I’ve never really thought I was very good ay many things. High School for me was miserable and most of my teachers seemed uninspired at best and at worst emotionally unstable. I had two teachers who had nervous breakdowns and I don’t blame them one bit. The school system did not allow for much grace where teacher’s were concerned.The majority of my teachers seemed bored with their lives and uninterested in mine. There was very little encouragement to explore, create and find something I was good at AND learn how to capitalize on that particular talent. I was blandly taught the basics and in turn, learned to detest school.
The only teachers I ever had to embrace my JimmyT-ness were drama and music teachers. Those were the ones who made high school bearable for me. Many thanks to Vickie, Dan and Marta. You helped shape me into the man I am today…for better or for worse.
As I kid I really didn’t have much interest in many things. I liked stuffed animals and real animals. I liked planets and stars. I liked playing down by the creek with my friend, Ashly. I liked my parents and my grandparents. I liked playing in the yard. I liked music. I had two older sisters but they were too much older to be a reliable source of entertainment. And I hated being far away from my mom. My favorite times as a kid were with my mom- just doing whatever. It was a challenge to get me to do anything that involved a group of people. I am actually still kind-of that way (but I have learned to occasionally get beyond my comfort zone) but as a child I became extremely anxious whenever my mom would “drop me off” somewhere to “have fun” with a bunch of other kids. My mother was dedicated (and understandably desperate) to find something for me that I really enjoyed doing. So at the age of 9 I became involved in theatre when my mom took me to an audition for a community production of the Wizard of OZ. I sang “ We Go Together” from Grease-accapella, complete with choreographed hand gestures and I sang the entire song. I was cast as a munchkin. I really wanted to be they Mayor of Munchkin City, but my friend Harry, beat me to it, and I was relegated to Coroner. (I did enjoyed pronouncing the witch dead, though. Good times.) I remember being really nervous in the audition but as soon as the crowd in the audition room began responding positively I knew I had arrived at a pivotal point in my life and I never looked back. Thus my career as a gypsy showman began. And ham.
Up to this time I never felt like I was good at anything. I was interested in science but teachers crushed that dream when they told my I was too weak at math to be any good at it. I hated sports ( you know, the thing ALL boys are supposed to like). I had tried to be good at sport things, but I just wasn’t. When I was about 8 years old, Mom signed me up for T-ball for one miserable summer and I have never been as hot and thirsty in my life as I was standing in the field in 98 degree heat. I really don’t think they allowed us water…at least I don’t remember any. And I remember a lot of old men yelling. I think it’s why I hate the heat to this day. Anytime a fly ball came towards me I wanted to cry. I wanted to be home in the air-conditioning with my dog listening to my Donna Summer album. I could not grasp ( and still can’t) why anyone want to stand around in a dusty field and play catch. And they took it so seriously. Bleh….
Anyway, when I began performing I had finally found something I was naturally good at. I grew up in a musical family and I could sing. I took to acting like I hooker to a C note and although I never considered myself a dancer my personality was large enough to carry me through. (Keep your eyes on the hands, folks!!) I FINALLY felt like I was GOOD at something. And not just good, but real good. Good enough to make it my career. So, I studied, performed, attended a conservatory in New York and went on to have a decent ( life- sustaining- with- a-little-help-from-the-folks anyway) career. But I think I could have done better. Of course addiction seriously derailed my ambitions (and my ability to walk) but besides that there was always this nagging voice that said “people like you don’t make it big”. Fast forward to now; I have begun to look at that belief more closely.
I was raised in a humble home. My parents were wonderful, loving, kind and humble people. They taught me and raised me well. They are two of my heroes; children of the 50’s, both of them. And they had certain beliefs one of which was humility was of utmost importance. A fine and important lesson, but I took away another message, or at the very least one that I don’t believe was intended, that has played on a loop in my head ever since then.
I was raised with the message that ” Yes, you can be anything you want, BUT don’t get your hopes up too high or you’ll end up disappointed”, as though being disappointed was the worst thing in the world. I distinctly remember having conversations when, at age 18, I was preparing to leave for New York about how difficult and rare it is for anyone to be able to make a living in theatre. And they were right. But there must have been a better way to convey the message other than “ Good Luck…you’ll need it”.
My paternal grandfather referred to people who were highly successful and proud of it as “putting on airs”. Anytime I got something new he would make comments about being “ too big for my britches.” So I was encouraged to succeed…but just not too much. You don’t want people to think you’re vain. I learned that I was capable of doing great things…and that a LOT of people are and most of them don’t, so you’ll probably end up sad and alone,in a tattered bathrobe with a bunch of cats. But here’s to giving it the good ol’ college try, (and you’re gonna suck, but we’re proud of you anyway).
Separated at birth?
Then there is recovery. We learn early in recovery that humility is a primary component of staying sober. Many of us have had such a distorted sense of ego that it must be smashed in order for us to experience a new way of life. Whether we have suffered from an inflated “King Baby” attitude or utter self loathing our ego is twisted and garbled and it no longer serves us. In recovery the ego must be adjusted and we must learn to be “right-sized” so that we can function sober in this world with others and learn to get along.
So the question on my mind has been: “How to we take pride in our work, and allow success (and I’m talking big success…and financial security) into our lives AND keep our egos in check? How do I take my work and the livelihood of my family to the next level and open myself up to the abundance of life without sounding like a douchebag while doing it?” That’s really the rub. I don’t want people to think I think I’m all that… but between you and me…I kinda do. In a humble way. I don’t mean in a way that says that I believe I am better than anyone, that’s incredibly far from the truth…I quite often feel worse (ego-maniac with low self-esteem table for one, please), but in a way that says, “I am worthy”. I do feel like I have gifts to offer and I want to share them with he world- The big wide world. I want to create change for the better. I want to help others learn to heal themselves. I want to help people experience the same kind of freedom from addiction and joy in recovery as I have. The world is a broken place and I want to help it heal.
SO THE QUESTION: How do we stay humble and not sell ourselves short?
I think it begins with not being afraid of what others might think. If I am honest and sincere and my motives are good (which I always check with my husband and my sponsor) then It really doesn’t matter if someone thinks I’m a conceited jerkface, or an egotistical D-bag or whatever they may think. I know I’m not, the people in my life know I’m not, and the people who love me know. And that’s enough. And secondly ( and it ties into the first) not being afraid to speak up and let the world know I’m here, I’m available and I want to help. And third not being afraid to ask for what I need. My time and my energy and my resources are valuable and I don’t have to give everything away for free. I look around and I see millions of people doing what they love, doing and living well. There is no reason in the world that I can’t do that too, other than a limited, outdated belief system. And no, it’s not all about the money, but the money sure as shit would be nice.
I have excellent mentors today who inspire me to continue to do good, (most importantly) ethically sound work and at the same time reach for the stars. Yet the old tapes continue to play. Meditation has begun to bring into my awareness solutions and part of the solution is to write it all out; get it out of my head. When I do that, it quiets the volume on the tape.
Fear. It always come down to fear doesn’t it? Self- centered fear. Fear that we might be judged as stupid, conceited, clueless…whatever… Maybe it’s the fear that we may actually succeed big time and God forbid, be responsible for something. But you know the bigger fear I have? It’s waking up from my autopilot in 30 years and thinking “Why didn’t I try harder? Why didn’t I just GO FOR IT?” That would really suck. Plus, I want a beach house.
“Don’t hide your light under a bushel”. That’s in the Bible, ya’ll. I’m no Bible expert but I think Mary Magdalene probably said it. I mean, she was all about light and bushels. She got a bum rap, too. She had sass. She had spirit. Screw those villagers with their torches and pitch forks. I’ve always liked Mary Magdalene, seems like my kinda gal. I think she would have liked me too. And I’m quite sure she would have told me to go for it.
So here’s to you Mary! I’m sorry everyone treated you so mean.