YES is a small word with lots of power.
Lately “yes” has been coming at me from several directions.
First YES: Entering a post-70th birthday purge, I’ve been tossing things, cleaning up my computer, deleting old documents. I found a seminar script from one of my earliest workshops entitled YES I CAN! Having come of age in the Just Say No to all the somewhat destructive impulsive activities of the ‘70s and ‘80s, this YES workshop had a new spin. Yes to dreams, yes to success, yes to self-love and following that, yes to love in an intimate relationship.
Why not update this YES I CAN to fulfill some dreams for 2017?
Next YES: After years of wanting to take an improv class since I moved to Arizona, I finally signed up for a sampler class at Unscrewed Theater, a local improv theatre here in Tucson AZ. It is the home of the improv troupe Not Burnt Out Just Unscrewed. Our instructor, Mike, bubbled with enthusiasm and out poured one idea after another for three fast-moving hours. But here are the words he said that pulled me into the commitment to improv. “The moment I started applying the tenants of improv my life got better across the board.” What! Really?
Another gem: The one and only rule stated by our instructor: Support and follow up what is said with “YES AND…” This opened up a memory of using “yes and” when I was teaching elementary kids. “No” can be a red flag for most people, not just little ones. NO can be so awfully final. It means to your battle stations, argue, pout. So why not turn it into yes?
“Can we go out for recess?” “Yes as soon as we put all these books on the shelf.”
“Can I sit next to David?” Sure, you just move your desk next to his.”
Extrapolate that. Can I ever get a Distinguished Toastmasters certificate? Yes, just do one project after another and you’ll get there.
Can we afford to buy this house? Yes, if we stick to this budget we’ll have the down payment in six months.
Can I get my book written? Yes, put pen to paper, fingers to keyboard regularly, and it WILL happen.
“Yes” is connected to action, either mental or physical. Kind of like a post-it reminder in my office: Parties who want milk should not seat themselves on stool in the middle of a field in hopes that a cow will back up to them. ~ Elbert Hubbard
After the three-hour improv sampler I signed up for their eight-week class. When I told Hank, my husband, and main cheerleader, he dryly remarked, “Oh what a surprise.” Yes and, he also said it with a smile.
Personal YES: My friend Rose sent an email: (When I took improv) I also became a much better person. I developed the capacity to have even more patience with my husband (a two-time stroke survivor) and allow other people to be who they are.
I may not want to live their lifestyle but I allow them to be. I also say yes to life. I am more supportive of other people. My creativity in all areas of my life grew leaps and bounds. Out of improv I had to courage to expand the puppet business with puppet shows and me singing and playing the ukulele. “ – Rose, the Tucson Puppet Lady
I’m not writing this to be preachy, but because there may be folks out there who are looking for a simpler way to get along in life. Improv or improv “games” could offer that, along with fun. Improv is about not being perfect, not trying to be clever all the time. Whew, the pressure is off.
Literary YES: Looking for a new Kindle book a few days later, I googled “improvisation.” One title really caught my eye: Improv Wisdom: Don’t Prepare, Just Show Up by Patricia Ryan Madson. Learn about improvisation and get a shot of wisdom at the same time? There’s a yes for me. I thought the book would have a listing of icebreakers, warm-ups, and action games.
Not so, but Ms. Madsen is giving me just what I need. Not out of the box ideas but simpler in the box suggestions for daily use. Just say yes for a day or a week. Just say yes to someone in your life. Rather than “no” or the oblique “no” of “Why not do it this way, aka my way, instead?” (which is labeled a blocker) simply accept the way something is suggested.
My life doesn’t have room anymore for folks who suggest overly risky or illegal ideas, so to try the exercise of just saying yes for a week has been enlightening. I do love to have my way, not only because I cling to the belief that I’m right, but I just like to get my way, and it’s a habit that perhaps has run its course.
From my brief Improv Sampler experience, I believe the “yes and” suggestion in improvisation means 100% yes to your scene partner’s statement. Not simply agreeing and then going off on your own path, but adding to their statement. Making your partner look good.
When you are in a relationship in life, whether friendship, intimate, or professional, and you make your partner look good (and that does not mean you have to look bad – it’s not about you) it becomes fun to see how many ways you can say yes, agree, add to the ‘scene.’
Bonus to boost the YES: Over the years I’ve gotten a lot of positive back-up from a book that scared the bejezzus out of me when I was a kid. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The Queen’s fondness for cutting off heads added to more than one childhood nightmare. But Alice also offers some aid for YES I CAN:
“It’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.”
“If you don’t know where you are going any road can take you there.”
“Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
Hey, I’ll say yes to that.
Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and the writing life. She is the author of Thinking of Miller Place, and Seedlings, Stories of Relationships.