Tuesday, May 15, 2012

a risk and a change. . .

today, the challenge for the beyond layers class, was to think about times when you took a risk, stepped out of your comfort zone and found something BIG.

the risk that truly changed my life is going to seem little to most people. but it was BIG to marilyn (my twin sister) and i. 

when we turned 43 yrs old, we decided that it was finally time to take that road trip to florida that we had planned to do the summer after graduation. our goal was to have adventures from start to finish, driving as far south as we could and doing whatever felt right.

and that is exactly what we did.  from almost getting arrested at bruce springsteen's house on day 1, to being in washington dc when the monica lewinsky story broke, to seeing the sunrise and sunset up and down the east coast - it was filled with moments that make memories that are treasured for a lifetime. it was 10 days of heaven and it was our introduction to a place that for us is heaven on earth...key west.

sunset at mallory square
by the time we got to the florida keys, we were as relaxed as we'd ever been.  there were no cell phones back then.  there were no husbands telling us what to do, no jobs pulling at us, no schedules to keep, no pets to feed or children to care for.  it was three and a half days down to marathon and we were so freaking happy in that car every mile of the way there.  on the other hand, getting out of the car and going into a bar for a drink at our hotel was very stressful.  we felt totally out of place.  many times, we would abort.  most times, even.  we talked about it, wondered what our problem was - shyness? insecurity? awkward? all of the above?  after a lot of discussion, we figured out that the problem really was fear.  fear of feeling or looking like a socially inept person.  and the fear fed the reality.  we probably actually were awkward, insecure, shy and socially inept.  yikes.

so we made a pact somewhere in northern florida that we were going to address the issue, one bar at a time.  restaurants didn't throw us off, it was the nightlife atmosphere where we felt so vulnerable - it was all about social interaction with strangers in a meet/greet setting.   (the meet/eat settings were fine)  our first few attempts were not successful but we were learning little tips/tricks as we went - for example, don't take the first empty table so you can sit down and scan the room from a safe spot.  instead, stand there, look around for the spot that will give you the best view of the place and then sit.  sounds silly but it was big when it came to increasing our comfort level. 

sidewalk at the green parrot
by the time we got to key west, we had some success under our belt.  but key west is a town with a nightlife atmosphere 24 hrs a day.  we didn't know this.  our hotel was in marathon and we drove to key west for the first time on martin luther king day.  we didn't know much about the town at all, and didn't have a clue where to go.  we found a parking space and needed to get our bearings, so we decided to get a drink and re-group. 

there on the corner was a sleepy little island bar called the Green Parrot.  it had no windows, and was open to the beautiful january sunshine and looked perfect.  we braced ourselves for the onslaught of nervousness, picked 2 seats at the bar and ordered our drinks.  it was the start of a long love affair with a local hangout that is the epitomy of acceptance.

we have been there countless times since that day, and learned a whole lot of life lessons sitting on the stools with a beer and time to ponder.  the beauty of the Green Parrot is that anything goes.  the locals hang out with the tourists.  the tourists run the gamut from cool to gawky.  the locals are fascinating.  the servers are efficient.   the location is key west where the weather in january is awesome compared to the northeast.   the music is outstanding.  and they welcome everyone.  and they have a rule - no sniveling :)

our goal has to been to write a book together, titled The Lessons of the Green Parrot.  we've gone there to do research on more than one occasion and have gotten as far as listing out the lessons.  each lesson has multiple stories, lived by us and learned by us, that have changed our lives for the better.  we face things with not only some tips/tricks (which does help) but also with much more self confidence.  and we thank the Green Parrot - in person and in spirit -  for accepting us for what we were - 43 yr old wusses, searching for both acceptance and adventure.   we've come a long way on our search, and we believe it all came together on a martin luther king day, back in 1998. 

The Lessons of the Green Parrot
learned and lived by marilyn and marie :)

1 - Don't wait for perfect - embrace good enough
2 - Don't be afraid to look like a fool - nobody cares
3 - Don't miss the journey - seize each moment
4 - Don't jump to conclusions - it's not always what it seems
5 - Don't make it so complicated - relax, enjoy...
6 - Don't sit when you can dance - get up and get out there!
7 - Don't give it up for a party - enjoy today, but remember tomorrow
8 - Don't see with someone else's eyes - look for your own approval
9 - Don't live a false life - love what you do, do what you love. if other's can, you can too.
10 -Don't miss the lessons - always grow, always stretch. and no sniveling :)

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