Monday, January 22, 2018

Fun times at the National Speakers Association monthly meeting!

Walking the Ringling Bridge with my dear friend, Pattie.
So much talent in this group!

Why does the time always fly when you are having great fun? Trite, I know, but so true. The week-end has flown by because my dear friend, Pattie, and I have been taking in every bit of fun and sun possible before she leaves this afternoon. The most poignant moment was when, after dinner and my show preview last night, she hugged my dear friend, Beth, good-bye. Two wonderful friends hugging in my kitchen. How lucky am I?  Of course, I wasn't quick enough to get a photo of that, but it's etched in my memory.  Lucky me. The gift of sunshine, friendship and belonging--that says so much! 
And what about Mr. Wonderful who helped tidy the house, did all the dishes and didn't pout because he was outnumbered.  He gets a gold star.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

     I’ve decided to start work on my TedX talk. No, I haven’t been invited, accepted or auditioned for such an honor. Obviously, I don’t even know the process, but I want to be ready when I find out. I’ve come up with my topic, and I’m throwing it out to you, my followers, to see if you can relate.

     My topic is “Hitching Posts.” “Hitching posts” in music are the safe places we go back to when we screw up or forget a passage when performing. The “hitching post” is a place where we are comfortable. It offers resilience, new energy and it embraces our bruised egos when we embarrass or humiliate ourselves. Think of the times in your life when you screwed up, made a fool of yourself publicly, failed at something, broke down in some way. We’ve all been there. That “hitching post” is the personal tool box we create to endure, survive and recover from whatever happened.

     In my almost 75 years on earth, Lord knows, I have had to search for “hitching posts” hundreds of times. I always found one, even if it took me months, even years. Those “safe places” keep me grounded, buoyed, calm when bad things happen. If nothing bad has ever happened to you, you are either very lucky or in total denial. “Bad” is different for each of us depending upon on our hard wiring and how we react to stress and disappointment. 

     For musicians, pianists in particular, a missed note, a forgotten passage, a bad chord, a forgotten nuance, these are all part of the “bad thing” syndrome. When we are in the middle of a piece no matter how big the audience, and sometimes even when we’re practicing alone, those errors happen because we are human. So we practice harder. We memorize more thoroughly. We meditate to calm our nerves. Guess what? They still happen. So our “hitching post” is our “go to” instant fix as we wade back into our melody.

     My melody has not alway been lyrical. Sometimes the dissonance in my life was deafening. At times, I just wanted to give up. I didn’t though. It was the “hitching posts” I created for myself that caught me, set me back on my heels and gently pushed me back into the phrase.

     What are some of your “hitching posts?” Can you relate? If you don’t have a tool box of coping strategies in your head or in your night stand, could you use some? 

Friday, January 19, 2018

Lucky me! My “Sis” is coming today! Yup. My wonderful friend, Pattie, who is my brainstorming partner, my “I-get-it!” gal, my comfort pal, my ‘up-for-anything” friend, arrives this morning for the week-end. I will take her to my National Speakers Association meeting in Tampa tomorrow so she can see how exciting it is to be surrounded by people who are making things happen like Pattie and me. 

We are two peas in a pod. We are what she calls “Renegades” because we don’t let our age stop us from climbing to the top of our potential. She was Vice-President of a Publishing Company in Boston for years, and now she is a small business consultant and sought-after public speaker. She runs, travels alone everywhere and inspires those who meet her. You can’t be around her without feeling better about yourself. What a delight she is, and she is my adopted “Sis.” 

When the best part of yourself is making others feel good about themselves, you know you are living for the right cause. She and I have a natural curiosity about people. We ask questions because we are interested, not because we are nosy. We are active listeners. That means we engage; we don’t interrupt. 

Why should you care that my friend Pattie is visiting? Because if you don’t have a friend like
Pattie, an adopted “Sis” or “Bro,” it is not too late. We didn’t meet until about 5 years ago, and it seems like we’ve been friends forever.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Mr. Wonderful and I are taking a course on the Enneagram. We told a friend that we were taking this course, and she harrumphed and rolled her eyes. I’m not sure what that meant, but I took it to mean, “Been there, done that,” or “That’s all self-help bull.” No matter, we’re taking it, and we’re fascinated by the scientific and historic foundation of this study of the personality and how people react to one another. So why would anyone want to take a course like this? What’s in it for us? For me, it is a way to study how personalities interact, and how I can become more compassionate, more forgiving and more aware of why we all do and say what we do.

After one class (I missed the first one), I have already found validation for some of my own behavior. Mr. Wonderful says he has had no surprises yet, but I am surprised by what I’ve learned about him, assuming I can believe it all. 

Each person chooses one of 9 personalities which he or she thinks fits him. There are several self-tests, and characteristics from all 9 personalities are mixed together, so you are tested in numerous ways in order to be sure to identify the personality which is most like your own. We all have characteristics of all nine, but the point is which one dominates and why.

For those of you with errands to do and life challenges to face, you will probably want to stop reading here. That’s fine, but trust me, I’ve studied personalities, endured therapy, read hundreds of theories about how to relate well with my fellow man and be the best version of myself possible, and this really makes sense. I have just scratched the surface of the science, but I figure like anything new, if I learn one thing that improves my life, my attitude, my relationships, then it’s worth it.

There are 8 or 9 people in the class, and my first impression is that we are all very different, so it will be fun to interact with each other and prove or disprove this science.

There is a large book to read, and the instructor (who is not the best) has much information to deliver. I find it fascinating how some of us are so self-aware and introspective, where others would never dream of asking themselves why they do what they do, and many don’t really care.
small living room ideas

The most profound thing the instructor said yesterday, was “We are all born in a mansion. Some of us live in a small room.” This is so true. Where do you live? What does that mean to you?

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

     I read the otter day that our “resting face” may not be as attractive as our smiling face, our laughing face, our posing face. As we can’t really see our “resting face” unless we are looking in the mirror, it is hard to imagine what we look like when we are just sitting staring into space. I don’t know many women who look in the mirror with their “resting face.” Most of us will smile, pose or throw our heads to and fro like models we never were or will be. 

      I recall seeing a woman I hadn’t seen for years at the grocery store. She was resting in her face at that moment, and I wasn’t sure it was her. I screwed up my courage to say, “Mary, is that you?” She smiled, and her whole face lit up. Not only did she look much prettier, she looked twice as young. This is not good news for women in their golden ??? years. I pretend I look younger than others my age (I don’t), so if I’m looking older when I’m in there resting, my bubble has burst. So what can I do short of walking around with a grin 24/7? Wear a mask? Look down? Wear sunglasses so people can’t recognize me? 

     When I mentioned this to Mr. Wonderful, he asked, “What about the dumping face?” Seriously?

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

     At our discussion of the book, “The Remains of the Day,” last night, I found it fascinating that we were all over the board in our taste for the author’s work. This book, a 1993 film with Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson, was a best-seller, but I could barely get through it. I found it so boring. The amazing thing about book clubs, however, is that no matter how good or bad the book is, the discussion is always eye-opening, as we each bring our own filters to the table.

      What could be interesting about a one-dimensional character who is a butler for an English Lord in the early 1900s? The plot is thin, but the character study is deep. How deep can one go into one dimension? 

     The discussion prompted me to head to the web to find the film. I must say that after watching the film for about 20 minutes, my opinion of the story changed somewhat. Seeing people’s facial expressions and body language goes a long way in furthering the understanding and appreciation of the story. If anyone could do this, it would be Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson. 

     So who cares about this book or my book club, and why should I write a blog about it? I suggest that last night’s discussion serves as a role model for discussion of any kind when people have divergent opinions. No one got mad that someone else didn’t like or love the book. We all listened politely as we each gave our opinions and our reasons. I didn’t look at anyone and think to myself, “What is she thinking?” or “I can’t be friends with someone who thinks like that.” No, we respected each other’s viewpoints, and we even may have moved a little on our opinions of the book based on the perspectives of the others. 

      What’s the difference between this discussion and one we might have about politics or birth control or immigration? The difference, I suppose, is that with a book nothing is at stake. It’s a book. If you don’t like it, who cares? But the point is, the discussion was calm. No one stood up and ranted, and no one dominated. 

     In a world where friendships are deteriorating due to political rhetoric and loyalty, what a shame that we can’t have civil discussions about our differing opinions. They are, after all, opinions, not mandates. None of us has the power to change what is at this point, so why not discuss logically and respectfully? People have told me they can’t go out with people with differing political viewpoints. How sad. I guess we all should have taken that “Debate” course in school where you learn how to argue with facts, not emotions.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

     I read an article in the New Yorker this morning that spoke of the obsessive need to improve oneself that is apparently sweeping the land. I didn’t know this was going on as I gave up my self-help books years ago. I remember agreeing with a colleague in the 80s that improving ourselves is a wonderful thing. For a die-hard perfectionist like me, this was not a startling revelation, but I thought it curious that she felt the same.

      The article speaks about the rise in suicides in our country, particularly among young  people anywhere from 8-30. My daughter, Katey, is an advocate for young teens who are bullied into taking a rope or a gun to end their lives. The rise in teen (and even younger) suicides in her state is alarming. But what about adults who still obsess in mid to late years with being better, improving themselves as fast and furious as possible? Where does this come from? According to the article, our culture is demanding “happiness” and social media flaunts fake happy daily, so if you don’t look like the ecstatic family on Facebook, you think you are a failure. Oh, my. Do we really succumb to this? Yes I have been know to post a smiling photo or two, but I am certainly not always smiling.

     For example, yesterday, I began rehearsing my script for the first time in an effort to perform my one-woman show preview for my close friends on Sunday night. Guess what? It didn’t fly. I couldn’t get the introduction to feel genuine, even though it’s theatre not reality. So what does it mean when I can’t get fake to seem real? What? Mr. Wonderful asked me why I was trying to make this harder than it needed to be. Good question. The answer is simple:  The way I opened my shows the last three times wasn’t, in my opinion, “Good enough.” Yup. I was trying to improve, even perfect it. So I woke up this morning with a throbbing head ache feeling like crap because I now have to start over. Who did this to me? Me. 

     This begs the question for many of us:  When is “good enough” good enough? For me, this has been a lifetime struggle, so the gurus who think they know all about the process, believing it to be a new phenomenon are way behind the game. People like me have been reading these dumb books and “trying harder” for years. This is nothing new. The difference is that I ignore my headaches and head back to the drawing board. I accept that sweat, tears and frustration are part of the process, and I just suck it up until I get it right. I don’t post happy photos until I’m really genuinely happy that I’ve endured the crap to succeed. And people want to know why I expect at least $250 for a performance? It takes me a year plus talent plus tears to make my show “good enough.” How much is that per hour?