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Neil Crone’s Journal
Neil Crone is an actor and writer and a national spokesperson for the CCAC. A Second City veteran improvisor, host and stand up comic, Neil also loves to write poems and stories for "big and little kids".
Neil has written a journal of his experience with colorectal cancer.
Learning to Say No
One of the cardinal rules that was indelibly tattooed on my soul during my training as an Improviser, is to always say ’Yes’. Basically, this means never, ever, on pain of death, negate or ’block’ an idea or offer given to you. On stage it can lead to hilarity. I walk into a scene, for example, thinking I’m going to be a Pirate, when, before I can utter a ’Yar’ or a ’Shiver me timbers’, another performer walks onstage and says to me "G’day Mrs. O’Reilly! And how is that gout of yours doin?" As a performer trained from birth to say ’Yes’ to anything and everything, I don’t flip out or try to push my Pirate idea into the scene. Instead, if I know what’s good for me, I happily shift gears, chucking Bluebeard out the window to become a gout-ridden (and potentially entertaining) Irish washerwoman. The point is to get into the frame of mind where your first reaction, always, is to throw positive energy behind ideas, not shutting them down or naysaying. More than just a useful rule for performers, it’s a marvelous way to go through life.
That’s why I’m having a difficult time learning to say ’No’ all of a sudden. As a result of my introduction to Cancer Man and his annoying sidekick ’Chemo-sabi’ I have had to take a pass on a lot of things that used to bring me a great deal of pleasure. Things that defined a big part of who I was. I cannot coach my son’s softball team. I cannot help my wonderful friends snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in our annual Beach Volleyball tournament. I cannot swim in the lake at the cottage. I cannot lose myself in a blissful hour of stopping or not stopping pucks on a Thursday night with the boys. I cannot ride my bike until I feel my heart kicking wildly and joyously in my throat. I cannot perform. One by one, I have had to say a regretful ’No’ to these and other activities that I once embraced with a hearty, improviser’s ’Yes!’ It has been difficult and it has made me, in turn, angry, sad and self-pitying.
But just lately (I am a slow learner after all) I am beginning to realize that no matter how many ’No’s’ one has to spit out, there are always things to still say ’Yes’ to. As I write this, for instance, I am sitting, comfortably ensconced in a pile of cushions, on my screened-in balcony, surrounded by an orchestra of birdsong and the lush green wallpaper of a Maple tree. My dog happily lazing beside me. It is quite magical. Had I not had to learn to say ’No’ to all of those other things, I might never have thought to say ’Yes’ to this. Another gift from Cancer Man? I’m not sure. I’m still not returning the jerks calls. Hopefully, though, when all of this is done and I have thrown away all memory of torment and needles and sickness, I will have retained this simple yet extraordinary ability to always look for the thing to say ’Yes’ to. Try it yourself. I think you’ll find it’s a lifesaver.
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