Tiny Dancer

This quote from my friend and author KJ Ramsey kicked me square in my elastic waistband, comfy pants.

unless peace begins within my very breath + bones, it might just be performance.

Gah. I feel attacked. Well, not really attacked, but uncovered. Revealed. The phrase has bubbled around in my guts for a couple of days.

Why?

Why is it dwelling and gurgling in my soul?

Truth be told y’all, it’s conviction. Conviction is easily defined as declaration/pronouncement of guilt, sentence, judgment. {And if you’ve been hanging around here long enough, y’all know that I come from a long line of guilt riddled/flinging women.}

But why did this particular quote convict me so?

Because. It. Is. ME!!

I’m in a pretty strange season of deconstructing, uncovering and discovering Self. It seems somewhat silly, at 53, that I wouldn’t really know Self; but I am learning and unlearning more every day. The little revelation nugget shared by KJ really cut me to the marrow.

Has my life been a performance?

Have I learned how to behave based on the cues from “directors” in my life?

Have I acted in a way just to please an “audience”?

The short answer to the above questions is yes. But y’all know I can’t just give a short answer.

As the daughter of big time people, in a small, small town; there is an element of constant performance.

Don’t behave in a way that disgraces the name.

Be a good girl.

Smile and always be gracious.

I was that girl for a little while… My mom would tell a particular story of my childhood, over and over. I don’t recall my age but it was my very first dance recital. I had practiced and practiced and felt confident in my steps. When the little dance number was finished, every other child ran off stage. (Allegedly), I remained steadfast and blew kisses to the roaring applause of the crowd.

The birth of the performer.

I used to think she retold the story because she thought it adorable. As I grew older, I realized it was mostly an accusation, a spotlight on my flair for being dramatic or need to be the center of attention.

Ironically, I truly dislike being the center of attention. My exterior is somewhat a misnomer. It would appear that I like to be seen, but truth be told, it’s armor. (And a scoop of rebellion.) People are quick to make assumptions about you based on outward appearances. For some, the exterior is porcupine-esque. If you look dangerous, people will not approach. It’s safety. It’s protection.

For years, I was the shape-shifter. If I was more like “this”, So-and-So would approve of me. If I was more like “that”, What’s-Their-Name would love me more. Shape-shifting is performance. It isn’t authentic. Neither is people-pleasing. And it was pretty good at that as well. But you know who wasn’t pleased? Me.

I was a pretty good phony. Making it all look like life was ok. While I quietly recoiled and lost Self. It took decades for me to realize that I wasn’t happy and neither were the people around me. It was up to me to stop performing and seek Peace.

I had no clue what Peace looked like. I still struggle with it. The need to be valued and seen and blow kisses to an adoring audience simmers beneath the surface. The need to strive and please still bubbles up occasionally. The sure fire way to quiet that urge is Truth.

Truth speaks and reminds us our value is non-negotiable. To others, it simply is or it isn’t. Our performance does not increase our value. “But if I do this, they will love me more”. Nope. If love and acceptance is performance based, it isn’t genuine. No act of service, gift, performance will tip the value scale. It just teaches others how to treat you.

The Critic will watch for your misstep, that’s a given. But, the Fan will applaud when you rise up. They will truly roar with adoration for being authentically, albeit clumsily, Self.

I am an eternal student. I will always seek new and interesting pathways. I will always ruminate on the ways of old and uncover their meaning. I will always learn a way to dance through my chronic life. Even when the physical body is unwilling; my soul still will tap dance.

Performance or Peace?

Excuse me while I just shuffle-ball-change my way, exit stage left.

I choose Peace

Mary Lee’s School of Dance circa 1970-something

For What It’s Worth

I’m going to take a jump off the deep end; a topic I rarely discuss…

My family has a love of politics. My dad was mayor for over a decade in our small, sleepy town. My mom was highly opinionated and vocal [on most everything]. My brother was well versed and I have cousins who are smart and articulate on the subject. It is likely however, they would not agree with each other, but would be respectful. And as for me, I couldn’t really give two shits about it. I know that is callous to say, but I can’t believe in something or someone, when I know it is all a carnival and the politicians are just puppets and clowns. 

That being said, this rambling isn’t really about politics, but humanity. I’ve written many pages about life in a small town. I don’t believe my small town was all that unique, for its time. Yes, I’m that curmudgeon that reminisces about the “good old days”, but small town living in the 70’s is a land far-far away from life today. Believe me, I’m no June Cleaver, but I guess I’m far more traditional than my radical exterior. Yes, I am the old broad that bitches about the music today. No one is going to be singing Justin Bieber tunes 44 years from now! <reference: Stevie Wonder, Superstition, 1972> Look to the current movie trends, remakes of comic book heroes and cheesy movies like Point Break. (for real). But then there is the really dark side… 

We have become a society that glamorizes excess, lack of morality and just plain old stupidity. How in the world did the Kardashians become a thing? WTF is their purpose in our life? They aren’t real, they are a manufactured commodity that intends to sell us a shit show. We covet their glamorous life, younger and younger girls are seeking out lip injections. They are spokespeople for hair tools, makeup and other things that are intended to make we, the paupers, be like them while we flat iron our hair. News flash, they don’t do their own hair!!!

We have become a nation that is debating, making laws and creating hate over where someone pees!!! Seriously?!? As if struggling to identify who they are at their core isn’t tough enough, lets search them upon entry to see what they’re packin’ so that WE may decide where they pee. It’s a bathroom!!! C’mon, stop the witch hunts. Predators come in every shape, size and gender. It may even be someone in your own family or your kids’ coach. Stop. Just stop. 

We have become a people that criticizes, judges and condemns things that go against our beliefs. We must label every thing we do not understand. That Muslim in line at Target, must be a radical terrorist. Sorry, she is actually Hindu. We condemn anyone that isn’t like us or our beliefs. Stop. Please. 

I recently visited a women’s  federal prison facility in West Virginia. Half dozen women spent a week building relationships, showing love and digging deep within ourselves to find a place of compassion and grace. We quickly connected, felt love, empathy and a sense of protection of our new spiritual daughters. Yet, I’m met with the attitude and judgement of “what’s the point, they’ll just end up there again”. If I have any say in the matter, I will stand in the gap for any one of those girls and cheer her on. Maybe with someone who actually cares and believes the best about her, she may find peace and a new way of doing things. 

We are all one bad decision away from devastating consequences. 

We all have a God-shaped hole in our heart. That place of purpose and longing. A place to feel safe and loved. Sadly, we stuff it full of garbage. Buying things we can’t afford. Living to impress others. Dumping our own identity so that we can be like someone else. Stuffing the hole with excess, drugs, bad relationships – all in the name of being connected or belonging to a community. 

So, my circle back to politics…

The current presidential candidates, I think we deserve them. They embody all that is wrong in our nation. We created them. Lying, bigotry, deals and bargains to stomp on people to get ahead, changing our views and vocabulary to make people think more highly of us. Name calling and finger pointing as an attack to create chaos and outrage. We believe that they are real, authentic and genuine; about as authentic as the Kardashians. 

I am heartsick over the condition of our nation; our greedy, phony, sad and desperate land. Search that God-shaped hole in your own heart, kick out the garbage. Seek out the things that speak life. Speak truth. Live love. 

Gone Baby Gone

I’ve come to the conclusion, I’m a curmudgeon. That old cranky broad that bitches about “this generation” and “you call that crap music”. Yes, I am she, but totally ok with it…
This generation will never understand the simple joys of growing up in a small-small town. Before the “nuke plant” came to town, when Super Value was the only grocery store and we didn’t have a stoplight. Gone are the days of the school kids painting the storefront windows (uptown) for Halloween. The quiet battle of getting to the shop owner first to claim your window. 

Gone are the days of going into Claire’s Crafts & Hobbies and actually see Claire, the small business owner minding the store. Where you can buy the model rocket kit you needed for Mr. Bradfords’s Science Class and poke at Taco the parrot, the store mascot. Not to mention, being a squealy girl watching the boa constrictor eat mice. 

Gone are the days of the “snake dance” through town for Homecoming. Where the town would turn out to join hands in a long pseudo-conga line to wind through the streets. It was often a crazy ride for which you would hang on for dear life. Many of us have battle scars to prove it. An event that would now have everyone sign a waiver, wrapped in bubble wrap and shin guards. Weenies!

Gone are the days of walking into Ma’s Place and seeing the same guys, sitting at the same table, having the same BS conversations, drinking lava like coffee, day after day. It was reassuring actually, you knew all was right with the world because it was being solved at the table in the middle. 

Gone are the days of pizza at Leombruni’s after the football game. We thought we were oh so cool. We were a rowdy group of punks!!! {{Please allow me a moment to apologize to Annette for being a little shit and lousy tipper.}} We didn’t really understand how people earned a living or how the world worked at that time. 

My heart is stirring with the memories of the old days; when we thought life was so complicated. The simple beliefs of honor and community were always revealed  on Good Friday. When all the stores uptown would close their business from noon to 3pm to honor the death of our crucified Lord. The hours He hung on a cross, dying. It was a proclamation of values of a small-small town. We celebrated faith. We expressed it outwardly. And yes, as a small-small town, everyone knew your business. The home-room-mom had likely called your mom to let her know you got in trouble at school and by the time you got home, even bigger trouble was standing in the doorway waiting for you! We also knew those same neighbors would be at your doorstep with a meal when a loved one died. They would be at your doorstep with a freshly crocheted afghan for your your new baby. 

Yes, this cranky broad misses her simple hometown life. But it ruminates within my heart, my soul and leads me forward. No, I don’t long to trade my iPhone I for the bright red teen-phone I had in my room, but I long to look at life through that filter of simplicity, community and values. A Good Friday indeed.