Upfront

 

I HAVE DECIDED TO say no more often. The decision was made shortly after I figured out that having “it all” is a myth and that anyway I don’t want “it all”. I just want “enough”. And in order to have “enough” – time, mostly, to spend with friends and family – I needed to start saying no a bit more.

I’ve practised a lot in the mirror. “No, I can’t, I have an urgent waxing appointment.” “No, unfortunately I will be in Kuala Lumpur at that time.” I even ordered a book on the subject which has possibly the longest and most irritating title in the world: How to Say No Without Feeling Guilty: And Say Yes to More Time, and What Matters Most to You.

Despite all this effort, the saying no project is not going very well. In fact, I’ve said yes to a whole load of spare-time-consuming stuff including, bizarrely, sitting in a humongous wooden chair at a market in Dublin’s docklands telling a story about a eureka moment in my life.

I spent ages trying to think of my eureka moment before downsizing it to what Oprah Winfrey calls an “aha!” moment. Still I struggled. It was only the night before the event, while drinking wine after watching Sex and the City 2– don’t listen to the critics, go see it if only for that “Irish” nanny’s truly wondrous accent and other, er, attributes – that I came up with my story.

It was raining on the morning of the storytelling session, which was taking place in a corner of the Point Village Market, beside the O2 in Dublin. The humongous chair was wet. The microphone wasn’t working. Harry Crosbie, owner of the market and pretty much everything else as far as the eye could see, told one of the first stories. It went something like this.

Once upon a time a rich, old man was wandering around a market and came across two young women who were the organisers of a storytelling chair thing.

The rich, old man found out that the young women weren’t paid for their efforts, but were providing a service to the community on a voluntary basis. The old man decided to give them €1,000 so that they could go on a holiday. The end.

The audience cheered and the rich, old man wandered off again in a manner that can only be described as benevolent.

Eventually it was my turn. My story went something like this.

Once upon a time, backstage at a gig in Manchester, I managed to get Paul McCartney to autograph a column I had written about him. Then I came home and folded it away in the pages of a book, ready for the day it would be framed and hung in my hall. When that day came, I would smile smugly every time visitors admired my own little slice of Beatles memorabilia. Except when I went to look for the precious piece of paper stored safely in a book, it was gone.

At various intervals over the past seven years, I have found myself standing in front of my bookshelves opening every single book convinced one day it would materialise.

The search for the signature has become something of a signature moment, representing the ridiculous quest for perfection in life.

My aha moment was the realisation that it was better for me if the column never turned up. Losing it and trying to find it again meant I could continually relearn the lesson that perfection is here and now, even if what we perceive as the missing pieces in life are out of reach.

I will, of course, tell Paul all about it when I see him at the RDS next Saturday. He might even sign something else for me to lose.

I think the storytelling went well. Apart from the guy in the front row who fell fast asleep. And later that morning I had another aha moment: The thing about saying yes to stuff is that you also end up saying yes by default to other stuff unrelated to the stuff you initially said yes to.

That day, saying yes to storytelling also meant saying yes to the delights of the market. Yes to the joy of stroking a 1960s sideboard lovingly restored by the friendly folk at Table Lighting Chair, yes to Dick Dave’s exceptional woodfired pizza with goats’ cheese and black pudding, yes to scoring bargain vegetables from Sheila of the Dublin Meath Growers, yes to meeting my favourite Irish comedian, Maeve Higgins, who was helping her uncle sell food at his stall. It meant saying yes to going back there the next day when the sun was shining and a gospel choir called Sing were blasting out Oh Happy Dayas part of the Dublin Soul Festival.

Yes! It’s the new no.

roisin@irishtimes.com

THIS WEEKEND: Róisín will be in Cashel, Co Tipperary attending a wedding “rehearsal dinner”. Even though it’s a lunch event. And we aren’t actually starring in an old episode of Friends. But when the bride-to-be is this fabulous who cares?