Date Archives April 2012

Confessions of an all-grown-up shy child

Yes, people. It’s true. I was shy child.

Painfully shy.

People who have only known me as an adult have a very hard time believing this. But it’s true.

In fact, when I was small I was so shy that I would wrap myself around my mother’s leg and hide my face if anyone tried to talk to me.

Being shy was a huge mental load. If you’ve never been crippling shy, it may be hard to understand the absolute terror and panic of someone talking to you, looking at you, noticing you.

Because all you really want in most public situations is to be completely invisible. The fact that you’re not is enough to cause a full-fledged anxiety attack.

It sucks.

Then, in the eighth grade, I made a split-second decision that changed my life. I was walking down the hall on the first day of school on my way to gym class. I saw a girl who had just been in my English class and who was also on my bus. I thought that it seemed stupid that I sort of knew her and now we were going to just walk down the hall like we didn’t know each other.

I realized then that being shy just didn’t work for me.

I had had enough.

I walked over to her and said, “You going to the gym now, too? I’ll walk with you.”

And that is how I began one of the most important, deep and lasting friendships of my entire life. (Nicole: Holla!)

Looking back, it’s funny to me that I decided in a split second to just be done with a major condition I’d battled my whole life.

However …

I don’t think shyness ever goes away 100%. I think it’s always in there. It’s just a question of whether you give it power or not.

I’m often surprised at when it creeps up … because it still does sometimes.

Like a few weeks ago. Megan brought home the form for the school talent show. For two years, she has been saying she wanted to be in it. In her mind, this is her year to show her talent in … what, exactly?

The kid is super creative — in a visually artistic way. She draws, paints and makes books and posters constantly. But that’s not the kind of stuff you can do in a talent show.

“What do you want to do?” I asked.

“How about a tap dance?” she said.

“Well, you haven’t taken tap lessons in two years. Your shoes are too small. I don’t think we’ll be able to get you prepared in time.  What about playing a song on the piano?” I asked. She recently started lessons.

She looked at me like I was an idiot. “I don’t think so, mommy.”

“Why don’t you write a poem and read it?”

OK, even I knew that was lame and Megan wasted no time confirming it.

By that point, I was secretly hoping that she’d decide not to do it. While I really, really wanted to support her, I also really, really, didn’t want her to embarrass herself in front of her whole school.

The shy child in me was freaking the fuck out.

“Why don’t I just sing a song?” she asked.

Hmmm. A song. She can sing along with plenty of songs in the car and she sounds pretty good, I thought. Maybe that would work. I emailed the music teacher.

Problem: We had to provide the karaoke-version of the song. No voice track.

She would be on her own. My little girl. On stage. Alone. No voice to sing along with. Just her.

Oh, shit.

Terror. Complete and total terror.

Not her.

Me.

A thousand terrible, embarrassing scenarios played out in my mind. I pictured her frozen on stage, a deer in headlights, unable to move or squeak out a note.

Oh, shit again.

Then I took a deep breath. I had to realize that this panic was mine. I had to realize that she is a very different sort of second-grader than I was. I had to let her take the chance.

Even though I was terrified for her.

I said, “OK, if you’re going to do this, you have to practice. Every day. We have to to work together to make sure you know all the words and when to start singing and when to stop.”

She and I do not always work well together, as she tends to think I’m a total moron much of the time. I predicted torture: meltdowns, tears, slamming doors, etc., etc. and et-farking-cetera. The potential for ugliness was big.

First we started off with her sitting in a chair holding the lyrics sheet. Over time, we worked out cues in the background music to tip her off to start the next verse, chorus, etc.

She was pretty good — right out of the gate, in fact.

Then last week I said, “It’s time for you to stand up and do this. Think about how you might want to move. You can stand still if you want to or you can try to dance a little. You’re going to need to pretend you’re holding a microphone. I’m going to watch you so you can get used to people watching you do this.”

I was pretty sure she was just going to stand still and occassionally gesture a little bit.

But no.

She looked right at me and sang and danced all over the kitchen. She was so confident.

I was floored. Yes, I’m her mom but I couldn’t have done that in front of ANYONE at that age.

Today is her big audition. She has to sing in front of her class. I feel good about it. I know that she’s prepared. It  has been killing me thinking that she was going to be nervous, though.

She got up this morning and sat on the couch, still half asleep. Then she perked up and said, “I’m excited to show everyone my song today. I’m a little bit nervous, too, but mostly excited.”

Fingers crossed.

She has worked hard. She deserves to feel good about what she does today.

They say our children are our biggest teachers. I’m amazed — constantly — when my kids step up to plates that I would’ve run from.

Right now I’m learning — again — to put aside the fear and anxiety, to pat that little shy girl inside me on the head and tell her it’s time.

It’s time to sing so the world can hear.

(Damn, that was a schmaltzy ending. Excuse me now while I go write some greeting cards …)

 

 

 

I’m tired of pretending I’m not special

Allow me  to sound like a fussy, pretentious asshole for a moment, won’t you?

I feel self-important and persnickety saying that I’m an artist.

But I am a writer.

Yes, writing is an art. I know this. I also know that I’m not writing the great American novel here on the old bloggity.

But I’m sure as hell doing something. I’m putting words down and they all have thoughts and feelings and sweat and blood underneath them.

Sometimes I can slap some words down on the fly.

But sometimes I can’t.

Sometimes I need things.

Space. Quiet. Solitude.

Why do I feel weird saying that? Because then it sounds like I take myself seriously.

… like I’m doing something important here.

… like all all of this matters.

But you know what? It does matter. And if it doesn’t matter to anyone else, it matters to me. I need to do it and whether that makes me sound like a fussy asshole or not, it is the truth. I do take myself seriously.

But…

Claiming my space in my own life has been a struggle. I imagine it is for a lot of people.

Announcing my own intentions, my own deepest dreams, to myself has been a struggle. I imagine it is for a lot of people.

I posted a quote on facebook a while ago that a lot of people seemed to like (not a quote by me, I might add — I think it’s from here). It was this:

I’m tired of pretending I’m not special.

You know what?

I am special.

I have a voice and needs and desires. I need what I need. I want what I want.

I am tired of pretending I’m not special.

Aren’t you?

So many of us walk around pretending we’re not special. Or that other people are more special than we are. What happens then?

We end up sacrificing our lives to other people’s schedules.

Other people’s needs.

Other people’s desires.

Other people’s whims.

We pretend we don’t need anything when inside, we know that’s a lie.

But peeps, there is nothing more expensive than regret. (Yes, that’s from a  Van Halen video.)

It’s been a busy week. Just like they all are. I got derailed on a few important things I wanted to do earlier in the week. Like I often do. Life happened.

Then, yesterday morning, I blocked out some time to write.

Not for work.

Not for a freelance job.

Just for me.

Because I need to do it. It’s part of me. If you’re a writerly type, or artistic in any way, you know what I mean. It’s the itch that has to be scratched. You can ignore those urges but that doesn’t mean that they go away.

And then what happens to them?

They drive you nuts.

I imagine this is the same for anyone who has a thing they need to do, whether it’s running, gardening, playing music, etc.

These things make you whole. They inspire you. You’re a better person after you’ve done them.

But …

They’re not necessities. Spending time doing them isn’t going to make you any money or make your house any cleaner or get dinner on the table or drive your kids to whatever it is they need a ride to.

So they get backburnered. Maybe there will be time tomorrow. Or Wednesday. Or on the weekend. Or maybe the week after …

You know how this goes.

So what happened yesterday was this: I got kid #1 off to school. I was taking kid #2 to school. I looked like complete dross but I didn’t care because I was going to drop the munchkin off, then come home and write before going to some appointments. I was excited to have the time. I couldn’t wait to dig in.

As I was pulling out of my parking space, who did I see pulling into my parking lot?

The Irishman.

He pulled up next to me. “Hey babe! Let me park my car and I’ll ride along with you.”

He had some time to kill before an eye doctor appt right around the corner. He had a few business calls to take care of so he thought he’d just come and hang at my place. OK.

We came back to the Single Momma Townhouse. He had things to do. I had things to do. But the man was in my space.

My writing space.

He got on the phone and began a loud, heated conversation.

I sat at my desk and wilted.

Not again, I thought. I can’t lose my writing time again. I love this man and I’m always happy to see him but he was in my space and I needed him to be out of it.

I put on headphones. I could still hear him. I couldn’t think. I had a silent freakout. This situation was representative of so many of my concerns right now about our relationship — which pretty much all boil down to this: How can I be in a relationship and still have my own space and my own life and pursue my own dreams? How can I be in love and actively participate in someone else’s life without completely losing my own?

This has been a problem in the past.

It is, perhaps, my greatest fear in the present. It is, perhaps, the greatest reason why I keep looking for excuses to BOLT from what is probably the happiest relationship of my life and just instead live the life of a potty-mouthed single-momma nun for the rest of my days.

And then I looked at this man. He was on the phone dealing with something difficult and complicated. He was stressed. I was stressed for him, to be honest. But there was nothing that I could contribute to that phone call. I didn’t need to hear it. And I know this: He loves me. He doesn’t want to stress me out. He genuinely wants me to be happy. And he had NO IDEA that him being on the phone in my kitchen at that particular time was bothering me at all. And he would feel awful if I later confessed to him that I had blocked out that time for writing and he plowed in on it without realizing it.

I got his attention with a little wave and pointed to the back door. “Would you mind?” I mouthed. “Sure,” he said. And then he went out on the deck.

And then it was quiet. And then all was well.

It was a small step. But also a big step for me. We talked later and I also told him that my best writing time is first thing in the morning before everyone else is up, when the world is quiet and my head is full of joyous freshness. But getting up early requires going to bed at some sort of time that is reasonable — not often our strong suit. “Then let’s go to bed earlier,” he said.

Can it possibly be that easy?

You mean, all I have to do is ask for what I need?

You mean, perhaps, I could just apply that to my entire life? You mean, perhaps, I could just stake a claim for myself in my own life and ask other people to respect it — even if they don’t always understand it?

You mean, I could state out loud that my writing is a priority and something I’m no longer willing to relegate to whatever time is left over?

What a concept.

Who’s a genius?

And right now, what I need is for you to go back and watch that Van Halen video.

Then move through your day asking for what you need — even if you’re only asking yourself (it’s a good place to start). Maybe sometimes what you need to be happy is to be there for other people. So do that. It’s OK to give to other people and take care of other people and sometimes even go out of your way for other people.

Just make sure you do it for yourself, too.

Suckfest

It’s 9:21. My house is a disaster. Most of my laundry is undone. That that is done is in piles in the basement. Because, you know, it’s helpful for all of us to have to run down there every time we need a pair o’ tushie huggers. Exercise and all that, right?

Anyway, I’m tired. I was just going to write some half-assed, smart-assed Facebook status update about how I had decided that TODAY was going to be the start of the Next Chapter of My Life but it didn’t quite work out that way so I’m just going to go to bed and deal with my messy house and my messy life tomorrow.

But then I decided I was grumpity enough to spew a little gunk on the old bloggity. I actually just wrote two paragraphs on how my day got derailed by many stupid, unimportant things and then next thing I knew it was time to pick up the kids from school. But I bored myself so much with the whole thing that I decided to spare you having to read it. Poof! It’s gone!

My frustration boils down to this: Today I do not get to go to bed having crossed off “conquer the fucking planet” from my to-do list. (It just occurs to me that my previous statement could be read that I wanted to go to the Planet Fuck and conquer it. No, that’s not what I meant. It’s meant more like … oh hell. You know. Don’t make me work too hard here, OK peeps?)

So maybe this is my mid-life crisis? Because 40 didn’t bother me when it arrived back in January. But now I’m feeling it a little bit. Like … Hey Trish … ever going to, you know, actually try to achieve that Big Fucking Goal that you think about all the time but yet haven’t quite pulled off? Because TICK TOCK, bitchcakes! It is TIME, you silly fool. 

Again, I’m not saying it’s a goal that has to do with fucking.

But I’m not saying it’s not, either.

Heh heh …

As I write this, I have to say that there are plenty o’ things that I have achieved. That I’m quite proud of. It’s just the one Big One that hasn’t ever gotten the attention it’s deserved.

I was at the Van Gogh exhibit at the Philly Art Museum with my friend Maria yesterday. We don’t get to see each other with any sort of frequency so we were playing catchup over lunch in the cafeteria. We had to share a table with someone because it was crowded. Our table-mate was an older woman, dining alone, and she was possibly listening to our conversation. And you know what? I found myself sort of embarassed that she might be hearing all the details of my life. Because I probably sound like a poor, slutty loser (but obviously, a cultured poor slutty loser or I wouldn’t have been at the art museum). The conversation was full of words like divorce, bankruptcy, foreclosure, mental health, child support, counseling, cheating, scabs, unemployment, etc. (OK, not scabs.)

Not all of it pertained directly to me but it was sort of glaringly apparent how the focus of my world has shifted so dramatically that I could easily cover all those topics within a 30-minute lunch.

Also, there’s no way to ever be over 40 and use the word boyfriend without sounding like a slutty ho. I don’t know why. But I’d like another word, please.

Whatever.

You’ve all heard me whine a’ plenty over the past two and a half years. And I don’t particularly feel like whining at this moment. I’m just tired and frustrated that my day didn’t quite produce anything brilliant.

Why do I feel like it should? Why can’t I just go to bed and not care? Why do I always think I’m supposed to be doing something bigger? Why can’t I just be satisfied living the old day-to-day thing?

I don’t know why.

But I can’t.

I never could.

I’m re-listening to the Tony Robbins Personal Power cassettes right now. (Yes, cassettes. Can you believe?) I bought them years ago on eBay and never finished them. I’m determined to get through them this time. One thing he says really gets me: In life, most people major in minor things.

Such as … I have to pay the bills. I have to do the laundry. I have to get my oil changed.

And next thing you know, your day has gone like my day did today. Before you know it, it’s nearly bedtime and you haven’t found the time to sit down and draw up plans for the spaceship you’re going to build to travel to Planet Fuck.

What’s wrong with you anyway?

Lazy bastard.

So how to get past … alla that?

I’m not there yet, peeps. But when I find out the answers, I’ll let you know. I kind of already know some of it, but I’m not going to share it right now. I need to get up early so I can start over in the morning. And besides, you’re really not adding all that much to the conversation at the moment and I feel like we should have a little quid pro quo going on here.

Nightey night, Pooh Bears. If you need to hunt down some clean undies, feel free to look in my basement.