Talk the talk. Walk the walk. Look the look.
My mama always told me, especially when I was a teenager, that even if I didn't feel happy or have anything nice to say I better do my level best to look happy. Appearances are everything in a southern girl's world. "Put on a pretty smile and pretend," she would say. And over the years I found that simply smiling often brought about a change in my attitude.
One thing we southern ladies do very well is fake it. Lord knows we can ooh and ahh over Emily Ann's 4 carat diamond engagement ring with sapphire baguettes, only to gather on the balcony with our confidants to discuss how gaudy and overdone it is. But Emily Ann will never know the difference, because it is in our genes to pull off such things. In fact, faking it well is why folks from the south are considered to be the politest in the union. When we remark to a traveler from above the Mason-Dixon how lovely a white Christmas must be, he doesn't know that what we're really thinking is, Heaven help us, that accent will be the death of me if he doesn't move on here presently. Then we offer up another glass of sweetened iced tea.
Our generosities of word and deed never cease.
Two keys to living fearlessly are putting on the proper face and a little make-believe. Some of you may not have guessed it yet, but I am interminably shy. Not just a little shy, but SHY. For me, standing in a bookstore greeting total strangers and asking them to purchase my book (If Mama Don't Laugh, It Ain't Funny) is a monumental task wrought with worry and angst. But since I'm living fearlessly I make myself do it anyway.
I dress the part, wearing a smart skirt, crisp blouse, and precious shoes. That way if someone can't think of anything nice to say about my book, she can at least comment on how much she likes my ensemble. I put on a smile. According to my friend Heather, if a girl smiles and says pleasantries, the worst anyone can say or think about her is that "she's sweet as she can be." Finally, I maintain good posture - shoulders back, chin up - projecting the confidence that fearless women possess.
By the middle of every book signing I believe it myself, I'm fearless, chatting up random passersby and insisting they stop and take a gander at my heart's work. Looking the look transfers to walking the walk and talking the talk.
TODAY'S ASSIGNMENT: Plan a day of pampering with a purpose. Looking fearless tranlates as looking our best. So, a manicure and a pedicure are a must. Freshening and updating your hairstyle, both cut and color, cannot be skipped. A massage will loosen all the worries from your muscles and a facial will bring out that girlish glow.
Then you're off to purchase one perfect outfit. You do not have to go on a $5000 What Not to Wear shopping spree in New York City. Puh-leeease. Target, TJ Maxx, Kohl's, Ross Dress for Less, and Marshall's all have what you need. You'll know you've found the one when you put it on and your back straightens and you've got an overwhelming urge to run right down to the shoe department.
Double the fun and go with a girlfriend or two. Then go out and live fearlessly together. By all means, fake it, if you have to, until it comes naturally.
Saturday, July 26, 2008
Talk the talk. Walk the walk. Look the look.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
Sticks and stones may break my bones but "No" will never hurt me. Say it to yourself until you believe it. We southern girls have to remind ourselves of such simple things as this, because we behave as if "No" is a fatal flaw, detracting from our inherent beauty and diminishing our ability to attract praise and gratitude from family and friends. We fear saying it and hearing it to equal degrees.
I'm here to tell you, today is the day we liberate ourselves; and we don't even have to do something tacky like leave the girls out in the cold and burn our bras. All we have to do is embrace the power of "No."
Yesterday I e-mailed this note to a newspaper editor whom I had corresponded with since the Friday before Memorial Day about placing my column. I finally decided that I needed an answer. "Yes" and we moved forward. "No" and I could go spend my energy on another project. In the end I found that she needed me to give her permission to say "No." And still she couldn't bring herself to say the word:
Dear Sally Jane,
Let's face it. Time and tradition have both proven that it is much easier to say "Yes" than it is to say "No." How else does a PTO president get elected every year? Even the Good Book advises, "Ask and ye shall receive."
Will you please (please, please, please) make the decision to place my weekly newspaper column somewhere (you can even put it next to the obituaries if you want to) in your pages? You can either run my humor column or my advice on living fearlessly; whichever you think appeals to your readers more.
Can we partner up and do this? (That's your cue to say "Yes." It rolls off the lips so much easier than that other nasty word.)
Weekly Humor Columnist
Author of If Mama Don't Laugh, It Ain't Funny
Distributor of Chocolate Chip Grit Biscuits (They're good if you're hungry.)
At this time I do not have budget funds available for another family columnist.
She probably knew that in May. She felt so uncomfortable even writing something that said "No" without coming right out and saying it (a skill honed by all southern belles), that she didn't even sign her name. What a shame that she does not know she gave me a gift. She freed me from putting that issue on my to-do list every week and empowered me to at last go out and seek another opportunity. Thank you Sally Jane!
I do not mean to imply that I took any pleasure in getting the "No." Of course not. It hurt my fragile feelings. It was scary. It made me feel uncertain and unsure of myself. But what service would I have done me or this editor had I avoided ever pressing the issue and getting a real answer? We would have both ended up fully annoyed with the other; her because I constantly called and pestered and me because I felt strung along.
When responding to someone's request that you cook 10 cakes for the church rummage sale, babysit her five children for a week while she flits off to Hawaii, or that you chair the committee to run the snakes out of the downtown sewer drains, remember the old adage, No means no, and the quicker you say it, the sooner she can ask some other sucker who will say "Yes."
Likewise, go out and ask for all the crazy things you need or want from other people, without worrying that someone might (probably will) say "No." Because, No means no. It does not mean, "You're stupid. You're ugly. I think you stink. No one has ever asked me something so ludicrous in all my born days. Get yourself back to the farm," or any other insult you can conjure up in your head.
Sticks and stones may break my bones but "No" can never hurt me, because all no means is no.
TODAY'S ASSIGNMENT: Repeat it until you believe it. Then repeat it some more for good measure.
Monday, July 21, 2008
One of the things a good southern mama teaches her daughter is to always look out for others. Always ask about everybody else's mama at the end of every conversation, take casseroles to folks in the event of birth, death, and illness, and go to great ends to never inconvenience another person just for little ol' you. In addition, my mama always advised that I should nevah, nevah, nevah make a spectacle of myself.
Which is why I didn't quite know what to do on Saturday night at a lightly attended gala to cap off the Author!Author! Book Festival in Shreveport, Louisiana. My husband and I arrived at 8:15p.m. to join a sparse crowd. Quite discomforted, I realized I would have no chance of blending into a throng of bodies. We walked down the stairs onto the expansive auditorium floor, and though not a soul flinched, my insecurity blinded me like a hot spotlight.
We stayed simply because I feared we might hurt the organizers' feelings if we departed so soon after arriving. Around 10p.m. I looked around to discover that somehow my beloved and I had missed the mass exodus of ALL the other attendees besides ourselves. It was now the two of us, the band, and a handful of hosts and hostesses. We were the ONLY guests still in residence.
My spouse turned to me and said, "We should go. There's no one here but us and I bet these folks would like to go home." The rational, do-what-your-mother-would-have-you-do, don't-wear-out-your-welcome side of me agreed. Besides, I didn't want the coordinators to think I was a loser who doesn't get out much. And so we walked toward our table to gather our things.
Suddenly, on impulse, I turned to my beau (or beaux, as we were in Louisiana) and said, "No. I'm not going. We came a long way for this. All the way from the GA-SC border to the LA-TX border, and I'm going out on that dance floor. Look around. Someone is throwing a private party just for us in this magnificent building (The Municipal Auditorium - Home of the Louisiana Hayride, where Elvis got his start) and I'm gonna soak up every last second of it."
I am married to a great and patient man. He stared at me like he did not recognize the woman in that little black dress and the pink, feathery boa. But he nodded in compliance.
And I danced the rest of the night, alone on the vast wood floor but entirely fulfilled. And I left there determined to keep on dancing, because that's what fearless living is all about; grabbing those moments of discomfort, obligation, uncertainty, fear, and sucking them like sweet watermelon from the rind. God loves me and he's giving me these moments as part of my total allotment in life. But he leaves it up to me to decide how to use them.
I plan to dance like the band is playing just for me. I hope you will, too.
TODAY'S ASSIGNMENT: Turn on your stereo, radio, i-pod to your favorite music and dance in the living room, across your office floor, in the dressing room at Macy's, wherever you find yourself. Let loose and dance. The band is playing just for you. Hear the music. This is your life to live fearlessly.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Are you on the fearless living program because you're seeking happiness? If so, I have some very disappointing news. Living fearlessly won't make you any happier than you are right now.
Why? Because happiness is not something you can search for and find like a pastel colored egg in an Easter Egg Hunt. Happiness is not a destination. It is not around the next corner or in the driver's seat of that flashy red convertible you've been coveting.
At the same time, happiness doesn't just happen. It can't fall out of the sky, hit you on the head, and change your life.
What fearless living and happiness both have in common is that they are each choices. A person has to CHOOSE happiness, just like she has to choose to live fearlessly. The difference is, once we choose happiness, there we are. It's done.
Once we choose to live fearlessly, however, we have work to do. Living fearlessly requires not only a change in how we think, but also a change in how we live. It is a lifestyle; a new way of waking up and facing the day ahead, without reservations, worries, or meaningless restrictions on behavior.
So even if you choose the fearless life, there is no guarantee of happiness. It is a separate issue altogether. But what you are guaranteed is a life fully lived, a life without regrets, a life of action and of adventure, a life that is always moving forward and is authentic to YOU and who YOU are, instead of who you think other people want you to be.
TODAY'S ASSIGNMENT: CHOOSE. Make it your choice; not what your mother would choose for you, or what your sister would want you to do, or what you think you have to do to fit into a certain social niche. CHOOSE. Then write it down in your own words and post it on the refrigerator, your computer monitor, the bathroom mirror, wherever you will see it everyday as a reminder of your choice.
Monday, July 14, 2008
Today's lesson - travel light.
I just returned home from what turned out to be a wonderful trip to Orlando, Florida. Despite my trepidation about taking my four children to amusement parks, we ended up having a fabulous time. And I would like to note that I took living fearlessly to a new extreme: I rode The Hulk roller coaster at Universal Studios' Islands of Adventure.
But the important part of the trip is what happened at the very beginning. We arrived in Orlando on Saturday afternoon. We did not purchase tickets ahead of time, have an itinerary planned, or even make ourselves fully knowledgeable of all of our theme park options. As my husband put it Friday night, packing the car, "We've never been so completely unprepared for a family vacation."
So Saturday, shortly after checking into our accommodations, we went on-line and looked for ticket deals. Wow! We could buy combined 7 day passes to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure for only $84 a person. A better deal than going to Disney for one day.
Sunday, I gave my husband my credit card to slip in his wallet and left my purse at our rented condo. We drove to the City Walk/Universal Studios/Islands of Adventure parking deck and paid our $12 parking fee. Then we walked the mile or more to the front gates of Universal Studios and waited in line to buy our tickets. The kids nearly popped with excitement.
After 30 minutes, it was our turn at the ticket window. Guess what. That great deal we saw on-line was only available for purchase on-line. We could buy two-day passes to both parks for about the same as the 7 day passes or we could buy six 14 day flex passes to 6 theme parks for $1400; twice what we had originally planned to spend. In a moment of insanity, my husband ordered up the 14 day multi-park passes.
He handed over my credit card. The lady in the booth looked at it and asked him if he was Lucy Adams. She needed to see I.D. I kicked myself for not bringing my purse and explained to her I had no I.D. but suggested that she call the credit card company and let them verify my identity over the phone. Surprisingly, as long as the ticket line was, she agreed. Meanwhile my husband and I were getting cold feet about the ticket price.
But, before we could make a decision to back out, the ticket lady passed the phone receiver through the hole at the bottom of the glass divider. "Hello, yes, this is Lucy Adams. I'm at Universal Studios trying to purchase tickets. Can you verify that I am who I say I am over the phone. I don't have any identification with me."
"Why certainly," the customer service agent replied. "Hold for just one minute while I pull up your account." While I held, my husband and I again discussed the pros and cons of what we were about to do. We looked at our children's faces. Would we be horrible parents if we brought them this close to paradise, only to drag them away without crossing the threshold?
That's when I heard it. A dial tone. Somehow the customer service agent and I had gotten disconnected. I looked at my husband and said, "We can't do this. All I've got now is a dial tone. I think it's a sign." We walked away and surprisingly, when we explained the situation to our kids, they didn't nut up. They handled it quite well, in fact.
On the way back to our condo, like a little yellow and black oasis of happiness on the side of Highway 196, was a small building with a sign that read Florida Visitors' Bureau. We pulled into the parking lot. My husband hesitantly went in, not making any promises to the kids.
He came out with 7 day passes to Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, and Wet'N Wild for which he paid almost the same as the on-line deal we had seen for only two parks. A happy turn of events.
Here's the message: Travel light. Give chance a chance to happen. Simply because I didn't have a bag packed with my wallet, wet wipes, sunscreen, cell phone, insurance cards, water bottle, ibuprofen, hand sanitizer, and a can of fix-a-flat, something better than what we originally planned happened.
If we're always perfectly prepared, we don't leave ourselves open to adventure. Chance events that actually make our lives better can't happen.
TODAY'S ASSIGNMENT: It's time to travel lighter. It's time to ruthlessly clean out your purse. Take out the nail polish you carry in case of a chip. Take out the zip-loc baggie of toilet paper you've been toting around anticipating a shortage. Take out the loose change from the bottom that you keep in case you're really thirsty one day and it's all the money you have to buy a drink from a machine.
Take out everything you pack in your purse for unforeseen emergencies. I know you put most of that stuff in there because you secretly believe that the most prepared woman is the most perfect. Well, I'm here to tell you that's a myth. The most prepared woman is the one most burdened by worry. She's the least flexible. Life is passing her by while she tries to predict every disaster and avert it with a pack of gum and a nail file.
Leave in your purse only the things you really NEED every day: wallet, car and house keys, one (only one) lipstick.
Travel light. Leave room for chance. Good things will happen.
Saturday, July 5, 2008
Be strong. Summon your tunnel vision.
I may as well break it to you now, before you find out on your own. There is a downside to living fearlessly. And since you're coming off a sushi, Saki, Sex and the City Girls' Night Out, you're in the right frame of mind to hear it.
So let me lay it on you: There are people you know who do not want you to live fearlessly. They do not like the changes they see in you. They feel threatened by your new-found confidence. That attractive glow you have of late has taken them off guard. As you gain control over yourself, your life, who you are, and who you're meant to be, they are losing their grip on you.
Of course, now, being of gentle southern breeding and knowing their manners, these folks won't overtly express their displeasure. They will disguise it in statements like, "What's going on with wives these day? Embracing their girlfriends instead of their husbands. Scandalous, if you ask me." Or people might say, "That's an interesting shade of red," when you arrive at the Watermelon Fest wearing a fresh fearless pedicure.
Don't get discouraged. Think like Bonnie Raitt, who sings, Let's give 'em something to talk about. And if all you've given them is a girls' night and some perky polish, then you're doing this living fearlessly thing right. (If they have more than that to discuss, then please refer back to Day 5, living fearlessly v. living foolishly.)
TODAY'S ASSIGNMENT: Summon your tunnel vision. Hold your course. Focus on living fearlessly and block out the nay sayers. Repeat the promise you made to yourself on Day 2. Say it OUT LOUD, LOUDLY:
Today and every day, I will live fearlessly. There is no excuse. This is my life. This is all the time I get on this earth. I will not live forever. Today is my day! I will do it now.
Thursday, July 3, 2008
Do we love to take a quiz or what? I have marked up many a magazine finding out if I'm a Queen of Clutter, Diva of Design, Princess of Passion, Whale of a Wife, etc. etc.
Want to find out where you are on your journey to fearless living? Follow the link:
Fearless Living Quiz
Gather the girls. No southern belle is complete without her girlfriends. We count on them to listen to us gripe about our mother-in-law over a box of chocolate and a glass of wine, to tell us we're too old to wear a skirt that short, to stay up with us waiting for a teenager to walk in the door well past curfew, to dish on the cousin who brought her boyfriend to Grandmother's funeral and nuzzled him graveside, to hug us when the sky is falling, and to help us put all the pieces back in place when the storm is over.
So who better than our girlfriends to support, and join us, on our journey to living fearlessly? No one else will understand quite like they will.
TODAY'S ASSIGNMENT: Plan a Girls' Night Out. Call up the ladies for an evening of sushi, Saki and Sex and the City.
If you're turning your nose up at sushi and thinking of playing it safe with cheap Mexican and Margaritas, then you've got a ways to go until you're finished with the living fearlessly plan. Sushi - got it? Saki - for a new experience. Sex and the City - I don't think I heard one whimper on that one.
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
Shall I compare thee to a . . . No, thank you, please do not. I do enough comparing myself all on my own. And make no mistake, there are no comparisons . . . at least that's what I try to convince myself.
Why do we do it? We compare our china to our sister's. We compare our camellia's with the state fair winning gardener's. We compare the lines on our faces, the pudges on our waistlines, to the non-existent ones on the model smiling on the cover of Glamour. We compare our wardrobes, our children, our hair, our oriental rugs, our curb appeal to everyone else's, as if theirs matters and ours doesn't.
No one has weeds in her flower beds like me. My weeds have grown as tall as much of my landscaping. Every time it rains, I pull some, as time permits. I have more weeds than time, however. And by the time it rains again, another weed has grown again in the place of the one I pulled.
Just because I'm the only one on my street that has weeds, does that make my weeds bad? unsightly? inferior? ugly? No. Just weeds. My weeds. They are unique to me and I am one-of-a-kind. You and your weeds are also yours to own and embrace.
Admitting I've got weeds doesn't mean I can't or shouldn't pull them, or at the very least minimize their intrusion in my flower bed. But most likely, they're only obvious to me. I am my own worst critic, which means every other person who passes by my house is his or her own worst critic . . . which means he or she is probably spending so much time focused on his or her own weeds he or she doesn't even notice mine; and therefor, isn't noticing yours either, at least not to the degree that you do.
Let's, you and I, resolve today to quit comparing ourselves to others. Let's pull the weeds that are truly invasive and call the others wild flowers and let them bloom. The weeds we pull we'll put in the compost pile and use as fertilizer later.
Whatever I choose to do, I will call it mine.
TODAY'S ASSIGNMENT: You will need
- Full length mirror
- white paper
- old magazines
Stand in front of the full-length mirror. Look very carefully at yourself. Not just at the image reflected back at you, but look at your whole person. What are your unique qualities? Do you have a mole over your right eye? Are you unusually skilled at boccie ball? Do bees seem to favor you over other people at picnics? What makes you different from every other person in the whole world?
Use the art materials you gathered to construct a self-portrait. Highlight and exaggerate your unique qualities, weeds and all. From now on, whenever you feel the need to make a comparison, instead of looking at other people, look at your own self-portrait. Remind yourself, when the comparison urge comes on, that women who are truly living fearlessly compare themselves to no one, because there are no comparisons.