Sunday, August 22, 2010

Yes, and...

I'm not normally a fan of red -- except as an accent color -- but I do love this red boat.

And isn't that true of just about everything?  Even the stuff we don't like seems to have its place in the world, its role to play in our lives, its moment to shine.  I might say no to a red dress, or even to painting one red wall in my dining room -- but I can say yes to this red boat.

One of the phrases that keeps coming up in my classes -- and in my improv work as well -- is "Yes, and..."  In improv, our job is to cooperate, to go with the flow, to say yes to whatever happens and run with it.  If you say no, the action stops, and the actors are left staring at one another wondering what to do next.  But if you say "Yes!" and then elaborate, it leads to more possibilities for creativity.

Saying "Yes, and..." in the business world has a similar effect: it acknowledges and affirms the speaker and their reality, and includes them in the promise of what is to come.  In saying "Yes, and..." we agree that their statement is valid and imply that it has relevance to whatever joint outcome we are working toward.

So why is it that we find it so hard to say "Yes, and ..." to life, to our families, to our friends and neighbors, and even to God?  I find it particularly hard to imagine saying "Yes, and..." to my children, but when I can wrap my head around it it seems like life would be much more of an adventure.

"Mommy, Mommy, can I get another Barbie doll?"

"Yes!  And let's buy up EVERY BARBIE DOLL ON THE SHELVES and take them all home and start a Barbie Doll museum because they are all SO DIFFERENT from each other and so INCREDIBLY LIFELIKE!"  is certainly a different way of saying, "Honey, no, you've already got so many Barbies you don't need another one."  And it gives the kids a chance to say, "Oh, mom, that's silly; can't you see they're all the same under their clothes and hair?"

Of course, you might be encouraging a rather flippant attitude in your kids...  Or they might end up feeling like they have to rein you in all the time...

It's a very gray and rainy day today: should I whine about it, and resent that all my plans have had to shift?  Or shall I say, "Yes, and it's a perfect opportunity to finally get around to writing that paper I've been putting off: thank heaven I don't have to water the garden today!"  Saying yes is about adopting a positive attitude toward the inevitable.

It's harder, of course, to say yes to the difficult things: when I see my husband and children playing on the computer or watching TV instead of pursuing job possibilities, it's hard to say, "Yes, and let's spend some money while we're at it!"  But I can say -- have said -- "Yes, I see you are not ready to tackle this but I trust you will eventually.  And in the meantime, how about if I build up a skillset and some connections so maybe I can return to the job market in case you don't."  Yes, in this case, is a way of admitting that your priorities and their priorities may not be the same, and that you will take responsibility for your worldview without attacking them for theirs.

It's harder still to say yes to people who are diametrically opposed to your worldview.  I find it very hard to say yes to the Republicans who are accusing the Democrats of destroying our economy; about the closest I can come is to say, "Yes, and do you see what it is that the Republicans did to set it all up for failure?"  I find it hard to say yes to the fundamentalists who insist that the Bible was written in King James English and gays are an anathema and only those who accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior will be saved.  "Yes, and shall we work together to learn how to love our neighbors as ourselves?"  Because really, I need to learn to love them, too...

And then there are the times when we have no choice but to say yes.  I have two friends who have recently had to deal with life-threatening illnesses in their adult children.  And when the call came in the night, they both said "Yes," and dropped their vacation plans, flew to the hospital bedside, and began the painful vigil of prayer and coping that entails.  One child is now out of the ICU and mending, the other is still there, and things are still touch and go.  Do I miss my friends and worry about them and their son?  Yes, and I hold them in my thoughts and prayers, hope for the best and prepare for the worst.

"Yes, and..." is pretty radical stuff -- even frightening -- when you think about it.  Because it has to be an admission that you are not in control, that you and your beliefs are not the center of the universe, that everything will not always go your way; even that things could get REALLY BAD.  But "Yes, and..." is a way of saying "It's all good;" a statement of belief that things WILL work out, that compromise IS possible, and that, somehow, as it says in Romans 8:28, "We know that for those who love God all things work together for good."

Believing that, and deciding to say yes, is to adopt an attitude of faith.  Are you ready to do that?  Or are you at least willing to try?  Are you willing to practice saying yes today when you want to say no?

I'm not sure.  Could I at least wait til the sun comes out? Maybe it'll be easier then...

2 comments:

Maureen said...

Great post, Diane.

M.L. Gallagher said...

Yes. Great post. And yes -- you can wait until the sun comes out...

And then...

Say yes anyway.