Tag Archives: Authenticity

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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Will the Real You Please Rise? (And the New WOW)

In several of my musings this week, I chuckled to think about the many times I reinvented myself. It wasn’t about being the “real me.” It was more like creating the best illusion for survival at the given moment.

Case in point was the summer after I graduated high school.

For me, high school was a year-long disappointment.  I spent most of it being bullied by a group of mean girls and, not having the best coping skills, hid in the nurse’s office, took detours to avoid certain clusters of said gang and basically, tried to be invisible.

In July of 1981, I decided that the Brenda that was going to college would be COMPLETELY different. No one was going to put baby in a corner any longer.

I would be tough! (After all, these people didn’t know me.)

I embraced the new wave/punk rock look – a cross between Pat Benatar and Joan Jett. My hair was spiked sky high, my eyes encased in black…and all I wore was black. Nobody was going to @#$%$ with this version of Brenda.

Oh, and I didn’t smile. I wore an impenetrable poker face and acted like I was cooler than everyone else.

HA!

What a lie!

But it did work for a while. I mean, nobody bullied me; I worked my punk rock niche and found a similar group to hang with…

…but it wasn’t me.

I was still the 18-year-old crying under the covers in my dorm room, just terrified of life.

It has been said that the universe will give you the same scenario (dressed up differently) throughout your life until you finally “get it.”

Fast forward about 15 years later, and once again, I reinvented me to “fit in” – this time in a church setting.  I zeroed in on the leading female, and within a few years, I was the dark-haired version who dressed, talked, thought and acted like her.  Because it was a toxic environment, the few times I dared to offer an original thought, it was twisted to either be further proof of my less than sharp intelligence (I was really told this) or hijacked to become the leader’s idea.  (Yes, warped, I know.)

When it all blew up (and I’ve written about that before) I emerged shattered, but determined to be ME.  Perhaps a me I never fully was before.

This me smiles. Is silly.  Struggles with her weight and her sense of security…but ultimately this is the ME I like.  Actually LOVE.  And I’m learning more about her every day.

Wherever you are on this journey, I hope the real you rises up and that you embrace your authentic, wonderful self.  Because no one else on earth can fill the role you were uniquely designed to live.

Parting thoughts on AUTHENTICITY and a new WOW!  Here we go:

Can’t wait to hear what YOU are wishing for during this QUESTION MARK of a week!

xoxoxoxo

Brenda

 

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