Rock On Little Fish
This is my entry for Christine’s Simply 6 Minutes photo challenge. Image credit: Romolo Tavani.
What’s a girl to do when she feels small in her world? She puts on a big scary fin to go about her daily business.
Although it seemed like a good idea on that day many moons ago, when protecting herself was necessary, over time, the world had expectations, and she became a fraud.
It seemed so easy to wake up, put on a fin, and face the world. She didn’t realize that every time she wore that fin, a little piece of her true self was being taken from her.
She is left confused as she teeters on entering the final chapter of her life. How could she not be?
That big scary fin seems small now. She is outgrowing the facade and being forced to attend a meet and greet with someone she no longer recognizes.
This monumental shift in the view of herself has created a knowing that she is enough.
Simply 6 Minutes – Welcome to the Challenge: 5/16/23
Welcome to the 6-minute challenge!
The Prompt for 5/16/23 is:
My dad always said, “You’ll never get a job if you get a tattoo.” Well, Dad, I hate to break the news, but now that a good portion of the world has tattoos, yes, I can. In fact, I can be whatever I want.
Today I applied for a job to be one of those characters that entertain the kids at birthday parties so the parents can eat and drink for at least an hour without being interrupted. Of course, I went in expecting to be something cool like Batman or Ironman, but we can’t always get what we want. Isn’t that a song?
Anyway, all they had left was the Princess gig. Hey, you don’t get much cooler than someone who grants wishes, and the pay was good. So, dads out there, just note that your kids can get a job with tattoos, it might not be the job you want, but if it’s paying bills, making me happy, and giving parents that well deserved hour to swallow their food, I consider myself a success.
For the record, 5-year-olds are curious, not afraid of blue-eyed bearded princesses with a story to tell on their bellies. Fear is your hang-up.
Thanks, Christine, for setting the Simply 6 Minutes challenge.
Momma, You Were Born This Way
This was originally written 11 years ago when my mother was 85. She left this world on 12/04/2020 at 94, saying, “Be kind to others no matter what.” It’s not always an easy task to fulfill, but if nothing else, my mother reminded me to at least give it a shot daily.
On this Mother’s Day weekend, I decided to pay homage to my mother … Venita. My mother is the oldest of three children born to her Italian immigrant parents, Vincenzo Torcini and Maria/Mary Landini, in 1926.
Vincenzo left her life at 4 years old, shortly after the Great Depression entered. This left her mother with the burden of raising her young children alone, without any means to do so. After this abandonment, she suffered from what would most likely be considered a nervous breakdown today. No welfare, free housing, or valium for Maria.
Years later, my mother was told that the apartment they were living in had caught fire, and her mother was under the impression that the children perished. That pushed her over the edge and led her to the breakdown.
Scenarios like this were common, especially amongst immigrant families during the Great Depression. Many could not find work to support their families because they could not speak English. This frustration, piled on top of economic pressures, led to abandonment and, in some cases, suicide.
This tragic set of circumstances left my mother and her sibling in the care of Catholic Charities in Philadelphia. They were placed in an orphanage, followed by a Shelter. This emergency lodging was set up to accommodate all families that had become homeless following the Depression. Some were run privately and were set up to serve cases like that of my mother’s family. These children needed homes until their parents were able to support them again.
My mother and her brother, who were only 14 months apart, were separately placed into homes. The children were taken to several homes before settling into somewhat permanent residences. My uncle was raised by an Italian family in South Philadelphia, while my mother was raised by an Irish woman in North Philadelphia. My mother still calls her “the Irish woman who raised me.” She rarely refers to her by name, which was Ellen O’Malley. Ellen was a widow at a very young age, never had children of her own, and never re-married. Her single lifestyle allowed her to open her home to these children. Giving children to single women..now that’s a switch.
Ellen O’Malley, or “Auntie,” cared for my mother from when she was 7 years old until she was 16. Other children were placed during her time with “Auntie”; however, they had parents who remained in their lives with weekly visitations. These children were just waiting for their parents to get work to rebuild their lives, but this was not the case for my Mom. Her father never did return, and her mother remained at the hospital until her death. This left my mother to just wait, wonder and hope.
Auntie did the best she could to raise her. However, she did not maternally express herself. This is understandable since the other children had mothers in their lives, and she most likely didn’t want to impose.
When my mother talks to me about her own mother, I can hear the yearning for unanswered questions in her tone.
At 85 years old, she is still left to wonder if her face resembles that of her mother or father. No pictures, trinkets, memories of her own, and surprisingly…not one ounce of resentment.
What is her secret? How did my mother raise (4) children of her own without ever experiencing the love and nurturing of her own mother?
I have to conclude … Momma, you were born this way. She is a humble and loving person who gained strength from her hardship, which resonates with her enormous love for her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.
The reason I chose the title of this Blog is that my mother, Venita enjoys Lady Gaga. You heard me…the same day the photo above was taken, “Just Dance” came on the radio. My Mom asked, “Is this Lady Gaga? I saw her on The View in the cutest black and white outfit. If I were young, I would have that dress.” This was followed by “She’s a smart girl.” I was so grateful she wasn’t referring to the Meat Dress.
At 85, she is a hip, hat-wearing, organic-eating, interesting, funny, strong Lady Gaga-loving Democrat who enjoys going to the movies, solving crossword puzzles, dropping hilarious one-liners, and LOVING her family with all her heart. But most of all … she is my Mom. Enjoy the Ride!
Garden Dawdler #7
Rory of Earthly Comforts is our host. Click here to join in. Here are this week’s questions and my responses:
You have awoken to a new day after a restless night filled with strange dreams and have discovered a dead person sitting on your toilet. They are a stranger to you. What do you do?
Once I regained consciousness because clearly, that shock caused me to faint, I hope I would call the police.
Are you a hat-wearing person, and if you are, which style do you favour?
Other than in the garden or on the beach, I am not, but I admire those who can pull off a hat. I would not fare well in England.
How many posts do you create and publish each week to your blog?
Not nearly enough, yet today, this is my second.
How often do you talk to strangers?
How many tee shirts do you own?
I’m not a t-shirt person, so not many.
Do you or have you ever ironed socks? If so, why?
I’m curious to see who and why anyone would answer yes to this question. There has to be a good story behind it.
Do you spend too much time online, and would you know if you were spending too much time online?
I try not to, and I call it quits when I feel I’ve gone down the mind-numbing rabbit hole for too long.
Does your family or any of your real-life friends read your blog, and perhaps more importantly, do you let them, or do you want them to?
At one point, I shared the posts on FaceBook. I do not recommend it. I concluded that family and friends don’t always have your best interests at hand, which is why I refuse to post photos of my granddaughter. I don’t want the negative energy attached to anything I create or love.
What do you think the secret is to living a happier life?
To just be.
I’m starting to get the impression that WordPress is honing in on my innermost thoughts, like Instagram and Facebook. It’s no accident that this question was presented to me today.
Freedom has three different meanings. The first kind of freedom is “freedom from,” freedom from the constraints of society. Second is “freedom to,” freedom to do what we want. Thirdly, there is “freedom to be,” not just to do what we want but to be who we were meant to be.
As I teeter on the edge of entering the third chapter of my life, the “freedom to be” resonates with me the most. Probably because it is truly the only one I can change myself, yet it seems complicated. Why?
Well, I’m learning that when you’ve been conditioned for decades that specific belief systems are etched in stone for the rest of eternity, it takes some time to believe that; well, that’s bullshit. Practice makes perfect, as they say.
For me, it all started with the labels. Oh, yes. Not that they were necessarily wrong labels. Who wouldn’t want to be crowned “the good one” or “the one with the big heart?” They seemed like compliments then, but it has been a heavy load and, frankly, a lot of responsibility. A ton of unspoken no’s on my back.
That seemingly small, good intention has created a woman who has given her power to everyone and everything for so long that she has forgotten she has the freedom to just be. A fraud!
This is not the first time an epiphany has presented itself. I’ve recognized this at other times in my life, in other situations, but this was different. Peeling the layers over time.
Things were quietly being revealed over the last two years. Bit by bit, I recognized the chains that were holding me back from the life I was meant to live. Not realizing I had the keys the whole time.
I know I must be getting very close to healing the core because suddenly, all the pieces of my complicated makeup came together, and I wept and wept. Cleansing the soul.
Someone asked, “Why are you crying?” and I didn’t have an answer. It was as if all the words I was trying to say hit a roadblock in my mouth. I was crying because I recognized the freedom.
Over the past few days, I’ve thought about my tears and those of everyone else who experienced freedom in one way or another. The only way to describe it is an enormous relief, followed by the question … Now what?
Enjoy the Ride!
Ten years ago, I came across this little parable. It arrived in an unlikely fashion. It brought me to tears, and I only recognized a portion of its power then. I was only operating on a low frequency at that moment.
Now I see that my consciousness was operating at a lower frequency. A level that prevented me from the enormity of the content. Growth is slow and steady. 10 years to be exact.
An old man and his son lived in an abandoned fortress on the side of a hill. The son was the sole support of his father, and their only possession of value was a horse. One day, the horse ran away. The neighbors came by to offer sympathy. “This is a terrible thing,” they said. “How do you know?” asked the old man.
Several days later, the horse returned, bringing several wild horses. The old man and the son shut them all inside the gate. The neighbors hurried over. “This is fabulous,” they said. “How do you know?” asked the old man.
The following day the son tried riding one of the wild horses. Alas, he fell and broke his leg. Sure enough, the neighbors came around as soon as they heard the news. “What a tragedy!” they said. “How do you know?” asked the old man.
The following week, the emperor’s army entered the village, forcing every young man into service to fight faraway battles. Many of them would never return. But the son couldn’t go. He had a broken leg.
Now for the good part. I re-read it this morning as if I had read it for the first time. Whoa!
This time around, I recognized the certainty. When things happen in our life, good or bad, they are happening for us, not to us. This trust isn’t easy, especially for me. I’ve never felt safe enough not to doubt what I was thinking, let alone being told. Even when all of the evidence proved otherwise.
Another vital message missed, primarily because I’m a people pleaser in recovery, was the power of opinions, both our own and those of others. I feel like I was hit by a lightning bolt.
This time, the “How do you know?” jumped right off the page. Suddenly, every bit of advice/opinion ever given or taken flashed before my eyes, whether it was solicited or not. Whew, that was quite a show!
I am so proud of myself for seeing these messages this time around. I’ve been working hard to heal, and it felt like my progress was being revealed.
Hey, listen up. We’re all human, so don’t think re-reading a parable and getting hit with an imaginary lightning bolt fixed decades of damage. I wish!
I’ll still have doubts, but now I’m more aware of their negative power, and you better believe I’ll be giving my two cents, but not before pausing to consider what I know as opposed to spewing off words based on my own scarcity. A work in process.
It’s never too late to resurrect your life. So, get to it.
Enjoy the Ride!
The Garden Dawdler
Every week Rory posts 9 questions to pause and get the juices flowing.
What do you find yourself splurging on the most?
My ideas on splurging have changed significantly over the years. At one time, it was clothes and shoes, followed by special things for my children and vacations; now, it’s organic fruits, vegetables, and meat. Which are equally as expensive these days.
What is your top writing tip?
As Nike says, Just Do It.
Are you a regular recycler, and if so, what are five of your top recycling tips?
Yes, reuse what you can for as long as possible. Be creative. Rinse the glass. Break down the boxes. Be mindful of the long-term effects.
Are you someone that wants to be or needs to be heard and seen, or are you content to be found behind the scenes?
It depends on the circumstances. I want to be heard and seen if it’s something important to myself and the common good. Otherwise, I’m very content behind the scenes.
How approachable do you think you are in real life and away from the keyboard, and do others feel the same way about you?
Apparently, I am very approachable. How do I know this to be true? I am constantly approached by strangers asking questions or just starting a conversation.
Do you sit more on the fence or the edge of the knife?
Over the years, I’ve spent a good amount of time on the fence, and I find that it causes anxiety. I’ve been learning to trust my instincts more as I’ve gotten older to become more comfortable jumping in when necessary.
What do you remember the most about your grandparents?
I did not have grandparents, but I’m glad I had the opportunity to witness my children be loved unconditionally by theirs.
How important to you is validation from your readers to your written content – do you need acknowledgment from others to create?
It was important in the past. However, after reading that my favorite authors of all time struggled with validation, I let down my guard. It just doesn’t matter; do it for yourself, and the rest will follow.
What is it you would have liked to have been asked about your life but have yet to be?
I feel I’ve told a good amount of my story before it was ever asked of me. One thing no one really inquires about is how did it all make me feel along the way.
Ok, I believe another word is being thrown around too freely. The term is Vintage. According to my friends over at Merriam-Webster, the definition is: of old, recognized, and enduring interest, importance, or quality. Classic. Which is precisely what I thought.
When I hear Vintage, I think of a Channel suit resting in the back of the closet for decades and re-entering the world as if it never paused. That, ladies and gents, is Vintage.
Now, back to my shock and awe regarding the over usage. There is a unique/totally overpriced but super cool store in my area that carries an array of antique, slightly used, but very high-end merchandise or local artist creations. I love to browse through every once in a while to see what might catch my eye. My eyes definitely have a separate bank account from mine.
On one of my looks, but keep my wallet in the car visits, a small bouquet of the most vibrant plumb-colored silk hydrangeas seduced me. I’m so easy.
I prepared myself for the sticker shock and went in for a closer look. I lifted the beautiful rustic tag and read Vintage Silk Hydrangeas for $14.00. Um, vintage?
Ok, points for the tag and maybe even a few for the perfect penmanship, but I had to draw the line at trying to pass off used silk flowers as Vintage. They didn’t need the extra marketing. It was love at first sight.
According to Google, something has to be at least 40 to bear the vintage title, and these beauties were toddlers at best, and for that reason alone, I put them back on the shelf. I’m not going to lie; it was a long goodbye.
Two weeks later, I was still thinking about the purple beauties. Were they still available, or would they go home with someone else? Ugh …
Feeling like a needy first date, I went back for answers.
It wasn’t easy because the entire store was rearranged to accommodate new temptations. After what seemed like an eternity, we were reunited. It was like a scene from a movie.
Once our eyes locked, it was over. They were in my hand, at the register, and out the door in a flash. Not because they were Vintage but because they were beautiful.
This was a lesson to be mindful when I choose my words. Labels, whether placed on objects or people, can be harmful. It’s just an easy way to market people, places, and things we don’t understand.
Enjoy the Ride!
Let me get something out of the way right from the start. I have never had a teacher in a traditional school setting who I consider influential. Sorry, not sorry.
The first person to teach, influence or guide me through a learning process was Lawrence T., a partner in one of the largest law firms in Philadelphia. He was a man who perspired wealth with a reputation for being complex yet brilliant at his craft. For whatever reason, we clicked.
I was 24 years old and in the process of divorcing my high school sweetheart, who left me in a financial disaster. The mortgage company seizing my wages was only one of my many hurdles.
This time in my life was challenging, to say the least. I was trying to navigate selling a house, negotiating payments to creditors, and accepting that everything I believed to be true about love and marriage was a lie. I’m sure I was still doing laundry for my kids when they were 24.
Somehow, by the grace of God, that slate was cleared off in a little over a year when Lawrence T. approached me with an employment opportunity that would change my life, not because of the job, but the chance to replenish that emptiness with positive challenges. I was scared to take this plunge but had nothing to lose.
On my first day, Lawrence introduced me to the department in a way that had me looking over my shoulder, swearing he couldn’t possibly be talking about me. He handed me a title with all the perks without the formal education required. He convinced me that my experience outweighed any certification from an institution. He clearly saw something I never saw.
He gave me free rein to make decisions, which I was not accustomed to. I was drafting legal motions without any direction aside from the order. My face was undoubtedly asking, “are you insane?” because I was quickly told, “you know what to do; give it a shot.” I felt like a first-grader asked to do calculus.
Lawrence always used a Montblanc fountain pen, which was something foreign to me. I didn’t know anyone who used a fountain pen daily. I didn’t know they existed outside of signing the declaration of independence.
Over the next several months, I drafted many documents, and they were returned to me with so many revisions I was left thinking, “why not just write it yourself.” FYI: Those revisions stand out when someone uses a Mont Blanc pen.
This process continued until he walked into my office one day with a clean document, a big smile, and the words, “I knew you could do it.” I hadn’t felt that good since, well, forever.
While sitting here today, thirty-five years later, I was forced to remember what his influence taught me to do and recognize things within myself that had been beaten down by the world around me.
This daily prompt came at the perfect time. I haven’t thought about Lawrence or this blip of time in my life for quite some time, yet it was the first thing that popped into my head when I read the question.
There are no accidents. Thank you, Creator, for showing me the lesson I needed to see today.
Enjoy the Ride!
Happiness Is The Truth
Drum roll, please… Happiness. That’s right, ladies and gentlemen; happiness makes me most anxious. I bet you didn’t see that coming.
Whenever things are going well, I’m not talking about perfection but about having a good day. There is a spot in my mind that doesn’t trust it.
My life now has been the easiest it’s been in a very long time. I’m living with the man I love in a beautiful home in an area surrounded by the best nature has to offer. My children are settled, I have the cutest, most intelligent, happiest granddaughter on the planet, my job is fascinating, and my co-workers are now friends, and yet I find myself waiting for the shoe to drop.
I’ve researched and know that this thought process comes from my childhood. Doesn’t everything? I don’t blame my parents. Lord knows they did the best they could with the knowledge they had at the time. Neither one had an example of parenting, so we were experiments. They were much better at grandparenting.
When you know better, you do better, and hopefully, I did that with my children, and so on, until the cycle is broken.
Now, back to that old shoe about to drop. I learned that this feeling results from a confusion between approval and love and worth, which sounds right. Literally the story of my life.
Recently, actually yesterday, I was discussing my sudden sense of fear with a friend. We concluded that I have spent most of my adult life being superhuman in one way or another. Whether it was in my role at work or in my family. Always the dependable helper who would lay across a railroad track to shine for 2 seconds. Exhausting, right?
Having someone in your life who just gets it is so refreshing.
Fast forward to the present, where none of those needs exist. Oh, yea, it can rock your world. For the first time, probably since I left the womb, I don’t have the need to prove anything to anyone except myself. It’s the equivalent of landing in a foreign country without a translator.
I aim to accept that I am worthy of good things and that happiness should never make me feel like I’m about to lose my shit. Happiness is the truth!
Enjoy the Ride!
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