Game Day

I grew up in a household where football reigned supreme.

My family, it is said, bleeds burnt orange blood – the color of the University of Texas Longhorns.

(All but me, that is. I was the only one of my family (immediate and beyond) to NOT got to UT.)

Games ruled our lives. I am not kidding. A few points of proof:

My Dad long-referenced the day of my birth as being “a dark day, the day the Longhorns lost to Oklahoma” in some bowl or other.

My grandmother’s funeral: afterwards, all retired to my grandfather’s house, and yes, a UT game was watched.

Everyone had a plethora of UT clothing and hats, and other paraphernalia, all of which came out at game time.

Social and family events revolved around annual season tickets.

I never got “it.” I mean, I went to games growing up. I was in Texas, after all, and so football was enmeshed into our social culture. I was on the pep team, and we faithfully baked cakes and toilet-papered the houses of the football team members before every game. (But this, I would argue, was merely an excuse to try to get myself noticed by one of the cute players — it had zero to do with being a real fan of the game.)

I hated the TV being on for those hours, and the loud yelling at the screen. It felt like noise pollution to my introvert ears.

Looking back, it is no accident that I went to a college that had no football team and then to a university known for its tennis team. I wanted no more to do with football and happily moved out of Texas and away from the Longhorn stampede that I had been running from my whole life.

Fast-forward decades. I meet and marry an Irish American man. Once again, it seems to be no accident. He had no idea what American football They have a whole other game over there that they call football! I’ve ensured my escape from the drone of football on the TV and yelled expletives during games.

It is not that I do not enjoy professional sports. I do. I love an occasional baseball, basketball, even football game IN PERSON. But on TV? Nah.

Then it happened. Somehow, in getting to know my father, my husband and I were invited along to a Longhorn game. He started being curious about the sport and the team and I suppose it was an easy subject for him to broach with any member of my family.

But this interest, which at first seemed harmless and sort of sweet (and smart,) in time ballooned into a full-fledged passion.

His interest in football also turned into an interest in all American sports. And not just interest. He really loves them.

The TV now usually has some game or another (or those incessant hosts talking about games or players) on most of the time.

At first, this really disturbed me. I mean, it felt like I was right back at my childhood home again, trapped, held hostage to the sports on the TV and those who just had to watch them.

But I soon realized that my husband works from home a lot and likes to have it on in the background. He really enjoys it. Life is too short not to do those things that give one pleasure, right? And so I have learned to let it go.

I am grateful for a second TV. I am grateful for earplugs. I am grateful for earphones and music and podcasts and audiobooks. They are my friends.

And on big game days, like today, the Super Bowl, I really give in and even join him to watch. I may be looking at my email a lot, or knitting, but I sit with him, because, well, he likes me there sometimes.

And that, I can do. It is the little things, after all.

 

 

 

Cherished Objects

Happy holidays to all!

I am with my family in Texas, enjoying us all being together, laughing, talking, playing games.

My sister-in-love inherited all of my Mom’s many cherished collected holiday things.

My two favorites: my Mom’s manzanite tree that she decorated for every holiday, and a Santa that always sat under our tree at Christmas.

To you and yours, wishing you a wonderful day.

Inspired by The Daily Post Daily Word Post: cherish

Lost and Found

That black night

That night he came into her room

A part of her soul flew out the window

And left a hollow space inside her

A forever-empty place

A place as dark as the night

A hole that held shock and horror

In place of her innocent, free-flowing love

There can be no recompense

Nothing can ever make up for that loss

Even calling that piece back to her

Reuniting with her crucial center space

Cannot change the moments, the hours, the days, the years

Of being without her essential self

Yes, there is healing

Yes, there is repair

But the shape of the heart is forever changed

On a good day, she feels she is stronger for it all

On a bad, she wishes she’d gotten the chance to find out

Who she’d have become without his interference

That black night

Inspired by The Daily Post Daily Word Prompt: black

Swimming in the Shallows

Most of my life, I have dreaded small talk.

I’ve often felt very judgmental towards it, seeing it as superficial and not understanding why people would want to engage in it.

I usually felt very anxious around it. I’d often feel lonely and empty-feeling during and afterwards. A bit lost.

I believe some of this has to do with my being a heavily-introverted person. Introverts, as it has become widely known as of late, often do not enjoy small talk.

But why this is true for many of us is largely misunderstood.

Here’s an excerpt from a well-written article by Lecia Bushak: Why Introverts Hate Small Talk: The Myths And Misconceptions About Our Quieter Companions.

Introverts Are Exhausted By Small Talk. People who are introverted tend to prefer “heavier” conversations pertaining to philosophy and ideas, rather than small talk. Indeed, introverts can get easily intimidated, bored, or exhausted by small talk. They would much rather be “real” with someone and talk about more weighty things.

For years, I thought I was shy. I was told I was shy as a child, and the way in which it was said/used signaled to me that being shy was not a good thing to be. I grew up hating that about me, even though I wasn’t even really sure what it actually referred to about me.

In my confusion, I put together the theory that I was “shy” meant that I was quiet + I was thoughtful and that these things = that I was defective in some way.

To this day, I bristle when people use the word shy in reference to their children as in: “Don’t be shy, say hello,” and “She/he is shy.” In the former example, the “shy” is usually said with an inherently negative-messenging tone directly to the child. In the latter, it is whispered about the child, usually in their presence, as if it is something to be ashamed of, or apologized for. Why do we do this to our children — label them with such far-reaching labels? (Don’t even get me started on that word!!!)

There is a difference between introversion and shyness. Being shy is about social anxiety. An introvert may not have social anxiety. They may just really not need or enjoy being in groups to socialize. As Bushak says in her article:

Introverts tend to turn inward when solving problems or observing the world around them. They process stimuli better internally, rather than reaching out and socializing with others. Where extroverts become energized from social interactions, introverts regain energy through alone time. After going to a party or spending time forcing themselves to network, introverts often feel drained from the stimulation and must go home to recharge.

They’re more likely, in general, to want to stay home with a good book and a cup of tea, rather than go out and experience the night through partying, loud music, and meeting new people. But just because they gain energy from being alone doesn’t mean they’re shy or socially anxious. Social anxiety and introversion are two different things. “The number-one misconception about introversion is that it’s about shyness,” Dembling told The Huffington Post. “The best distinction I’ve heard comes from a neuroscientist who studies shyness. He said, ‘Shyness is a behavior — it’s being fearful in a social situation. Whereas introversion is a motivation. It’s how much you want and need to be in those interactions.’”

I sometimes do experience shyness and social anxiety. There are parts of me that are very young and are not adept at socializing and so become very anxious around it. It makes total sense to me. When that happens, I tell them to go play and let me take charge of the situation. I take care of those parts because they need taking care of in those situations. That does not make me a shy or anxious person. That means I am a person experiencing shyness or anxiety.

Conversely, there are parts of me (both young and adult parts) who are totally adept at small talk, joke and story-telling and being gregarious, parts who love making people laugh and think.

I tend to be an introvert, so yes, I tend to prefer one-on-one conversation and that it be deep rather than chat about nothing at a party. I do feel drained after social events. I do need to refill my well with alone time.

And I like to meet new people, and if I am in the mood, I am a great listener and converser. If I am in the mood, I love parties. At one time in my life, I was even considered to be a “party animal.” That did not mean I was out-going.

Once I began to really see what was underneath the “shy” label that so affected my early self-perception, I began to explore my introversion and extroversion tendencies and find compassion and appreciation for both. None of them define me as a person. They are simply colors within me.

I no longer judge all small talk as superficial or something that is for people who are afraid to go deeper. Today, I am able to appreciate that sometimes “pleasantries” are a useful bridge or transition in social situations, and have a time and a place as well as the deeper, meatier conversations I prefer.

I do not want to have meaningless conversations that avoid intimacy or risk, certainly. But there are times when there is something in-between. Hence, the phrase “small talk.”

I used to read that to mean “nothing” or “inferior” talk.

Now I get that it can simply be a “brief amount”, an “easy amount”, an amount that does not weigh or cost much.

It’s actually quite a lovely thing and perfectly named. Small talk.

So whether you are an introvert, shy or someone like me and a mix of it all, here is a great article with some helpful ideas for navigating the tricky waters of small talk: Christina Park’s “An Introvert’s Guide To Small Talk: Eight Painless Tips.”

And for more reading, here’s another interesting piece on the subject: Cherie Burbach’s “I Hate Small Talk Why Introverts Can’t Deal With Making Small Talk”

Here’s to those of us who sometimes feel shy, sometimes feel introverted, sometimes feel like stealing the show. It is all a part of being human, and it makes conversations work. Imagine if we were all one way or the other! Either we’d all be listening in silence or we’d all be talking over each other. Thank goodness, there is a need for it all.

Inspired by The Daily Post Daily Word Prompt: superficial

Risk Aversion*

I read my writing aloud in public for the first time two weeks ago.

I began this blog a year and a half ago as a way for me to begin to break the silence and shame I felt inside.

You see, I grew up in an environment that encouraged me to suppress my feelings and my true thoughts. In essence, I learned to hide my truth.

Because of things that had happened to me when I was young, I was afraid that to speak my truth would bring pain to others in my family. I needed their love, so I learned very early on to present a version of me that would be pleasing for them and others. It was literally a matter of survival, keeping my truth hidden.

Additionally, problems in our family were not acknowledged verbally for the most part. We pretended to each other they did not exist. If it was something that absolutely could not be hidden, there was a real strong pressure to keep the family problems secret, to keep them inside the home. I was not verbally warned not to seek help. But I knew it was considered dangerous.

So I learned to keep my true self buried deep inside, hidden far away from my family, and from the outside world.

I got so good at it, I lost touch with my own true self. I had hidden it so well, it became hidden from even myself.

I am a performer, so I need to be able to use my truth to reveal the truths of the characters I play. I learned to go deep within, but I found that as much as I loved bringing what I could to my work, there were internal tensions that made it very challenging. And so I began to embark on unraveling those tensions, to see what was underneath, to find more freedom and to expand my capacity to reveal through my work.

It has been an amazing process. I did not set out to, but I have ended up finding my self in the process. I’ve been making a deep excavation within, bringing out the remains into the light.

It has been excruciating at times, terrifying, wondrous, exquisite, mind-blowing, beautiful, sad beyond belief. But most of all, it has been a becoming whole.

In the process of finding me, I discovered that I wanted to be able to own and share my truth without fear or shame. So I started to practice doing so.

First in small, safe ways. To trusted people. Then, I began increasing the risk level, expanding my level of comfort by extending myself into the world in ever-widening circles.

This blog has been a hugely gratifying experience. It has been so important for me share my true internal experience, my real creativity, here. There have been times I have felt so fearful after hitting the publish button…it has felt so risky…what if someone in my family reads it? What will they think of me? If people know this or that, will they see me differently? Will they judge me, label me, only see me this way or that?

I realized that I was so afraid of only being seen for what has happened to me or what I have done, the mistakes I have made, or what I have NOT done or accomplished. I didn’t have a sense of being valuable just as I am, not what I do, did, will do, haven’t done.

The blog and posting has been stretching me in so many great ways. It has also helped me learn to let go of needing to be seen a certain way in order to feel valuable, safe or lovable.

What I did not expect was how amazing it would be to have people read and then reach out to share back. That has been and continues to be such a gift. (So thank you.)

And then, I had the opportunity to submit a piece I adapted from a blog post for an evening of work written by women on what it means to identify as a woman.

When I began writing this blog, I had never, ever intended to read my work anywhere, but there I was, sending it in, in hopes of being chosen, so I could share my work live, in person. (What?!)

When it was selected, I was ecstatic. And terrified.

Every childhood-conditioned muscle in my body was braced for trouble. Every old voice that wanted to keep me silent was working on my psyche: Who was I to think I had something of value to share? What if I upset people? What if someone was unhappy with what I had to say?

In the week before the event, I was questioning my sanity in having chosen to do it.(What was I thinking?! Why was I putting myself through this?!)

The fear and the voices continued right up until showtime and as the first readers read their work.

And then, my name was called. My turn. I gathered together my courage and began the long walk down the aisle, my heart pounding in my chest.

And then three steps from center stage, I suddenly felt something click inside. When I stepped into the light, I just knew in my bones that I was in the right place at the right time. I felt a sense of home inside. I felt warm. I felt safe.

What an amazing experience! It was an experiment, but it turns out I love sharing my words live, and also experiencing the words of the others involved. Who knew?

I am so grateful to whatever healing force inside me has been leading me on this journey to be free. It is a beautiful thing to break free of the shackles of one’s own past and to be able to freely express one’s own self.

*(Written 10/17/17, but I used a draft from Oct. 1 and didn’t realize I needed to change the date before publishing it! So here it remains, looking like I wrote it Oct. 1. But I promise I wrote it 10/17/17.)

Reposted in Response to The Daily Post Daily Word Prompt: risky

Pay It Forward

Commit yourself to a mighty purpose.

– H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

I was saved, in large part, by reading and acting.

Growing up, my friends, my hope, my pleasure, my education all came from what I watched and read. As this was before the internet, this meant books, magazines, television shows and movies.

I had friends, sure. And a family. But I didn’t trust most people, with good reason due to early trauma. So I turned to other resources for help. To what was available to me as a child: books and television.

Through them, I could enter into other worlds and become a part of them. This saved me from the intense loneliness I felt, the extreme “otherness.”

I have no doubt that were it not for books and movies, I would have descended into a kind of madness that might not have turned out so well.

Fortunately, I had a library and a television at my disposal. They brought me works that gave me hope that another life could be made for myself. They gave me company. They gave me connection.

Today, as I navigate my life as a performer and as a writer, I can think of no higher purpose for myself than to create work that can do the same for someone else.

I am on a never-ending quest to examine and understand both the light and the dark sides of human behavior. I’m drawn to works that explore and celebrate the human spirit. Stories of how people rise above the problems of life and the human condition to make change and follow their hearts. I have a soft spot for the seemingly ordinary moments and people in life: the underdog; the unsung heroes; the quiet, small moments that can sometimes hold a lifetime.

It’s my mission to collaborate deeply and bravely as an actor and singer with all of the people who make up a production, so that together we can create stories to inspire, educate, elicit, and evoke. To wake people up so that they may live life more fully and authentically and to embrace their lives.

I also volunteer as a reader with SAG-AFTRA Foundation’s BookPALS program. I read storybooks to kindergartners in hopes of sparking a lifelong relationship between children, reading and books that I hope will help them navigate the murkier waters of growing up, of life.

That is my mighty purpose. What is yours?

Inspired by The Daily Post Daily Word Prompt: mighty

Wallflower Heart

She waits in the shadows

Yearning to be seen

Afraid to be found lacking

Wearing her best, new, outfit

Hair curled, lips glossy peach

Rubs her lip against her braces

Her heart flutters as he walks by

Calls his name, a tentative whisper

The vibration of her voice

Floats off into the beating music

He doesn’t turn, doesn’t notice

Her hope sinks deep

Back to the well of loneliness

Where her heart lives

Inspired by The Daily Post Daily Word Prompt: tentative

Beach Day

First the shock, then I screamed

Sharp stings across my calves

Filled my chest with angry hurt

Blue water, friendly one moment,

Betraying my trust the next

You swept me up in your Goliath arms

Held my beating heart against yours

Pulled me to the safe crevices I knew as Daddy

I squeezed my eyes tight in fury

You asked to see where the hurt was

Rubbed and kissed it, swore at the fish

I think that’s the last happy memory I have of us

Wish I could go back in time

Into the crawlspace of your chest

And be just your daughter again

Inspired by The Daily Post Daily Word Prompt: sting