Year of Yes: Chapters 8 to End – Overview/ Review (with Spoilers)

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Overview

We come to the end of this quirky little book and I do have to say, despite Rhimes’ odd belief we are constantly judging her, you have to admire her insight. At times, especially in the beginning, a part of me wondered how in the world did this woman, this dork, come up with some of the most compelling television in years? Yet with time, as you get to know this eccentric young mind, you realize that, like many of her shows and characters, while simple on the surface, the more time spent with them you begin to experience something complex. Something which leaves you questioning yourself, yet at the same time identifying with their struggle to be human. Well, human in the sense of being a living and breathing person who has to navigate their way to happiness as they deal with people’s lives and expectations which act as anything from rough waters, mermaids, shipwrecks, or simply vessels also on a journey toward the direction of the sun.

Chapter Summary (with Commentary)

Chapter 8: Yes To My Body

In this chapter, we begin to understand part of the reason Shonda became a big girl. Now, mind you, it doesn’t seem like something which happened overnight. Her needing high blood pressure pills and developing sleep apnea wasn’t something that just happened. Though, perhaps what truly needs to be said is that there wasn’t something major which triggered her bad eating habits. Fact of the matter is, she simply got lazy.

I mean, despite almost talking about her college years as much as she does about 2014 and 2015, it doesn’t seem she regularly worked out or partook in eating right. Granted, she was more active so perhaps the fat wasn’t given a chance to call her body home, but then things changed. For one, she decided to freeze her eggs and with that comes taking hormones. On top of that, she claims time to recuperate from eye surgery, to avoid wearing coke bottle glasses likely, was part of the issue. Truth probably is, it was stress.

As Rhimes has noted many times, she is the type of person who enjoys her me time. She can party, loves to party, and be out there, but then she needs a place to recover. So imagine Rhimes, someone who could be considered an introvert, working in Hollywood where she is a boss, expected to meet, greet, and hold meetings with various people, and then not go home to relax. Which, for her, was eating. Though, lest we forget, it isn’t like her personal life wasn’t part of the reason for her weight gain.

As she notes in the book, and has led to the consistent question of: what happened? After college things went downhill for Rhimes personally as her professional life skyrocketed. So, it seems food was also the way Rhimes was handling the lack of energy needed to participate in life. She used what energy was left after work and her kids to consume. Comfort food for her was slowly becoming the death of her. Though, in her words, more so it was creating a complex.

On one hand, Rhimes found herself unable to fit a first class seatbelt yet, on the other hand, she is a feminist. So she is growing to the point where she is large by an industrial standard (a size 24), but between being too proud and thinking she shouldn’t have to worry about her weight, she comes at a crossroad. Say yes to being fat or yes to being comfortable in her own body?

Well, she said yes to her body and dropped 100 pounds, as of this chapter’s notes, and with that comes a new life. The holes the fat clogged are back to being holes which allow Rhimes to breathe. With this, she is alive once more and her confidence, once something spoke about as a memory, is returning. Not without effort mind you. Yes, she makes pilates sound easy since she works out on the floor, but with a diet change, including more water, don’t think it was easy for her. Granted she has the type of money to make such a change easy, but that is a different story.

Chapter 9: Yes To Joining The Club

Fun fact: despite all the yes moments in her life, Rhimes still pretty much is on the side watching the party. I mean, she is physically there but not participating. Yet, when she gives speeches, she speaks with such an energy, so it seems from reading the speeches, you begin to understand that while she can tap into the power of her Type-A personality, at the end of the day that is all she is doing – tapping into it. She, during these speeches, no matter how powerful, is just performing as she did in college. It is just, rather than, as she does now, write words for others and vicariously live through them, she is writing words for herself and tapping into that persona, that drive, which got her to where she is and is just flourishing.

Chapter 10: Yes, Thank You.

The question on Rhimes’ mind is: why can’t women take a compliment? She is at an event and as women are praised they shy away from it. Not necessarily in a humbled manner, but embarrassed. Which for Rhimes, especially toward the end of the chapter, seems like an odd way to handle things. There is no bragging, should be no shame, if you can back it up.

Though she relates the shame and embarrassment to motherhood, a topic she gives a speech on once again. This time though it is how annoyed she is about motherhood being treated as something that expects self-sacrifice, martyrdom, and then all you get is a rinky-dink card. One which isn’t for moms like her, and all the while, as woman sacrifice and become pillars rather than the roof which gets to experience the sun (my analogy not hers), people go to therapy to get that sense of being special and getting confidence. In a way, she makes it seem so strange how much they want happy and demure women yet all that is really asked of them is to be great, but not too great (and I’m sure many a Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie knows the rest).

But women being unable to take a compliment isn’t the only focus, she also sets things up for the next chapter by talking about men. Something which has always been an elusive topic in this book despite her talking about dating, her “client,” and her making it seem, despite all the stress and her life of no, she would fit in some time for some male interaction.

Chapter 11: Yes to No, Yes to Difficult Conversations

So, thus far, Rhimes has got her professional life together, has become a better mom to her kids, and has built up a backbone to face off with her anxiety and often win. So, what is left? Well, her personal life. Which is the topic of this chapter: saying no to people who, in the past, would take advantage of Rhimes and her kindness or, rather, her willingness to appease to avoid confrontation, disappointment, and other such things.

Now, as you can imagine, being that Rhimes was a socially active person in college, she collected quite a few friends. Problem is, as she got quiet, and as she begun her year of yes, people were lost during the transitions. Some voluntarily left and that was that. Others had to be… not necessarily pushed out, but told their behavior would no longer be acceptable. Reminiscent of Peace from Broken Pieces, Rhimes reached a point where she couldn’t make excuses for people and rather than mentally changing their personalities to fit her needs, as she would her characters, she decided to face the truth. So, in many ways, she said yes to herself, yes to the truth, and no to bad behavior. For example, one “friend” asked her for an exuberant amount of money. With a no came the person revealing themselves and this made things quite clear for Rhimes. Yet, she notes, the conversation was difficult, saying no is difficult. However, saying no, speaking up, sometimes being direct, that is the clearest path to peace. Like with hiring Sandra Oh and not the other actor. This was an actor everyone wanted but Rhimes, and her delaying her “no” caused production drama. But once said, yes there was some attempt to convince her, but afterwards it was simply respected and then BOOM here comes Sandra Oh. The woman who would possess Christina, the person Rhimes needed in her life.

Which is how we’ll end this chapter summary. Even before reading this book, back when I was doing overview/ review of Scandal and How To Get Away With Murder, I questioned if Rhimes was trying to live vicariously through these characters? Well, the answer is yes. Be it their sex lives or trying to make characters the ideal her, those like Christina are beings she channels, tries to be, or wishes she was. Thus offering a rare peek into how Shonda forms these characters or at least some of her favorites.

Chapter 12 – Yes to People

Despite doing countless speeches, for some reason a speech in front of the Human Rights Campaign sort of sends her back. Back to that old Shonda, that, let me look for some dust at the bottom of this bottle, Shonda. Don’t ask why I’m switching between Shonda and Rhimes, I’m on a roll here. Anyway, though she has a bit of a hiccup, she still does the speech she is asked to give. What is weird though is, similar to her commencement speech, she writes the speech the day of. Now, I find this weird since these speeches are timed, so I would think she needs practice, possibly approval, and never mind the possibility of a teleprompter. So, her doing these speeches last minute seems just as amazing as it kind of seems disrespectful.

That thought aside, her Human Rights Campaign speech isn’t written in such a way which needs you to visibly see her do it, but it has some gems. Perhaps one of the big ones though deal with how she has, with these characters she perhaps created at 11 and watched grow up, created tribes. The quote below goes into better detail, but the gist of it is, be it a gay character, a black lawyer, doctor, a Hispanic person, or what have you, she provides someone you can identify with. She gives you someone who if you were like her, the only black girl at school, these characters can be someone you run home to, look forward to your weekly conversations with. Heck, depending on your imagination, your daily conversation with, and the main point here is access. Access to these images, diverse and plentiful, that give you the impression you are not alone. They are there for you and, if Rhimes has any say over it, will be consistent.

With that said, she ends the speech with a bit of shade thrown at Hollywood. In the speech she notes how she was often the only black girl in her class, hence the tribes thing. Where the shade comes in is that she feels she still is the only black girl in her class. Something which can be taken two ways. The most likely way is she is calling out Hollywood, of which I’m sure many of the power players were in the audience, on how she remains a F.O.D., an exception, a possibility, but not necessarily a norm. On the other hand, and this is highly unlikely, she was taking shots at those who… you know what. Knowing as little as I do, and basing my whole opinion from this book, let’s not even pretend the second possibility would even exist.

Chapter 13 – Yes to Dancing It Out (with the right people)

“I make up stuff for living.” No, that isn’t one of my many grammar or spelling errors. She says “I make up stuff for living” vs. “I make up stuff for a living.” The difference is key, and it sort of helps you understand her creative process. That idea of tribes introduced in the last chapter, it gets expanded on ever so slightly. She speaks on the development of Christina, alongside Sandra Oh, and with this, she presents the idea that why this one character is noted so often is because she identifies with her. Heck, she lives through her.

Christina, the way she is explained, goes to battles Rhimes wouldn’t dare; says things she wouldn’t; and has the life Rhimes perhaps desires, in terms of the Chocolate Factory, but at one point hasn’t reached. I can’t go into too much detail since I never watched Grey’s Anatomy, but believe me when I say Rhimes makes this woman seem like her childhood hero, if not savior.

Unfortunately, though, while she lightly touches on the editing process with her editor Joe Mitacek, as well as how she and Sandra Oh molded Christina, we aren’t given some real juicy bits into Rhimes’ creative process. She remains in this weird place where it feels like she doesn’t want to reveal more than a snippet, something that could be put into a magazine article, versus making this book fully feel like more than a transcript. But hey, as noted, while she is on a Year of Yes, while she is making progress, she still goes to the party but watches from the side. So let’s just take what we can get.

Chapter 14: Yes to Who I Am

Every now and then Rhimes speaks on the expectations she has faced thus far and how she has handled them. The expectations of being a mother, especially one unwilling to sacrifice her career for the sake of her babies; the expectations of being an F.O.D., both in terms of being a woman, as well as a Black woman; and then comes the expectations which come with being in a relationship.

Here comes the issue: Rhimes has ideal relationships all around her. There is Delorse who has been married since the 70s, and then Rhimes’ parents who are a less dopey version of Cory and Topanga (from Boy Meets World/ Girl Meets World). They finish each other’s sentences, share thoughts, and really present the idea of being a committed team. It is hard to follow something like that. Hence why, despite Rhimes’ love for weddings, she even helps her producing partner Betsy pick her dress (they been working together 15 years and, like so many things, the story behind their working relationship is magazine article size), she hasn’t been married. Note, though, it isn’t like the opportunity hasn’t come.

Thus leading to Rhimes perhaps, though not really, talking about this mystery man seldom mentioned, but so interesting, in this book. No name, naturally, is given, but her revelation on why marriage just wasn’t an ideal is almost as mind opening as some of her speeches and her thoughts on motherhood. Let’s set things up properly, though. The mystery man, well we don’t know when she started seeing him or why, but he is presented as lovely. Problem is, he seemingly isn’t in the industry so Rhimes has to carve out time for him. Then, to make matters more difficult, that praise and validation she craves from her family, the one she wishes they would give for her work accomplishments? Well, the energy she would expect from when she has a new show and all that she only receives when she has a man, especially when they are some formed of engaged. This, low-key, pisses her off. Not enough to take it out on him, for again he is lovely, but it seems Rhimes was never really about marriage. Yes, like many girls, the idea came to her head, but how?

Let’s take note, any man in Rhimes life would damn near be a mistress. 1st priority will be her kids, and then closely behind is her work. Something which requires alone time, time to do this “5-mile mental run” which takes her from her desk to the world her characters live in. This world is hard to get into and easy to snap out of. So, imagine being a mother of 3 then having a man with her. As a mother, she can forgive her kids easily for interrupting, they are children. As for a man, there seems to be this burden about the idea of not being able to commit to him like he probably needs. I mean, he is your would-be husband, he has needs and desires he wants you to partake in. Some of which you do too but then you have work, and then you are just able to make time for your kids, the family, and friends you have, and then there is him. Rhimes isn’t about that having it all life, she is about sacrifices. Sacrifices which her children experience and already feel like a twisted knife. So imagine a husband.

Thus why, despite how nice this guy is, and how everyone in her family likes him, and how he treats her “client,” she doesn’t necessarily end it as much as she ends his dreams and fantasies. With this, she realizes, as the difficult conversation ends, she hasn’t really seen marriage in the cards. It was a tradition for her, something which should be done not something she wanted done. I mean, what I got out of it was, Rhimes desires friendships, relationships, sex, and all that. After all,  she is human, who doesn’t like affection, to feel sexy in another’s eyes, and companionship? It is just, marriage is full-time and dating is part-time. Dating fits her schedule, dating fits her needs. A full blown relationship, much less marriage? Uh, unless they are working with her, perhaps like Betsy does, how is that going to work? Maybe if Rhimes runs out of stories to tell (ha), maybe? Otherwise, she can fulfil needs but not really give much of what a man may want.

Chapter 15: Yes To Beautiful

The last chapter is a bit anti-climatic. It basically is just a reflection of all that has happened as she does a photoshoot. There isn’t any discoveries, no insight, just her relishing in feeling lovely and free, beautiful, and more herself than perhaps even when she was in college. Though maybe that’s just it. College is now not the highlight of her life, the good times, but simply one of them.

Leaving us with a book that had lots of wonderful quotes, perhaps more than I have collected for many TV series, but it feels like it barely scraped the surface at times. There were so many details, details which could have fit this year of yes narrative, or at least helped us to get to know Rhimes, which were omitted. Making this book seem like a series of magazine articles compiled into a book.

Collected Quote(s)

All Collected Quotes

I still couldn’t own being powerful. I tried hard to make myself smaller. As small as possible. Tried not to take up space or make too much noise. Every time I won an award or something big happened, I worked to appear a little bit sillier and sweeter and simpler in the face of my own greatness.

I just wanted everyone else to feel comfortable.

Funny thing is, no one ever asked me to do it.

It just seemed like what I was supposed to do.

— “Chapter 10: Yes, Thank You.” Year of Yes

[…] when you negate someone’s compliment, you are telling them they are wrong. You’re telling them they wasted their time. You are questioning their taste and judgment.

— “Chapter 10: Yes, Thank You.” Year of Yes

I don’t think it ever occurred to me before how much and how often women are praised for displaying traits that basically render them invisible. When I really think about it, I realize the culprit is the language generally used to praise women. Especially mothers. “She sacrificed everything for her children … She never thought about herself … She gave up everything for us … She worked tirelessly to make sure we had what we needed. She stood in the shadows, she was the wind beneath our wings.

[…]

This is good, we’re told. It’s good how Mom diminishes and martyrs herself. The message is: mothers, you are such wonderful and good people because you make yourselves smaller, because you deny your own needs, because you toil tirelessly in the shadows and no one ever thanks or notices you … this all makes you AMAZING.

— “Chapter 10: Yes, Thank You.” Year of Yes

I’m actually worried that people will think that I am into myself? I am worried that people will think that maybe I think I am special? That I am in love with myself?

Wait.

Isn’t that the GOAL? Don’t people pay money to licensed therapists to get into themselves, to fall in love with themselves, to think they are special?

— “Chapter 10: Yes, Thank You.” Year of Yes

Lucky implies I didn’t do anything. Lucky implies something was given to me. Lucky implies that I was handed something I did not earn, that I did not work hard for. […] I am not lucky. You know what I am? I am smart, I am talented, I take advantage of the opportunities that come my way and I work really, really hard. Don’t call me lucky. Call me a badass.

— “Chapter 10: Yes, Thank You.” Year of Yes

Think of them.

Heads up, eyes on the target.

Running. Full speed. Gravity be damned.

Toward that thick layer of glass that is the ceiling.

Running, full speed, and crashing.

Crashing into that ceiling and falling back.

Crashing into it and falling back.

Into it and falling back.

Woman after woman.

Each one running and each one crashing.

And everyone falling.

How many women had to hit that glass before the first crack appeared?

How many cuts did they get, how many bruises? How hard did they have to hit the ceiling? How many women had to hit that glass to ripple it, to send out a thousand hairline fractures?

How many women had to hit that glass before the pressure of their effort caused it to evolve from a thick pane of glass into just a thin sheet of splintered ice?

So that when it was my turn to run, it didn’t even look like a ceiling anymore.

I mean, the wind was already whistling through—I could always feel it on my face. And there were all these holes giving me a perfect view to the other side. I didn’t even notice the gravity, I think it had already worn itself away. So I didn’t have to fight as hard. I had time to study the cracks. I had time to decide where the air felt the rarest, where the wind was the coolest, where the view was the most soaring. I picked my spot in the glass and I called it my target.

And I ran.

And when I finally hit that ceiling, it just exploded into dust.

Like that.

My sisters who went before me had already handled it.

No cuts. No bruises. No bleeding.

Making it through the glass ceiling to the other side was simply a matter of running on a path created by every other woman’s footprints.

I just hit at exactly the right time in exactly the right spot.

— “Chapter 9: Yes To Joining The Club.” Year of Yes

Fat runs toward me and jumps up onto my body and clings there. Like it knows that it has found a home. Like it wants to be with its people.

— “Chapter 8: Yes To My Body.” Year of Yes

F.O.D.—a First. Only. Different. We are a very select club, but there are more of us out there than you’d think. We know one another on sight. We all have that same weary look in our eyes. The one that wishes people would stop thinking it remarkable that we can be great at what we do while black, while Asian, while a woman, while Latino, while gay, while a paraplegic, while deaf. But when you are an F.O.D., you are saddled with that burden of extra responsibility—whether you want it or not.

— “Chapter 8: Yes To My Body.” Year of Yes

Second chances are for future generations. That is what you are building when you are an F.O.D. Second chances for the ones who come behind you.

— “Chapter 8: Yes To My Body.” Year of Yes

It irritated me to my core that we live in an era of ignorance great enough that it was still necessary for me to be a role model, but that didn’t change the fact that I was one.

— “Chapter 8: Yes To My Body.” Year of Yes

My life revolved around work. And outside of work, I took the path of least resistance. I didn’t have the energy for difficult conversations or arguments. So I smiled and let people get away with treating me however they wanted. And that only made me yearn to be back in the office. Where I was in charge. Where I was the boss. Where people were too respectful or kind or happy or afraid to treat me like crap.

— “Chapter 8: Yes To My Body.” Year of Yes

Finally I just … gave up. My friends self-selected down to a smaller core group. I stayed home more. And spent more time working. More time alone. More time hiding.

— “Chapter 8: Yes To My Body.” Year of Yes

Losing yourself does not happen all at once. Losing yourself happens one no at a time. No to going out tonight. No to catching up with that old college roommate. No to attending that party. No to going on a vacation. No to making a new friend. Losing yourself happens one pound at a time.

— “Chapter 8: Yes To My Body.” Year of Yes

I was ambivalent about so much of it. The feminist in me didn’t want to have the discussion with myself. I resented the need to talk about weight. It felt as though I was judging myself on how I looked. It felt shallow. It felt misogynistic. It felt … traitorous to care. My body is just the container I carry my brain around in. […] But so is a car. And if the car is broken down and busted, my brain isn’t going anywhere.

— “Chapter 8: Yes To My Body.” Year of Yes

[…] food created a nice topcoat. It helped to smooth down the ragged bits. Sealed off the parts of me that were broken. It filled in all the holes. Covered up the cracks. Yep, I just put some food on top of any and everything that bothered me. The food just spackled right on in there.

And presto! Underneath the food, everything inside me was smooth and cold and numb.

I was dead inside and that was good.

— “Chapter 8: Yes To My Body.” Year of Yes

Food does work. Food feels so good when you put it on top of all the stuff you don’t want to deal with or know how to deal with. It even works on stuff you don’t even recognize as worthy of dealing with. Food is magic. It makes you feel better. It numbs you. Beautiful magical food deadens your soul just enough so you can’t think too hard about anything other than cake or sleep. Putting food on top of it casts a spell to make the feelings go away. You don’t have to face yourself or think or be anything other than your brain—no body necessary.

— “Chapter 8: Yes To My Body.” Year of Yes

[…] I am seen. And I am getting comfortable being seen. I’m getting used to being seen. I am realizing that there’s a part of me that wants to be seen.

— “Chapter 8: Yes To My Body.” Year of Yes

Everything sounds like crap until you are in the right mind-set.

— “Chapter 8: Yes To My Body.” Year of Yes

I no longer can deal with being numb.

Now numb feels creepy to me.

Now numb feels not just dead but rotting.

— “Chapter 8: Yes To My Body.” Year of Yes

Being numb no longer suits me. It’s ill-fitting and I’m antsy about it. I find myself snapping back at people more. Or writing little Bailey-esque rants into my emails when someone’s upset me. I don’t want to be numb. I want to tell someone who has upset me to take their attitude and shove it right up their—

— “Chapter 8: Yes To My Body.” Year of Yes

Questions, Comments, or Opposing Opinion?