embracing the “year of yes”

i picked up a copy of Shonda Rhimes’ The Year of Yes about six months ago but instead of reading it, I stored it on a shelf in my closet.

I’d wanted to read it since I’d first heard her speak about it. Unfortunately, my procrastination gene is strong.

So, I relegated it to the “later” category and avoided making eye-contact with the book in question whenever I needed a pair of shoes or a sweater.

“Read me”, it would say when I opened the closet. “Pick me up, get started. Say yes.” I ignored the book’s entreaties for months. I refused to listen to my inside voice when it reminded me I’d been looking forward to perusing it when I initially plunked down the cash.

I successfully avoided cracking the spine until last week. I finally picked it up, mostly because the other books in the “need to read” pile held no appeal at all – this happens when I’m in a funk, and I’m definitely funkified of late.

I wish I’d read it sooner; I recognized myself throughout.

“You never say yes to anything.”

Words Shonda heard from her sister one afternoon while they were prepping for a family gathering. A shock to her system, and to mine as well.

I could fully relate; I, too, am queen of the no. “No” to going out. “No” to making changes. “No” to stepping out of my comfort zone.

Not saying yes holds me back.

I learned a lot from the book, not the least of which is there’s a lot of Shonda in Grey’s Anatomy’s Bailey. I could hear Bailey’s voice in my head as I read the words and that alone was enough to give me a moderate kick in the pants.

I was not planning to make 2019 the year of yes. It was going to be the year of boundaries. Having them and enforcing them is important, and it’s something I struggle with, but I realized as I worked through the book that there are other important things I need to work on as well. Saying “yes” is one of them.

“Say “yes” to being the sun. “Yes” to accepting compliments.”

These will be hard ones. I don’t like to be the centre of attention. I don’t like to blow my own horn. I don’t like to take credit for doing things well. I brush off and ignore compliments. This is a lifelong habit and I expect change will be difficult. This leads us to –

“Saying “yes” is uncomfortable”.

It’s not easy to change the way we do things. It’s not easy to give up saying “no”. I like staying hidden. I like it when my life is safe. Keeping my world small is easy. It doesn’t, however, bring me joy. I suspect the rewards are worth the pain of leaning in.

“Say “yes” to speaking the whole truth.”

This is going to be a horror to enact. I hate to speak the truth. I prefer to keep the peace, prevaricate, and hide my feelings. I don’t want to risk offending or alienating people. I’d rather harm myself with my silence than speak out. My silence, however, doesn’t make me happy and in the end, when the whole truth finally comes out, I hurt the people I was trying to protect. Better to be wholly honest from the get-go. Better to believe that I won’t be abandoned for doing so.

“Say “yes” to doing enough to satisfy myself.”

I do a lot of things I “have to do”. I have enormously high expectations of myself. I expect perfection. I don’t expect it from others, of course, because that would be unfair and ridiculous. I’m going to revisit that and continue to remind myself that good enough is good enough.

“Say “yes” to play.”

Yes, to play without judgement or criticism. Not every moment has to be productive. Not every second of one’s life must be justified and quantified. If I want to sit on the couch and watch a Big Bang marathon, it doesn’t make me a failure of a human being. I don’t have to justify how I spend my time. I’m allowed to “waste” it. No one besides myself is judging me.

“Say “yes” to my body.”

This one makes me tense. Eating disorders are about saying no. No to food, to eating, to self-love, to acceptance. No to my body. Saying yes means loving body and being grateful for the hard work it does. It means not treating my body like it’s the enemy, like it’s trying to destroy me and make me miserable. It means learning to believe that I’m more that my body; it doesn’t have to be perfect for me to be an acceptable human being. I have value beyond the measurement of my thighs.

It means saying yes to food and learning to accept that food is just food and that eating is just eating, and that neither bingeing nor restricting accomplishes anything. “Yes” to the idea that there is no perfect level of consumption and that food can’t fix me. “Yes” to believing that the need to consume doesn’t make me a failure.

“Say “yes” to connecting with people.”

This is a really hard one. I withdraw when I’m struggling. I let go of people and connections. I like to think that I’m sparing them the drama that comes with me but on reflections, I think I’m sparing myself from something that’s hard. People overwhelm me. Honesty overwhelms me. Hiding out is so much easier.

“Yes” to saying “no.”

This ties into the year of boundaries quite well. “No” is difficult; I hate to disappoint. I hate to reject even the most innocuous request. I’d rather make myself miserable than deny an ask, even a simple one such as “are you available for coffee today?” Even if I’m not, even if I already feel overscheduled, even if I already have other plans, I’ll make it work. I say yes to other people all the time, even when I don’t want to because I fear they’ll feel bad or reject me. Time to say “yes” to having limits. To believing that I won’t be abandoned for meeting my own needs.

“Yes”, to doing what’s best for myself, rather than what I think is best for other people.

“Yes”, to living my life.

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