Maria’s Reading: Year of Yes

Shonda Rhimes the writer, producer, TV mogul, who owns Thursday Night, shares life changing lessons that most, even those who are not successful yet unhappy introverts, can find helpful. It all begins with her sister Delores mumbling under her breathe “you never say yes to anything” while preparing Thanksgiving dinner in 2013. Dolores had been listening to Shonda list all the fascinating invitations she had declined lately. The offhanded comment is explosive for Shonda who realizes after deep self-reflection that she is not enjoying her life even with all her amazing accomplishments, she’s burnt out. She decides to say yes to the things she fears the most for the next year.

The book reveals how Shonda a self-described introvert, “My marrow is introvert marrow. My snot is introvert snot”, overcomes her social anxiety to deliver on the self-prescribed commitment to say yes. She says yes to public speaking to be a guest on Kimmel, give the commencement speech at her alma mater Dartmouth plus other interviews and speeches. She says yes to well being and looses 117 pounds over the year while learning ways other than eating and drinking wine to handle stress. She learns to say “No” to things others want her to do, saying yes to her own sense of what is right for her shows and her life. She says yes to healthy relationships shedding harmful friendships and a fiancée. She says yes to love by joining in with any of her three daughters each time one asks “do you wanna play”.

I listened to the audio book of Year of Yes and I’m glad I did. There is a cadence to Rhimes’ storytelling of her experiences during the year that are best captured in her own voice rather than reading. In an amusingly self-effacing manner she shares her internal dialog allowing the reader to see her. Her experiences are shared from the perspective of as she refers to herself a “First, only different” read Black, woman, single parent, feminist. There were times I talked back to her audio book saying “I hear you girlfriend”. She owns that she is “a Type A, obsessive, workaholic, control freak…who is scary, psychotic competitive”. She is honest about her eating problems, the comfort she took in eating fried chicken and chocolate chip cookies. She also shares the horror she felt after loosing weight and realizing she could have killed herself with food. She is often repetitive and digresses for a while to comeback to making her point, but the take-away lessons are worth it.