The last six months of chemotherapy has meant that I have had to say ‘no’ more often than I would like (although not as often as I’d feared) and so now my treatment is over and done with, and I’m starting to feel more back to normal, I decided to redress the balance and say YES to everything for a week.
This is a blatant rip off of the (excellent) Danny Wallace book, Yes Man, but instead of doing it for months and having many life and mind-altering experiences, I am doing it for a week and probably having maybe one to two lunch-altering experiences. My friends and I once did this when we were about 21, but that mostly involved saying yes to shots and staying out far too late on a school night, so I’m hoping for a slightly more mature, less alcoholic experience this time.
I will be sticking to the same rules as Danny and saying YES to everything, bar anything illegal or immoral. Here goes…
About ten minutes after I decide to start the week of yes (WoY), my friend Rose texts me to ask if I want to try out a new Vietnamese restaurant in Brighton next week. YES! I love Vietnamese and I love Rose. This is easy!
Next, I go out at lunchtime to buy some Sichuan peppercorns from the Chinese supermarket to make a recipe I discovered while flicking through a magazine in my new WoY state of mind (‘why not cook kung pao chicken this week?’ YES) and a homeless man tries to sell me a lighter. I gave up smoking over 18 months ago and while there seems to be some kind of gloriously dark irony in taking it back up again to celebrate a recovery from cancer, it’s not high on my list of things to do in the coming months. But WoY demands that I must say YES to every question, so I acquiesce, and he relieves me of £1. The lighter doesn’t work. I ponder what I could use a dud lighter for and come up with nothing. First casualty of WoY.
I reach the Chinese supermarket with my new and completely useless lighter in hand, and locate the Sichuan peppercorns. There is a moment of confusion when the shop assistant asks me if he can help, and I say YES, despite having found the sole item that I need from the shop.
Him: What are you looking for?
Me: Sichuan peppercorns!
Him: (Slowly, kindly, in manner of one speaking to a slightly backward child): ‘They are in your hand.’
Me: ‘Ah, so they are. Lovely! Thank you.’
I depart the Chinese supermarket in a state of some embarrassment and vow to patronise somewhere else for my peppercorn needs in future.
On getting back to the office I receive an email from a job site I’m signed up with for a water treatment engineer role. ‘Georgina, this looks like a great match for you!’ This, despite the fact that I have never knowingly treated any water and the salary is less than half of what I currently earn now. In fact, the only attribute I have is that I live in the South West and am ‘stable.’ (I spend a brief and enjoyable ten minutes pondering this requirement, as it seems an unusual thing to specify. Surely most jobs require a stable individual? Maybe the water industry is full of absolute maniacs and caners, who make Keith Richards’s heyday look tame, recklessly biting the heads off bats and having a really comprehensive knowledge of water feature hygiene).
Unfortunately for me and for the recruiters of this role, there is an Apply Now button, so reluctantly, I send my CV off and look forward to being trained on ‘cooling tower shut downs, deep disinfections, re-commissioning of cooling towers and water softener installs’, and taking advantage of their excellent working conditions and service manager.
On the way home, I am asked if I can spare some change for the RNIB, by a blind man standing in the hustle and bustle of rush hour Liverpool Street station. YES, I can spare a pound, and I hand it over. Once past him, I am offered a free sample of chilli and lime Lurpak (YES) and a flyer for a free delivery on my first week of my Ocado shop (YES). I never usually take flyers at stations but this time I’m glad I have – WoY is clearly looking out for me.
At home today. On my way to have a morning sea swim, I pass the Brighton Buddhist Centre, which exhorts me ‘See the world afresh! The ancient teachings of Buddha revisioned for today!’ Despite the fact that I’m pretty sure ‘revisioned’ isn’t a word, I pop into the reception to find out how I can access the ancient teachings of Buddha today, and am told they have a yoga class at 1pm. YES.
I sign up, and go on to have a lovely swim in the sea, enhanced by my mental images of becoming Buddha and Zen-like at 1pm. I will always look calm and serene, I think to myself, and people will come to me for advice, which I will dispense sagely, in a low, soothing voice, dropping in obscure pearls of ancient wisdom, like, ‘the salmon of your destiny will always swim upstream if he thinks the catch is worthy of the gold at the end of the rainbow’, and people will be wowed by my amazingly perceptive counsel, only thinking, ‘what the fuck’ to themselves several hours later.
The class is actually quite dull. I have yet to dispense any wisdom to anyone beyond, ‘that needs to come out of the oven now’ to my boyfriend.
However, it’s worth it for the teacher, who has a low and soothing voice, as expected, but is also some kind of yogic comedy genius, who delivers slightly off the wall instructions (‘bend forwards, but not so you have your head in your neighbour’s buttocks, which is disconcerting for you and for them.’ ‘Not loving this move is like not loving tiny kittens – impossible’) but in a tongue in cheek way that makes me sure he’s taking the piss. Delightful.
I come slightly unstuck during the ‘breathing out and humming through your nose’, which makes me snort with laughter at a room full of what sounds like agitated bees, gleaning myself several disapproving looks from several of the yoga-bees, and I find the meditation at the end as stressful as ever.
A quick note about me and meditation – I have tried to do it many times, as instructed by friends, boyfriends and medical professionals, as I could probably worry at an Olympic level, if it was an Olympic sport, and I suffer from ‘busy brain’ – basically a brain that just won’t shut up, especially when trying to sleep. Every single time I’ve tried to meditate as part of a yoga class, I sit there thinking, ‘am I doing this right? Surely I’m supposed to feel more relaxed than this? I swear I’m not doing it right. God I’m so shit at things like this. Why won’t my brain just SHUT UP. Oh I forgot to put the washing out. I wonder what everyone else is thinking about. They look far more relaxed than me. WHY am I so shit at this? That man looks a bit like a badger’ and so on and on until I want to run out of the room and do some proper exercise that means that I don’t have to think any more.
Overall, I find the class slightly less exercise than my usual warm up before training, but this is made up for by the hilarity of the teacher, the niceness of the rest of the class (buzzy bee moment notwithstanding) and the fact that it’s probably quite good for me to attempt to just sit and breathe in and out for a bit. I leave feeling quite positive, soothed and relaxed and the next day, my hip flexers, an area I always struggle with, are more open. I’m going to go back and try Iyengar yoga next time, which is meant to be more challenging, so a good result for WoY here.
I get asked to help the PR team with the paper review at work today as someone is off sick (going through all the daily papers and noting any relevant articles for clients). I was on the point of saying no, as I had quite a bit on that day, but remembered what week it was and said YES. Actually really enjoyed doing it, and volunteered to help out for the rest of the month, which earned some serious gratitude. Feel all warm and fuzzy at my own helpfulness.
No other particular yeses of note today, although I cook the kung pao chicken that had necessitated the humiliating trip to the Chinese supermarket. Feel really pleased with myself – new experiences, new cuisines, maybe I’ll apply to Masterchef! – until my boyfriend, R, and I eat it and I realise that I haven’t crushed the Sichuan peppercorns as much as I should have, rendering it somewhat…sandy in texture. Like eating chicken that had recently rolled around in a sandpit. I am as crushed as the peppercorns should have been.
R eats all of his and then the rest of mine, but R would eat the hind legs of a donkey through a rusty gate if he was hungry enough, so I am not exactly doing laps of victory about this.
However, I do use the broken lighter to kill a mosquito, so that was probably worth £1.
I have a circus act creation course with my doubles partner today (as you do), and was secretly looking forward to her look of shock as I put myself forward for the drama games that I am terrible at (seriously, you try entering a room, sitting on a chair and walking out again, completely neutrally, with no facial expressions or mannerisms, in front of a giggling audience. It’s basically impossible, especially for someone like me, who’s mannerisms tend to lean towards the fluttery end of the Elton John scale) with an enthusiastic YES! However, the class is small and we all get an equal go, so I don’t have the opportunity to volunteer myself to express ‘puzzled at a level of 8.’ Damnit.
That evening, R and I go to Norfolk for my cousin’s wedding. There is red wine on the table. I do not drink red wine because, historically, it’s never agreed with me (and I don’t really like it but I don’t tell people that for fear of them thinking I’m not a real grown up, which is clearly the actual truth). My neighbour politely offers me the red wine. I politely start to decline, realise what week it is and say YES, thinking that it might open up new, grown up horizons. This is not a good idea, and the only horizon it opens is one that results in a pounding headache, churning stomach and nameless sense of dread the next day.
Too hungover. I feel like WoY is not my friend. R cannot fathom why I drank red wine, and I can’t tell him it’s WoY in case he takes advantage of it and asks me to lend him a fiver or iron all his boxers, so I explain it away by saying there was nothing else available at that precise time of the evening. He looks at me sideways and says, ‘so you’d rather drink something you know make you sick than nothing?’ YES, I say, and sadly watch him google ’12 signs your partner is an alcoholic.’
I said yes to a hog roast, but nothing of note there – who wouldn’t say yes to a hog roast? Well, vegetarians I suppose. And vegans. Urgh, I might throw up. THIS is precisely why I say no to red wine.
I see a van advertising an ironing service that begins with, ‘do you hate ironing?’ YES, I answer, enthusiastically and truthfully, preparing myself to sign up to having my ironing collected and dropped off weekly at a cost that I definitely can’t afford when using hair straighteners on the worst of the creases has worked for me for this long (#LIFEHACK), when I realise that there’s no direct impetus to do anything apart from agree that I hate ironing. Phew! I carry on about my (creased, rumpled) day.
At the end of the day, I pass the work noticeboard, where people nominate their colleagues for a monthly award and see my name on it – the head of the PR team has nominated me for stepping in and giving them a hand with the paper review, with the words, ‘Georgina’s obliging attitude was so hugely appreciated’! I am genuinely touched. Nice one, WoY!
I get asked to cover reception for an hour, which clearly I have to say YES to, and spend that hour putting cold callers through to the managing director, the head of finance and the HR manager, because I have to say YES when the callers ask to speak to them. This does not endear me to my colleagues.
I also make a version of the kung pao chicken without the bastard Sichuan peppercorns and this actually works really well and is both delicious and nutritious.
In Yes Man, Danny Wallace gets asked to go to Singapore, Australia and Amsterdam, he finds the love of his life and an amazing new presenting job; it basically changes his entire life. I am going to choose to think that the reason no one has asked me to go overseas or present a TV show is because I only did it for a week and not because my life is boring. It’s merely the timeframe, that’s all.
But genuinely, red wine experience aside, WoY has been a positive time in what is a bit of a crossroads in my life at the moment. Being only able to say YES takes away a lot of the stress of choice, and I found that quite soothing, knowing that there is only one answer to everything. I would never have gone to that yoga class without WoY, which I really enjoyed, and I will now definitely go back for another one. I would never have been nominated for an award at work without saying YES and I’m basically a professional stir fry creator now. Also, the free sample of chilli and lime Lurpak was excellent and I am about to order my first Ocado shop from the flyer. I also wouldn’t have bought a broken lighter, but those mosquitoes won’t kill themselves, I suppose.
I would encourage everyone reading this, especially if they are not sure which direction to go next, to spend a week saying YES to everything that crosses their path and seeing where it takes them, and what kind of experiences they have – I guarantee most of them will be positive, and I would love to hear about them.
(I have yet to hear back about the water treatment engineer job).