Monday, August 12, 2013

I'm Fine

You are walking down the sidewalk and notice a familiar face. You smile. They smile. The time honored greeting now begins: "Hey there ... How are you doing?" 

And you respond in the traditional, habitual way by saying ... "Fine ... I'm fine."

Shallow. Incomplete. Flat. This Fine response. 

What does Fine mean anyway? What kind of an answer is Fine? Why do we say we're Fine? Why do we automatically use that expression as a fallback response? To the casual acquaintance, why do we feel the compulsion to paint our lives as "pretty"... as though everything is always coming up roses. It is important, I guess, for us to show ourselves to these casual encounters at our best. We don't disclose the drama ... heaven forbid!  Nor do we tend to disclose the fabulous. We prefer to be just "Fine."

Our route response may be derived by a degree of insincerity. We want others to see us as "solid" and "together."  And when a casual acquaintance asks you that question, something inside of you Knows that they really don't care about the answer. If you aren't in that "good place" personally, it is difficult to own that. You KNOW that they are expecting a simple response and anything more complicated would be a shock. Or, maybe you don't truly want to share. Maybe as Colonel Jessup said when cornered to tell all in A Few Good Men: "Truth? You can't handle the truth!"

So, you realize that if you started to say something outside of the standard ritual, you would be met with a blank, shocked gaze. Easier to say "fine" and get on down the sidewalk.

What is Fine? My Yoga instructor captured it beautifully during class the other day. 

Fine = 
 F = "effed"-up ...
 I = insecure ... 
 N = neurotic ... 
 E = emotional ...

Okay ... that I can relate to. That is who I just might be when I say "I'm fine." Some days one of those might apply ...  sometimes all. But that definition is one I can get behind. That is a more honest definition. 

People are too 3-dimensional to be Fine. Too complex to be Fine. Too hectic and busy and creative and energized and dynamic and multi-faceted to be just Fine. Life has too many challenges and opportunities to leave us fine. There is too much excitement and laughter and joy to remain fine. Chocolate cupcakes. Walks in the rain. Laughter of children. Good books and music. Kissing. Holding hands. Sunrises and Sunsets. Beaches and stars. Amidst all the beauty around us, I struggle against being just "fine." I don't want to be "Fine."

So when I walk down the sidewalk and you ask me how I am and I say "I'm Fine" ... well, you can be pretty sure there is more going on. Subtext and stuff. The old definition of Fine I use in that casual sidewalk encounter is an overgeneralized assessment of a response too complex to answer. There may be days when I'm fine. But, I'm gonna fight that. I'm more apt to choose to be "outstanding."

So ask away. I may be Fine ... some days. Or, I may surprise you.

                                                                                                                                            -- Jenni


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Decision: Be Brave

Are you brave? What does "being brave" mean to you? How would you define "Brave?" Is it ...
  • Standing strong when things come at you that you aren't expecting?
  • Maintaining your composure when fear is the obvious choice and all you want to do is run away or "go south" and give up?
  • Believing in yourself when everything around you suggests you take an alternate perspective?
  • Refusing to give up something you believe in or hope for or dream of doing?
Disney made a movie with the title. Sara Bareilles, Josh Groban, and Idina Menzel have all created beautiful songs on the subject. "Brave." That idea seems to be receiving a great deal of attention. I find that's important to me. Being Brave. It applies to being brave and comfortable with the 47 year old woman that I am today. Being Brave when it comes to trusting my children and their choices. Being Brave when it comes to pulling out of my driveway and not knowing who might be on the road with me. Being Brave when I stand on the stage alone and have lines to say that I hope I remember. Being Brave as I make decisions, avoiding fears, doubts, undermining questions and regrets that try to worm their way inside my protective coating.

Funny, when tempted to let fear win out and give up this past week, I realized that I have those three songs on my iPod. As a person who believes in Nudges of the Spirit, I did not see this as a coincidence. But as a message. The words of Sara Bareilles ... a song that literally chose me from iTunes one day ... sent a message loud and clear.

Everybody’s been there,
Everybody’s been stared down by the enemy
Fallen for the fear
And done some disappearing,
Bow down to the mighty
Don’t run, stop holding your tongue
Maybe there’s a way out of the cage where you live
Maybe one of these days you can let the light in
Show me how big your brave is

Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave

25 years ago I was Brave. I wrote a play. That in itself was Brave. But this Play had a sensitive subject matter. But then, after sharing it with One person, I buried it. Yeah, I know. Not so Brave.  For 25 years, it remained hidden in a dark folder. Then one day, it was discovered.

Perhaps, like Tolkein's Ring in the Lord of the Rings series, it wanted to be discovered at that point in time. Perhaps, it had a story inside its dusty pages that chose to be told at long last. Who knows. But, when it came into the light, it refused to be ignored.

So, the time had come for me to be Brave. I wrote the story. I needed to share the story. Tell the story to others. I needed to stage the play. So, I said yes to the challenge. Yes to the audition. And yes to getting the story told.

Auditions happened and no one came. Can I admit to a surge of doubt? For a moment there was a flicker that questioned if perhaps the story shouldn't be told ... No, with a little help from a friend or two, I chose to brush the fear and doubt aside. I chose to ask a different question and decided to be Brave. I had people who had shown interest. I reached out. I asked. And they said yes. A breath of relief went thru me at that moment. Finally the story would be told.

Another hurdle. One yes. Another no. Another moment of doubt. But then ... someone else chose to be Brave along with me. Someone unexpected. But, because I don't believe in coincidence, the right person after all. Rehearsals finally began. And after 25 years, I heard the words I wrote spoken aloud for the very first time.

Oh, it wasn't the true first time. There was another time when these words had life. When the characters breathed real air. But then that's another story. And I'm not brave enough to tell that one yet.

But for now. I'm Brave enough ....

                                                                                                                                      -- Jenni