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?