YES is one of my favorite words. What’s not to like? It’s short, it’s peppy, it leads to adventure. Unless it doesn’t.
Too much yes does not equal adventure, too much yes equals being overwhelmed. It equals exhaustion. It equals no time to breathe. It equals me curled up on my side the floor wondering how I ever got into this mess.
Why did I agree to this, whatever THIS is?
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But usually I appreciate a good YES. NO comes more naturally to me, see, so if I hear myself saying YES I’m most likely saying it on purpose.
It’s not that NO is always my deepest truth, though sometimes it is. Most of the time NO is just a really useful tool. It’s my shield. NO keeps me from distraction, and from spending my time and energy where they do not belong. That kind of NO is a good no. That NO is a YES.
But other times my NO is just a hiding place. Sometimes “no” means “that sounds too hard,” or “I don’t know how,” or “I don’t want to push myself,” or “if I do that, I will maybe possibly (definitely) look ridiculous.”
Sometimes I could use a little more YES, is all I’m saying.
That’s why I am hoping I can talk Shonda Rhimes into being my new best friend. (You know Shonda. Or anyway, you know Shondaland, AKA The Place Where Great Television is Born.) We haven’t met or anything—she hangs out with Oprah, I hang out in my bedroom and hope that no one calls me on the actual phone that I do not want to answer—but I think it could work out.
I was reading Shonda’s Year of Yes—if you have somehow accidentally not read this book yet, you might want to fix that—and she writes about saying YES to your own story, not to the story you think you’re supposed to be living.
“When you feel the need to apologize or explain who you are,” she says, “it means the voice in your head is telling you the wrong story. Wipe the slate clean. And rewrite it.”
Oh. The voice in my head can tell so many wrong stories.
Mine sound like:
I’m not worthy of doing that. I’m not qualified. No one wants me to do that.
I really shouldn’t be like this. I should be more interesting. I should be more different. I should be more [fill in the blank, I’ve probably thought it].
I should learn to move faster. I process everything too much. It takes me way too long to be ready for anything.
I should be THERE by now, even though THERE is forever shifting. It’s a moving target. It’s a shimmer on the horizon of my imagination.
I should also be more HERE. More present! More awake! More aware! THERE and HERE, both.
I should have more bandwidth. I don’t have nearly enough for everything I’m supposed to do. Sorry about that.
Except that I’m not sorry.
I’m not sorry about how I am, not really. I’m sorry that someone might not LIKE how I am, but I don’t actually plan to change any of it.
Saying I’m sorry for being me means I understand this isn’t the best way to be, and I’ll work on it. It means, Maybe I’ll eventually turn into someone other people will like better.
But really, I’m not sorry. I’m just ME. I’m not sorry for ME. I’m sorry if someone doesn’t like me, but I can’t really help with that. It’s okay, they can like someone else instead. There are lots of other people to choose from! Phew.
So how do I wipe the slate clean?
How do I quit apologizing and rewrite the story?
True stories sound like:
I don’t know how to do that YET.
Or, That’s not my top priority right now. I am choosing something else.
Or, This is who I am. I can be who I am. I’m better at being me than at being anyone else, anyway.
Or, I am where I am supposed to be, and I am moving forward. I am on my own path.
And, Why aren’t I THERE? Because I am HERE. (What have I been doing all this time? I have been having SIX BABIES and also BREATHING and sometimes EATING or SLEEPING. It’s not nothing.)
Or, I am learning everything I need to know for where I am going and who I am becoming.
Or, Life is not a test. I am practicing.
True stories are more interesting than apologies.
My head can spew a bunch of wrong stories, but my heart knows better, truer ones.
The trouble with true stories is that you have to be brave to tell them, because they don’t leave a lot of room for pretending to be something you’re not.
But in Year of Yes, Shonda writes, “Happiness comes from living as you need to, as you want to. As your inner voice tells you to. Happiness comes from being who you actually are instead of who you think you are supposed to be.”
That’s what we get for our bravery, dear ones. We get happiness. I think it’s worth the trade.
Want your own copy of Year of Yes?
Yes, yes you do. You want to learn how to dance it out, stand in the sun, and be your own person. These are things you want to practice. (Or anyway, they are things I want to practice. If you don’t, that’s okay. You don’t have to. That’s the idea, remember?)
And I have a copy I want to share!
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