New York City.
Upright Citizen Brigade Theater.
My brother had told me to come to the Thursday night show called Survivor where people from the audience could try their hand at improv... and get voted off the island. I had never done improv officially in any way other than maybe in staff meetings, playing off my friend's humor, or during my acting days between scenes.
Owen told me, "All you need to remember is 'Yes, and...' and you will be fine." He explained that the rule in improv is that you don't say no to what someone else on stage has put out there. It will kill the scene and it will throw off the other people in that scene. It is also a trust thing.
I was a finalist.
I came back a few weeks later to be in the final battle and- alas- I heard something along the lines of bros before hos as I was the last female standing. I knew when I stood for a scene with the other two male finalists that I was cooked! And it was a blast.
I have had "yes, and" stuck in my head ever since. I didn't always use it. I didn't use it a lot, in fact, during a time it would have been so beneficial- while hunkered down at home, gestating and raising little ones. For a while, I took on the very familiar child-like phrase, "no, but".
As I came out of the little kids fog and embraced more the knowledge that I cannot control the world, "yes, and" has been ringing in my ears and pouring from my mouth. It has a rather Buddhist quality. It offers acceptance- something that can be seen as weak- and also power hidden within the "and".
I see what is happening and I am going to work with it this way.
I see the scene that has been set; it is what is. I will add my part to the scene with this action, reaction, or word.
I know you would like to slam every locker to make as much noise as possible, and you can slap this cement wall instead.
I was in a meeting a few weeks ago where some very minor changes were being put into place. I am a people watcher and was busy watching people's reactions to what was being said. Many were quietly taking the notes. Others were nodding while taking the notes. Then there were the few that were fighting the change by sighing loudly while taking notes. Then the one, questioning it angrily. Why? We never had to? Who said? And then taking the notes, head shaking "No" to be sure the world knew that it was a "No". No. No. No.
I was fascinated. This small change actually would have no effect on anyone or anything, really. It just made sense to who this person is that the response would be so negative. I found it sad to choose to receive life in such a cloud of negativity, and I became even more aware of my own "no" moments, vowing to really think before reacting.
My world has opened up with "yes, and". I do things I never would have considered before and am happy doing them. I work with an age group I had always shook my head at, and I can't believe it took me so long to experience it again. I had forgotten all about my time working in a great 6th grade classroom while getting my Masters because I had strictly thought of where I should be once I graduated.
I have found that things more easily "go my way" only because I am going the way of things. I reserve "no" for only that which would go against my gut instinct and for when I have said "yes, and" too much and am exhausted.
I am not simply saying "yes" and being lead about. I am saying "yes, and" which is the balance of letting myself be guided while still holding the reigns loosely in my open palm.