Once there was a little girl named Eve. She was smart, funny, and kind. Although Eve seemed to be happy-go-lucky on the outside, internally she was suffering. She really wanted to be happy, but she always fell shy of true bliss. Everything that was positive in her life had a competing negative that seemed to cancel it out. Nothing ever seemed to work out for her. Eve really hated that her life was this way, but she had no idea how to change it. A cloud seemed to follow her wherever she went, but it was only a cloud Eve could see.

One day Eve decided to take a walk on the beach. This was Eve’s favorite place in the entire world. On this particular day, the sun was out, but rain was forecast later in the afternoon.

“Wouldn’t you know it’s going to rain on my day off? It will ruin the only time I have to go to the beach! That’s just my luck!” Eve said out loud to no one in particular.

Eve decided to go for a walk anyway. As she walked she encountered several people she knew. The first was her friend Margaret.

“Isn’t it a beautiful day?” Margaret said.

“Yes, but it’s supposed to rain later. It may not, but I thought you should know” Eve responded.

Margaret’s smile faded a bit as she kept walking after bidding Eve a good day.

Eve walked along wondering how soon it would start raining. Beauty surrounded her in every direction, but she saw none of it. She was lost in her head and too worried about the clouds to come.

Eve then saw her friend Carol who was walking her dog.

“Eve it’s so good to see you! It’s been too long! I have great news, I’m getting married!? Would you please come to my wedding?”

“Yes, but one in four marriages ends in divorce? I’m sure your marriage will last, but I thought you should know.” Eve replied.

Carol’s shoulders slumped as she walked away. She told Eve she would see her at the wedding.

Eve kept walking, pondering why she couldn’t seem to be happy. The waves were crashing, the pelicans were flying overhead, and sailboats floated by, but Eve stared down at the sand trying to figure out the key to happiness.

She then ran into her friend Ron who was tying up his boat.

“Eve it’s so good to see you today! Did you hear I just won a million dollars in the lottery?”

“Yes, but you know most lottery winners go bankrupt in the first year? I’m sure that will not happen to you, but I just thought you should know.” Eve replied.

Ron’s excited glow faded as he walked back toward his boat and wished Eve a good walk.

When she finally arrived at the rock jetty, a cloud was thick over her head. She sat on the rocks trying to gaze out at the ocean, but she could not see anything for the cloud. It was not like any cloud she had ever experienced before. It completely obstructed her vision. She knew she should have stayed home. This was bound to happen on her day off.

As she drifted further and further into despair, she was startled by a seagull that landed on the rock beside her. He looked at her squarely in the eyes with his head tilted to one side.

“Hello Eve, my name is Jeremy. Is it okay if I join you?”

“Yes, but you know seagulls can’t talk. It’s impossible.”  Eve replied.

“Is that so?” Jeremy said.

“Of course it’s so! Everyone knows seagulls can’t talk. How did you find me anyway? I can’t see anything but this cloud around my head!”

Jeremy, who had seen this cloud many times, asked Eve if he could share a story with her. Eve, seemingly forgetting seagulls can’t talk, agreed to listen.

Jeremy explained that when he was a young gull, his response to anything positive someone told him always began with “yes, but.” He felt it was his duty to keep his friends informed about all the possible negative consequences of everything. He thought he was protecting everyone in the same way he protected himself. It felt safer if he was always aware of what could happen when things invariably went wrong. This protected him from being disappointed and he wanted to offer the same protection to everyone he met. Eventually a cloud formed over his head and he could no longer see anything. He cried out to the universe to please remove this cloud from his head! He knew he could no longer fly with this cloud around him and he would surely die.

Jeremy’s grandmother heard his cries and put her wings around him as he sobbed. She told him he was surrounded by the “yes, but” cloud. She explained that every time he said the words “yes but” another one was added to the atmosphere surrounding him. Eventually, as the atmosphere became saturated, all those “yes buts” formed an impenetrable cloud. The cloud keeps him from seeing the beauty of the world around him and prevents him from experiencing true joy.

Eve listened intently to this talking seagull and was intrigued. She did not realize she ever said “yes, but” until she thought back over her life. Even as recently at her walk to the jetty she said “yes but” to three people! No wonder this cloud was surrounding her. Panicking that she would never be rid of this cloud, she realized that Jeremy no longer had one. She took a breath and asked how she could get rid of it? Would it be enough if she promised to never say “yes, but” again?

Jeremy anticipated her question and smiled. He then told her about the paradox. The only way Eve could rid herself of the “yes, but” cloud was to continue to say “yes, but.” Eve’s shoulders collapsed and her head dropped to her chest in utter confusion.

Jeremy explained that the words “yes, but” themselves are not the issue. The problem lies in how those words are used. Instead of responding with “yes, but” when someone shares good news, the better time is to use “yes, but” in response to negativity. He provided this example. The next time someone says “It’s a horrible rainy day” respond with “Yes, but the sun is forecast to come out tomorrow!”

He explained that every time you use “yes, but” in this way, part of the cloud disappears. He offered a word of caution, however, with this practice. The words “yes, but” should not be used to diminish or take away someone’s pain. Sometimes people just need to be heard. They need space to feel their feelings. Using “yes, but” to take away our own discomfort with someone else’s suffering will not help remove the cloud from our own heads, but will instead cause the “I don’t matter” cloud to form around the other person.

Eve asked how she would know when to say “yes, but?” Jeremy told her to think before she speaks, to put herself in the other person’s place, to be kind, and to always follow her heart. If she practiced those things she would be successful most of the time. Jeremy then put his wing on her shoulder and gave her his blessing before he flew beyond the cloud of “yes, buts.”

Eve still could not see clearly, but she knew the only way to release the cloud was by returning to the world. She began her journey in faith and almost immediately encountered her friend Don who was peering at something in the water beside the jetty.

“Hey Don! What do you see?” Eve asked.

“It looks like an old sailboat that’s been underwater for years. It’s covered in barnacles. I bet it was beautiful in its day.” Don replied.

“Yes, but it is still beautiful.”

“I suppose it is.” Don replied as he smiled and saw the submerged boat in a whole new way.

Eve noticed she could see a little more clearly. Part of the cloud dissipated as she continued on her way.

Next, Eve saw her friend Lani looking for shells at the water’s edge. Eve waved and Lani walked toward her with a hand full of beautiful shells.

“I was looking for angel wings, but all I found were these shells.” Lani said.

“Yes, but look at how beautiful those shells are!” Those are really treasures!” Eve replied.

Lani smiled and quickened her step as she returned to the water to look for more.

Eve again noticed the cloud clearing and she continued on her way.

She next encountered her friend Brenda who she had not seen in a very long time. They exchanged greetings and she noticed Brenda was crying. She put her arm around Brenda’s shoulders and listened.

“Last night we lost our house in a fire and all or belongings were destroyed. My boys and I were able to get out and no one was hurt, but my dog is gone and has not returned home.”

It was obvious Brenda was in pain and Eve’s first reaction in her head was to say “yes, but you and your sons are alive, you have insurance, and you can buy new things”, but she remembered Jeremy’s words and thought before she spoke. Rather than say anything, she chose to listen instead. Eve’s cloud dissipated even more and Brenda felt more at peace.

By the time Eve arrived home, she was drenched, but the “yes, but” cloud was gone. From that point forward, not only did she use “yes, but” in a healthy way with others, she also treated herself more kindly and used those words in her own thinking. In time, “yes, but,” in the affirmative, became a habitual way of thinking and the joy that previously alluded her became her companion. She thanked every seagull she saw and never doubted again the methods used by the universe to speak to her soul.