"Yes, and..."

My childhood was all "Yes, but...".  

Yes, I'd love to come over for a play date, but I can't because you have dogs and I'm allergic. Yes, I'd love to have a piece of your birthday cake but it has tree nuts and I'm allergic. Yes, I'd love to go outside and play but I'll get asthma and be allergic. 

Real yes, buts, serious ones one that if I ignored had serious health consequences, but yes buts all the same. And it conditioned me and my interactions with the world in a very specific way.

I became aware of this subtle and powerful conditioning in my teens and twenties and worked very hard in the ensuing years to undo all those "yes, but..." sentences, thoughts and perceptions; to increase spontaneity while staying safe. I started this blog to explore that concept; I wrote my book about how to say "yes, and..." stay safe, and I coach adults, families, children and teens about how to do say "Yes!" in their every day lives while having a plan.

I thought I had excised all of my yes, buts. Then I signed up for a comedy improvisation class at The Pit. It was a stressful, unknown, new situation and I discovered all of those yes, buts waiting for me and flying out of my mouth at any chance they got.

The core premise of improv is to say "Yes, and..." to your partner. It means not merely being spontaneous, which again, as someone with a severe medical condition can be challenging at the best of times, but to say "Yes!" to everything presented, which will open up you and the scene to new pathways or to something potentially funny or brilliant or clever or goofy or simply bring the scene to the next place.

Here's an article New York Times article about the tenets of improv in a business setting.

Here is a podcast that will go live on Thursday May 15, 2012 by my Level 0 instructor, Rachel Oakes.

Even considering an improv class was a huge yes but as in my head, I thought: "Yes! It sounds like fun but I'm terrified of acting on stage." I love speaking in public to groups large or small. Love it! Have no fear. Training during graduate school for my poetry master's degree is a huge contributor to that love, no doubt. When you have to get up there week after week, reading your own poetry, which is usually very personal, you overcome any fear about being exposed and become easy with being at the podium or on stage - at least I did. But acting?! As someone else?! On stage?! Terrifying. I have experience in that as well as I took after-school classes at The Actors Studio starting at seven, continued for years, and disliked every second of it. So, knowing this about myself and that the core of improv was acting and that yes, and, I challenged myself by signing up.

When under pressure in class, I fell back on old habits of yes buts. I set up challenges, blocks or yes, butted my partners versus yes, anding them. What an incredible insight and learning experience and three hours of laughing at each other and our selves. It was liberating in way I hadn't expected, insight-giving in a way I hadn't anticipated and fulfilling in a way I couldn't have known ahead of time. I'm going back for another round, the next level of classes and this one has a show at the end of it. (Eek!) That truly is my worst yes but - a live show - and I'm doing it anyway!


Do you find yourself or your food allergic loved one yes, butting or yes, anding their life? Start listening closer and see how many yes and or yes buts you say in a day, or a week, when stressed or when happy?


Anonymous said…
Yes, and I completely agree!! I am super-super on board with teaching my food allergy daughter this exact thing -- just because you have a restricted diet doesn't mean you have a restricted life -- I love this! Thanks so much! I am also a fan of your book. I've started a new blog for parents of kids with allergies, or any health challenges and I hope to empower them toward this type of attitude.

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