Say Yes Yes Yes to Shonda Rhimes’ ‘Year of Yes’!

25690958First off, I just want to thank my running buddy/dog video marketing pal for recommending this book. The few TV shows I tune into pre-date the Grey’s Anatomy era (can’t get enough Mulder and Scully!) so I’m not at all familiar with Ms. Rhimes’ work. Judging by the book cover, I would’ve assumed this was just another piece of gobbledygook for the self-help rack.

In a sense, this is self-help, but without the “no duh” pop psychiatry and mind-numbing filler. It all depends on how much you see yourself in this brilliant woman, and whether or not you’re brave enough to follow her lead in saying (or in my case, whimpering) yes to every personal-growth opportunity that scares you silly. Televised public speaking, anyone? Just shoot me now.

Her Year of Yes began when she overheard her disgruntled big sister mutter, “You never say yes to anything.” Until this moment, she never really reflected on the reasons why she turned down the many perks of her job. You see, this woman pretty much owns Thursday night. For my fellow retro-TV fans, I should tell you that she’s the mastermind behind Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder. Whoa!

So yeah, she’s kind of a big deal. But yet, she’s a house mouse. Red carpet events, jet-setting adventures and VIP rooms are no match for a quiet evening at home with Dr. Who and a nice glass of merlot. Being the closet introvert that I am, this totally makes sense. But, hey, you’ve got to have balance, right? Deep down, she knew something was very wrong. So when her sister muttered those six little words, she couldn’t shake the nagging feeling that she was in fact miserable.

One of the many things that I find truly remarkable about this woman is that she does not take words lightly. Every passing comment or passive-aggressive jab has meaning, but many of us just shoo them away like a pesky fruit fly. Not Shonda. She will sit back, swirl those words around in her brilliant mind and come away with a new perspective about herself and others. She would find moments of clarity in everyday moments, like when her toddler greeted her with grubby hands asking her to play. Dressed to the nines and late for a red carpet function, she was well within her rights to tell the kid to take a raincheck. But yet she couldn’t shake the feeling that she was missing out on something even bigger than those dazzling A-list parties. She realized right then and there that when her kids asked her to play, she would always answer with an emphatic “YES!” Why? Because soon enough they won’t want to play with their mom anymore, and well…it’s just love. Now that’s a pretty cool mom, folks.

While we’re on the topic of motherhood (a concept that’s foreign to me), I just want to commend her for keeping it real. She used a beautiful analogy that captures the plight of so many moms who are trying to keep up with the Martha Stewarts of the world. Back in the days when Whitney Houston reigned supreme, she would torture her hair for hours to get those curls that only Whitney could pull off. When she found out that her idol was in fact wearing a wig—and that Whitney was living a lie–she was devastated about the many wasted hours of trying to accomplish the impossible. It made her realize how so many women parading as “perfect moms” are just smoke and mirrors. That’s why she is adamant about telling the world that she has a nanny and that no woman should be ashamed about asking for help.  She so eloquently points out that women are not superheroes, they’re not martyrs, and they shouldn’t (this is the best part) ever say that motherhood is a job. I’m not a mother, but I am the product of a mother who treated child-rearing as job on par with cleaning toilets.

Thank you, Shonda, for pointing out that motherhood isn’t about punching in the clock and bragging about your martyrdom.

“Powerful famous women don’t say out loud that they have help at home, that they have nannies, housekeepers, chefs, assistants, stylists… They don’t say out loud that they have those people at home doing these jobs because they are ashamed. Or maybe a more precise way to say it is that these women have been shamed.”

I could go on and about the chapters in this book that sang to my soul, but this review is turning into a novella. I’ll leave you with one lasting thought that Shonda brought up in her Dartmouth commencement speech (one of her many scary “yes” challenges). There are dreamers and there are doers. Dreaming is a crock. Go get your Nike on and just do it! Sounds like another platitude, right? Not in Shondaland. She smashed every goal with a vengeance—from losing over 100 pounds, to appearing on live TV, to writing this deeply personal memoir.

“Everyone’s got some greatness in them. You do. The girl over there does. That guy on the left has some. But in order to really mine it, you have to own it. You have to grab hold of it. You have to believe it.”

It was a real adventure accompanying Shonda on her life-altering quest. I hope that one day she will live out her fantasy of making jam in Vermont and writing novels all day. When it comes to screenwriting, she has the midas touch, so I have no doubt that anything she writes will be pure gold!

Now I must be off. I’ve got a book to write! No more dreaming—just doing from here on out! Thanks, Shonda, for the kick in the pants.

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