On a trip years ago, I told pals, “I’ll stay by myself today while you tour Paris.”

Shocked, they asked, “You won’t visit the Louvre?”

Tired from the go-go-go, running here and there, I said, “right.”

Without second thoughts, I said no to more busy-ness and yes to time alone.

This year, I did the same, and felt as clear as skipping a historic monument: I passed up the “Beach BBQ and Caviar in Surf or on Land.”

“Unmissable,” our cruise director announced.”Water sports. Diving. Snorkeling. Massage. Towels and facilities provided. Huge buffet. Free-flowing alcohol. Everyone’s going ashore to this island paradise.”

I did not.

I lounged on the ship with a few others who also opted for quiet. We risked sunburned, tipsy travelers later bragging, “It was awesome. I wouldn’t have missed it. You would have loved it.”

Maybe. I also love solitude, space out of a crowded schedule. With clarity, I said “No” to more tourist-ing. Still, I came nose to nose with FOMO: fear of missing out. All the play. The people, the mingling. The food. FOMO whispered: “psst, hey Sue, you should’ve said yes to this once-in-a-lifetime chance.”

Qualms worsened as people returned and asked, “Did you go to the beach?”

“No.”

“Big mistake. It was fantastic.”

I’d done what I wanted. Yet I questioned whether “they” (the trendy travelers) had more fun than me. What if I had caved to the power of the popular? What if I had accepted, “I should be somewhere other than where I want to be”? If I had been led by FOMO, I would have lost hours of inner peace.

I wondered about yes and no. It seems when we nod OK to one thing, we dismiss others. Whatever we choose, we un-choose something else. Yes to here; no to there. No to coffee; yes to better sleep. No opens up a yes. Yes invites a no. The death of one thing births another. The birth of a new habit lets old habits die. Each choice a yes-no, a no-yes.

To discover my yeses, I now ask myself what I really want, not just in this moment, but what my essence craves. What’s vital? What’s precious? What really matters? The answers must arise from internal guidance, not from fear of missing out nor from the external, “everyone else is doing it.”

A deep yes is not easy, nor is a firm no. But one way to work with FOMO, I think, is to hear the poet Rumi, “let yourself be silently drawn by the stronger pull of what you really love.”

So I’m practicing saying no to tiny things: addictive email checking, late-night TV. I’m trying to say no to things and actions that drain me. When essence tries to express itself, it no doubt feels into what wants yes-ing, and into what might grow in the void left by no.

I am no longer in junior high, worried about what the in-crowd does. More often now I can forego big things like super-duper sight-seeing museums or the best party ever, and little things like the latest Ben and Jerry’s flavor (well, sometimes). I need help to listen to the stronger pull, so I’ve adopted a mantra, poet Mary Oliver’s challenge to us. What if we yessed to asking ourselves her question:

“Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do

“with your one wild and precious life?”

Falmouth author Susan Lebel Young is a retired psychotherapist and mindfulness teacher. She can be reached at [email protected] or at www.susanlebelyoung.com.