Say Yes to Life

“Yes to everything scary.  Yes to everything that takes me out of my comfort zone.  Yes to everything that feels like it might be crazy.”     ~Shonda Rhimes in her book Year of Saying Yes

Saying “yes” changed Shonda Rhimes life.

She is the mega-talented creator of Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal.  She lost 127 pounds.  She let go of toxic people. She is a better mother, friend, happier boss, stronger leader, and more creative writer.  All because she started saying yes to life after her sister asked her why she never said yes to anything.

Sisters are like that –  irritating, honest, and usually on point.  But, we love them anyway.

Shonda's New Book

Shonda’s New Book

Her book is funny, delightful, irreverent, and real.  It touched me deeply after I read it.  You see, being the mother of an addicted son, I said no to everyone and everything except him.  I said yes to his needs, but not mine for a long time.  I felt like I had no other choice, but I was wrong.  I lost and so did he.  I deprived him of feeling competent enough to take care of himself.  I know because he told me so.  I lost a decade of my prime years by being obsessed with him, and it also contributed to the demise of my long-term marriage.  That is why this is such a relevant topic for my blog.

Addiction steals years away from people, not only for the addict, but family members, too. 

I regret losing a decade in the prime of my life.  Addiction is a thief and a life-sucker.  It’s a loss of dreams mixed with times of madness, and when I was in the thick of it, I didn’t know it could be any different.  My perception of what was happening was unbelievably fucked up.  I thought I was a complete failure and so was Cody.  So, for a long time I hid out from life.  I shut down.

I didn’t understand addiction then, but now I know better.  I have a completely different perspective.  Just because the addict in our lives is not sober or not living in recovery or has lost the battle doesn’t mean we have to stop living, too.  If there is one thing I would say to mothers, it is we can still be there for our kids and take care of ourselves, too.  They are not mutually exclusive.  It is called detaching with love.  It doesn’t mean giving up on them.  It means taking care of our own needs, too.  It means saying yes to the need for more time to ourselves, more love, and less anger.

Regret is sometimes the biggest risk of all.  Please don’t regret losing a decade like me.  Don’t hide out.  Don’t shut down. 

We reject more than the opportunity, we reject the fun it might bring and what it might teach us.  We let our FEAR instead of our love guide us and rationalize a “no”.  Opportunities are lost and may not arise again.

Joy's Favorite Ball

Joy’s Favorite Ball

My golden retriever, Joy, comes to mind.  Do you think she would ever say no to playing fetch?  Not Joy.  Yet, there have been plenty of times I’ve said no to things I enjoy.

We can learn a lot from dogs. They always live in the moment.  They love themselves and others unconditionally.

I’ve even said no to Joy as she continued to drop her ball on my lap, while I laid on the couch watching TV, eating chocolate or whatever.

What is so important on TV that I can’t go outside and play fetch with Joy?  Nothing.  Maybe I might meet a new neighbor (one I actually like), or decide to take her for a walk to the park.  So many possibilities if I just say yes to Joy (figuratively and literally).  Such a small example of saying yes to the little things that will bring light to my life, not to mention Joy’s.

What about the big things?  Like saying yes to the scary stuff.  For me currently, it is public speaking and dating.  Both are really scary.  I have always had a rule for myself – no online dating – too contrived and pretentious. Too many weirdos out there.  Not a good place to find quality men.  But, a wise friend of mine said it was okay to break my own self-imposed rules. What might it bring?  I wonder.  I still have not broken my rule – maybe after I write this blog.

But, what do I say on my profile if I’m honest?

“I am a 60 year-old divorced mother with no children, seeking a gray-haired male, who likes to have deep conversations about addiction and grief.  I love to play golf, ski, and give talks about my dead son.  I love the Denver Broncos.”

I’m sure I will get a lot of winks.  My flirt box will be full.  My fake email will be overloaded.  Let’s leave that one alone for now and move on.  I get stressed out just thinking about the pretentiousness of it all, and it reinforces the need for my rule.

What about fun stuff?  No rule there.  Like going to a concert or taking a trip or whatever is on your bucket list?  I love music and decided to go to more concerts this year.  I’ve already been to three, and one of them in Nashville no less, and another at Levi’s Stadium, which was epic.  Neither one was planned at the beginning of my year.  I put the intention out there and said yes to both as the opportunities arose.  Sometimes, all it takes is setting things in motion.

What about saying yes to having those difficult conversations in relationships that hold us back or are not working for us?  Here comes that pesky honesty thing again – with myself and others.  Direct, clean conversation clears the air and paves the way for authenticity in all relationships.  Easy, no.  Worth it, yes.

This is not about being a “yes” person or feeling pressured to do things we don’t want to do.  It’s about having the courage and conviction to do the things we really want to do, even if they scare us a little or a even a lot or cost a little extra money once in a while.

Writing my blog scares me every time I hit the publish button.  I am putting my real self out there for all the world to see. 

Buried deep inside of each of us, we want to say yes to getting away from the TV or accepting an invitation to a party or calling a friend or taking care of our body or loving more deeply or losing weight or making a change or going to a recovery meeting, but we don’t.  I say pay attention to that little cheerleader inside your heart for “yes” and listen to what she has to say.  She is there and more often than not is correct.  We all have a cheerleader inside of us – annoying as she can be, she is there and cute as a button.  Listen for her.

When we say yes, we do more, create more, live more.  Life is richer, fuller, more vibrant.  Doors will open. New friends are made.

Viktor Frankl, in Man’s Search for Meaning, wrote:

“After all, saying yes to life in spite of everything presupposes that life is potentially meaningful under any conditions, even those which are most miserable.”

Say yes to life.  Invite possibility.  It’s potentially meaningful if we do.

Mary Cucarola – May 30, 2017

Comments 4

  1. You are such a good writer and everything you said in this one so hits home with me. I am still struggling with not having Matthew around but know that I spent so much time worrying and not taking care of me. I have to learn now to take care of myself and enjoy each and everyday regardless of what it brings. I’m going thru all the emotions you have written about in your past blogs and I do know it will just take me time to totally understand what you are saying is so correct. Thank you for being such an inspiration for me and so many other people out there that have lived with addiction.

  2. Ashley will be gone 6 months on June 3rd. It seems like yesterday. I am still trying to figure out what to do with myself. Ashley and I battled her addiction together . I know in my heart that she was the only one who could win the battle but I fought like hell to help her. When she lost the battle I also felt defeated. I still do. I know I need to take care of myself and I will in time. Right now I’m still trying to figure it all out. Thanks for your blogs Mary. They give me hope.

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    Yes, I fought like hell to help Cody, too. But, the fact is we can’t defeat a disease or control the outcome. I am glad you have hope and know how important taking care of yourself is. You are still in the first year of your grief and need to give yourself lots of time to heal. I think about you and Ashley often.

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