Training Happened

Be careful what you do that first week of marriage.

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Exactly 1 week before the incident

As glowing newlyweds, fresh off a cruise, we returned to his house to the bloody stench of dead rotten meat. It was powerless, the freezer in the utility shed. Long brown streaks that had been red were no longer streaming down its walls. If only it had taken our breath away, then we wouldn’t have been overwhelmed by the nose singeing smell.
As the new good wife, I assured him it would be alright, I would clean it. Go sit down and relax.
NOT. This wasn’t my first rodeo. I was a 30 something woman of independent means. Advice to young women watch what you do that first week of marriage. It sets expectations like feet in concrete.
My response to the situation was more like:
“Awe, that’s awful. I better go home to my condo and get a nap.” I hightailed it in my twelve cylinder Jaguar XJ-S back to the lakefront townhouse in Lakeland leaving him with HIS mess in Keysville, a suburb of Nichols, which was three potential railroad stops outside Mulberry.
Allow me to digress: When he had asked me to marry him, he said that this was a life commitment. To clarify, I said “So one of us doesn’t make it out of this one alive?” That was the bargain.
I couldn’t fathom. “Why mess up a good friendship?” To me, marriage was the beginning of the end.
“For the sake of the children.” He had possession of his three boys. “And you don’t have to live with us.”
It was a compelling invitation for this lifelong commitment.
I counter offered. ”It better be fun, because I am not long suffering”.
When I returned to his house a few hours later, I had regained my serenity and as a rested, clean and dazzling bride who cheerfully greeted him.
There he was holding a stiff Scotch highball, tensely seated in the brown velvet chair in front of the stereo with Credence Clearwater Revival booming in his psyche. With narrowed eyes, and a week of marriage under our belts, he said, “I don’t think this marriage is going to work out”.

With breath gasping sobs, begging his pardon, I promised him it would never happen again.
NOPE that didn’t happen either.
“Turn off CCR and snap out of it”. He may have pouted for some time after;
But, we understood each other and what he could expect from me. And by the way, the freezer was squeaky, Virgo, clean.
It wasn’t hard being the mother figure of this family of men. They didn’t plop down on the couch saying, “great we got a woman here, now, what’s for dinner?” No, they knew how to do their chores and I fit in by doing what I was good at: Supervising.
That house had been theirs. The Biological Mother (BM) had put the decals of owls on the kitchen cabinets. They had raised the boys there, next door to her parents. I never moved into that house. I would bring an overnight bag, but never hung anything in the closet.
She (My ex-wife-in-law) let herself in with the hidden key and left notes chastising me about not making up the boys’ beds. Hah!
Our happy little family moved to where she didn’t have a hidden key to the newly constructed pond-front home in South Lakeland. I quit ragging on the boys to make up their beds. It was more important to have peace than made beds. Whenever one of them would ask me to iron something, I would laugh and remind them “Minnie comes on Wednesdays.”
One time I was ironing something of mine and my husband caught me. I begged, “Please don’t tell the boys.”

Care Giving happened

 

IMG_7899 (1)“So this is the ‘and in sickness’ part I agreed to, aye?” I asked my husband as I was taking care of him after a surgery.

This whole care giving bit doesn’t get the respect it deserves.  Not easy, especially for me taking care of someone, like him, who is the natural care giver of the marriage.  So my form of care giving is to fuss at him “Don’t do that, you’ll hurt yourself”. Then I have to knock him outta the way so that I can do “his jobs” like emptying the dishwasher or taking out the garbage or making us tea.  Sigh.

Then there are the pain killer meds he won’t take.

I told him he better stay healthy because I would not give him his regimen of 100 vitamins throughout the day…..and now, he won’t take the new prescription.

We all have our spiritual gifts.  One time I took the test and the results came back “Social worker.”  “Really?” was my incredulous inquiry.  They then relooked at the numbers and corrected to “Hospitality.” Awe, yes, the relief of knowing my true gifts.

So that translates into someone who will be welcoming but will not wipe anything that leaks from them.  Which is tricky when you venture into motherhood.  The way I remember the perfect fruit of my loins, our daughter as a baby, was “she didn’t cry, spit up or even poop” AND she felt welcomed into this world.  Glad she had the care giving daddy around, along with the nanny and the institution (preschool, school, etc.)

The nanny and I took her to the pediatrician and I remember asking the nanny, “What’s the command for….”

As we grow older, we wonder who will take care of us. I think the best bet is to stay healthy and self-sufficient.  What I notice about old people (those 20 years older than whatever age I am) is that the ones who have a great sense of humor, are interested in others and contribute by using their gifts are the ones who are happiest and healthiest. 

As I watched my parents grow older with physical and mental decline, I posed the question to our daughter “I don’t know if I would rather be physically disabled or mentally disabled”.  “I think you would enjoy mentally disabled better.” She cheerfully suggested.

Whichever, if either, I would hope to be a joy to whomever was my caregiver.  And to give caregivers credit…..because, Lord knows, we don’t pay them enough.

 

 

 

BRAVERY HAPPENED

It was as joke. It got a laugh, at the engagement party for my classmate who was getting married for the first time at age 63.  That joke landed on me.  It was too poignant for me to find funny.  I had never heard it before, because I had never said it before that moment.  Messages come to me that way: through my own mouth.

Rebecca, the bride, had been in musical theater in New York and our classmate, Diane, had been an opera singer there too.  They both were talking about still having stage freight when they stepped on stage.

I said “Do you know how I deal with the fear?   I don’t get on stage”.

That message haunted me because it was true.  And FEAR was the theme of my focus when I went to the Canadian creative conference called Mindcamp a few days after the party.

The electricity was off on the first night when I arrived at the YMCA camp on the lake outside of Toronto.  You know how those creative types are all alike….they adapted without complaint.  The session I chose included making meaning of the art we randomly pulled from a pile. We used our cell phone lights to show the pictures.

I was glad that it was the first session, and it was dark, and nobody knew me or saw me when I described my picture.  I thought my commentary was too conceited.

mindcampHere’s how I described my picture:   In the middle of the egg was me.  I am sending out loops of energy and reaching north, south, east and west. All of us in the egg are emerging from waters into the light. My diverse audience is influenced by my message.

Yes, it was a great message for me to have received.  Yet, I felt self-conscious that I would be so bold as to suggest that I had an audience.

Mindcamp has a smorgasbord of creative classes to choose from every hour and a half.  That was my first session during the long weekend.  And it was the foundation to build on for the others I was drawn to.

The next day we came out of the darkness and into the light.

The class I chose was on PARADOX.  There were signs on the walls with paradoxes written on them. We were told to stand near the one that we could understand and we liked.  There we were automatically sorted with partners who were standing by the same sign.  We shared our insights with each other.

The paradox was:

TO GIVE

TO RECEIVE

This made perfect sense to me because to give is to receive.  It is more blessed to give than to receive because giving feels so good.  We have this experience when we volunteer or share or give time to others.  Perfect sense.

Then, the next assignment repelled me.  I breathed deeply through my anxiety, because I knew the sign she meant for me.

Her directions sounded something like “go to the sign that you refuse to acknowledge”.  Argh!  Not that one!  It was the one so against where I would allow my mind to go.  I couldn’t deal with it.  I went to THAT sign.

WE ARE HARDWIRED FOR FEAR (SURVIVAL)

WE ARE HARDWIRED FOR LOVE (AWAKENING)

See what I mean? I am good with love and awakening.  Fear and survival, I didn’t want to deal with. I’m the one who has always said: “If a hurricane demolishes my house and I am on the nightly news, do not put ‘SURVIVOR’ under my picture.” And certainly NOT “VICTIM”.  I am a THRIVE

So here is how I dealt with that paradox: As those seem to be at opposite swings of the pendulum, the pendulum doesn’t stop swinging in mid curve.  In order for me to have the emotional depth of love and awaking, I must not resist the feelings of fear and survival.  In resisting, I am cutting off what I might want to do because of the fear. Since stage freight was a fear and the picture I interpreted the night before was speaking to the masses (love and awakening), I couldn’t have one without the other. I would have to be brave in order to do the outreach.  Fear had been limiting me. “I don’t get on stage.”

Hence the next bricks to building on the foundation from the night before.

I had a newfound sense of empowerment that lead me to the next class.

It was called “From story to stage presence”.  We worked on our stories in small groups. Then Michael asked for a volunteer to get up on stage at the microphone in front of the group to work on our stage presence.  This is the time that I would be a great audience to the brave one who volunteered.  My hand shot up and up to the stage I went.  I was that brave one.

It was a wonderful rush.  He helped me figure my one line:  Everyone thought I had it all together, that’s why he picked me.

He coached me to pause in my delivery.  We went through several exercises with emphasis on certain words and different accents. I was good.  It felt wonderful.  As I was leaving the stage I said “I have a fear of speaking to large groups, so because of that stage freight, I had to get up here today”.

This guy told me later that my admission inspired him to get on stage. He was an imposing big black guy and his line was “I should’ve been in jail, but I am here.”  I got to know him as the weekend went on.

Another man who was one of the creative leaders told me that he wished he had gotten on stage, especially after what I said.  Yep, he was doing what I would’ve been doing….wishing to get on stage.

I was now feeling all powerful. I was no longer limited by stage freight.

I went immediately to volunteer to do a bit that evening event called the Camino.  The night before I had seen what people were offering.  One woman was seated under a tree with a sign “Coach is in”.  There were a group of people standing back from the private session “in the waiting room”.

That gave me the idea for the setup of my space. I had been playing with the idea of reviving “Advice Ladies” that a group of us did for fun at CPSI (a creative conference in Buffalo). But since I didn’t have the ladies, I came up with “NOT yo’ Mama, Edgy advice without the baggage.”

not your Mama photoThe sign says “Nothing confidential, may be tweeting on the spot”  “Shift happens in 2 minutes”.  And since there was nothing confidential, I invited folks to gather round as I recruited people to come talk to Not yo Mama.

It was great fun and I made many new friends in my outrageousness.  I found out something about myself there.  People in Canada thought I had a Southern accent, and with that Southern accent I could say any edgy thing and it was it was okay.  Bless their hearts.

That evening right after me debuting Not yo’ Mama it was time to go to Karaoke.

And guess what I did? I was a great audience.  I didn’t get on stage. Way too shy for that stage.  The good news is that there is still room for me to grow; and the only way to do that is to go straight FEARward.