This is the road I went down that ended up leading to what some might call a dangerous vice — because it certainly has become a habit and maybe even an addiction. Some might even say what I did was scandalous. If women did this in days of old, they might get burnt at the stake, or thrown out of the village, or shunned for life. I’m totally being dramatic but at the least, this thing I decided to do was something I had seen as a forbidden road for me for most of my life. It was something that I would not allow myself to even think about trying out.

But I went down the forbidden road, a decision I made that was contrary to the beliefs that I’d guided my life by since the time I could start making my own decisions.

I threw tradition, convention and what I’d believed in the past as the proper way to behave – I threw it to the wind.

I rebelled.

So what was this scandalous behavior I chose to step into?

I started saying no.

and . . .

I also started saying yes.

and . . .

I stopped being a martyr. Ugh, I’m so embarrassed that I ever played that role in the game of life. My definition of martyr is:

Someone who says yes when they want to say no, and then feels victimized and goes on to punish just about everyone in their life because they said yes.

I looked at that forbidden road SAYING NO for a long time. I’d drive by it and try to find the courage to go down it. It took a long time to lose the fear of rejection enough to even put one foot on that road.

But I wanted to be a warrior instead of a martyr and what I learned is that being a warrior sometimes means doing the thing that you thought was forbidden before. I had to unwind so many beliefs about what it means to be a “good person.” A warrior has to do the best thing and the right thing, which very often is the hardest thing,

And the hardest thing in the world was for me to say NO. Even harder than saying goodbye.

I took a small dose at first . . . yep, I micro dosed on NO.

I loved how it felt so much that I started doing it more and more.

I started saying no to things that I would have found a way to say yes to in the past, even if it killed me. I started saying yes to things I would not have allowed myself to do unless I paid dearly for it by working extra hard — most often, I would not have said yes to those things at all.

Producing was my ethic. Work was my ethic. Sacrificing was my ethic. Trying to be perfect in all ways was my ethic, though I could never even get close no matter how hard I tried.

The forbidden road was a brand new road of doing the one thing I had never ever ever allowed myself to do — put myself on my own list. It was really difficult the first few times because there was a part of me that resisted it the way a cat would resist a bath. There was a scared little person inside of me that kept freaking and out and telling me it was forbidden to just say no when there was an opportunity to be a big old martyr.

But I was in bad shape, really bad shape. It was a life or death decision that only I could make. I could choose life by starting to take care of myself, value myself and protect myself. Or I could choose to keep doing what I’d been doing for what feels like forever — do whatever it takes to be acceptable.

Forbidden or acceptable.

I chose forbidden self-nurturing, self-respect, self-care, self-healing . . . and it’s my new lifestyle. I highly recommend it, especially to the ones who have the ridiculous belief that I used to have . . . that we are somehow selfish, horrible, wretched people if we ever think about ourselves at all. I believed that we are here to be in service of everyone all the time. And of course I STILL BELIEVE that we are here to help each other, but we have to make sure we have something to give before we head out the door to be of service, otherwise, we bleed out. We give away our own blood, our own life force. And before long, every last thing is drained out of us and we are on our last breath of will.

I started saying no to inhumane demands and expectations. I started saying no to people who bully and demean and control. I started saying no to whomever might be holding a manipulator’s remote control, pushing buttons to get me to do what they want me to do. I started saying no to being a vending machine…lifeless but wired and plugged-in, built to give whomever whatever they need with just a push of a button, day or night without a moment’s rest. I started saying no to the internal voice that would say “just a little more, just a little better, just a little sweeter . . .”

I started saying yes to rest. started saying yes to new adventures. I started saying yes to solitude and quiet and self-respect. I started saying yes to hikes and long drives in the mountains and time to make art. I started saying yes to old Chuck Taylor sneakers, ripped jeans and old t-shirts. I started saying yes to no makeup. I started saying yes to the music I like, the places I like, the kind of art I like to make. I started saying yes to a life fueled by awe and reverence and a deep connection to the Divine. I started saying yes to LIFE.

Because I’d been saying yes to whatever was asked of me by others, and saying no to what was being asked of me from my own soul.

I am the one who got myself where I was. I am not a victim, just a big dummy. I stopped being a big dummy.

Because friends, there are people who will take whatever you are willing to give. And they are not even at fault because we are the ones who are allowing it to happen. We put things out on the table to give, hoping that our offerings will be valued and that it will make us a productive part of the community. The problem is, there are people who have a sickness of offering and allowing WAYYY TOOO MUCHHH. And there are also people with the sickness of needing to suck others dry of anything good. There are people who have the sickness of needing to actually destroy others, yep that’s a real sickness, and one of the best ways they can accomplish this is to find someone who doesn’t know how to say no.

The Journey
by Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice –
though the whole house

began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen

branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,

determined to do
the only thing you could do –
determined to save
the only life you could save.


When I turned the corner to step onto the forbidden road of well-being, I knew I was taking an enormous risk. I knew it was going to require the sacrifice of anything in my life that was there because of what I could produce.

There’s a showdown that happens when you stop trying to over-pay for your very existence. It’s like a settlement you have to reach with the part of you that wants to die a martyr. You have to give the martyr something to walk away with, so that you can be free.

It’s a separation of a life partner, you and your martyr have to part ways as she wags her finger accusingly, watching you fade off in the distance down the forbidden road.

So what will you give her, that old martyr who has been passively-aggressively shaming you for most of your life?

I gave her my lists of accomplishments, my grudges, my ledger books of how I’d been wronged, my ledger books of how wrong I was. I wrapped it all nicely in a banker’s box, made her a sandwich for the road and said “you head back down your road, and I’m gonna take this one….the sparkling forbidden road of self-responsibility, self-respect and humane free will . . .”

And I slowly headed down the forbidden road of no thank younopenot anymoreabsolutely not and even hell no.

That road is where my greatest adventure began.

Because that road had the beautiful surprise of yes please -oh yes, I’d love to try that –ahhhhh yes and absolutely, positively yes!

So, brave walker,
What have you said yes to that you wanted to say no to, and who did you punish for that?
What forbidden NO is calling you to come and save the only life you can save?

Thank you for walking this forbidden road with me. Tomorrow is Road #8 — where we will tip-toe down The Road Where I Was the Stranger.

Thank you for taking this trip with me.
melody ross