…Didn’t Hurt Her
Mom has been gone for six years, but to deny that she lived during changing times would be a gross underestimation. A singer on the radio during World War II, she was the quintessential forties babe. Wearing ‘water wings’ gown to sorority bashes (now called halter top), bleaching streaks into her light brown hair and bobby soxing to Sinatra were just some of the indications of her coolness— and choices.
And then came motherhood. She married dad well after the war, but the mores of the day dictated to that generation that it was time to settle down—waaayyy down. If you were to look at before and after photos of Mom, you would see how the lively young girl turned matronly in short order. In the late fifties and early sixties the nuclear family still largely ruled and provided women the protection a husband had traditionally done for generations. Mom did not have to, nor was she expected to work outside the home.
Ah, but the women’s revolution was about to begin and not unlike many women of her generation, Mom was left a bit bewildered.
Not only had she taken on the Lucy Ricardo housewife role hook line and sinker, she was a natural introvert—uncomfortable meeting new people and exploring new places. But with Dad’s encouragement, she spread her wings, joined in singing groups, worked retail as a candy lady and gave thousands of volunteer hours as a gift shop employee at the local hospital.
Mom never used a computer, nor a cell phone. She took the challenge of her shyness by the horns and navigated her world–face to face. It never occurred to her that she could hide behind a computer screen or text instead of phone. Mom didn’t know the crutch modern technology has afforded the shy. So until her dying day, Mom went against her nature and met the world with courage and fortitude.
As her daughter, I too have inherited the propensity to prefer my cave to the big bad world. It is through her example that I decided to fight the monster in the cave that wants to grab me by the hair and pull me back inside most days.
I learned to pretend.
I learned to act like an extrovert.
And you know what? People do not bite your hand when you extend it to shake theirs. More than not, they greet you with a smile and are cordial. The imagined terror of speaking or performing in front of a crowd of hundreds can leave one invigorated, not wounded.
I joined the vocal jazz group my parents began, after they retired from it, and learned what it is like to sing under the spotlight. Every time I attend a writer’s convention or go to a book signing I slay the cave dragon just like Mom did when she put on a smile and offered suggestions to people wanting to buy a gift for their sick friend or relative.
I have my computer to hide behind. Mom did not.
What Mom did not know not only did not hurt her—it lent to the building of her face-the-world strength. The last five or six years of her life she battled the wages of Alzheimer’s. Using post its and a calendar she made appointments on time and continued to run her household even when her memory had to rely on that self-made paper trail. She continued to volunteer and put on a radiant smile for hospital visitors. She sang next to my dad, wore costumes from ‘the day’ with stage make up and more of that amazing smile— under the hot lights.
Although I never discussed it with her, Mom must have made a life decision to live and not hide, even though her generation and times might have made hiding easier than it would be today when nearly all women work outside the home. She did not use the excuse of her affluence as a woman financially able to stay at home nor did she adopt a computer to do her communiqués for her.
I can only imagine the pep talks she gave to herself in the car on the way to her next public situation or event. Because I do the same.
My readers are often shocked, even deny that I could be anything but an extrovert.
I pretend. I act.
And you know what? You eventually become what you pretend to be. You strengthen the extrovert muscles and become as comfortable as the best of them–in the spotlight. You even learn to enjoy it.
Today, I have taught writer’s workshops, moderated multi-author speaking engagements and book signings, attended red carpet events and Hollywood awards shows as an outsider looking in so as to share the experience with my readers,
traveled Europe, The United States, Canada, Mexico and Australia, met people and gone places I never would have dreamed—all because I too made that life decision to reach out— and past my nature.