Making room for something new can be one of the hardest exercises in almost any realm of life.
Whether its the “nesting” process for to-be parents, moving or remodeling or organizing in your home, managing your money, or coordinating activities, it requires prioritizing and parting.
Prioritizing means getting the important things into their place. Parting means letting things die so that there’s a place for those important things.
Here’s the thing. When we say yes to something, we say no to something else. It’s just the way it is. What we’re saying no to is often obscured from our view, but it’s there. My wife and I have a quest for a pseudo-minimalist lifestyle. But I’m a saver. That junk that people are throwing out? That’s good stuff! We could use it! Make something out of it! Don’t let it go to the landfill! And my stuff? Don’t even get me started.
You can see we’ve struck a nerve.
Still, when you get rid of stuff; when you make space, there’s room for other stuff. I’ve started to see is that it may be possible to get on the other side of things, where it’s also true that saying no to something means saying yes to something else. Saying no to being over-scheduled may mean saying yes to more health, peace, or presence. It may also mean saying yes to a tighter budget or missed opportunities. Maybe this isn’t true for everyone, but saying, “no” is always the harder thing for me, so that’s something I’m working on. Maybe it doesn’t mean never, but it allows me to be intentional about decisions.
When it comes to songwriting, it started out being incredibly hard for me to part with songs I had written. It would be a constant drone as I encouraged songwriting students and colleagues to just keep writing, to write bad songs and keep moving. Yet, when it came to my songs, that was different. When they were really bad, I kept copies as reminders. When they were just pretty bad, I held onto them and gave them public funeral services at coffee shop gigs, playing them one last time before putting them to rest (totally self-indulgent). As I become more aware and more brave, it gets easier for me to let songs die earlier in their life cycle. It doesn’t mean they weren’t valuable. It just means they’ve already played their part.
So say no. Let it die. That obligation you hate? That song you wrote that is “okay enough” to fill a slot at a gig? Maybe even that life-sucking “friendship” that you have to put too much into. Say yes to the things that are important to you and if you’re not sure, create enough space that they could surface. Saying no to the “wrong” things is the only way to let the “right” things live.