One of the first boys I ever dated was a talented, beautiful, tall, muscular young man who gave me butterflies every time I was alone with him. Only problem was he did everything in his power never to be alone with me. Sometimes when he picked me up for a date, he’d have another friend in his truck to accompany us. I would get so mad until finally one day, he revealed to me that the reason he was scared to be alone with me was because he was gay. And he didn’t know what to do about that. He couldn’t come out. His dad was a hardcore Christian cowboy who ran a ranch who would never accept having a son like that. 

It was so brave of him to tell me that. In realization of that fact, we ended the “boyfriend/girlfriend” thing immediately and became fast friends. Understanding what Jeremy (I changed the name because it’s not my place to out him) had to deal with, I became one of his confidants and we stayed close friends through the years. Once he could now (at least around close friends) be who he really was, he was even more fun to be around. Made me laugh all the time.

He eventually did come out to his dad and true to Jeremy’s fear, his dad disowned him. Cut him off from any financial help whatsoever. Jeremy would lament to me how cruel his dad could be. “You know what my dad used to call you, Georgia, back when we were dating? The Jew. That’s all you were to him.”

Jeremy had to deal with his father’s cruelty for years. Then one day, Jeremy changed the game. He told me: “My dad calls and leaves me disgusting messages sometimes just to bully me and make me feel small. I couldn’t take it anymore. So the last time he left me a message that said ‘I just want you to know, Son, you’re a big ZERO. A NOTHING. And I’m so ashamed that you’re my son…’ here’s what I did: I called him back and when he didn’t pick up…instead of leaving him a message, I hit play on my voice message machine and played his message back to him over his machine. Then I called and did it again. And again. And again. I was so mad, I must have left him ten messages with nothing but the sound of his own voice to listen to.

“Then the strangest thing happened. He called me back and said ‘Do I really talk to you like that? Do I say things like that to my own son?’ He started crying, he was so ashamed.”

I haven’t talked to Jeremy in years. Life went really wrong for him and instead of being a loving force in my life, at some point, he became a dangerous place for me to visit. I have always been a believer that how we’re raised influences who we become but doesn’t ultimately seal the deal on who we end up being as grownups. I’m a big believer that if you have at least one adult championing you when you’re growing up in a dysfunctional household, you really do have a chance at changing your outcome. But I’ll always wonder how Jeremy’s story could have been different. Jeremy started out with the most loving heart and tried so hard to overcome his demons, but as of my last hearing about him, he hasn’t been able to do that yet. 

I have never forgotten the story of the voice message. It makes me wonder: if only we could all stop talking for just a minute and listen back to the words we put out in the universe. To know that what we say lands on someone’s ears and can do one of two things: hurt that person or help that person. Devastate them or elevate them. Discourage them or encourage them. If we could only step outside our own insecurities and urges to lash out for just one minute and think about what we’re really doing: either making the choice to give something of value to someone other than ourselves or choosing to take something away from someone else in order to serve ourselves…I’m guessing if we were a little more conscious of that, the world could be a better place. 

I fall in love all the time.

Some might say, I have no right to do that because I’m a happily married woman. How dare I give one ounce of my attention to someone else other than my husband? Here’s the thing. I used to feel shame about this. That’s why it took me 44 years to get married. I didn’t think it was possible to be with just one man for the rest of my life. So I ultimately got out of every relationship I was in. Better to stay companionless so that I can enjoy all the different people that God created and stay within the comforts of “societal boundaries.”

But that’s not fair. I like being in a relationship. I like having someone to go through life with. I also like spending time with people who aren’t my husband so that I can enjoy others’ glorious takes on life and as a result, be lifted, confused, exhilarated, anxious, thrilled, angry and everything in between. I could shame myself for those feelings or I could say: “Interesting. Interesting that your heart is feeling that way. You know all feelings are temporary, right, Georgia? You know just because you’re feeling this way right now doesn’t mean ____(you fill in the blank) or that you’re always gonna feel this way, right?”

If I’ve learned anything about life it’s that you can take the craziest, saddest, most shameful view you have of yourself and FLIP it on a dime. Any time you want.

That’s what I do.

When I’m feeling shame about feeling a certain way, I flip it. I say “Wow! That’s really interesting.” I replace the word “shame” with “curiosity” and suddenly I’m not such an awful person. I’m simply human. I realize that to act on everything you want is another story but to shame yourself for simply having feelings about it? Nah.

Isn’t being “human” about experiencing the gamut of what life has to offer? Within the boundaries you make for yourself?

Being married, I have certain rules that are important to me. But a big part of why I can have any feeling I want and not be ashamed of that, is because I chose my mate well. I chose someone who doesn’t feel threatened by whom I choose to go have coffee with and is comfortable in his own skin. His lack of need to control his wife just makes for a happy wife who gets to go out and explore life and come home and want to do nothing more than honor this precious human who encourages her to live life to the fullest.

Curiosity is what parents foster in their children so that they can problem-solve as they get older. Play requires them to use their imagination so that they can grow up and know that anything is possible. The minute a little girl turns in a picture she colored of a green sky and blue grass and the teacher says “That’s not correct, Little Beth. The sky is blue and grass is always green” is the minute Little Beth begins to question her own imagination.

Curiosity is encouraged in functional, healthy work cultures so that people can freely (without judgement) connect dots so that they might come up with the next great idea.

One of the greatest tragedies I’ve experienced growing up, is letting the world chip away at my sense of wonder at the mystery of this great universe. Somewhere along the way, curiosity became a bad word.

I’m taking it back. I’m reclaiming that motherfucker.

So the next time you’re curious and feeling something you’re not sure about…look at it from a distance with intrigue, not judgement. Pat yourself on the back for feeling something – anything – and then let that curiosity lead you to places you never even knew existed. You might be amazed 🙂

At a dinner party many years ago, I sat next to a woman who happened to be married to one of the most beloved gentlemen in town. She told me the story of how they met and then said “Out of all the men in this world, can you believe I got to marry x!” Being single at the time, I was a bit jealous. After all, he was quite the catch. And apparently she was too, since he chose her.

A week later, when I got to write a song with x at his house, this same woman came into the writing room and berated him with no mercy in front of me. He couldn’t do anything right. I remember being so confused. If she loved him as much as she claimed to the week before, how could she treat him that way? And in front of a stranger, at that?

Needless to say, that couple ended up divorcing a few short months later.

Gary and I went to South Africa last year on safari. I had never experienced those kinds of animals in real life before…elephants, lions, rhinos. It was jaw-dropping and mind-blowing to see them for the first time. But by the third day of safari, the awe was starting to wear off…I had already seen the elephants, lions and rhinos…where were the hyenas? Where are the leopards? I want to be in awe again!!!

When that thought hit me, I turned to look at my husband in the jeep next to me whom I’d been with for ten years at this point. At what point do we forget that when we first meet our spouse, they are the most exotic, wild, one of a kind animal we’ve ever laid eyes on?

At what point, do we start thinking “I’m bored. Everything he does annoys me.”

At what point, do we forget how all those funny quirks of his used to be the things we loved about him?

Because I know how fickle the human mind can be and how it needs constant stimulation (at least mine does), it’s very important for me to stay conscious when it comes to love. I don’t believe love is a given. I believe we have to nurture and feed it on a daily basis. And some days, it’s harder to do that than others. But forgetting that love is a choice is a great way to take it for granted and to lose it.

Borrowing the words of that woman at the dinner party, I can currently say: “Out of all the people in this world, can you believe I got to marry Gary Burr?” Now my job for the rest of my days is to never forget how lucky I am. And as long as he’s doing the same, we should be just fine 🙂

 

I saw a bumper sticker recently that really spoke to me. It said “CRITICAL THINKING – The Other National Deficit.”

That brought me back to my days at New York University. In one of my liberal arts classes, I remember taking an essay exam that would greatly affect my grade for the semester. The essay question had an obvious answer that had been covered in class but because of the weight of the grade and the fact that the exam was only one question, I read it with new curiosity that sparked new thoughts and ideas on the matter. I remember getting very excited as I handed in my exam. I felt like my professor would read my answer and appreciate the original thought that went into my response. I assumed she wanted my take on the matter.

I assumed wrong.

When I got my paper back, it had a big “C+” on it with a note that said “This is not what I taught you in class.”

A couple of invaluable lessons I learned that day:

  1. Her “what I taught you in class” were memorized facts that she wanted regurgitated back to her. I had misunderstood and thought her intention was “to teach us to think for ourselves based on the facts we were given.” I was wrong.
  2. I’ll never forget the excitement running through my body of stumbling upon a new idea and formulating my own take on it. I felt so alive and wanted to do that again and again so I decided to make a living at that and become a songwriter. That way, I could put words and ideas together to create brand new worlds within the construct of a 3 minute song. What a fun challenge.
  3. The rejection of sharing my ideas and not having them received or heard made me realize the importance of “reading a room.” When people ask you for your thoughts, sometimes they don’t REALLY want to know what you think. They want you to just confirm what they already believe. When I meet someone who honestly DOES want to know what I think, it’s such a pleasure and always a much more interesting conversation. The dialogue goes both ways and we get to explore new ideas together. New ideas spur action and creativity.

I LIVE for this!