Dang! Where Was My Great Comeback When I Needed It Most?!?

“I just had a break-through. I have you to thank for it. For the first time in my life when confronted with a horrible, insensitive person, I knew exactly what to say and I said it.” — Kathleen Kelly, Meg Ryan’s character in the film, “You’ve Got Mail.”

We all know those people, right? You find yourself in a situation where your brain is forced into over-drive to find just the right thing to say.  Unfortunately, out come words that are on the precipice of barely articulate. Sure, brilliance took place in your own mind, but not on the outside where it counts. Why is that?

Why is it that the intelligence button located in our noggin seems to turn off in the moment we need it most?

And it’s not pretty, is it? I can only speak for myself. I fumble or stutter and then I whimper and shuffle away. But as soon as I’m behind the wheel of my car, in the shower or retelling the incident du jour to my husband, friend or sibling, I’m brilllllllllliant. I’m concise. I’m on fire.

I recently experienced one of these uncomfortable occasions I speak of. My encounter was with a very rude woman. So rude that it has stayed with me for over a few weeks now. It was after attending a long, but wonderful day at a TEDx women’s conference, which is associated with the TED talks, yet independent. Wait, is that an oxymoron? Anyway, it needs to be noted that in no way did the organization, hosts, speakers, volunteers or venue have anything to do with this unfortunate skirmish. That being said…

The day’s event was filled with unbelievable speakers. The range of topics touched me deeply. You could feel the camaraderie in the room. The women (and one man) eloquently touched upon themes that included coming together, facing your fears, and moving forward in this world in a united way. It energized my soul. The day was beautifully wrapped up with a talented young singer. I was excited when I caught, out of the corner of my eye, said gifted one leaning on a wall selling her CDs. She was not alone. She was with (soon to be known as) “The one who ruined a perfectly fine day.”

Here’s how it went down:

I went up to the two of them and politely interrupted their conversation. I asked the singer how much her CD was going for and she politely replied with, “Six dollars.” Unfortunately, I only had a twenty. When I asked her for change, she profusely apologized that she did not have any. As I started to walk away to go get some, the woman in question said, “Why don’t you support the artist and give her the whole thing?” The young singer was clearly mortified and said quickly, “No, no that’s okay.”

In this moment, clarity of thought was nowhere to be found. Instead I only heard a loud crackling sound in my head. You know, like when you’re out on a lone road and can’t get a clear signal on your car radio? That crackling noise… and it was getting in the way of any sort of coherent comeback.

Let’s be clear. That woman? I didn’t know her. I’ve never seen her before in my life. Perfect stranger. But she spoke to me like she knew me. Like it was fine to say what she did. I realize there are rude people everywhere. I know this to be true. I don’t know if it was shock or stage fright, but my larynx unfairly froze up on me. Sadly, it wasn’t until about an hour later on the car ride home where my voice resurrected itself. Oh, I had allllll sorts of things to say to her then. Brilliant, funny, sucker punches. But in the moment? Nothing.

I may be over-reacting. What’s the big deal? The woman was just trying to stand behind the artist, yes? Maybe. But when I described what went down to a friend, she was outraged. Then I told my husband. He was amused, but thought she was completely out of line. That in and of itself, made me feel slightly better. I mean, for a day that was all about women supporting each other and coming together with new ideas, this woman was and is in need of a lesson in etiquette.

I’m not a time traveler. I can’t reverse it, but I can still have my say. And so, I share, vent with you now, what I should’ve said then to the inappropriate woman:

“Wow. Thanks for just pissing all over my moment. I’m on a budget and I can’t afford to give anything right now. But I really wanted to do it. I wanted to do something good for her and for me. But you had to speak up. You had to make me feel like crap that I can’t afford to hand over my whole twenty bucks. Did that make you feel good? Well, thanks for making me feel bad and ruining what was otherwise a great day. Hey, you know what? Money doesn’t seem to be an issue for you. So, please, by all means, give her extra.”

It would be in my comfort zone to stand tall wearing a Scarlet “D” (for disgraced) and lackadaisical of me to give into the anger and sheer embarrassment I felt. But I won’t. I was inspired at the conference to start owning who I am. I just wish I’d absorbed all that proud womanhood in that instant of the passive-aggressive character assassination.

I’ve yet to have my Kathleen Kelly moment. It would’ve been so great had there been a speaker at TEDx who talked to us about how to gracefully articulate our most awesome, perfectly formed thoughts onto those unruly people that often cross our path. Dang, that would be a sold-out room! I mean, had I been in my right mind, I would’ve given Ms. Money Bags a piece… of my own. But in a way, I just sorta kinda did. Right? Still, food for thought, TEDx, food for thought.

My Money. My Business.

My Money. My Business.

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A Call To Night

Night.

The Quiet of Night

Night, I picture like a black and white snapshot, my friends and I, outside, unable to stop playing. It’s so dark, we can’t see each others faces. On top of the neighborhood hill — sledding down the ivy on flat cardboard boxes. Not wanting to stop, but we can’t ignore our Moms screams for the fifth time, to come in for dinner.

Night, hearing my breath as I run fast up to my house, alone, with only the silhouette of my friend down the street, watching me reach my house as I wave to her that I made it.

Night, where I crawl and snuggle into my brass, queen sized bed covered in blankets that feel as though ten pounds of warmth lay on me. “Bear, Bear,” my lovey, coupled with my “Goik,” a small quilt-like blankie with an odd nickname and a warm thumb to suck on, to soothe me to sleep. The same thumb that will one day show up on an X-Ray in the dentist’s office. The print of my thumb stamped upon the roof of my mouth, that is.

Night, when all the days fun with my friends has come to an end and my mind starts to shed, or rather, clear out all the moving pictures that fill it. With only darkness surrounding me. The tree’s shadows hit my window ever so slightly. Enough to make me wonder if it’s anything more. Monster’s fingernails scratching to get in? A mutant from the closet or under the bed?

Night, laying ever so still and now wondering what would happen if my parents died. Who would take care of me? Where would I go to live? How would I survive?  My heart would start to pound so hard because I can’t seem to grasp why we’re here on this earth and what our purpose is?

Night, holding me hostage to the terrifying questions I can’t possibly understand. An unforeseen future taking me to the brink of despair. But before the undoing of my morrow comes to fruition, Mom comes in to make sure I’m all tucked in, to listen as I recite my “Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep” prayer. A kiss on the cheek makes all the darkness fall away as my eyes close ridiculously fast, drifting off instantly into dream land.

‘Night.

Originally published: 3 O’Clock News/Children’s Community School/December 19, 2013 (for my son’s school; A paper for parents by parents)/The theme? Night, of course.

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How Are You?

“I would loooove to open up to you, to bare my soul. You go first.”  — A friend

“How are you?” It’s such a loaded question, isn’t it?

The above quote was a line one of my cohorts wished she would’ve used on someone in her life. We were confabulating on how some friends provide us with a bottomless pit of “fine,” yet expect us to reveal our whole emotional spectrum. Those types of friends have mastered the art of deflecting. I’ll admit, it can be a tricky question, especially if it’s someone you haven’t seen in years. Where do we, I even begin?

Well, I might start with those three complicated words except apply various inflections upon them. For instance:

How arRRRRRRRRRRRe you? (insert high-pitched voice and let the “r” go on for a really long time) Translation: I’m so happy to see you. That or I’m amazed you’re still alive.

How are you? (insert low voice peppered with sadness) Translation: Acknowledgement that you’re going through a difficult time. And finally…

How are you? (said quickly) Translation: I don’t want to talk about myself, you go.

In regards to that last example, what does happen when the conversations stop being reciprocal? What I failed to mention to my gal pal with the wonderful quote, was that I empathized with that reserved person she so desperately wanted to confront. I got them, because I was them. The Deflector. I was uncomfortable in my own skin and thought my life sounded tiresome and uninteresting. I didn’t like the after taste it left in my mouth from revealing too much. To upchuck my flaws onto a small piece of glass that fit just so under a microscope? Not for me. I can still recall many a soiree where I was perfectly content becoming the wall paper, flower.

For me, deflecting began around the end of middle school when my mom inadvertently taught me to censor. In all fairness, her generation was not filled with “share-ers” of intimate thoughts. I admit (now), I may have imparted too many stories on her that entailed details, exasperating minutia.

One account involved a fight with a friend. I may have started with what I had for breakfast, what I wore that day, and what route  from school we chose. From there, I might’ve veered to a side criticism of what she packed in my snack/lunch bag followed by an annoyance I had with a teacher. Eventually, I would’ve pivoted back around to the conflict at hand, but by then, my mom’s eyes would’ve glazed over. However, I think the story that sealed my deflector fate, was sharing with her a sexual dream I had. I think it scared me and I wanted my mom to tell me it was natural or that it was okay… which she did, but it was followed with, “You know, Becky, you don’t have to tell me everything.” Unfortunately, rather than make me feel better, she made me feel self-conscious.

This apple didn’t have to fall far from the tree to figure out where its, okay my, deflection came from. It just so happens that my mom was queen of withholding. If I ever asked questions that delved just below the surface, she always found a way to bring it back to me or the person she was talking to so that she could sit comfortably in the role of listener and observer. If I pressed her, she might come back with one of her signature lines, “I’ll take that one to the grave.” And she did, literally. She died eleven years ago of interstitial cancer.

When she was alive, I proudly carried on her lovely traits of listener and observer. But after she died, there was a shift in me. Without warning, the emotional barrier I had grown to rely on, was coming down. I began to cry at inappropriate times, during meetings at work or in line at the grocery store. I no longer had the capacity to keep it all in. I no longer could shift the focus from me to (insert any name here). The final straw came when I got laid off from my job a few years ago. But this time, if someone asked me how I was, there was no smart quip to hide behind, just raw emotion and fear. The walls began to cave in on me and I had a choice. I could either start honestly opening up or implode upon myself. I chose the former. Kind of. I took baby steps and started this blog as a safe haven to share my shitty days and raw life. And to be honest? I felt wonderful. It was the stepping stone I needed to finally give myself permission to own and appreciate who I am.

As children, we start with no verbal restraints. Then we’re taught to edit ourselves almost to the point of keeping our feelings hostage. But trauma and personal tragedy have a way of shifting the tide. They give you permission to say, “Screw it” and let it all come tumbling down Humpty Dumpty-style. It’s what we do with our new-found voice that’s important. For me, I want my son to know it’s okay to share. Let’s face it, it’s nice to know you’re not alone. My brothers and I call it, “Give/Get.” This little bon mot began with our father in the days when he’d only call or write when we’d call or write. Reciprocity. It’s just that easy. Sort of.

For those of you out there still stuck in the revolving door of “I’m fine”? Well, sooner or later you might find the friends that you’re engaging in conversation with are going to start giving you their version of fine. Maybe it’ll be in the form of “I’m good” or “I’m okay,” but now you’ll be questioning if they really are. And you’d be right to question that.

Deflection. I get it. But that can only go on so long before you find yourself running out of “fines.” As for me? I’m not going to hold back anymore just because there are a few people in my life that still do. I’ve worked too hard to get here. But it’s okay. I’m still going to be an empathetic friend and stand by when they’re ready to let it allll out.

So… How are you?

Originally Published on The Purple Fig

Categories: Op-ed, Personal Stories | Tags: , | 2 Comments

Babbling in D.C.

“I’m sorry. Are we in High School?” — Jon Stewart, The Daily Show (paraphrased)

I love Jon Stewart. I wish my husband and I could be in his circle of friends. I do. I love his wonderful insights on all things, especially when it pertains to the imbeciles, our dedicated men and women in Washington. Who needs the NY Times, The Huffington Post (sorry, Arianna), Fox News (just kidding) when I’ve got Jon Stewart? But I digress.

Many famous people I’ve heard interviewed always talk about their family dinners growing up. How their parents challenged them and brought them into the political discussions of the day. It all sounded so picturesque. I compare, because who doesn’t, my childhood dinners to that idyllic scene and long for the same. I wish I’d had that — parents who pushed me to be better, to engage me to do better. And even though I didn’t have the Norman Rockwell upbringing (who did?), it’s no excuse to be lethargic about my country and my community. But I’ve hung onto that excuse with all my might. I had no real drive, because time and time again, I was amongst millions who witnessed all the hypocrisy. It was always the most passionate of politicians that were brought down by one scandal or another. It bored me. I’ll be honest, I shut down and went on with my merry (depending on the year) life. If it doesn’t truly affect me, what do I care?

Now I’m fully grown (I think) and have a child. I still hate politics. To me the politicians are all shams in one way or another, but now I care…a little.

Today as our government “officially” closed their doors, I felt compelled to take a moment to rant. I can’t hold it in any longer and Jon can’t hear me through the TV.

When he said the above quote, he was referring to the shut-down. What a stupid thing they’re doing.

If you don’t mind (insert clearing throat here), I’m now going to speak directly to our politicians. If you do mind, well, it is a free country. You can stop here and move on, but I hope you stay.

Hey, politicians. Listen up. You need to stop lying to each other and yourselves about who you’re looking out for. Hey, if Walter White (BREAKING BAD SPOILER ALERT!) can admit he was making and selling meth for himself, I think you fine people running this country can admit your own selfish power-hungry reasons. I can safely guarantee that you are not looking out for my needs. Maybe in an unspoiled time, many years ago, you all started out as idealists, but that time is long gone. I don’t think annnnnny of you would’ve made this move if it meant no paycheck while in shut-down mode. If you stepped your feet into my middle-class shoes for one minute, you would not be behaving the way you are now. It’s time to grow up, people. That sometimes means you have to admit you’re being immature assholes. All of you. Roll up your sleeves, look beyond your pettiness, and see the good that can come out of looking at all sides and viewpoints. In Hollywood, bad ideas lead to great ones. Imagine that.

You need to start over. My son calls it a “do-over.” And to be clear? My son is in elementary school. He knows more about respect than the House and Senate put together. Sure, there are kids he doesn’t jibe with, but he respects them enough to listen, see their side of things, and find compromise. Clean the slate. Shake hands whether you like one another or not. Just because you wouldn’t hang out with each other in the “quad” doesn’t mean you can’t be mature adults and really listen to both sides.

There’s a difference between hearing and listening. You’re not listening. You’re hearing sounds come out, but waiting for them to stop before you can retaliate with the same babble and nonsense. And we all know what went down at the Tower of Babel. I’m so tired of the whining and spitting on each other. It’s kinda gross.

Shuffle onto the Black Top.

Shuffle out onto that Black Top and settle things…NOW!

Grow up. Meet on the black top, shake it off, roll up your sleeves and take a nice deep breath in and then out and call a do-over.

I’m done. Oh wait…

I did want to add one thing. My childhood may not have been filled with dinner guests such as Walter Cronkite, Edward R. Murrow and the likes — and my parents may have bantered and “discussed” what was going on in the world sans me, but I did have a musician Dad that picked up the guitar post dinner to play “Name That Tune” with us. That was pretty cool.

Okay, now I’m really done.

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Addressing Becky

“How do you love someone so restless and torn?” Lyrics from the song, “Cancion de la Noche” by Matthew Perryman Jones

Ah, to be young....again.

Ah, to be young….again.

It’s my birthday today. I’m 49 years young and on the precipice of a new decade. That seems unreal to me. I remember when my father turned 50 years old…so vibrant and engaging. I have this image of him with his shirt off — he’s sucking in his stomach and has his arm around my older brother, who is sporting a cowboy hat and a sh*&t eating grin on his face. Now that was a great shot.

I’ll admit I’m usually a “glass half full” kinda gal, but I’m not sure I feel so vibrant. I’ve been beaten down the past couple of months by bacteria and bed bugs and hives. I’m trying to climb my way out of the debris, but I feel a bit torn up and worn down and as the song goes, a bit restless.

Last month I took a morning run and I caught sight of a saying on a t-shirt. It was worn by a young woman running across the street and annoyingly, slightly ahead of me. On the back of her tee, it said, “Be Yourself.” I couldn’t get it out of my head. Over and over that phrase percolated around in my brain, conjuring up different ideas of who that was…it haunted me. “Be yourself” it seemed to holler at me.

Who, at this ripe old age of 49 is “Me-self” anyway? (No, I’m not suddenly Irish)…

The name Rebecca has been a tent pole for this blog. I’ve spoken about my name in a few different posts, but I don’t think I’ve fully addressed it. The creation of this blog and what to call it began with a slight irritation when it came to signing off on my e-notes. Every time I’d do a spell check before my send off, the yellow corrector line would show up under my name. At first I thought it was a mistake, but it occurred every single time. So, I decided to do an experiment. I signed off using various names and had no problem. Then I tried “Becky.” Guess what? No yellow corrector line. “Rebecca?” Corrector line. “Becky?” No corrector line.

“Can a shift in names have any real significance to the shifts that are happening inside me?” I asked this on my Who Am I page. I still wonder if it’s significant. And yes, maybe a little pretentious to quote myself…again (see Oscar post).

Who am I? This past summer, my cousin, for whom I adore, was here for a visit. We escaped our children and husbands to go on a quick shopping excursion. I tried on a pair of frilly black sandals. I pivoted my foot toward her and asked, “What do you think?” She paused, and slowly replied, “Cute, but not you” then moved on to the next section of the store.

For some reason, that stuck with me for days — along side the “Be Yourself” adage.  Wait, “Not me?” Why? Is that fair to label me like that? Okay, yes, I should know who I am by now…it is the mid-way point to (look upward) “Upstairs,” after all, but what can I say? I’m a slow poke. A late-bloomer. What if I want to try on a new look? Am I not allowed? Is that fair to label me or make fun at my expense? As an aside, my cuz was not saying it in a mean way, she was just doing what cousins/friends/sisters do for each other. Give assessments based on their history of knowing you and what you’ve liked/worn in the past. That does seem fair. It does.

The look I don’t particularly want to wear is the one actor, Tom Hulce wore in the film, Parenthood (pleeease tell me you’ve seen that movie). He played a character named Larry Buckman. He was the youngest sibling and the father’s favorite. His one Achilles Heel was that he was a constant schemer/dreamer who never grew up and took responsibility for his life. I’m not the whole of that guy, however the part I tend to be is starting things I sometimes don’t finish. Here are a few examples of dreams, schemes, possible career avenues I’ve thrown out there to friends and family, but never fallen through with:

*A Martha Stewart type Laundromat: People have to have a monthly membership and don’t have to bring coins with them. An open space with state of the art washers and dryers — including amazing tables and areas for folding, delicate items and such. Don’t get me started on the decor (one word: Martha Stewart….Duh). People will have comfy/cozy places to relax or work. I’d have music playing, movie nights/food/beverage…maybe even cocktails. The door can only be opened with a membership card to keep the not so welcome crazies out. You know who I’m talking about.

Yeah, that one stayed with me through-out the years for a long time, but I gave up after finally admitting to myself that I didn’t want to be stuck at the laundromat all day.

*Script Consultant? All my years as a development executive could be put to great use — Hello, helping new writers realize their dream?!? What’s better than that?

Yeah, until I realized that writers, especially very green writers, need to do lots of drafts before (or maybe never) their script would be good to go…I started feeling kinda sleazy for taking their hard-earned Starbuck’s paychecks. Didn’t seem right.

*Outdoor Movie Night: Bring back the Drive-In? Step into the past and get back into your car that you love and watch movies with your kids. Nostalgia updated! No brainer, right?

Yeah, my husband bought a projector and a screen to hang on our pergola in the back yard. Motivation squashed.

*Actress, Exec, Writer, Mentor?

Yeah, The first one: passable (code for didn’t embarrass myself and some even were complementary), the second one: pretty good, third one: the jury is still out, and the fourth? Eh…we’ll see.

Oy, the list goes on and on and on. But doesn’t it for all of us? I don’t think I’m alone in that department. Or am I?

Aging isn’t for sissies. Combine that with this inner war with my name and complication ensues. I’ll admit it. I harbor this inkling of a thought that yes, had I remained “Becky,” my life would be much different…in a good way. My path would still have led me to my incredible husband, we would’ve had our spectacular kid, but that other road? I like to daydream that the down-to-earth kid from Hermosa Beach would’ve not been so subdued and stepped up to be more than the sum parts of her name.

Ah, but maybe my name isn’t a relevant question anymore. I do believe that we make certain choices in our lives that carry us down specific paths. Maybe had I stayed “Becky,” I would’ve ultimately ended up here anyway only to have a blog that was called, “It’s Becky, Not Rebecca…Or Is It? It sure would make signing off on my e-mails easier without that annoying yellow line.

I do believe that there are many questions in life we’re not supposed to know the answers to — we need to focus on the most important element in our lives…love and be loved. Especially from within. It’s hard, being on the precipice of a new decade, but it’s worth a damn try.

In regards to my cousin and the shopping? I think my cousin was just telling me what I already knew. It’s not that the shoes were “not me,” it’s just that they weren’t “for me.” Inner and outer me are in flux, that’s for sure. As I say to my son constantly, “just go with the flow.” I promise myself to start practicing what I preach. Right after I eat my cupcake and do…some other stuff.

Even though this post started out doom and gloom, I’m going to enjoy this day. My hubby is taking me to the newest Woody Allen movie, I might splurge and eat whatever I want…including the above cupcake…or two. Oh, yeah, I went there. Hey, when you go to the doctor and she says, “Don’t lose any more weight,” I think she just gave me license, no?

Okay, what about this for an epiphany? That yellow corrector line highlighting my name as I signed off in e-mails?  I don’t think it was trying to correct me. Oh, no, I think it was trying to tell me that I’m special. After all, not everyone gets their name highlighted.

See what I did there? I spun a negative into a positive. That’s sooooooo both very Becky & Rebecca of me.

On three…Happy Birthday to the whole of me.

If you could read my helmet, it appropriately says, "Wipe-Out"

If you could read my helmet, it appropriately says, “Wipe-Out”

Next decade or two or three...here I come!

Next decade or two or three…here I come!

Pseudo-At-Peace

Pseudo-At-Peace

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