Pluck

In response to: Daily Prompt: Pluck

do what

 

Pluck. Mart. Mallet. Shake. Ring Touch.

These words had little or no real meaning to me in connection with each other up until this past year. But I now have a whole new understanding and appreciation for each of these words individually as well as collectively, because this year I began learning how to ring handbells. I just got home from a 4-day long bell festival.

It was hard.

It was exhausting.

It was overwhelming.

 

It was awesome.

Music, dance, and creativity have always been a part of my life. Whether performing or coaching, I have always had a need for musical creativity in my life. Last year, I realized that I was missing that musical outlet. It had been quite a few years since I had that type of musical outlet, so I was searching for something. I don’t sing, (which is best for everyone). But a good friend of mine performs with an amazing community handbell choir and we have a handbell choir at my church. So I was inspired to give it a try.

Handbell ringing has been a lot of fun. I have enjoyed learning how to play a new instrument, trying to work out the rhythms, learning the notes and the various techniques, as well as getting to know the people in our handbell choir. I wasn’t really sure I could handle festival, (actually I was pretty sure I couldn’t handle it, I have only been playing for nine months), but the other members of our choir assured me that I should give it a try. And I’m so glad I did.

For four days at festival, I learned to pluck, mart, mallet, shake, ring touch and so much more. I learned how to do one technique with one bell in one hand, and a different technique with another bell in the other hand. I learned to read music in 7/8 time, cut time, common time, 3/4 time and how to switch back and forth between them, all within the same piece of music. I learned how to follow different directors (although I do prefer my own director best). I watched individuals, small groups, large choirs, and a massed ringing of 400 people make beautiful music ringing handbells.

I learned that it didn’t matter if I can sight read perfectly (I can’t) or if I turn the page four measures too early (yup, I did that) or if I can’t master a piece in 3 hours and 45 minutes (nope, can’t do that) but that when we all play together and do our best, we make some incredible music.

Beyond the music, I learned more about the people I went to festival with. I learned about their life journeys, both past and present. They shared a little more with me about the challenges they have faced and continue to face, as well as those things that bring them great joy. I also learned that the journey of life is so much more fun when you have people to travel it with you.

I tend to be a perfectionist in all that I do. And I’m kind of hard on myself (ok, really hard on myself). But another thing that handbell ringing has taught me is that while it’s important for me to learn how to play my part well, handbell ringing is a team sport. My notes don’t sound as good in isolation as it does when they is played along with everyone else’s notes, and that when we play all together, we can make some beautiful and touching music.

Most importantly over the four days of festival, I shared time and space with some really great people. People I can laugh with about the flamingos, commiserate with about the long treks across campus – walking backwards down a hill, and giggle with about middle school humor and innuendo. People who have walked the incredible journeys of their lives, and have shared at least a part of that journey with me. People I call my friends.

Ringing handbells is hard work, but it’s so much fun. Being a perfectionist, I struggle with the fact that I am learning a new instrument and there are a lot of things I don’t know how to do … yet. But at the end of the day, it isn’t about perfection, but rather it’s about putting forth my best effort and having people there for me when I mess up to help me to find my way, both in the music, and in life.It’s about being blessed enough to have people in my life who are willing to offer that help. It’s about opening myself up to accept that help. And it’s about walking this journey of life with some cool people and maybe even making making joyful music along the way!

Together

I looked up the antonym for alone the other day and it was together, or accompanied. I have worried and stressed about being alone. I am not currently in a relationship and my ex is already living with someone else and has a new family with them. But last weekend I realized that I wasn’t as alone as I thought I was.

My son had has play, The Wizard of Oz. it was great fun. I went to all three shows (it’s what moms do). On Friday night we had 9 people at the show: me, a good friend from out of state who came all the way to see him, my son and his girlfriend who drove over two hours from college, a friend from work and her husband, a friend from church and her daughter and my pastor. It was such a great, warm feeling to have so many people there.

On Saturday afternoon 11 people were there: me (again), my parents, brother, another brother and sister-in-law, my niece and her husband, another niece, and a friend from work and her son. My son’s social studies teacher also came to see him.

On Saturday night I knew my ex was going with his girlfriend. I asked another friend from work to go with me. My son’s best friend since kindergarten and her mom also came. The whole weekend was great. He had so many people, there for him and I felt the opposite of alone, I felt surrounded. I felt surrounded by love, by friends, by, people and by caring.

And on Saturday night when I saw him with his girlfriend I recognized the look in her eyes. The fear and controlling that comes with spending time with him. I saw the uncertainty in her eyes of being in public with him. He could be so volatile, and unpredictable, and sometimes just down right mean.

And then I thought about how I felt all weekend. I didn’t feel the fear of upsetting him. I didn’t feel the hesitation of him controlling me. I didn’t feel the uneasiness of having my family around and having him be upset about it. And I didn’t feel alone.

surrounded

I realized that without him controlling who I spent time with and him limiting who I could be friends with, I have surrounded myself with a wonderful support system. It took some time to learn to let them in and accept the support and love from my friends, but I now realized that I am not alone.

And I’m happy.

Broken

It started when I was 10-years-old. I don’t know exactly when it stopped. I guess when he moved out of the house, or when I moved out of the house. Even though I don’t see on a regular basis anymore, I still battle the after effects everyday.

It happened slowly over time. At first it was just a hug or a kiss or a caress that all just felt like too much. It was a hand up my shirt or down my pants. Nothing that was easily identifiable, just uncomfortable.

He took advantage of my trusting nature. He took advantage of my rule following nature. He took advantage of the trust my parents put in him. He took advantage of the situation in which they left him in charge. He took advantage of me.

He destroyed my confidence. He told me I was worthless.

He destroyed my sense of self. He told me no one would ever love me.

He destroyed my trust. He told me no one would ever believe me.

He left me broken.

I have fought for years to try to rewrite the message that plays in my head: I’m not good enough, I’m not pretty enough, I’m not smart enough, I’m not worthy of love. Some days are better than others in believing it.

But… In my brokenness I have found healing.

In my brokenness I have found strength.

In my brokenness I have found hope.

Through that brokenness, I have used my own pain and experiences to help others. I have been able to help others know that while abuse shouldn’t define who you are, it will always be a part of you.

Through my brokenness I have comforted others and let them know that I understand, and I survived.

Through my brokenness I have been able (I hope) to help a little girl rebuild and redefine herself after a horrible event happened to her.

I think that as hard as it has been, and continues to be, if I can help one other person know that they are not alone, then my brokenness can be used for good.

Tools

Each of us has our own set of tools, our own proverbial toolbox. Throughout out lives we are faced with challenges, opportunities, and experiences, that help shape who we are and provide us with “tools” for our toolbox.

What we do with those tools can help us connect or separate us from others.

Some people use their experiences to separate themselves from others, sometimes positively, and sometimes negatively.

They might use them to make themselves seem more elitist or powerful than they really are. The experiences they had and the opportunities they were given make them somehow better than the average person. That trip abroad, or vacation they took puts them in a class by themselves.

But others use their challenges as ways to differentiate themselves out negatively. More of a “poor me” attitude. No one else could have possibly experienced the same types of trauma that they have. Maybe they had an abusive or absent parent. Maybe it was an illness they or their spouse had that sets them apart. They use their experiences to push others away.

In that case, the experiences become tools of destruction. Each experience is used as a way of separating from others and destroying, rather than building, relationships.

I try to see my experiences in a different way. I try to see each tool in my toolbox as a way for me to connect with others. I try to use my positive experiences, as well as my negative experiences as a way to connect, support and empathize with others.

When I sit down with one of my faculty members, a student, or a parent, I try to use those tools to share an experience and build a relationship with them.

Having a toolbox with tons of “tools” or experiences in it is only beneficial when those tools are used in a constructive way.

what-s-your-toolbox-red-metal-tool-box-skills-experience-question-asking-if-you-have-necessary-to-perform-task-33298866

http://www.dreamstime.com/

Relationships

I work with junior high school students. There is one student who I have worked with quite a lot this year. I have been working with her on helping to help her deal with a difficult situation that she faced last year. But sometimes, I think she’s the one helping me.

We were talking today about the abusive and controlling relationship she was in last year. She has worked hard to get beyond this relationship and learn to trust again. But she is currently having a disagreement with her parents about the concept of dating and they are telling her that maybe she shouldn’t be dating at all. Her response to me was that she shouldn’t be punished and not allowed to date anymore because she dated the wrong guy.

As often happens, our conversations typically stay with me long after we have finished talking. I am divorced, actually I’ve been divorced twice and I have just started thinking about dating again. I tend to be a little bit (ok, probably a lot) negative about dating and relationships just assuming that I am not very good at it and I have a bit of a defeatist attitude.

But as I began to reflect on my conversation with this student today I thought that maybe it wasn’t me, but that I picked the wrong guy (s). I shouldn’t “punish” myself or not date again, just because I messed up in the past but that maybe I should give myself another chance and try to learn to trust again.

So rather than give up completely on the idea of finding companionship with someone and closing myself off before really giving it a chance, maybe I need to take a chance on relationships and give myself another try at finding the right guy or at least being open to the idea.

Must have’s for a new man

I am dually terrified, and not because Halloween is coming. I’m terrified about relationships. I’m terrified about the idea of putting myself out there and getting into a relationship again. I feel like this is an area where I am not very successful. But I’m also terrified about the idea of being alone for the rest of my life.

I’m not sure which one terrifies me more. I think that fluctuates day by day. But in what can only be defined as a positive move, I began thinking about what I would want in a man if I were to ever date again. I guess it’s a good thing that I am even thinking of dating again. Maybe it means there is some healing going on. But I admit to being tentative and scared that I will fail again.

My list, of course, starts with my boys. They are the most important people in my life and if anyone wants to be in my life, they have to understand and appreciate this. I know no one will love my boys as much as I do, but they are so important to me that it is essential for someone to be in my life that they must care about my boys and figure out a way to build a relationship with them. My ex couldn’t do this. He was jealous and controlling of everyone I talked to. He could never comprehend my relationship with my older son, his stepson. He was so jealous that he became angry and resentful of my relationship with my younger son, his biological son.

Religion or more specifically spirituality is also significant to me. I have always been a deeply spiritual person. My connection to a particular organized religion has varied throughout my life. I have often gone back to Catholicism because it was what I was raised and where I thought I was comfortable. But I wasn’t. I disagree with many of the Catholic Church’s tenants and beliefs so I have spent a lot of time exploring churches. I am currently a practicing Presbyterian but bigger and more importantly than the actual religious affiliation is the fact that I now know what it is like to have a church community where I can really belong.

If I were to get involved with a man again, I would want him to have some type of religious conviction and spiritual belief. My first husband was the son of a Lutheran pastor, but he was not very spiritual. He actually resented the church and the people of the church because he felt that they took away some of his family and his father because of the demands of being a pastor’s son. My second husband went to church because I went, but he really didn’t believe and he was not invested. Spirituality is something that is very important to me and something I value in a partner.

That is the next thing. I want a partner, a companion, a friend. Someone I can count on and rely on. Someone who is there for me, as I would be there for them. Most of my previous relationships have been about me being there for and giving up myself for my partner and not the other way around. I want someone to do things with and share things with and talk about things with. I want a partner who is invested in me as I am in him.

Doing things with a partner would mean that we should have some things in common. I love football. You would think as a woman that would be an easy sell to a man, but so far, no good. I like watching football. I like going to football games. And at some point in my life, I would love to travel to different stadiums to watch football games. I would like to do that with someone who would enjoy those games with me. I’m hoping that somewhere out there is someone who can appreciate a woman who is passionate and knowledgeable about football.

As I began contemplating this list this weekend, I went to church on Sunday and saw an even better list to live by. The front of the bulletin said:

Clothe yourself with:

Compassion,

Kindness,

Humility,

Gentleness,

Patience

And above all else, Love.

What more could I ask for. As I look to find someone to share my life with, I will first try to practice the qualities I want to find in others: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience … and above all else, LOVE.

Genuine happiness

Not every happy birthday wish is genuine. Sometimes it’s just for show.

happy birthday

Yesterday was my birthday. I love birthdays. I don’t care so much about my own birthday, but I love to celebrate my friends and their birthdays.

I am a principal of a middle school. Somehow the kids and the teachers always find out about my birthday and I’m usually a pretty good sport about being sung to by the students all day long. But I remember one birthday when my ex-husband and I were still together and working at the same school and I wasn’t very gracious at all.

My ex-husband planned to surprise me with a cake in the cafeteria when I was on lunch duty and have the kids sing to me. I suspected something was going on, and rather than just go along with it, I resisted. Practically making one of my friends, the social worker at school, drag me into the cafeteria. The kids sang, we had cake, and it was great. But I was pissed about it. And I didn’t know why.

As I look back on that time now, I realize that one of the hardest parts of us working together was that the person other people saw (and loved) at work, and in public, was not the person I went home to at night. Everyone thought he was so sweet and wonderful, but the man I was with at home was angry, mean and spiteful.

We were living a lie, and I think at that time in my life, I was finally starting to realize it, but I couldn’t quite identify it. I didn’t really want to acknowledge it, but our life was most definitely not perfect, in fact it was pretty miserable.

He made such a big deal about being this great guy in public that it made me feel bad about the way he acted it home. It made me doubt myself. I was mad at him that birthday because he wasn’t trying to make sure that I had a happy birthday, he was trying to look good in the eyes of other people. So the birthday gesture didn’t feel genuine. And the fact that he continued to fool people, and still does, made me mad then, and is something I still struggle with now.

Even though I was alone for my birthday, every “happy birthday” that was wished to me felt genuine. The students, the teachers, my friends, my family, my boys, all wished me a happy birthday because they wanted me to be happy. Which [even as I sit here crying as I type this] makes me realize that I am a very lucky person. And I genuinely did have a very happy birthday this year.

the human touch

 I’m recently divorced, again. I have 2 amazing sons. And a great job. And a HUGE family (it seriously is huge). But sometimes I get lonely and I miss that personal touch. I miss another adult to talk to about my day. I miss someone to ask about me. And I really miss physical intimacy. Don’t worry, this post is not about to get ‘R’ rated on you, I just mean a hug, someone to hold my hand, someone to rub my back, a peck on the cheek, someone to be there … for me.

 

The affectionate gestures of the cute, little, old couples in church just about bring me to tears. It is so adorable to see them holding hands, or helping each other stand up, or just placing their hand over each other’s hand. It really is beautiful and it is something that I miss. I miss someone just touching me affectionately because they want to touch me and they want me to know they are there for me.

 

It probably sounds kind of silly in the grand scheme of things, but it’s true. Human physical contact is really important and one of the things I miss most now that I am divorced. I’m not quite ready to begin dating again, but I wouldn’t mind a nice affectionate hug every once in a while, just because.

 

Final Ties

Divorce takes a long time. There is no set time frame, but it’s long. I’ve seen some people finish the process in about 6 months (not including the 90 day waiting period).  And I have a friend who, after almost 3 years, is still waiting for her day in court. I fall somewhere in between these two. After just about 15 months I am finally divorced.

Armed with all the paperwork I thought I needed to cut the final ties between my ex- husband and me I went to AAA to change my name on my driver’s license. Much to my surprise I had to provide them with the official copy of the final divorce decree. I hadn’t brought that with me. I had to go home and get it. 35 minutes each way, and they were closing in an hour and 20 minutes. I almost burst into tears at AAA. The kind woman at AAA sensed my frustration and tried to see if she could proceed without it but alas we could not.

Driving home to get it and hoping I would get back in time to get it done that day I did burst into tears. I cried at the frustrating hoops I had to jump through to change my name back to my maiden name. I cried because I hadn’t realized just how important it was for me to cut this final tie between my ex- husband and me. I didn’t want his name. I didn’t want that connection to him. I had never wanted to use my maiden so badly in all my life.

I’m not sure why cutting this final tie was so important to me but it was. I don’t want to have his last name anymore. I want my own. I don’t want any more connections to him. I want to be able to move forward with my own life.

Maybe cutting this tie will help me take back just a little bit of the control that he still has over me. Maybe cutting this tie will make me stronger. Maybe cutting this tie will let me move on. Maybe, just maybe…

 

The Radio

Today’s blog post idea from The Daily Post was to start a post from the first lines of the last song you heard on the radio. For the most part I listen to Boston sports talk radio so while I would enjoy writing a post about the outstanding performance of Tom Brady and Jimmy Garapalo in last nights pre-season game between the New England patriots and the Carolina panthers I don’t think that was the intention of the post. So I decided that I would intentionally put on some music when I got in the car today. I don’t really like a lot of the music on the radio, which is one of the reasons I listen to sports talk radio, and of course because I love football.

I plug my iPhone into the receiver in my car and let it shuffle and pick a song. The first song that comes up is “Show you how to love” performed by Penatonix and amazing acapella group I love. I sigh. Why are all songs on the radio about love? But the idea behind the title “show you how to love” has me intrigued in several different ways.

Having spent the last year of my life struggling through a horrific divorce (is there really such a thing as a good divorce?) I think about needing someone to show me how to love again. I’m jaded right now. I’m hurt. I’m struggling. And I’m in that place where I don’t even want to think about love again. But that’s because what I thought was love wasn’t. So I need someone to show me how to love.

I’m also thinking about the idea of the song being about showing someone how to love me. Showing someone what I need and how to love and take care of me.

It has made me think about love again and what it means to me. Or what I want it to be this time around. At the football game last night I saw on older couple walking out of the stadium holding hands, wearing matching Brady jerseys. I love the idea of companionship and enjoying doing something together. At church I see the older couples helping each other out of the pew at the end of service.

 

For some reason old couples are who I’m looking at now. They are so sweet. Maybe that’s because I think about what it’s going to be like when I’m older and alone. Or maybe it’s because I still can’t think about being in a relationship now because I’m still so hurt and raw.

But I also have friends my age who have been married for over 17 years and are as in love today as they were when they met. I often tell them that they are my hope that there is goodness and love in the world. They ride with each other to a meeting just to spend the time together. They have special things they do for each other just because. They truly love being together. I guess that’s what I want. Someone who loves me enough to want to spend time with me and yet trusts me enough to let me spend time away from him.

I guess I need someone to show me how to love again. And maybe in the process I will be able to teach them how to love me.