Fake it ’til you can make it, right? There was a time when I wore a tiara most places I went, including delivering the mail here in Grizzly Flats. It was an odd time in my life, granted. Now, no one would think twice about me wearing a crown around town because they know how I am. Then, though…I was not very well known anywhere, least of all in my own town or even my own home. Hell, I didn’t even know myself very well. I had just come out of a time of seclusion that lasted many years and had no idea how to interact socially or how to be a friend because it had been a very, very long time since I had done any of those things. I had also been a very different person the last time I was anyone’s friend or had been a social person. Since that time, I had endured two painful divorces, both to the same person, had a mental breakdown, given birth to three more children, married someone else and brought a whole roomful of baggage to his doorstep, gained around a hundred pounds, and moved all over the Western United States. Like I said, it had been a really, really long time since I walked into my house and pulled the door closed behind me.
When I enrolled my children in the local school, which had a total enrollment of thirty-five kids in grades K-5, I had no one to list under emergency contacts and Bev, the school admin person who later became a good friend, was so worried about me that she made a point to introduce me to other parents in the school. There wasn’t really a click (much less a clique), mostly because I was still very closed off. After getting a degree finalized and looking back on myself then, I can see how low my self-esteem was and how socially awkward I was. At the time, all I knew was abject terror at the idea of having to prove myself or interact with anyone. As a result, the next year, I still did not have anyone to write down under my emergency contact blank and Bev forgave me.
I stepped out of my comfort zone that year and went to a birthday party with my kids and even socialized with some of the moms there. They lamented that our school had no PTA (which I guess is now called a PTO) and had to party onto the one at the larger school down the mountain. I worked to start a non-profit organization to support the school and other worthy causes in the community. In the process of that, I tried to be friends with the people I recruited to be involved and although they tried right back, I was just too fish-out-of-water and I ended up being a terrible prospective friend. The organization did some really great things before it crashed in a blaze of glory several years later due to insolvency and a bit of apathy. As a result of that venture, a woman whose company I enjoyed recommended a book to me and I read it and loved it. It was The Sweet Potato Queens’ Book of Love and in it, the author – who is one of my bestest mentors, Jill Connor Browne – speaks of never having been a popular girl in school, never being on the parade float, never wearing the homecoming crown and how she reclaimed that in a St Patrick’s Day parade in Jackson, Mississippi by making her own damned float and getting on it and waving like a princess. This book reference happened to occur not only during the first few breaths of that organization’s life, but also a few weeks before a Christmas parade we were planning. I phoned Marcia (that’s Mar-see-ah, not Marsha) and said, “You know we have to be on a float” and she, Goddess bless her, said, “I KNOW, RIGHT??”
So we were. We found sequined dresses at the thrift store and got big red wigs and tiaras and chocolate kisses to throw (Get it? Throwing kisses?) and we crawled up into the back of Eric’s old mining pick up truck and called ourselves The Jingle Belle Queens. We wore opera gloves and waved the princess wave and it was a thing of beauty. People ran after the float and wanted to touch our hair and our exaggerated stuffed boobs and told us how beautiful we were.
Since that year, 2006 it was, I have often put to use the wisdom I learned from Jill Connor Browne. Things like “never wear panties to a party” and “be particular” and “treat’em like shit and don’t give’em any.” It’s lessons like these that endure, but the biggest lesson I got from this particular mentor is, “If you want to start a remarkable journey to find yourself, stop crying and get your ass up on a parade float and start waving ’cause these Hershey’s kisses ain’t gonna throw themselves.”
When we had the Fourth of July parade that summer, we had so many people wanting to be Queens that we had to turn folks away. There were around 7-8 of us up on a flatbed and we had a big ol’ time waving and yelling “Yoooo hoooo” at people and doing that princess wave. We were the Liberty Queens for that parade.
That’s what started my tiara affection because I found I didn’t want to wear it just twice a year. I got several different ones, but I think my favorites were still the ones with the marabou around the front. I even wore my tiaras at the General Hospital Fan Club Weekend and they were a hit there. I had one woman ask, “Why are you wearing a tiara?” and I got my indignant look on and said in my best Southern drawl, “SWEETHEART, the question is why aren’t you wearing one?” That held her over until I could make my escape.
I was not a queen, but I wanted to be. Oh how I wanted to be. I wanted to feel like I could manage something during a time when I was completely incapable of handling anything. Because by that time I have lived a whole lot of my life on one battleground or another, I could not understand why, when my life was in relative calm and security, I felt so conflicted and afraid all.the.time. I even found myself creating conflict so I would feel more comfortable and “at home.” Peace and happiness seemed like a place where I could never comfortably live and the thought of that terrified me. Just seven or eight short years before, I had done some heavy magic to manifest joy in my life. The result was that my marriage and my life feel to pieces and had to be rebuilt, which I did. There was just too much damage there and it was easier for The Universe to just burn down that house than to try and repair it. I hope the insurance payment was worth it. The problem was that when I rebuilt, I only knew one blueprint, so I basically built the same house all over again. Despite my attempts to frantically reclaim what was familiar to me (upheaval), some joy came to me and I found I did not have a clue how to deal with it. My insides constantly churned and my brain and heart never stopped racing. I put on a good show, but I was a wreck.
Somehow, being a queen appealed to me and wearing the tiara felt like a step in the direction of achieving some kind of authority in my own life. I began reading books about owning your own power and getting in touch with your own manifest destiny. Over time, I began to make peace with that joy and step into my own strengths. I began to love myself and while I am still not 100% on that, it’s getting better. I definitely trust myself more than I ever have. I did a lot of mental house cleaning and let go of some rotting albatrosses I’d been hauling around on my neck for a while. I forgave myself for crimes real and imagined. I wrote a book to help me get over a lot of pain I carried around from my childhood. This led to writing more books and a writing career, which I deeply appreciate. I went back to school and got my Ph.D. in religion. I have always been fascinated by the paths people take to connect with God, which is why so many of my books focus on that very thing.
Around two years ago, I came to the realization that I really am happy, likely for the first time in my life. I have had moments of tremendous happiness all along, but living in the near constant state of joy is new to me. When you put one foot in front of the other and climb up a mountain one step at a time, you sometimes don’t see what a remarkable thing you are doing until you get to the top and look down. Only then do you see how incredibly far you have come. Now, when I think about the frightened woman who crawled up onto that parade float (and who just a couple of years later went back into her house for another three years and marked up her venture into the big world a dismal failure), it feels like someone else. My life is so different now and nearly every breath I take is one of gratitude.
I recently remodeled my blog at the request of my husband, who is also my agent. I have had an online journal since 2000 when it was introduced as “Katrina’s Nonsoapy Journal.” This was because at the time, I was a journalist for ABC soap operas and I was surprised to find that people were interested in the off-topic material I would write. This past week when I remade the journal, I let go of thirteen years of journaling – of whining and complaining and growing and self-loathing and stagnation. I reposted the past year of entries, but for the first time ever, the rest is not linked up. Of course, it can be found. Nothing is ever truly lost on the internet. It is not, however, attached to this particular journal.
When I went to the General Hospital Fan Club Weekend a couple of years ago, that same woman saw me and asked, “Where’s your tiara?” I smiled and said, “I wear it on the inside now.” I am not saying I am above slapping on a crown and strutting my stuff now and then. Lord knows I’m good at it. Like a little kid who wears her mother’s heels and over-sized dresses, I do, however, feel I have grown into the crown now. Within the past two years in particular, I have learned to own my own life and to relax into the downy happiness. Does madness and drama and crisis still happen? Child, yes. It just can’t have me as its own anymore. It becomes a situation to manage rather than a personal attack. Somewhere along the way, I stopped wailing, “Why God? Why?” and started saying, “Thank you for all you have blessed me with today.” Somewhere along the line, I think I learned how to be a pretty good friend, how to choose my friends, and how to know when to ease away. I learned that while not everything at all is about me, pretty much everything is about me. Irony at its finest. I learned how to smile and say thank you and allow others to do for me without being afraid of what they might want in return. Thanks to Chelsea Fisher, the Goddess on Earth, I learned how to find and bring out the Goddess in me. Thanks to mentors who waited with me and prayed with me and for me and gently taught me, I have learned to counsel others on their journey and revel in their successes, big and small. It is a life I would not trade for anything and honestly, it is a life I was completely incapable of imagining when I waved the princess wave on the 2006 parade float. I simply did not have the frame of reference to even know what to want.
Now I wear the tiara, but I am smiling when I do.
OH and this made me smile too: