My Biggest Surprise

Open your eyes, 
Dream but don’t guess.
Your biggest surprise
Comes after Yes.

Those were the last four lines of last week's blog. They couldn't have been more prescient! My little idea of creating a ritual to honor my dad's legacy of Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes winged its way out into the ether and burst into blossom in thousands of people's hearts. . .who said YES!

All week long, from New Jersey to New York to London to Manchester (where I am now), I have continued to share my message of Yes! And all week long, I have received emails, Facebook messages, and in-person affirmations from all over the world.

The Power of Yes has certainly been my biggest surprise! 

Not only how the message of saying Yes, of choosing Love not fear, of expanding forward with hope into our futures instead of contracting back into our old stories and habits has resonated with so many people, but also how it has affected my own life.

First of all, I want to thank every single person who took the time to share their Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes with me, and the thousands more of you whose Yes I felt all week long! Wow! Your groundswell of love and positive energy has been such a visceral gift, and a much-needed affirmation to keep doing what I am doing.

Last Sunday I was interviewed by a group representing the New York Public Library, who work with kids to encourage them to pursue their dreams as entrepreneurs. As I stared into a camera while imagining the young people who might need to hear what I have to say, I tried to verbalize why I do what I do. . .why I have learned to be my own bookkeeper, social media maven, logistics manager, personal assistant, travel booker, shipment tracker as well as designer, writer, public speaker, art consultant. Because on the surface, I recognize that trying to do all that is not only patently nuts and quasi-delusional, it's actually also ultimately impossible. But I have learned to juggle far too many balls and wear a precariously balanced pile of hats because I believe that following our hearts in our work lives is vital to the future of our planet.

When we say Yes to pursuing our dreams, we are saying Yes to saving our planet! Does that seem a stretch? We've all worked soul-sucking jobs where eventually we start existing on auto-pilot, not caring about what we do or why we're doing . . . or possibly even worse, caring about it only for the paycheck. We stop thinking about the by-products of our ennui. . .not just the effects of whatever industry we are in on our planet, but even more importantly, how not doing what we love changes the way we move through the world. When we are not showing up in our own lives, how can we possibly show up in anyone else's? Let alone the lives of the birds, the fishes, the animals, the plants, the rivers, the sky, the mountains! Every no to our hearts our souls our minds has a trickle-down effect. Every yes has a planet-saving potential.

All week long, I both witnessed my no and felt the power of my yes in big and little ways. By the end of the week, I'd come to recognize that saying Yes is like throwing a pebble into a lake and watching the effects of a tiny stone causing the water to ripple out in concentric circles toward every shore. 

An agreement to tape an international TV show about which I knew nothing and squeezed in before leaving Manhattan for the airport to fly to London ended up being an amazing afternoon making new friends. I had spent my morning in a frustrating four-hour battle with Apple, during which I realized with each escalation that no one was going to solve my problem. Person after person told me that this was a flaw in the system and they would certainly report it to their higher ups for future programming rectification. Four hours later, I hopped a cab in a state of immense frustration, inched my way through midtown Manhattan in a downpour and arrived late at the studio, where I promptly got lost. My day wasn't going very well. And then yes kicked in, slowly but surely. . .as I started reconnecting with my joy through each conversation I had. And by the time I found myself on the air, I could feel a HUGE YES flowing from every pore of my being while I was being interviewed.

That afternoon I made some amazing friends, laughed a lot, rekindled my joy and connected with the joy of others, and by the time I hopped a cab back downtown, I was grinning from ear to ear and feeling the unbelievable bliss of saying yes. Suddenly an idea popped into my head and when I got back to my computer, I tried it out. The supposed flaw in the system that no one could work around suddenly evaporated as I found a way to scroll past all the blocks and red flags and pop-up warnings to a very simple solution that four levels of tech support at Apple did not know existed. Beyond all the no's, there proved to be a very simple yes.

Admittedly, sometimes my yes was merely a whispered affirmation, a resistance to no, an I'll try. But a yes nonetheless. I never sleep on planes. Never sleep through turbulence. But as I got on my red-eye to London, I heard a little voice in my head remind me that decades of a particular behavior doth not a commandment in stone make. I agreed to disagree with the story of my past and said yes to doing things differently. As we bounced through an East Coast storm and out over the Atlantic, I affirmed my desire to sleep instead of my belief in old habits. Four hours later, the sun rose over the Atlantic and I had slept through most of the flight and landed in London better rested than I have ever been after a red eye. 

My Biggest Surprise

On Friday night in London, I donned a costume for the first time in decades to host a Theatre of Blood Halloween ball. As the child of a costume designer, who imposed her elaborate idea of Halloween on a kid who usually just wanted to be a cowboy or a black cat, I have loathed costumes ever since. Dressed as a combo of Emma Peel and Edward Lionheart (Diana Rigg played my dad's daughter in Theatre of Blood), I hoped for the best, but the residual awkwardness of wearing a costume accompanied me out the door of my hotel room and onto the street. Then, as I hopped into a cab, the driver turned around and said, "You look fabulous!" Well, that made my year! We went on to talk about the daily practice of joy, saying yes, how dogs make us feel happy, his two daughters and their upcoming Halloween excursion, renting vs buying, interspirituality, love, life, and hope. Instead of worrying my way across London through horrendous Friday night traffic, I spent one of the most delightful hours of my life with a total stranger -- all based on my yes to wearing a costume.

Later that evening, after giving my talk on yes, I found myself in the VLP Room (Vincent Leonard Price), where I was to meet and greet people. In the room with us were two lovely young people and their extraordinary assortment of color-changing reptiles, hairy spiders of all shapes and sizes, bulbous bulging toads, and a variety of snakes in many girths and hues. Well, I'm not a big fan of snakes, but when Craig, my friend Bec's fiance, put one around his neck, I went over to see and ask him why he'd done it. He told me that he was scared of snakes, but wanted to give it a try. I admired his courage, but my no was in the driver's seat.

A bit later, however, I went over to look at the iguanas and chameleons, when the young handler took a boa constrictor off his neck and asked if I wanted to put in around mine. I had a HUGE NO coming, when suddenly a young French guy who had attended my talk walked past me and very quietly smiled and said, "Say yes!" My friend Bec captured what happened next on video:

Last night, on Halloween, I found myself in Manchester, staying in a hotel with a rather apt name: The Pendulum. After an afternoon meet, greet and autograph session, I needed to stay awake before dinner and my 8PM talk, so I walked the area and came back to report to my friends, who informed me that the sleepy 'gay village" I had walked through would become the center of some amazing Halloween festivities in just a few hours. Now I am, at heart, a loner-introvert-early-to-bed-early-to-rise-non-drinker-non-partier-I'd-rather-be-at-home-reading-a-good-book kinda gal. The last time I celebrated Halloween was in my twenties, and I haven't had even the remotest to desire to go out since then. But yes it was and out we went. . .We had a blast!

The most amazing thing -- other than some mind-blowing costumes -- was seeing the cross-section of people all of whom had said yes to enjoying the festivities. Older straight couples settled comfortably on a sofa enjoying the parade of inventive costumes and scantily-clad beautiful bodies in a trendy bar throbbing with house music. Young kids chatting with a homeless guy and his dog offering to give both a hand. Straight, gay, young, old, and out-of-town tourists like us -- all mingling together having a fantastic time. I could have been asleep in my hotel room, Instead I enjoyed a night to remember with my friends.

My Biggest Surprise

The most interesting thing about saying yes, the thing I didn't really understand last week, is the power it has to reprogram our lives. I knew it in theory, but experiencing it in practice made me see something so clearly, and understand something at a core level that I needed to understand: Everything we do, every choice we make creates the habits of thought and action with which we move through the world. We are our own computer programmers, and we write our own code every single minute of every single day. The machines of our minds program our actions and our actions mirror themselves out through every interaction we have. Like computers, our minds operate on a binary code. But unlike real computers, our codes are not comprised of ones and zeroes. Our binary code comes down to yes and no/Love and fear.

As I wrote last week, saying no, having boundaries, respecting ourselves, recognizing when fear is a necessary warning system, acknowledging the red flags -- this is one very necessary part of our binary code. But the other part is equally important -- the yes to our hearts, the yes to one another, the yes to showing up and paying attention, the yes to our joy, the yes to our hope, the yes to believing that we can save our planets and live worthwhile lives that give back. 

I had a huge a-ha moment earlier this week when my spiritual director helped me see something about fear that I had never really understood. I had always been aware of the ways in which my parents' fears had manifested themselves in my life -- their fears of money, of proving their self-worth, of the effects other people's opinions. But what I hadn't understood was how the more subtle fears had also taken root -- fears that had no names but did have very real feelings.  I couldn't speak those fears, but I could sure feel them as unexplained anxiety in my chest, irrational terror that woke me in the middle of the night, a malaise of what's the point anyway. The kinds of fears that always landed me squarely back in my NO!

Those of you who have heard me speak or followed this blog know that my embrace of yes came from my dad's love of a poem by e.e. cummings. So back e.e. cummings I shall go to wrap this all up: 

Love is a place
& through this place of
love move
(with brightness of peace)
all places

yes is a world
& in this world of yes live
(skillfully curled)
all worlds
— e.e. cummings

When we are in our fear, our no, it is sometimes impossible to remember our yesses, to even imagine what might elicit just one little yes. But at the end of the day, it's very simple. Our heads may say the yes, but they can only say them when our hearts feel them. And our hearts can only feel them, when we feel love.

Once I realized that all the things that have held me back in my life have been those unnamed fears, and that years of therapy might never name them, because they might not even have been able to be named by the people who passed them unconsciously on to me, I realized that there was only one antidote: To love myself, to love the fears themselves, to love the people who seems to have bequeathed them to me, and even the people who trigger their reemergence. And from that place of LOVE, all else flows. 

e.e. cummings also also said: "i imagine that yes is the only living thing."

If fear is a crypt that wants to entomb us in our no's, Love awakens us and brings us back to the life-giving yes that will save not only our own lives but ripple out love to all the lives around us. 

I guess what I'm saying is not only that I'm going to keep going with this legacy of yes, but also that I will be watching as my own ripples of yes emanate out in beautiful concentric circles of joy and affirmation until they meet all your ripples of yes and form a beautiful ocean of love.

I agree with mr cummings: yes is truly the only living thing. Together, let's all live our YES!

My Biggest Surprise


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