Few who know me today would believe that prior to my twenties I was a painfully shy person. I was that person on the outskirts of any social gathering, clinging to my anonymity in the corner and wishing desperately that I could get outside of myself and enjoy the fun that others seemed to be having. I recall in high school being asked to read one of my papers aloud to the class. It was awful. I stammered and my knees were shaking so violently that it sounded like someone was clapping for me! From then on my kind teacher allowed someone else to read my papers aloud.
One could argue today that I over compensated but none can deny I have almost completely transformed. The core of my ability to come out of my cocoon was becoming a feminist. I learned to love the imperfect me, to find my inner strength and assurance, and to believe that I had the power to change my life and even a small corner of the world for the better. Of course the 57-year-old woman you see today is the result of many interactions and experiences yet one of the most influential people in my life has been Holly Near.
Holly Near’s accomplishments are too numerous and too well documented for me to recount. If you are interested, I believe they are best summed up here: http://www.hollynear.com/bio.html . One of the best compliments I was ever given was being told that I looked like her. She was the epitome of what I wanted to be – beautiful, funny, wise, talented, and outgoing.
Holly Near’s courage and music inspired me to be more, do more, live more. Her songs helped me to begin by loving and accepting the imperfect woman I am and thus be able to reach out and love and accept others for who they are. She challenged me to think broader and to think “one world, one people”. Yes Holly Near is renown as a social change artist however she was my personal change artist.
If we are fortunate, we continue to grow and transform even as we grow older. But it is very easy to fall into a rut and just accept whatever it is that one has accomplished and grown accustomed to. We define ourselves by what we have done up to that point and fail to continue to “climb that mountain”. Approximately a year ago my husband and I decided to find the courage to completely reinvent ourselves yet again. We left our comfortable home, friends, family, and careers – determined to challenge ourselves and succeed. Change isn’t easy. It’s exciting and yes stressful. I’m sure many thought we were absolutely crazy to leave a very financially comfortable existence and to fly without a net.
In the exquisite serendipity that is life, I was given a gift last night that helped me reconnect the threads of my life and to see the web that has been woven so far. Bob and Trevor were touring Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, College of Aviation in Daytona Beach. I had worked all day on Siesta Key. I had spoken with a couple of potential buyers and had held an open house in a remarkable condo on the Turtle Beach area of Siesta Key. I was hungry and lonely so I stopped in at my favorite Italian restaurant, Dolce Italia.
Tiziana and Pippo always feed both my body and spirit and I almost always find people at nearby tables who are interesting and friendly. I relate to this brave couple who have traveled so far to start again, and I love their warmth with everyone they meet. Entering their restaurant is like going to a friend’s house. (Read this review: http://www.srqreviews.com/index.cfm?action=RRD&RR_ID=575 )
I had just ordered gnocchi with Sorrentino sauce when three women walked into the restaurant and two were greeted by the owners. One of them explained that they shared the same last name and her family had come from the same island in Italy, although they had met here. We started to talk about the food, then where we came from and I found that the women of Italian descent had come from the New York/New Jersey area. Their strawberry blond companion said little. I continued to chat with them but to stare at the third. Finally I blurted out, “I don’t know if you are familiar with her but you are a dead ringer for a famous singer – Holly Near.” Imagine my surprise when she responded quietly, “I am she.”
I won’t bore you with the mundane details of our conversation (nor regale you with tales of how I gushed and made a fool of myself) except this – when I mentioned I continued to listen to this day to many of her songs of old, she chided me that artists needed people to not be stuck in the past and that transformation can continue throughout life. She is right on both accounts.
Holly is taking a hiatus from singing. She seemed quieter and more withdrawn than the Holly I met over 30 years ago. She shared with me that she is not only not singing professionally but she doesn’t even sing in the shower. I told her I understood being tired and the need to do something different however as one of her biggest fans, this pained me. Maybe she too has found herself in a rut and is considering reinvention and re-inspiration. Ultimately I’m sure she has not lost her famous spunk nor her music….and maybe she too is just taking the pieces of her life and rearranging them. I only wish that in some way I could be the mirror to her that she was to me, and that I could in some small way help to inspire her as she has done for so many .
I wish now that last night I had the eloquence or ability to tell her the impact she had in my life. If only I could have at least quoted her own lyrics from a song I love, “Something About the Women”:
I look to you, I look to you for courage in my life
And I promise it’s not just foolish idolatry
That makes me gaze at you in wonder
Thank you Holly. I thank you for what you have meant to me but also on behalf of people everywhere who found their voice because they heard yours.
In summary, it seems that each time I visit Dolce Italia I have a magical experience. Last night was no exception!
Be well and dream great!