icon-email icon-facebook icon-linkedin icon-print icon-rss icon-search icon-stumbleupon icon-twitter icon-arrow-right icon-email icon-facebook icon-linkedin icon-print icon-rss icon-search icon-stumbleupon icon-twitter icon-arrow-right icon-user Skip to content

How the Hell Do I Say Yes in a World Filled with No?

How the Hell Do I Say Yes in a World Filled with No?

© istock.com/Kai und Kristin Fotografie

Don’t go out of your home. Don’t forget to wear your mask. Don’t touch your face or nose or mouth. Covid-19 has filled our world with No and with fear. As a 70-year-old with a clotting disorder and elevated blood pressure, I am compelled to acknowledge the No’s and act accordingly. 

The most painful No in my personal life is the one that prevents me from seeing my grandchildren who live in New Mexico. It has been more than six months since I was able to be with them in person, and I ache to feel their sweet hugs. Yet, despite the loss of their in-person cuddles, I remain a part of their lives. 

We laugh and joke with each other as we share a weekly game night. Everyone knows that Nanoo cannot draw a decent stick figure which makes Pictionary especially hilarious. Poppy and I serve as an audience for their oral presentations in their virtual public speaking class, and then we provide positive feedback on their presentation and content. And yes, it is always positive because these are my grandchildren and they are certainly brilliant and talented. 

Texts and pictures about their new puppy fill my phone and email as we consider whether Nanook or Auggie would be a better name. Each week I share a story with them about my life growing up on a farm in the 1950s. Yes, I am forced to accept the No’s imposed by Covid, but I refuse to stop being a part of my grandchildren’s lives. All the No’s brought by Covid are painful and do restrict my life, but I search each day to fill my world and the world of those I love with Yes.

As I scream No to all the hatred, racial injustice and greed consuming our nation, I am tempted to merely give up, travel to my home high on this beautiful mountain and become a hermit. After all, I am a 70-year-old woman with bad knees and waning energy; how can I possibly begin to make a difference? No would be the easiest response; yet I cannot and will not give up. 

Thankfully, my mind and my fingers still work as I write editorials and letters to my congressional representatives. I join with others in my church learning about white supremacy and acknowledging my white privilege, as we search for ways to work for racial equality. A writing group has encouraged me to value my senior voice and to be willing to share my life experiences and wisdom. Once again, I must not follow the easy path but be willing to work to be a voice for Yes in a world consumed with No.

The hypocrisy I observe each day in persons claiming to represent my God elicit the most momentous No of all. Churches turning their backs on all LGBTQ people and basically condemning them all to hell: No. Religious leaders supporting a man who encourages racial hatred and violence, who ridicules physically challenged people, who abuses and denigrates women and who exhibits no attributes of the God he claims to follow: No. 

Members of my own family, people I love, and who have nurtured and cared for me all my life, using their religion to support racial inequality: No. Once again, the temptation arises to just say No to the whole religion concept and join those who say that religion is merely a false doctrine used to control and enslave believers. Yet, I cannot live in a world without my faith in God. I struggle each day and I certainly do not have answers to so many questions, but I say a resounding Yes to my God and my faith.

I can say with Flannery O’Conner, “When we get our spiritual house in order, we’ll all be dead. This goes on. You arrive at enough certainty to be able to make your way, but it is making it in darkness. Don’t expect faith to clear things up for you. It is trust, not certainty.” I do not understand so much of what is happening in our world and I have very few answers, but in the midst of all the negative and No in my world, I choose faith and I choose to work every day to endeavor to bring a Yes to places of No.

Barbara Painter

Barbara Painter is a retired school teacher and counselor.

Learn More

More from Barbara Painter

Latest Stories

Choosing Senior Living

Stay Up to Date

Sign up for articles by Barbara Painter and other Senior Correspondents.

Latest Stories

Choosing Senior Living
Love Old Journalists

Our Mission

To amplify the voices of older adults for the good of society

Learn More

News & Opinion from Senior Correspondents Across the Globe