Single Dad Laughing: Why Can't I Not be Shy: Lessons Lorraine Taught Me

Yesterday, on SDL, Dan posted about shyness and how to overcome it.  He does a good job of stating both the obvious and the profound, with some good ideas about how to get past the fear of inadequacy and rejection which can be debilitating for a lot of people, including myself.  Here's a quote:
. . . you’re going to have to get comfortable with the phrase “fake it till you make it”. You’re going to have to learn to pretend that you’re not shy until you actually aren’t. You’re going to have to make-believe that you have no fear and no hesitancy when approached or surrounded by other people. You’re going to have to suck it up and go for it, even though it seems impossible or transparent.
You will not be able to overcome the fear of rejection until you realize that you won’t be rejected. You won’t realize that you won’t be rejected until you aren’t. You won’t have the chance not to be until you get out there and test the proverbial waters.
Lorraine & Andy Ricker
I find this to be very true from my personal experiences.  I'm posting this today not only to share my response, but to thank a dear friend for her positive influence on me.  I've overcome my shyness a great deal over the past year, and it's all due to Lorraine who taught by example.

I have spent the vast majority of my life being painfully shy. My most vivid memories are of abject humiliation, like when I was four and thought I had been to a neighbor's house for dinner, got all excited and ready to go, then was told as I headed for the door that they really meant my older sister. Any four-year-old would do this. No? Or when I was five, started eating a Popsicle as soon as I got it in my hand and was reprimanded by my friend's mother that we don't open something until it had been paid for. Typical five-year-old behavior, right? I still cringe. The list goes on and on. I also went to twelve different schools in twelve years, and making friends became more difficult with each move. 

The first thing that really made a dent in my shyness was a position for which I volunteered which required me to know the names and faces of about 100 different women. I knew maybe ten. That forced me to go up to people and introduce myself and ask about themselves. The fact that I'm really bad remembering names has always been a big hindrance to me, but now I just say on first introduction, "I'll ask you your name at least five times, so don't take it personally. I'm just really bad at it." It always gets a smile and a laugh and each time I'm less afraid to insert the disclaimer. 

By far, 
an experience with my friend earlier this year changed my outlook entirely. 

What the Heck Happened in Freemania Today: log 1

New project: create a sort of weB LOG of each particular day of writing. To be honest, I am already 137 pages into the manuscript and I've been meaning to do this for months, so for anyone reading this, it would be like coming into the book without ready the first third. But, then again, with the way I skip around writing chapters here and chapters there, there is no guarantee of coherency until you buy the book. So, here it is, the first installment of What The Heck Happened in Freemania Today!

Dateline: August, 1810
Geneva, Switzerland

02.02 (that's section 2, chapter 2) Jeanne: Duncan and Jeanne spar as Duncan attempts to convince Jeanne she cannot help her aunt without putting herself and her family in jeopardy. Jeanne gets belligerent, Duncan gets physical, Duncan is more persuasive and Jeanne concedes.

Duncan realizes the secret police will know a lady's maid slipped through their fingers simply from the contents of her seized suitcase. They will be scouring the city for her.

02.03 DeLeon: Duncan's plans for a pleasant stay in a comfortable hotel degenerate into confinement in one room in a safe house under guard, with no female companionship and no real way to protect her virtue should any danger arise. Duncan showed her secret escape routes unknown to anyone but himself, and Jeanne is partially mollified.

Duncan reveals the family connection between himself and Jeanne and swears she is his to protect. Jeanne's cool with that.

Next up: DuLac drop a bombshell on Duncan, DeLeon tortures Butler to make a point, Shepherd & Dovey look on noncommittal, Foreman lends him a hand

SDL: Worthless Women and the Men Who Make Them, My response(s)

Again, Dan Pearce of Single Dad Laughing has written a killer post that hits home with a lot of people.  The comments posted in response are truly eye-opening and even distressing.  Read Worthless Women and the Men Who Make Them here.  Below are two responses I made, one on the blog site, and the other to my family Google Group (including parents, siblings, grown children, etc).

To the blogosphere:

Great column, Dan, as usual. I definitely am going to forward this to my guys, and blog about it and share it. It really, really, really needs to be said. 
However, I do see one glaring omission. You have concentrated on many things under the umbrella of 'media', but I think television needs a big section of its own. Every day people allow into their homes shows like 2 & 1/2 Men, Big Bang Theory, According to Jim, and countless others. The tradition is carried back to the inception of TV, with George Burns & Gracie Allen, I Love Lucy and All in the Family. 
Both men and women watch and laugh at these shows which scream WOMEN ARE INADEQUATE. In 2&1/2 Men, the two female characters are 1) a *****y ex-wife and 2) a obsessed stalker. Both of these are grotesques at which the audience laughs hysterically because they 'identify' with them. The closest to real they get is the biker housekeeper, but even she is a caricature with very little depth. 
In Big Bang Theory, the only permanent woman character is a buxom beauty always scantily or tightly clad over whom the other four male characters constantly drool. Her job is to walk on stage, say something witty, get the guys going, and then leave so they can make lewd comments or jokes about her. Can you see that character actually appearing in an entire episode in loose comfy sweats and her hair in a ponytail? Let's get real! 
TV is so insidious because too often it dictates acceptable societal norms, and these sitcoms and those like it preach that it's really cool to mock women---just about as cool as it is to lust after the fake stuff. And, worst of all, it teaches *women* that this is the sum total of their worth or their lack of it. We need to stop piping this sewage into our homes wholesale. We need to stop blithely exposing our children to it and indoctrinating them from birth. 
Don't even get me started on Glee. 
Oh, and, thanks for my word of the day. I'm not certain I can even pronounce pulchritude, but it's an absolute keeper.

To my family:

Okay. I'm going to go out on a limb here and speak up because this really hits home with me, especially the last comment on the first page and the replies to it. 
Dan's blog today talks about the way men send messages to women. It has been said time and again and far more profoundly by our apostles and prophets, but it can never be said enough. Read it. Be honest with yourselves and own up that you do it. 
I know the post is about ogling women, but the principle is the same when it comes to mocking them. Admit that you make jokes about the women in your lives and their perceived inadequacies, whether physical or otherwise, and open your eyes to the harm it does to them. I am going to stick out my neck and say, I truly, truly, truly hate it. To be mocked by a perfect stranger is nothing. To be be made the brunt of jokes by people one loves and respects is crushing, especially when it regards something you have really put yourself into. To actually work up the courage to ask them to stop and then be completely ignored is devastating. 
I don't care how hilarious or absurd something seems. I don't care how clever are the pithy remarks or how much people laugh at them. The person mocked will probably laugh to make a good show of it, but the barb sticks and worms its way under their skin. The fact that that person trusts and loves those laughing makes the burn that much deeper. Let's try offering up sincere spontaneous praise to the women in our lives---to the people in our lives, especially those we love and cherish. I know we don't want our loved ones skulking around us like an abused dog trying to avoid another beating, but how can those people believe we do love and cherish them if they feel they are treated as such? 
I know it's 'our way', but it is not all harmless fun. Perhaps we could take a little detour from the beaten path for a while and see how that suits.
Guys, build up the women in your lives, especially your daughters. Keep them on the pedestal where they belong. There will be influences enough to knock them off it. You be the one to restore them and teach them how they should expect to be treated. What you say and how you treat them does stick, especially in your daughters. So many of the comments on Dan's post today repeat time and again how their fathers were the ones who planted the seeds of self-worthlessness in them. When little girls grow up with their father's disapproval ingrained in them, (even in jest) no amount of husbandly support will ever completely obliterate it---if they're fortunate enough to find such a husband, rather than be drawn to more of the same. 
Just my two cents. I guess this post really probed a tender spot. Or, perhaps this is just a really good opportunity to voice some things that have been on my mind of late.

Please share.  Please speak out.  Please be an instrument of change.  You might be surprised at how large your sphere of influence may be.

SDL: The Cure For Perfection: My Response

A couple of days ago, my nephew, Dan, wrote a follow-up column to his very widely read post "The Disease Called 'Perfection'".  In one week, more than a quarter of a million people have viewed that page.  Yesterday, he posted a follow-up column called "The Cure for Perfection".  In it, he admitted that he could not possibly offer the balm required to heal the galaxy of sorrows and injuries that people posted on his first post.  Instead, he asked his readers to write the column for him, through the comments.  He asked for people to write what was their greatest struggle ever, what the person they are now have to say to the person they are then, and how the Perfection post affect their lives.  My abbreviated post is too long for even Intense Debate's generous allowances, so I posted my comments hear.

My Comment to The Cure for Perfection
There were 8 whole comments when I first started writing this comment yesterday morning.  I've given it a lot of thought, a lot of writing, a lot of deleting, and finally decided it's impossible to put 35 years of struggle in two paragraphs, or to leave religion out of it, since I would have never reached any of these conclusions without my faith.  However, the biggest factor in my deciding not to go into detail: this is my husband's story as much as my own, and I have to respect his right to privacy.
Engagement photo November 1979
THE STRUGGLE (In a nutshell):   
I've had lupus since I was 14.  I got married when I was 17.  My husband had just turned 19.  I gave birth to our first son when I was 19.  He was diagnosed with insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus when he was 21.  The first 15 years of our marriage were a long string of tag-team hospitalizations, the drain of medical expenses, both of us struggling to control our disease, major surgeries for me, and the high-risk pregnancies of three sons, all bound together with under- and unemployment when my husband got kicked out of the Air Force for having diabetes.  To say we had a rocky marriage would be an understatement.  Our expectations of marriage were diametrically opposed.  Our life together was one very small, very leaky boat caught in a raging storm that never ended, with both people trying to captain the vessel and no one manning the crew.

Tidbits: A Shadow's Honor

Pierpont Durant clinging to the last vestiges of his faith and hope in the future.
So there he huddled, desperate for the cool fresh air which poured through the cracks and crevices, smelling sweet and unadulterated, free of the filth and dank of the cell.  Piper permeated his lungs with the lilac of spring and the spice of fall and some exotic scent of summer he could never quite place.  He bathed himself in the light that warmed and cleansed him and fought back the creeping blackness.   
He told himself to be a man and accept his just sentence, admit his weakness and set aside his dependency, but it was an insidious, seeping, creeping thing which leant strength to his soul and corroded the shadow’s defenses.  Despite the excruciating pain of that exquisite half-life, he despaired that he would ever conquer the addiction.

Altered state of consciousness

“A daydream is a meal at which images are eaten. Some of us are gourmets, some gourmands, and a good many take their images precooked out of a can and swallow them down whole, absent-mindedly and with little relish.”     —W. H. Auden
“You get ideas from daydreaming. You get ideas from being bored. You get ideas all the time. The only difference between writers and other people is we notice when we're doing it.”    —Neil Gaiman
When I was writing a sequel, I knew who my characters were.  At the beginning of Pride and Prejudice, the wonderful Mr. D. is reserved, silent, and rather contemptuous of his surroundings and the people in it.  A pretty easy write-up.  All he has to do is stand around looking hunkilicious and disdainful, and shoot off a few zingers at our heroine once in a while.  And, since I was writing pretty much from her perspective, I really didn't have to do that much to change it.  (Which actor did delicious and daunting best on the screen is a topic for another day).

Even though I was writing a prequel as much as a sequel, it was pretty simple.  Little Miss Put-Upon went through her trials year after year after year, and the white knight popped in on occasion to ruffle her feathers by being the man of mystery who refused any intimate acquaintance.  He gets a few of his own scenes, but they are only snapshots, as opposed to Miss PU's live satellite feed.  Then, voila!  The next time he appears, he's all soft and gooey, giving into his lustier more tender inclinations and marrying her.  The biggest problem I had was keeping on the path.  The more I wrote, the less the love birds resembled Jane Austen's characters and became more my own.

Before I decided to abandon the sequel idea altogether, I had brought the first novel to submission stage.  The one-edit run-through I began with my brother did the dastardly deed, it died an ignominious death, and the manuscript was declared dead in the water.

The Joys of Service

"I am careful not to confuse excellence with perfection.  Excellence, I can reach for; perfection is God's business."
—Michael J. Fox
Maybe it is because I spent so much time today reading the heartbreaking comments so many people have posted on Single Dad Laughing, that I feel so compelled to post today.  The button on the bottom right will send  you to Dan's amazing post, 'The Disease Called Perfection', a serious delve into the anguish caused by the pressure people put on themselves and upon others to appear as the media's contorted perception of beautiful, behave pleasantly, never feel lost or uncertain, never make mistakes, never feel anger, never doubt, never sin, never fail to meet the expectations of others or mold yourself into their misconception of you.  

As Dan so poignantly points out, lives have been lost—lives of children—because a person feels encompassed in darkness, trapped in their horrible situations, and there is no hope of that ever changing.  They feel they have betrayed God or God has betrayed them, or they have disappointed their families or shamed them or angered them or whatever overwhelming despair overcomes them, and they take their own lives because they see it as their only means of escape.  Because of the despair of imperfection in a society that demands it.

The point of Dan's post is to encourage people to stop castigating themselves that they are not the super model or the super mom or the ubber-dad or -kid they believe society demands of them; to be kinder to themselves; to know that they are not alone and that no one has experienced anything that has not been experienced by somoene else.   The perfection in which they feel surrounded is only an illusion.  That illusion distorts our vision. We see everyone else more perfect than they are, and ourselves far, far less.

In response to that blog post, readers have poured out their hearts to the great anonymous void of the internet, hoping to somehow connect with someone—anyone who will listen, receive some validation, or just get a virtual hug.  In one day, almost 500 people have shared this post with their friends via Facebook, and almost 200 have made comments on the blog, either sharing their own sorrows or attempting to uplift those who so desperately stand in need of it.

I'm going to share my own comment here, just to follow Dan's example and be real, and dig up the courage to not do it anonymously.  

There is no new thing under the sun

Didn't Shakespeare pen that?  Isn't there something somewhere in one of his plays that he uses that phrase?  I mean, after all, as Jane Austen says in Mansfield Park,
 Shakespeare one gets acquainted with without knowing how. It is a part of an Englishman's constitution. His thoughts and beauties are so spread abroad that one touches them everywhere; one is intimate with him by instinct. . . . His celebrated passages are quoted by everybody; they are in half the books we open, and we all talk Shakespeare, use his similes, and describe with his descriptions . . .
Well, if the Bard did use it, he borrowed it from Ecclesiastes 1:9, which was penned at least a couple of thousand years before his time.  Thus, my argument that there is no such thing as original thought.

The ultimate proof of my claim: 

This is a very, very funny comedy bit about how Pachelbel's Cannon in D has permeated modern music.

This Is It

Dear Reader,

How to begin? . . . . I originally started this particular blog to explore the whole process of creating/writing a novel. I got it started, then abandoned it because I couldn't make the nifty-keen-o template I found work, and then I abandoned it. It also didn't help that I wasn't writing anything.

Originally, I set out to write a sequel to Pride and Prejudice. That was back in 2001. Since then, I must have written millions of words, thousands of pages, and got at least seven sequels going in my head or in various stages of rough draft or outline or notes or something. But, my great book never produced itself because a: it was tooooooooooooooooooo long; b: in was scattered and confused because I tried to build in an element of mystery to it, and c: in the beginning, I was a totally wretched writer. I read my very first draft and cringed.