Lately, the phrase “yes, and” has been going through my head. It comes from a class I took once on plotting a work of fiction.
The main character has a question waiting to be answered. At a critical juncture, they get an answer—
But it’s not a safe, predictable solution.
Instead, it moves them further into their adventure—and further from normalcy.
There are two possible answers at that pivot point.
The less interesting possibility is: “No…and furthermore.” No, you can’t have what you want. And furthermore, you get this other awful thing you don’t want.
The more interesting possibility?
Yes, Dorothy, you can fly over the rainbow—and feel a terrible homesickness.
Yes, Bilbo, you can have the ring–and a power you can’t control.
Yes, Harry, you can escape the normal life under the stairs—and find yourself in a struggle against Voldemort.
Yes, and… shows us our hopes are always more complicated than we imagined. Yes, and… means more will be asked of us than we anticipated. Yes, and means that what we really, really want has implications we never considered.
Yes, and means that adventure is at hand.
I used to be afraid of yes, and. It’s all the worrywart considers before leaping into the unknown. What if I write, and it turns out I’m lousy? What if I step into reconciliation and if it proves more complicated than I’m able to handle? What if I have kids, and my creativity disappears between the diapers and the calls for a snack?
Yes, and is all the messiness we invite into our lives when we take risks. Yes, and is the adventure we can’t control. Yes, and is messy, unpredictable, and scary.
But if you say yes to yes, and, you’re saying yes to adventure, to being used, to being stretched, to being made into the person you were made to be.
I write about a lot of things on this blog: Creativity. Writing. Faith. Goals. Pursuing justice. Parenting. Feminism. On the face of it, these things have very little in common. Sometimes, I wonder if it seems schizophrenic.
But here’s the thing: I’m seeing that saying yes in one area of my life means to opening my heart to many ands everywhere else.
I say yes to educating my children in an unexpected way—
And I find it dramatically impacts the way I view my own creativity.
I start pursuing that creativity with the daily attention I learned as a parent—
And I find my desire to follow God increasing with every little yes.
I start saying yes to God’s nudges—
And I find myself worshipping with people unlike me, hearing a cry for reconciliation leaping up in my heart.
I start seeing how much I can learn from people whom my arrogance says have nothing to teach me–
And I repent of that attitude in parenting.
And on, and on.
I don’t expect your little yeses will be the same as mine. But I know that saying yes in one area of your life will start disrupting—healing–empowering everything. I know that one yes will take you on a wilder adventure than you might have signed up for. And I know that the and will bless you. It will feel like you thought you were opening one narrow doorway, only to find yourself in a garden filled with enticing entrances.
Here’s the great thing about Yes, and: you’re only responsible for the first yes. You don’t have to create the adventure and transformation that follows. It will follow, at the right time. It will be disruptive and exhilarating, and you will find yourself strangely equipped for it.
Yes, and is a life that becomes more coherent, more creative, more awake. Yes, and is the life you’re longing to be allowed to live. Yes and happens more slowly and quickly than you expect.
Yes and starts with one small choice. Are you ready?
Image credit: Chinmay Pendharkar