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Monday, January 23, 2017

You Are Not the Boss of My Talent

Weekday mornings in my home are peaceful, and rather quiet until five minutes before we need to leave. It is then that everyone feels like I have somehow deceived them and I'm leading them down the path to Satan by telling them it's time to go.   Even though it is the same time every day.  Someone doesn't have their clothes on; another just remembered an assignment is due.  Inevitably someone has to go poop.  Or has forgotten to eat breakfast. Yet all of them are angry that I would have the nerve to suggest that we need to leave the house.
To give you perspective, I work out, return from working out, make breakfast, clean up breakfast, take a shower, get ready for work in the time it takes for Oscar to put on one sock.  Socks are his nemesis.
It is the same conversation most mornings.  Don leaves before us, and can't be interrupted from the conversation he is having with Alexa.
"Alexa, what time are the Steelers playing the Blah blahs?"
" I do not understand the question."
So he says it louder. She does not respond.  Then he calls her a bad name, and I stand up for her because we women have to stick together. And he knows that the only way he can call a woman a name in front of me is if she is a cylinder audio system. Eventually, he leaves without his answer, and I'm left to get everyone to school on time.

 I have heard that it is hard to wrangle cats, but I think those people have never tried to wrangle sloths.  It is much harder. Especially when two of the sloths weigh more than I do.
I had finally gotten the majority of them out the door when I couldn't find Oscar.   The only time he is quiet is when I'm looking for him. When I finally found him, he was playing Minecraft and crying.  The thought of playing Minecraft makes me cry too, but for different reasons.
He was upset because he couldn't make it past a level that all his brother's, and apparently every US citizen can.  (His words, not mine.)  I told him to turn the tablet off and get his other sock on and get in the car.  He didn't listen, so naturally, I got louder.
I read an article recently about how there is a way to get your kids to do what you want them to without yelling. And its a scam.  My voice is at an octave that is unheard unless I yell.  As I crammed his Fred Flintstone foot into a sock I told him that he lost his Minecraft privilege until further notice.   Then he said, "You are not the boss of my talent."
Before I went into an orbit of anger about how he shouldn't be talking to me like that, or that Minecraft wasn't a talent, I thought about what he said.
Sometimes kids say things that are completely nonsensical. Like when he told me that he had seen a racoon eat a frog.  But this, this made sense!
You are not the boss of my talent.
It was exactly what I needed to hear at that very moment. Nobody is the boss of your talent.  That is what is so fantastic about a talent.  You are the boss of it.
In my career, I have had some pretty awful bosses.  I have had some good ones too, though. But the horrible ones leave scars.  Scars that make me doubt I'm competent or capable.  Those rackets sometimes come up when I have a tough day (like last week.)
But what no boss or person can tell me, is how to do my talent.  I'm the only one. And if I view it as my talent, it's not subjective. 
One talent that I have is persistence. It starts as an idea, and until I get what I want, I keep trying.
Example: Four boys.
Did I give up when I didn't have a girl? No, but I did when I realized my body had produced enough healthy babies in this lifetime.
This past weekend, as a friend and I were making posters for the women's march, she said, "Noelle, you are a boss woman." I didn't know exactly what that meant, I mean, I do have a tendency to be bossy, yet, I have never actually been the boss of anyone. But just that night, this came across my Instagram feed.

Well hot damn, I guess I am a boss woman! (At least I try to be on most days.) Thankfully I surround myself with other boss women, and men for that matter.   I recently found out that a woman said some nasty things about me. Not the good Nasty, the bad kind. And she is now on my list of women who I do not want to be associated with.  Unless she changes directions and can support women as a whole and not tear them down.  If she does this, then I will make space for her at my table, but until then, I'm not holding up dinner for her. 

The truth is, we all have talents, some people hide them (lame) others put them out into the universe.  If they make you happy, then it can only be right. You may paint or do pottery, do you like it? Good. Nobody else needs to.
My dad is a phenomenal artist, and won't sell his art. Rather, he gifts it to people because nobody is the boss of his talent.
Just remember what a wise 6-year-old said during his sock resistance, next time you doubt yourself.

Nobody is the boss of your talent.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Heartbreak and Jedi training

I was talking to a friend of mine about our past.  He was saying that it would be so great to go back in time and do things differently.  He said he would go back to high school and not give a f*c# about what anyone said or did.  I get that.  But junior high and high school are what taught me about emotions, or more importantly how to handle them, or even more crucial, how to not handle them.

I was 15 when I had my first heartbreak.  I remember the day that my boyfriend told me it was over.  More than heartbreak, my body felt broken. In that very moment, everything hurt.  Like my heart sent out a panic button to my brain that I must shut down. I couldn't even cry. I was so shocked and just terribly sad.  I couldn't sleep, and I couldn't eat.  All I could do was write.

I can look back on that and think it was overly dramatic, but at the time, it felt so real. 

I still have those journals; tucked away in a closet.  A few years ago I pulled them out and read a few pages.   If there was ever a time when I wanted to go back, it would be then. I want to shake myself and say "It will be okay, it is not the end of the world!" but, even if I did that, my 15-year old self wouldn't have been able to hear it.

What I think about looking back now, isn't so much about the boy because like an old cologne or perfume, as soon as you smell it, it takes you back to that person, or moment in your life without any effort.  I have a strong emotional memory and I can feel, albeit dull and diluted, the same pain all over again.

But what I can see even more clearly now than I did then,  is my Mom.  How she didn't tell me to get over it.  She sat at the end of my bed.  She bought several boxes of tissues without prompting. She listened... and listened... and listened.  As I fell apart into tiny teen pieces.  Of course, she had a million other things to do that I, as her daughter, didn't even notice. She let me work through it.  She didn't try and fix me.

She is such a strong woman, she must have known this was just a test in my strong woman Jedi training.

On Monday I found myself in a similar situation, but now the roles had reversed.  I was sitting with my son, and he has just told me that he broke up with his girlfriend. Now, I realize he is 13 and that this relationship is as complicated as a stoplight, but to him, it was his first girlfriend, and to me, it was my first experience on this side.

How wonderful that I have this opportunity to influence a boy to see the girl's side of things.
Not shocking in 2017,  he had done this over text,  and I tried to explain that he should have at least done it over Facetime, or God forbid a phone call. But I had to remember that almost their entire relationship was over text, so I refrained from being too judgemental.
I just told him that whatever he texted, would probably be read to her friends and analyzed by her.  I also explained that she would wonder what is wrong with her.  I know I'm thinking for a 13-year-old girl, and I really don't know for sure, but I sure as hell know that when I feel rejected, even as a 39-year-old woman, I still wonder what is wrong with me.

I told him to be a gentleman. To be honest, kind and respectful.

It was interesting to see the other side of things. The boy side.  Now, I can't speak for my boyfriend who broke up with me, but there isn't nearly as much complexity that I thought there was back in 1993.  My son said, he just wasn't having fun anymore.  Nothing is wrong with her, he doesn't think she is ugly; there is nobody else.  He was just bored. And I don't blame him! How much fun can texting be after 6 months?  I'm sure my boyfriend's feelings were probably the same thing, but he didn't tell me that. And I spent a long time (that I don't regret) processing those feelings of rejection.

What I really wanted was for my son to have a foundation to build on that he may reflect on in the future when his heart gets broken someday.  Because it will.  If he is anything of an empath like his mother is, he is guaranteed too.

When I was done talking to him I called my Mom.  She is the first person I want to bounce ideas off of, who I want to know if I'm doing the right thing, or if I'm totally screwing up.  She listened...and listened... and listened.  If she knew how to order tissues over Amazon Prime, she would have sent them across the country in an instant.

She let me work through it.  I could almost hear a sense of pride in her voice. It wasn't just about my son, I went on to discuss what is wrong with the world, and how hard it is going to be to raise gentleman, and on and on. Because if there is one thing I am good at, it's snowballing worries from every minuscule aspect of not only my life, but my friend's lives, and stranger's lives.

She just listened. And by the end of the conversation, I felt better.

I'm far from completing my strong woman Jedi training. But I think I may have just gotten to a new level.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

I have Confidence

When I was in second grade, my music teacher, Ms. Bellsauce assigned songs from the movie Sound of Music for us to learn.  I sat in the music room eagerly waiting for my turn. My friends and I wanted to sing "Favorite Things" together.  My second choice was the "So long, Farewell" song.  But, when she got to me, she said "Noelle you will be singing  I Have Confidence".  I was devastated.  Not only did I not get a cool song, I got the one song I had no idea what it meant.  I didn't want to sing alone either. 

She sang each of the songs for us, and then we left with the sheet music to learn.  I remember practicing with my mom and brother in the car.    I began to like the song and when it was time to sing it in music class, I nailed it.  Not Tony award worthy, but for an eight-year-old I did pretty well.

That song is on my favorite playlist on Spotify.  When it's not on a loop in my head, it is playing in the background.   I met with Ms. Bellsauce for coffee a couple years ago.  I reached out to her because she was still teaching at my elementary school, and I needed to ask her a few questions relating to my current job.    I told her how much singing that song had influenced my life and how crazy it was that a random decision could mean so much to a kid.  30 years later and she told me there was nothing random about that decision.  She chose the song for me because I lacked... confidence. 

Confidence is something I have had to work on very hard.  It does not come easy.  Early on, I discovered that I had physical confidence.  There wasn't a sport I didn't try, or that I didn't excel.  Being athletic gave me body confidence.  I celebrated what my body could do.  Of course, when I got to high school there was a brief moment when I thought girls shouldn't beat boys at soccer and I would act shy, and not run after the ball. But then I woke up once I discovered that was idiotic, and not nearly as much fun.

The confidence I had in my athletic ability, unfortunately, didn't carry over to other aspects of my life.  

I'm an extremely slow learner.  I can read things to learn, but I can understand things much better if someone explains it to me.  Or if I ask questions.  Sometimes the same question, again and again.   So I would do this in class and kids began to notice.   I quickly earned a reputation for being stupid.   Now, I admit, I can be a bit ditzy at times, but it is only because I have about ten things going on in my mind at once.

Once you get a reputation its kind of  hard to shake. And I began to believe it.   And once you form an opinion about something, no matter what it is, you will continue to believe it until you are shown something different.

It seemed that the older I got, the less confident I was becoming.

The first time I recall singing I have confidence was on my way to my an interview for an internship with a production company in California. I got it.

The next time was drumming up the courage to kiss a handsome guy sitting on the bar stool next to me at Harvell's on 4th Street in Santa Monica. He kissed me back.

I had to work really hard to graduate from high school.  Doubly hard in college. I recall singing I have confidence on my way to my last final exam in college.  I passed.

I hummed it right before I walked down the aisle to marry the guy from the bar.

I blared it in my car on my way to my first post-college interview at a radio station and I got that too.

I have confidence the world can all be mine, I have to agree, I have confidence in me

It sounds silly, but that song has given me such courage when I have lacked it. My brain is telling me, I'm stupid, not pretty enough, not thin enough, not smart enough, not funny enough,  not ___________ enough.

I just applied for grad school.  During the entire process, I found reasons why this was a horrible idea. I'm almost 40. I have been working for the past 15 years in the field, what more could I learn? I have four young kids and a mortgage and a million other adult expenses.   Plus, I'm a slow learner, I'm lucky to have just gotten out of college in five years. Plus I had to get my transcripts and ask people for recommendation letters. Who the hell is going to recommend me?

But I just did it, stopped making excuses and just applied, and after what felt like an eternity (2 weeks) I was accepted.  Somewhere in the acceptance letter it said that Me, Mommy, was going to be going to graduate school, not only that, they WANTED me.  Had I listened to my doubts instead of my recording of Julie Andrews, I may have never applied.

The courage to serve them with reliance,
Face my mistakes without defiance.
Show them I'm worthy
And while I show them
I'll show me!

I created the Mamalogues out of a crazy idea I had one night. Had I just left it on the table, and never followed through,  it would have never existed. And what is the purpose of our staged show? To give women a voice, to give them a platform and get this.. to give them confidence.

I see so many great things in other people, but I am blind to seeing those things in myself. 

But for whatever reason, this letter of acceptance, it meant a lot to me.  Not for the degree, but for the crazy notion that I believed that this stupid girl who failed algebra two, four times could even have a chance.

Whenever I feel defeated or scared I call my mom. I think she has a list stored in her phone of all my " adult milestones" that she recites in an effort to remind me of everything I have done with my life.
"You graduated college with honors" she still says it with a bit of shock in her voice.
I reply " But it took me five years!"
"You had four babies"
I reply " But I had c-sections"
"You got married"
I reply " Because I gave him an ultimatum" Not really, but I did mention that I wasn't going to wait forever.. ( I was 24 when we got married)

"But" I begin, and she always stops me because she already knows that I'm going to go into a rant about someone else, who has had five babies, and has three PhD's and makes 5 million dollars and has not only a husband but a boyfriend too and... (Just kidding on that part).

I begin to lack confidence most when I start comparing myself to others.  If someone is beautiful, does that make me less pretty? If someone is intelligent, does that make me stupid? If someone appears to have all their shit together does that mean I don't? 

I have a friend who in an artist and lives in Santa Fe. She didn't finish college, she doesn't have children and isn't married. But she is the most bad ass cool, independent, wonderfully happy, radiant woman I know.  She is so cool that she doesn't even have a Facebook account.  And sure, she is wonderfully confident in her life and her career. 

Her confidence in just being who she is, not trying to impress anyone or one up anyone. She just creates, and exists and is perfectly content.  What she creates is one of a kind.  What I create is one of a kind, what anyone creates is unique and can't be compared, especially if it is original.

Ms. Bellsauce knew this, even in a class of 2nd graders.  Confidence should come from within. I'm almost 40 and still learning this, and it isn't something that a degree will give me, I have to figure it out on my own.

Yesterday morning as I left a particularly difficult workout I started to tell myself untruths.  I was cursing myself for eating like crap over break, for drinking too much, for not sleeping enough.  Then I literally stopped.  It was an effort to calibrate.  Instead of adding to my list of gripes that I was lame for putting myself down, I decided to think something positive.

I'm here. I'm healthy. I'm breathing. I'm loved. My car is going to start. And I took a step.

With each step I occupied my thoughts with something, anything, as long as it wasn't negative.

By the time I got home I had already built my confidence to a acceptable level to face a day of work, and I did it all without calling my mom. Which I'm sure she is grateful considering she is on West coast time.

All I trust I leave my heart to,
All I trust becomes my own!
I have confidence in confidence alone.