In my teens, it was really important to date a guy with a nice car who was popular enough to help me climb the social ladder.
In my twenties, he had to also have a good job/money, as well as be able to dance well. But he didn’t stand a chance against my career ambitions, which always took precedence over love.
In my thirties, I disappeared (perhaps from disappointment over my less than successful 20’s) into the false safety of what I believed to be my holy calling. What was important was doing God’s will and learning how to abandon my own. I detached from people, places, and things – including my own thoughts and feelings.
My forties ushered in with an abrupt realization that the previous decade had largely been a sham. It became important again to have fun. To try and make up for lost time. With zeal I launched back into my lost career and tried to take as many vacations as possible. Washed down with huge quantities of red wine.
Here we now are, past my mid-fifties. How can it be?
It was just yesterday I was hoping Randy Crowell would ask me to the prom. My QVC auditions feel like they occurred last month. My wedding…and subsequent divorce. Such landmarks, now ever diminishing with each passing day.
My fifties? These years awakened me to what is really important.
When you have little, it’s easy to think that having stuff will make all the difference.
Finally being able to pay the bills on time and not overdraft my checking account used to be really important. Now it’s a non-issue, thank God.
The next evolution involved being able to buy those Jimmy Choos. Or that baby blue car of my dreams.
What did I learn?
These are momentarily joyous, like the sugar rush flooding my bloodstream after downing a creme-filled donut.
Don’t get me wrong, I still love me some creme-filled donuts. White creme, not Boston cream, for those who care about the particulars.
But the rich stuff? The really important stuff?
I have discovered the deep and satisfying joy of sitting on the couch next to someone who holds my hand.
Cracking up over a stupid meme on Facebook and sharing it with a bestie.
Taking an impromptu trip to the beach to wiggle my toes in the sand and enjoy the setting of the sun.
Rubbing my mom’s feet at the end of a long day of her doctor’s visits.
How could I have been so blind to what was really important?
Hindsight offers perspective.
For me, it boiled down to settling my own worth. When I finally did that, I no longer needed to find it in cars, or boyfriends, or career wins, or designer shoes. I no longer needed to hide from life in a flurry of activity or spiritual pursuits.
Settling into our own worthiness is the great awakening.
You’ve got all of the qualifications, abilities, talents, and instincts to do you incredibly well.
In fact, no one can do you better than you.
Further, no one has a CLUE how to do or be you better than you.
So stick with your instincts.
In my youth, I so easily and willingly abdicated my free will to the will (and whims) of others. So hungry for approval and so unsure of how to make my way in this world, a mere suggestion would change my course.
These were not usually fatal or egregious turns in the road, but they did make life more like a crazy dotted line in a Family Circle cartoon.
The problem with so easily deferring? When you encounter toxic people who do not have your best interests at heart (only their own).
You end up silencing your beautiful intuition. Courses of action are chosen that actually hurt you on the inside. You decide that your own feelings must be liars, rendering you out of touch with your emotional guidance system.
How grateful I am for the day when I said, “Enough!”
The great thing about life is that the truth always rises to the top, even though sometimes it has to hit you over the head to wake you out of the fog.
You will always hear whispers that question your dreams and capabilities. Most times, these voices aren’t from the peanut gallery. They’re your worst, familiar fears rising up to choke your creativity and stop you in your tracks.
Don’t waste time and energy wrestling them to the ground.
Ignore them long enough and they’ll dissipate, just like the Wicked Witch of the West when splashed with water in the Wizard of Oz.
I know, the temptation is to dig deep and try and figure out what’s wrong with you.
There’s nothing wrong with you.
You are exactly right. You are perfect, as is. And you are more than enough for any task or wish your heart could hope for.
Now stop questioning yourself and get back to believing.
Saying goodbye is never easy. I’m getting on a plane this week and know that every minute of every day, I’m going to miss my Mark, my bed, my morning coffee (made MY way) and my regular rhythm of life.
I will be moving soon (that’s ANOTHER blog post for another day) and I realize that pieces of furniture I’ve LOVED just don’t fit into the new place, so I have to say goodbye.
And my closet? It’s still got that gown from 20 years ago that PERHAPS my thigh could get into, but for pure nostalgia’s sake, I haven’t the wherewithal to say goodbye to it.
DISCLAIMER: I am DELIGHTED that I didn’t say goodbye to my black leather skirt from 2002. Because for the first time since then, I can wear it again! (Go me!)
Then there are the deep and profound goodbyes that are the signposts of moving on; growing into yourself – and settling into your own self worth.
I posted this meme this week and it was widely shared, but one comment struck me: “Easier said than done.”
No one said it would be easy.
Likely, this “getting rid of what doesn’t make you happy” kind of goodbye will rip your guts out. It will leave you heaving in sobs on the floor. It will cause you to question your sanity.
The comfortable ditch of misery will try to call you back – or at least call your judgment into question.
Seeming friends will call you selfish, or worse, cruel for saying goodbye.
Religious types will muse about your departure with head shakes and concerns about fulfilling your holy calling.
Drinking buddies will say, “You don’t have a problem! One glass won’t hurt…”
But you know you must go.
Whether it is a relationship, or a church, or a job, or anything with which (or whom) you have been entangled, there is a breaking point. And you know, for your own sanity; for your well being; for any hope of having a life of peace and joy, you MUST sever this tie.
Some of you are nodding your heads. You’ve been there and come out the other side. I applaud your bravery.
Some of you are teetering on the edge of the diving board, looking that long way down and terrified of jumping.
I get it.
On the three biggest goodbye decisions of my life I teetered for YEARS. I talked myself out of cutting bait because I kept assuming I was wrong; that I was the problem. So I kept working on me.
That’s not a bad thing. In all that working on me, I learned some great things and grew tremendously. (INSERT PRIVATE JOKE: My friend Cindy and I have coined a phrase, “I learned me something…” when we have an aha moment. It is horrible grammar but makes us giggle.)
There came a point where it became pointless to keep working on me.
The boat only goes around in circles if you’re the only one rowing.
Instead, it was time to do something FOR me.
Leaving is hard. But living a life that is unhappy is harder.
In every leaving, there is a rebirth.
You get to create the life you really want…if you are willing to say goodbye to that which no longer serves you.
More on this topic from our Word of the Week, “PURIFICATION” – and a brand new word to sink into for two more weeks:
I’m learning that some lessons are like Groundhog’s Day. They don’t go away until they’ve done their work.
Have you hit your head against a familiar wall, time and time again?
Maybe it’s to stand up for yourself; embrace conflict and be assertive.
Perhaps your Achilles heel is to stop falling for the bad boys just because the chemistry rings your bell.
Or learning to say “No” to extra duties when your plate is completely full.
My Groundhog Day lesson? It always comes back to self-worth, ego, and the motivation for why I do what I do and want what I want.
Oh, my journey to Costa Rica settled many deep-rooted issues related to loving myself. There was no turning back from what was a uniquely healing experience. But, as life would have it, there are LAYERS of healing; layers of release; layers of understanding and, as was our Word of the Weeks, WISDOM.
When you feel less than, you have to produce MORE than.
Simple doesn’t cut it. Grand is required; success has to be super-sized.
Yes, I am a believer in abundance and that there’s plenty to go around, so yes, get me some! But lately there has been a shift to ask myself, “Why?”
Am I still trying to prove something to myself?
Or am I still that child seeking to finally win approval through my amazing performance?
Ugh. THAT performance word again.
Well, I’m letting it rise up and smack me (gently) in the head and heart, because sometimes things have to come up again and around another way before you get the richness of release.
Here’s what I do know: I am trying too hard when I’m stressed.
Some of the best gifts of my life had nothing to do with how hard I worked to make them happen.
I want more of THAT.
And, side note to myself (and to you, too, if it helps): Everything doesn’t have to happen TOMORROW.
I tend to feel quite sensitive to the passage of time, and find myself urgently attempting to fit everything in before I die.
Which is a lousy way to live. Today. In the now.
Because today is the only today you get.
So I’m thinking it is wise to walk away from the desperation of stress-fueled achievement (and taking a nice LONG weekend to visit my friend Anita in Jacksonville just to wiggle my toes in the sand and accomplish NOTHING for the next few days.)
Happy Labor Day weekend, everyone!
More thoughts on WISDOM, and a brand new Word of the Weeks (WOW):
May none of our AWAKENINGS be rude ones…instead, may we sense the gentle nudge of SPIRIT and see with new eyes and a wide open heart.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
For many years I struggled with the concept of success and “getting what’s mine.”
For much of my 20’s and 30’s, I enviously observed other people achieving results, living exciting lives full of travel and material wealth and I longed for the same.
It seemed that there was a glass partition that I just couldn’t break through, keeping me from accessing life from the driver’s seat of the limo. This wasn’t a question in the back of my mind – it was in the FOREFRONT: “Why can’t I connect the dots? What am I missing?”
For as long as I’ve been me, I’ve wanted to live life to the fullest. Along the way, I got sidetracked and convinced myself that I could settle into mediocrity and still be happy.
Here’s the thing: the definition of mediocre is different for everyone. My idea of living high might be settling for you (and vice versa).
At our core, though, we know what we are capable of and what will make us fulfilled. If we fall short, the question “Why?” is a worthy one.
One day I had my breakthrough. The time I actually got an ANSWER to the question was on an ordinary day as I was driving home from work.
In my spirit, I heard, “You don’t really believe that there’s plenty to go around. You believe in the idea of abundance, but not as a reality for YOU. Do you truly believe that there is unlimited success, wealth, potential, blessing, resources available to you? Then start acting like it.”
My prayer life changed. I started THANKING God for provision. I started EXPECTING favor.
And my life took a major shift from scarcity to abundance – not just materially, but mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually.
Louis Vuitton handbags showed up in the mail (thank you, Shirlee.) I became an occasional guest at the Ritz-Carlton (thanks to my fairy godmother and father – you know who you are).
Yes, kindness and generosity flowed to me from amazing people.
And I even started to manifest some of my own miracles. Speaking engagements and freelance gigs flowed to me, including travel to places I’d always dreamed of going.
But the shining example of my new way of living life abundantly was my beautiful home in Sarasota. I’ve told you the story before, but it always held up as a high-water mark of proof that God loved me and wanted to give me the desires of my heart.
I wanted to live there forever. I would proclaim to anyone, “This is my dream house. I’ll spend the rest of my life here.”
Until faced with the decision to surrender it.
There was a critical point where I had to choose: Should I stay in the house of my dreams…or start living the LIFE of my dreams?
At my core I know that no matter how beautiful the home or breathtaking the pool and jacuzzi, I had no peace.
I once read a quote (paraphrased), “Your net worth will never be greater than your self-worth.” – Robin Sharma
Here’s a good one, too:
Once I “got” the lesson about abundance, the second round of revelation was wrapped around the question, “Would my STUFF define me?”
What we have can have US; it can lock us up in a prison (a very comfortable one, mind you), but it can suppress what should be an irrepressible spirit.
This is not to say that I have since renounced abundance. Hell no! Remember, I’m the girl who wore her false eyelashes to a spartan retreat in Costa Rica and who goes to the lobby of the RItz Carlton just to sniff it. (Really, it smells divine.)
But Brenda 2.0 is not beholden to any of the trappings of this life. Yes, they can be fun and the icing on the cake…but the cake is the peace in my heart, the love I have for myself and the respect I now give my tender soul.
I speak more about this in my closing thoughts on SURRENDER:
Here is what is so amazing and cool and miraculous about our new, never before received WOW, release: When I stood in those rushing waters in Costa Rica, I asked for a RELEASE of creativity. I asked for my laughter to be unleashed. (And a few other private things that also go along with this wonderful word.)
My friends, perhaps the universe is saying that on the other side of our surrender; if we’re willing to let go of what has held us captive; if we relinquish your fears and let the white flag wave on the life we THOUGHT was our dream come true – what awaits us all is RELEASE.
Woo-hoo! I’m doing a happy dance for all of us.
So now that I’ve told you mine, please tell me about your surrenders and releases. It makes this journey together all the more wonderful to share them.
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.
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.
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!:
Have you considered that your life is purpose-filled?
I’m not talking about the endless “to-do” lists that await you on any given day.
Your purpose isn’t what you DO, it’s wrapped up in who you ARE.
I spoke with an amazingly brilliant young woman who was turning thirty (30!) with sadness. Rather than being purpose-filled, she faced the new decade with disappointment and self-criticism.
When I look at her, I see inner and outer beauty, humor, intelligence and gifting I only WISH I had at her age. With almost a quarter of a century on her in years, to ME she was the picture of youth and vibrancy.
To her? She judged herself as behind the bell curve; certainly not where she had hoped to be and a failure because many of the “to do’s” on her life list remained unchecked.
I remember those years, when my friend Nancy (who lived in California at the time) shared her new salary and it was DOUBLE what I was making at the team. When my circle was all marrying off and I hadn’t had a good date in YEARS.
Loser. Failure. Slacker. Oh the torment of such self-talk.
We lose joy in living when life is reduced to a competition against the sand slipping through the hourglass.
How hard we are on ourselves when it does NO GOOD!
Must my accomplishments be grand, outrageous and applauded to be meaningful? Or is this simply the cry of a fragile ego seeking comfort?
I considered many of these things as I recorded this week’s message:
First of all, did I hear a collective “YIPPEE” about the new Word of the Week, RELAXATION?
Or was that just my own voice echoing through my office?
To me, this juncture of purpose and relaxation is an important one. Can you (and me) just give ourselves a break this week from the performance trap and just relax into who we are?
Can we just love on ourselves a little – no, A LOT, and embrace that WE ARE ENOUGH?
That is my hope for all of us this week.
Take time to breathe.
Throw away the “should’s” and “to-do’s” and as for the Jones’s, it’s far too exhausting to try and keep up with them.
Oh, and for the 30, 40, 50 and 60-something’s out there who are judging their accomplishments harshly, here’s a parting shot:
Take THAT, sands in the hourglass.
We may not be spring chickens, but we’ve only just begun.