Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Beginnings: Prologue, Chapter 1 and Chapter 2

"Always say “yes” to the present moment. What could be more futile, more insane, than to create inner resistance to what already is? What could be more insane than to oppose life itself, which is now and always now? Surrender to what is. Say “yes” to life — and see how life suddenly starts working for you rather than against you."
— Eckhart Tolle


These are 3 words I have attempted to train myself to think, believe, preach and ultimately put into action over this past Summer. The resultant effect on my life(style) has been fairly dramatic: it has led to me to highs I never thought possible and lows I never hoped were feasible; to trains, planes, boats and weans (not really, but it rhymed); to love, to friends, to beginnings and ends; to drugs, to booze (lots), too wasted, "two shots". Anyway, you get the picture.

I'm not going to try and tell you about some wacky Summer where I travelled the world, 'found myself' (whatever that means), and saw the most amazing sights (in fact, I didn't even leave Europe). I'm also not going to tell you about how my whole perspective on life completely shifted and I am now a different and wholly 'better' man - I am still the same guy in the same very oddly shaped body. Indeed, the results of 'saying yes more' also led to some negative (mainly financial) effects as well as positive ones. What I am going to attempt to tell you, as briefly as I can, is a story - a story of a guy who, at 21, and unbeknownst to him, had to start appreciating the amazingly privileged life he had previously been (complacently) living, where opportunities to say Yes literally ran into the hundreds each day, and where each one missed represented a chance to experience and fulfill something new and exciting.

This may sound like utter bollocks to you. In fact, reading it back I realise I sound like a total vagina - like someone blethering shite to anyone who will listen on Buchanan Street about 'The Endless Possibilities of The Freedom of The Mind, man', and who you would deeply love to punch square in the jaw. I realise this. I, too, being a former hardcore pessimist, would have told that man to shut up. Then I would have gone up to my flat, sat about watching telly, playing Football Manager and smoking fags, before retiring to my bed to sleep until the following lunchtime. A nice life, some may say. But is a nice life ok? I may have been contented with my nice life, but with the potential opportunities I had in front of me, was it right, or morally responsible, to sit in and play Football Manager with my 'nice' life? Was 'nice' enough? I thought nice was good. I thought it was fine. In fact, I managed to convince myself it was worthwhile. And that was nice.

But then a few things happened. I came to a metaphorical fork in the Road of Life, a fork with many tines (look it up, like I did). I had to pick a tine, but could I pick the 'right' tine? Were any of the tines the right one, and did I even have the right tine-choosing capabilities? Despite what skills I may or may not have in the tine selection department, I realise I am again starting to sound like Buchanan Street Man, so will move quickly on to the start of the story and I explain these tine-related ramblings in due course.

Chapter 1 - A Big Yellow Taxi Took My Girl Away

Picture the scene - I am coming up to the end of my 3rd year at university, getting increasingly good marks and generally putting most of my spare time into university. Further, I am two and a half years into the only lasting relationship I have ever had. I stay in a lot. I watch many DVDs (including, and especially, the complete works of David Attenborough), watch a lot of television and, as previously alluded to, am addicted to Football Manager. I am quite an anxious person and generally do not take many risks, although this, I feel, was only borne out of staying in a lot. I know this, and I don’t care. It is nice. I don't really answer my phone (only to my mum) and I like having time to myself. I am passive in my approach to most things. I am Ross Donaldson Thomson.

Now, take that information and delete it from your brain. Delete it, because one day towards the end of March this year, that man ceased to exist. That man died an agonizing death just when he thought everything was going nicely. He had been taking his girlfriend for granted and when she finally got fed up and ended it, he felt he had nothing.

This truly was something that man did not expect. It completely blindsided him. Naivety? Possibly (in fact definitely) to the extent that he figured they could just get on with their lives, remain friends and he would meet another girl eventually. Problem solved. But, by the time he had realised how big a part of his life she was, it was too late and so, after a couple of (failed) attempts to get her back, he had to accept reality.

I do not want to dwell so much on this part of the story (not as much as I did in real life anyway) as it isn't greatly important, the main point is that something happened which meant I had to take a step back and (re)configure my life. The options were clear: stick (i.e. continue the same life as before (obviously minus the girlfriend)), or twist (i.e. try living a little bit differently).

I was anxious now, extremely anxious. I didn't sleep, I hardly ate and my heart was constantly racing. I had a fear of the unknown, a fear of having to make that choice - to choose my tine. I wanted to turn back time - to go back to a point where I didn’t have to think about what could broadly be referred to as 'my future'. But I couldn't. It was high time that I got my finger out. And then, in the darkened depths of one ashtray-filled night, just when all hope was lost, just when  I had consigned myself to a life of being a bumbling mess, I got an idea...

Chapter 2 - The Yes Man

I must firstly admit, for those of you not in the know, that it was not entirely my idea. It was a stolen idea, a borrowed idea that I figured I could at least try to piggyback on for a while if nothing else. To be honest, it seemed a bit outlandish and immature, but by this point, at this tine (sorry, last time, I promise), I was desperate. I had watched the film The Yes Man (if you've never seen it, it's pretty rubbish, but my favourite scene is below) and had decided that it would be pretty fun to try it, if not for a sustained period of time, then at least for a week or a day. I ordered the book (an excellent read - way better, and completely different from the film - although I'm no book critic) from the ever-trusty Amazon and decided I would endeavor to say Yes to any opportunity I was presented with. This would mean, in effect, that someone else, something else, was making my decisions, that it didn't matter where I ended up, because I was bound by Yes. The unknown no longer mattered because it was already pre-determined - set out for me with a series of Yeses, where one Yes led to another one. I could just relax and let Yes do it's magic, without having to worry about the consequences or the Big Bad Future. It was my 'get out of jail' card.

But this posed several problems. As previously mentioned, I didn't take many risks. I liked to be in control. Submission to Yes meant I would lose all control over my life as I knew it. This would be not just a timid step into the world of the unknown, but a massive leap, and one which I wasn't entirely sure I was ready for. Added to this, anyone who knows my personality knows that a decision like this could have potentially catastrophic consequences. When I go for it (as I tended to do when I was previously a single man), I tend to go for it, no holds barred, no prisoners taken and no expenses spared. Anyone who I explained my new venture to seemed to put forward the proposition that it might, in fact, lead to my death. All of a sudden, this didn't seem like much fun at all. Nonetheless, after taking all the advice on board and (like any self-respecting machismo male would) fucking it all out the window, I strengthened my resolve and vowed to engage with this most glorious of quests.

I was going to have to do a little bit of work before I could start though. First of all, there was going to have to be a set of rules, a manifesto written in plain English which I could consult in times of need. After wracking my brains for several hours I looked down at what I had created:

The Yes Manifesto

Rule Number 1: Say Yes to everything.

And that was it. Ok, it was a bit basic, but adding too many rules would just confuse things and, anyway, how hard could it really be???

Around this time, I thought of a good entry level test for myself, just to check that my heart was really in this and it wasn't just some stupid game. If I was going to become a new person, then it would surely follow that I needed a new image? Something which would symbolically and aesthetically start me off on my adventure, so I could look back and say 'YES! That was the exact point whereby I became a Yes Man!' My thoughts immediately turned to bleach. I had had many battles with this most ferocious of chemical-based foes in the past, any only a few where I had emerged the victor. But this time, I was determined to conquer and overcome it. I went to my local Boots in earnest and bought the deadliest hair dye I could find (you can usually tell by the number of warnings on the pack, and by how thick the gloves you get with it are). The one I selected came with mandatory body armour - this was going to be a fight to the death.
I was quite pleased with my purchase. I was going to turn over a new leaf, be a blonde idiot, and one who actually enjoyed his life. On my return to my flat I was welcomed by my flat mate, Jamie, in the usual way:

"Want to do something tonight?"
"Hmm, dunno man - like what?"
"I was thinking about snooker - always wanted to play it and would like to give it a bash."

To tell the truth, as was the norm, I really couldn't be arsed (no offence Jambo). But then I realised, what was I doing? I had forgot already! This was my first opportunity (even although my Yes Man image was not yet fully established) to Say Yes, to do something I wouldn't usually do. I put the thought of burning bleach deep into my scalp to one side and said that immortal word.

"Yeah, okay" (well actually that's two words, but it doesn't really go into general conversation very well if you just say 'yes' - it is always followed by an awkward pause)
"You want to just head out just now? I'm pretty bored."

Again, Yes was the answer and off we went, like two little tiny ducklings swimming in a sea of snooker-based friendship.

I'm not entirely sure on the specifics of said night, but I know it involved a lot of guinness, whiskey, and very poorly played snooker. It was a good laugh.

I awoke early in the morning, cold, naked and alone, feeling like I had spent the last 12 hours eating nothing but cardboard. It was 8am, and I grudgingly got out of bed as I realised that I had a meeting at 9 with a V.I.P (a very important police officer (or pig if you like)). Before you jump the gun, I was not in trouble with the law but was, in fact, to meet with said policeman about a research project I was doing at university which he was supervising. I went upstairs, forced some water down and went to turn the shower on.

The image I saw in front of me when I turned the shower room light on was one which absolutely, utterly and completely horrified me.

Bleach 1, Ross 0.

The Yes Man was born.


  1. wow Ross, you never told me you were that good a writer! looking forward to the next one! keep up the good work xx

  2. One question.....

    Will you strip naked, run to Maryhill McDonalds and fetch me a happy meal with a cornetto mcflurry, then soil yourself in the corner as you watch me eat a few chips then feed the rest to the cat?

  3. The Yes Man period is over so no, no I wil not. Maybe on the next boy's night out though...