I have the POWER!
I mean, if you could appropriately quote He-Man in your blog, WHY WOULDN’T YOU??
I am so weird. That’s what I was thinking the other day on our way to see “Tommy” at UConn. I was thinking of ways in which I’ve used my power, for both good and up-to-no-good, in my life. As I explained fully in another blog, sometimes I’m on fire. Sometimes I feel “on” and unstoppable. On the other hand I was thinking of times I’ve felt powerless and paralyzed by fear, exhaustion, and that evil inner voice we have that tells us we suck. And during those times, whether they last a night, a week or even years, I feel like I say all the wrong things and miss the mark on doing the right things. I walk a step behind people I’m on the streets with and I wear the wrong clothes. I’m “off” and while people sometimes tell me they don’t even notice, I feel like it’s so glaringly obvious that I’m not even worthy to look them in the eyes. It can change so fast and so drastically…
I can be very scary when I truly want something in this world and I won’t even entertain the thought that it won’t happen. (even when it won’t) Like I’ve mentioned before, up until probably my twenties (no exaggeration), I still decided that I would figure out how to fly one day. Hey, maybe I will. I have gone by the school of thought that if you truly want something and ask the universe for it, you will receive it. What I didn’t figure out until later is that you might get what you asked for either in a strange or unexpected way, or way after the fact when you don’t even want it anymore.
When I not only truly want something, but I also know I deserve it or know I have the ability to get it, it becomes a rush, a fever, and in unfortunate rare occasions – a game for me to get that something. On the complete opposite side of the spectrum, when something doesn’t come easily for me, when I might want something but I don’t know I can get; it or I’m not 100% sure I deserve it, I give new meaning to the term, “doing things half-assed.” I become a complete idiot, and pardon me for sounding harsh. I literally give myself a learning disability caused by extreme lack of confidence. I get blocks. You know how people say they have math blocks? Or science blocks? They’re very real but they do NOT mean someone is stupid or incapable.
Here’s my example. I suffered an extreme math block from 6th grade through high school. It definitely wasn’t present in 4th grade when the reward was candy and I got literally every math question right because lunch was not until 1pm and I was hungry for candy. I was always a straight A student until I struggled with a particular math lesson in 6th grade and got a C on a test. Maybe it was that vulnerable age of pre-teen horrors, maybe my teacher was an inconsiderate a-hole, maybe it was doomed to happen anyway…all I know is that set forth a 6-7 year paralyzing math block that included tutors, faking sick a LOT, C’s and even D’s on report cards, and lots of sleepless nights. Then the SATs came and it mattered and I did pretty well. Then college acceptances came, and with it, college placement testing for math and science and I didn’t even study really, and you know what happened? I placed OUT of math – as in, I did so well I never had to take it again. And I still haven’t taken a math class since high school.
Here’s another example: I took dance classes when I was young, but unlike my sisters, I didn’t have the drive to do it and I wasn’t the most physical kid either. Ever notice that when you’re watching dancing or cheerleading, some people may get all the moves right but move like robots? And others make your heart pound with their passion? My older sister falls into that second category. I would have loved to as well but I was too much of a skinny, rigid, non-physical spazz to do so. And these thoughts made me fail on my first day of a jazz class I got excited to take in 5th grade. I didn’t believe I could do it and I literally got laughed at by these younger, largely overweight girls who weren’t exactly going pro with their moves, but they weren’t paralyzed with fear on the dance floor. They didn’t just stand there and flail their arms and then go sit in the lobby until their moms picked them up. Yeah, hi – that was me.
Here’s where it gets strange – at my first elementary school dance later that year, I WON a dance contest. Yes. I did. I really wanted the prize which was a Bon Jovi record. I wanted it so badly that I brushed aside my fears and self-consciousness. I danced with all the passion and none of the rhythm in the world until I was breathless and dizzy. And you know what? Passion trumps rhythm. I won. I may not be the most graceful dancer out there, but secretly inside, I’ve got moves you wouldn’t believe. Only Stormy and Scarlet get to see them and they’re huge fans. It’s just this paralysis that takes over. I have two settings: on fire and winning contests or paralyzed by fear and self-consciousness. I go through life not really knowing which mood I’m going to be in that day – charming and cool or socially awkward and shifty.
I’ve got yet a third example: team sports. In 5th grade basketball, I was the most benched player on my team. Why? I had aim but I was too passive and non-confrontational for the aggression you need for basketball. Then 7th grade came along and I won a basketball toss contest. My aim was true but my fear was stronger, I suppose. 5th grade softball. (Yes, there is a 5th grade pattern here) I was the strike out queen of the world. When I was up at bat, I was so scared and unaware of my capability that I struck out 100% of the time…until the last game. I guess I didn’t care anymore or something and I figured out to raise my elbow to help hit the ball. Not only did I hit it, I hit it HARD.
I guess all of this evidence leads me to believe one of two things: I’m either the most overachieving underachiever or the most underachieving overachiever out there. Or the more likely explanation – there are probably lots of things I’m good at, or could be good at. I’ve just let my inner voices and demons let me forget that over the years. And then there are times where the aligning of strength, confidence and some sort of reward – whether money, self-satisfaction, love or a Bon Jovi record were at stake, and I just rocked out and didn’t stop until I got my intrinsic or extrinsic motivator. None of this means I think I’m meant to be a hip hop dancer or play for the NBA, but I think life could be more enjoyable if I let my guard down a little and maybe went for harder things than the old faithfuls, the comforts. They don’t get you so far. Speaking of underachiever. I mean, maybe I could be a powerful CEO or something. Yet I apply for admin jobs? What is up with that?
I think I should compile a list of times I’ve kicked ass and pulled from places I didn’t know I had to succeed. And I should look back on this list every time I shrink back into my bad voices, “I don’t know. I can’t. I won’t.” And those times happen a lot. If you’re having a similar day, I hope my list will inspire or amuse you. I’m certainly a contradiction of sorts, as you’ll see. I do know I needed to write it all down for you (and me) to see how a skinny, awkward spazz full of early childhood sadness still managed to be a scary force to be reckoned with many times over:
– Hebrew school hotshot. If you remember me from temple, I invite you to remember anyone with as much speed, accuracy and pomposity than I had back then. I guess I really wanted to rock my Bat Mitzvah and be “cool” and earn the gifts and the big party I’d get after the service. My rabbi even told my mom that he’d never met a kid better at Hebrew than me…except his own son. He had to throw that in there but still, I knew what I was doing. It’s a shame I forgot it over the years but I guess I lost interest.
– Speaking of losing interest, I haven’t gotten back on a horse since my mom’s jerkface horse took off galloping with me on his back. However, at my first horse show ever (in 5th grade, I think!) in my first competition of the morning, I placed in first. I was only against three other people and maybe they all sucked royally, but I walked away with a trophy and blue ribbon!
– Then there’s the still to be published story of Cassidy. It’s coming, I swear. In our “how we met” story, there’s a gap of two years between me getting my heart broken (stomped on, really) and us getting back together. A year after the heartbreak and a year before the reunited-and-it-feels-so-good, I decided to get up every nerve I had and call him on my birthday. I had been told people have more power on their birthdays. I also planned to tell him I still loved him. Right before I did it, I was sick with fear and confusion. I knew I had to do it, though. I had the fever in my brain. I called my mom and I said, “Mom, he will be mine.” As in, (insert Mike Meyers in WAYNE’S WORLD voice) “Cassandra. She will be mine. Oh, yes – she will be mine.” I had NO reason to think he’d be mine and sure enough, when I called him and told him I still loved him, he told me (nicely) that we were not going to happen, but he did wish me a Happy Birthday. However, I was SO sure of it for a split second before calling. I could see the future. Somewhere deep inside, I either knew I deserved him or knew I’d have him. And I was right.
– College. This is one my favorites. After dropping my sister off at Rutgers and taking into effect its location, fun parties and the history of family members who attended there, I decided I HAD to get into Douglass College just like my sister. For those not in the know, the University is comprised of Douglass College, Cook College, Rutgers College, Livingston College and a few more that I can’t remember. Anyway as you may know, I had screwed around a bit in early high school. Or as we now know, maybe it wasn’t screwing around but one of those psychological fear of success/failure things. I didn’t know if I had enough time right before my junior year to turn my grades around enough to get into Douglass but I sure gave it all I had. When I finally applied, I was wait-listed. I was good but they wanted better. It was my dream but time was winding down. I finally decided to go to University College on Livingston campus which was not as good and not my dream at all. I went to their orientation for a few days and came back and broke down in tears. I wasn’t going to quit, though. Even though school was starting in a month, I wrote a passionate, heartfelt letter to Douglass admissions and told them my story. I also urged them to look at my SAT scores as well as my placement testing into the University. I had gotten all of those good scores after being wait-listed. Well within a short time I got my congratulatory letter from Douglass that I had been accepted. It was a last minute win and I had spent two years believing so hard that I’d get in there and I hadn’t ever thought I wouldn’t. Not even…a month before college started. And hey, I was right.
– Speaking of senior year of high school, I simply have to mention prom. I didn’t date much (read: at all) in high school so it’s not like I knew who to go with to senior prom. I had the perfect image of the dress – dark pink and shiny and princess-like, and I knew if I found that, then I’d think up the perfect date next. February before our June prom, I saw an ad in a teen magazine out of the corner of my eye of the dress I had dreamed up. I investigated and found out it was a Jessica McClintock and the closest one was in Short Hills, NJ. Somehow my mom and I sped up there one night right before they closed and found my perfect dress. I think I even remember that the prom season is early and I was literally only a day or a few days shy of having missed the dress completely. Then there’s the date. I didn’t like any boys at good ole RHS but I had known an older boy from another town who had walked by me and my friend Sheila in a Barnes & Noble and said, “Excuse-ums.” He had that longish, shaggy hair and intense eyes and his father had also died young and I was smitten with him for years. I had been his senior prom date for his prom when I was a sophomore. I was really socially awkward and I really liked him but couldn’t tell him. One night my sister saw him at a Rutgers party and had the sense to get me his number. He was my dream date. One night the radio gods played me the prom song that had been at his senior prom two years earlier so I got the guts to call and ask him and he said yes. That he was a less than gentlemanly prom date is neither here nor there. You have to admit that creating and realizing my prom dress and date dreams is certainly not half-assed.
– There are a couple of other school things that came up over the years. In 5th grade (go figure) English I had to do a creative writing story on a mermaid or something like that and I dreamed up the best report cover ever. The problem was that I couldn’t describe it for my mom, an artist, to draw for me so I had to do it myself. For some reason it came out so well that my teacher told me I could go pro with art. And I can’t draw to save my life most of the time! In 12th grade English we had to give oral presentations on poems we were assigned. I was really trying to do well that year, as you know, and though I didn’t understand poetry and I didn’t like public speaking, I was on fire and gave the best presentation of my life. I just “got it” and had confidence and kicked ass up there. I found my public speaking voice, however briefly. It’s there for whenever I decide to use it.
– Then there’s the story of my drivers test. I slacked and slacked and finally got my permit two months before my 17th birthday, instead of the year we were allowed. I knew nothing and I still kicked ass at my driver’s test and got my license because I was so passionate for the cause. I was very sick of living on top of a mountain with no license. I guess NJ will pass anyone…and you can tell when you’re there.
– Then there’s my birth story, which I may get into sometime soonish. Without going into details, what happened was almost exactly how I wanted it to happen and as my doctor said six weeks later, “You did what you had to do. I think you should have another one!”
– Baking. Most of you know I don’t have domestic prowess – cooking and cleaning do not come easily to me so I usually half-ass the cleaning and call out for delivery when I’m in charge of dinner. However I once made chocolate chip cookies for a friend and a Snickers pie for an ex, and both were amazing and more than I imagined they’d be. I was so focused on succeeding that I gave it my all both times. Someone even ate my Snickers pie and said, “I want to marry your girlfriend” to my ex. I wonder if I could repeat either of those times if I didn’t truly care about who I was baking for.
I think I can stop there. This has gone on long enough. And I still don’t think I’m cool but I do think I’ve done things right once in awhile. That Spiderman quote is right: “With great power comes great responsibility.” I’ve spent so much of my life not in the mood for that responsibility or too lazy or afraid of it. I’ve fallen short where I could have succeeded. And there’s really no excuse for that.