From Fear to Fearless: This is YOUR year!

devil

When Amy was alive she always told me, “Be fearlessly you!”  She was a woman who lived by her words and yet for all the years she told me this, I never grasped it.  I lived constantly in my own self doubt.  The shadows of all my mistakes and shortcomings over-rode any light I thought I might possibly have buried deep down somewhere.  No matter what I tried to do, whether in career or relationships, it seemed like I was a vacuum sucking people dry because I hungered so much for validation.  I never stood independent of how I thought others thought of me.  So how could I change that?  What could I do differently this year?

What could I do so that when I looked into my children’s faces I didn’t see all my regret that I could have done it better before they left home?  What could I possibly change to see my husband take  a sigh of relief that he no longer carried all my pain or purpose?  My friendships, how could I operate in love in such a way that did not demand reciprocity?  How could I possibly be independently fearless and stand in my truth that while I’m far from perfect, I’m a beautiful being with something to offer?

I think we all struggle with this at one time or other in our lives.  We look around at those closest to us, those we’ve lost through filters through the years, and those we hope to become closer to in the future and we wonder … do I have what it takes?  Am I good enough?   Do I have value?

Fear.  Fear of being wanted, loved, and liked.  Fear of loss, fear of gain.  Fear of failure and success.  We become stagnant in our doubts, almost sometimes to the point of being frozen in it.  We stop going out, we are isolated with work and friends.  We shy away from socialization.   Then the voices really start up, man, they can be harsh.  See?  I told you, no one cares.  See?  I told you, no one notices you.

How do we overcome that kind of fear?  I went to my bedside one day and knelt, shaking, on my bedroom floor and I prayed, “Lord, my precious Father, you did not have this in mind when you created me, did you? With Amy gone now, I feel lost to courage and bravery.  I feel lost to me.  Help me to see myself as someone who can love as you love. Change my heart.  Mature me.  Please, give me opportunities to shower my world with faith and friendship and love and laughter and not do so with a selfish heart.  Train me up to stand in the gap for those I love, rather than whine about being the gap myself.  Let me be the light.”

After I was done praying I heard the word, “Act.”  Then, from Scripture, “Do not be afraid.”  In my mind I could hear the trumpets of Jericho.  Bring the wall down.  The wall of insecurity, fear, and doubt.  Shake it to its core so it has no hold over you.

I heard Amy, “Be Fearlessly You!”

I’m determined that this will be a year of letting go of fear and falling fearlessly in love with my life, my family, friends, and the path I am so blessed to be able to be on.

I pray, for all who read this and can relate, that you have the courage to stand on your knees, be humble to God, and become an action person verses a reactive person!  This is going to be a great year.

 

 

 

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Retail New Year Confessions

 

She seemed to be somewhere around 75 or so, her white tipped grey hair thinned over a paled, wrinkled face that told stories I’m not sure I am worthy of hearing.  Her back was bent slightly and her knuckles clung to the cart, white as she wobbled forward. I watched her for quite some time over near the necklaces and earrings.  Then, feeling I should check on her, I meandered over and asked, “Is there anything I can help you with?”  She didn’t smile at me but more kind of oomphed and huffed, “No one can help me,” she gruffly spoke under her breath.  I reached out, put my hand on her cart, “I can.”  She stopped, looked up at me and laughed.  Not a small laugh, but a big, hearty laugh like when you survive the big roller coaster and realize you loved that feeling of almost puking your guts out.  Then she handed me the necklace and said, “I don’t even need this.  I just get out to prove to them I still can.”  I told her the necklace was cheap anyway.  We laughed for a long time.

He was upset that no one was in jewelry to help him when he hollered at me from across the way.  I ran over quickly, helped him pick out a watch.  It was between the silver diamond watch or the gold plated watch and I asked him, “Is this for your wife?  Which color does she wear more often?”  He lowered his head, “I’m not sure she even knows anymore.”  I held the silver one close in my hand and moved it towards him, “I like silver.  I think it reflects the light well.”  His eyes misted up.  He reached into his front pocket and slowly pulled out an old handkerchief, gently wiping his nose and dabbing his eyes before returning it, “She used to be filled with light.  Before I had to put her in that God awful home.”  I took the watch, put it into the box, and smiled, “Then silver it is.”  He thanked me.  As he walked away I saw my own husband, possibly many years from our own blessed time now and wondered … would someone comfort him too?

The woman had been seen putting a shirt up her shirt, after trying to rip off the security tag.  Managers were called to monitor the customer, to carefully and without being too obvious, watch from a distance until security could be called.  She went from one department to the next and I could hear her cursing other employee’s for “stalking me because I’m black,” and I anticipated her coming into cosmetics.  She went to the men’s cologne counter.  I stepped gently towards her, “M’am, is there anything I can help you with today?”  She reared back, knocking several bottles over, “No you can’t f&*(ing help me you sorry stupid white girl, what do you think, I’m stupid?  What do you think, I’m an idiot?  Can’t even come into a white girl store without being accused of stealing.  F&ck you and the horse your shi&t rode in on.”  She began to come at me.  I put my hand up and said, “I am not doing anything but asking you if you’d like some help with cologne.  I do not deserve this.”  She walked to the make up counter and knocked over several bottles of make up, throwing my brushes, “Bullsh*t, b(tc&, you are accusing me like everyone else.”  I wondered, was I?  I didn’t see it, only heard about it.  Now, this enraged woman was coming at me and throwing my stuff everywhere.  Was it my fault?  Did I do something wrong?  Wow.  This sh*t is really real.  The security guard was called and she made her way out of the store, security blocks beeping like crazy as she exited, screaming profanities and giving everyone the bird.  And I thought to myself …. “I wish we could just all be kind.”  One of the employees made a comment afterwards about that customer having “gone bi-polar” and I whispered, “I’m bi-polar.”  And then, that was the end of all of that.

My best friend died this year.  Her favorite color was purple and her favorite family symbol was the tree of life.  A customer came up to purchase a lot of items and I admit I was upset because none of it was anything I could get commission on.  She piled my counter high and then handed me five jewelry boxes that I had to, one by one, open and price.  I opened the third one and lost my mind.  Crying – not the kind where you slowly get the sniffles and your eyes barely tear over and drip slightly like in the movies but the kind of gutteral cry that comes up and out from a place in your soul you didn’t even know existed.  The tears fell hard and the snot followed fast.  I felt bad for my customer who was leaning over the counter, “Are you okay?  Do I need to call someone?”  I finally got myself gathered and though I debated telling her why I was crying, I felt her.  I felt her hard, fast, and gently all at once.  She said, “Hi Corky.  I’m here.”  I told the woman.  I told the woman why her purple stoned bracelet with a tree of life symbol in silver shook my world.  She smiled, “Well, we have to get you one!  C’mon!”  She led me to the place in the store where they were but sadly, it had been the last one.  Back at my register, she whispered, “Take it.”  I didn’t want to put her out but she said, “If I take it and wear it I’ll only feel guilty.  Please, take it.”  I did.  Later than evening driving home with the bracelet I heard Amy again, my Angel.  She whispered, “Will you please give that to my mom for Christmas for me?”  So I did.  Thank you customer.

Retail New Year.  It’s not always good but when it’s good its great and when it’s bad it’s a reminder of how much better we can truly make our world if we care enough.  Be that next customer.  Be that next person that someone goes home and tells their family about. Or their blog.

Happy New Year Retailers!

 

 

 

2016 I hate you. I love you.

You took my best friend.  This a year I will never want back, except maybe the parts when we laughed as she garnered the strength to get up and out of her bed and pretended to me, well, to most of us, that yes, she was fine.  Just a little heartburn,she’d whisper in between smiles.  The cancer never took her spirit.  I remember telling my boss at the time when I needed to be back to work, “I can get another job, I can’t get another best friend.”  Needless to say I have a new job.  I still don’t have another best friend, not like Ames.  Not ever.  Irreplaceable.  She is with me, I know this to be true.  I still rely on her.  As always.  But F U 2016..  Not fair.

And thank you 2016 for my husband.  The deployment two years ago and the one we face that lies ahead this year … can all go to h. e. double l. hockey sticks.  This year though, this year I watched him drink his bailey’s and coffee while he opened up his nascar driving experience and shook his head, “NO WAY!” He exclaimed.  Oh, that smile.  That smile I love even more since the first of the 22 years I’ve been seeing it.  Next year he won’t be here.  Thank you 2016 for him this year.

I hate you. I love you.  You gave me the worst and the best.  You gave me a reality that I often detested but a truth that I couldn’t avoid.  You taught me to stand strong, to be courageous, to fight for what I believe in, and to be forgiving and accepting of other’s in their fight as well.  I have learned much, cried often, laughed hard, grieved more grief than I ever thought possible, and heard the whispers of a beautiful fighter angel.  I hold my husband and my children close and pray prayers of gratitude because I am blessed.  And I don’t deserve it.

As my father said to me after my bestie went on to Heaven ….

“It is what it is and will be what you make of it.”

Dear 2017 …. Here I come.  And I’ve got an Angel at my back so watch out. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why Won’t You Stop Talking About Your Past?

Why Won’t You Stop Talking About Your Past?

Questions like this one, and others like, “Move on already … no one wants to talk about abuse.  It’s over, grow up – it’s done with,” are often responses from others who find out I’ve written an entire novel about my history with sexual abuse, my having bi-polar disorder, being a teen mom, and other issues that I have the audacity to bring into the light.

As my “real” job, aside from being an author, I am the Editor in Chief for Disability Loop News, a national media platform for the advocacy, information, support and unity of the disability community.  One of my jobs is to write book reviews.

book-mockup_newToday, in the mail, Harilyn Rousso’s book, Don’t Call Me Inspirational, came in the mail.  Bless her heart, she even signed the book for me.  Now, at first I looked at the cover title and saw the sub-title which reads, “A Disabled Feminist Talks Back,” and I thought … whoa … this is going to be a wild ride.  However, as I nestled in with my coffee and my morkie in my lap, I was absolutely floored by the words in her first chapter.  It was as if she were saying them right to me.  It was as if she was telling me, “KEEP GOING – there is a REASON!”

For anyone who shares their story in the purpose of greater connection to self and to others, for those who reach out with their stories of survival and recovery, KEEP DOING IT.  Don’t let the nay-sayer’s who are “uncomfortable” with the topic bring you down.  Perhaps, just perhaps, they aren’t ready to heal quite yet.  I bet, however, your courage makes a difference and that you are a light – even when it doesn’t seem like it, in their dark places.  This is what she writes in Chapter One ….

“So that’s my story, my journey in a nutshell.  Having come to a place where I not only accept but at times appreciate and celebrate my disability status, I’d like to offer support and a bit of advice to young people who may be struggling with the fact that they have a disability and who may be hoping beyond hope that it will go away or that no one will notice.  I’d like them to consider the possibility that they can stop hiding and pretending, that they can claim disability and be all right.  There’s no magic pill to get them to that all-right place – if there were, I’d gladly give it to them (and take one myself).  But there is a path, their path, to get there.  Maybe my journey will help them.  Even if nothing I did makes any sense to them and they have to forge their own direction, I want them to take heart.  They should trust themselves to find their way – and call on some of their older sisters and brothers with disabilities to help them.  Most important, they should know that there are some great moments of self-discovery and freedom ahead of them.

Daring to claim disability or any part of yourself that you have been taught to disavow can be an amazing adventure …”

I LOVE what she points out ….. ” … that you have BEEN TAUGHT TO DISAVOW …”

To breaking free from the mis-guided teachings of shame and secrecy and to a bright and purposeful future of empowering ourselves and others through the life journey of overcoming odds against us.

Write on fellow authors and reachers …. write on, and reach on.  You DO make a difference.  Now, excuse me, but I’ve got to get to Chapter Two …. she starts the Chapter with, “I was in a hurry to be born.”  Wow.  This feminist can WRITE! 🙂

To see the full review on June 3rd visit http://www.disabilityloopnews.com!

 

 

How Do I Reach Out For Help?

Pregnant+teenager

Snow fell into my footsteps as I walked, and when I looked back it was as if I didn’t exist.  Like I was just standing, out of nowhere, and there was nothing to prove I’d come this far.  My back ached, the only evidence that I’d been walking, and I rubbed my swollen belly.  I hoped my baby was not as cold as I felt.

I’d remembered there was a church up in the distance, my saving grace.  I didn’t have anywhere else to turn.  I was homeless and pregnant at sixteen.  Amy, my best friend of three years, had been letting me sleep on her couch but she was in the hospital now.  A pot of boiling water, tipping in one painful second, scorching her paralyzed legs – she would have major surgery.  I’d had to go.

The Vineyard looked desolate, but as I edged closer I could see a light on inside, up the grand stairs reflecting inside the expanse of windows.  The door was open.  A rush of warm air held me, and stepping inside I realized I was going to have to ask a stranger for help.  I shivered.

The Pastor was kind hearted, offering me warm tea and a chair in his office before asking me, “How can I help you?”

The question was too big for me.  There were so many things I needed help with, so many choices that led me to this very moment.  I don’t know when I started crying, but the tissue was starting to fall apart in my hand when he gently asked, “Do you have a place to go tonight?”

Nodding my head no, he immediately picked up his telephone and began making phone calls, telling the other person on the phone that there was a young expecting girl without a home tonight.  Would someone help?

I’d walked nearly three miles and my feet had swollen up, the tears fell so heavy they couldn’t dry, and my little baby was kicking against my ribs as if to tell me, “Someone will help us.”

_____________

helpAsking for help, in and of itself, requires us to be completely vulnerable – to let loose of our ego, to accept our limitations, and admit that we need.  For some of us, this is the most difficult thing to do because we fear that others will think us weak and incapable.  We have a tendency to pretend to the outside world that all is well and fine, but on the inside we are weeping and crying out … most of us convince ourselves that if people love us they will come to us, they will see our need, and we don’t have to admit we need them.

This leads to our feeling isolated, uncared for, unloved, and unseen.  We internalize not only our own needs, but now – we listen to the lie that if we were really truly loved; someone would have reached out to us.

Ask for help.  It is not a sign of weakness, it is a movement in courage.  It is your standing up in your life, and for yourself, and in that one act of vulnerability … you are changing your life and the lives of those you reach out to.  You are creating powerful change.

Who do you reach out to?

Reach out to someone you respect, someone in your life who has a positive influence on you.  One of the mistakes we can make when we finally become vulnerable in our need is to try reaching out to someone who really isn’t equipped to help us.  Maybe, they are in need so much so too, that they just aren’t able to give you what you need.  So, when you think about reaching out, consider someone in your life who has the tools and the resources to really help.

How Do I Ask for Help?

Sometimes, we get ourselves so down and to the point of what seems like no return that our need builds and builds and before we realize it, even thinking to ask for help is impossible because if someone were to say, “How can I help you?” We wouldn’t even know where to begin.  One step at a time.  Choose your immediate need – sit down and write a list of areas in your life that you are struggling with.  What is the main issue you are dealing with?  Once you deal with ONE thing … the rest will fall into place.  You can even say, “I am so overwhelmed that I don’t even know where to begin, but I do know I need help.”

If you’re not ready to walk to a church, call a therapist, or maybe you aren’t even ready to leave the house and put yourself out there … that’s okay.  I encourage you to reach out to a life coach.  My own life coach, Jen Kelchner, who is a part of Restitution’s Creative Team, is available for online coaching.

In the meantime, if this story spoke to you in any way, please feel free to contact me.  We are all in this together.  Nothing is ever in vain, and you aren’t alone.

Reach.

 

 

 

On Tuesday

On Tuesday

She says to me, as I’m sitting in our neighbor’s living room, “I saw Jonothan.”  Mid-sentence, as I’m talking about cheese-cake I reply, “What?”  Her hands fall onto her tiny hips and she tilts her two feet tall body, “I saw Jonothan.”  I don’t know if I’m angry or if I’m about to cry.  Quickly running through my mind are the possibilities that there is a neighbor boy with that name, or if we’ve run into anyone, and she’s only three years old and hasn’t started school yet so it couldn’t be classmate’s, and suddenly I’m overwhelmed with the very idea… deep breath… that she really could be talking about the son I gave up so many years ago.

Taking another deep breath I ask, “When did you see Jonothan, Samantha?”

She smiles and whispers low, “On Tuesday.”

***

Samantha On Tuesday Being a Rock Star!
Samantha On Tuesday Being a Rock Star!

The guitar is over ten years old and even with new batteries the noise it makes sounds stifled.  But she plays it like Stevie Ray Vaughn on opening night to a sold out crowd.  I watch her, as she watches herself in the reflection coming off the stove in our kitchen.  She doesn’t notice me until I ask, “Are you going to be a famous guitar player Sam?”

She lifts the old, dirty guitar high into the air with a “Ohhhhh you got my heaaaart,” chorus, and then looking up at me beaming with confidence, “I will be famous.  On Tuesday.”

***

Let’s get you dressed Sam, “I say, taking her hand and leading her to the door of her bedroom.  I could hardly walk in; the floor was thick with mess.

“Sam!  Your room is a mess!” She takes a visual inventory and says, “I’ll clean it Mommy. On Tuesday.”

I laugh and reply, “I don’t even think you have any clean clothes, Sam.”  My three year old faces me and responds, “Mommy, you should not wait till Tuesday to do laundry.”

***

Her older brother watches the older boys at the skate park with envy in his eyes.  He is begging and pleading with me to let him try it.  He is so sweet, in his longing, but he is only five years old, “Bubba, we’ll come back when you get a little older, I promise.”

Lowering his head, his eyes begin to tear up.  What an unfair world it must be to a little growing boy, and I instantly regret stopping at the skate park to watch the tricks on our way back to the car from the park.  In the van, Brandin begins to cry harder.  Just as I look into the rear-view mirror searching for my own words of comfort, Samantha leans over to her brother and holds his hands, “It’s okay Bubba … you CAN go!  On Tuesday!”

***

Last night, as I cuddled in close to Samantha on her bed, we began to talk.

“Sam?” I ask.

She pulls her thumb from her lips, “What?”  I smile and take in her sweet scent, touch her soft warm cheeks, “When is Tuesday?”

She thinks for a moment, rubbing the corner of her favorite pink blanket across the bridge in between her nose and upper lip, “In four days.”

Mentally I add the days from today, which is a Sunday, and I almost tell her that in four days it will be Thursday.  But, I don’t.  She is running her other hand up and down my arm, a calming motion as she slips into sleep.  Her bright blue eyes are twinkling, and I wonder if Tuesday’s are just a symbol of things we hope for.

Just as she begins to fall away I kiss her sweet forehead and whisper, “I love you Sam … even more than Tuesday’s.”

Thinking she is asleep I crawl slowly from her bed.  Pausing at her door to look once more at my peaceful baby daughter, I hear her whisper with her eyes closed, “I love you Mommy.  On Sunday.”

What is your child’s “On Tuesday” moment?

Samantha @ 15 Still Being a Rockstar, just with her Trumpet!
Samantha @ 15 Still Being a Rockstar, just with her Trumpet!

Our Reaching Out Is Never In Vain

“Our reaching out is never in vain.”

I spent four months writing, “My Sonnet’s Soul” in 2001.  Compelled by a madness I later came to understand as bi-polar disorder mixed heavy with what most writers consider to be the innate insanity of writing to be sane, I truly believed God was telling me to write the story of my family.

Since as far back I can remember, which on some days is just minutes ago, I’d heard pieces of stories so cobwebbed that I became stuck in the majesty of their mysteries.  I’d never met my blood Grandmother.  No one would ever speak of her.  So, in 2001 I became determined not only to find her, but to create a half non-fiction account of the journey.  A frightening journey into the shaded truths I’d been privy too, and the dark recesses of my own imagination.

I then, four months later, got on a plane and took thirty copies of the book to our family reunion.  The book was met with shattering glass and rebuking.  I came home, defeated, lost – shaken; and put the original copy in an old folder inside my purple crate.  I did not read it again until today.

Compiling these chapters of this book now, I shuffle through old folders and papers, sitting cross legged on the floor of my office.  An old Manila envelope appears, unopened.  It is stamped 2001, and it is from my Grandfather’s wife, his second – not my blood Grandmother.

I open it carefully and wonder how I’d never seen it, or why I’d kept it without knowing.  Beautifully elegant handwriting crosses a blank, thinned page of paper …

“… Dear Courtney,  these poems were written by your great grandmother, your father’s blood Grandmother.  Some were written when she was dying from tuberculosis.  You can see, she trusted in the Lord.  I know you will treasure them, as I have.  God Bless you and all your family, and bring you many blessings in your writing endeavors.”

This is the Envelope I discovered after 10 years.
This is the Envelope I discovered after 10 years.

My heart literally skips several beats, and I cannot bring myself to turn the page.  The room spins, and I know without doubt, what I hold in my hands are relics of my heritage.  Pieces of me I never knew.  I’ve just opened up the soul of who I am.

Instead of reading any of the poetry, I rush to call my father and breathless, I tell him over the phone what I have discovered.  I ask him, “Who was she?  How have I not ever heard of her before?”

The phone is quiet against my ear, I listen barely to my father catch his breath when finally, “Thank God they still exist.  I’d always wondered what had happened to them.”

I listen then, to the telling of a story that as it’s being told … is so familiar to my spirit that I weep openly.  Today, I met my Great – Grandmother.  My spirit soared and grieved as only a spirit can, connecting to the blood tie of a woman who, as she met her death cradling her two young son’s, had, as my Great Grandfather wrote in his Preface to her collection, “…a profound religion, a true philosophy, and a beauty of soul which is indeed the supreme attainment of life.”

As my father painted her image and her heart, “Divine, she was absolutely divine,” I could not help but wonder how it was that these ageless poems had found their way to me, her Great-Grand Daughter, the very year I’d written “My Sonnet’s Soul,” a book making no mention of her, but only now made known, eleven years later, the year I finally decide to write again.

My father asks me to consider that these poems are a legacy not to be taken lightly, and a relic not to be cast out for just anyone.  He is asking me to keep them, to treasure the lessons my Great Grandmother needs me to hear and allow this enlightenment only to myself.  “Don’t read these, Courtney, to just anyone.  Be careful.  Few people will be able to understand the divinity of those words.  You’ve been given a gift, one I am incredibly jealous of – but that is my own truth to attempt to hear, if I can.  One day, you will know when the time is right, to whom you pass on this – your very heritage, this eternal existence of the immortality of soul.”

Later, after I am able to stop crying, I turn the page.  And for the first time, I sit in the glorious presence of my divine Great Grandmother, as she holds me in her spirit.  I am but the eternal life force of a strong soul who lived so truthfully she had the power to give me advice I so desperately needed, eighty years after she left this realm.

“It’s Not In Vain”

By, my Great Grandmother

“There is in man, a longing, a longing akin to pain.

As the dew drops of morning, are akin to mist and rain.

A longing, a reaching out, toward life’s great mysteries.

Sometimes in hope, sometimes in doubt,

But ever, ever, reaching out.

This it must ever be, life holds for each,

Discoveries,

And in our longing, and in our pain

Our reaching out is not in vain.”

          I read this with shivers, and goose pimples running up and down my spine – taken with the breathtaking perfection of her talented prose, and knowing those words from somewhere.  This, her telling, her exposed truth, was so familiar to me I begin laughing, there, on the floor of my office; tears of comfort.  Great truths have layers of enlightenment.

The only poem I wrote inside of  “My Sonnet’s Soul,” …

If you listen closely to the voices as they speak,

You will hear the words become a familiar sound.

The buzzing of a hive,

The sweetness of the comb.

The sweat and labor of the Keeper – the lives kept,

The mystery of the Reacher.

Yes, the sun is hot,

And yes, the work is hard.

But the crop comes in and what glory it is to see,

The work was not done in vain.

These poems, these very threads of my existence, speak wisely and eternally words that will forever advise my renewed determination towards who I truly am.  Thank you, Great Grandmother … thank you. Your spirit is loud and clear, just as I begin to neatly and carefully place your poetry back into the envelope I notice the date stamped onto the front, worn from the years it reads, “December 5th, 2001.”  Today is December 5th … 2012.    Our Reaching Out truly, is never in vain.  Even if that is from the eternity of soul, in a manilla envelope, to a great-granddaughter she’d never met.

Be fruitful in your reaching.  There is someone with open arms who needs you.

Lights, Camera, Action!

Image

Exposed thoughts on Theater from a Newbie 38 year old single mom with NO acting experience!

 

 

 

                “Oh, Mom’s at it again,” say my three children with a deep, bored to tears sigh of near acceptance.  They are standing around me in the garage as I’m bent half-over a bar stool spray painting Winter Formal decorations for my son’s dance in the theme of Mardi Gras.  It would be great, except he didn’t really ask me to do it, and for some reason didn’t think my getting authentic masks right from New Orleans for the students to wear was as ‘awesome’ as I did.  What were the other mom’s doing?  Oh, baking … yeah, I can’t do that.

 

                To my children, I was as I always have been; the crazy mama.  My son even has a song titled, “Crazy Mama” to illustrate said point.  I’d climbed our Colorado roof countless times at sunset, hoisting my toddlers up and over my shoulders early in the morning just to see what it is they could see …  to be a part of their world and to bask in the innocence of it.  I’d danced on kitchen tables, showed up at their schools in costume’s, written plays for their class, and read Hemingway, Poe, and the likes of Charlotte Perkins late into the nights before they could spell their names.  It was how I always knew to love them, and it is all the ways they never understood why.  When I graduated from college they stood in the stands cheering for me, but even later at dinner reminded me of my odd ways when Brandin quietly asks, “Why couldn’t you have done it like normal people, like gone to college before you had kids?”  It is a fair question.

 

                I’d taken risks in the creative ways I’d raised my children, but had a I ever truly and really taken a risk for myself?  Were my risks examples I wanted to teach them, or were they simply me being the out of the box mom I couldn’t help but be?  Aside from going back to college while working full time to graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology, I realized I never stepped out of myself; for myself.

 

                I’d never done the one thing I’d always longed to do.  Act.  Albeit my very bones are strengthened by the actor gene in our family as my father is a graduate of the theater, but I’d never for a single second believed I could ever have what it took to take a stage, or be a presence in the light.  I’d never even tried, despite the longing.   So, one day the year of my 35th birthday, I drove myself down to the local community theater.

 

                I sat in the parking lot for nearly an hour before garnering the courage to go in.  Moments into a brisk walk back to my car I realized the receptionist hadn’t even looked up at me when she handed me the script to the play I was going to, probably, try out for.  So much for what other people think of me.

 

                Less than 48 hours, I finally inform my children of what I was about to do.  They respond as usual with a roll of the eyes, but as I head to leave, at the front door, I turned.  Samantha spoke first from the couch, “Aren’t you going?”  I didn’t think I could do it.  “Come with me. I need you to go with me.”  Both of them grumbled and despite their reluctance against the whispers of, “Here she goes again,” they did above and beyond their best at supporting me along the drive with, “Mom, I don’t know why you’re worried, you can totally do this.”

 

                I wasn’t worried about their thinking I was crazy, I’d done farfetched before – but I was deathly afraid of failing them.  It was told later on, by a cast member, Andrew, who auditioned with me that I came out like a ball of fire, and was so over the top that I caused others to feel intimidated.  I loved him more in those words than he knew. To this day, even three years and three plays later, I can’t get over that perception as it was so the opposite of how I felt.  I only knew I wanted that role so badly that I couldn’t walk out of that room not having given it everything I had.  I suppose having no idea what an audition looked like, or was, helped because I was so naive to the process. 

 

                 I lied on the form the director asked me to fill out, making something out of nothing just to have a little on it as not to let anyone know that I had absolutely no experience.  I pretended I wasn’t afraid, but if it hadn’t been for my girls sitting in the back when my name was called to the front, I would have ran.

 

                I shook for three days, couldn’t eat anything, and had several minor panic attacks.  I didn’t tell anyone outside of my children what I had done, and even when a co-worker who held season tickets to WCP mentioned the upcoming play and how excited she was to go see it, I held my breath.  When the director called to tell me I’d been given the role of Bridget, I pulled the car over onto the side of the road, and I cried for a very long time.

 

                I was a thirty five year old divorced mother of three, and despite raising amazing children while working and getting a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, I suddenly felt overwhelmed with how that very moment brought me closer to a part of myself I didn’t realize I hadn’t paid attention to.  In those strange seconds on the side of a rural highway, I remembered the way I felt when my father would tell me his theater stories, just as I’d felt when I had wanted to become a writer.  The thing about writing however is that I can do it all alone in my room and no one ever need tell me it’s good enough.  Acting, on the other hand, would be a sure validation or rejection, of my innate talent.  It wasn’t until that evening I realized I’d never tried, because I was too afraid to fail.  Too afraid to not measure up.  Pulling back onto the road I finally gave myself permission to let loose of my joy and laughed as I adjusted my thoughts, “Well girl, you got the part – now what the hell are you gonna do?”

 

                For six weeks I got to know a part of myself I never knew.  I wasn’t a mom, I wasn’t a friend, I wasn’t an employee – I wasn’t divorced, I didn’t have luggage, and I was light – each night I stepped into rehearsals, I floated.  None of my cast mates, not even my director, knew anything about me other than the moves I made, the lines I read, and the way I interacted with my character, and theirs.  For six weeks I was exactly who I was in my heart without any heavy role to belong to aside from being the self I was discovering.  From the first day when we did our “read,” which of course I pretended to know what that was – to the first few days of “blocking” – which I had to Google to find out what it was I had been doing all night – to watching other cast members as to pick up on and learn how to stand, how to move, how loud to talk, and what to say to the director and the assistant stage manager when they called out strange sayings I didn’t understand; I was in a world I absolutely knew I belonged to.  In this world, I wasn’t afraid to be me.   I was satisfied with the  journey I had taken, and what I had seen and discovered along the way.

 

                Along the same rural highway, a year later, I answered my second call from the director.  Not from relief, but from shock, I again pulled over to the crumbled side of an old farm house driveway.  Would I take a part?  But, I hadn’t auditioned.  Before thinking I sputtered out the words, “Of course Chuck, of course, I would love too!”  I didn’t even know what the play was.  Didn’t he remember that I didn’t know what I was doing?

 

                Rushing into the house I hollered out the news, but even in my own excitement I saw the reactions of my children as their shoulders dropped and their frowns spoke.  “Aren’t you happy for me?” I asked them.

 

                My youngest, Samantha, “It’s just … well, it’s just that you’re gone so much when you do that.”

 

                My father had once told me that a good mother does what is best for her children.  As I stood before my precious babies, I knew I had a difficult choice to make.  I’d always put them first, and always would – but I just couldn’t bring the words to my lips that I would give the part up.  Sometimes, a mother knows that doing what is best for her children also means doing what is best for her.  I wasn’t dating, I was working full time, I spent every moment being there for them – if I didn’t do something for myself I would be an empty vessel and in my loneliness and lack of living, I wouldn’t be the woman I was which would eventually take away the mother I intended to be.  I took the part, and explained to my kids that mom deserved to have some “me” time.  Guilt.

 

                And the guilt kept coming.  No matter how hard I tried to shake it, I would find myself enjoying rehearsal’s suddenly wracked with the knowing that my children were wishing I were at home.  Then, everything in my world turned upside down when I got a call from the hospital as I was driving to rehearsal one night.  My oldest seventeen year old daughter, Amanda, had a drug over-dose, and even though she was stable I knew my life was about to change severely.

 

                I hadn’t seen it.  Even having been a social worker who worked with teenage girls in crisis, I missed it.  She was on the honor roll, she was Senior Class President, she was working part time, and while I knew she’d been distracted I never in a million years would have thought drugs.  I had to call the director and miss rehearsal that night.  I didn’t even know at that point if I would ever make it back again.

 

                Part of me was grateful that I had committed to something that required my presence, just a few hours to pretend that this really wasn’t happening to my family was almost as vital as my breathing.  I don’t remember driving to the theater the next night.  I recall panicking, working it over and over in my mind how I would possibly be able to let down my cast mates and knowing that while I had good reason, the director would likely not cast me again if I backed out at this point.  But, the panic was short lived.

 

                I found my way down the stairs, past the mirrors, and into the dressing room and straight into the arms of Linda, my motherly cast mate who didn’t say anything but to hold me long enough to allow me to cry.  Would my daughter be okay?  I didn’t know.  How I would save her, I had no idea.  Yet, something miraculous happened in those few moments in a smelly basement dressing room of a glorious old theater in the arms of an actress who took the role of mother without having too.  She looked right into my eyes and she lit up, her entire body animated, her hands squeezing my shoulders and as if shoving strength right into my very veins she willed me, “The show will go on my darling, the show will go on.”  And I knew, she wasn’t talking about Butterscotch.   That evening, in the dressing room, she played the part of a heroine that bonded me to her far beyond the curtain and the applause.

 

                Without question, whatever had conspired the director to call me up and give me a part, had known that I would need that play and I would need Linda, so that I could survive those painful weeks of my nearly losing my daughter.  Her words resonated with me time and time again as I held Amanda and brought her back to life.   “Theater magic,” my father said one night as I told him how precious her arms were night after night, when with the tilt of her head on stage she was encouraging me on.  And I began to understand.

 

                Amanda went on to successfully graduate from high school, and with relentless mothering we moved forward from painful experiences – in truth, despite the agony and heart-ache we are closer than ever before.  Time moves us to revelation, requires our intense seeking of hope so that when we sing life’s chorus, it is done so with a true melody.  Butterscotch, my second play, was the song of my heart.  Each night I took the stage I battled to win against the demons of guilt and hopelessness and in the face of every audience member I purposed to bring about joy – standing tall in victory that what should come against me will not win for I choose to be brave, and I choose to be me.  No one can take that.

 

                Curtain call for Happy Birthday, my first play, gave resounding applause to my life for the year that came after and renewed my connection to my father in ways I will forever cling to.  As the curtain dropped on the last night of Butterscotch, my second play, I entered into a steady calm knowing that no matter what could ever happen in my life the show would go on, because I would be strong.  I looked forward to and anticipated auditions for Noises Off for many months, excited for the next play and stage in my life that would define itself as simply fun – a carefree, wonderland – a farce to top all, and with all things in my life going so wonderfully I counted the days like a child before Christmas.

 

                Then, just two weeks shy of auditions I was let go from my employer.  Regardless of being told it was not due to performance and only because in my refusal to take a pay cut, they could not afford to keep my management position – I crumbled at the idea of failure.  In the parking lot, with my things in boxes in the trunk, halfway into a cry-fest I suddenly remembered the words, “The show must go on!” And without the trying of it, an irrational peace fell over me and I laughed.  This was my blessing in disguise.  This, finally, was my time to write.

 

                I’d written several books but only had the courage to publish one of them, and despite the publisher being a small press and the book only having a 3 year run, I had at one time been satisfied with that.  I’d always told myself if it weren’t for having to work full time, or if it weren’t for my not having a degree, or if it weren’t for some excuse …  I’d write.  I’d run flat out of excuses.  So, I registered for unemployment and I wrote a book.  It took me 9 days.

 

                I’m not sure what I expected, only that after fifteen years of having so many people in my life telling me to stop wasting time and write, I was emotionally let down at the response I received. My father read the book first.  If it never sees the light of a publishing day, his response secured my decision and never before whether by moon-light fire over Poe or a tearful ‘break a leg’ had I ever felt so loved. But, he was my father.  My best friend – and that’s what daddy’s and best friends do.  My mother took two days to read the book and called me from her car in the parking lot of her work crying, saying again and again how amazed and proud she was.  Healing waters for a thirsty soul.  My best friend of twenty-one years read it also in two days and yelled over the phone at me, “About damn time bitch!”  She’s always been my kick in the ass and I love her for it.  But as anyone in any creative trade knows, having your family or your best friend validate your craft just doesn’t carry the momentum of those who have little to no investment in you.  I’d given the book to six people outside of my friends and family.  None of them had even read the book.

 

                The day of auditions for Noises Off I’d spent nine hours trying hard not to change the integrity of a book I knew I needed to change but didn’t want too – and also fought with Iowa Student Loans putting my account into collections – I was going down in a sinking ship fast.  I’d lost my job, tried to write, and now was facing losing my unemployment to garnishments of a college degree I wasn’t even using.  When the devil comes to call he pulls out all the cards and just an hour before I knew I had to leave for auditions I faced the mirror in my bedroom and knew I’d gained too much weight to look good on stage.  The mind carries on like the empty stomach –  willing to eat dirt if that’s all you have to feed it with.  I was a mud pit, and not even the hot sexy kind with beers and bikini’s.  So, I pulled out one last ditch effort to hose myself off – I called Andrew.  “Let’s meet for drinks before auditions,” I told him – in the back of my mind knowing that at least I wouldn’t give up yet.

 

                In true form, late and well groomed, Andrew and I sat sharing his usual cheese balls and my usual pretending to be okay self.  I knew I could count on him to remind me of that woman I was when I first auditioned – and if he reminded me of her – I could try it again.  He didn’t know I showed up waiting for it – and he still doesn’t know to this day that the reason I went to that audition was because he said what I needed him to say.  I needed someone to remember me – to know me – to acknowledge and validate just my simple wanting of something and maybe, just maybe, my being good enough for it.

 

                What no one knew, including Andrew – and even Linda, when she walked into the room in her full glory, was that I nearly walked out before auditions even started.  I’d  only been to one audition before and there were less than fifteen people at that one – auditions for Noises Off, just that first night, had over twenty people!  They were young and beautiful and experienced and they all knew one another and had theater degree’s and within minutes I could barely breathe, suffocating from my own sense of inadequacy.  I sat in my chair and the only thing I could hear were my own demons taunting me, “You just got fired, you wrote a bad book, you’re broke, you’re kids are pissed you’re doing this again, what the hell is wrong with you?”  I had to hold the edges of my chair to keep me down.

 

                I could hardly see past my own fears much less see the lines to read, and by the end of auditions I was such a mess that even though I didn’t have to be anywhere I lied to Andrew and several others that I had to go home when they invited me out.  I was ashamed of myself.  Later, when Andrew invited me to watch Noises Off the movie, I agreed to come over only because I adored him so much and didn’t want my own stupid insecurities to make him feel that I didn’t want to be around him – but the truth was, I didn’t want to see the movie – I didn’t want to feel bad about getting invested in it with him and then letting him down and not getting a part.  But the next day, something happened to me. 

 

                I closed my laptop and felt compelled to go into my office treasure chest and sort through twenty plus years of writing.  I got lost, for a while, in the stories of my life in the ways I’d lived them, and found connections to the divine in ways only the supernatural can lead.  I recalled the years I’d searched for the son I’d given up for adoption twenty-two years ago, the articles I’d written, the book that was published, the memory book I’d had professionally made – finding him finally, and his adding me on facebook, even though he didn’t want to meet me yet.  It had been nearly eight months since he had contacted me.  A manila envelope, unopened, post-marked ten years to the day before.  Why had I never opened this?  A handwritten note from my great-grandfather, giving me all the original poetry written by a great-grandmother I never even knew existed – my blood great-grandmother who had died suddenly when her two boys were only toddlers.  How is it that no one in my family told me of her? 

 

                I call, weeping I ask my father about his blood grandmother and begin to absorb the eternal connection of my soul to a woman who at this pivotal moment in my existence chose to reach out to me, to connect to me, to wrap her mothering arms around my hurting heart and whisper, “I know you.”  My father’s joy that the poetry of our generations was not lost as all thought, and his grief that I – for whatever reason – had been chosen to receive them.  Our shared complexity of wonder in the ways of God.  I’d written a book ten years before titled, “My Sonnet’s Soul,” about all of our families deepest and most darkest of secrets, the mysteries of a compelling several century journey of deceit, betrayal, passion, and death.  I’d handed it out at our one and only family reunion.  I’d been told that evening to burn the book.  The manila envelope from my great-grandfather containing the original poetry by my blood great-grandmother, who I’d never even been told existed, was post-marked the very next day all those years ago.  The day I discovered I had a call back for Noises Off was the day I discovered it, hidden and buried in my crate of old writings.

 

                Putting cold washcloth to my eyes, I laid old papers to safety back inside the envelope and closed the chest.  Just before stepping out the door to go to Andrew’s place to watch the movie of Noises Off, my phone dings a familiar alert and I quick check it.  It is my son.  My son, who I’ve never met outside of the short days I held him after his birth, and whom I’ve not had contact with but on facebook, for eight months.  He writes, “Just had you on my mind, hope you are okay.”

 

                I drove to Andrew’s mindlessly repeating the question, “Am I supposed to write?  Does all of this mean I’m on the right track?  Am I on the right path?”  I don’t remember showing up at Andrew’s, and I don’t recall going inside, until the moment I just let loose of it all – and for the first time, I showed myself – the me that had the baggage outside of the stage – simply because I couldn’t hold her in.

 

                He listened.  Then, with a tilt of his head as if I already knew it he said, “I’m adopted.”  With those words, I knew I hadn’t discovered any great secret with theater – I’d just been welcomed into the magic.  For all the time I’d spent with him on stage, I suddenly sat before him in the company of both our necessary dreaming and wanting of something more.  It is a fine line, standing at the entrance of stage right, holding the handle, waiting for your cue – that great curtain of permission granting your eternal self the right to be free of it for as long as you are written in the act.  How much of us, our essence, our own blood, tears, and fight do we really take with us in that moment we move through the door?  And how much of it should we?

 

                I chose to take all of me, that night, when I found the man behind the actor just before we watched the curtain go up and the credits role.  Just before we forgot, because it feels good, and laughed out loud with the hope of being able to do the same if we were so lucky to get pulled from the tall black hat of our director.

 

                For the following weeks I went down the rabbit hole with eight other actors, a director, a marketing director, and a cornucopia of brilliant stage and set crew members who gave me magic potions, danced with me on tea tables, sat Nevermore upon a bust of Pallas, and shared the secrets of courage in dreaming the dreams we all dare to dream.  

 

                Even without scripted words, my tomorrow carries their every voice, as true and tried as mine – to present oneself for greatness, not always for the applause, but forever in the magic that happens when you dare to go on stage.

 

                But most amusing of all, and quite perfect for such an experience as this was hearing my two children in conversation with a stranger in the green room …

 

“… thanks, yeah, she was pretty good,” said my son.

 

The stranger to my children, “So, do any of you act?”

 

“I just got a lead role in our school play,” responds my youngest.

 

My son smiles, “I’ve been in a few, I usually get a good part.”

 

The stranger to my children, “I’m sure you’re both very good.”

 

In unison, both smiling, “We take after our mom.”

 

Words I thought I’d never hear.  Theater magic.  Or, so I’ve been told.

 

You just never know what secrets you’re going to discover on stage, with those who trust you, without really knowing you.   Or, what lessons they may lend, even if they didn’t know it, when you needed to learn the most.  I thought I was going to act just for me, but in the end I met myself and found peace in the mother I am.  

 

I learned that if we can harness the courage to take a risk, life honors our strength and presents to us the very rewards of why we took it in the first place.  I discovered I could act, and that theater is a wonderful second home to my spirit – but I also made life-long friends, and survived several years of trial and tribulation because I’d made that first ‘Crazy mama’ attempt at finding me.

 

If you’ve ever, even just for a brief moment, wanted to act … no matter your age – go for it. 

 

I promise you,  the magic awaits!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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