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Friday, June 27, 2008

Southern Girls Living Fearlessly - Day 6

Today is the big day - the day we find passion. Now that we understand the difference between fearless and foolish (Day 5), we must turn our sights to passion. Not the kind of passion we feel toward our men, but the kind we find for ourselves.

Before your mind slips under the surface of that gutter of sludge, thinking all kinds of illicit thoughts about giving yourself passion, STOP. Let's talk a little about religion. We southerners know a thing or two about good old-time religion and can easily quote a few verses about it:

  • You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. (Psalms 16:11)
  • By standing firm, you will gain life. (Luke 21:19)
  • Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. (Romans 12:12)
  • What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul. (Matthew 16:26)

We sing songs like The Old Rugged Cross, Just as I Am, Amazing Grace, and How Great Thou Art. We lift more folks up in prayer at one time than Lou Ferigno could lift over his head with both arms raised. And when it comes to casseroles for the home bound, we've got 'em in the oven.

Why is it, then, that we're always trying, through bible studies, women's groups, Christian couples classes to get closer to God? Continually seeking, yet, each time, somehow coming up short, disappointed. Why?

Most likely because we haven't found our passion. Nothing brings a woman (or a man, for that matter), closer to God than finding and following her passion, because it is her one intended purpose, who she is, why God put her in this place in this time, how she will fulfill her calling, her conduit for changing the world. It is her destiny. It completes her. It defines her. It brings her ultimate joy.

A passion is more than a hobby. A hobby keeps our hands busy, fills our time, like knitting or crossword puzzles. But a passion is something a person does because she can't help it. And the reason many of us haven't found our passion yet is that we know how powerful it is. We fear giving ourselves over to it, being swept away by it, being consumed. It's inconvenient to our neat and tidy plan for each day.

But to truly live the fearless life, we must give in to it, whatever it is. And it could be anything - bee keeping, bird watching, decorating, organizing, sewing, selling, sorting, furniture rearranging, fashion, rock climbing, cleaning, writing, reading, cattle roping, snorkeling, cycling, flower arranging, gardening, kick boxing, bottle collecting . . . the possibilities are endless.

TODAY'S ASSIGNMENT: Find your passion. Do not pass go, do not collect $200 until you have identified it - that one thing that is THE THING for you! Answer the following questions to get yourself headed down the path of self-discovery:

  • What are your natural talents?
  • What are you driven to do?
  • What are your interests?
  • If you had to give up all activities but one, which one would you keep?
  • If you were alone on a deserted island, what's the one thing you would want to have with you, other than your toothbrush or lipstick?

Now review your responses. You should have a good variety. It's time to sort through them to flesh out your passion. It is NOT your passion, IF

  • You want to do it because it looked cool when someone in a movie, TV show, or book did it.
  • You think you should do it because your husband or children expect you to do it.
  • You feel guilty, like you let someone else down, if you don't do it.
  • Your mother told you to do it.
  • It feels like a burden when you're doing it or thinking about doing it.
  • It embarrasses you.
  • It feels cumbersome and unnatural.
  • You do it because a friend(s) does it.
  • You do it to fit in with a particular group.
  • You do it for shock value.
  • You do it to prove something to someone else.
  • You do it because it's easier than doing anything else.
  • You do it because you can't think of anything else to do.

When you've found your TRUE PASSION, you will know because

  • You get in a bad mood when you can't do it.
  • You lose track of time and place when you're doing it.
  • You feel your brain shift to a more creative side when you're doing it.
  • You would do it, even if your mother disapproved.
  • You think about it all the time.
  • You seek ways to do it better.
  • You want to share it with the world.
  • It challenges you.
  • You feel like you've accomplished something when you do it.
  • You almost feel like you're bragging when you tell other people about it.

Get started. You're almost there. Good luck!

Day 7 - Making Comparisons

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Southern Girls Living Fearlessly - Day 5

Today's lesson is very, very important. In fact, getting this one lesson straight can make the difference between successfully living the fearless life and people only showing up to your funeral to see what the mortician dressed you in.

Living fearlessly is NOT, I repeat NOT, the same as living foolishly. In fact, doing foolish things makes it that much harder for us to do fearless things. Embarrassment and loss of self-respect drag us down far worse than fear.

Webster Dictionary defines foolish (adj.) as:
1. greatly deficient in good judgement, common sense, real wisdom; idiotic
2. contrary to all good sense, absurd
3. inviting mockery, scorn, or derision; ridiculous [i.e. people coming to your funeral just to see if it's tacky]

On the other hand, and in stark contrast, WebNet defines fearless (adj.) as:
1. oblivious of dangers or perils or calmly resolute in facing them [Think of our Heloise from Day 4]
2. invulnerable to fear or intimidation

The definition of fearless best describes the southern belle, or at the least Miss Scarlett O'Hara for whom tomorrow is another day. But we ladies of the magnolia-blossomed southland forget to capitalize on these strengths in our day to day lives. Still, we shall not diminish ourselves or our heritage by confusing foolishness with fearlessness.

Foolish is putting dark meat in our chicken salad; fearless is adding a touch of honey and lime. Foolish is wearing a necklace for a bikini top and a shoestring for the bottoms to the Club pool; fearless is going to the gym at 5am so we could wear it if we wanted . . . and look damn good. Foolish is thinking you'll be happier with your husband's best friend; fearless is asking the man you've been married to for 25 years out on a date.

Heloise (Day 4) could have said where she got that chocolate sauce she served the Garden Club members. Certainly the shock and awe would have provided a few wonderful minutes of mirth. But her sheer fearlessness in solving her problem would have been negated. She would have gone from homemaking hero to harlot faster than Billy Ray Cyrus went from Achy Braky Heart to broke.

Now that foolish and fearless have been clarified, it's assignment time:

TODAY'S ASSIGNMENT: Whatever you do, do not write any of this down. Leave no evidence. This is between you and you conscience. Find a comfortable chair, sit down, lean back, and close your eyes. When the kids come running through the den hollerin', "Whatcha' doin'? Why're you sleepin'?" tell them, "Y'all run on outside, now. Mama's just restin' her eyes."

Okay, get very, very relaxed. Eyes still closed. Think of the most foolish thing you have recently done. Relive the event. Picture yourself going through the motions all over again. Let the angst build up. Feel your chest tighten. Admit to yourself that you don't want to feel this way anymore.

Next, visualize what you could have done differently. How could you have behaved fearlessly instead of foolishly? Did you get caught gossiping? Maybe you could have refuted the gory details instead of wallowing in them. Did you have your yard service prune your neighbor's crepe myrtles? Perhaps the more fearless act would be to find the beauty in wild growth, or at the minimum, talk to the neighbor.

Finally, draw an imaginary bubble in the air with your hands and breath into it. You're filling the bubble with foolishness. Let it go. Move on to the fearless life.

When you're ready, get up and go finish the dishes. Your kids will be back any minute to see if you're still sleeping.

Tune in for Day 6 - Finding passion.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Southern Girls Living Fearlessly - Day 4

Did I fail to mention that if you'd like to remain a UDC member in good standing or still get invited to the annual Camellia Ball, you should probably commit to memory then burn that list you made on Day 3. A small thing I know, but we southern ladies are all about the details.

It's those same details that prevent us from living fearlessly. "Oh, I've thrown caution to the wind," you pshaw me. But have you really?

It's much easier to live fearlessly in the big moments than it is in the small ones. I never had any trouble, during the births of my four children, grabbing my husband by the collar and threatening to levitate off the delivery table and donkey kick him in his sensitivities if he didn't get off the phone with his mother. But I would never have the guts to make that same promise on a random Sunday afternoon.

The reason fearlessness is easier in the big moments is because there just aren't that many of them. There are thousnads upon thousands of small moments in our lifetimes. Adrenalin drives big moments. We wrestle with worry in the small ones. The details detour us from fearless living. We can't let go of our well-laid plans. For heaven's sake, what would people think?

Ladies, I'm here to tell you, that life, real life, is wrapped up in all the moments between the plans. The only way to live fearlessly is to embrace the uncertainty and roll with it. Take for example my friend Heloise, who found herself in a rather tight spot - her day for garden club refreshements and her daughter decides to get a gushing wound. Helpful Miss Betty Sue Renfrew offered to drop by and collect the refreshments early so Heloise could scoot on to the ER with her daughter.

Early! Early was no good. Heloise hadn't purchased the refreshments yet, but what diva of perfection would ever admit that. So she grabbed a container of strawberries from the fridge and arranged them on a platter. She scurried to the back porch and plucked some sprigs of mint for garnish. But she was fresh out of powdered sugar for dip.

What did she do? She grabbed a ladder and visited her secret stash on the back of the top right pantry shelf, where she found a jar of chocolate body paint (she apparently is an old pro at living fearlessly). She poured that chocolate paint into a small crystal bowl, placed it in the middle of the strawberries, and smiled as she passed the whole platter out the door to Betty Sue, who later reported how much the ladies raved over the refreshments.

YOUR ASSIGNMNET: Today, write a letter to that timid woman inside of you, who always whispers "What if," right before you decide to step outside of the plan, to break out of the worry, to let the details fall where they may. Don't fuss at her, encourage her. Ask her why she whispers those worrisome thoughts in your ear. Ask her what it is that she is afraid of. Tell her the story of Heloise. Let her know that if she will let go and let you live fearlessly, you will take good care of her.

Don't scrimp. This is an event. Write this letter on your best monogrammed stationary with your best pen. Don't stop writing until you have poured it all out. Then fold it neatly and slide it into a coordinating envelope. Place the letter in the bottom of your jewelry box for safe keeping.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Southern Girls Living Fearlessly - Day 3

Yes, I know there are easier ways to change my life, be a new person, in 28 days or less. Day 1, go under the knife. Days 2-28, stay at home until the swelling goes down. It's really tempting, since someone else, the plastic surgeon, does all of the work and all I have to do is sit around and wait for the results.

Learning to live fearlessly, however, requires me to change from the inside out. And certainly, I will never discount plastic surgery as a viable means of facing a fuller life (I believe in putting my best face forward), but it won't work in and of itself. Still, following through with the pledge I made yesterday isn't easy. I need some internal prompting to let loose and live fearlessly.

TODAY'S ASSIGNMENT: Get your pen and notepad; you know, the one you use to make those endless lists. If you don't know what I'm referring to, then most likely you're a Yankee interloper here, because all Southern ladies make lists; grocery lists, to-do lists, school supply lists, lists of people who are having affairs, lists of people to whom to send invitations to the annual Derby party, lists of people who fail to RSVP and will not receive an invitation, . . . Nonetheless, consider yourself welcome here. Try and follow along.

Okay, now that you have your writing materials, write down the names of three women whose eyes you would metaphorically, yet gracefully, scratch out, given the opportunity, except that you want to make sure they see the fearless woman you are becoming:

My list:
1. Mary Catherine Poteet
2. Betty Sue Washam
3. Margaret Anne Cawthon

Don't take it personally, ladies. Every girl needs a little motivation.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Southern Girls Living Fearlessly - Day 2

Okay, if you completed Day 1's assignment, you've now got a fearless piece of prized artwork gracing the public domain of your domicile. But have you truly committed to living fearlessly, or do you still feel queasy when you consider it?

Listen to me. This is your life and it's going faster than you may think. Not too long from now, you're going to wake up one morning, wrinkled and gray, get out of bed, and realize that a simple walk to the bathroom is a greater risk than living fearlessly ever was. And after you fall down on the bathroom floor with a broken hip, wadding up dirty clothes to make a buffer between your head and the cold tile floor, you'll have plenty of time to mull over regrets until one of your adult kids finds you and threatens to put you in a home.

By golly, you're going to need some stories to live off of in that home. You need some stories to tell right now, at Girls' Night Out tonight. And I promise, you can live fearlessly without putting dark meat in your chicken salad.

TODAY'S ASSIGNMENT: Put on your reddest shade of lipstick, paint your toenails, and repeat after me, OUT LOUD, LOUDLY- Today and every day, I will live fearlessly. There is no excuse. This is my life. This all the time I get on this earth. I will not live forever. Today is my day! I will do it now.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Southern Girls Living Fearlessly - Day 1

I present to my readers, the Day 1 of the Southern Girl's Primer on Living Fearlessly. Make sure you do the assignments found at the end of each day. Before long, you'll be living a new, more vibrant life, without ever giving up your neutral decorating pallet:

There are opportunity costs built into everything we choose. We often overlook the fine print at the bottom of the contract and sign a waiver without reading it. If we didn't we would never make a decision or move forward. Making an informed decision is preceded by long periods of failure to act.

I've decided enough is enough. I will live fearlessly. I'm throwing caution tape to the wind, unfurling it like big yellow celebration streamers. Let it wrap someone else in complacency.

Oh heavens! What am I saying? A good southern woman can't do that! We have rules, we have standards, for goodness's sake, we have etiquette to follow. I would simply die if I thought my neighbors disapproved of my behavior.

But there must be a way. Certainly living fearlessly doesn't mean wearing a black dress to a wedding or a hot pink cocktail number to a funeral. I don't have to paint my monogram on the garage door or hang out in a juke joint to live fearlessly. Southern girls can honor their heritage, keep their proper prim, and still throw a buttered biscuit now and again. We can know who our people are, compose a polite invitation or thank you note, deliver casseroles to the sick and deceased, and still sweeten our tea with pure sugar.

Take me, for example. For six years a bare bulb hung from the ceiling of my 1915 home. I decided when we moved in that I would buy a crystal chandelier to match the huge ones in the living room and dining room. I feared marring the traditional architecture of my home by hanging something more modern. After six years of concern, worry, saving, angst, searching, I found myself in a lighting store making an impulse buy.

I purchased a walnut colored pendant fixture. After my husband hung it, I looked up and realized what a fool I had been all these years, tangled up in caution tape. It wasn't a crystal chandelier that the room needed, it was a touch of me.

YOUR FIRST ASSIGNMENT: What your life needs is a touch of YOU in it. Today go buy a piece of canvas, an old board, a slip of tin roof, anything with a paintable flat surface (but, do be tasteful, no saw blades or birdhouses). Using whatever paints and brushes you have, create your own folk art, abstract art, self-portrait, etc. There are three rules to this:
1) Do not paint what other people expect you to paint.
2) Your finished work must be displayed in a common area of your house, where guests to your home will see it.
3) You may never, under any circumstances, including being pressured by a realtor or interior decorator, make excuses for it, diminish it verbally, or move it to a less conspicuous area; that would be like badmouthing YOURSELF and hiding away in a closet and we all know a proper lady would never poor mouth the family name.