I am ridiculously late getting on the Shonda Rhimes bandwagon—about 11 years late. I blame the TV promos for shows like Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal. What I saw when I watched those promos is how much I was going to have to swoon over Dr. McDreamy and how often I was going to gasp at the actions of a gorgeous woman in gorgeous clothes having an affair with the president. Those promos told me nothing of the girl power, the total badassery (it’s a word, just ask Shonda’s spell check) I would get to experience by watching those shows. They did not tell me that I would get to see stories about people who are, like me, “dark and twisty” and loveable. Those promos didn’t say a word about a short African-American super hero named Dr. Bailey. They did not mention that the shows would explore the many double standards women and girls face in the workplace and at home. Or that those shows would talk about the fact that some women don’t want children—not because they have shriveled up prune hearts, but because they want to give everything to their careers—and that’s okay.
In spite of all this misinformation, one day last year, Netflix recommended Scandal to my mom, and I happened to wander in during the third episode. The rest is . . . well, A LOT of binge watching and a lot of feeling proud and gratified that a woman is standing up in television and telling stories, in particular women’s stories, in a way they never have been told before.
Suffice it to say, I enjoy her work and I had already taken to “dancing things out” (in my underwear, when necessary) when I picked up her 2015 book Year of Yes. I got about 50 pages in before I realized that I could not keep this fabulous writing, this humor, this wisdom to myself. I needed to read this book aloud. I needed to hear Shonda’s personal, conversational style floating on the air, dancing like dust motes in the sunshine. As in so many cases, my mother became my audience for this. We laughed and cheered our way through the book. We nodded and said, “Amen”. We had a great time.
Much as the title states, Shonda (I use her first name in this piece not out of any kind of disrespect, but out of the sense of camaraderie I feel. Read the book, and I think you’ll agree that Shonda would be okay with it.) finds herself committing to saying yes to everything that scares her for a year. She’s not happy about it. She’s not the least bit excited about it. But she recognizes that she’s not enjoying her life and things aren’t going to get better if she does not take action. She tells funny, touching stories about her life, her career, her family. She talks about saying yes, and she encourages the reader—me—to say yes, too.
She reminds me that the best way to handle confrontations is not to back down and crawl into a hole, but ALSO not to become aggressive. It’s to calmly, neutrally ask what a person means by what they are saying.
She tells me to stop brushing off compliments as though I did nothing to merit them and instead, simply smile and say, ”Thank you”.
She informs me that no one is doing it all perfectly. No one can do it all, not her, not me, not anyone. That is not how life works. That is an impossibility. There is always a tradeoff.
She reveals to me that she has realized she had been saying yes to a detrimental nutritional lifestyle for years and that she now she is saying yes to a healthy body.
Suffice it to say (again), I recommend this book. I particularly recommend enjoying it with someone else—either reading it aloud or reading it concurrently with someone with whom you can say, “Amen”. And with whom you can laugh (I’ll never hear anyone talk about meeting their client without an inner giggle ever again).
Since I started reading Year of Yes, I’ve been trying to see where in my life I need to say yes more. In a way, it’s much more basic than that though. It’s not really about saying yes to one particular thing or other. It’s about saying yes to me—to all of me. To stop thinking that I am better or worse than I am. To be honest about what I want, what I can do, and what I am living for—to say yes to all of that. And to follow through on being who I already am.