7:58am PT by Christina Schoellkopf
5 Things That Happened to Shonda Rhimes After She Said "Yes" to Everything for a Year
Shonda Rhimes just finished having the best year of her life. She became happier, healthier — and over a hundred pounds lighter. What's her secret? All it took was one word: "yes." The Grey's Anatomy, Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder creator committed to saying yes to everything for an entire year.
As recounted in her new memoir Year of Yes (Simon & Schuster, 336 pages, Nov. 10) this journey was not something the Queen of Thursday night programming wanted to do; it was something she needed. After waking up in the middle of one night in 2013, she realized she was "miserable."
"I used to be a really happy person. A vibrant person," writes Rhimes. "I may have been shy and introverted but I had a rowdy, fun crowd of friends, some of whom I'd known since college and, with them around me, I was dance-on-the-tables-Shonda, drive-to-New-Orleans-at-a-moment's-notice Shonda, adventurous and always up for anything Shonda. Where did she go?"
Her older sister had the answer. On Thanksgiving morning 2013, the eldest Rhimes sibling told her baby sister, "You never say yes to anything." It dawned on Rhimes that by turning down opportunities that forced her out of her comfort zone, she was closing herself off from countless joyful moments. The self-proclaimed introvert had become so accustomed to hiding behind the walls of her own imagination and rejecting the world outside of her TV writing rooms, that she became numb to the excitement of life.
But she was ready to change. On her birthday (Jan. 13), she texted her closest friends: "Am going to say yes to anything and everything that scares me. For a whole year. Or until I get scared to death and you have to bury me. Ugh." Here are five things Rhimes did for the Year of Yes:
She lost 127 pounds.
One night, after what she refers to as "The Airplane Seat Belt Incident of 2014" (when she couldn't get her seat buckle across her waist in a first class airplane seat), Rhimes found herself lying in bed eating warm chocolate-chip cookies when it hit her: she had been saying "yes to fatness." Food had created a "nice topcoat" over her emotions. "Underneath the food, everything inside me was smooth and cold and numb. I was dead inside and that was good ... Putting food on top of it casts a spell to make the feelings go away." After reaching the point where she had knee and joint pain, sleep apnea and high blood pressure, she said "yes to her body."
She said no to getting married.
"No is powerful. It's a big weapon to have in your arsenal," Rhimes writes. "But it is a very tough weapon to deploy." During the year her boyfriend raised the "what are we" and "what are we doing" questions, she realized it was not what she wanted. So, she said "yes to telling [her] truth" and admitted to her boyfriend that her first love is writing and that she would never be able to pour that same level of energy into a devoted marriage.
She survived an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live!.
When Rhimes heard her publicist say, "They want you to be on Kimmel," she panicked. "You know what happens on live TV? Janet Jackson's Super Bowl Boob happens on live TV. Adele Dazeem happens on live TV ... Shonda walking out to greet Jimmy and instead of walking like a normal person, I trip over my own feet, falling and cracking my head on the corner of Jimmy's desk, causing my cerebrospinal fluid to leak out as I lie twitching on the ground with my dress bunched up around my waist, revealing my double Spanx to a national audience," she writes. For the first yes, she did Jimmy Kimmel Live! (as long as it was pre-recorded).
She said "poop" seven times in a speech.
When the president of her alma mater, Dartmouth College, asked if she could give a twenty-minute commencement speech in front of about ten thousand people, her first thought was, "Ummm. Universe? Are you freaking kidding me?" But she said "yes," and NPR named it one of "The 25 Most Promising Graduation Speeches of the Year."
She acted on one of her favorite shows, The Mindy Project.
Mindy Kaling reached out to Rhimes asking if she could do a cameo on her show, The Mindy Project, which happens to be one of her favorite shows. Since Kaling is what Rhimes calls "a member of the mafia" (or a fellow Dartmouth alumna), she really had to say "yes" to this one.
Is the "Year of Yes" over? Far from it. "I am only just beginning to understand that the very act of saying yes is not just life-changing, it is life-saving," writes Rhimes. "Saying no was my own slow form of suicide ... I don't want to be done with my Year of Yes. I am a work in progress. I can't stop now."