Friday, October 28, 2011

Dancing fool, part 4

I had originally been saving this topic for a few more weeks. Until after the "Open House" at my dance studio, the day when I will stand in front of friends, family, and strangers (sometimes those categories bleed over into one another, I know, I know) and dance for the first time in PUBLIC! 

Yikes! Does that sound scary or what?

You would think so. Heck, I would have thought so, too, until very recently. Me, the painfully shy teenager who had to swallow OTC sedatives to make it through Speech 101 in college. The one who shook so hard in front of her first Dale Carngie class that her teeth literally chattered. The same one who never had a date in high school, at least until the BLIND date to her senior prom. Sad, but true.

But this is where age is a beautiful thing in many ways. Not all, I'll admit, but we don't want to get into the chicken skin thing again, do we? I'm talking about vivid changes that transform us, if we let them, as we let our guard down and we stop taking ourselves--and life--so seriously.

The fact that I'm even taking ballroom dance lessons is a wonder, a thing of indescribable beauty. Joy suffuses my life, color and texture added to what had become an oppressive drabness pressing me to the ground. I was becoming invisible. So dancing in front of others is another huge leap forward, a leap I am delighted to take. Missteps will happen, I'm sure, just as they have throughout my life. Yours, too, I bet.

But my dance instructor has reinforced, through dance, so many lessons I have begun to learn about life, too.

"Don't stop and just keep smiling," he says. And he's right.

We're never too old for wisdom like that. I'll catch back up with you when it's all over!

There are short-cuts to happiness, and dancing is one of them. ~Vicki Baum

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Elusive but attainable.....

I have hiked to 11,000 feet in the mountains of Colorado, carrying a 50 pound pack on my back as I scooted across logs traversing rivers with rapids rushing underneath.

I saw signs of bears and mountain lions along the barely discernible trail, and learned to hang the food high in trees during the night.

I have camped in the snow. (Those raised in Florida don't immediately understand that spring comes to the Rockies MUCH later than ever encountered at home in the tropics!)

I have, therefore, experienced having to untie frozen ropes with numbed fingers when  the snow got too heavy on the top of the tent and we had to finish the night in our cars.

I have climbed "14ers."

I have led men into the woods (oh, stop that, let me finish my thought before you go jumping to conclusions) as the first female pack leader at the Boy Scouts of America's management training facility in New Jersey in the 1970s. I learned to cook blueberry cobbler in a cast iron pot and got to tell the guys what to do....and they had to do it! Without grumbling or rolling their eyes, even.

But I had never gone fishing.  Until today.

The sky was blue and clear and majestic. The breeze across the lake near my daughter's apartment complex was brisk and cool, Fall finally having arrived over the past few days.

We took her fishing rod and tackle box out to the edge of the lake, and it didn't take long for the turtles to show up, their long necks stretched up to check us out. We could see small brim just beneath the water's surface, rippled by the wind. And then my daughter began to prepare the line and the hook. And the weights. And the tangled line around the reel. And the bobber. And tiny balls of bread. 

Patience, patience. Not one of my finest virtues, but one that is necessary in this activity, I found. Finally we were ready. She showed me how to cast out over the lake and how to flip the lever on the reel that controls the line. Then we waited. 

There's a lot of that in fishing, I discovered. Waiting, I mean. But, finally we had a bite and reeled in a turtle. Oops. My daughter and her friend scurried down to the edge of the water to assist the poor thing. I stayed out of the way. I'm glad turtles don't have vocal cords, that's all I can say.

Then it was my turn to cast for the first time. I'm a good student, if nothing else. I flung that line out into the middle of the lake, and started slowly reeling it in, like I was instructed.  Suddenly the yellow plastic bobber  ducked under water, which was my cue to jerk the hook up and start reeling like mad. And there it was, a little brim at the end of my line, wiggling and flapping around like....well, like we probably would in the same situation. 

Did I take it off the hook? Surely you're kidding. No, that task went to my daughter, who returned it to the lake after taking the picture proving that I did catch something my first try. 

Who said it's not called catching?

But I think I see why so many people love to do this. The day was gorgeous and I was out enjoying it. I was sharing time with people I care about. We could talk....or not. The fish don't care one way or the other. 

And for me, it's been such a treat to spend this year being the student in so many ways.

Thanks, Sara and Christina!

The charm of fishing is that it is the pursuit of what is elusive but attainable, 
a perpetual series of occasions for hope.   
John Buchan

Friday, October 14, 2011

Sometimes, it just isn't enough.....

Love, love, love. It's everywhere.......
  • Love will keep us together.
  • Love will build a bridge.
  • All you need is love.
Sounds good, right, all warm and fuzzy, chocolates and flowers, hugs and kisses?

I realize it's dangerous to argue with all of that, but you know me....I'm going to do it anyway. My argument is this, and it's one that I fought against valiantly for as long as I could:

                                    Sometimes, love isn't enough.
It just isn't.

Two people CAN love one another, sometimes desperately, and still not make it work. I know. I've been there. Life intervenes in so many ways that sets up walls and barriers between you. Expectations change, maturity levels change, family dynamics change.

When we're young, we think that as long as we have love, we can make anything work. We have a hand to hold, a partner to stand with as the world tries to beat us down. That love can hold on, but sometimes we can't hold out against the forces that are working against us.

Not that there aren't long-term relationships out there. There are. You know it and I know it. All I'm saying is that sometimes the L-word simply isn't enough to carry us through.

So, what's my point? (Other than depressing everyone in sight.) It's this: A failed relationship does not make one a failure. It took me a very long time to realize this. Some of us are better prepared for relationships in general, for dozens of reasons that stretch all the way back to our playpens. If we're not, though, it doesn't make one a deficient person. We can still love, often passionately, but long-standing love stories won't be on our bookshelves.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: All you can do is all you can do. If it somehow isn't enough no matter what you do, lay down the guilt and the pain and the idea that you muck up everything you may not be enough, but you always will be.

Hate leaves ugly scars, love leaves beautiful ones. 
~Mignon McLaughlin, The Second Neurotic's Notebook, 1966

Monday, October 10, 2011

Zipping it in time.....

We sat next to each other in the waiting area, the stranger and I, chatting about the weather, the traffic, life in general as we passed the time until it was our respective turns. People came and went, some within hearing range, others buried in their magazines or their fancy phones that do everything but, well, they do everything, don't they?

Time passed, we talked some more, and then the topic turned to one of my hot button issues. Oops. I jumped on that bandwagon as it chugged on by us there in that waiting room, others joining in as their cages were rattled, too. It's a huge issue in our city, as well as all over the country, and it's like tossing a match onto a kerosene-soaked rag in your garage. You'd better stand back or you'll get the eyebrows singed right off your face.

I've learned some things as my decades have slipped by like flood waters under a door, though. My rant stopped short of naming names in our town, those misguided folks who I feel are the cause of the problems....or at least, they don't understand the problems they were hired to fix so just manage to make things worse. With our money. (I'm not going to name the problem, if you're skimming ahead to nail it down. Too many people know me in this town.)

But to return to what I've learned, I hope younger people are reading this and save themselves some huge embarrassment along the way. Here it is:
                      You never know who you're talking to.

That happened to me once. I ranted and raved about [insert name] and found out later that the person I was ranting TO was related to the person I was ranting ABOUT. I had no idea. And I had no way of knowing that, either, at the time. Not until it was too late.


So, I zipped it there in that waiting room before I fell off that particular cliff again. And sure enough, I later found out that the woman WAS related to one of the people I was tirading about.

Whew! I avoided the precipice and lived to rant another day.

I like restraint, if it doesn't go too far.
Mae West

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


There isn't much it compares with. Let me think....
  • Will you marry me?
  • You're going to have a baby!
  • I want to offer you the job.
  • I'm going to let you off with a warning....
But the phone call I received a week or so ago trumps all of them.

After years of rejection letters clogging my mailbox like they were multiplying  inside that small metal space, I heard the words I had begun to think would elude me forever:

"We want to offer you a contract on your book."

Tears flooded my eyes, unbidden. Me, the person who has never cried openly in a movie theater. I collapsed on the nearest chair and started to tremble. I ran screaming through the house after I hung up.

The woman might as well have slapped "APPROVED!" across my forehead with an oversized rubber stamp. In red. I was validated.....finally.

I can't explain why I needed that validation from a traditional publisher. I know I'm a good writer. I've gotten plenty of positive feedback from other writers and from educated people I respect. But I decided that this manuscript was going to be my totem, the visible mark of my worth as a writer. I threw all my energy into it and to its marketing.

"We want to offer you a contract on your book!"   And I only had to wait several decades to hear it.

Yes, it was worth it.

Ink and paper are sometimes passionate lovers, oftentimes brother and sister, and occasionally mortal enemies. ~Terri Guillemets