Judy Powers, Guest Columnist - The View

During a discussion with a friend the other day, she suggested I start to say “yes” to opportunities that were presented to me. I countered that it was important to be just as able to say “no.” We were talking about two very different things.

I was referring to being able to say “no” when I didn’t want to, or it was inappropriate. She was referring to participating in life. So now I am suggesting to you that for this next year you say “yes” when it’s appropriate and you want to – or at least might want to.

In many ways, I already am a “yes” person and it has taken me on many adventures. In the past, I have gone on trips to China, Spain, almost India (we went to Japan instead) and recently I went to Iowa to see a woman about a horse (not for me). I have enjoyed every experience.

But I’m not really talking about having to go traveling or spending a lot of money. I’m talking about doing different things and doing things differently. Maybe learning a foreign language or a new instrument, or walking around the locker room uncovered and being okay with your body – no matter what you look like. Or going out to lunch with someone you don’t really know and getting to know them better.

It is like taking care of your garden. At first, it is a lot of work – lots of weeds and weeding. But after pulling out the resistance over time and planting new ideas, it gets easier and more fun to try new ideas/plants. Some will grow and some won’t work out, however you tried it.

This thought process started with a conversation I had with my sister. She had heard someone say that our life experience is one third genetics (nature), one third upbringing (nurture) and one third the choices that we make in our lives. That sounded good. However, the more I thought about it the more I believe that choices are by far the most significant part.

We all make choices about how we are going to deal with any given situation. And some (or perhaps many or even all) of those choices influence what happens in our lives over time.

Two examples are from cats I have known.

First example: I had just brought home two kittens, and for days they hid under a dresser. In order to see them, we had to lift the dresser and pick them up. Then one kitten got adopted. I was concerned for the other little one as he couldn’t stay in that room under that dresser alone forever.

The next morning that kitten walked up to me with his tail held high, then walked past me into the house and greeted all the other animals. Overnight he had made a choice. He had made a choice to embrace life. (I ended up keeping him because he was so friendly and outgoing, and fit into my crazy, animal-filled life.)

The second example is a cat I have had in my life for over 11 years. She was feral, caught in a live trap at around eight or nine weeks old after her mother was killed by a car. She spent the next year in a studio space with two brothers and little human social interaction. I adopted her and her brother. For the next 10 and a half years she would always run away, unless she was eating or I was lying down – then she would love to be petted.

In the past few months she has started coming into the living room, and she is coming up to me in the kitchen and dining room area. What changed after 11 years? Why now? Who knows, except her? I believe she finally decided to make different choices, try different ways of being.

It can be so difficult to do things differently. I have seen this over and over with both people (me, too) and animals. Most of us tend to continue to do things the way we always have, even if it doesn’t work.

I’ve seen people be afraid of dogs because of one bad experience. I understand that being bitten by a dog can be traumatic; I also know that reliving the trauma every time they see a dog nearby has got to be stressful. Yes, we are all entitled to our feelings, but I encourage people to challenge their beliefs about what they can or cannot let go, and make choices, when one can, to embrace life sooner rather than later. Go say “hi” to a friendly dog and realize that you can change your reaction to them.

I challenge you in 2020 to do different things and do things differently.

Judy Powers has lived in Moab since 1991. Powers with Animals is her business where she helps people learn how to communicate with and understand their animals better.