A few months ago I met up for coffee with a new acquaintance after two people told me: You need to meet Jane. So I met Jane and we chatted and it was lovely.
One anecdote, in particular, stood out. She told me about a friend of hers – an 80-year-old spitfire named Betty. Jane told me Betty’s answer to just about everything in life is Why not?
Want to go on a last-minute picnic? Why not?
Want to stay overnight at a hotel in a nearby city? Why not?
I like planning and routine and structure. A lot. And sometimes this has a tendency to get in the way of saying Yes to fun things.
I’ve thought about this story from Jane many times over the last month and then a few days ago happened upon this line in a Mary Oliver poem:
Then a wren in the privet began to sing.
He was absolutely drenched in enthusiasm.
I don’t know why. And yet, why not.Mary Oliver
First of all, doesn’t being drenched in enthusiasm sound like an Anne of Green Gables state of mind?
And secondly – sadly – it is not my default (maybe I’m more of a Marilla?). But…why not?
Are you like me and tend toward a gut reaction of asking Why? Why chase a sunset, Why buy a hamster, Why offer someone a spontaneous invitation to dinner. I often count the cost before saying yes; I weigh pros and cons until some of the magic drains out of a situation.
Or, are you more likely to say (with enthusiasm!) – Why not?
Header photo by Patrick Perkins on Unsplash
20 thoughts on “Why Not?”
Somehow over the pandemic especially I stopped saying why not to adventures out. We could do the beach (even though I live on the prairies we have some large inland lakes here), but I too often have not said why not.
I used to venture out when the kids where little and it made for smoother days if we went exploring or met friends at an indoor play place. Now that they are older and not interested in going hiking or “just” walking, I need to be more creative in what I plan as well.
I’m not naturally an “Anne”, I have too much anxiety for that but I’m working on being a mix of both.
Family dynamics definitely shift as the kids get older. There is both more flexibility (no naps) and less (no enthusiasm) for spontaneous responses like Why not?
Ha! I am NOT an enthusiastic “why not” person. But maybe I need to change that??? Love the Mary Oliver quote.
I’m not sure I can “change” into this sort of person. But I can work at saying Why not a bit more frequently. I don’t ever think it will be my default, though!
I am definitely definitely not a “why not” person! I consider the consequences of decisions and my husband, a questioners, does so to an even greater extent! So we are not why not people! I have been trying to say yes to more things this summer, though. I was a hard no on pretty much everything during the pandemic but have tried to return to a bit more of a sense of normalcy, especially since 3/4 of us had covid recently. But it’s important for me to not say yes to too many things or I completely deplete myself!
Absolutely. My default is always to ask Why and I think for my personality type this is partly about preservation. I’m introverted with low energy and saying Yes to everything would ruin me. But sometimes I get stuck in a rut of saying no or asking why because that IS my default. I think as the kids are getting older and restrictions from the pandemic wane, I’m doing a better job of saying Why not just a little bit more?!
I love that poem!!! I went through a phase where I was trying to change my attitude to “why not?” and I’ve somehow gotten away from it (I guess it’s not my natural attitude.) But I’m going to make an effort to get back to it!
It’s not my natural attitude either; and I don’t think I should/could abandon my own personal inclinations. They actually can be quite useful…but just allowing myself the freedom to say “Why not.”
I will give myself a slight pat on the back here and say I do think I’ve gotten a lot better at this over the last year or so. Mostly, I suppose, because it’s just a lot easier to be flexible with the kids now that they don’t need such a firm bedtime and naps are completely out of the equation. It really does make it feel less risky to say “Why not” to many, many things!
“Drenched with enthusiasm” is indeed such a wonderful phrase!
I do think I am more of a “Why not?” person. The Husband is definitely a “Why?” person. It’s probably a good balance.
Though there are things that would make me stop and overanalyze and ask “Why?” – usually large permanent purchases, big job decisions, and anything that will cost me more than $30. (okay, my threshold is probably a little higher than that, but you get the idea… and with gas these days….) But if it involves seeing friends or getting outdoors or trying something new…. yeah, that’s often a “why not?” for me.
It also reminds Captain Morgan’s mom in the second Anne movie who talks about Colleen being “dreeennncchhed in scent.” Maybe that’s why this phrase immediately made me think of Anne.
It is definitely the opposite in our house. My husband is the “Why not” (if I said, let’s hop in the car and drive across the country right now – no planning) he would 100% say…”Why not” and grab the keys. I am the “Why” person. You’re right, though, that it really helps balance things out.
I think for me, it depends. I can be a “why not” person in some situations, but not in others. I agree with Diane- bigger decisions, like a move, or a job change, or a school change, etc. I would be a very slow to decide person. I am generally not decisive at all, and overthink most things. But if it involved like, travel, or the chance to do something really cool, I’d probably be more inclined to say “why not”?? I think I have free time/ no obligations/ nothing standing in my way, I’m pretty easy going (usually the case while we travel! I think this is why I’m a pretty happy go lucky traveler). It’s more when I’m in regular, day to day life, where I feel like something might “throw off my whole week” or something that I’d be less interested in just throwing it all to the wind.
You definitely strike me as a Why not sort of person! Very organized and efficient, but also flexible and willing to make space for something that will be fun and enjoyable. I love that when I read your travel posts!
I second what Kae said: I am generally not decisive and tend to overthink things (esp. big decisions), but I want to be more of a “why not” person when it comes to travel, outings, little every day adventures. Jon is definitely not a “why not” person, so I try to be a bit more or else we’d be stuck at home a lot (which we have been, haha.)
It’s interesting relationally; like how you’re at the core a Why person, too, but overcome that in some senses to balance Jon’s “Why” inclinations.
I am DEFINITELY the Why person in our household, but for the most part we balance each other out well.
COVID has made it so much more complicated, too. It’s hard to be spontaneous and the answer to Why not has often been: Because there is a global pandemic raging, that’s why not!!!
What Shelly said really resonates with me. The pandemic has really changed me. I used to say yes to every outing and every invitation, but now I’m more likely to say no. I wonder when or if it will change back. I do hope so. I feel like I’ve honestly become a different person and I’m not sure if that’s a good or a bad thing, but it’s definitely a thing.
The pandemic has changed SO much! I’m hoping we all settle back into some new normal that feels like positive growth – where we can hold on to the changes we were forced to make that really worked for us (maybe new flexibility for remote work) and better appreciate the return to some pre-COVID favourites. That said, it does feel like pandemic impacts will continue to influence our decision making for the foreseeable future.
I am not a “why not” kind of person, and I’ve accepted that about myself. I am just someone who has to question things and think through all of the possible scenarios. But sometimes, when I do that, I find myself realizing that I’m going to miss out on something fun or a great opportunity, so that’s when I DO say “why not.” I’m never going to be the spontaneous person who says yes to any good adventure, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with taking a step back, thinking about things, and then saying yes. 🙂
Absolutely! Sometimes I fall into the trap of overthinking everything and realize it and find the energy to just say Why Not! Other times, it really does work in my favour to sit something out and ask Why or Is It Worth It? I have low energy and it can be easy to get overwhelmed and overtired…
First, THANK YOU for finding one of the few M.O. poems I had not encountered! I absolutely love her voice and her message and this one was another one of those “ohhh, yes” moments of reading for me. <3
Anyway, , as always, you've brought up something really interesting to consider… I was trying to think of contexts within which I would be saying "why not?" And after my pondering, I think I'm pretty set in the "why" group, which is why it's hard for me to imagine saying "why not?" My response tends to be more of a "Well, let me think about it…" Sometimes that gets me to yes, but more often, unfortunately, the answer is no. And given my frustration with my life being too filled with work, this is something I may need to shift, even a little. More food for thought…
Mary Oliver is so wise!