boyfriend instead of continuing to date him because what if you can’t find another one? (How many of us have done that and spent years with the wrong person). Well, the conclusion I came to while writing that book was “Why not?” Why not trying something new? Why not? When I run out of excuses not to do something I don’t want to do, I hide behind kids and work…..I cant…I have to see the kids…or finish a book. Valid reasons not to do something…..but what if I put just as much energy into doing something, than not doing it??? Now there’s a new idea, even for me.
The most exciting woman I have ever known is now probably close to 100 years old. Until a couple of years ago, at 98, she decided to move to Paris in her 70’s, learned excellent French, then added Venice to her homes (a fabulous palazzo), was constantly talking classes, learning languages, travelling the world and meeting new people. She was the most interesting woman I’d ever met, at any age. And she put me to shame already when I was in my 30’s. And yes, a lot of what she did took money—–but I’m not even talking about that. What about going to art movies in your home town? Taking a painting class? Learning to do sculpture? Learn a language, take up a new sport, join a club, meet new people——at EVERY age. I think a lot of us try to find reasons not to do things, and want to play it safe. And familiar always feel safe. But that’s what came to me in the book, that maybe my new answer should be “Why not?”. Yeah. Why not?????? You never know who you’ll meet or what will come of it, maybe a new house or apartment, new job, new friend, a better opportunity than you could ever dream of, or maybe just a whole lot of fun you wouldn’t have had otherwise. Saying Why not? And then yes, could broaden your world and enrich your life immeasurably.
My most recent ‘why not?” happened about a vacation. I go on vacation with my kids every summer. We always go in July, we go to the same places, and I plan it a year in advance. I’m a planner. I can tell you what day I’m going to pick my Christmas tree this year. And if plans shift, even by a day, it makes me nervous. If it’s on my calendar on that date, then it is MEANT to be there. And for me, a vacation is something I do once a year. And we had a great one this year. So great that I came home in a really good mood. And 3 weeks after I got home, I got an opportunity to go on vacation again with 3 of my kids and 3 of their friends, on a totally impromptu basis. Me? Impromptu? Not usually. Hell, no. And how could I justify going on vacation again 5 weeks later. It was only for 5 days and my kids were itching to go, and I said I’d think about it. And I did. First, I said it was too expensive. Then I thought it was silly. Then I was embarrassed—just how self-indulgent am I—–another vacation a month later? But I had the time and so did they and the offer was incredibly tempting. I checked with the other kids (who didn’t have free time that week) and asked if they’d mind, and they said that they didn’t. Pretty soon I had used up all my excuses and the idea was still hanging in mid air, a plum ripe for the picking. And then one morning, I got up, looked out the window, and heard my own words of wisdom in my head and said “Why not”, followed by what the hell, and announced to my 3 kids that we could do it. And I have to tell you, I have never had a vacation that was more fun. Everyone was in a great mood, the weather was perfect, I got a better tan than I did all summer, I loved being with my kids, and we packed a ton of fun things into those 5 days. But best of all was my sense of accomplishment for finally letting go, and not hanging on quite so tightly. For once, my time off hadn’t been planned for a year, it just happened. And it was fantastic. It taught me a huge lesson that sometimes “Why not?” is the right answer. It really really is, whether it’s a day off, or lunch with a friend, or a spa day, or a weekend away somewhere, or just a project you want to do in your same city, or something you want to do or learn, or giving someone a chance you never thought you would and having a date with someone new who might turn out to be terrific. WHY NOT??? None of us ever know how long we’ll be here. We think we’ll have forever. We put things off that might be fun. We deprive ourselves at times, we put chores first, or do things we really don’t want to. I am very stingy with myself about the fun stuff, and I have a strong sense of duty, and a powerful work ethic. But this time, I just let go and said Why not??? And it was only for a few days, not a lifetime. (And the responsibility police did not come to get me!!)It was one of the most fun things I have ever done, and the whole atmosphere of the trip was one of fun. It was a great lesson for me, so I wanted to share it with you…..so the next time you’re about to say no to something unplanned or unexpected, think again, and see if “Why Not?” wouldn’t be a better answer!!! I have come to discover that it is. For me, “Why not?” has been terrific. I felt renewed when I came home, younger, better, happier….I’ll probably never be a totally spontaneous person, but I really want to try. I think ‘Why Not?’ is the right answer!!!
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I’m taking down all quotes and magazine clips I’ve placed on my visual board and writing one thing “WHY NOT?”
Thanks for the inspiration!
“…even go to India, which must be fascinating but sometimes sounds a little scary.”
I found this very amusing. Don’t worry, it’s not that scary, but of course it will require a little research before you embark on the actual trip.
Loved your post. I agree that soo many of us including myself get caught in narrow ways of thinking or routines that deprive us of being spontaneous once in awhile. I always find that when I do step outside of the box once in awhile- like driving to San Fran for a day- or even going to work at the library- I always feel refreshed. I hope you have more opportunities to be spontaneous and it is cool how much fun you have with your children-!
Don’t ever feel guilty for a vacation! You deserve YEARS of vacation!!
Your books are always a bigtime inspiration and they always help to get a vision over and above the negativities leaving a positive impression that behind every dark pole there is a hope of light 🙂
but currently i am going through maybe the worst patch of my life is it possible if i can email chat with u might help me
Good for you, Danielle. I am so upset with myself that I stayed in a job for over 15 years because it was the safest thing to do, and I am so unhappy not doing the thing I love most in my life. I am struggling with the idea of quitting, and following my dream but it is so hard for me. Especially since I won’t be making any money until I get my new career going. But I am going to work hard and try to follow my dream.
Another thing just happened last year. When I was young mother, my husband was in the army and he was stationed in what was at the time West Germany. I hated being without him so I packed up my three small children, got their passports and plane tickets and off we went. What I am trying to say is that I was so adventurous when I was younger that now that I am older I don’t take any risks at all. But last year when my daughter got married, they were planning to go on a cruise to the Caribbean for their honeymoon. They decided to ask any one else in the family if they wanted to go with them. Her mother-in-law had gotten re-married a few months earlier and they were going, along with my new son-in-law and his brother and sister with their families. My daughter asked me if my husband and I would like to go. I told her I didn’t think so.(I was always afraid of cruise ships, since I was born on April 15, the day the Titanic went down.) I thought about the offer for a while, then I said to myself…What the heck? Why Not! I called my daughter and told her we wanted to go too and we did go and we had the best time of our lives and we made some new friends and now we are planning another cruise in 2011 with the same people.
Why Not? Because if you don’t…You may miss out on the best time of your life and miss a great opportunity for something that you were looking for. (Sorry for the length) G~
p.s. On our cruise, My husband and I took a pic in front of a backdrop of the main staircase from the Titanic. How ironic is that???
I am quite the opposite, being that I am not a planner at all. I live “by the seat of my pants” and have had so many wonderful adventures due to it. I have learned to live each moment to the fullest! xxoo
So True…Nothing stops us. It’s all in our mind. We are just full of excuses for not doing something we want to! We really need to ask ourselves “Why Not”!
Hello, I love your blog and your books. and read this posting * why not? * Made me look inside myself. necessary to overcome the fear of the new, do something spontaneous. and now I always think about it. Why not?
i’m really amazed at all the heartache you’ve gone through but your so positive & productive. I’m also portugese my mother immigrated to Bermuda & US from the Azores. I believe you are also a romantic.
My aunt is 101 & enjoys good health.& has read every book you’vr ever written. I think I will try my hand at writing & you are my inspiration. Happy Holidays & Good health to you & your family
[…] several of her posts for previous Saturday Six’s. This week it’s a post called “Why Not.” It’s about challenging yourself at any age, to not constrain yourself from learning […]