Year Of Yes: How To Dance It Out, Stand In The Sun And Be Your Own Person starts with a very powerful quote by Maya Angelou:
The need for change bulldozed a road down the center of my mind.
I knew this book would resonate given my fixation with women like Shonda Rhimes. She’s not only a creative force but a feminist – someone who speaks her mind and stands up for issues she believes in. She uses her Thursday night platform so carefully, telling stories that demand telling, exploring issues that demand exploration. She’s also a working mom, like me, and a trailblazer. These are two things I’ve had trouble putting together since the birth of my children, and I wanted to find out her trick to “doing it all”.
Well, she’s the first person to admit that no one can do it all. When she was succeeding in one area of life, particularly work, as the creator of the hottest shows on TV (Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder – in case you didn’t already know that!), she was failing in motherhood. Her complacency allowed her weight to skyrocket and she wasn’t enjoying her life, shying away from every invitation and opportunity outside work. As a writer, she makes up stories and she was doing it so much that she was failing to consider her own life. She writes:
This is who I am.
More comfortable with books than with new situations.
Content to live within my imagination.
Until one day on Thanksgiving in 2013. She’s standing in the kitchen with her older sister, Delorse, chopping food and her sister used six words that changed everything: You never say yes to anything. It’s amazing how words from someone you respect more than anyone can change your life, and they changed hers.
She appeared on television in front of the camera, on Jimmy Kimmel and The Mindy Project. She losts 100 pounds. She broke up with her fiancé after realizing that like many of her heroines, she doesn’t want to get married. She gave the commencement speech at Dartmouth, her alma mater.
Aside from the fame stuff, she started to come home for dinner every night at 6pm to spend more time with her children. Weekends became time for them, not work.
The book is an inside track to Shondaland – you do hear about how great it is work with her partner, Betsy Beers, and about her relationship with Sandra Oh (whose character Cristina Yang is her everything), Entertainment Weekly photo shoots, awards, panels, glamour – lots of it. But it’s about a real person inside all this madness. Someone who created her destiny – she knew she wanted to be a writer from age 3 and still pinches herself for getting paid to do what she loves. Someone who adopted 3 kids on her own and has no intention of ever getting married because she likes her life the way it is. Someone who has paved the way for other females in her industry and credits much of her fame to the people she works with.
But deep down, she knows she’s a “badass” and there’s nothing wrong for believing that. Shonda’s writing is casual and honest. Reading this book is like sitting in a room alone with her, getting advice from someone the same age (I’m 45, just like her) on how to embrace life and not let anyone or anything stop you. After a year of saying “yes” and coming to terms with who she is (she accepts the fact that she really needs and loves her nanny, Jenny McCarthy, and that it’s okay to ask for help), she writes:
The one thing I have learned is that I don’t know ANYTHING. If someone had told me that Thanksgiving morning in 2013 that I would be an entirely person today, I would have laughed in their face. And yet…here I am.
127 pounds thinner.
Several toxic people lighter.
Closer to my family.
A better mother.
A better friend.
A happier boss.
A stronger leader.
A more creative writer.
I’ve written about my own struggle being a mom, career and trying to do it all over on The Broad Side, PHD in Parenting and Scary Mommy, and plenty here on this blog. Two years ago after a struggle with Thyroid Cancer, my world opened up and I became less hard on myself. My work has taken a turn for the better, and I’m working with amazing people. I still haven’t figured out my life: I have a special needs child, I work from home and I really need to go to an office rather than work from home), but I’ll get there. It’s not like anyone gave me a motherhood manual to tell me how to navigate the waters. The bottom line is that my identity as a woman is just as important as my identity as a mom, and I try to balance the two worlds every freaking day.
Shonda Rhimes talks a lot about dancing in the sun and taking one year at a time. I like that advice, I’ll take it. Pick up a copy of her book here, lock your bedroom door, curl up in bed and just take it from there.
Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post.