Monday, October 22, 2018


October 22, 2018
You're having a blast and learning quite a bit about a subject that's dear to your heart. You should be able to put together all sorts of new information into concepts that make sense to you.

     I don’t know what it means when you start reading your horoscope. Getting old? Getting hopeful? Getting weird? 

     Do the stars know something up there that I don’t, and if so, why can’t they give me a heads up several days ahead, so I can prepare? 

      Well, for today, I will believe Leo, and I will assume that my Debussy research is going to reach its conclusion, and my slide show will be ready by week’s end. If not, I will no longer wish on the Big Dipper. 

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Do you ever feel like you just don’t belong? I remember the first time I really felt like this as an adult. I was a young mother of toddlers. I wasn’t working; I was in grad school. I was juggling motherhood, student responsibilities, wifely duties and trying to get in shape after three pregnancies. I mention the latter because dieting was a full-time inner dialogue that plagued me daily. 

I felt like I didn’t belong in a world where, in the 1970s, women working outside the home was still controversial. Women who didn’t work believed that they were cheating their children if they used the education they worked so hard to attain. I was torn. I had a deep hunger for academia, so that’s why I decided to go back for my Master’s degree when our children were small. I was lucky enough to have a wonderful woman who took care of the girls while I was in class, and then the teen-ager down the street (who is now mother of two children and a Pediatrician in Arizona) filled in when I needed her. 

No one but me really cared about my academic life, but I thrived on it. I loved to learn, and I pursued a subject I had never studied in undergrad—Humanities, the study of all the arts and their inter-relationships. My courses in Art History were fascinating, and I loved having an academic goal to pursue. 

I never felt like I ignored my girls. Au contraire, I spent a lot of time with them one on one, and we did many things as a family, including skiing once they got older. I took them to lessons of all kinds (piano, swimming, gynmastics). Yes, I was the shlep-the-kids-Mom. 

My husband and I had an active social life, and we traveled with the girls back and forth to Pennsylvania to see the relatives. These were busy days with no time for analysis or self-care.

Fast forward forty-plus years, and I still dont’ feel I belong. I am not like other women. I prefer academia to bridge and book clubs. I would rather research a topic than play games. I would rather write a lecture than play pickleball. I don’t look down on others’ interests; I just don’t share them. There is so much to learn and so little time left for me. 

Somehow, my academic ego got inflated, and I offered to teach two courses in January and February. I thought this would be a simple task. All I had to do was take the one-woman shows I have been performing for the past three years and turn them into lectures. Well, guess what? That was a joke. The shows only last 30-45 minutes, and the courses last an hour and a half. I am therefore in the process of researching material for the remaining 45 minutes. That may not sound like a long time, but having taught most of my life, trust me, that’s a long time to keep people engaged and interested. I have a terrible fear of boring people, so I not only feel obligated to find fascinating material; I feel strongly that they must be entertained and involved actively in the learning process. So I have created a PhD dissertation-level project for myself which has taken over my life. I’m not complaining, but explaining. Well, I am kind of whining, I suppose, as I had no idea there would be so much material to explore and sort through. It’s exciting, but overwhelming. 

I am now humbled by the research process and the thought of facing a classroom full of eager adults who are probably much smarter than me. It will be wonderful, because I will make it so. The question is: Will my nerves hold out for the finish? Hopefully, yes. 

March 8th, 2019, I will relax with a hot toddy and a pillow for my feet. I will lie back and dream about our trip to France in May where I will have no research to conduct and no pieces to practice. Grâce à Dieu.


Saturday, October 20, 2018

     Do you know people who talk in stories? They start with one story, and that story leads to another story, and by the time they’re done, you know half their life story—a story you really didn’t need to hear. 

     I get so frustrated with people who are insensitive to the art of conversation. When you think about it, though, who ever teaches us this skill? There’s no course “How to carry on a conversation with another person #101.” There should be. Conversation has the prefix “con”
which means “with.” Hello. A conversation is not a monologue. It is not a 20-minute dissertation on a given subject with no apparent purpose other than to fill space or make the speaker feel important.

     When I talk to someone who actually asks me a question and wants to know the answer, I am flabbergasted. This happens so rarely in social situations anymore that I am tempted to just stay home and read a book instead of listening for an entire evening. 

     I have resorted to excusing myself and going to the ladies room just to take a listening breather! Is it my fault for being interested? too interested? Maybe. Often when I can manage to get the floor, whatever I start to say gets interrupted or hijacked by the “storyteller,” who can’t wait to tell his or her version of whatever I’m trying to relate. 

     So what’s the answer? Must I become a conversation bully myself in order to have a voice? If so, I would rather not speak. 

     I am blessed to have many friends with whom I don’t have to be on guard for a moment of silence to be part of the “conversation.” I am happy that there are several people who care about what I have to say as much as I do about what they discuss. I am touched by those who remember what I said two weeks before and want to know what progress I’ve made in whatever it was. I’m thrilled when someone says, “I agree with what you said about. . . “ This means they are actually listening. 

     Where does it start? I believe it starts at home. Children need to learn to listen with their ears, not their mouths. They need to understand that interrupting is rude, bragging is wrong and droning on and on is boring. They need to learn to be interested in others but to treasure their own voice as long as it invites sharing by the listener.  The trick is the parents have to value true conversation in order to teach it. My ears are full.


Friday, October 19, 2018

                                 RESILIENCE TOOLBOX WORKS! Feeling the sunsine today!

Thursday, October 18, 2018

     I fell into the abyss yesterday. It is so dark down there, and the waves of anxiety over my distress bounced me around and against the walls of my blindness until I thought I would never escape. I did. How? 

     When the stresses that I push into the back of my consciousness surface unexpectedly (usually when triggered by something totally unrelated), I know I must take out my Resilience Toolbox and look at the options I have for recovery.  These are the ones I used. If any of my tools helps one of you readers, then this blog was worth revealing some very personal shit.

     1.  Leave the house and go somewhere neutral
     2.  Distract the mind
     3.  Force self to be around strangers
     4.  Sleep, if possible
     5.  Get busy doing something where you have to focus in order to do it
     6.  Play loud rock or Latin music
     7.  Take an extended walk, run or bike ride
     8.  Let time pass
     9.  Try not to overthink
    10.  Breathe
    11.  Pray for clarity and strength

      This time, I had to use every one of the above to get to the light. Sometimes it takes a few hours, sometimes a few days. This time was short, but still painful.

     We all have times when things seem to close in on us. Some of us cry, some scream, some drink, some eat, some withdraw, some take it out on others—-we all react when we are upset by something. If any of my tools helps any of you, I am happy.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

     After spending $9.99 plus tax and two days writing, rehearsing and tweaking my speech dressed up in my Wonder Woman cape, I couldn't believe the sequence of events at my Toastmaster meeting last night.

     What were the odds that the speaker before me would entitle her speech, "Wonder Woman?" Apparently, it was her nickname in school, so when the Toastmaster of the evening introduced her speech, I knew the wind had already been taken out of my sails. What can you do? I soldiered on.

     Maybe it was my very unhealthy dinner, Starbucks coffee and a large slice of lemon cake with frosting, that gave me the energy to enter the ring. After a fight with Mr. Wonderful, I had to do something to screw up my courage. Caffeine and sugar did the trick after leaving the library at 4:30, so by 6:30 when I was to speak, I was wired.

     This was an "icebreaker" speech. Seems weird giving this first required speech in the new Pathways program, as this is the speech every brand new Toastmaster must give when he or she joins. I gave mine in 1984. I thought this one would be fun and easy, as it's about me, after all. Except, I tried to make mine about other people, and I'm not sure that gelled. My predecessor is delivering her "Wonder Woman" speech in two sessions. I guess there's even more "wonderful" stuff about her we all need to know. How can this be?

     Although my speech was an A- in my book, it appeared to be a B+ in others'. That's ok, as I have always been a B+ kind of gal. Nex time, I'll strive for a C and dress up like Jane Doe.

      Interestingly enough, before the nice lady slammed the door on my finger yesterday morning, splattering blood all over my brand new skirt,  I enjoyed our Ted Talk class. It was all about vulnerability and shame. Brené Bown's talk was spot on, and I was comforted (at least in the morning) by her research findings that show "vulnerability is a sign of strength, courage, and risk." Well, Lord knows I had vulnerability last night.

     By the time I got home, I was spent--emotionally, physically and sugar-ly. Thank heavens my favorite programs were on TV so I could lose myself in someone else's drama. The second program gave me just what I needed--a good cry. It is usually a cleansing experience, but this morning, I feel like the emotional soap scum hasn't quite lifted. Time for a walk and reframe.

Monday, October 15, 2018

     “No more room on device.” Hmm. I think this must be referring to my brain. My device is full. I would like to think it’s full of important facts, but, alas, this is undoubtedly untrue. It is more likely full of “what ifs,” “yeah buts,” “What are you thinking?” and “Did you see those wrinkles?”

     Ah, how much do we store that is superfluous and dumb? No wonder I can’t remember stuff—there’s too much crap in there, and the transfer button is getting old and weary. Unfortunately, there is no “duplicate” or “discard” button in my brain chamber to deal with the lack of room issue. So what’s a girl to do?

     The obvious answer is simply to stop storing. Is there such a thing as a brain hoarder? Maybe I’m trying to keep too much crap up there when it’s unnecessary. It’s not like I try to remember when people insult me, bore me or tell me stuff that only their first born would care about. No, stuff just automatically self-saves—it’s not my fault!

     If I want to save room up there for some really important life-saving or life-enhancing purpose, then how do I avoid saving crap? Trying hard doesn’t work. That method sucks—I’ve tried it all my life. Wishing doesn’t work either. I never did get that diamond tennis bracelet someone promised me in 1994. Willing doesn’t work either. Anyone that tells you they “will” do something has already figured out ways they won’t.  

    Nope, crap is just going to self-store, and there’s nothing you can do about it. There’s not even a store you can go to with 20-somethings in red shirts with fruits on the collar to help you out when you’re on overload. Nope. You just have to deal with it. 

     Maybe you just get to a certain point, age, station in life where nothing stores, and you’re shit out of luck trying to remember your Mr. Wonderful’s short size.