Shondaland, the magical place where Scandal, Grey’s Anatomy and How To Get Away With Murder are created is a real place. Granted, a place of fairy tales—of Liv and the gladiators and Christina Yang with the voice all women wish they had as well as McDreamy and McSteamy. The woman behind the scenes is Shonda Rhimes, writer, creator, badass.
Aside from wishing I were her, I’d also like to spend a day inside her head. My wish comes true with the publication of her new book, Year of Yes. And, yes, there is some behind the scenes secrets concerning Meredith and Christina and Olivia and Fitz but it is more a tale of how women grab power—for if we don’t grab and grasp for dear life, no one’s gonna hand it over.
How is it that the woman who reshaped television and captured our collective souls every Thursday night was once meek, quiet and small? I kinda figured badasses just emerged from the womb that way. Not so my dolls. Breathe a sigh of relief, there’s hope for the rest of us.
It is with a great heave of consolation we learn she was afraid to speak up at meetings and often said no to engagements because she’d rather eat ice cream and watch Netflix. Sound familiar? It brings a sense of solace that a woman at the top of her game lets us in on a great secret. If you’re scoring high marks at work, your personal life probably sucks and your children may write Mommy Dearest memoirs about you.
How, you ponder? Her sister told her she always says no to things. So she vowed for one year to say yes to everything—including things that scared her, things she believed she could not do, anything that came along. And she watched her life change, her power grow and her sense of self soar into badass mode. She also learned to say no.
Are we all not guilty of saying yes and then thinking and rethinking ’til we say no because we just can’t manage that speech, that public party, that networking event. For those of us more at home with a computer in front of us, the face to face can be daunting. It takes a long time to join this girl’s circle and it involves quite a bit of me circling you to make sure you don’t bite.
Evidence bit me in the butt last month at a party when a woman said, “I wanted to call and check on you this past year but your circle of friends is so tight, I didn’t think I’d get in.” It’s true. I do more pushing away than welcoming in when times are tough. Also, I looked bad so there’s that.
Contemplating a year of yes scares the hell out of me. I can’t do that; I have a feeding tube. I can’t do that; my speech is still stilted and lispy. I can’t do that; I don’t have anything to wear ’cuz I’ve lost so much weight. Well, that one was true before when my ass was the size of a house.
No more excuses, yes means yes and I’m up for the challenge. Maybe.