(AP Photo/Smith College, Sam Masinter)Emmy and Golden-Globe-winning actress Jane Lynch at the 2012 Smith College commencement address. Fun, funny, heartfelt. Includes expletive. :-)

If I could do so much of my early life over, I would have taken more moments like this to breathe. I would have spent more time focusing on what was right in front of me, instead of recoiling from what is because it didn’t look or feel exactly as I imagined it. I wouldn’t have been forever trying to look around the corner to see “What’s next, what’s next?!”

I’d have taken in the beauty of the moment, and greeted everything in my life with a big “YES, AND.”

(...)

“YES AND” is the vital and only rule of improvisation. Never deny your fellow actor. You should be willing and able to accept whatever your fellow improviser throws at you. Use that as your jumping off point and expand it. “Heighten and explore,” as we call it.

(...)

In other words, in order for our lives to go forward, in order to engage fully in life, we need to be willing and able to accept what is right in front of us. Whatever it is, the good, the bad, the thrilling, the heartbreaking, every emotion, occurrence, event, person, place or thing, you will experience them all. That’s the “YES” I’m talking about. And the acceptance and embrace of it with all your heart and doing something with it, that’s the “AND.” You accept influence and then you exert influence. You can’t make a cloudy day a sunny day, but can embrace it and decide it’s going to be a good day after all.

(...)

As you travel through life, in these many years ahead, I guarantee that you will come upon countless times in which the last thing you’re gonna want to say is “YES AND.” You will experience loss, heartache, the death of a loved one, you’ll probably have to say goodbye to a lover, you’ll experience rejection, maybe have to deal with a bad diagnosis. You’ll age.

The trick isn’t to avoid these times or pretend they’re not happening; you can’t. What you’ll need to do is step up to them courageously and embrace them. Allow these experiences to permeate your being and weave them all into the fabric of your life. They will not only soften you and strengthen you, and you will open your heart to compassion. You will not be powerless in this. If you embrace what is happening, instead of denying it, you can make it your own. If life gives you lemons, grab it by the horns and drive. Yes I just mixed three metaphors, remember I was a “C” student.

(...)

Now, I know what you’re thinking, “Jane, what about doing porno?” To which I say I am as surprised as you are that I was never offered that opportunity.

But would I have said yes to that? What if life gives us the opportunity to rob a bank, or a way to cheat on our taxes, or say it offers us several hours in a row of life with the Kardashians...hours that we can never get back?

To this I say: you can always trust that when you’re coming from your highest self and from your heart, you’ll know when you should say “YES AND,” and when to engage the awesome power of “NO WAY.”

(...)

I guess I am assuming you all are as terrified as I was of life, so you know that when you feel sick to your stomach, it’s a good thing! It signals “Opportunity For Big Growth Ahead!” “Somethin’s coming, somethin’ good.” Don’t ignore the nausea. Step up to it.

(...)

Life is not all about work — and the scariest places to say “Yes And” are also the most rewarding...in a relationship.

(...)

Your partner will inevitably see your soft underbelly. Shocking behavior you only read about will start to become your own. Your demon will rise up to righteously destroy your relationship in the guise of saving yourself from really seeing yourself. Your partner will say to you with all the tenderness that situation allows, “What the fuck?” You’ll want to break up with yourself.

Don’t be afraid of this horrible version of you! Face it, embrace it, coddle it, write it a poem, maybe it needs a hug. Shine the light of day on it. Unclaimed and unacknowledged, it’s got the power and its darkest forces will have you enslaved! Accept its influence, mine it for its gold. Yep, sometimes saying “YES AND” is going to take everything you’ve got. But the payoff, trusting in love, is just incredible.

Read the full text here.

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