Tag Archives: Self-Acceptance

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?



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Free to Be Me: A Lesson in Forgiveness

When age 50 arrived, so did a swift quick to my soul that if my desire was to be free, only I had the key.

I admire (with a tinge of jealousy) those light-hearted youths in their 20’s and 30’s who figured this out without wasting decades running on a hamster wheel, hoping for someone else to show up on a white horse to save the day.

When it occurs to you that (a) No one is showing up to save the day and (b) Life doesn’t owe you anything and (c) You’d better get crackin’ if you want to start living the life of your dreams…

…it can be depressing.  Especially if you dive down the black hole of “What about all that wasted time I’ll never get back?????!!!!!”

But is it wasted time if lessons were learned along the way?

Is it wasted time if, on the journey, you were able to love and be loved?

My life has been a series of Family Circle cartoon paths, rarely a straight line going from glory to glory.  My trajectory features dark valleys and nonsensical detours along with entire decades I mistakenly thought I was moving forward, but instead completed a circle. Over and over again.

And today I find myself tempted with the anguished thought, “You’re starting all over again…at age 54???”

Who says it’s supposed to be a straight trek to the mountaintop? And how can we judge our journeys by their seeming dead ends? If I hold myself hostage to every perceived failure, I will never be free.

One of my favorite quotes from this past week will encourage your heart if you’ve ever fallen into the trap of beating yourself up:

Therein, for me, lied the secret to my freedom: forgiving myself for what I didn’t (and couldn’t) know at the time.

And, as Maya Angelou said so perfectly:  “When you know better, you do better.”

Each day offers a new opportunity to know, and do, better.

Let’s give ourselves a break – and buckle up for the new Word of the Week (with some parting thoughts on FORGIVENESS):

What are you needing FAITH for?

Remember, it works by LOVE (not fear).

With much love,


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Maddeningly Simple Stuff – and the New WOW

I say maddeningly because on several occasions this week a simple solution caused me to groan, “How could I have MISSED that?”

But the point (always) is not to kick yourself for having missed it, but to rejoice that you finally GOT it.

I was also struck by the needless complications of life – self-imposed ones that add burdens and suck time and energy from our day.

Like my hair.

When I lived in Pennsylvania, my daily ritual was to get up early enough to do full hair and makeup and dress for success so that I’d be ready for whatever the day might bring.  It has always been part of my DNA to look sharp on the outside – it’s like a hobby of mine.  Some people scrapbook; I go to Ulta and Steinmart.

The move to Florida changed everything.  I was now working from a home office and some days, the only people to see me are Duane and Shasta.

They’ve seen me at my worst (and still love me), and I soon realized that wearing mascara added nothing to my ability to get the job done.

If a tree falls in the wilderness and there’s no one there to hear it, does it make a sound?

If there is a press release to write and the writer is in her jammies, does it matter?

Son of a gun, the answer is “NO!”

However, my links to the outside world in my professional life are twice-weekly video conferences. Yay!  I’m going to see people!  And they’re going to see ME!

On those days, I actually wear clothes and perform the whole beauty exercise.  Should a surprise or impromptu meeting arise, I choose the “audio only” function to spare my colleagues from my foundation-less face.

Along the lines of simplicity (there IS a point to this story), I had such a meeting this week and, due to a time crunch, something had to be sacrificed: hair OR makeup.  Since makeup ALWAYS wins, it was with trepidation that I pushed my hair into a clip-pie and let the Florida humidity have its way with my fine, frizzy locks.

This was a wild and carefree Brenda – not one I was completely comfortable with, but hey, I wasn’t hired for my hair, right?

The crazy thing was, the minute my video popped up, everyone exclaimed how GREAT I looked!


All those mornings when I layered product, painstakingly blow dried, back-combed and sprayed Sebastian Shaper everywhere, NOT A WORD.

But when I kept it SIMPLE?  Suddenly, my look had everyone abuzz.

Methinks there is a lesson in this about not needing to try so hard and that the real beauty is being comfortable with who I am (and if the stiletto fits, who you are.) 

And that wasn’t the only MADDENING lesson I learned about simplicity this week:

What a beautiful word to meditate on this week.

Sending tons of love and light to all of you – and Happy, happy Mother’s Day!



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