In February 1999 I was lucky enough to experience conceptual artist Yoko Ono’s only UK exhibition of that year, ‘have you seen the horizon lately?’ a real coup for the quaint converted Tudor house in my hometown of Colchester, where it took place. The exhibition included the famous piece, ‘Ceiling Painting / Yes Painting,’ which is essentially a ladder that you climb to reach a magnifying glass to view the word ‘YES’ written in tiny letters on the ceiling. The exhibition, and this piece in particular, had a profound effect on me and 20 years on it still holds the same resonance that it held when I was a wee sixth former*. By 1999 the ladder was deemed too fragile and precious to climb, having been ascended by the likes of John Lennon in its glory days. The word ‘Yes’, however, was still there and it stuck with me, despite undergoing different interpretations over the years. Officially, the piece is representative of a journey towards hope and affirmation from pain, something I can perhaps relate to more now than I could then, but on the eve of the millennium the message simply felt like one of great optimism and positivity for the future.
‘Yes’ is a powerful word. Imagine if the ladder led you to the word ‘no’ – that would be like reaching the pearly gates only to be turned away. ‘Yes’ is positive, it’s bold and it has the power to take you places you never dreamed you’d go.
You may remember that I started the year saying ‘yes’ to more things. Well, last week the word ‘yes’ took me somewhere incredible – it took me to the outer limits of My Comfort Zone. Sure, it’s a place I’ve visited many times before and not always with much enthusiasm, but this time was different; this time I was dressed in Yes from head to foot. The occasion? World Book Day. My daughter’s teacher got wind of the fact that I’ve written several stories for children and roped me into presenting some to the class. Never one to relish public speaking or talking in front of an audience of any kind, I was terrified at the very thought. I was even tempted to pull out the MS card -‘Oh, I couldn’t possibly, I’ve got MS.’ But, I somehow found the courage to whip out the ‘yes card’ instead, and boy, am I glad I did!
Sitting in front of a rapt audience of 3 – 4 year olds and a sprinkling of grown-ups I put my all into telling my stories with the help of some toy dinosaurs and other props I’d made beforehand. A buzz of pure excitement surged through me as the children applauded and the grown-ups nodded their approval. I’d done it! I’d conquered a fear and it had paid off. And in those moments of euphoria I forgot all about the MS and all the stupid symptoms and the pain and the fatigue – I was high on Yes and I cannot wait to do it all over again!
*Sixth Former – British student aged 16 – 18.