I don’t think I’m alone in feeling the desire, No! the Need to be more expansive than I’ve taken my self to be in the past, to take more risks, to not be so afraid of others’ judgements, to not feel boxed in by previously imposed labels that in the past I accepted. I also know some people are thriving and not feeling boxed in at all. I am inspired by their sense of ease and freedom. As the older woman said in “When Harry Met Sally”, “I’ll have what she’s having”. IF ONLY freedom and ease could be ordered up so easily! Anyway, I want change, and it feels like it’s happening . I have a sense of urgency about it. And, I’m aware that great patience is also required, that life unfolds on its own schedule, not mine.
When I was seventeen, the Jewish community in Phoenix decided to have a “debutante ball” for young Jewish girls. I can still remember the white heavily beaded sleeveless top I wore over a long narrow white skirt, hair pulled up at the beauty shop into a french twist, how I barely managed to walk in high heels a few months after surgery on my polio-weakened leg, and just a few weeks after wearing a polio brace for three months at the start of my senior year. I was big time “into” Pete Seeger and Joan Baez. I was the first at school to pierce my ears, wore gold hoop earrings, and hair parted in the middle, hanging straight and long or in one long braid on the side. I wore dark turtlenecks! If I didn’t “belong” in Phoenix, I obviously felt the need to belong somewhere. Between my polio brace and a neighbor, Barry Goldwater running for US President (90% of the kids at school wore Goldwater for President/Bomb Hanoi campaign buttons, while I was a teen Democrat), I think I was pretty much in shock that whole year. I take that back. Not pretty much. I was. in. shock. My friend Robbie wrote me a note on a little pink scrap of paper: “I can no longer be your friend. My parents joined the John Birch Society. You are either a communist or communist dupe. Signed, Robbie”. My parents thought being a debutante would be good for me. What I do remember was that my “speech” at the ball started with that famous John Donne quote. When all seemed crazy around me, it rang true. I so longed to thrive, I willed myself to walk on high heels and, WTF, I quoted John Donne.
“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main…. therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.”
The John Birchers (and it turns out there were many of them in my childhood) had me scared, and feeling judged for a long time. Not that they kept me from doing anything I wanted to do, but I was scared. And I admit, some things still scare me. ISIS. Dick Cheney. The Koch Brothers. Right wing militias. Crazy fundamentalists. Fortunately the wise, kind, brave people sowing seeds of sanity in the world (and there are many!) inspire me to join in the work of making the world a better place, a place to which I Want to belong!
As we women sometimes do with orgasms (as Sally showed Harry), we fake a lot. We fake being “ok” when we’re not. In the hopes of pleasing others or at least not causing disturbance, we fake what we think we need to. In the short run it seems to work. In the long run, direct contact with one’s own real feelings and true sense of self can get lost. So I’m done faking. I’ve got authenticity in mind. I’ve got thriving in mind. This is where I stand, both brave and scared, working toward deeper connections of the inward and outward variety, as I am…
2 thoughts on ““…and then the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom” —Anais Nin”
I can hear you cracking out of your shell. So brave of you Gayle to be determined to live as real a life as possible. As I write, I find out more about myself – memories long forgotten or pushed back are bubbling up and I sense you shall be sprouting some new leaves as well.
Your quest for authenticity resonates with me. As someone who is also done “faking it,” I find reading essays like yours emboldens me on my journey. Thanks, Gayle, for sharing of yourself so eloquently.