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Brave Enough

Am I the only one who feels like her life is completely out of control? I admit that sometimes I feel like I am just circling the drain. There is so much to do and too little time to get it all done. I have a “9-5 job” plus a commitment that is unofficially a second job. Sprinkle some household challenges into the mix and I have neither the time nor the energy to work on my blog or the next novel. Writing, the very thing that brings me peace and fulfillment falls by the wayside, ironically.

I suspect this is a familiar story to many people, if you change the details a little bit. Plates that are full. Plates that are spinning. Feeling like you never get anything crossed off the “to do” list and if you do manage, 10 more items were added to the list while you were knocking that ONE out. You may be raising small children and juggling mom life along with work life or maybe even school. My hat is off to those of you with littles, even if you don’t work outside the home or go to school. Just a couple of days with my granddaughter (almost two and a half years old) and feel like I have run a couple of back to back marathons.

When I am extremely overwhelmed, I tend to turn inward and I either shut down or there is a great deal of introspection. If I am lucky, I spend less time picking myself apart and more time indulging in memories of a simpler time. Most recently, a rather peculiar chapter in my life keeps coming to mind.

As I have shared with readers before, I was overweight as a young child and adolescent. I was very shy but always seeking approval and acceptance from my peers. For whatever reason, in fifth or sixth grade, I saw and reacted to an announcement about cheerleader tryouts. I had a momentary lapse in judgement and decided I was going to try out. Talk about a hair-brained idea. I was a very chubby girl and woefully uncoordinated. But hey, I’ve got spirit, yes I do! I’ve got spirit, how ‘bout YOU?!

In spite of my bulk and complete lack of grace, I believe I would have made an awesome cheerleader. After all, years of training for a career in the entertainment field prepared me for such a role. When I refer to my years of training, I am speaking of countless hours in my room, playing records and singing in front of my dresser mirror with my curling iron as a microphone. My audience? Shaun Cassidy, Leif Garrett, Andy Gibb (and his brothers, the Bee Gees). I had posters all over my room, so I could make eye contact with my adoring fans as I performed. I had all the best moves, down to the most subtle nuances. The cord of the “microphone” was tucked into a drawer (just as a real mic was plugged in) and I utilized it as I moved around and sang my chubby little heart out. My inspirations were mainly Cher and Crystal Gale who performed with the mic cord lovingly draped across or entwined in their long, slender fingers. As they moved around the stage, the way they worked both the mic and the cord became an important part of the performance. In contrast, my fat, stubby fingers looked more like extra thick baby carrots. What I was going for was something elegant and exquisite. What resulted was more of an Oompa Loompa vibe. I like to think I compensated for this by emoting. My facial expressions as I belted out the coolest disco hits of the era, were above reproach. Most notably, my over the top eyebrow work and winking when I flirted with Leif. By the way, not trying to brag, but I did all my own choreography, so there was a LOT going on in my shows. Try not to be too dazzled if you can envision this glorious spectacle.

If anything, my routine for “Turn the Beat Around” was enough on its own merit to ensure a successful stint in cheer leading. Imagine my show stopping moves at this part of the song during which I skillfully executed the air flute, air guitar AND air drums!

Flute player play your flute 'cause I know that you want to get your thing off But you see I've made up my mind about it To me it is the rhythm, no doubt about it, woah, woah 'Cause when the guitar player starts playing With the syncopated rhythm, with the scratch, scratch, scratch Makes me want to move my body yeah, yeah, yeah And when the drummer starts beating that beat He nails that beat with the syncopated rhythm With the rat, tat, tat, tat, tat, tat, on the drums, hey

Sure, I was an unrivaled superstar in the solitude of my room, but let’s face it, a Teen Beat poster audience is considerably more accepting than your average middle school/high school alive and breathing audience. That said, I signed up for cheerleader tryouts without thoroughly thinking it through.

In spite of being way over qualified for the cheer leading gig by way of my super-stardom, I still practiced the cheer routine during every free moment that I had at recess, after school, after dinner and in the morning before school. I felt like I had the perfect balance of pep and blinding gymnastic talent without eclipsing the other girls on the squad. That's what we in the cheer biz called ourselves. The Squad.

As the big day approached, word spread that I was trying out. The reaction was not exactly as favorable as I had imagined. In fact, it was a mixture of disbelief, amusement and mockery. That is when I realized, in my haste, I had forgotten who I was. Reality washed over me like a very cold, sobering tidal wave and I knew perfectly well how my routine would be received, so I dropped out of the tryouts.

The story does not end there, however. I guess the lunacy that was sparked by the announcement of the cheer leading tryouts that year was not limited to your girl here. There was another unlikely candidate and may be a coin toss as to which of us would be more controversial in the tryouts, me or him. Keep in mind, in the 1970's in small town Arkansas, boys just did not try out for cheerleader.

This very sweet boy was a one or two grades ahead of me. I knew him and I liked him very much. He was bullied on a regular basis, as was I; we just got different types of grief from our peers. When clarity came about how horribly this would have gone for me, I also realized how things were going to go for him.

I will never forget that day. We all gathered in the gym, fifth grade through twelfth. I remember sitting in the bleachers as tryouts commenced. My heart was racing and I was on the verge of hyperventilating. If I was that nervous for him, imagine what it would have been like if I had gone through with tryouts myself.

Let me just say, in the midst of so much enmity during his few minutes in the spotlight, when kids were laughing and shouting unkind things at this young man, he owned that court. He had energy and enthusiasm and he executed the cheer like a pro. It could not have been easy for him under those conditions but it was literally the bravest thing I ever witnessed as a youth. He saw it through all the way to the end and he did it with dignity. My heart was broken because of the ridicule he had to endure and at the same time, it was bursting with admiration.

Could it be that this memory is resurfacing now because I am starting to feel like a quitter again? My attitude lately has been “I’m just over it” about everything. I keep pushing through, day after day, going through the motions. I am over here practicing the routine but mentally I have already dropped out of the competition. Thank God, there are days when I still feel that exhilaration of the possibilities, the what-ifs. I wish they came more often than they do, but I remain grateful that they come at all.

For a few weeks in middle school, I envisioned myself at a pep rally, up at the front of the auditorium, dressed in the cute little black, gold and white cheerleader uniform, with the girls that I idolized back in the day. I was jumping and kicking and leading others in the age old expression of school spirit: cheering. That was an amazing feeling, entertaining the possibility of making the squad. I know it was never really an actual possibility but it sure felt great for about a minute. In the end, self-preservation won and I did not even give myself the chance to fail. I am trying very hard not to do that in my “golden years”, but my dreams are steadily being edged out by the busy life I lead.

There were lessons to be learned in my youth, even if they were too profound for me to grasp fully at the time. Sometimes you have to take a risk to live your dream and sometimes the dream is to be brave enough to take a risk.

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