All the music that I had been practicing for weeks poured out of my brain and splashed on the floor. I was paralyzed until Mom came up and retrieved me. She took me back to my seat where I buried my face in her breast wishing I could disappear.
As I sat and watched G’daughter (teenager) struggle with homework this past weekend, I observed her paralysis from fear of failure and fear of embarrassment because she couldn’t do something. My first thought was that someone had taught her and I to fear failure. Then I realized that the opposite was true. Fear of failure is as natural as our need for love and belonging. It is not taught… it just is.
It’s interesting to look back at other times when I feared failing. The first time I had to make a presentation as part of a team project at work. At the last minute, I tried to back out, but the team would not let me. Then I started using a different (chickenshit) technique. Whenever I had to “perform”, I wouldn’t tell my friends, family, or coworkers just in case I embarrassed myself. So, when I was in a triathlon, I didn’t tell my friends or family…. Not even my kids… just in case I failed.
As it turned out, my performance events were successful (except for the piano recital). Over the years, I have successfully and comfortably spoken before audiences of 300 or more.
I now realize that I denied myself the pleasure of being comforted by friends and family when I fail and the joy of sharing my success.
So for my upcoming storytelling event, I have invited everyone.
Many have heard the “serenity prayer”, but the meaning becomes clearer as we age. It applies to all people, everywhere and of every denomination. Parenthood is the only exception, but it shouldn’t be. Parents see the best in their children, but do not accept them for who they are. Frequently lamenting that if only Johnny would apply himself. If only Suzie could see herself as I see her. If only they would try harder.
Whether we accept it or not they are who they are. Johnny is applying himself. Suzie sees herself as herself, and they are both working as hard as they can. The hard part is for the parents. The parents must love them and accept them as they are.
Typical scenario is that you push Suzie to [fill in the blank]. Then as soon as you stop pushing, Suzie falls back to her old ways. Then you fall back to your old ways and push Suzie again. This scene repeats itself like the myth of Sysiphus until you’re both exhausted and you are broke. I threw in the broke part because pushing frequently means spending money. Stop trying to change them, because it makes you and them crazy.
Love them as we did when they were babies when their poop stank, kept us up all night crying, and they wrote on walls with crayon. They couldn’t help it then and they can’t help it now. We get especially crazy when our friends are raving about their daughters and sons who are doctors, lawyers, biologists, and ironmen. We tell our children about the super children without meaning to compare but to encourage. When all we are doing is saying to them that they are not good enough. That they can and should be better. We are all guilty.
No matter how old they are…. Tell them you love them like you mean it and accept them as they are, and when all else fails…. Refer back to the Serenity Prayer.
Expectations and preconceptions skewed my view of the Soweto Gospel Choir. I had read about their Grammy awards and as an African-American woman, I looked forward to their performance with great anticipation . When they walked out on stage, I joined with the rest of the audience to applaud their presence here in the US at George Mason University, but the first thing I noticed was the women’s hair and second was the costumes.
I know it is unfair to prejudge, but it is only human to have expectations, and I expected the African women to wear African hairstyles and/or hair wraps. So, I was taken aback that all but one of the women had African American hairstyles, which means braids and weaves. One of them even had strawberry blond hair.
Additionally, all members of the troupe word nylon or polyester costumes. Somehow that didn’t seem like native attire, which was my expectation. So, as unfair as it is, this skewed my view because I was looking for authenticity.
On the other hand…. the music and dance was outstanding. The male dancers greatly outshined the women with their high kicks up to their heads. The only other disconnect was a tap dance routine performed by the men. Again, it may be my preconceived notions about African dance, but tap dancing does not fit into my idea of African Dance. The end of their program had the audience on their feed which was appropriate because their music made you feel like dancing, and their rendition of Oh Happy Days was rousing. At the end of the day, it was time well spent, extremely enjoyable, and everyone walked away with a smile on their faces and a song in their heart.
When we lose someone through divorce or death, we grieve. When someone physically hurts us, we first feel pain then anger. Looking into the eyes of a toddler makes us smile and we experience joy. These are spontaneous emotions. Regret is a different story.
Regret is a man-made emotion. Not spontaneous, but deliberate. So when she asked me if I had any regrets, I was stumped. Apparently, she imagined that during the first part of my retirement, I would reflect on the past and have some regrets. My response to her was that I couldn’t regret that which I didn’t do, because there is no way to know the road not taken. As Frank Sinatra said… “regrets I’ve had a few, but few to mention … I planned each charted course, each careful step along the way… I did it my way.”
That was when I realized that regret is not a real emotion like grief, anger, or joy. It is a deliberate decision to feel bad. Hmmm… but that doesn’t make sense. Why would anyone choose to feel bad. But, that is what many of us do. We dwell. We ruminate. We consider the “what if”.
That is not my way. I recognize that the past contains many lessons, but what is done is done.