Baby, It’s (Getting Ridiculously, Stupidly, Politically Correctly, Decidedly) Dumb Outside

I love Christmas music. Really truly love it. And particularly classic Christmas music. I love the crooners, the standards, the songs that have stood the test of time. I love expert songwriting. Ever look at the lyrics to “White Christmas” or “Chestnuts Roasting”? Minuscule. I mean the text to both these songs is minuscule. Tiny. Just a few words. Just a few beautifully crafted, brilliantly-written words. A really great song does not have to have a lot of words. It has to have the right words.

I also understand the me-too movement. I understand that far too many women have experienced anything and everything from unnecessary coercion to outright sexual assault. I feel very fortunate that I have never been in a situation (drunk or sober) that was distressing or uncomfortable.

I have no idea why. Why other women have and I have not. Luck? Good choices? Maybe I’ve always been a bitch-on-wheels? All I know is I have been in many “situations”, some fond memories, some regrets, but never have I felt threatened or not in control.

Now please understand I am only telling you this to set the stage for my upcoming rant. Because I know that somebody somewhere is gonna say “Yeah, well IF you had you wouldn’t be so cavalier! You don’t understand because it never happened to you!”

Fair enough.

I guess.

I just love Christmas music. And I have always loved “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” I believe it is truly one of the most endearing, cleverly constructed, beautifully rendered, flirtatious little man/woman duets ever recorded. By many, many artists. Over many, many years. Some are great, some are good, some are fine and some are horrid. The renditions, not the song. The song remains the same.

Until this year. Until in 2019 John Legend and Kelly Clarkson decide to rewrite it. Take away any and all implications of non-consensual potential.

They also take away all charm, all cleverness, all brilliance and all that sweetly flirtatious man-woman dialogue that yes, might be a tad dated but is also delightful in its archival innocence.

Yes – back then women had to worry about what the neighbours think.

Yes – back then women had to be concerned about getting home at a proper time.

Yes – back then women had to get home at a proper time.

Yes – back then sometimes women actually wanted to stay.

Yes – back then women had to constantly fight basic urges against societal proprieties.

Yes – back then women had to act the good girl, even when they just maybe wanted to a be a bit naughty.

And YES – sometimes lyrics were written simply to find the perfect rhyme. “The neighbours might think. Say what’s in this drink?”

Yeah. Frank Loesser could have gone with “The neighbours might think, That baby you stink.” Or maybe “You’re a rat fink.” Or even “Pass me my mink.”

Except that would be politically incorrect now too.

They were having cocktails for fuck’s sake.

*aside – There’s a song in the musical “Annie Get Your Gun” where Frank and Annie sing “Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better.” Frank sings: I can knit a sweater. (Yay, not sexist).  Annie replies: I can fill it better.

I played that role. I sang those words. It always got a huge laugh and no one was offended.

So now we have John and Kelly taking it upon themselves to “update” (read: bastardize) this old (1944) chestnut. I don’t see anybody updating “Santa Baby” but okaaaay. Personally I figure if you don’t like a song write a different one. But if you absolutely have to rewrite a classic at least make the rewrite GOOD.

John and Kelly – this is shit.

This is like a Saturday Night Live skit gone horribly wrong. Not “out there” enough to be funny and not clever enough to make your point.

These new lyrics are LAME.

“My mom will start to worry (I’ll call the car and tell him to hurry)”

LAME.

“So, really, I’d better scurry (Your driver, his name is Murray)”

SUPER LAME

“What will my friends think? (Well I think they should rejoice) If I have one more drink? (It’s your body and your choice)

LAME PREACHY

“I ought to say, “No, no, no, sir” (Then you really ought to go, go, go)”

GEEZ. THE WHOLE POINT IS SHE DOESN’T WANNA SAY NO NO NO.”

“At least I’m gonna say that I tried (Well, Murray, he just pulled up outside)”

WE HAVE NOW REACHED A NEW LOW IN LYRIC RECREATION.

The only line that is even vaguely clever is this: “My daddy will be pacing the floor (Wait, what are you still livin’ home for?)” Yep. That one got a small chuckle from me.

And then – the crowning glory in this shitstorm of banality – THE UBER DRIVER GETS HIS OWN LINE: “[The driver ] Ma’am, I really can’t stay”

I rest my case.

This is a very LAME comedy routine.

Except I don’t think that is what was intended. And I’m pretty sure if this version had been released BEFORE John Legend was named “Sexiest Man Alive” the fine folks at People Magazine would have rethunk. Cause there ain’t nothing sexy about this.

“Baby, It’s Cold Outside” is not a song about date rape. It is a song about date-dialogue in a bygone era. Period.

You don’t have to believe in Jesus to appreciate “Silent Night”. You don’t have to speak Spanish to sing along with “Feliz Navidad.” You don’t have to hate your granny to find “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer” amusing. IF you do. I personally think it’s the stupidest Christmas song EVER. So when it comes on, I turn it off. That’s all. I don’t rewrite the lyrics to be politically correct for 2019. Grandma doesn’t survive and take Santa to court for a hit and run. She doesn’t sue Rudolph for potentially drunk flying. And do you remember the line about Santa “playing with elves??”

Yep.

I am not going to tell you to lighten up or grow up or get a grip or even agree with me.

A classic is a classic is a classic. If you like it, turn it up. If you hate it, turn it off.

And if you’re a songwriter – go write your own damn songs. Or go be sexy. Whatever. Do YOUR thing. Spread your message. Speak your truth.

And let Frank Loesser’s masterpiece stand for exactly what it is.

A classic.

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How Much Social Energy Do You Waste On Guilt?

I was recently conversing with a friend about her active social calendar. G was having a difficult time fitting in all the things she felt she needed to fit in to appease all the people who had invited her to to fit herself into their social plans. She was fretting that with the festive season coming it would only get worse. How could she possibly get to every dinner, every party, every charity event and every casual cocktail hour and still maintain her sanity? There just aren’t enough hours in the day!

I suggested she take a deep breath and tell me which events she was really looking forward to. Which events tickled her fancy? Excited her about potential participation.
She named two. Of the twelve occasions in her datebook she named only two.

So I, in my great and unmatched wisdom (sorry) said “Okay then, just go to those two.”

I thought it was pretty simple.

“But how can I ignore those other people and their parties?” she howled, arms flailing. “They expect me to be there!”

“Tell them you regretfully can’t make it,” I answered.

“But I actually CAN make it,” she countered. “I just don’t wanna. I’ll have to lie and make up an excuse. Pretend I’m sick or something.”

Well see, here’s the thing, G. No you don’t.

Allow me to repeat that. NO. YOU. DON’T.

You are not morally obligated to accept every invitation you receive nor are you ethically obligated to go to every charity event and you are certainly not socially obligated to attend ANY function that will in no way enhance your life. I mean seriously, isn’t that the point of social functions? To enhance your life with revelry or deepened friendship or clever conversation or even excellent cuisine? Why go anywhere when you know you will be either bored silly, uncomfortable or watching the clock. For whatever reason.

Okay I will concede there are certain occasions when you just go, irrespective of your personal feelings. Family weddings. Milestone birthdays. Retirement parties. Once-in-a-lifetime events that demand celebration. I’m talking more about those everyday shindigs. The ones that compete for your energy, your stamina and your presence.

As I get older I find that my, how shall I say, willingness to dress up and go out anywhere has diminished greatly. I still enjoy dolling up at times and I certainly relish a good dinner party with great friends or just some casual cocktails that lead to stimulating repartee. I’m just not ALWAYS up for large, impersonal social events.

I have therefore been trying to teach myself to say no. As in no thank you. As in no I can’t make it and I don’t need to provide you with a reason. Just no. No IS a full sentence.
It’s not easy, this I know. My pal A is in the awkward position of choosing between a family event that is NOT a milestone and a weekend with good friends that she KNOWS she will savor. Her guilt gene tells her family must prevail! Her social gene says I want that time with my pals.

You know what I say? Life is too short to waste social energy on guilt. I’m not even sure if there is such a thing as social energy but I’m going to run with the concept that such a thing does in fact exist. We all have family energy, we have work energy, we have hobby energy and we have friend energy. But yes, we also have social energy. And as we mature I believe its supply diminishes. I actually have a “no two nights in a row” rule now which I fervently try to implement. It basically means if I am socializing on Friday then I am home with my beloved on Saturday. And Thursday.

It never used to be that way. I could just go, go, go like the Energizer Bunny.

Not anymore. I prefer not to.

That’s correct. I prefer my dull, boring, unthrilling, fully contented cut-off-jeaned, un-made-up life.

At least every second night.

So the next time you get invited to something that holds no interest, or competes with something that does, or is just not your jam or you just don’t wanna … don’t. No matter how much someone else wants you to.

Remember these words – Life is too short to waste social energy on guilt.

Invest your social energy in joy. In pursuits that revive you. In celebrations that speak to your soul. There will be more than enough “have-tos” in your life. Allow your social calendar to be brimming with “want-tos.” You are your own cruise director.
It’s Halloween night and I’m about to hand out a bunch of candy. This is exactly what I want to do tonight. Nothing more, nothing less.

Tomorrow night I will welcome some good friends for drinks. And no, that’s not two nights in a row. I mean it IS. But there is no guilt in either of these endeavours. Only pleasure.

Staying at home with no makeup and cut-off jeans is just a bonus.

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“You Don’t Have To Be A Good Girl To Be A Good Person”

These “immortal” words were penned by Elizabeth Gilbert (author of “Eat, Pray, Love”). They’re probably not immortal at all, actually. She probably just penned them to publicize her latest tome “City Of Girls”.

If you’ve been reading my ramblings for a few years you probably already know that I’m a big fan of EG. She’s a darn fine writer and more importantly, a damn clever girl. And truth be told, it was her famous memoir that compelled me to write this blog. In my own voice. As she had written her adventures. Once I realized that I didn’t have to BE a “writer” and all I had to do was communicate my thoughts truthfully from MY perspective, well, the words started tumbling out. Or I guess rambling out might be a better turn of phrase.

So I just started reading Ms. G’s new book and I’ll admit that much like her previous work of fiction (“The Signature Of All Things”), this one is a slow starter. So slow, in fact, that after about 50 pages (and dwindling optimism) I almost gave up on “City Of Girls”. I didn’t. And I haven’t. And I’m happy to report that now, more than a third of the way in, I am becoming more interested. The characters are more interesting. More rounded. More compelling.

C of G starts out in the 40s, when good girls were just that … good. Women were supposed to be virgins until marriage. Moral propriety was instilled from a young age. Wanton behaviour was unacceptable and a reputation was something definitely NOT to be ruined.

At least that’s what I think. You see, I wasn’t around in the 40s. I’ve just read books and watched movies and listened to my mother. There were rules. Rules were meant to be followed.

This new book (at least so far) takes an entirely different approach. New York City is a veritable den of brazen delights, meant to be sampled nightly by our gorgeous heroines, soaked in gin and cigarettes, jazz and juke joints, countless pliable males and sex, sex, sex!

Which got me to thinking about my (misspent) youth.

You see I kind of straddled the sedate 60s (hey, I was a baby) and the swinging 70s (where I grew up in a hurry) and even the easy 80s (before HIV scared the hell out of us all). I was a late bloomer sexually and yes, there was a very real part of me who believed my first lover would become my husband. Now even if he had, my mother would have been none to please that we consummated our love prior to wedlock. As a matter of fact, when she found out I had gone on the pill she didn’t speak to me for two weeks. My father, on the other hand, said “That is something you tell your father and NOT your mother!”

Well … okay then. The truth is I always had some rebel in me and by the time I reached the end of high school said rebel could not be contained. She was ready to take the wanton world by storm!

Maybe an exaggeration. I actually did marry the second guy I slept with. That blessed union lasted an entire year and it was then and only then that my wild child was born.
I embraced freedom (from my parents, from a husband, from society’s outdated codes) with a fevered ferocity. I was always honest and I was always kind (I hope) but I wasn’t always a good girl. I mean, I think I was a good girl. I was a good friend and a good daughter (TO my parents, not FOR them) and I was a good sister and a good roommate (I had the best – oh God, the adventures she and I had!). But I no longer attached sex to love. To happily ever after. To husband material only. Sex was interesting. Sometimes fun. Sometimes entertainment. Sometimes a crashing disappointment and sometimes duller than bad TV on a Saturday night.

But sex was MINE to choose. Mine to orchestrate. Facilitate. Enjoy, turn down, rinse and repeat or even confuse with love.

What, who me?

Of course, me.

Because all those earlier life lessons didn’t just go quietly into that good night. They still nagged. They whispered. Sometimes they barked like a Doberman.

I usually drank them quiet.

Much like the nubile young showgirls in C of G.

I have no idea how this book will end. Ms. Gilbert’s book, I mean. I do know that I am (finally) interested enough to find out.

As for my own story, it is most definitely a long, winding and vibrantly colourful road. Who knows? Maybe one day I’ll write it down. What I have learned – about myself and dare I say most women of my generation – is that straddling that line between being a “good girl” and having a “good time” wasn’t always easy. And don’t get me wrong here. When I say a “good time” I don’t mean a licentious and corrupt pursuit of carnal pleasure. I mean FREEDOM. Freedom to act as men have acted throughout the ages.

Freedom to explore. Freedom to experience. Freedom to choose. Freedom to be 100% human in all its glory.

No, it wasn’t always easy.

And it didn’t require alcohol either.

It required fortitude. It required belief. Belief that men and women don’t “get” separate rules. Belief that sometimes pleasure in itself is a highly worthwhile pursuit. Belief that my mother’s rules are not my rules.

And most importantly belief that just because my mother’s rules are not my rules I am NOT a bad person.

Yes. I learned long ago (even without the help of Elizabeth G) that YES – you can be a “good person” and not be a “good girl”. You can choose your path and walk it without apology, all the while still being good. Good to your family. Good to the people around you. Good to the world.

My personal “book” has brought me to a wonderfully fulfilling place. Do I regret certain escapades? Of course. Do I remember them all? Yes I do! If I could would I change anything?

Yeah, here’s where you think I’m going to say no. But that’s just dumb. Of course I would change certain things. Wouldn’t we all?

The point is, I had the freedom to choose to make mistakes. The freedom to live by my own definition. The freedom to participate in my own life by my own rules.
For that I make no apology. For that I express deep gratitude.

As for that City Of Girls, who knows how it will turn out for them? My gut tells me some will thrive and some will lose.

I’m pretty sure that in the grand scheme of life, the same goes for us all.

Good girl or not.

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Why I Am No Longer A Damsel In Distress

It’s funny (not really) how you can reach the age of 50 and have no idea who you really are or what kind of programs you have been running (unsuccessfully) your entire life.

Yes – programs. Like a computer. We all install our own programs (usually at a young age) that we think will serve us well. We discover these programs via movies, books, our parents, friends and fairy tales and then we self-install (unwittingly), assuming (based on nothing concrete) that our operating system will benefit.

And then we age and experience and learn and suffer and get disappointed and suffer some more and then if we really, really pay attention we finally choose to decipher those programs, scrutinize them, analyze them and probably realize that they are mostly … shite. Malarkey. Poppycock.

Now that I am past the age of 50, with a multitude of life and love experiences colouring my outlook, I am been forced to confess that one of my most compelling operating systems was “Damsel In Distress”. And no, I do not mean I was a fragile weakling of a woman, waiting in a tower spinning silk whilst awaiting Prince Charming. I mean I was always “looking” for a man to bring meaning to my life. A man to bring joy to my existence. A man to rescue me from the prosaic tedium of everyday life.

Don’t get me wrong … I wasn’t JUST looking for that dude. I was singing and traveling and having fun and sometimes getting into trouble. But there was ALWAYS a GUY somewhere in the picture. And when that guy started to flounder there was always ANOTHER guy waiting in the wings to pick up the pieces. I always had a Plan B. I always solidified Plan B before ditching Plan A.

I was an asshole.

And a Damsel in Distress. Because I fully believed that without that dashing hero I was a useless heroine. Incapable of defining my own existence. I hadn’t read “Paper Bag Princess” and probably wouldn’t have liked it even if I had.

And then my heart’s true desire showed up. Life and love as I had always imagined became real. I was living the dream.

You know. For a minute or two. Until “Heart’s True Desire” moved on and left me a true Damsel In Distress. No Plan B. No guy waiting in the wings.

I was just alone.

And so after a (distressing and pitiful) spell I started dating. But eventually I also started living my own life. Gathering together a girlfriend posse. Volunteering at my son’s school. Singing professionally. All things that had been back-burnered in my ongoing pursuit of LOVE.

It took years. And I mean many, many years. The thing with programs is that when you finally begin to uninstall them, once again you may not even realize you are doing it. You just keep writing new code and trying new systems and then SUDDENLY (not really) you are totally updated. Maybe even upgraded.

My darling ex husband genuinely wanted to be my Knight in Shining Armour. He even said those exact words to me after the third or fourth time I left him. The problem was he just didn’t know how to implement that program and I didn’t understand the manual. We were incapable of communicating (two entirely different operating systems). So even when we scored the occasional win, we always returned to “system malfunction”.

But when I left him the final time for HTD (sounds like a disease but I mean “Heart’s True Desire”) my darling ex found himself in daily communication with HTD’s darling ex. They were in the same boat. They shared the same pain. They got each other instantly and they built on that understanding. She was quite rightly a broken mess and he was a DUDE (also somewhat broken) who could not only empathize with her mess but SAVE her from that mess. She was a Damsel in much Distress and he finally had a program he could implement.

He could rescue her.

And he did.

Some people said it would never last. Rebound and all that stuff.

Wrongo.

Fifteen years and still going strong.

Maybe some fairy tales are actually meant to be? Maybe some programs just need to find the right computer?

Okay. I give up on the metaphor.

I am most grateful they found each other and rode off into the sunset. It certainly helped lessen my guilt.

The problem was … I was still desperately running that old program. Waiting for that KISA (Knight in Shining Armour) to rescue me. I mean, I THOUGHT I was. Desperate. I thought I sincerely and desperately wanted a partner.

OMG.

That was the tipping point. I did NOT want to be rescued. I did not want to be saved and I did not want to spend my life with some guy on a white horse.

I wanted a partner.

So when my first real post-HTD relationship struggled on the brink of extinction, did I revert to that old program and procure Plan B before abandoning Plan A?

I did not.

I came to the rational conclusion that we were simply not a good fit. I bid that lovely boy a fond farewell and I got on with my SOLO life.

Yep.

I was middle-aged, living in a new town, my son was off on his own adventures and I didn’t have a clue how I was going to function solo. But I knew that clueless on my own was better than clued-in with the wrong mate.

I rescued myself. I paper-bag-princessed the fuck out of my life. There was no prince abandon or to save or find or bow down to or hope for.

Okay not true. Obviously I was still hoping for a prince. Not even a prince. You know, just some cute commoner to augment my already pretty cool life as a teammate. I didn’t need saving from anything.

Talk about a shift in planetary energy!

It took exactly two months for Prince R to show up.

And here, in our tiny kingdom, after more than seven years, he doth remain. Augmenting my life as I hope I do his.

The program I am running these days is decidedly different. If you own a computer or even a phone you already know that if you do not update constantly you get left behind. You become obsolete. You can reboot all you want but eventually that old system needs to be put to rest.

Amen.

I was a DID (Damsel in Distress) for far too many years. I would have punched you in the face had you called me that (aren’t we a ridiculously proud lot?) but the absolute truth is THAT is exactly what I was.

Now I like to think of myself as a co-president of an international cooperative.

Developing new programs daily. Implementing them, improving them and sharing them.

This ain’t Disneyland. And I ain’t no damsel in distress. There’s no white horse, no shining armour and no happily ever after.

There IS happily right now.

And this is definitely a program I can log on too.

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Hey There Lonely Girl …

I spent a lot of time alone this past summer. As a matter of fact I’ve spent quite a bit of time alone this past decade. One of the side effects of working from home is that, apart from my trusty canine, I’m pretty much alone all day. And when warmer temps arrive, I transport that canine and my computers to my bay-side happy place and I am alone once again.

Well … as alone as you can be in a park full of people.

The thing is, when my beloved is working or otherwise engaged (read: home improvements or familial obligations), I spend days on end alone. I may be just a shout away from lots of folks, and social interaction is usually just a quick text away, but I spend days on end alone.

Because I like it.

I have learned to enjoy my own company. I find myself to be quite entertaining, quite frankly, and the dog is a great conversationalist. He never bores me with mundane chatter and he’s typically pretty content to just laze around, something I’m also quite proficient at. I mean I like loud music and cooking and movies and writing and reading and walking. But I am quite content to do all of these things by myself.

This was not always the case. I used to HATE being alone. I avoided alone-ness at all costs. Especially in the evening. And overnight. I recall one occasion when my darling ex-husband was called away last-minute on business and I was a wreck. I didn’t have a chance to line up a babysitter. You know … for me, the 35 year old. I was such a wreck that hubby’s boss actually offered to come for a sleepover.

Um … weird, I know.

When I started working from home (and my child was in school) I once again discovered aloneness. This time it wasn’t so bad because I knew that both my son and husband were at some point coming home. I still wasn’t a big fan of those solo overnighters but hey, I was a MOTHER and that lioness thing kinda took over. Plus we had a killer attack dog who would have annihilated anything that messed with my son or me.

Fast forward to the demise of my marriage and the subsequent demise of my post-marital relationship. Suddenly I found myself truly alone. No man, no kid, no friend, no dog … just me. It was super weird and I was super lonely. Like loneliness of the torturous kind.

There’s a wonderful Canadian singer/songwriter named Lynn Miles and her song “Loneliness” describes it beautifully:

Loneliness is an envelope you can seal yourself into
And send off to a stranger in a town across the sea
Loneliness is a tired old friend who carries your baggage
Through airports and train stations for free
Loneliness wears a suit and tie on busy city streets
And makes you cry at parties filled with people that you know
Loneliness will take your hand and lead you to the shoreline
On foggy days to find the undertow

“And makes you cry at parties full of people that you know.”

Wow. Just wow.

Because that was me in my marriage. I was the ultimate social queen, the queen of distraction, the queen of fake smiles and the queen of party-giving. Anything to keep that hollow aching at bay. Trouble is that hollow aching didn’t cooperate. It followed me into empty bathrooms in the midst of rousing revelry. It liquefied me onto the kitchen floor when music was playing and so was the rest of the family (downstairs). It sat next to me on plane-rides overseas, it kept me awake every night with its nagging arguments and it forced me to up my social game even further, in a noble yet futile attempt to shut that bastard up.

Loneliness was never my friend. And sure, I could be lonely at a rip-roaring shindig but I also equated being alone with lonely. And so being alone became the enemy.

But then there was that fateful night. That night of true alone-ness. And I was forced to have a good long look in the mirror and ask myself what the fucking problem was? Was I alone? Was I lonely? Lonesome? Solitary? Companionless? Dogless?

All of the above, I reckon.

My friend K solved the one problem by gifting me with a kitten that Christmas. But the rest of the problem I was forced to solve alone. Because thereafter arrived many “alone” nights (and days) and the hits just keep on coming!

The difference is … I learned. Through practice and repetition and experience and desire, I learned to be alone. And I learned that being alone no longer equates to loneliness.

Being alone can be a gift. An absolute joyful, self-indulgent, awe-inspiring gift. To dance around the kitchen, listening to the music you love, cooking the food you love, wearing the cut-off jeans (and no bra) you love and loving every minute … THAT is a gift. No fake smiles. No crying in the bathroom (or on the kitchen floor). And most importantly, no FEAR that you are a loser. No fear that no one wants to enjoy your company. Or even that the “guy you loved” doesn’t want to enjoy your company. Because the reality is that YOU enjoy your company.

This past week I have been enjoying my happy place for the final week of 2019. I’ve had a bit of (wonderful) social interaction but for the most part I have been pretty much alone.

I have not been lonely.

I have been grateful. Grateful for gorgeous sunny days and cool, snugly nights (yes the dog is here). Grateful for long walks close to the water which bring me so much peace. Grateful for chick-flicks and wine and candlelight and yes … solitude. I mean there’s an army of fruit flies living with me (just smacked another) but yeah, the serenity of my assistance has been palpable.

I am alone. But I am not lonely.

And now, as the park begins to spring to life, with this final thanks-giving weekend upon us, I am grateful for that too. A child’s voice, a dog’s bark, friends arriving soon and revelry to be made … I am ready. There will be no private weeping in the bathroom. That girl does not exist anymore. Loneliness will not “take my hand and lead me to the shore.”

My dog will. And there will be a Frisbee in his mouth.

And we will both be smiling.

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Reinventing Yourself … Could You Do It or Would Your EGO Get In The Way?

Today I counted up the number of times I have reinvented myself. If I’m really nit-picky, that number comes in at lucky 7. And I’m only counting post-schooling because I don’t think we really begin to formally invent ourselves until we hit the real world.

I started as a musical theatre/pop singer. Then I was a cocktail waitress. After 6 months of that I became a country singer. And when the road life no longer appealed I fell into a job doing independent record promotions. That gig found me chatting up radio folks every week which led me to my own gig on radio. Forget the two years at radio college. I had one day of training and BAM – I was on the air. Fun times.

After ten years of live country radio I morphed again, this time into a full-time mother and wife. I had never anticipated those shoes but when they arrived all shiny and new I slipped into them like a comfy old pair of slippers. Until a year and a half later when I was offered another radio gig (this time in Smooth Jazz). There I sit today, these 19 years later, augmenting my on-air shenanigans with a little singing and this wine soaked blog.
Lots of hats over lots of time. Some big moves, some small ones, some sideways and some full left turn. Yes … lots of hats.

But what if you wore the same hat your entire life? Or maybe only two hats? And through dumb luck or a mischievous Universe or even just plain old passage of time, you found yourself faced with a brand new and completely unfamiliar future. You found the need to reinvent yourself. Could you do it?

When I came off the road (the first time) after 6 years of touring Canada and singing my little heart out, I immediately procured a waitress job. I had a long-range plan (start my own country band) but the short-range involved rent and groceries and gas and the occasional beer (wine came later). So there I was in this cutesy pub, slinging brews and chips and the odd whiskey and this guys comes in and says “Hey, wait a minute. I know you! Didn’t you used to sing at Ruby’s?”

And I’m like “Yep. That was me. Sang at Ruby’s a lot, actually.”

And he says “So what the hell are YOU doing here?”

Well, I had a couple of choices at that moment. Slink into the woodwork or own my situation. I chose #2. “I’m paying the rent, thank you very much sir, so a really big tip would be much appreciated. I’ll even sing for it if I must.”

Yes, I was a gutsy young thing but I will tell you I was also more than a little mortified. Here I was, a girl with a university degree and a performance career and I’d even had a record out that got played on radio and there I was … SERVING.

In hindsight, I’ll tell you that little serving job paid more than any singing gig I’d ever done and it was fun, easy work. But it wasn’t exactly chock full of cache. Prestige. Accomplishment. It was just a job.

My pal G experienced the same thing but to an even further degree. Because her musical act won a Juno! Did some big honkin’ international tours. Were famous! But she still had to pay the bills when the music wasn’t, so she waitressed. And got recognized.
And owned it.

I love that about her. She owned it with a big fat smile on her face and a plate of pasta in her hand. She owned the need to reinvent herself “when required” to navigate life and all its demands.

Over the years I was privileged to work in radio with some formidable human beings. A few of them are still at it but many have moved on. Now whether they moved on because radio can be a cold, harsh bitch or because time was not their friend or because they just got tired of being poor – I don’t know. But move on they did. To Real Estate or IT or entrepreneurship or sales. They moved. They reinvented. They took ownership of their lives and changed lanes.

Because really there are so many damn lanes available to us. You may enjoy one for a great many years and then decide, or be forced, or just be curious to try another one. And ya know what? If that other one doesn’t work out there is yet another nother one to tackle. Life’s lanes are infinite.

So what then is the obstacle? The big fat stumbling block that so very often hinders reinvention.

EGO.

Ego is the obstacle. Because if you have allowed yourself to be defined by one thing and only one thing it’s pretty damn hard to let that signature go. Especially if your signature has been something “prestigious”. Something with glamour or fame or social cache or whatever else may colour your self-worth. And if your ego wins the day reinvention can become darn near impossible. Unless say you are reinventing from a Countess to a Queen. Then it’s probably okay.

That was the dilemma with T. You see T’s husband was a big-wig investment dude. And when he traded T in on a younger model she was forced to reinvent herself. She still had money (and a good lawyer) and a country club membership and a Jaguar. What T didn’t have was a husband. And for some strange reason that lack of husband changed her social currency profoundly. For a few years T wallowed in misery and Chardonnay. And then she smartened up. She started volunteering. Anywhere and everywhere. She made new friends. She found new meaning in her life. She sold the Jag and bought a Prius. She stopped wearing diamonds and gobs of makeup and let her hair go gray. And she loved it! She loved herself. She totally fell in love with the newly reinvented T.

Well that’s easy, you’re gonna tell me. It’s easy to reinvent yourself when money isn’t an object. It’s almost like going on a cheap and cheerful holiday.

Fair enough.

R wasn’t quite so fortunate. R didn’t get a big fat divorce settlement or even a younger wife. What R got was notice. Notice that is his career-defining job (the one he loved most) was coming to an end. Funding was done. Money was (more than) spent. Times had changed. whatever the reason, his services were no longer required.

Was R sad? You bet? Did R wallow? Only a bit. Did R reinvent himself?

With amazing gusto.

R moved two hours away and found a gig that had virtually nothing to do with his PhD, his history or his wheelhouse. R found a job that will require a huge new learning curve and lots of hands-on training. R found a job that will tap into his love of working with his hands and make him a few bucks. Even if it is not his dream job R found a job that will further his dream. His dream to live a contented, happy life doing something fun and productive. Sure, he’s going to have to work damn hard to figure out this new reality. But he is up for the challenge. His ego is not dragging him back to “What if? or “I shoulda!” or “It’s not fair.”

R is in full reinvention mode. And digging it.

Just so you know … R is my beloved. And the above is a true story.

And I am just so damn proud of this man.

He left his ego at the door and is facing a “new” life head on. He’s wearing a new hat these days and it looks damn good on him. And his re-invention has just begun. Who knows where it will lead?

I can’t wait to find out.

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Just When You Think You Have All The Time In The World …

We’re all just so darn busy, right? Busy with work, busy with family, busy with hobbies and sidelines and responsibilities. Busy, busy, busy. And then something comes up and we’d like to do it and it sounds like a great idea and we think we’d enjoy it but all that busi-ness intrudes and we just can’t seem to get there. Get to that thing we’d like to do. We keep saying we’ll get there. We tell ourselves we’ll get there. We tell others we’ll get there (to them or that thing or whatever). But then weeks pass and months and maybe even years and we don’t. We don’t get there.

And then it’s too late. And getting there is no longer an option.

This past week I lost a very old, very dear friend. Unexpectedly. R had a massive heart attack and died. He’s not much older than I am and one morning he kissed his wife and that night he died. Pretty much just like that.

R was a seminal part of my teenage party years in cottage country. If there was a cottage available (as in ‘no parents’) we partied. If there was no cottage available we found a campsite on the Bruce Trail and we partied. One night a big gang of us got ourselves to a different campground one bay over and when the cops arrived to bust up our little shindig we ran for our lives. Especially those of us underage revelers. I don’t exactly remember how I got there but I sure as heck remember how I got home. There was R (not exactly a tiny dude) driving his MINI bike, and W, my bestie who clocked in at almost 6′ and then me, hanging on to her hanging on to R for dear life. That’s right. Three of us on a MINI bike high-tailing it out of trouble. For about 25 kilometers.

And yes, trouble we did evade. We made it home safe and sound (and probably neither straight nor sober) and laughed our stupid heads off with glee and relief.

That is just one of my many memories of R. To this day I cannot hear the Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young song “Almost Cut My Hair” without thinking about him. Because his absolute signature line was the first – “I will now proceed to entangle the entire area.”

I still have no idea what that (spoken) line has to do with the rest of the song. All I know is that line is R’s. Always was, always will be.

In subsequent years, with me spending less time at the cottage, R and I would see each other in passing, always wave with a cheery smile and on occasion have a quick chat. He got married later in life and I would then also chat with his wonderful wife. When I once again became a “regular” at my beautiful bay we would always talk about getting together. You know, for a proper visit. Cocktails, maybe a barbecue … something more than a passing greeting. Last summer we even tried a few times. Just not enough times I guess because it never worked out.

And now here we are in September, with summer threatening to fade into fall, and once again the season escaped us. We never got together. I would see R almost every morning when I did my daily walk and he drove past on his way to work. His smile was truly so large it lit up his truck. I hope mine was too, because it DID make me happy to see him. Every morning I was so very happy to see him. And every morning I thought “Yeah, we really do need to get together.”

But we didn’t. And now he’s gone. These past few mornings I keep looking for that white truck and that big smile. But the road is eerily empty.

I know you’ve heard it a million times. Don’t put things off! I know you even understand it on an intellectual level. I am here to remind you that on a very real and emotional level putting things off – important, life-affirming, heat warming things – can have dire and disheartening consequences.

We do not have all the time in the world. And even if we do, someone we care for may not. If you want something to happen MAKE it happen.

Next summer we will have R-Fest here at the lake, to honour this lovely and much-loved man. I’m not exactly sure what that will look like but I am sure we will all gather in love and friendship to honour a man whose impact was profound and perhaps not quite fully understood. I mean, I hope we’ll all gather. Who knows? Next summer is a lot of months away. Maybe we should have R-Fest at Thanksgiving? Maybe we should have had R-Fest while he was still alive? Heck, maybe I should have just tried harder to have my own personal R-Fest while he was still alive?

Live and learn. Die and learn.

Rest on a beautiful bay up high, my friend. Watch down on us, smile that gorgeous smile, join us next summer for your party and know that are sorely missed. And greatly loved.
Maybe one day we can try that mini bike thing again. You know, from cloud to cloud. I mean honestly, I’ll put THAT off for as long as I can. But one day …

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