Thursday, January 12, 2012

Planting The Seed

6 years ago, The Secret by Rhonda Byrne, hit the self-help scene like a hurricane. Everyone was talking about this new take on the law of attraction, which seemed to promise a better life, a higher paying job, and a better marriage by simply focusing on what you do want rather than what you don't want.
It was also 6 years ago that my roommate Glynnis and I were sitting in our living room drinking coffee and making fun of the entire notion. "Parking your car in NYC can be a hassle, but not if you know The Secret" she said with an infamercial tone. "Getting inappropriately fondled on a crowded subway car can be a real pain in the you know what... but not if you know The Secret!" I responded with a giggle. 

We were of course familiar with the notion of positive thinking, and were no strangers to the law of attraction, it just seemed far-fetched to us that any of these techniques could overcome unbending circumstances. Neither of us were dating anyone at the time and we were both thoroughly disheartened by the lot of men with whom we were acquainted. " Well we do spend a lot of time concentrating on the flawed traits of the men we know," I admitted. It was true, neither of us had any problems articulating the things we didn't want in a relationship. "Alright then, let's  try stating what it is we do want in a relationship!" Glynnis declared. It certainly was worth trying The Secret out if we were going to make fun of it. 

We sat for some time without an answer. It was unmistakably more difficult to recognize what we wanted then what we didn't want. I had been reading Julia Child's, My Life in France at the time and was moved by the mutually loving and supportive relationship Julia had with her husband, Paul. Julia followed Paul and supported his career without question, and when it came to Julia following her heart, Paul was not only her number one cheerleader, he used his artistic skills to help her. All I could think was, why are none of the men I know like this? Why do none of them seem to take joy in the successes of the women around them? Why are they not supportive? It was then that I realized.
Julia and Paul Child

" I want Paul Child!" I exclaimed. "You want what?" Glynnis laughed. " I don't actually want Paul Child," I tried to explain, " I want what Julia and Paul had." "And that is...?" Glynnis asked expectantly. "I want a man who can support me and whom I want to support. I want a man who loves to see me do my best and can be there for me when I don't. I want a man for whom I am happy to do the same," I was almost out of breath saying it. It was so clear to me all of a sudden, yet it had never occurred to me to test it on my tongue " I want MY Paul Child," I declared. It felt wonderful to say it. 
Sitting across from Ben and friends on the night we met
It was 2 years later that I met Ben and I can't say I recognized it immediately. There was something different about him for sure, and after a few months of dating, I knew what it was. The revelation terrified me at first.  Here, blooming in front of me was the seed I had planted two years before, here was my Paul Child. The fear subsided and I'm happy to say that left in it's place is a deep sense of gratitude. Ben is no Paul Child, and I could never hope to be Julia, but our mutual love, respect, and support of one another comes from the same inspired place. I know that whatever I decide to do, Ben is behind me all the way and I hope Ben knows that I will support him in whatever endeavor makes him happy.

Five months pregnant in San Francisco 

 It only seems appropriate, that today (well, yesterday actually), on our first wedding anniversary, that I thank you Glynnis for challenging me to envision what, at the time, I didn't believe could exist for me. Would I have still met Ben had I not tried out The Secret? of course I would have! But this certainly does make a better anniversary story.

Walking over the Brooklyn Bridge a year ago

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Shut Up and Do It...

"You've already got it Madeline. Your doing it. Now, KEEP GOING..." said Joe, shaking his head in disbelief. I've been taking swimming classes for the last few months, and my oxymoronic coalition of willfulness and apprehension has never been clearer then when I'm swimming. For example, when learning flip turns, I struggled and pushed myself until I finally got it. Then something happened. I would swim, flip, and for some reason stop. Joe, my teacher, was perplexed. "Stop thinking about it and just DO it!" he finally told me after I had pelted him with one too many technical questions. Little did Joe know that this innocent little flip turn was quickly becoming a metaphor for my life, and swim class, my therapy session.

I decided to try his advice. I stopped thinking about it, all of it. I stopped thinking about how to do the turn, about why I seemed unable to follow through after accomplishing it, I stopped thinking about how symbolic this was of my life approach, and I just did it. I swam, kicked, turned, and kept going. Water up my nose, having done nothing close to a good turn, I kept swimming, because, in actuality, this was a swim class, not a therapy session. And although swimming might help clarify my issues and strengths, I am here to swim. Simple.

So with that in mind, I decided that my one resolution of 2012 be reserved for the pool. I am famous in class for shaking my head 'no' every time Joe gives us a challenging task. Every time he tries to test our ability, I put the breaks on by deciding that I won't be able to do it. Well not anymore. As of 2012, if Joe should tell us to swim 8, 50 yard sets on the 55, though it might seem outside my ability, I will not question him, I will not shake my head 'no', I will not even try, I'll just do it. If I accomplish it, great! Awesome! Amazing! If not, alright, no big deal.  I'll just keep going.

To be honest with you, I'm a little scared and a little excited, probably of the same thing... I'm scared of all the times I may not cut it. I'm more scared of the times that I will. In ways that I don't wholly understand, I'm most scared of finding my potential - as if holding it in my hands might be too great, or too disappointing. It's impossible to know from where I stand, but I have decided that 2012 be the year that I get down to tapping my own potential, and there is no room for low balling it. It's time to just shut up and do it,  and it's time to eliminate the word 'no' from my vocabulary.