Nothing to fear but fear itself

Pottery 2012 009

On a scale of 1-10, how afraid are you to try something new?

Oh, I’m sure most of you are quite courageous, but when it comes right down to it, if you really want to know how brave you are, measure your progress compared to your procrastination.

I have always been the artsy type. I got my first guitar at about age 12. As an elementary school student, I entered water color paintings in the country fair—and won. My all-time favorite class in high school was Mr. Jimmy “Grouch” Jones’ art class. I learned how to make pottery and to make torn-paper mosaics and to how sketch. I loved every minute of it. And you know I love to write and take photos.

But last year when I received a gift certificate to paint pottery, I was THRILLED, but I was scared. I wanted to paint, but I didn’t want to fail. So I put off going until I was sure I was ready. I waited and waited and waited until the day before the gift certificate expired. I went on my birthday. I figured it would be the PERFECT time to go.

I was so nervous. I didn’t know what to expect. I went by myself on my birthday, my personal vacation. (Well, after my dentist appointment.)

When I get nervous, I turn into a total geek-clutz-dork-goof ball. So when I pulled into the parking lot in front of the studio, I was extremely timid about parking. I pulled into a space, but then I wasn’t sure if I was in the handicapped spot, so I backed out. I got out and checked and changed my mind. Then I pulled back in. I got nervous again and pulled back out. Then I thought I had better be on the safe side, so I decided to back into a regular space behind me, so I did. But I parked crooked, so I got out and had to check the lines and pull back in again. It was insane.

By the time I worked up the courage to get out of the truck and go to the door, I was a nervous wreck.

I had wanted to go to the studio since the first day it opened. I imagined my pottery would be the most beautifully painted of the bunch. I have a knack. But when I actually stepped inside, I froze. I didn’t know what to do. There were children and adults of all ages doing their thing. And then there was me.

I explained to the young girl in charge that I was new and didn’t know what to do. She gave me the run down. Pick a piece, go to the paint station, sit down and paint. Easy enough.

Not.

I mean I am the queen of indecision. I didn’t know what to paint. A vase? A box? A picture frame? I chose a plate that was a triangle because it was shaped like a guitar pick, and I wanted a music themed piece. Perfect choice, so I thought.

I noticed everyone around me had water and a palette. I did not. I saw some water on a table. I took it. Later I would find out I stole someone else’s water. I played dumb. Well, I pretended to play dumb. I really was dumb.

And the table I chose had very few brushes, just big ole fat brushes. And there was no little palette. So I went to the young lady and explained my plight. She told me the palettes were at the paint station. Well, duh. My bad.

Then I sat there staring at the colors of paint. And sat there. And sat there. And sat there. Finally, the girl came over to me and whispered, “You know, you don’t have to wait on me to tell you that you can get the paint. You can go by yourself.”

I knew that. I just didn’t know what colors to chose. I wanted it to be PERFECT. I blushed and told her I was just having a hard time deciding. I finally moved to the paint station and began transporting bottles of paint to my table.

I was in trouble again. She came back. “Please don’t take the bottles to your table. Other customers have to use them. Just put the paint in your palette.”

Oh, why does life have to be so complicated?

When I started to paint, I realized that I could not draw a guitar on my plate with the big fat brushes. I had no choice. I had no pencil. I did the best I could.

Everything would have been fine except the two people next to me were apparently pottery painting experts. Penguins. SHE was painting a penguin on her plate, and SHE had a pencil to draw hers out first. Meticulous little lines. Step by step. HE watched her every move and applauded her technique. Me?I was slapping paint on left and right. I tried to paint notes, but they didn’t look right, so I painted over them.

Nothing looked right, so I slapped on more paint. And more paint. And more paint. Good thing it dried quickly.

But SHE was really making me feel like that total geek-clutz-dork-goof ball I tried not to be. And HE, her date, boyfriend, or significant other, whatever, was critiquing her every brush stroke as if she were the next Van Gogh.

“Do you think my penguin’s foot is too close to the edge? Should I bring the other one down?” And he came back with some artsy, fartsy detailed description of what she could do with her brush. Yeah. Good thing she didn’t ask me.

I just slapped on more paint. When I finally did all I could do, I had to get out of there.

I wanted to exit gracefully, but I never do anything gracefully. My purse got caught on the chair, and I dragged it across the studio to the register. At least I didn’t break my plate.

The girl looked thankful I was leaving. “Christmas eve,” she said. “That’s when your piece will be ready.”

I hated to leave it, truth be told. Despite how ugly I felt my pitiful attempt at painting was, I had done my best. I hated to leave it in someone else’s hands.

But on Christmas eve, I traveled back to the Boro to pick it up. I prayed that I for once I would not make a spectacle of myself. Everything else had gone wrong during my first-time painting. When I got out of the truck, I was careful not to trip.

But there was one problem. I was so nervous about not coming across as a total doofus, I went into the wrong store—the painting store, not the pottery store. I was so confused. Nothing looked the same. And there wasn’t any pottery anywhere. Well, duh. At least the lady working there didn’t catch on to my faux pas. I covered myself and asked a genuine question that I really had been pondering for some time. When do painting classes begin?

I found my way to the pottery store, and without further incidence I picked up my piece. I had to face the same girl, but she was sweet and told me I wouldn’t be so nervous next time.

At least I didn’t drop my plate before I made it back home.

Sure, it’s not a masterpiece. The paint isn’t even, and the guitar looks as if a toddler painted it. But I accomplished something. I overcame my fear. I had a little fun.

So what is it that YOU are putting off? What are you afraid to try? I challenge you to take the first step for the new year.

Tell me about it.

Pottery 2012 004

These are a few pottery pieces I made from scratch when I was in high school

and during my first years teaching.

Pottery 2012 008Pottery 2012 007

Éirinn go brách

Ever since I can remember I’ve always been in love with all things Ireland. For the last two days I’ve searched my memories, wondering why. Why am I so fascinated with a country to which I’ve never been?

Surely, my dad is responsible for the influence. Before the Red Sox finally won the championship after seven or so decades, people used to ask me why a Southern girl like me could be so hopelessly in love with a team from “up there,” Boston. My dad loved Boston, and therefore so do I.

I always hoped I could take my father to a Red Sox game. I doubted he’d ever make it to Fenway, but I crossed my fingers for Atlanta. It never happened. When I was pregnant with Michael, I traveled to Boston just about this same time of year, determined to put my feet into Fenway Park, not for me but for my dad. I was determined to do whatever it took.

The first time the security guards kicked me out. This was for my dad.  I couldn’t travel all the way from Tennessee just to be told no. I was going in. If being arrested were part of the deal, so be it. But instead I pleaded with the security guard, and he let me in, and I got to see that glorious Green Monster. I stood in away and took in every detail so I could bring it home to my dad.

There is so much Irish influence in Boston. Maybe that’s why I’m drawn to Ireland.

I remember planning a week in advance what I would wear to school on St. Patrick’s Day—the holiday of my people. I was determined, even as an elementary school kid, that I was Irish. The funny thing is that’s exactly what my son Michael did when he was in elementary school. He told all of his friends he was Irish. He would come home and tell me his buddies all commented on his Irish brogue, which, by far, does not exist. His Southern drawl is as Southern as they come.

I’m not embellishing the truth. Irish blood does run through my veins. My great-grandmother Clancy’s parents were born in Ireland. But I also have roots in Denmark. My other great-grandmother immigrated from there.

I think all writers need a magical place that fuels their imagination. For me, that place is Ireland. My favorite place to write a couple of years ago was a coffee house called the Celtic Cup in a nearby town. I used to take my laptop and sip on a peppermint mocha while Irish music and lush Irish scenery played on the flat screen hanging near my table.

And at Christmas a group of local musicians asked me to play Celtic Christmas music with them. I’m not so great at guitar, but I loved the music. I was enchanted by it, moved by it.

I’ve always dreamed of going to Ireland, but I never really believed I would. I am afraid of heights. Therefore, I am afraid of flying. (To be more exact, I’m afraid of falling, crashing.) Therefore, I could never imagine myself on an airplane.

Oh, it’s not like I haven’t flown before. My dad worked with a man who had his pilot’s license, and he took us up in his tiny little four-seater plane. The ride was miserable. My parents kept saying, “Why don’t you look down? Look down. You’re scared, aren’t you. Look at her.” Then they laughed.

I don’t think I would have been so nervous about the whole ordeal if they hadn’t been telling me how afraid I was. Plus, the guy who was flying us failed his motorcycle test on multiple occasions. You tell me? Wouldn’t you have been a bit unnerved?

And for years, I have felt it is just not Biblical to fly in a plane. If God wanted me to fly, we would have given me wings. Right? There’s scripture to back me up—Matthew 28:20. “Lo, I am with you.” It doesn’t say anything about being up there among the clouds.

But times have changed.

I have decided that one day I will go to Ireland, even if it requires strong drink or heavy medication. I will board that plane.

Ireland is like a magnet that just pulls me toward it. Maybe it’s my destiny. But if I ever do go there, I’m not sure I’ll ever come back.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day.

May the sun shine, all day long,
everything go right, and nothing wrong.
May those you love bring love back to you,
and may all the wishes you wish come true!
~ Irish Blessing