“Whatever you are, be a good one.”
By being yourself you put something wonderful in the world that was not there before.
~ Edwin Elliott
Back on January 4th I wrote a blog about not making New Year’s resolutions. (in case you need a refresher course, it’s https://wp.me/p1pIBL-2Cm). I still believe in not making resolutions — they are merely commitments you can’t always keep. No offense.
But I have had an altered experience that makes me redefine the word “resolution.”
I was driving home from work today and the song “Come Sail Away” by Styx came on. What did I do? Cranked up the song and sang along at the top of my lungs. It felt great. Like a release into the atmosphere.
So I started to think what it would look like to the outside world if I did the same thing in the summer. Windows wide open, through the countryside and citywide as well. This 65-year-old granny of 2-1/2, singing like there’s no tomorrow.
I have been self conscious most of my life. The reasons don’t matter, but I am not comfortable when people watch me. (Watch me, as opposed to look at me when we talk/laugh etc.). I always wonder what other people think of how I look. Do I match. Do I dress like a teenager. Do I sound stupid when I talk.
Well, I have made a decision. Besides trying to not care what others think, I’m making a point of doing this same driving stunt during the summer. This 65-year-old woman driving around with the windows down, singing with my favorite songs at the top of my lungs.
Honestly. What have I got to lose?
Will it matter to me if the college kid in the car next to me or the lady waiting for the stoplight or the kid riding his bike think I’m nuts? Will it matter 20 years from now that I gave my favorite songs my “all”?
I think all of us have wasted too much time worrying about what the “other guy” thinks. We are all unique individuals. No one else has our DNA. No one else felt the things we felt and went the places we went or cried the tears we cried.
I am going to make a point of sharing my love of music by singing along with it and cranking it up and sharing my excitement, my transformation, with anyone who listens. I will be a 65-year-old inspiration for whomever wants to be inspired, and a good joke for those who could care less.
No resolutions. No commitments. Just making a point.
Be who you always wanted to be but were afraid to be.
I wrote a blog earlier today — something about BoHo and gypsy and wrapping my wardrobe around that feeling. Blah blah and I don’t remember exactly where that was going, because I rode home from work tonight with the windows open, the fields shimmering with yellow soybean leaves and stalks of corn turning crisply brown, their tassels dancing in the evening breeze, Elton John rocking at full blast on the radio, my thin, flat reddish-brown hair flying helter skelter in the wind, thinking about my evening ritual of playing fetch with my dogs, then a bit of dinner, a bit of cleaning, a bit of TV, then digging into a good book.
Wherever I was going with my previous story, whatever wrappings I thought I needed to be who I was, whatever depressing thoughts tried to bloom from a day of data entry, whatever politics played out during the four cement walls of my workplace, whatever aches and pains follow me day in and day out, none of that mattered. None of that matters.
Life is good. Love, in whatever form you find it, is good. It’s here and it’s now and it’s all you’ve got. Damn the job and the family members that don’t get you and the pounds you want to lose. Open those windows. Crank up the radio. Sing at the top of your lungs.
Take the long way home….
More often than not my life is like that. I feel like I’m going frontwards, backwards, up the center of that tornado, and not making much headway. So I had a long talk with myself on the drive home from work today, and have decided that I’ve got to quit fighting with the world and to just be myself.
Now, I tell myself that every other day. I’m sure you do, too. And yet you go back to work, to your family, hiding the same thoughts, acting like a semi-obedient kid, counting the days until vacation, until Saturday, until retirement.
In my little one-on-one today, my good girl/bad girl really struggled to find a happy balance. Now, I am a happy person. I love my family, my paint-in-the-butt pets, my house and my habits. I’m not what you’d considered repressed — more like befuddled.
I never thought about retiring. I am too young to retire. Retirement is for old people. I know I wrote a blog about that some time ago, and the truth is that not much has changed. And that’s the problem. I haven’t noticed the clock moving backwards any, so all I have is the NOW and tomorrow’s NOW and so on and so forth. I told myself that it’s about time to stop wasting the NOWs wanting things that just aren’t going to change. There will always be worlds that fit like a glove, and others that fit like size 6 spandex. And not being “there” is alright all on its own.
My Goddess self said Knock It Off.
And so I have.
I really am going to (try) stop whining and get to gettin’ on. I have novels to finish, novels to edit, boho clothes to buy, and star roads to wander down. I suppose this wanderlust looks a bit like dementia, but since it’s purposeful, on-purpose wandering, I’m not too worried.
Have you gotten to the place in your life where enough is enough? I’m not saying I’m going to tell my boss off or spend lots of money on foofy things or start ordering from Amazon and Zulilly, but I am tired of feeling the victim of the world all the time. The bullying stopped by the time I was in high school. It started again about 10 years ago, but it stopped last November. So there’s no reason why I can’t live my life the way I want to. Who knows what that will be? I’d like to get to the point where I don’t feel guilty sleeping in on the weekends or having ice cream for breakfast. I want to write instead of do dishes and work on my blog instead of researching pin numbers.
It’s so much easier said than done, isn’t it? I know we all have different learning curves. Some curves have been much more brutal than mine, some easier. But we’re all striving to find out who we are.
No — we’re all striving to BE who we are. And it can’t be that hard.
I think if we were honest, we’d all be some jagged, bejeweled, bewitched, unpredictable conglomeration of blood and bone and pinky guts that is full of love and hope and magic.
I can be that. How about you?
So many things make us happy; so many things make us sad. So many times we wished we had turned left instead of right; so many times we are soooo glad we did turn right instead of left. Sometimes I get really sad that I’m soon going to turn 60 — where has my life gone? Other times I look back and am sorry my mother never made 54. I’m sad that I had breast cancer; other times I’m so glad they found it when they did.
Life is packed with highs and lows, yellow and blacks, snow and scorching heat. That’s what it’s all about. That’s what it’s always been about. For us, for our grandparents, for George Washington and Kublai Khan and St. Joseph. I’m sure they all had a hundred things they wanted to do at one time, too. Just like us. We all want to be appreciated for what we’ve done. What we’ve become. We all would like to think that our time here on Earth has been for the Greater Good.
This is not a confessional blog; this isn’t a tell-all or a bad news bomb. I’m sitting on my sofa this cold Sunday afternoon, looking at the bare treetops in my front yard. Of course, you know me — I’m also watching football, eating lunch, doing laundry, getting ready to write some in my latest novel, wondering what I’m gonna wear to work tomorrow. I’m also thinking about the fun I had with my grandbaby this weekend, thinking of taking some drugs for my achy legs, and feeling guilty I haven’t played fetchie with my dog today.
That’s really what this blog is about. Sometimes I feel I should be pushing this blog harder, trying to share the Word with more readers. Other times I think I’ve run this horse to the finish line, and should start a new creative venture. Yet more often I think I’ve let my writing simmer on the back burner for so long it’s started to dry up and stick to the pan.
How do you know if you’ve succeeded at what you tried to do? What is the measure of success? Big paychecks often are an indicator; good health, always. Waking up every morning is a success all on its own. Family? Kids? Making the perfect apple pie? All of the above are successes if never done it before. Success has always been measured from the heart first, from the masses second. And often it takes on a meaning more cosmic than one thinks. I think I make the best spaghetti sauce this side of the Mississippi. If you don’t agree, does that mean it’s not good? Of course not. All it means is that I can eat it all myself.
Writing is the same thing for me. What is being a successful writer? Have I ever been published? A short story here or there in the past 10 years. Have I won awards for my creativity? No. Have I ever I gotten a call or email from a publisher? No. Do I think I’m a successful writer? Yes. Definitely. I’ve had people say positive things about my stories; I’ve brought smiles and tears to readers. I’ve written 4 novels, 1 novella, 32 short stories, 42 poems, 84 blogs, and 3 novels in-progress. I think that’s being successful. Why? Because Ive continued to do what I love, no matter what the result. I’ve had fun making friends, creating worlds, and trying things that make me uncomfortable. I encouraged people to believe in themselves, given life to middle-age heroines, and never killed off the main character.
There are still so many paths to follow, worlds to explore. And that’s only after I play with my grandbaby, fetch my dogs, pet my cats, cuddle my husband, go to work 40 hours a week, clean my house, grocery shop, get together with family and/or friends, and dozens of other responsibilities. Life has only so many hours, and I’m still struggling on squeezing a few more out of every week.
So what this all boils down to is that I’ve driven the Humoring the Goddess train long enough. Hopefully I’ve encouraged you to believe in yourself, have fun with your life, and laugh as much as you can. There are so many things you can’t change, so why not toss your hands up and laugh and move on? You’ll know the things you CAN change..that little voice in your heart/head/soul is always there to remind you. Your job is to listen.
I have enjoyed entertaining you all these years more than you know. I have learned so much from you. I might try another blog, or finish one of my novels, or sit and spew poetry until I feel nauseated. I’m sure I’ll be back and visit sometime. If I start something new I’ll post it. I will look foward to hearing from you and YOUR projects. You will always find me at my email world… firstname.lastname@example.org.
There is always a path ahead of you. Always. It’s up to you which one you take, or how often you turn left or right. In the end, none of that matters — the only thing that matters is that you keep walking.
Keep Humoring the Goddess…and Loving your Life…
I wrote a blog not too long ago called Hannibal Lechter vs. Harry Potter https://humoringthegoddess.com/2011/07/27/harry-potter-vs-hannibal-lecter/ . In that ditty I had just finished watching Hannabal’s first movie, and wondered if I was a reflection of that movie. Having decided that I am everyone and everything I see and do, I took the cosmic message and moved on.
Well, there I was, alone for the weekend, hubby gone up north, no one here but me and the girls (2 dogs and one cat) and the boy (TomCat), and, left to my own whim, in charge of not only the TV but the movies. And I am sorry to say I found myself falling into the same familiar grooves. I did watch a brand new movie sent to me in the mail…Wrath of the Titans…which said something about my taste to begin with. But I found myself falling into the same familiar pattern of watching movies I’ve seen ten times before. Does that mean I’m more predictable than I ever imagined?
In my Lechter vs. Potter rant, I found myself defending polarity ― or bipolarity, if you wish. I found myself saying:
But back to the crazy movie. In watching this psychological mess, I oft-handedly wondered if this kind of movie reflected my inner self. I have many friends who talk about the movies they watch: middle-aged love comedies; retro pot-smoking, chick-banging absurdities; historical pieces. Some are huge fans of horror; others cannot live without lots of sex and drama. Do these favorites define who they are? Do these choices influence our cosmic journey?
I was content thinking that we are not our movies. We are not our job, we are not our clothes or our car or our choice of beverage. But the older I get, the more I see that we are all of the above ― and more. On the positive side, I believe it’s good for us to go outside our comfort zone now and then. Finding a new job, trying tofu burgers, watching a documentary on polar bears or the creepy world of Hoarders, all are experiences that may or may not add to the wonderful sparkling jewel we call ME.
Yet, when I find some real free time, all by myself, my energy level not high enough to write a sonnet or a novel, I find myself searching the cabinet for movies that will make me feel good. And, most times, there are the “eternal” movies. You know ― the ones you can watch over and over again and over again. Mind you, not all movies fall into this “special” category. There are many, many movies I’ve seen once, and once is more than enough. There are some that I enjoy if I come across them on TV or if I walk into someone’s house and they’re watching them, but wouldn’t go the extra mile to bother with after that.
Then there are the die hards that I always, always enjoy. For me, Avatar, The Rock, The Mummy, Con Air, and Closer reruns, all can entertain me almost any time. (It used to be tearjerkers, but menapause has turned me into a crybaby.) I sometimes wonder if that means something. For my fun stuff is not my son’s fun stuff. Or my husband’s fun stuff. Or my friends at work’s fun stuff. And I’m sure my stuff is not my kid’s stuff. At least some of my stuff.
On further reflection, I think age, social circles, emotional states and personal history all fine-tune us in one direction or another. There are no “right” or “wrong” movies ― what makes one person feel wonderful makes another sick to their stomach. What is righteous to one is sacrilegious to another. I suppose that is why humanity is such a varied, colorful tapestry. And I do love tapestries.
Are there movies that you return to time and time again? Do you think they reflect a deeper part of you? Or are they just oddities in the rainbow of life? Actually, this isn’t a cosmic question. Just think about the movies you love to watch time and time again, and let them be a wonderful reflection of your heart and personality.
And, hey — don’t worry if you love the Freddie Kruger or Saw genre — there’s a place in this world for you, too.
Just don’t move next door to me…
Sitting outside this evening, listening to the staccato serenade of countless birds, I hear a small airplane pass overhead. Looking up, in plain sight, is a plane pulling a hang glider. And I think – why not me?
The thought of flying high above the landscape with only a few straps and sails to keep me there scares the beejeebers out of me. So does the ridiculous idea/thrill of bungee jumping. After all – what if they miscalculated the distance to the ground? What if the bungee cord broke? It has happened, you know. Maybe to one out of a hundred thousand, but I know my luck. I’d be one of the hundred thousand. The same goes for spelunking, rafting down a raging river, and jumping out of a plane with a parachute. I really think thrill seeking is overrated.
Or is it?
There is a part of me that envies the hang glider dancing on the currents of air, seeing our world from a bird’s perspective. The spelunker who gets past their claustrophobia is often rewarded with caverns of unearthly delights. Race car drivers fly by at hundreds of miles an hour. Can you imagine what that feels like?
Why can’t this be me? Why am I so afraid to find my thrills outside of the box? I mean, really outside the box?
Death is a big factor. I conveniently ignore the fact that I have a greater chance of dying every time I get behind the wheel than I do crashing a hang glider. More people fall off their bikes and die than rafters plunging into the rapids. More people drop every day from heart attacks than … well, you get it.
We are all going to die sometime. We all have to cut the tie to our Earthly paradise sometime. But this blog isn’t about death – it’s about adrenalin. It’s about taking chances. It’s about putting it all out there, relying on our primal reactions to ecstasy and tragedy. I’m afraid of putting it all out there. Afraid of being scared $hitless doing something that is as foreign to me as the back alleys of Japan. I’ve found comfort in my whitebread world. But have I always found satisfaction?
We are all governed by our fears. Whether it’s getting out to talk to people or wearing a dress for the first time in years, there are always lines we fear to cross. What if someone makes fun of us? Worse off, what if someone doesn’t like us?
It has been a long road to not caring about all of the above. I admit I still have those fears – I doubt if I’ll ever erase all of them. But now that nonsense is tempered with the knowledge that I am who I am. I’m not a murderer, an abuser, or a bad person. I am okay just being me. If others don’t like me, that’s their loss, not mine.
I believe that is true for all of us, no matter our age, size or status. We can all improve, but when the day is done and the sun sets, we are who we are. I want to be who I am. I want to step out of the safety zone. Moreover, I want to test my own comfort zone. Not because I have to prove something, but because once in my life I want to experience that rush of adrenalin you get knowing you have done something not a lot of people do. You have knowingly cheated death and survived to boast about it.
My 60th birthday is this year. I think I’ll ask for a hang gliding jaunt. Once I have the ticket in hand I won’t back out. I don’t think.
I just need to make sure I’m wearing extra underwear.
It had been a long day — a long couple of days. The dishwasher leaked all over the floor, the dog got into the garbage and threw all the non-edible parts down the hallway, we ran out of shampoo and liquid dish soap at the same time, I was late for work, I did three loads of laundry each of the last two nights, I had broken my favorite glass — yes, a long couple of days. Finally I found time to crash on the sofa and “relax”. I kicked the cat off the pillow, turned on the TV, and, pulling my socks off, observed feet and toenails that looked like they’d been run over by a steel wool pad. It seemed I have to remind myself to be feminine — again.
You say – wait! You are female! Feminine comes from the word female! Why do you need to remind yourself of what you are?
Well, my friend, ask any woman — sometimes the difference between female and feminine is as far apart as fudge and lemons. Feminine is the girly, sparkly part of womanhood. It’s the stuff that Victorian novels are famous for. It is the pseudo-world of high fashion and graceful movements; it’s swishing one’s hips when walking and never raising your voice and being perfectly groomed at all times and wearing satin and lace on a daily basis. It is being gentle and wise, flushing at the first off-color remark, and waiting for men to do everything from open doors to help you into the car/carriage.
A female, on the other hand, is an animal that produces gametes (ova), which can be fertilized by male gametes (spermatozoa). It is the reproductive machine of the planet. Being female is also being a cook, floor scrubber, maid, chauffer, dog feeder and babysitter. It is using the washroom with the longest line, buying jeans that fit in the waist but never in the leg, and being left to do the dishes while everyone else retires to the living room.
As the world around us changes, so does our perception of what feminine and female really mean. No longer content to be docile, frail creatures, women boldly take over responsibilities that were once in the domain of the opposite sex. Driving a forklift, shoveling snow, fixing a leaky pipe — these were things that used to wait until those stronger and more masculine got around to doing them. But somewhere along the line women got tired of waiting and decided to take on the world themselves. After all, waiting for a man to put together a water fountain or carry some boxes upstairs can age you faster than time travel. In the whirlwind of single motherhood and two working parents and family obligations and school activities and domestic responsibilities, the role of the female has taken a new moniker. Women are able to do things we never thought possible. We are stockbrokers, accountants, doctors and lawyers; positions that were reserved exclusively for the male genre a hundred years ago. We have started companies, run for political office, and enlisted in the military. We have done things our grandmothers would shiver to think about. We are proud of the strides we have made and the balances we have found.
But does all this female awareness make one feminine?
The definition of feminine has also undergone its own metamorphosis. The very thought of fainting at the sight of blood or blushing at an off-color word is as alien to us as chopsticks. One cannot swoon when their child has stepped on a nail or their friend has passed out from heat exhaustion. Femininity is not defined by the size of your clothes or the money you make. It is a richer, more complex brew than days of old. Being feminine is finding the core that makes us unique and exploring it, pulling out the parts that make us feel good and keeping them in front of us. It is a more expansive way of thinking: being tough without being rough, creative without being flighty, curvy without being lumpy.
Femininity is a state of mind, a state of soul. To want to be feminine is to want to be softer, smarter, more understanding than the rough and tough ways of men folk. And in order to find that feminine state of mind, we have to take care of the package we are stuck with. You don’t need to be built like a model or have a soft, southern drawl in order to be feminine. You don’t have to sway your hips or be a gourmet cook to bring out the lady in you. It is what you do with what you have that separates you from the world of ova. Being feminine is taking care of yourself so that you are strong enough, wise enough, and mellow enough to handle all facets of the female persona. Being intelligent is feminine; so is being scattered. Being innocent is feminine; so is being experienced. You can be feminine at 15 or 50. After all, that adage that age is nothing more than a three-letter word is just as true today as it was years ago. It’s just now we can shout it from the treetops instead of whispering it behind closed doors.
I feel good about feeling girly. I feel good that I cry at the end of movies and at dog food commercials. I still like to play with jewelry and take bubble baths and collect stuffed animals, even if I insist that I’m not a collector. I also like to mow the lawn and shovel snow, and don’t mind trying my hand at fixing things either. Being feminine is the cream atop the already warm, rich coffee of being female.
Now if I could just work on those feet….
I am a latent visitor to the world of the Internet, a late bloomer in the cosmos of websites, chat rooms and Amazon dot com. In a world where five-year-olds surf the Net and download information, I didn’t stumble upon the magic of instant gratification until my mid-40s. Suddenly I went from frumpy bed and breakfast owner to info surfing mama. I mean, can you imagine talking in real time to people in Australia or England or Japan? Can you imagine finding answers to everything you ever wanted to know but had no idea where to look? The Internet became a fountain of information — and a cauldron of trouble.
There were a number of downsides to instant gratification and the collection of useless information on my way to insight and intelligence. I spent too many hours chatting and too little time cleaning rooms and answering phones. I wasted too many hours surfing medieval and dragon sites and far too little time at Web MD or Dictionary dot com. Eventually all the websites looked the same and all the chat rooms buzzed with the same, repetitive drone. I had worn out my welcome, or rather the Internet did. But one of the positive things to come from my aimless wanderings was role-playing.
What is role-playing, you may ask? According to Wikipedia, role players “adopt and act out the role of characters (real or fantasy), or parts, that may have personalities, motivations, and backgrounds different from their own.” In all reality, that sounded at first like something a lot of us do every day. But back to point: from role-playing came a reigniting of a passion I had long forgotten about — writing.
Not that I didn’t write before, but putting pen to paper was never on my list of top ten things to do on a Saturday afternoon. I had kept a diary years — and I mean years — ago. There were a few short stories written in my junior high years (mostly about me and the Beatles), a few high school and college required papers (dare I ever share the story about the alien who landed in the marijuana field?), but nothing more. With the advent of working in downtown Chicago and getting married and having two kids and a large network of crazy family members, there never seemed to be enough time to write anything but grocery lists or Christmas cards.
Through the initial excitement of wandering through Internet worlds, I stumbled upon chat rooms where people typed to each other as if they were face-to-face. Interesting. I didn’t have to fess up that I was a 40-ish year old housewife/innkeeper; I didn’t have to admit I was 20 pounds overweight or that I just finished scrubbing the toilet. All I needed to do was make up a name and race and I belonged. Can you imagine the doors that opened for a writing goddess like me? Role-playing was like a video game with instant feedback. I could write my own dialogue, fight with swordsmen, disappear or have flames shoot from my fingertips, all with a sentence or two. I could make up galaxies I’d visited or space captains I’d met or dragon lairs I visited and everyone would nod and react in their own character’s way. For someone who was already starting mid-life in a whirling dervish, this was just the outlet I needed. It was so much fun making up characters and histories and names like Tulip Stormbringer or Lieutenant Ru.
Of course, it wasn’t all creative fun. Story lines didn’t always go where you wanted, people blabbered out-of-character about nonsense, and I spent more time looking for interaction than finding it. Not to mention the fact that you often left your family (and your life) on the back burner. Not smart.
Although that time was brief and scattered, I learned a lot about who I was and who I wanted to be. The English language called me back home, and my naturally wandering Sagittarius nature encouraged me to step out of the box and write about a myriad of things. In those make-believe worlds I learned that age and sex and size and career didn’t matter.
Most of us tend to hide behind our preconceived notions of self. We limit ourselves by our own skewered judgment of what we think the world thinks we should be. Like any other creative outlet, it was the discovery of a fourth dimension that brought delight and growth to my life. The first three dimensions, (length, width and height), tumble into parameters conceived by physics and mathematics. What I call the fourth dimension is an enlightened plane of experience. It can be found in any activity that requires creativity: building, dressmaking, crocheting, reading, or gardening. The end product is independent of us — it takes on a life of its own as it is being created.
So it was with my flirtation with role-playing. It was no substitute for getting together in person with friends or taking a class or meeting with the local library group. But unlocking those doors brought in a flood of new experiences to both my mind and soul. And I can tell you today that you don’t have to be a role-player to find that power within your very genes. You can find that personality explosion within yourself.
Don’t be afraid to try something new, or bring your old love out of the dusty past. Give your passion — and yourself — a chance. You will find that you are not as off-target as you think you are.
Just remember to take your wings off before you get into the car. They can help you fly, but they can also get hooked on the seatbelt, preventing you from flying to Atlantis and attending Michelangelo’s next art show with Obiwan Kenobi.
Just imagine how sad that would be.
The contest is simple: write me a blog. You know me, you know my style. Life is wonderful, scary, crazy, monotonous and a hundred other verbs. But there is something to be learned from everything we do. Share one of your magical moments of madness. Keep the entry around 900-1,000 words (I figure readers don’t have all day to read my ramblings).
The prize: First place will be publishing your blog on my blog. I may not have a million readers, but the half-million that peruse these halls (ha!) will be able to taste a little of your desert as well. And wouldn’t it be great to see your name in print? Then you can call your grandma and your brother-in-law and tell them you-are-published! The winner will also receive a brand-new, never-been-opened, cookbook from the Southern Gateways Bed and Breakfast Association called “Beyond Breakfast” (from the days when I was a bed and breakfast owner. That’s a blog or two all of its own…) It may be from 1998, but hey — you can never have enough cook books!
Second prize will be a trio of beautiful note cards. Writing is a lost art – these will enable you to send someone a note the OLD FASHIONED WAY.
Send your entries to: email@example.com
Entry deadline is April 16th.
It would delight me to no end if you’d give it a whirl! Come On! Yooouuuu Can Dooooo Eeeet!
I was sitting around the other day, talking with friends about fashion, and somehow it came up that I had two of my mother’s mink stoles in my front closet. They are at least 50 years old, and although she passed them on to me, I’ve never had the nerve to wear them. After all, no one wears stoles anymore.
And, besides, I didn’t think it would look right to wear the things grocery shopping or bowling. We all had a good chuckle, then one friend asked what I was waiting for.
How old would I have to be to not care what other’s thought of my wardrobe?
I have spent the last ten years of my life trying to accept who I am, and being happy with said acceptance. I have always been too critical of the way I look, and I’m finally at the point where I don’t cringe when I look in the mirror. Why I wasted so much of my youth thinking I was going to blossom into a sparkling rose or a diamond beauty I don’t know. I have learned that people love me for me. They accept me with my Rembrandt physique, unicorn obsession, and all.
But back to the mink stole. My friend got me thinking. I am finally feeling good about myself, who I am, and where I’m going. I will never be a runway model or Nobel Peace Prize winner, but who cares? I’m a lot more fun to be around. I don’t make a daily drama over which sweater to wear with what skirt, or how long my hems should be. I’ve waited all my life to have a sassy, witty side, and I’m finally having fun letting these sides out of the box. I’ve changed my eating habits, my clothes, the books I read and the glasses I wear. Why can’t I keep pushing the envelope and wear my mother’s prize possessions?
I might not go to places where mink stoles are the height of fashion, but I do get together with friends and family who love me and enjoy having a good time with me. We play games, we gossip, we laugh. We support each other through surgery and unemployment and cancer and the passing on of loved ones. We talk about each other’s health, libido and career, so why wouldn’t they support me if I wrapped a gorgeous mink around my shoulders?
It would open up space to share stories about our mothers and grandmothers, about the way they dressed or the great meals they cooked. We could talk about their lives, whether they went to school or worked on the farm. We could share the heartache of losing our mothers at a young age or watching them wither away from Alzheimer’s or how we still enjoy being with her. We could share how much we missed our moms and grandmothers, or how glad we are that they are finally out of our lives.
We are all rich in history. Everyone you meet has a past, perhaps even a past life. We spend so much time hiding behind facades that are acceptable to the population at large, and rarely take time to be just who we are. Now and then it is prudent to keep your idiosyncrasies to yourself…after all, it wouldn’t do to dress like a Renaissance Faire wench at work or bring a laptop to the movie theater. No one wants to hear you sing Bon Jovi in the bathroom, nor are they interested in your bedtime rituals.
But what about the classical music geek who is dying to get out from under the cloud of secrecy? What about the fact that you love tinkering with cars or that you look for the hidden meaning in Woody Allen movies? What about your collection of angels that can fill a small room or the songs you’ve written that you plunk out on a guitar?
Why are you hiding who you are?
If you are afraid of others making fun of you, get over it. People have made fun of us from the day we were born and will make fun of us long after we’re gone. There will always be some goofy looking baby or toothy grade schooler or chubby high schooler that will forever look back at you in the mirror. You will always be who you’ve always been. So why not have some fun with it?
There is a game night coming up next month at one of our friend’s houses. I think I will wrap one of the mink stoles around me and sashay into the world of daycare workers and college students and tool and die makers. I will bring the memories of my mother Rose along with me, inspired by the fur around my shoulders, and she’ll be right there, having fun with us, too.
I think I’ll bring along the other one just in case someone else wants to sashay, too.
Raise your hand if you carry around a bunch of guilt with you every day. I don’t mean the extreme, over-the-top stuff — I mean a good, healthy fistful of remorse for things you should have or should not have done. Now, keep your hands up if you would like to get rid of that guilt. Keep them up if you have tried to rationalize and theorize why you shouldn’t carry said-guilt around with you everywhere you go. Now, keep your hand raised if you have failed in shaking off the afore-mentioned guilt that’s still perched on your shoulder. Is your arm getting tired yet?
Somewhere in a woman’s ancient psyche development a seed was planted that all females should have responsibilities and goals that prove their worth as human beings. Back in cave dwelling days, I can see the logic of some of that reasoning. If Urg goes out hunting buffalo or mastodon and is gone a month or so, someone has to keep the cave clean and make sure a saber tooth tiger doesn’t grab junior and eat him for breakfast. But responsibilities have evolved since Urg brought home a trophy yak for dinner. Men and women have turned the responsibility umbrella upside down, and responsibility is more a nebulous outline than a fact carved in stone.
Most would say that guilt is wasteful and stupid. I would raise my hand to that. When chances are such that you could succumb to pneumonia or be involved in a car crash at any time, dirty dishes in the sink should be the least of your problems. Then why do we feel it? Why is it an effort to tune out the self-reprimands that come with things we didn’t do?
I admit that I feel less guilty about things as I get older. Things that upset me in my 20s are nothing like what upsets me in my 50s. I don’t worry about getting married or getting pregnant or what shoes go with what purse. I used to think that that was some accomplishment. But when I came home from work sick the other day and worried about how much housecleaning I could squeeze in between diarrhea and dinner, I realized I hadn’t accomplished much at all.
I have never really had a day all to myself — for myself — without wiping something, washing something, or fixing something. Even those days when I am home alone, basking in the morning sunshine, reading a great book, listening to enchanting music, there is always something in the back of my mind whispering, “Why not throw a load of laundry in while you sit here? It can be washing itself…and you can keep reading,” or “Why don’t you call and make an appointment for your son’s haircut before you sit down? It will only take a minute…”
When did vacuumed floors and folded laundry take the place of listening to the wind chimes outside my window? When did eating the last piece of cake become such a terrible thing? This isn’t about men vs. women or kids vs. moms — this is about that snickering devil who tries to measure my self worth by how many soccer games I attend and how many sodas I leave in the frig for others. This is about looking around and seeing the beauty of the world without caring if my toenails need polish or if there’s toothpaste in the bathroom sink.
Yet, however easy it sounds, getting rid of guilt dust bunnies is a full time effort. I don’t want to feel too dismissive; after all, there are health and safety issues in dirty sink water and science experiments in the frig. I don’t want to be too carefree and punch in late or miss my dentist appointment. Time is a constraint no matter where you are and what you are doing. Perhaps that is where the guilt monster hides — inside the clock.
I feel guilty if I sleep the morning away instead of cleaning or going for a walk. I feel guilty if I pet the dog and not the cat. I feel bad if I promise chicken parmesan and produce hotdogs and beans. Why do I sabotage myself? Why do I let my emotions get so sidetracked? I mean, it would be one thing if I shredded the electric bill along with credit card applications. But what I’m really talking about are guilt trips about everyday things that don’t really matter in the long run. I treat each decision as if it will change my life forever. As if someone is going to care if I stop at the gas station for cappuccino instead of gas or if I keep an extra dollar from the grocery budget for myself.
These days I have a little sign that says “slow down” right on my computer stand in front of me at work. Although this typed message was meant more for multitasking on the job, it should be plastered all over my house. I need to slow down and listen to the birds outside of my window. I need to and stop and watch a favorite movie instead of mow the lawn. I need to sing along with my favorite songs at the top of my lungs, and take a nap on the sunny porch when no one’s around, and throw a candy bar in the shopping cart even though I’m trying to lose weight.
Yet in writing this confession, I see there is another sign I should make to remind me that life doesn’t need to be clean and orderly to be enjoyed. I need to remember that long after I am gone there will still be stacks of laundry and empty soda boxes and overgrown gardens in the world to deal with, and all my guilt about not taking care of them meant diddle in the end. I need a sign that lets me know that the cosmos will evolve the way it will: that dogs will always beget puppies, women will always cry at sappy movie endings, and the sun will always rise another day. I need a sign that says: