Disclosure: I am a Shonda Rhimes fan (duh): Meredith, Addison, Olivia, Annalise. You name, I worship.
So it really should come as no surprise that I loved her first book, Year of Yes. I loved it on spec, really. Shondaland disciples understand. (Juju be with you. And also with you.) But I was still excited that it met and exceeded my expectations. It was great to read about SHONDA, not just to see her peppered into little bits of her characters.
As you may infer from the title, Rhimes dedicated a year to saying “yes” to things outside her introverted writer comfort zone: giving the commencement speech at her alma mater (Dartmouth, NBD); losing more than 100 pounds; making self-care a priority; saying “no” when necessary; accepting praise — as a woman especially — with a “thank you” and no attempt to negate or downplay your achievements. (Have y’all seen that Inside Amy Schumer thing? You should. We all should. And then we should all knock that shit off.)
Really the best thing I can say about the book is: it made me feel better. I hesitate to use the word “inspirational,” because UGH. But it was. It helped me during a tough time (specifically, the week I happened to be reading it, my brain was not being especially kind to me). But the book still made me laugh so hard my lady-belly ached. I had to put it down multiple times to laugh it out. On at least one page, Rhimes had me brimming with weepy tears, then cry-laughing two paragraphs later. It’s one of those comforting books that made me feel like things are actually pretty OK — I am a badass lady and I shall “power pose like Wonder Woman,” and if you don’t like it, you can just step right off.
I actually bought a LivingSocial deal for an audiobook site just so I could have Shonda Storytime. Maybe her “badassery” can infiltrate me via hypnosis osmosis while I sleep.
Her reflections on Mommy Wars were insightful and hilarious, even though I don’t have children. Standing up at a PTA meeting and shouting “Are you fucking kidding me?!” when they demanded homemade desserts instead of store-bought? Hero. But it also made me think about how I speak to my friends who are mothers, and to consider again the way women address and judge each other. (By the end of that chapter, you too will be all, “Whitney Houston. Curling iron. Solidarity.” Just trust me.)
My favorite chapter was the one about her weight loss, how food is amazing and DOES make you feel better, because it’s delicious but also because it’s a lovely, numbing spackle for your internal wounds. Oh, Shonda — you had me at “Cheesecake will always taste like love.”
My new favorite expression — and get ready, because you’ll see me use it in the future — is “veal practice.”
“Did I tell you what veal practice is?” asks Rhimes. “Oh! Veal practice involved me lying very still on the sofa trying as hard as I could to mimic the life of a veal. While eating veal. I wish I were kidding. It. Was. Magic.”
Veal practice, people. It’s gonna be a thing.
2015 was actually my own Year of Yes — a year that brought me Amy Poehler’s Yes Please, Jenny Lawson’s Furiously Happy, Matthew Quick’s Silver Linings Playbook, and finally Year of Yes, the icing on the therapeutic cake (but only metaphorical cake because I try not to use cake as therapy anymore).
Rhimes’ book is, in essence, about deciding to stop living your life being small — meek, numb, detached. Going through the motions, doing only what you have to, not being present, not feeling joy. Sleeping, basically…hardly even living. I struggle every day NOT to live that way, but she’s right — sometimes it really is easier, so I can’t say I always succeed.
It was as if this year the book gods had bestowed upon me the exact books I needed to get my shy ass off the couch and out to an aerial yoga with a Creative Ladies’ Club full of women I didn’t know, to an oral sex class or a burlesque workshop, and to really deal with my family issues and these romantic ensnarements I can’t escape — Olivia Pope ahoy, y’all. (I suspect I won’t get past them until I find my own Jake Ballard, though, so I think I just have to wait that out. Plus, Liv totally screwed up that Jake thing. I mean, honestly — Jake taught you how to shoot, danced to Stevie Wonder with you, fingered you on a tropical beach, and brought you Gettysburger. WHAT MORE DO YOU WANT, OLIVIA? You want “Olitz,” seriously? Fitz is a giant bitch-baby with an overly emotive forehead. Vermont is cold, and jam sucks — Jake shakes like jelly. For the love of God, Liv, go STAND IN THE SUN!!!!!!)
*pant* *pant* *pant*
I sense I have too many feelings about this.
So. You go get yourself a copy of Year of Yes.
And I? I will go enjoy some veal practice.
*At my request (pleading, really), the lovely people at Simon & Schuster send me a copy of Year of Yes for my review.