The affair lasted over 40 years. The final breakup was swift and decisive. Sugar is out of my life. I miss him occasionally and allow some of his cronies in in small amounts, but net-net, I don’t miss him at all anymore. There’s a Leonard Cohen line that sums it up: I lost the one thing that makes me happy. Now everything makes me happy. Goodbye, Sugar. Hello Life!
I hung our graduate school degrees from Columbia over our marital bed. My husband’s on the left where he slept, and mine on the right. Mine was actually delayed in its receipt as I took an incomplete in the pottery course I should have finished in 1971. I hated the cliquish atmosphere of the ceramics studio and stopped going. I had learned to center pots on the wheel, but didn’t get much further than that. Ultimately, I designed enough hand-built bowls and mugs to fulfill the requirements of the course and received my physical diploma a year late. My parents never noticed the year on the sheepskin.
I’ve always had a high regard for certifications. If you had letters after your name, that spoke for itself. No one would question your presence here on earth.
When I attended Mount Holyoke College in the late 60’s, there was the unspoken desire to graduate with an M.R.S. My freshman year, every senior in the dorm had an engagement ring, subscribed to Bride’s Magazine and was given a surprise bridal shower by her classmates. By the time I graduated in 1970, everything in our world had changed. No one in my dorm was engaged or read Modern Bride. Kent State happened that spring. There was a moratorium on final exams, and we wore peace signs on our mortarboards.
I’ve taken a lot of courses since graduating. The first non-academic class I enrolled in was Assertiveness Training. No certification, but a world of difference in my life. It was only four sessions, and there was no piece of paper indicating I’d achieved anything. But that one unaccredited course began a trajectory of self-examination, self-improvement and self-acceptence that has been a theme for me ever since.
I went to LaMaze classes to learn how to give birth. My husband and I returned to the group after our successful delivery to share the experience with the still-pregnant couples who craved hearing real-life stories and how the breathing techniques worked in the labor room.
I attended La Leche League meetings for years before and after my first two children were born. I wanted to learn how to be a mother. I learn best by being in a real situation, not reading it from a book. When I was 8 1/2 months pregnant with my first, I found my way to a woman’s apartment in Stamford and watched wide-eyed as infants suckled at their mother’s breasts on and off for the entire 2-hour meeting. One woman said during her share, all the time with her infant latched onto her nipple, “I believe this is the best thing for Alistair.” Beyond the constant sucking, I also learned that a baby born in 1974 could have that big a name.
I nursed each of my three children for three years. I learned a lot from those women.
Including from Sharon Roberts who talked about going to her gynecologist with a concern about a small growth in her vagina. “What were you doing with your fingers in there?” he grilled her. She repeated his outrage at her self-examination. I have to admit, at 26, I, too, thought that was his territory, not hers. I had so much more to learn.
Although this wasn’t really a course, part of my parental education included enrolling my kids at the Community Cooperative Nursery School where parents worked in the classroom alongside the paid teachers on a bi-weekly basis. I learned how to say, “Use your words” and “You need to tell me what you want” instead of “Don’t do that!” or “She had the toy first.” I learned to use my words and speak from the I perspective–all new to me.
Through the nursery school I enrolled in PET – Parent Effectiveness Training class to become a more effective parent. This was all pre-internet where blogs sharing experiences proliferate today. My mother was not a reliable source of parenting education. I needed to go where women were parenting the way I wanted to parent. These courses and schools that required hands-on classroom time were good filters for finding role models and peers.
In addition to finding classes for parenting and life, I was introduced to audiotapes by my chiropractor. She lent me her set of Wayne Dyer’s cassette collection called “Choose Your Own Greatness.” I honestly believed that I was engaging in some counter-cultural movement listening to words without really knowing the author of its message.
A funny thing happened though. I loved it. I loved being able to rewind and re-listen. I loved that he told stories of magical coincidences. It was the first time I ever began to contemplate the role of the universe in my life. Wayne Dyer was making a case for it, and I was buying it.
I was careful who I shared this new knowledge with. Maggie, my new friend down the street, also listened to these messages. Others, closer to me, thought it was hooey.
Remember that sister I mentioned who cheated me out of my Ginny doll clothes?
All I wanted was her attention. She was beautiful, creative, smart and bigger than I was. I wanted to sleep in the bed with her, cuddle, have her love me and pay attention to me.
She shunned me. Maybe it was because I was the perfect child. She came along in my parents’ new marriage and was a challenging baby. Even more challenging than the average infant. My mother was inexperienced with no maternal skills and no role model, and along comes this needy child who vomited after every feeding.
Having had my own share of projectile-vomiting babies, I know what’s it’s like to have to clean up everything–the crib, their clothes, your clothes–let alone have some semblance of order in your life. And I had support in my marriage, which Mom clearly didn’t. No wonder Molly became the scapegoat in the family. Everything that went wrong after that became her fault.
Along comes Jane. Dad’s in a new job, we’ve moved to the middle of the country, and I’m born. I’m placid, brown-eyed like Mom, and quiet. Prop a bottle of sweet formula in my mouth and I’m easily satisfied. Then, anyway.
I guess she resented me.
We grow up and Beth and I share a room. Molly gets her own room and promptly shuts the door and keeps me out. We had a wall phone in the hallway with a cord long enough that the receiver could be pulled into any of our bedrooms and we could talk there. This was in the days of one phone number per family, no call-waiting, and no privacy in my room. I had nothing I needed privacy for, but Molly did.
She would lean up against the door, phone cord dangling between the middle of the hallway and her bedroom, and stay there for hours.
Of course, I had to look under the door to spy on her.
And what did I see? Mom’s slipper ashtray, the bronze one, with a cigarette resting on the curved holder. Molly was smoking! I had to tell on her.
That may have added to her resentment, but my hunch is that it started before that. Hiding boxes of chocolates under her bed, then lying about where they might be when Mom or Dad asked if anyone had seen them. Molly would collude with us by inviting us in to partake of the bounty. Crushing the bottoms of the candies to determine if they were the disgusting gel-filled ones or the highly sought after creams, caramels or mints. Now that we were party to the crime, we couldn’t snitch anymore.
Maybe my tattling had something to do with Molly not wanting me to ride in the car with her and Sally Harris who drove her to school every day. I had to walk two blocks and stand outside in the freezing cold and wait for the bus. Those were the days when girls not only had to wear skirts to school, but nylon stockings were de rigueur and short skirts were in style. Imagine standing in 20 degree weather waiting for the bus with your ass sticking out, holding a boatload of books because no one carried a backpack or even a book bag. There was so much to balance.
But Molly was picked up at the door and I had to navigate the freezing cold. “Sally doesn’t have insurance for another passenger,” Molly lied.
She always lied. Not that anyone believed her, but it delayed the response time and punishment.
This is a work in progress. Names have been changed to protect the truly innocent from my childhood opinions.
Even though there were four of us kids, I felt alone.
It helped when my brother Jay was born, because I had my own real Betsy Wetsy to take care of and nurture. A terrible thing I remember doing when he was old enough to hug was smacking him to make him cry, then soothing him with hugs and kisses.
I remember my very negative feelings around my relationship with my older sister Ellen. How we played Ginny dolls and how she arranged everything to suit her needs and wants. She was super-creative. Play began and ended with her say-so. She’d name the game, claim that her doll’s father was the richest, smartest, etc., leaving second and third best to me and Beth. Ellen would set the stage with a scenario for us to act out and play would continue for hours.
I remember saving up my quarter allowances each week so I could go to County Book and Toy store and buy outfits for the Ginny dolls that came in those pink boxes with cellophane panels so you could see hwat was inside. One ball gown with elasticized puff sleeves cost $2.00–eight weeks worth of saved quarters. And Ellen traded some crappy outfit of hers for it. She sweet-talked me out of it.
I remember Beth’s heavy breathing, but not much else.
I remember being alone in my room and teaching myself how to knit.
I remember sitting at the dinner table waiting to be seen or heard without much luck.
I remember being in the car with Mommy and having her all to myself on occasion. I loved that.
I don’t remember a best friend until Amy Wills introduced the idea to me in fourth grade when she claimed me. I remember going to her house and seeing her family photos on the wall. One included a sister who’d died before Amy was born. I remember that being a very scary concept to me. At least a brand new one.
I remember crying myself to sleep at night, having nightmares and wanting to be in bed with Mommy. But getting kicked out because it wasn’t okay with Daddy.
Even when Daddy and I were alone together I was lonely because he never talked. It felt doubly lonely. I wasn’t lonely with Mommy because she always talked.
I don’t remember Mommy tucking me in much. Rather, a good night kiss from downstairs. When she did come up to put me to bed, she would say, “Sand in the right eye. Sand in the left eye. And fairy dust all around.” That was my favorite way to go to sleep.
Here’s my first post since declaring July the time to share more personal, non-entrepreneurial, writing with you. Remember, positive support only. Thank you!
A paid job in a theatre company? How lucky could a girl get? I was hired as the property mistress at the Trinity College Summer Theatre. It was 1969, Neil Armstrong landed on the moon and Teddy Kennedy’s car went off the bridge in Chappaquidick.
Peter and I had broken up after his graduation in May. He’d made the decision to attend law school in the midwest. I still had senior year to go in Massachusetts. It was clear to me that I was not first on his list. I bought a pack of Tareytons and started smoking again.
I love writing.
There, I’ve said it. Growing up, my mother labeled us. “Jane, you’re the artist.” (Thank God I got that one!) “Meredith, you’re the writer. Barbara, you’re the pretty one. Andy, you’re the funny one.”
Because my older sister was awarded claim to all things literary–she’s become a mega-successful literary agent–I dove into art, and happily so, for 30+ years.
Decades pass. Life happens. Careers change form and substance. These days I find my creativity in writing. But what to do about the mantel my mother bestowed on an elder over 50 years ago?
After taking Ann Randolph’s superb writing workshop at Kripalu in late June, I’ve started an official writing practice. I ordered 4 books on memoir writing from amazon, hired a writing coach and established a writers group in the city. I’m on it!
But, the voices in my head say, this is not a money-making proposition. Your public wants information about how to grow their businesses. YOU ARE NOT SERVING YOUR AUDIENCE.
And then a whisper comes trailing along, “Your message is about following your passion. That’s what they want to hear.”
Who to listen to?
I asked for a sign, and I got one this morning. On my cup of decaf from Starbucks. The cup-holder spoke to me.
Follow your passion. It will lead you to your purpose. Oprah Winfrey
Dammit. This is what I teach, and yet when it comes to this shoemaker, I forget.
So, during the month of July, you will be reading, if you so choose, pieces I’m writing from prompts given to me by my new coach.
Because this is uncharted territory for me–sharing my personal essays–I have a request. I would appreciate your kindness in offering ONLY positive comments. Likes, thumbs up, a word or two of support. No grammatical corrections or probing inquiries required. Enjoy, and only let me know if you are.
Since speaking and writing about getting picked, I’ve become more aware of the invitations I’ve received from women business owners seeking my support and endorsement.
I’m always delighted when successful women like Nancy Williams find me and my blog and view it as a potential platform for promoting their passion. (Lots of p’s there.)
The most flattering invitations include some form of cross-pollination, as Nancy’s did. She had seen my list of no-no words and phrases: little, just, can’t afford, should–and requested permission to use them in a talk she was giving. I was pleased to share my intellectual property and doubly pleased that Nancy credited me in her recent press release.
The release relates Nancy’s story of how she reclaimed her passion for the piano which helped her to come to terms with her hearing loss. Nancy will be delivering a workshoop in Austin, TX next week at the Hearing Loss Association of America convention there.
Nancy’s request to share her press release came with an invitation to meet. I look forward to that. Women who are passionate about what they do top my list of pickers.
I rent space from Cynthia Overgard, President and CEO of HypnoBirthing CT. She has a warm and welcoming space in an office building well-located in Westport on the Norwalk/Westport line directly across from Whole Foods and Panera Bread and equi-distant between I-95 and the Merritt Parkway.
The rooms are equally well-suited for Cynthia’s birth classes and the Mastermind Intensive that I hold there once a month–large comfy sofas, walls painted in a relaxing, soothing hue, and a separate room for lunch away from our workspace. It’s ideal for women learning how to deliver their babies as well as business owners birthing ideas and visions.
Cynthia and I re-uned yesterday to catch up, talk business and also enjoy the magnificent spring day. We met for a walk at Compo Beach, then lunch at The Granola Bar in Westport. Over lunch we reminisced about Cynthia’s decision to take the space originally a few years ago.
Whenever you make a big decision like assuming a lease on outside space or hiring employees for the first time, it’s wise to get feedback from trusted counsel. It would be a much easier decision if you’re going to be working 5 days a week in an office. But in Cynthia’s line of work, she wouldn’t need the space 40 hours per week. Cynthia questioned whether the expense was justifiable. She consulted a most trustworthy businessman for his thoughts–her father.
“Cynthia,” he told her, “Giants Stadium was built to be used 8 days a year.”
That succinct wisdom turned the key for her.
I gave my first public talk last night about my trip around the world to a joint audience of Living All the Way and Ladies Who Launch members and guests. The response was thrilling, and the feedback extremely helpful.
An experience I shared that was particularly memorable involved my cab driver, Sajith, in India. I mentioned how challenging it was to select a driver from the hordes soliciting business and how we had agreed on a price of $15US for 4 hours–car and driver. When my talk ended last night, Aliza offered me a ride to the train station. I mentioned that I had pre-arranged a car service back to the city. “Four hours for $15?” she quickly responded. Hah! If only…
The most meaningful response I got referred to a particular portion of my experience. I mentioned that the Semester at Sea voyage changed radically for me halfway through. On March 16 (I got on the ship February 1) I had the opportunity to address my shipmates in Union, the auditorium onboard, and share the entrepreneurial lessons I’ve written about in Soul Proprietor. As a result of this exposure, students, faculty and others on the ship began approaching me to have breakfast, lunch or dinner with them so we could get to know each other better.
Up until then, I’d approach various people in the dining rooms trying to find the friendships I was hoping to establish. Not much developed from that strategy. What I learned was that the people who were attracted to my stories and life and who picked me, made better friends and relationships than the people I tended to pick.
It seems that I’m better at being picked than picking. Which are you?
My talk this week about Living 25,000 Miles Outside Your Comfort Zone is Wednesday night. I got my first review after giving a Mastermind colleague of mine a sneak preview.
Joan Cavanaugh, who has worlds of experience and has heard thousands of speakers, sent me the loveliest quote which she generously urged me to share.
Have you ever heard the expression “I heard the bangles ring on an ant’s wrist”?
I think that sums up the real key to the presentation. I experienced a new Jane. I think the difference was her openness to what happened to her on that trip her total trust of an unknown world, her surrender to whatever would happen to her,… what she would see what she would taste, the people she would meet the customs etc. etc. the presentation was exhilarating I hope that many women who are in a comfort zone not even realizing that they are in a comfort zone see this presentation and hear Jane talk about her travels around the world…. and know that anything is possible. She was listening for the bangles on an ant’s wrist and the experience transformed her. Very moving.
Here are the details:
Wednesday, June 11, 2014
6 – 8pmThe Arthur Murray Grande Ballroom of Greenwich 6 Lewis Street
I know there are a few seats left, but register right away so you don’t miss out. Here’s the link.