Category Archives: WOW (Words of the Week)

Each week we start out with the WOW (Word of the Week) video message!

Hold that Thought! (It Becomes Your Vision)

My brain can be like Grand Central Station; a steady flow of traffic with each thought vying to gain some traction.

I’ve entertained far too many thoughts that never deserved my attention. 

Entertain is a good word choice.  Thoughts knock at our door and the majority should be treated like unwanted  solicitors.  Would you invite a stranger in for coffee and to set up housekeeping in the spare room?

Of course not.

So why did that pretty mist-colored laptop on HSN end up in my house?

Well, I kept LISTENING, and the more I entertained the thoughts surrounding the laptop and imagined using it, the less the $500 price tag troubled me.

Even though I already have a perfectly good laptop.

(Yes, I returned it.)

But the point is, what thoughts we entertain give us imaginations or VISIONS that can actually become reality.

I’ve learned to approach my thoughts like a buffet.  I used to try to get my money’s worth and took advantage of “all you can eat.”  Indigestion and regret usually followed.

I’ve learned to be more choosy at the buffet, only selecting what I’m in the mood for at the moment.  (This can lead to a focused attack on the desserts, but that’s another story.)

When it comes to our thought lives, it’s wise to understand that not everything that flies into our brains merits consideration.

But some things DO.

I bet some of the most brilliant entrepreneurial ideas started with just a thread of a thought.

This very blog started with a “Hmmmmm” moment in a float tank.

How many relationships ended in happily ever afters because someone thought, “I’ll give online dating a try!”

My sister took a calligraphy class decades ago, and she has been gainfully employed doing what she loves ever since.

Does it make your heart leap?  Does it bring hope?  Then by all means HOLD THAT THOUGHT!

Nurture it and let it breathe.  Water it and fertilize it and who knows – it can end up being a full-blown vision.

Were you as captivated as I was by Prince Harry’s engagement announcement this week?  I didn’t know much about Meghan Markle until I saw this video, which is an example of holding a THOUGHT and taking action based on that thought to effect change:

I think Diana is smiling, don’t you?

So let’s not get caught up in VISIONS of grandeur that overwhelm us.  Let’s start with a thought, and then play with it a little.

I did that this week and it turned me a bit upside down!

https://youtu.be/la8hY9xh9-U

Oooooh…sisters and brothers.  We ARE a resilient bunch!  I feel like this is a week where our mantra should come from Dirty Dancing:  “No one puts baby in a corner.”

Let’s go out, rise up and seize the week!

xoxoxox

Brenda

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Your Masterpiece is YOU (and the New WOW)

For our entire lives, we’ve been working on a masterpiece.

We may not call ourselves creative and a paintbrush may never have graced our hands – still, we are artists.

On my 4+ hour drive to Jacksonville to spend Thanksgiving with my friend Anita and her family, I had good company.  Joining me on the open road was the audio book of Don Miguel Ruiz’s “The Voice of Knowledge.”  A new friend had shared with me that Ruiz’s “The Four Agreements” deeply affected his life for good. He highly recommended the trilogy of Toltec Wisdom Books.

The word “Toltec” means “artist of the spirit.” In the Toltec tradition, every human is an artist, and the supreme art is the expression of the beauty of our spirit. To consider that we are artists (rather than mere humans), makes us creators – just like the One Who created us.

From page 47 of The Voice of Knowledge:

How do we live our life? This is our art; the art of living.

There are two kinds of artists.  Those who create their story without awareness, and those recover awareness and create their story with truth and with love.

To think that I – that WE – hold the paintbrush to our lives is an awesome realization.  Is there something that doesn’t fit into our vision of truth and love?  Paint over it.  Create something new.  We have the power to do this.

We were BORN to write our own story and have everything we need to make it a work of art.  Yes, people will come along who will try to impose on us what THEY think our lives should look like.

When I handed over the paintbrush to other people, I became something other than the authentic Brenda.

It has taken many years to get her back.  As the song goes, “Reunited and It feels SO good!

This passage from page 68 excited my spirit so much I wanted to share it with you:

You are the only one who can change your story, and you do this by changing your relationship with yourself.

Every time you change the main character in your story, just like magic the whole story starts to change in order to adapt to the new main character.

I think of one of my favorite movies of all time, Frequency, in which the main character is able to connect to his long-deceased Father through a miraculous ham radio.  At one point he mentions that “cigarettes will kill, you Dad…” as an off-handed comment.

Long story short, that suggestion led to a decision by his Father that resulted in him changing the course of his life…and his death.  The script was rewritten.

I consider my decision four years ago to stop drinking.  After years of wrestling with, “Do I have a problem?” I heard clearly in my spirit that if I kept it up, I would die prematurely.  When tempted to sip a Cosmopolitan, I have reminded myself of that revelation to keep me from turning back.

The clarity of sobriety has graced me with so many gifts; most importantly, a clearness about what I want my life to be and who I want Brenda to be.  It has afforded me a newfound ability to call a lie a lie and step away from pretense and performance.  Being clear gave me the courage to walk away from those things that no longer “fit” the true me…and the health in mind, body and spirit to enjoy a new way of living.

It was the first domino in a series that led to removing Zoloft from my life, journeying to Costa Rica to get back in touch with my wounded soul and begin this journey to wholeness.

What a ripple effect!

I’m sure there will yet be many more changes to the main character of my story, but my point in writing is to encourage YOU to take that paintbrush and adjust your masterpiece accordingly.

Paint your beautiful life with broad strokes of love and truth, my friends.

And what a great word to follow up these thoughts on CREATIVITY:

What a wonderful assignment for all of us!  It is NEVER too late to be who you “might have been.”

I hope you had a beautiful Thanksgiving.  It’s a holiday to be celebrated year-round…and my heart is overflowing with gratitude for this life I get to live (and create!).  I’m so blessed to share it with you.

xoxoxoxo

Brenda

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Interruptions and Explorations (and the New WOW)

Divine interruptions are sometimes the universe’s way of keeping us out of harm’s way. Or bringing us an adventure!

I’ve got to look at it this way, as I write this week’s post from the Tampa Airport Marriott…a hotel I had not planned on staying in, because I had intended to be on a plane to Philadelphia.

The  plane got to Philly Friday night, but without me.

I was finishing up a work meeting with plenty of time to spare to make the flight.  Ten miles from the airport, a dreaded standstill drained all of my lead time – and more.

I arrived in time to board, but they wouldn’t take my bag and offered no solutions to get it to Philly. And in my bag was my LIFE.  Ain’t no abandoning the bag option for Brenda!

I try to go with the flow when my life is interrupted, but when involves or affects other people, I get a bit antsy.

One thing was certain: Come #$%@ or high water, I was NOT going to miss my sister’s play on Sunday afternoon.

It was clear that no flights out on Friday night on ANY airline would get me to my destination without blowing up my credit card inordinately, so my next option was to search for Saturday morning flights.

Picture me traipsing from ticket counter to ticket counter – United, Delta, American, Spirit, Frontier, Southwest…only to discover there were NO reasonable seats to Philadelphia.

But Newark!  Now there’s an option!

So yes, I got a flight for Saturday AM that would get me to Newark in the early afternoon.  This would mean I’d miss coffee time with Renee and Steve (boo) and an afternoon visit with Roseann, Mike and her parents (boo) but at least I’d be in South Jersey in time for an evening with the star of “Our Town” and her husband (my brother-in-law), Tony.

Getting a room at the Marriott was the easy part.  I thought it would be equally easy to adjust my Budget rental to a pick-up in Newark and the original drop-off in Philly.,

After placing me on hold for 45 minutes they said (basically), “Nope.”

Dollar Rental to the rescue!  A few clicks, and it was done (at the same price as Budget.)

So now I am here in Marriott-land, unintended and upended…but planning on embracing our word of the week, EXPLORATION. 

First, I want to explore a menu. My stomach is growling!  And I will go down to the restaurant EXPECTING something wonderfully serendipitous to happen.

Because that’s how I roll.  Who knows why this all happened? But it did.  Maybe I am a bozo and should have left earlier.  Lesson learned.  Maybe there’s a person on this newly booked Southwest flight that I am meant to meet.  Or an accident somehow avoided if my plans had gone as…well, planned.

We try and script life and yet each day can be fraught with plot twists.  We can either let them frustrate us – or we can see them as adventures in the making.

Yes, first I cried.

Now I am going downstairs to lose myself in an order of French fries.

I hope YOUR explorations brought you happy surprises this week.  Next week I hope to have a full report of how this all played out! And I close out the word with my thoughts about exploring our INTERNAL lives.  Take a listen:

To HARMONY!

(And perhaps a few less interruptions!)

xoxoxoxo

Brenda

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This One’s For My Sister (and the New WOW)

My sister has been my chief cheerleader and support system for 54 years.

When I cried incessantly as a baby, my parents threatened to put me up for sale in a wheelbarrow by the road.

I think in today’s world, someone would have called child protective services, but back then it was their way of saying, “If this child doesn’t stop screaming, we’re going to lose it!”

Of course, they never INTENDED to sell me, but my five-year-old sister couldn’t grasp the nuance of dark humor yet, so SHE began to scream and beg for my life.

She wanted me, tears and all.

She still does.

Always more comfortable with a drawing pad or lost in a good book, she never failed to encourage my more “outward” pursuits.  She schlepped me to Philadelphia from Buena, NJ to get my  head shots taken. When I competed in the Miss Magic 103 radio contest, and belted out my Cher impressions for the world to hear, no one laughed louder. Before and after big events,she sends me handwritten cards or flowers.  And when I’m blue? She reminds me that better days are coming.  Usually in about two weeks, if you mark it on the calendar. In man respects, my sister Shirlee has been my guardian angel.

Shirlee DiBacco has always avoided the spotlight, yet has always helped my face find the sun.

And this past Friday night she made her acting debut!

Forever she has loved the play “Our Town” by Thornton Wilder. An “Our Town” groupie, she’s seen the play from New York to Hammonton numerous times.  She quotes from the play, because to her, there’s a line from “Our Town” to fit any situation.

And then she saw an ad that her community theatre in Somers Point, NJ would be holding auditions for…”Our Town.”

She tried to talk herself out of it, but couldn’t shake it.  When she showed up, she practically recited an encyclopedic knowledge of the play.  She would have paid the producers to give her a part.

No need.  So captivated by her enthusiasm, she handily won the part of “Woman in the Balcony.”  The woman with a movie star face who always took a back seat and applauded for everyone else is finally having her moment.

Her friend Barb, husband Tony, friend Chris – and the STAR, my sister, Shirlee, celebrating with ice cream after Our Town’s debut on Friday night.

And I am so proud of her I could just burst.

I’m flying up to see her final matinee next Sunday, the 12th. And I am equally delighted that she (and my mom) picked our new Word of the Week!

I wonder what new things are right around the corner for us this week?

Let’s be explorers!

xoxoxoxo

Brenda

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Acceptance, Rejection (and the New WOW)

I am on a quest for self-acceptance – warts and all.

Concurrently, I’m becoming more and more clear about what I will NOT accept.

Unkindness.  Disrespect.  A callous disregard for my feelings.  Injustices perpetrated against myself (or those I love.)

I’ve discovered a new fight in me!  Brenda 2.0 is feisty!  She’s not buying what you’re selling (unless it is anti-aging serum, of course!) and she’s not afraid to tell you want she wants.

Which means that some new friendships have a short shelf life.

I have become a careful observer of behaviors that previously slipped under the radar screen.  For instance, I welcomed  a new friend to town and invited her as my guest for lunch.  The second time, knowing she was finding her footing, I took her to lunch again.  The third time was coffee…and she didn’t even attempt to pay her way.  The fourth visit – at her request – was another lunch.  When the bill came, she made no moves to her own pocketbook.

Here’s the thing:  I LOVE being generous.  But I do not love feeling taken advantage of or taken for granted.

And it’s not just about money.  Another new friend started a challenging position and was dealing with a host of nerves.  Each time I saw her, I’d encourage her and ask how it was going.  I delighted to hear about her progress and how what started as a source of angst had become a blessing.

When we recently ran into each other, an impromptu meeting turned into a half-hour conversation.  A completely one-sided conversation; a running diatribe about her position, her boss and her sales.

Not once did she ask how I was.  I don’t even think she knows what I do for a living!

I took a careful mental note.

Is it me, or is everyone completely self-consumed these days?

I used to be perfect fodder for narcissists because I was a captive audience with such self-esteem and acceptance issues, it never occurred to me that I was being bamboozled.

No more.

Now, we all fall into the trap of selfishness sometimes.  I love my other new friend, who admitted that in a recent conversation I wasn’t allowed to get a word in edge-wise.

Yes, I left the conversation considering if we would ever have another – after all, this is NOT the phase of my life where I’m going to waste time on one-sided friendships.

Then he called to apologize for running away with the conversation.

The point isn’t being perfect, but it is being humble enough to see how our behavior affects each other.

What are YOU accepting that is beneath you?  More on this (and the new WOW):

Oh, well let me praise my SISTERS and BROTHERS, because I am RICH with their love and kindness.

My real friends?  We FIGHT over who will pay the bill.  We always check in to see how each other is doing and usually have to be FORCED to talk about ourselves.  These precious gems are fail -safe cheerleaders, humorists, supporters, confidants…and truly the family God has given me.

This week, I will not retreat into my ever-ready shell.  I’m callin’ on you, sisters and brothers!  I can’t do this life without you, nor would I want to try.

Who comes to mind when YOU think of a sister or brother of the heart?

xoxoxox

Brenda

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Sweet Release, True Riches (and the New WOW)

Have you ever noticed how tension precedes release?

That’s probably why we shouldn’t freak out so much over stressful situations. They never last forever (though yes, it can FEEL like forever.)

Alternately, those moments in time where we sense liberty and benevolence from the universe? These, too, are fleeting little buggers.

In this week’s video, I talk about how completely sure I was that after my experience in Costa Rica, I would never feel tethered to the base feelings of life again.  I was soaring!  Floating!

And I was wrong.

How come?

Well, LIFE happens.

We don’t have the luxury (nor would we really want it) to escape to an island where other peoples’ drama can’t affect us; where the news reports can ‘t jolt us; where a bad tamale can’t  give us indigestion.

Angst, upset, nausea and all the other feels are just part of the package of the human existence.

The key for me is what to DO with all those feels so they don’t bring me down for too long and I can get back to sweet release.

For me, the process involves sitting in my grandmother’s chair.  I call it my thinking chair.  Just the act of planting myself in that seat says, ‘It’s get real time, Brenda.  Talk it out with yourself.”

And I do.  And yes, I talk back.

I’ve learned that having regular conversations with my soul is not only not crazy, it helps keep the crazy at bay.

In these self-chats, I peel back the layers of falsehood that inevitably try to masquerade what’s REALLY going on.

Keeping it real, I’ll refer to last week’s message about surrendering STUFF.

Turns out, the Holy Spirit wasn’t just talking about my house.

My friend Anita joked with me that I’d come back from Costa Rica renouncing fine dining and eschewing my propensity for the Ritz Carlton, fake eyelashes and my tendencies for glamorous creature comforts. I emphatically countered that I was quite happy to savor the finer things in life and planned on continuing to do so.  It’s how God made me.  And, by the way, harrumph!

I protested too much.

Turns out, this week I was faced with an awareness that I had, indeed, become too focused on getting; that my psyche had been led down a path in which being “flush” equaled success. I bought the lie that I needed to “make up for lost time” and fill my coffers to ensure…that I was valid.

My circle only included people who could easily pick up the tab; who looked and sounded like me.

Then I met a man who has nothing.  And I discovered that he is the richest person I know.

You’d never figure we’d make good friends.  He is completely out of the mainstream and doesn’t even make small talk.  He lives in senior affordable housing and has limited calling on his government-provided cell phone.  We met in the airport on the way home from my Costa Rica trip, and I was struck by his jewelry, his colorful gypsy clothing, his self-possessed persona and aura of joy and peace.

Within moments of engaging in conversation, I discovered that he was a practicing Buddhist, and we engaged in a lovely conversation filled with the richness of spirit.  I gave him my card, and he was kind enough to check that I made it home safely.

Over the course of just two weeks of texts and phone calls (limited, due to his limited minutes!) Roger Mayberry became an important person to me.

Then I got the call that he was in the hospital.

I visited my new friend and observed that within minutes of being admitted, he had charmed every person on his floor.  Doctors, nurses, technicians, random passersby – they all couldn’t help but smile at his pure, childlike joy.

He says it himself, “I’m the richest poor man you’ll ever meet.”

When he first said that, I said, “Roger – stop defining yourself as a poor man!”

Yes, there is some truth to avoiding the sticky tape of speaking out words, for they have power.

However, it never occurred to me that being poor could ever be a good thing.

Stay with me on this, friends.

Roger is so not connected to the drumbeat of performance.  He is not tethered to this life. He is an otherworldly creature; a student of the spirit who can talk and listen for hours…and you WANT to hear what he says. Further, when you speak, you feel HEARD.

Spending time with him has caused me to ask this question:

What ARE the true riches of life?

No, I’m not saying I’m taking a vow of poverty. However, I am conscious of a shift from the oh-so-seductive material world to the priceless beckoning of the Spirit.    

These recent months have been, for me, devoted to not only self-discovery but also a quest for truth.  Stripping away the veneer fear has built over the years has surprised me.

What a thing to realize that, at some point, I began to equate the car I drive and the bag I carry with my own self-worth.

Me!  A self-professed spiritual person!

It broke my heart (in a good way) this week to see that I am being called to a new humility.  Instead of the constant drumbeat to scale up and have more and better, I find myself drawn to a simpler life.

When I finally called it by name and acknowledged what was going on inside of me, I cried tears of release. Repentant is a turning from one thing to another.  True repentance isn’t about beating yourself up; it’s simply an “Aha!  I was wrong and now I can be right!”

This awakening to how I had veered on to a shallow path brought sweet release, because I know now I will not waste more time accumulating stuff.

The one with the most toys is NOT who wins.

People like Roger win.  His bank account is overflowing where it matters most.

More on RELEASE and a beautiful new Word of the Week, coming right up:

By the way, the good news is Roger’s out of the hospital and on the mend.

Hooray! I intend to continue to plague him with questions and pick his brain and heart…all the while thanking him for shifting my view of life by his very existence.

This week, I want to ACCEPT people beyond face value.  I want to ACCEPT what is and relax in the knowledge that the universe is unfolding exactly as it ought.

I ACCEPT that who I always thought I was may not be who I really am, and choose to release those old constructs born of fear and insecurity.

How about you?

xoxoxoxoxox

Brenda

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The Hardest (Yet Kindest) Thing I’ve Ever Done (and the New WOW)

My trip to Costa Rica was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Yes, it was purposefully planned to hit the pause button on my life and to shine a light on the deep places in my heart.

But I didn’t realize how difficult such honesty would be.

I thought leaving my church and leaving my marriage were the hardest things I’ve ever done.

But nothing prepared me for the stark reality of coming face to face with ME.

When I left my marriage, I knew that I had embarked on a new phase in my life – but by no means did I enter into a celebration of freedom.

It broke my heart to leave a man I loved – and for whom I will always have love.

Our story is not for public display; I will only share my journey in the hope that it may help you, too.

Though my life was in upheaval, my spirit was resolute: To embark on this new chapter of my life in a healthy way, a spiritual path – an awakening – was needed, and a key question cried out for an answer:

How did Brenda fall in to a toxic church relationship and jump from that into a marriage fraught with similar toxic patterns?

This answer, I believed, was needed to avoid jumping into any other alliances. And I sure didn’t want to waste any more time sleepwalking into relationships.

After many tears shed, I knew I needed help getting to the root.

Through this very blog (a reader contacted me), a path forward presented itself and was confirmed by my dear niece, Deena, and my sister, Shirlee.

There is a place in Costa Rica, the Iboga Wellness Center, that uses what Americans deem unorthodox methods to address deeply-rooted hurts.  The week-long, psycho-spiritual retreat has been purported to produce the effects of 10+ years of therapy.

People I love and respect affirmed that they were truly set free.

Freedom – and answers – were what I longed for.

I booked the trip in June and in the three months leading up to the retreat, was weaned off of Zoloft.  Iboga is an ancient medicinal root that originates in Africa, and it does not mix well with pharmaceuticals.

It fights and weeds out toxicity.  The first treatment focuses entirely on removing toxins from your body – and following that first dose I was flat on my back for an entire day.

It was hard.  This was no spa resort.  For much of the time it was me – and my bed – and a pail to catch vomit.

That first recovery day, I had severe panic attacks and considered fleeing.  There were no distractions; I was face to face with ME for yet another five days.

Midway through the journey, a river cleansing ceremony was held. Imagine Eva Gabor on Green Acres, trekking down a slippery 15 foot embankment in a pounding rain.

Just making it down to the river was a victory for my psyche. The ceremony itself was powerful – my hurts were named and seemed to wash off of me as the rain poured down. Next, my intentions and dreams were also voiced.  The river took them, too and I sensed that the current would take them to fruition.

I cried healing tears.

And was ready to go home.

My body didn’t want to face another Iboga ceremony.  I reasoned with myself: “There’s a hurricane coming; I need to get home to prepare.”  I questioned the process, “How much more can I look inward?  I’ve gotten some release – I want to get back to my soft bed.”

Yet I knew there was more, and I wasn’t about to let fear talk me out of what I traveled there for.

The second journey involves a guided meditation.

All I can say is that I came face to face with little Brenda; the child who so didn’t want to upset anyone that she kept all of her fears and hurts locked up.

I had a bird’s eye view of my soul, shrunken down and diminishing with every passing year.

I saw that because my true feelings were never expressed, they lied dormant, unfulfilled. To cope (and not upset the apple cart), I learned over the years to suppress feelings of anxiety, depression and insecurity because they were “bad.” I became adept at psyching myself up into a false optimism.

This worked for a while, and I even enjoyed some success – but the false front is not sustainable.  Eventually you crack.

The church had built on this faulty premise, teaching that feelings were bad and you couldn’t give them any credence.  It was a sin to be sad.

And my soul continued to die inside of me.

The performance that became my life – surviving the church, trying to present an image of the happy marriage – mostly, trying to present the image of a happy Brenda, nearly destroyed me.

All I wanted to do was make everyone else happy.

And I realized I couldn’t.

Happiness or not is a choice we all make individually.  No winning the lottery or taking exotic vacations can shift a person’s paradigm from dark to light.

Least of all, mine.

As the facilitator guided me back through my life, I SAW me…little me…crouched down and crying soundlessly.

I recognized her and my heart welled up with such love for her.  I held her in my arms and said over and over again, “I love you.  You matter.  I will never silence you again.”

My soul is now free to feel. Decades of feelings are now validated and by doing so, I no longer need to look to external sources for validation.

I am valid.

Am worthy.

Beautiful.

I am whole.

If saying those words out loud to yourself is uncomfortable, I pray for your own healing.

We are destined to have a great love affair in this life…and it is with ourselves.

How can we enjoy a healthy love with anyone else until our own souls are restored?

Yes, I took drastic measures to have a drastic change in my life.

And I got what I went to Costa Rica for.

I recorded this week’s video before my trip. I look forward to what comes out of me in the future, now that I have had a major life healing.

When I feel un-moored, I am so grateful to now have practical tools to get me back to ME.

My thoughts on Kindness and the new Word of the Week….

Ah, SURRENDER. Yes, it’s uncomfortable to let go, yet so freeing to open up to something beautiful and new.

By the way, if any of you have questions about my week at the Iboga Wellness Center, please ask.  What I’ve written here is a condensed version, but there are volumes more to tell.

I wish for each of you the freedom that comes from healing the little soul on the inside so she (or he) can grow up into maturity and strength and power.

You deserve that.

xoxoxo

Brenda

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Will the True Brenda Please Stand Up? (and the New WOW)

In my recent Toastmasters speech, “Dance Like No One’s Watching,” I referred to the 80’s as my heyday of dance while acknowledging that my persona wasn’t a true reflection of Brenda.

The decade, for me, was all about image. Sky-high hair that defied gravity (thank you, Aqua Net) and four-inch Candies’ spike heels made me feel invincible when I entered the club. Combined with three layers of makeup and pronounced charcoal black-smudged raccoon eyes, I perfected my Philly tough-girl persona.

I wanted to look tough.

The victim of vicious bullying throughout my high school years, my reinvention intended to keep away those who would dare tread on my heart.

A dark haired Madonna, I looked like the Material Girl.

In truth, I was Like a Virgin.

The disconnect between that sassy chick on the dance floor, and the word-nerd, old-fashioned girl at my core led to a multitude of brief and failed romances.

The guys at the club dug the unattainable disco queen, but when the lights came on, they soon realized she was the kind of girl you take home to Mom. And skedaddled to the next conquest.

All those years of wishing and hoping someone would fall in love with the true ME, it never occurred to me to…well, BE me.

An exhausting and destructive pattern had been established.  I went from the club girl Madonna to the church girl (aka Joyce Meyers or fill in your favorite Tammy Faye-ish) preacher.

DISCLAIMER: This is not to say I wasn’t sincere in my ministry, because I was. But the church became yet another stage on which to perform.  Because of its toxic nature, on the rare occasions that I dared to allow my true self to emerge, the leaders brutally punished/counseled/scolded me.

Oh, and then I got married.

I think back to my wedding day and am so grateful that it happened.  I always wanted the handsome man at the end of the aisle; a church full of people applauding my dream come true; the dance party scripted to my specifications.

I loved my wedding day.

Because of the toxic and backwards nature of the church, though, I rarely had alone time with my husband prior to the wedding.  He often joked that our first “date” was the night we got engaged.  And it wasn’t a joke.

We were two strangers who were crazy about each other and thought that would be enough to make it work.

And, to do so, I did what I do (or did) best.  I performed the hell out of it.

A life-changing trip with my girlfriends in 2016 (and a mini-breakdown from emotional exhaustion – performing sucks the life out of you!) revealed that I was burning myself out while trying to be who everyone wanted me to be.

In the process, I had lost ME.

Mind you, if my performance-based approach to life had been working for me, I would have kept it up.  It took 50+ years for me to realize that no matter how beautifully I performed, it didn’t make anyone else truly happy.  

Least of all, me.

What follows is a bit vulgar and not language I normally use in my writings. To those who might be offended, I apologize in advance.

Concurrently, I’m not apologizing for using this photo. Because this is part of the TRUE me! I find this to be funny!:

I remember seeing this card and laughing out loud.

It’s true.  Not so much the “F word” part, but the things I say and do today are far different from Brenda 1.0.

Discovering the true me – and the true you – is the quest of a lifetime. It takes honesty, bravery, and huge doses of unconditional self-love. 

But this is my one shot to be Brenda Viola. For the first time since my early 20’s I finally have given myself permission to be her.

I hope you like her, but if you don’t, that’s okay too.

Sometimes I don’t like her!

But I always love her.  And I hope you love the true YOU, too.

Parting thoughts on AUTHENTICITY and the new WOW, coming up!:

What a beautiful word to embrace this week!

Be KIND to you and others.

We can never have too much of that, can we?

xoxoxoxox

Brenda

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My Stage Name is Gypsy: A Lesson in Inspiration (& the New WOW)

When I recently hit an emotional sink hole, I decided to make a plan to get inspiration flowing again.

Sometimes all you need is something happy to anticipate to jump-start your joy.

Music activates something deep inside of me and, in the last decade or so, finding music I liked that was compatible with my partner’s limited my concert-going.  Silly, actually.  I could have made solo plans – but I was always hoping to cultivate “together moments.”

As a result, my love for old school R & B went on the back burner.

Getting back to making a happy plan, as fate would have it, an alert that the Isley Brothers would perform at the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg – just an hour away – made my heart jump.

For as long as I have loved music, the Isley’s have spoken deeply to my soul. Ronald Isley’s voice goes right to the core of my heart. Even covers of other peoples’ songs, like Summer Breeze (Seals and Crofts) or Hello, It’s Me (Todd Rundgren) get transported to an entirely new level by his vocals.

Instead of mulling it over, I clicked and purchased tickets. (This is also part of my new way of life. #JustDoIt.) Since it was a Sunday night concert, I made plans to arrive in the city on Saturday, discover St. Pete and enjoy.

Yippee! Rather than moping and dwelling on the past (which is unproductive, because I am not going backward), I had a date on the calendar to inspire me.

So let me cut to the chase about Gypsy.  My excellent, third-row seats had me almost levitating with joy. I began chattering with my left and right seat neighbors, warning them that when “Who’s That Lady?” or “Fight the Power” was performed, I may begin annoyingly screaming and step on their toes from dancing.

I hate those type of people at concerts, but I knew I might be one of them for this one.

The lady to the right was dressed to the nines in a sparkly black jacket and rhinestones on her glasses. We discussed the Isley songbook and which were our favorites (hers, Summer Breeze; mine, Let Me Know.)

I said, “What’s your name?”

She said, “Gypsy.”

Hmmmmmm, I thought.  That’s cool.

After talking some more, I felt it wouldn’t be too intrusive to ask a follow-up question.

“Is Gypsy a nickname or your given name?”

“It’s my stage name.”

A stage name!  How exciting!  She’s a performer!

“Oh wonderful!” I exclaimed. “Are you a singer? Or an actress?”

“No.”

I looked at her quizzically.  She replied,

“My real name is Shirley, but I say Gypsy is my stage name because all the world is a stage.”

Preach, Gypsy!

I learned that when she is at work or church, she goes by “Shirley.”

But when she is out with her man for a romantic night – or whenever she wants to put on a sparkly hat and her alter-persona, she’s Gypsy.

She inspired me!

All the world IS a stage that should be embraced as an opportunity to show up and give it all you’ve got.

(I did tell Gypsy that I have recently given up performing at life because it was simply exhausting, but that I loved the idea of living as the world being MY stage.)

Gypsy may never perform on a literal stage or receive a standing ovation – but she sure is a star.

I’m so glad she shined on me.

All that and the band threw a rose to me!

As we close out INSPIRATION as our Word of the Week, never forget that the world is your stage. And make a happy plan to jump-start your joy!

Goosebumps!  What does AUTHENTICITY mean to YOU?

For me, it is continuing to strip away the layers I created to numb and protect myself from what I have feared.  Whether avoiding a confrontation or walking on eggshells to avoid angry outbursts from others – it’s time to drop the facade and just BE.

How about you?

oxoxoxo

Brenda

 

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Clarity is Not for Sissies (and the New WOW)

This is NOT a manifesto against anti-depressants, but tells of MY journey to true clarity and the role that Zoloft (Sertraline) played in clouding matters.

You know that close to four years ago, I stopped drinking.  Haven’t had a glass of anything since November 11, 2013.  (Note:  It gives me goosebumps that I quit on 11:11, which is a power number. It seems the universe parted the waters that day, making a clear path for me to exit tipsy-land.)

Let me re-think the use of the word “tipsy.”  It is a euphemism, as is buzzed, to describe an altered state that numbs you from the pain of life.  

Such words make you feel better about being a drunk.

I quit alcohol because every bad decision or regretted remark or action in my life emanated from a booze-fueled state. Tired of being embarrassed, I no longer wanted to be voted “Most likely to break something” at every party. Some major falls led to a serious reckoning with how simply dangerous it was to navigate steps and life with a high blood alcohol content.

For me, clarity came when I heard in my spirit “If you keep this up, this is how you will die.”

Gulp.

So 2013 marked a new phase of clarity in my life.

Clarity is not for sissies.  You begin to observe things that didn’t bother you before; overlooked slights now hurt.  Suddenly, there’s fight in you, because you start to believe that you are worth better.

Sobriety and self-respect go hand in hand. As my self-worth grows, my capacity to tolerate disrespect shrinks.

Wait, Brenda – I thought you were going to talk about anti-depressants?

I am.

Sobriety fueled my recent life decisions.  What may have seemed to outsiders as a crazy, “Where did THAT come from?” action when I left my marriage, those who know me know I’ve never been more in my right mind.

But that action was just a beginning.

I’ve been on a quest for HONESTY.

As I continued to ask myself the questions necessary to peel away layers of dishonesty, I kept returning to a nagging question mark: My 10-year affair with Zoloft.

In the beginning years of my marriage, we went to Christian counseling.  The only thing I got out of it was a prescription.

Truly, that first 50 mg pill seemed like a magic bullet.  Perhaps psychosomatic, nevertheless, I felt instantly happier, more able to cope, less irritable and more tolerant.

When entering menopause, the script increased to 75 mg. When we moved to Florida, my new doctor upped it to 100 mg.

Patients should obey their doctors, right?

I visited my sister last year and one of my little blue pills fell on the bathroom floor.  She found it and, with trepidation, asked me what I was on.

I thought nothing of telling her – after all, my healthcare provider prescribed the drug!

The counselor had drawn a little cartoon that showed how serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) would build a little bridge to my brain, helping the happy feelings get back where they belonged.

Shirlee, unimpressed by the analogy but without judgment, encouraged me to read about the impacts of these drugs and to consider weaning off of Zoloft.  It took many months, but for me, the evidence was clear.  If I didn’t get off, I’d be on this drug for the rest of my life.

Thus began Brenda Clear Phase 2.0.

My doctor, knowing of my pending divorce said, “Do you really think this is the best time to detox?”

Taking control of my own body and decisions that affect it, I said, “Yes. This is the very best time.”

Since early June I have been on a steadily-decreasing prescription of Zoloft and last week, went to zero.

Clarity is not for sissies.

My body revolted angrily against the disappearing drug. Irritation has returned, flu-like symptoms, aches and pains, sleeplessness, headaches, cramping – yep, it’s been a real joy ride. But here’s the flipside: I FEEL again.

Yes, the difficult feelings were numbed, but so were the GOOD ones.  I now laugh more, cry more, and am more deeply touched by music and words and people.

I am alive.

Eventually, the physical symptoms will disappear.  It’s worth it to plow through them to get to the REAL ME.

I’ve missed Brenda.  It’s wonderful to get to know her again.

Here are my parting thoughts on CLARITY and the new WOW:

Hot diggity! (Wow, there’s a first-time use of THAT phrase.)

Let’s be INSPIRED this week.

Oh, and if my anti-depressant story has tugged at your heart, let me add that you should never cold turkey SSRIs.  There’s a careful way of weaning that your doctor can guide you through.  If INSPIRED to make a similar decision, I’m rooting for you.

And if you are not, please do not feel judged.  Everyone is on a different journey.  Some people have experienced great relief in temporary use of these drugs to get over a rough patch.  However, in my case, I found myself ten years later using the drug as an emotional crutch.

After finally ditching the crutches, I am learning to walk – and I hope to eventually fly.

xooxoxox

Love,
Brenda

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