Well, Thanks A Lot, Mom

Normally, I blame my father’s genetic makeup for the most deficient parts of me. I do not remember a time when my father did not have gray hair; I started going gray at age sixteen. My father’s diabetes raised my risk of contracting the disease by over 50%. I figured that diabetes would probably catch up with me at menopause, since a change in one hormonal system seems to trigger change to other hormonal systems. I was an overachiever and ended up being diagnosed around age forty. I inherited my father’s introversion and social awkwardness.  Recently, I behaved in a very  bizarre way that I can explain only by the fact that I am my mother’s daughter.

As I have mentioned before, my mother had a talent for love and happiness. Sometimes, this talent manifested itself in extreme levels of silliness. I do not claim to have the same talent, but I certainly inherited the manifestations of silliness.

Several months ago, a friend of mine was elected president of our church women’s group. Since our community is a snowbird community, our  “parish year” tends to start in September and rollick through until May. The summer months, when a percentage of our parish family heads to points north, can be a bit slow. When our women’s group “season” starts up in September, it is usually a big, festive party. We begin with a “welcome back” coffee that is part social gathering, part reconnecting, and part business meeting.  It is always a bit of a challenge to get the right balance. It is an informal gathering, designed to feel welcoming and enticing to new members, as well as reinvigorating returning members. In the past couple of years, we have had some sort of special showcase to give the attendees something unique on which to focus. For instance, one year, there was a  sort of “talent fair” set up, with different tables to highlight different members’ talents. For this fall coffee, my newly-presidented friend decided she wanted to feature a “storyteller.” Most of us listened politely when she brought up this idea and nodded obligingly, but most of us also had no idea what she meant. When she asked me to be the storyteller, the whole idea became much more real. Figuring out what she meant suddenly demanded much more priority.

We had several conversations about what my friend envisioned and what she wanted to accomplish with this storytelling activity. I did some internet research to see what I could see about storytelling as an art form. I found out there are international organizations with prestige and infrastructure that sponsor storytelling conferences and training events. They also preserve and laud the “science” of storytelling- history, cultural significance, and structure. It was fascinating reading, but I still felt like I was bumbling around in the dark. During my period of storytelling reconnaissance, I found out that another friend of mine in the organization had actually participated in some of these storyteller organizations. I suggested that she might be a better choice to fulfill my presidential friend’s vision. My presidential friend did not take the bait and I was still on the hook.

I came up with an idea that I thought would suit and started working on how I would tell the story. When my presidential friend asked for an update, I could see I was not hitting her mark. In fact, she told me that she intended it to be funny. I had not received that message before… and my story was decidedly unfunny. She told me, in the nicest possible way, that my approach was not working for her. We batted around several other ideas, but I could see that nothing was resonating with her. For several subsequent days, I played shotgun with ideas, but I never got the sense that my friend embraced any of them. Maybe I was looking for more validation than she wanted to give. Eventually, despite her hesitations, she told me to go with my latest idea and just do my own thing. She told me she did not want to limit my creativity and expression. At this point, I was so dubious of any creativity and expression I might have, I was unsure how to proceed.

I am nothing if not dutiful. If I commit to doing something, you can absolutely count on me to do it. Every time. No matter what. So, despite my feelings of inadequacy, I got to work on producing a storytelling event based on the Disney movie, Tinker Bell and the Secret of the Wings.  This is a 75-minute movie. I was trying to distill it down to about 10 or 15 minutes. Obviously, I did a lot of editing and simplifying.  The point of the story, at least in my bastardized effort, was that teamwork and the power of sisterhood can result in seemingly impossible successes. As I worked on this story, I had lots of doubts and lots of fears about it. I figured most of the ladies would be dumbfounded and puzzled as to the purpose of the whole storytelling activity, much less the emphasis on Disney fairies. I felt confident about nothing- except that there would be some people making fun of me and dismissing the whole thing. I don’t mind people laughing with me, but I didn’t think I needed to do anything to increase the number of people in this world who already laugh AT me. I felt a little bit like a lamb being led to slaughter… except I was fully aware that I was going to be the one slaughtered.

Then it hit me. If I was going to be silly, I could not be abashedly silly.  I could not be half-assed silly. I had to go all in. I had to be silly enough so that everyone in the room would be fully aware that I was being intentionally silly. I stopped restricting my silliness intake. I stopped editing myself for fear of being ridiculous. I decided to embrace full throttle silliness. I decided to dress up in the outfit I wore when I went to be Tink-ified at the Bippity Boppity Boutique for grown-ups. I wore a short green skater skirt, a green Tinker Bell t-shirt with silver wings printed on the back, a floral circlet on my head, and green slippers with pompons. Next, I decided to have some minor lighting effects at a crucial moment when Tink’s wings are healed. Then, I decided to have someone flit through the room with my light up Tink wand while someone else flipped the lights in the room on and off. A new friend of mine heard about the intended spectacle and was all about playing the flittering “power of sisterhood” energy. This friend is a Lutheran, so we were going to have an ecumenical Tinker Bell tale.

I told my pastor and his wife about the plan a few days before the meeting. They seemed kind of delighted by the novelty of the whole thing but did ask about a spiritual connection. It was a really good point. I have never minded being silly in the pursuit of learning or teaching, but I have always maintained that it was important not to just be silly for silly’s sake. I am always adamant about making meaning out of the silliness. I had a clear idea of the message, but I could do a much better job making the connection. I went home and prepared a list of Scripture references that I thought the story demonstrated. And for those of you who think there is no way to find Biblical references to support a Tinker Bell story, I encourage you to read next week’s blog!

As the big day approached, I started getting nervous. When I arrived at the meeting, my pastor’s wife expressed her disappointment with my attire. She was very relieved when I told her I had not changed into my costume yet. She was worried she was not going to see full on ridiculous mode, I guess. When it was time, my Lutheran pixie power pal and I went over to another building on our church grounds and fairy-fied ourselves. She wore a tule skirt, glittery jewelry, and strung herself with battery-operated lights. I tutored her on how to operate the wand. I donned my symphony in green and hoped my flower circlet, which was intended to be worn by a four-year-old, would stay put for the duration of the performance. We waited outside the parish hall where the meeting was being held. Since it was September in central Florida, it was hot and sticky while we waited for our cue. 

At last, my presidential friend opened the back door to the hall for us to enter. There was quite a stir, understandably. I took a deep breath, tried to forget my fears, and jumped right into the story. Jumped is probably a good word because I was flitting around the front of the room almost like a real pixie. I threw caution to the wind and immersed myself in my role. I do not believe I have ever done anything so ridiculous, and I do not believe I ever could have been so comfortable being so ridiculous. I enjoyed myself. My audience seemed entranced. Or shocked into submission. I am not sure which. Everything went great. My Lutheran power pixie really did bounce across the room with the wand, to the delight of everyone who saw her. The lights going on and off was an added  surprise for the audience. The timing and the pace of the story went well. I feel like I hit the right note between whimsical and condescending. Afterwards, people told me it was wonderful. Some, of course, were puzzled as to why I was telling the story to a room full of adults. They seemed a little patronizing, but still complimentary and polite. Nobody made fun of me… at least not where I could hear them. All in all, I’d say it was a win for ECW. But, even more, it was a win for me. Pushing myself out of my comfort zone with such force and feeling good about it is certainly worth celebrating.

So, I wonder what my mother would have made of this whole situation. I am sure she was sitting up in Heaven looking down on me and laughing maniacally… or smiling proudly.

What is the silliest thing you’ve ever done? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com

Have a sparkly day!

Terri/Dorry 😊