I read a book from cover to cover! Pre-2015, my excitement over this fact would have been laughable. I was the girl who “always” had her nose in a book. Up until last year, I was also the woman who was constantly reading. It was one of my favorite things. My love for reading was contagious…both of my sons love to read; my husband Reggie developed a love for (non-academic) books last year and I take great pleasure in helping friends learn to enjoy reading by matching them up with just the right book. With all of that love and history with books, 2015 slipped by and I did not read a single book from start to finish except the Bible. While I listened to several audiobooks, it’s not the same. That is why one of my minor goals for 2016 was to read at least 12 books. I thought that it would be easy, but it was actually a little challenging to pick the habit of reading books back up.
I’m glad that I started my book reading challenge with Shonda Rhimes’ Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person book. Ms. Rhimes is a very talented writer. The 15 chapters of the book were funny, vulnerable and easy to read. To stay focused, I jotted down notes for each chapter – including my favorite quotes and any particular reactions that I had to her words. There are certain subjects that I think differently about than she does but overall, I felt challenged in a good way. At the end of the book, I asked myself, “Will you say yes to everything that scares you for a year?” My answer was a conditional “Yes”. As long as the things that scare me don’t jeopardize my top 3 relationships (God, husband and kids), then I’m all in.
There were so many nuggets of wisdom in the book, that I’ll just share the things that especially stood out to me:
Chapter 1: No
You never say yes to anything. – Delorse (Shonda’s sister)
This section shares the origin story regarding what prompts Shonda to begin her personal year of yes. I left it considering whether I make excuses for any of the “No” answers that I give. Are they really valid reasons?
Chapter 2: Maybe
I am miserable. – Shonda
Shonda admits to herself that she is miserable and considers that it might be time to start saying yes to some of the amazing opportunities that she receives. The part of this chapter that stood out to me the most is when Shonda shares that telling good stories is her superpower. She owns it. We all have superpowers. Mine is organization/having an orderly mind. When friends and family need help with schedules, budgets, life decisions and such, they come to me for help. I resisted it for the longest time because I wanted a “different and better” power – like being able to sing. (I know that’s random but both of my sisters have beautiful singing voices. I was the speaker who announced them.) I have come to appreciate this gift more and more over time though. It comes in handy. “So, we need to move in a month? Okay…here’s the 3 things that we need to do.” “So, we need to plan a funeral in 3 days? Okay…here’s the 3 things that we need to do.” You get the picture.
Chapter 3: Umm, Yes…?
“(I) Am going to say yes to anything and everything that scares me. For a whole year. Or until I get scared to death and you have to bury me. Ugh.” – Shonda’s text to one of her closest friends
On her birthday, Shonda decides to say yes to everything for a year.
Chapter 4: Yes to the Sun
And I didn’t die. – Shonda
One of Shonda’s first “yes” answers is to be on Kimmel. She doesn’t do it live but she does it…and she doesn’t die. This was a helpful reminder to ask myself, “What is the worst that can happen if I face (any particular) fear?” I probably won’t die.
Chapter 5: Yes to Speaking the Whole Truth
“Power pose like Wonder Woman!” – Woman from Shonda’s online network
Shonda is scared to deliver the commencement speech at Dartmouth but she exhales and does it anyway. You can see the speech below:
The Mommy War has ended. – Shonda
While I enjoyed many of the points that Shonda makes in this chapter, it also left me a little irritated. I don’t care if a mom stays at home, works from home or works outside of the home. I think that each person should do what works best for her and her family. What annoys me though is when a mom (in any of those categories) talks about being judged and then turns around and judges moms who have made other decisions. I don’t think that was Shonda’s intention and she tackled the issue better than most do but there was a little judgement/arrogance that I noticed. I do agree that no one has it (motherhood) figured out. I even agree when Shonda writes that being a mother is not a job.
I don’t agree when Shonda says that it is not work to stay at home and raise your kids. In Shonda’s own words (in the acknowledgements at the end of the book) “I have a village of powerful, kick* working women who make my house a home.” She includes her nanny among those working women. I reject the notion that housekeepers, nannies and such “work” but stay at home moms who do those very roles don’t work. I have been a stay at home mom, a work from home mom and a work outside of the home mom (when I was a camp administrator while my husband was off from teaching for the summers). During those various experiences, I was always Michael and Sean’s mom. However, I did not do the same work. I suggest that if people don’t want others to define them based on their decisions that they refrain from trying to tell others how to define themselves. If a stay at home mom wants to call being a mom her “job” or her “work”, what is that to me or to you? Absolutely nothing. My mom worked outside of the home and she was awesome. My husband’s late mom was a stay at home mom and she was awesome. I think that the “mommy wars” are ridiculous and will truly end when women stop trying to justify their life choices and discredit the thoughts and opinions of others who choose “to mom” differently.
Chapter 7: Yes to All Play and No Work
Wanna play? – Shonda’s children
This is my favorite part of the book. In this chapter, Shonda decides to answer yes to play. She decides to give her full attention/make herself available/spend uninterrupted time with both her children and herself. There must be something to 15 minutes – that’s the amount of undivided attention time that both her daughters and my sons usually want. It’s not much. I’m a big fan of self-care, so I really appreciate that she also decides to make time for personal play (manicures, pedicures, bookstore browsing and such). After reading this chapter, I made a mental note that I would say yes to “play” with my husband and kids. I told myself that I should probably keep that a secret so that the kids wouldn’t take advantage of it. Unfortunately, I’m awful at keeping my own secrets so I blurted it out at dinner last night. Oh, well…
Chapter 8: Yes to My Body
IT WILL BRING ME NO JOY – Shonda
In this section, Shonda says yes to being healthy. The “it will bring me no joy” quote was helpful to me. I appreciate how Shonda shares that you have to be ready because it’s hard work. I’m not fat but if I’m not careful, I surely will be! I never really had to be concerned with my weight until my mid-30s. It wasn’t hard for me to stay slim before but it is now. It is what it is.
Chapter 9: Yes to Joining the Club
I am on the list but I am not of the list. – Shonda
You can hear the speech that Shonda gives to a group of powerful women in her industry below. It is amazing.
Chapter 10: Yes, Thank You
Did you notice not a single woman in this room can handle being told she is awesome? What is wrong with us?
Shonda notices that all of the women have a hard time being told how amazing they are during a dinner celebrating women in television. As part of her year of yes, she decided to smile and thank people then they compliment her. Over time, she upgrades that acceptance to swagger. I am a big fan of confident women/people so I especially enjoyed this chapter.
Chapter 11: Yes to No, Yes to Difficult Conversations
NO. – Shonda
Shonda writes about how she learns to say no and to stop being a doormat in her personal life. She also learns to be willing to have hard conversations with people. “I can say it or I can eat it,” she writes.
Chapter 12: Yes to People
Gather your people. – Sandie (Shonda’s sister)
Shonda shares how she is able to give a speech to the Human Rights Campaign because she isn’t alone. She has a group of friends (her tribe) with her. In the speech, she talks about how important it is for different people to see themselves represented on the screen so that they won’t feel so alone. It’s so true. It’s 2016 and there are still so few examples of brown moms loving and caring for their own children in the media. Although things are a bit better in the blogging arena, there still has not been a lot of change in the mainstream media since my 2012 Am I Not a Mother? (Representation of Moms in the Media) post. Anyway, Shonda delivered a great speech. You can see a large portion of it below.
Chapter 13: Yes to Dancing It Out (with the right people)
My friends are the real deal. – Shonda
Shonda writes about the final episode with Christina’s character in Grey’s Anatomy. I don’t watch the show but obviously Christina’s character has played an important role in Shonda’s work and actual life – as did a couple of fake friends. She realizes that she doesn’t need those characters – both the TV one and the fake, in real life ones. Rather, Shonda decides to stick with her friends who are the real deal since they are the ones who remind her that she is “braver, faster, stronger”. (Those are the type of friends that we all need to have!) They are friends like Christina and Mer…
Chapter 14: Yes to Who I Am
My happy ending is not the same as your happy ending. – Shonda
In this chapter, Shonda delicately writes about how she breaks off her engagement to a great guy in order to be true to herself. She just doesn’t want to get married…and that’s her prerogative.
Chapter 15: Yes to Beautiful
Whoever I’ll be, I will be beautiful. – Shonda
The last chapter ends with a series of victories that Shonda experiences. A photo shoot for the cover of Entertainment Weekly is one of them. The photographer shouts to Shonda that she’s beautiful as she dances and poses for the camera. She believes it and realizes that this whole year of yes has always fundamentally been about loving herself.
The Year of Yes Book Giveaway
I enjoyed Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person so much that I’m giving away a copy to one lucky Mom in the City reader. Enter below for your chance to win the giveaway prize:
Congrats to the winning email address: [email protected]…