How do you feel when you find a book so charming it need not a recommendation?
The book itself may have an air of tranquillity that whispers softly, “read me.” The book cover looks inviting on the outside and the content synopsis on the inside is welcoming and pleasant. The author is a well-known or well-liked figure in the community so reading their words feel as if you are listening to a mentor and dear friend. When these types of books are released, they fly off the shelf due to excellent marketing into home libraries everywhere, frequently passed around to friends and family until their covers are worn and tattered.
I added a book just like this to my home library this past June. It was close to the top of my reading list because a few of my friends had already read it and it didn’t take a hard sell to ask my husband to pick up a copy while he was out. That book was Year of Yes: How To Dance It Out, Stand In The Sun and Be Your Own Person, Shonda Rhimes’ memoir chronicling her goal to “say yes” to all the things that scared her for one year.
You may have noticed that she was not a public figure until very recently. She has been writing and producing movies and tv shows since the late-90s but stayed off camera and out of interview rooms. She could have attended any function she wanted, participated in almost any event; but she was so afraid or worried or busy that she almost always said no. She said no to friends, her kids, and to co-workers. She was essentially saying no to herself- to her health and to her sanity. Both a hardworking woman in the Entertainment Industry and social justice activist, life started to take a toll on her self-esteem and her weight.
As she explains in her book, she was done with being “miserable.”
If you don’t know who she is, Shonda Rhimes is the creator and showrunner of three tv-shows- “Grey’s Anatomy”, “Scandal”, and “How to Get Away With Murder”. She pretty much owns Thursday nights on ABC. She is a professional writer, a devoted mother, and all around badass black women. In her book, she recounts memories of her schooling and upbringing, as well as living and growing up with a close-knit family. But mostly, she talks about THAT YEAR, the Year of Our Lord, Two Thousand, One Hundred, and Fourteen.
From the very first page, she was honest and engaging. I mean, LAUGH OUT LOUD funny. I couldn’t get past the first few pages (the DISCLAIMER) without attracting attention to myself. I laughed at my dinner table and on a crowded bus; I laughed while hiding in my bathroom and late at night after my family went to bed. I laughed and laughed and laughed, but mostly, I was INSPIRED.
I loved that every chapter was centered around a particular subject she decided to say yes to. Not random, “yes to hiking on Saturdays”, but of tangible, S.M.A.R.T. goals she could track and implement over time. She declared to being more aware and to be kinder to herself. She eliminated the notion that she could “do it all” as a working mother, and reminded me that I should do the same. I could also relate to the sticky and gooey feeling of being an F.O.D. (First. Only. Different), appreciative that she was saying out loud some of the things I had only wondered to myself.
Every moment I spent with Shonda’s Year of Yes felt like a warm embrace in a cold storm.
At the time, I was halfway through my #yearofblackbooks, creating a deep connection to her freedom to say “YES.” Every yes I said to a new book felt the same as the yes she would say to award shows, commencement ceremonies, and interviews. I realized that if I could say “YES!” to books and knowledge, I could say yes to all of me. To my health, to my kids, to my sanity.
“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.” ― Shonda Rhimes
I was already on my own path of “YES!” when I started Year of Yes. And I will continue on, making room for the things I know give me happiness and a sense of wholeness. I recommend Year of Yes to anyone looking for the inspiration to change things up, or simply have a good belly laugh.
Shonda Rhimes delivered a TED Talk in February 2016 and I highly recommend you watch it.
You can pick up your copy of Shonda Rhimes’ book on Amazon. You can also follow her on Twitter . And I challenge you to take some time, think of your happiness, and maybe, start saying YES to YOURSELF?