Friends, Memoir

Cheerleader Envy

Fall brings out my cheerleader envy.

When I was growing up, when the leaves changed and the weather cooled, it  meant two things:

the annual deer hunt and football games.

Canadian Football
(Photo credit: Vlastula)

Since my dad owned the local dairy, he sponsored and coached the Snow Dairy little league football team.

Original founders of the Springville Little League Football program. My dad is on the left end of the front row.

While my brothers dreamed of wearing shoulder pads and helmets, I dreamed of wearing the red and white cheerleading outfit.

From the time I was about 10 years old, I thought I was destined to be a Snow Dairy cheerleader.

From August to November, we spent every Wednesday and Friday night at the football field, cheering for the Snow Dairy football team.

I sat in the bleachers wrapped in a patchwork quilt next to my mother and envied the cheerleaders,

hoping that someday I would wear a red pleated skirt and punch red and white  pompoms in the air

while leading the fans in a Go-Fight-Win cheer.

I still remember the excitement when we won the championship and all the boys hoisted my dad on their shoulders.

They carried him across the field while shouting, “We’re number one!”

Finally, the summer before ninth grade, I was old enough to try out.

I had watched so many cheerleaders over the years, I was sure I knew how to be one.

They did a lot of bouncing and yelling.

I could bounce and yell.

It looked so easy.

Trust me, I had cheerleader skills.

I’d taken years of dance and tumbling from Mrs. Killpack.

(I still have one of the dance recital programs as proof, dated April 24-25, 1969)

I had a killer cart-wheel.

With my tumbling skills, loud voice, and energetic personality, I had it all.

But, by the time try-outs came along, however, I knew my squad was in trouble.

We weren’t as cute and coordinated as we thought.

Honestly, we were a ragtag group of leftovers that nobody else wanted on their squad.

(Sorry if you’re reading this Kay, but you know it’s true.)

Still, we gave it our best.

We perfected our “Spirit” cheer.

“S-P-R-I-T, spirit, drive, ability!

Shout it out with all your might

Fight team fight!”

We knew we could nail that cheer, and we did, with one little problem…

We spelled spirit wrong.

“S-P-R-I-T?”

Spirit is probably the most important quality for a cheer squad, and not only did we spell it wrong, we were an uninspiring lot.

Even though I shouted out with all my might and performed that flawless cart-wheel, our squad did not get chosen.

Crestfallen and glum, I schlepped past all the happy, buoyant girls who made it

and vowed I’d never go to another football game for the rest of my life.

The last thing I wanted to do was watch those stupid, chipper cheerleaders.

As soon as football season started, I forgot about my never-go-again vow

and joined the family for our fall ritual of heading to the football field twice a week.

I sat on the bleachers next to my loser cheerleader friends and we wondered what they had that we didn’t.

I made myself feel better by thinking things like, “who cares about being a goofy cheerleader anyway?”

I didn’t need to embarrass myself by doing those absurd spread eagle v-jumps and squealing like a silly girl over a dumb touchdown.

I convinced myself that cheerleading was overrated.

My failed cheerleader dream faded over time but many years later,

I went to a luncheon at the National Press Club to listen to Jane Pauley, who was then one of NBC’s Today Show hosts.

She gave a nice speech and then took questions from the audience.

Jane Pauley 2012 Shankbone
Jane Pauley 2012 Shankbone (Photo credit: david_shankbone)

Someone asked her if she had any regrets.

Without hesitating, she said, “Yes. I never made cheerleader!”

Suddenly, ninth grade cheerleading tryouts were as vivid as that dry, hot day in August

when we tried out on the grassy lot next to the tennis courts across the street from the junior high school.

In my mind, I relived that cheerleader rejection moment.

And Jane Pauley knew that moment!

I almost laughed aloud as I realized I wasn’t the only girl in the world with cheerleader envy!

I felt a new kinship with Jane Pauley, my all-of-a-sudden close colleague and newfound best friend.

Then she said, “I felt a little better about myself when I found out Diane Keaton didn’t make cheerleading either.”

Keaton in Hanging Up (2000)
Keaton in Hanging Up (2000) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Seriously?

Suddenly, Diane Keaton, Jane Pauley and I were soul sisters.

We were all part of the “Aspiring-Cheerleaders-Who-Never-Made-it-Club.”

Perhaps my favorite cheerleader reject was Erma Bombeck.

Erma Bombeck
Erma Bombeck (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

She said that she could walk into a room and tell with 90 percent accuracy which women were cheerleaders.

When she received an honorary doctorate from her alma mater she said,

“When I stood up to make my acceptance speech, it all came back.

Cheerleader Tryouts: 3 p.m. Wednesday, March 12, in the gym…

I knew every single word of the cheers. Every movement was flawless.

I jumped like I had springs in my feet.

I was the only one who did the entire routine carrying a handbag.

As I looked out over the crowd of well-wishers,

I clutched the leather-bound honorary degree and blurted out,

“Don’t try to make up now. It’s too late. Where were you when I had fat thighs and a cheerleader wish?”

Touch`e, Erma Bombeck.

Touch`e.

Change, Personal, Uncategorized

Doing More isn’t Being More

Several years ago, Oprah recommended a book called A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle. She even held an online class to tell the world about it because she thought it was such an important book to help us awaken to our life’s purpose.

I studied that book carefully because it reflected many of my personal and religious beliefs. But when I recommended it to Doug, he raised his eyebrows all funny at me like I’d fallen into some rolling river of philosophical weirdness.

Basically, the book is about discovering and developing our divine essence. Tolle’s contention is that most of us identify only with our physical and psychological forms, never realizing that we are more than that.

“Trying to become a good or better human being sounds like a commendable and high-minded thing to do,” he wrote, “yet it is an endeavor you cannot ultimately succeed in unless there is a shift in consciousness…You do not become good by trying to be good, but by finding the goodness that is already within you, and allowing that goodness to emerge.”

I love the concept that we are full of deep, pure goodness, and that the way to become better is to excavate that goodness like a miner diligently unearthing gold.

In theory, most of us know there is a difference between spirituality and religion.  Having a belief system doesn’t necessarily make you a spiritually strong person.  “In fact, the more you make your beliefs your identity, the more cut off you are from the spiritual dimension within yourself,” Tolle said.

This is where it sounds like I’m in the rollicking waters of weirdness, but stick with me here…

His point is that when we realize we have a divine or spiritual self, we then can see ourselves as infinitely better and more valuable.  “You then no longer derive your identity, your sense of who you are, from the incessant stream of thinking.”

In other words, you are more than the voice in your head.

We see everything through a veil of self-talk, and unfortunately most of it is negative or laced with worry and fear. What if we could get beyond that and get in touch with our divine essence or the place where all the pure goodness resides?

Through all the philosophical blather of the book that Doug teases me about, there is this wonderful and liberating thought:  What if I could live believing I am more than my thoughts? What if I could get a sense of my being that has nothing to do with my mind?

The real beauty of A New Earth is in that question.

Tolle’s teachings line up with ancient beliefs that we have an inner and outer body. Most of the time we are only in touch with the outer body, but when we still the mind, slow the steady flow of pounding thoughts that we let define us, we can find an inner life where there is more beauty, love, and acceptance, and potential than we ever believed was possible.

I’m writing about this book today because I need to be reminded of the value of a quieter mind and a more fortified spirit.  I need the reminder that I am more than the voice in my head.

At the risk of tiptoeing back into the raucous river of philosophical pronouncements, consider this: Thinking is only a tiny aspect of who we are.

So even when my brain won’t stop spinning and my body feels weary, if I pause for just a few minutes and breathe a little slower, I can feel my divine essence emerging, reminding me that I am more – and even better — than I think I am.

Tolle said, “Doing is never enough if you neglect Being.”

Sometimes we get so caught up in doing things that we forget why we’re doing them in the first  place.

I had a few life changing thoughts during the months I lived in a chemo stupor simply because cancer drove me to a deeper place. It actually helped me lose some of my dysfunctional thought patterns like that doing more meant being more.

But that was five years ago and I’m slowly forgetting some of those lessons.

During those months when I couldn’t do much of anything, I realized that doing less didn’t make me less. In fact, it put me in touch with the still, creative, deep, rich essence that was behind, under, and around all the doing. And I think that’s what Eckhart Tolle is trying to teach.

“In form,” he said, referring to our physical and psychological selves, “you will always be inferior to some, superior to others.  In your divine essence “you are neither inferior nor superior to anyone. True self-esteem and true humility arise out of that realization.”

My lesson for today is slow down, breathe, and remember that doing more doesn’t mean being more.  In fact, like I learned from spending too many days curled up on the couch in a chemo coma, the reverse is actually true. Sometimes doing less gives us more, and reminds us that we are more than the reflection in the mirror.