By Alexa Day
Shonda Rhimes’s book, Year of Yes, came out a little over a year ago, and I jumped on it as soon as it was released. I picked it up again a few days ago, now that I’m deciding what the next year is going to look like. I’ve tried to say yes more often that I’ve said no this past year, and 2016 has been pretty exciting as a result. As I start looking into 2017, I thought I’d share with you all some of the high points from Shonda’s Year of Yes — and one high point from my own journey.
(In my head, Shonda and I are on a first-name basis. Someday she’ll challenge me on that, I’m sure, but I doubt today will be that day.)
The Year of Yes began shortly after Shonda’s sister observed that her famous sibling never said yes to anything. After some reflection, Shonda pledged to say yes to everything that scared her. One week later, the president of Dartmouth College asked her to deliver the commencement address.
She said yes.
After dropping the f-bomb at a back-to-school meeting in response to the suggestion that contributions to the bake sale must be homemade, she said yes to storebought baked goods and to a nanny. Enlisting help and support when necessary does not equate to failure in parenthood, she writes. Finding help and support makes the well rounded life — or even moderate levels of sanity — possible.
She said yes to her body, to the physical vehicle she depended on as she created a body of work and raised her children. During the Year of Yes, she lost 100 pounds, and she did that without making any one food off-limits. Shonda lost 100 pounds during the Year of Yes without saying no to food.
She said yes to herself by saying no to others. She did not respond to work communications after 7 p.m. during the week or at any time on the weekend. She said no to poor casting decisions. She left a long-term relationship because she didn’t want to be married.
I tend to think of myself as being comfortable with yes. I’m even better with why not? But I saw myself in Shonda’s journey to saying yes to praise, compliments, and recognition. Like Shonda, I used to be the sort of person who deflected compliments with explanations and reductions. I think I’ve made my way out of that phase — it’s a lot less stressful just to say thank you and keep it moving. I also know that recognizing that one’s own talents does not diminish anyone else or their talents.
And yet …
I made the USA Today Bestseller List this past July. It’s been about five months now. I still have trouble telling people that.
Oh, sure. It’s one thing to type it here, there and everywhere. If I could put it on a nametag and be done with it for good, I wouldn’t have any problems at all. But I’ve only told a handful of people, and very few of them are other authors. When it comes to telling other authors, I’m all deflections and explanations. It was a box set, I said. I was with a lot of very talented people, I said. I didn’t expect that from myself; I’m a firm believer in tooting one’s own horn. And yet here I was.
Finally, I confessed to someone the other day that I didn’t actually feel like I had done it.
“Okay,” she said. “Well, you did do it. So you may as well tell people you did it.”
And she’s right. This is how Shonda had to take on the Year of Yes, by taking hold of these uncomfortable acts and following through anyway.
It’s good to have an example to follow. And a whole year to get better at saying yes. And also The Year of Yes Journal, while we’re appreciating things.
What do you need to say yes to? Find your people in the comments.
And follow Lady Smut. We know all about saying yes.