Month: September 2011

What’s In A Name?

Generally speaking, people have a hard name pronouncing “McEvoy”.  It has been an issue since elementary school and I have become accustomed to correcting people’s mistaken attempts at saying it.  In school, the problem was compounded by the fact that “Amanda” was one of the most popular names for my generation.  One of my teachers solved this issue by labelling me “Amanda Mac”.  I will be honest and reveal that this teacher’s well-meaning attempt at accuracy did nothing but earn me a plethora of other nicknames including “Big Mac” and “Amanda Macaroni”.  Suffice it to say that I began to loathe my entire name altogether.

Interestingly, getting older has a way of evolving one’s perspective.  Though I still encounter the individual who calls and asks for “Amanda Mickey-voy” or “Amanda Mik-evey” I have become quite impartial to my name and the comedic material it provides.  I can even see why it may be hard to understand the pronunciation…it seems to be missing an “A” in there somewhere.  It sets me apart from everyone else and is a visual and auditory reminder that I am different-and I may take a bit longer to figure out.  We spend much of time focusing in on our idiosyncrasies not realizing that they actually constitute the fabric of who we are.

Embracing what is different still remains a problematic concept globally and individually.  As humans we yearn for the commonalities among us not realizing that the differences often attract us to one another as well.

Get Back In The Game McEvoy…

I believe that many of the significant events that happen in our lives are serendipitously guided into being.  An exquisite combination of timing and mystery usually leaves us querying the what’s and why’s of these happenings.  The fundamental point to remember is to stay open to everything.  By virtue of remaining conscious of all of the encounters (good and bad) we move through during our days we allow there to be possibility and movement.  This has proven to be of utmost importance to me over the past year during some tough circumstances.  I have found myself in these situations, struggling against them and essentially draining every bit of energy from my body and mind.  Ironically, the more you resist what is, the bigger and more unmanageable it grows in your mind.  When you start to relinquish some of the control (by realizing that many events are entirely out of your control), you are then able to see things from different perspectives.  It took me a LONG time to finally get this point…and I had some help.

I have had the opportunity to work with a life coach over the past year.  Our pathways crossed in a very random manner (as important life altering relationships often do).  The timing of our encounter was absolutely providential however.  Before diving into this coaching relationship, my awareness of life coaching was limited to Dr. Phil.  My belief was that this coaching was not unlike the typical counselling dyad wherein I would have the chance to hash over my dilemmas for prompt and professional analysis and resolution.  This was appealing to me as I have always been a proponent of analyzing and fixing.  Because I am not one to bottle up thoughts, I was energized by the notion that I would be able to clean up some of the outstanding “mental clutter” in my life.  By the end of our first coaching session, I was thrown off to see that my expectations were quite off target. 

In retrospect, it is so pleasing to have discovered that I have an abundance of preconceived ideas about things that have turned out to be quite inaccurate.  It is pleasing because it brings hope that things can be different.  Over the past year of telephone coaching I have developed a substantial relationship with someone who lives in another province and whom I have never met personally.  I have divulged many musings to her that have come from the greatest depths of my soul.  In trying to explain the role of a life coach I would use the analogy of a camera and lens.  I am the one taking the pictures and absorbing all of my life’s events through my own eyes and my own perspective.  My life coach has acted as the zoom and filter.  Several of our dialogues necessitated redirection for me to “zoom out” from situations (to see the bigger picture), to zoom in closer (when the bigger picture is too overwhelming) or to filter out the extraneous.  Instead of dissecting why things have happened, I have been empowered to view MY role within the situation.  This is a huge shift in thinking for anyone familiar with “traditional” counselling frameworks.  The locus of control is put back in your grasp.

The time spent on introspection and self-development over the past year has been life-changing.  I dug up parts of myself (such as my love of writing) that I had buried under many years of junk and pitiful excuses.  I no longer feel like the wimpy little kid cowarding among the action in gym class horrified at the thoughts that I might be called upon to…actually do something!!  Instead I am the captain of my own team hollering at myself when things get off track.  It’s incredible that a stubborn, Type A personality can be taught to change their thinking…but what a payoff!

The Night I Met Fran…

The Night I Met Fran...

I have been pondering the use of the word “idol” as of late.  I have a negative perspective of the word, and find it almost repulsive to employ in conversation.  The implication of the “idolized” subject standing high on the mountain top with choirs of angels belting out “Halleluiah” flashes through my head.  I feel the need to search through my repertoire for a more respectable adjective; however I can never seem to find one.  It leads me to wonder that perhaps it’s not the word giving me the grief, but how it feels to publicly…heck, even personally acknowledge that you are placing that much admiration on the earthly talents of another human being.  Is it the fear of leaving oneself somewhat vulnerable to criticism of these thoughts?  Could it possibly be the glaring reality that the idolized person usually is not even aware of your existence?  It is the epitome of the one-sided relationship. I was introduced to Fran Lebowitz and her work when I accidentally hit the channel button on the remote control.  Joy Behar was conversing with a conservatively-dressed, gravelly-voiced woman, and I was instantly captured by her impeccable timing.  Odd things please me.  Ms. Lebowitz’s perfectly timed wit and lightening speed responses were mentally stimulating to me.  In that ten minute interview, it was as though I encountered someone who had received the same brain prototype I had and was producing the precise material I craved to achieve enjoyment.  Admirably, she had found an output mechanism to gift her thoughts publicly in a succinct and productive way.  I was engrossed in it all.  Her posture was quietly assertive…lying in wait to be challenged on her remarks.  She was unencumbered by the “accessories” of society today, and appeared uniquely “regular” looking.  I could run into her on the street.  The outer shell did not reveal her secrets.

Over time, I read her writings, watched her documentary, and listened to her recordings.  I wanted to meet her-to see for myself how such a thoroughly accurate thinker and observer actually walks around in the world and collects information.  Her social commentary was devastatingly precise, and I imagined that it left her with negative feedback at times.  After all, people hate the truth.  The opportunity arose for me to see her speak post-screening of a documentary Martin Scorsese filmed of her.  It became necessary for me to make this happen-Maryland or not, I would accomplish this goal.

After an eventful day of travel, and spoonful of other interesting situations, I found myself sitting in a respectable, but plainly outfitted theatre in Silver Spring, Maryland.  Arriving one hour prior to the showtime, I discovered only a handful of people milling about the lobby.  I was the first one to claim my “first come, first served” seat.  It was about this time when I began to wonder just how high I had placed my expectations about the evening’s events to come.  I was fearful of leaving to retrieve popcorn and a beverage due to the possibility of losing my prime seat location.  Even when my stomach began to rumble, I bravely conceded that starvation would be a more acceptable alternative than poor seating.

When the documentary was finished and the lights came on, I attempted to discreetly look for where Ms. Lebowitz had perched herself.  I was mildly aware that I should not appear too overzealous, but my excitement was mounting.  Then, she appeared at the podium to take audience questions.  Therein began 45 minutes of sheer wonder.  All of my well-thought out questions crawled into the recesses of my mind and took a nap.  Time speeds by incredibly when one is over-stimulated.  The next thing I knew, it was over and I was mechanically making my way out of the theatre, furious that I had blown my opportunity.  As I approached the exit, I was motivated to see a small line had formed.  Since planning my trip, I had secretly clung to the hope that Ms. Lebowitz would offer a book signing after the screening of the documentary.  I purposely dismissed this thought each time it emerged in my vision of the evening.  After all, I did not want my hopes dashed.  My heart beat faster and I inconspicuously peered to the front of the line.  There she stood in all her gray-ish trench coat glory…pen in hand signing a book for a patron.  I promptly positioned myself in line and gave myself a strongly-worded lecture outlining the fact that this was a fortuitous happening indeed and I was not to blow this opportunity.  As I approached the front of the line, I was horrified to realize that the sweat on my palms was rumpling the page I wanted to have her sign.

Subsequently, I began to fiddle with my camera both to prepare for my big moment, and remove my hands from my book that I was ruining.  The woman in front of me was taking FOREVER with Ms. Lebowitz and my blood pressure was rising at a sharp rate.  Then, it happened.

The woman in front of me stepped away, and there I stood…a sweaty, overtired, over stimulated mess on the verge of either a cardiac event or an aneurysm.  I approached Ms. Lebowitz with trembling hands (likely due in large part to low blood sugar by this time), and clumsily thrust my book at her.  Without looking up she asked what my name was as she put pen to paper.

“My name????” I thought.  Oh, Lord…I had not prepared for this.  Dammit.

“Oh yeah…it’s Amanda” I said my voice squeaking with every word.  As she wrote, I insanely thought that it was time to impress her with a little small talk throwing in something brilliant to entertain her.

“But you can write whatever you want because I flew from Canada to see you”.  Nice.  Now I’ve done it.  Not only does she think I’m sweaty, now she’ll think I’m a stalker too.  Perfect.  As Ms. Lebowitz stopped writing and pulled her glasses down to look at me, I was quite certain that she was preparing to holler for security.  Instead, she looked at me rather inquisitively.

“Really…you flew from Canada?   Why?” she asked rather incredulously.  I ransacked my brain feverishly for the answer.  As my blood sugar plummeted further, I realized that I had to speak.

“Because I love you” I said emphatically.  And after the words emerged, I was appalled that I had just proclaimed one of the most emotionally-charged feelings in existence to this stranger.  I was stunned to realize that I felt like I did know her.

  Ironically, it was brutally honest and Ms. Lebowitz received my compliment by saying “I am so flattered”.

“What???  You are???” I thought.  Oh thank God you’re not going to request me carried out of here in restraints.  She warmly smiled for two pictures with me and I walked off in a daze.  That night I understood why people say that one should never meet their idol.

It was not until the next day when I realized that it was necessary to stop agonizing over my “I love you” statement.  Although completely one-sided, my message to her arose from a place of expressive passion and fascination.  Too multi-faceted and powerful to label with just one word.  Easily aligned with a familiar word that encompasses the thrill and inspiration of something that brings one so much feeling.  I became cognizant of the fact that I had served myself up on a silver platter by my unabashed honesty.  I was not rejected.  Vulnerability has its merits.

Losing Everything Leaves You With Everything…

I was at a conference a few weeks ago, and one of the speakers made a comment that resonated deeply with me.  In order to find out who you are, you must first lose everything.  I can tell you from experience that this is true.  I have lost everything in my life twice…at two very different points in time.  Each loss altered my road significantly.  Each one stripped away the non-essentials and left me bare.  It is when we attain this state of “rawness” that the fillers of life fall away.  Then begins the journey of rifling through the real parts of who you are and enjoying the comfortable feeling of each one.

My first loss came early…I was a few hours old and the papers were signed for my adoption.  This act did a great many things for me and the stars aligned for my benefit.  In a strange way, I was so fortunate to grow up without any genetic connection to a family.  From birth, society places labels and parameters on infants (i.e. “his father’s eyes, his grandmother’s stubborn streak, his mother’s disposition).  It is as if we are searching so hard for explanations of people’s traits.  Growing up, nobody was able to comment on my appearance or personality other than to state the obvious (“gosh Amanda loves to read”).  After all, there was no explanation for why I looked the way I did or how I did the things I did.  As a child, it was very freeing to not have guidelines or expectations to live up to.  I never had to worry about the possibility of looking like Auntie Bessie when I grew up!  This took a great deal of pressure off.  It also served to help my development of some pretty serious introspective skills.  I knew myself well because there were no external reference points to identify with.

Obviously, environmental factors play a pivotal role in one’s formation of self…they certainly did in my case.  Fortunately though, these extraneous benchmarks did not exist for me.  As I child I always thought that I arrived on earth in a box-and only I could open the package and reveal the contents.

My second loss came at age eighteen and left my brain and soul in a state of chaos.  I had a falling out with my parents which I thought to be temporary at the time.  Seventeen years later, I can confidently say that it was not temporary.  Aside from my physical losses of home and belongings, there was the disintegration of many beliefs and values I had developed.  Trust was non-existent for me.  Your parents are your safety net after all.  When the net lets go, the crash is fairly rough.

Becoming peaceful with this situation has been exhaustive work (and I use “peaceful” in an active way because I do not believe that people “make peace” with something in one finite step…it is a process).  For years I scrutinized everything in an attempt to determine why circumstances happen.  This procedure was relatively pointless however it did lead me down the path to this revelation-there comes (or will come) a time in everyone’s life where they hit their own private “rock bottom”.  Rock bottom serves to remind you that external “stuff” is just that-stuff.  You will never discover who you are looking outward.

A wise man once said to me (several times) “you have to walk your own road”.  It took a long time to understand this as I like to learn things the hard way.  When the message finally was able to process, I realized that I had walking my own road all along.

Without Further Ado…

I just recently began to talk about my desire to write.  The first person I told was my husband-his reaction startled me.  “You do?” he said incredulously.  “I knew that you liked to write papers for school, but are you talking about writing books?”  I shamefully realized how deeply I had hidden my creative voice.  This element of my being that I engaged so frequently with in my own internal dialogue was not being given any audience.  I became aware of the potential contribution that existed and realized that I had to facilitate this into reality.  After all, the one person who knows me best in the world was unaware of my appetite for writing.  I had obviously done an expert job at keeping this from the world.  I knew then what I must do…it was time to introduce my executive assistant to the creative director…my muse…my voice.  She is quite fascinating (and somewhat angry at having been shunned for the last few years).

When I first began writing as a child, I had a rudimentary process.  An idea would come, and a subsequent mess of mental activity would begin.  I likened it to a little elf sitting at a desk in my brain furiously scribbling.  She was sharp-tongued with her criticism and badgered me relentlessly until I was able to get something down on paper.  When I was done, we would share it.  It was a great relationship.  Unfortunately, as I alluded to, she went on hiatus for many years.  She became frustrated with throwing out the creative spark only to have it muffled by my lack of attention.  Recently, I allowed her whispers in my ear.  Her timing was impeccable as usual.

I am quite sure her name is Ada.  When I was little, my grandfather would tease me and say “if you take the ‘man’ out of your name, you would be Ada”.  At seven, this was hilarious to me.  Ada is a ruthless, sarcastic, quick-witted broad who chain smokes.  She is tall and slight-framed with Harry Potter glasses and an affinity for jeans and college emblazoned sweatshirts.  Her diet consists of coffee and take out, and she suffers terribly from insomnia.  When the mood is right and Christopher Cross is playing, she is prolific.

Our conversations are wordless and our exchanges are more aptly thought of in terms of creative consultations.  Although I neglected her existence for years, she was patient.  She knew I was not ready.  Ada is the sponge of my brain-absorbing everyday experiences and storing them to be wrung out in the form of a concept.  I trust her implicitly and am thankful for her fearlessness.

I believe that we all have these inspirational murmurs inside of us although we do not all heed their invitations.  For some of us though, their pleas are all-encompassing and lead us to greater depths of living.

Why Can’t “Good” Be Good Enough?

What has happened to the meaning of “good”?  It appears to be an unacceptable term these days.  If something is “good” does that not mean that it is satisfying or fulfilling the way it is?

Our society (myself included) likes to seize things that are “good” and make them better.  Improve them.  Tweak them.  What if we just stopped at the “good” and accepted it in that form?  Perhaps we no longer even know what “good” means.  When I tried to think of something that was “good” I immediately has this memory of purchasing a stash of penny candy at the corner store when I was a kid.  Friday was candy day…I received fifty cents from my mother and could spend it however I wanted (except things that were artificially colored or impregnated with cancer causing chemicals).  After our collecting our goods, my friend and I would go to our “camp”, dump all the candy out and share our bounty.  To me, this was “good”-just fine the way it was, no intervention necessary.   

Now it seems when “good” things are plucked out of operation in effort to make them better, they are never the same.  The taste, the look, the function and the feeling changes.  By the time the revamping is complete, it is not even what you wanted in the first place.  Ironically, it often creates more grief than the original did though it’s been “streamlined for efficiency”.  If we know this, why is “good” so difficult to accept?

Now, in saying this, I do not advocate stagnation-immobility is never a good thing.  I do believe though that we have become too fixated on improving “things”, and not focused enough on acceptance and prioritizing.  This line of thinking marries perfectly with something I heard at a conference a few weeks ago.  One of the speakers encouraged the crowd to simply indulge in the knowledge that we all are “enough” as we are.  That is an ambitious statement even for the most enlightened among us.  It needs time to penetrate…years sometimes.  Fundamentally, we are good enough as we are.  Growth and cultivation only complement the essential soul that is there already.