By Sloane Miller, MSW, LMSW
Two years ago I went on a blind date. The date wasn’t a romantic match; but he told me about musical improv-improvisational comedy created in a musical theater form. I had never done anything like improvisational comedy before; but I knew I loved to sing and I loved musical theater. So, a few months later, I signed up for my first class. Being silly, on stage, with a group of strangers was pretty terrifying. But there was a small part of me that also found it exhilarating. The more I practiced, the more classes I took, the more the terror was replaced by joy.
The core premise of improv is to say “Yes, and” to your partner. It does not simply involve being spontaneous. It involved saying ‘yes’ to everything presented to you in a theatrical scene (which hopefully will open up the scene to something potentially funny or brilliant or clever, goofy or simply bring the scene to the next place.
As someone who grew up with food allergies, asthma, allergies and eczema, my childhood was filled with a lot of “Yes, but.” “Yes, I’d love to come over for a play date, BUT I can’t because you have dogs and I’ll have asthma issues and allergy issues.” Or, “Yes, I’d love to have a piece of that German Chocolate Cake. BUT it has tree nuts and I’m allergic.” Or, “Yes, I’d love to go outside and ride our bikes. BUT I’ll have asthma and allergy issues.” Once I left home for college, as a young adult, I set out to discover how to expand my horizons while remaining safe. That is to say, how to add more ‘yeses’ to my life despite the ‘buts’.
Throughout my adult life, especially these last eight years of being a food allergy counselor, author and speaker, that has been my task: how to add more ‘yes’ to a life that has some definite ‘buts’ and ‘nos’.
The facts of food allergies and anaphylaxis are clear. Food allergies are real and serious. Have a plan, know your triggers. and know what to do in case of an emergency. Carry your emergency medications on your person at all times as anaphylaxis is a swift and severe reaction that can be fatal. Epinephrine auto-injectors are the first line of defense in a severe, life-threatening allergic reaction.
Those facts are real and cannot be ignored; and those facts can feel like the biggest ‘Nos’ to having a life. No, you can’t eat that cookie without reading the label. Or, No you can’t just have a bit of that cake without asking what’s in it. Or, No you can’t leave your bag or purse with your medications at home when you hang with friends. And, especially: No, you can’t kiss someone who just ate your allergen.
So, how does anyone expand one’s horizons (say yes to fun, connection, joy, expansion, intimacy) while remaining safe (saying no to allergic triggers) especially when food and food-related events seem to be the focus at home, with family, with friends, at college, at work, traveling and/or on romantic dates?
Put simply, by knowing this. Life is more than food and who you are as a person is bigger than simply someone with food allergies. Finding your ‘YES’ as an adult is about exploring, uncovering, and developing who you are as a person, your interests, your passions, your creative outlets, your drives, your spirituality, your athleticism, your focus, and your skills.
So, where will you find your next ‘YES’?
Sloane Miller, MFA, MSW, LMSW
Food Allergy Counselor
Author of Allergic Girl: Adventures in Living Well with Food Allergies (Wiley, 2011)