My book.

My book.
"Fascinating" Stephen S. Hall. writer, N.Y.Times magazine. "Hard to put down." A.C.P.A., American Chronic Pain Association.

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Sunday, August 26, 2012


When I was younger (much) I hoped to be an actress/singer.  Starting out I worked in the chorus of 2 shows in a dinner theater.  The pay was less then the cost of the gas but it let me say I was a professional actor.

I was pretty much a namby pamby kind of gal: afraid of my own shadow, wanting to please, a go along to get along.  I was in the chorus, a part of the whole.  I did not need worry about being assertive or aggressive.

The first show was CAROUSEL.  The choreographer, Bobbi, did not like me.  Into astrology, she repeatedly said to me "You are not a Leo, I don't care if that is your sign.  You have nothing in you like the power of the lion." 

She was right.

Another dinner theater in the area and ours were at battle.  The other theater management called the liquor control board and told them we had dancers under 18.  Alcohol was served so all the younger dancers had to be fired, leaving a hole in the show..

I am not a dancer, and I was uncomfortable about and with my body.  Anyone could tell that by the high necked, long sleeved, long baggy shirts I wore.

Bobbi took me aside.  "Carol, since Gina, (the dancer who does the opening, a belly dance) was fired and you fit the costume you are now doing the belly dance."

"Oh no!, no!  I can't do that, the outfit is so sheer, it's totally revealing and, I'm even not a dancer."

"I don't care.  You're going to do it." she insisted.

I had no choice but to don the outfit, a very sheer top and separate bottom that showed my midriff.  I was the first thing the audience would see.

Oh my word.

We rehearsed and the feared first night came..  The music starts.  The lights comes up.  A spotlight glows down, on me, belly dancing (or more like bump and grind as a male castmate said.)

I always felt that Bobbi forced me to do it because she did not like me, which was true.  It annoyed her that I was a Leo but acted like a scared pussycat.

I changed because of the dance.  Being in the outfit and the center of attention for the first few minutes of the show had an effect.  I became somewhat more outspoken, less willing to be pushed around.  The change was obvious, Bobbi seconding it one night, "Now you're acting like a Leo."

I was thinking about this when the second show I was cast in at the theater, HELLO DOLLY, was on TV.

I always wondered why Bobbi would sabotage a show because of personal animus.  It felt like she was not thinking of the show: if I stunk that was okay, it would show me up. 

Watching DOLLY, some 30+ years later, for some reason, the thought changed.  Maybe she was trying to help me, forcing me to become who she thought I could be.

I have no way of knowing, after all it was decades ago.  It does make me wonder how many other times I have misjudged someone's intentions or their words, how many instances where I relied on the memory of what someone said or did, family member, friend, enemy or even doctor and allowed myself to feel the hurt, anger, and resentment again, like a burp after a bad meal, letting the bad taste engulf me.

It is often an issue of choice.  Do I choose to let this person hurt me again by looking at their behavior, rehashing their words, or do I take the opportunity to turn it around and see if there might have been a different intent?

It is said, you may hold onto the anger and other bad feelings but the person against whom it is held has probably forgotten about it years ago and could not care less.

It is worth putting whatever that held resentment and bad feeling is about into another light, twisting it to the right, and to the left, turning it upside down, spinning it around, and seeing if maybe, just maybe, another way of looking at it makes more sense.

Sunday, August 19, 2012


Taking the next step and asking for help.  I read a post* about the first, and it started me thinking about the second.

The author of the post was writing about feeling afraid but doing it anyway.

She stood at the top of an escalator, the neck brace she was wearing making her nervous about safely navigating the moving stairs.  She stood "paralyzed" for the seconds that always feel like forever.  Finally she convinced herself to make her move.

She got on, and off, without anything bad happening.  Taking that gigantic first step, putting her foot out onto something that seemed so dangerous (and well could have been given the neck brace) took a tremendous amount of courage.

It is scary to take a leap or at times even a small step.   It took courage for her to do it. 

Sometimes asking for help is taking the next or first step.  Not gargantuan decision next steps, like getting therapy, or agreeing to new meds or surgery.  No, I am talking about help for getting through the simple things in life.

I used to think the two were mutually exclusive.    If I take that first step, or next step, it is on me.  It is a sign of independence, an action that says, "I CAN do it myself."

I have gotten to the point where I can say to people, "May I sit in that seat?" when we go to a restaurant, as long as I feel I know them pretty well.  I have even gotten brave enough to say after we are seated, at least some of the time, "Oh I'm sorry.  This is not a good seat for me."  Immediately people rise and say "We'll wait 'til you figure it out."  If people care about you, or are decent they are not going to laugh in your face, argue with you, "I'm sure it is not that big a problem if the sun comes directly into your eyes." or refuse.  They want to help, to make you feel comfortable so everyone can enjoy themselves.

I went to lunch last Sunday.  I arrived late, and the people we were to meet were sitting where I would have chosen to sit, facing away from the window.  They are elderly, the wife using a cane.  I was not going to ask to change seats, in that case, it was taking the step of not being comfortable, their comfort more important.

When I went to lunch the other day with someone I did not know that well I was astounded when he asked, "Which is the better seat for you?"  The question was an awareness that he knew the situation and had concern for my welfare.  I was not aware of his knowledge, it was a sign he listened to me when I spoke, watched when I was comfortable, noticed when I was not.

Picking the seat  has become my euphemism for other's comfort with me, and my comfort with them.  It is a wonderful feeling when it happens, a next step well worth taking.


Sunday, August 12, 2012

SYNCHRONIZED SWIMMING-How does it relate to us?

It is truly beautiful, bodies  moving in concert, gymnastics, strength, not breathing while doing twirls, faces in the water for what feels, even to me the watcher, like forever.  It is an amazing demonstration of athleticism.  And yet, I have often heard people say it should not be a part of the olympics, it is not a sport.
I beg to differ.

It is astounding.  It looks like a bunch of women having a good time swimming around and doing tricks.  The work that goes into it is invisible: who wants to know about the struggle, the difficulties and problems, the work that goes into creating the ultimate presentation?

How does that relate to us?

Many of us have dealt with people who disbelieve our pain, who insist we do things even after we say it is something that is beyond us because of the pain.  We also know people who say 'because you look good, you must feel fine'.

We go out when we can, we do our hair, we get dressed, for those of us whose pain is so bad even getting out of bed in the morning can be beyond us on some days, we mount the fight.  We get up, we go downstairs, we do our hair, we get dressed, go out in the world, and try and present a non pained face.

Most do not want to know the struggle, difficulties and problems, the decisions - can I wear the
shoes with the ties?, can I sit on this side of the church, can I go out today? -  that went into our being a part of the world, a part of a family, and for those of us who can, a part of a workforce.  They see the results, shoelaces tied, clothing clean, hair brushed, smiling face.   Even if asked "How are you today?" most do not want to hear the full true answer, "I have pain but I got myself here".

The synchronized swimmers are rightfully proud of all the work they put into getting their wonderful end product.  We need to own that pride too, in being able to get through the day, to be a part of.

The final result is well worth the effort, no matter what that is, even if  'only' starting the day.  We rightfully deserve that pat on the back, the applause that is often missing.

The people who see the end result; the lack of understanding that what you see is only the tip of the swim, only the end result of the struggle with our pain, miss out on knowing a major part of us, the part that shows what kind of fighters we are.

Monday, August 6, 2012


We often do not think of the effect of our words. especially when they are written or said to someone who is peripheral to our lives.

One day, when I was about 24, I was in my living room thinking about making acting and singing  my career, of making the gigantic step of moving to NYC.   Looking around the room I happened to notice my high school yearbook sitting in the bookcase.

I took it out and started reading the little things people had written to, and about me, in their remember me messages.

I was particularly taken by the words written by Susie (pseudonym).  We knew each other slightly, mostly from choir where I was known as the person most afraid of our choir director.

She wrote about my fear, how she thought my body would not be able to take the shaking each time we had a "purge".   (Mr, (        )  made each of us, in turn, sing our voice part of one of the pieces of music.  Afraid of him, petrified I would make a mistake, I sounded more like a lamb to slaughter, my shaking voice almost baaing.)  "Remember the purges?  I'll never forget the one where you really sang unbelievably."   (That day, for some reason, I overcame the fear.  I sang with no terror.  The other choir members actually applauded when I was done.)

"I hope", she wrote "that kind of thing continues forever because if you show everyone what you showed him you'll make it anywhere."

Her words reverberated and stayed in my mind and brain.  "You can do it" they reminded me, a version of the little engine that could.

I saw Susie a few years later, by happenstance.

 I reminded her who I was and we shared some small talk.  I told her she had a very big effect on my life because of the words she had written.  She looked at me with a kind of strange expression, a "are you a little off?" moue of her lips, the lifting of a brow.

"This is somewhat what you wrote." I said summarizing it for her.  "You wrote about showing everyone what I showed Mr (    ) that day of the purge.   No one ever said that to me before,  no one ever gave me the kind of encouragement, that the possibilities are there.  I really want to thank you for that."

Her expression indicated she thought it was a strange thing for me to say, or maybe just that I was strange.  We said our good byes.  I have never seen her again.

It was, for her, a little thing.  Maybe she grew up in a house where an "atta girl" and pat on the back was common.  That was not the case for me.  My impression was my remembering it, much less taking it to heart, was way beyond what she intended.  She wrote what she thought at the time and never gave it another thought.  I read what she wrote at the time, and gave it a lot of thought.

Words can hurt.  Words can heal.  They can encourage, or discourage.  They can linger in the air, between people, reminders of their hurtfulness.  They can settle in your heart and sing to you.

The little things, the thoughtful, and thoughtless, really do mean a lot.  

I think of Susie's words now and again.  They remind me that what I say may take only a few seconds but what you hear may last forever.