Warning: A bit of naughty language.
“Live with total integrity. Be transparent, honest, and authentic. Do not ever waiver from this; white lies and false smiles quickly snowball into a life lived out of alignment. It is better to be yourself and risk having people not like you than to suffer the stress and tension that comes from pretending to be someone you’re not, or professing to like something that you don’t. I promise you: Pretending will rob you of joy.” ~ Christine Carter
I listened to The Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes on Audible this summer, a book I selected out of mild curiosity instead of the usual strong desire that precedes my diving into a reading selection.
I wasn’t sure I wanted to read the book because I don’t watch television, and the book is written by a television writer. And not just any old television writer, but one who has written some of the most popular and successful shows of our time.
Of the many hours of television Rhimes has written, I’ve maybe seen one or two scenes. That’s not a criticism of her work, but a testament to my absenteeism. Television just isn’t my thing. Most nights, I choose reading and listening to music over watching the screen.
Also, I don’t need encouragement to say yes.
I’m the girl who asked if she could please perform an improvised monologue in front of her fourth-grade classroom in which she acted like a flea in some sort of comedic distress while wearing her grandmother’s black polyester jumpsuit, a relic of the 70s that was bequeathed to me because I liked dress up.
Of course, I say yes! I say yes to opportunity and new experience. I say yes to work every, freaking time. I say yes to new friends, neighbors, compliments, recognition, help, coffee refills, extra sleep, dates, and another glass of wine.
Just this afternoon, I said yes to sex when I should have been working.
This weekend, I said yes to my kids when they wanted to have an epic impromptu sleepover with three friends.
When it became clear that my marriage was over, I said yes to divorce.
When I had the opportunity to quit my corporate job for the fun and fancy-free life as a freelance, holy-shit-I-don’t-know-where-my-next-paycheck-is-coming-from contract worker, I said yes.
Yet, I still learned a lot from The Year of Yes.
I related to Rhimes’ childhood love of solitude in the kitchen pantry of her parent’s home where she became enraptured with her fictional world, because I, too, love story. I spent hours in my room as a child with stories in my head, taking breaks to follow my mother around incessantly narrating the dramatic lives of my baby dolls.
By saying yes to things that terrified her, things that challenged her, things that stretched her, Rhimes was forced to get deeply honest with herself.
Through mindfulness practice, we also learn to be deeply honest with ourselves. We learn to pause and notice our thoughts, feelings, and experiences. The idea is to take an objective look at the present moment again, and again, and again. And as you do so, you train your brain—building the neural network—to be less reactive.
Over time, you become more present in your life and as you do, you notice more and more and, like Rhimes, you are likely to be moved toward change. You will notice that the person who you thought was your friend isn’t so supportive after all, because you notice how constricted you feel in their presence, or that conversation with them leaves you more stressed rather than less.
You start to really notice things about your life and some of what you see in this new light isn’t flattering. Some of it is quite awful, in fact.
So, if you’re committed to self-honesty, to growth, to saying yes to what is good for you, then you have to make changes to eliminate what isn’t working.
You have to say yes to yourself. Yes to your truth.
For me, this meant saying no to bullshit.
I noticed in my mindfulness practice and in my reflecting on the lessons I gleaned from The Year of Yes, that I had a persistent problem with tolerating bullshit.
Before I go further, let me define the term:
Bullshit: the excuses, justifications, and stories told by people to explain why they are treating you badly, letting you down, or otherwise creating avoidable drama, conflict, and stress in which they are expecting, even hoping for, your engagement. Also, behavior and choices made consciously or unconsciously that ignores the greater good in favor of gratifying the wants, needs, or fears of one party. Also known as being selfish, self-centered, single-minded, arrogant, and/or ignorant.
Perhaps it doesn’t seem very mindful, big of me, kind, or helpful to call bullshit. I know I’ve hesitated in the past for those reasons.
But playing small and allowing others to cross boundaries unchecked is also not very mindful, big of me, kind, or helpful. One simply must be able to call others out when they treat us badly in order to be in wholeness and integrity.
Not calling bullshit is bullshit.
Instead of a year of yes, I’m beginning a year of no bullshit. No bullshitting myself, or tolerating it from others. I’ve been at it for a few days and I’m already seeing changes.
I’m learning to trust my instincts even more, to speak up more and more and more, even when I risk upsetting someone. I’m finding that it’s better to know what others really mean or intend than to walk away from an exchange feeling angry or confused. It’s forcing me to face my own judgment and reactions for what they are just as much as it forces me to step up and ask questions of others.
I can’t control what anyone else does or says, but I can create more understanding and if needed, protective boundaries when I speak up. Holding myself to the no bullshit policy has created a little practice where I do a short mindful scan of my intentions before responding. It’s illuminating, humbling.
You’re welcome to join me in a year of no bullshit. Together, we can say yes to truth and authenticity.
Author: Angela Meredith
Image: Noelene D/Flickr
Editor: Catherine Monkman