April Brings Surprising Personal Challenges

CONFESSION TIME: April’s challenge is forcing me to face some demons. Until this month, I had no idea these demons even existed, which makes them even more demon-y. On a personal level, April is my birthday month and now, the month when Prince died, and my intuition is telling me there’s a big emotional reckoning at hand. April came in like a wrecking ball!

Changing my name to a symbol has gotten me into tight spots numerous times, and it’s only April 11. It’s gonna be a loooooong month and right now I predict that May’s theme will be, “She’s Seeking Therapy!” It’s one thing for a global superstar to change his name, because he’s PRINCE, dammit, and I’m … well, who am I, anyway? I’m a white, middle-aged suburban mom who’s trying to be more like someone I admire. I couldn’t be more different from Prince. I know that. About all we shared was the same zip code, and that was only for a month’s time. I’m one of the millions of people who looked nothing like Prince and had lifestyles nothing like his but yet, who were inspired by him. And still, the inner demons keep asking me: Who are you to try to be like him?

I blame the process of running around as ☀️💛 for surfacing this existential crisis. I really think it’s rooted in the fear of drawing attention to myself. Until now, I never felt like I was shrinking back and making myself invisible or that I was afraid to be seen, but man, I have been quaking in my four-inch heeled booties!

Here are the social and work situations where I’ve found myself squirming:

  • Answering to roll call at the meeting of a women’s group
  • Wearing a pre-printed name tag in that same women’s group
  • Filling out a name tag in art class
  • Signing for an in-store credit card purchase
  • Signing work emails
  • Participating in work conference calls

First off, I like my name and would never consider changing it. I know a lot of people who don’t like their names and I always feel for them. So when I deny my name, it feels like a big bummer (also, what would my poor mother think!). But mostly, my discomfort stems from how much I hate drawing attention to myself. Making a fuss over my name feels physically painful. I swear this must have been drilled into me as a child. Is it a Midwest thing? A Norwegian thing? A female thing? None or all of the above?

Yes, I’m an introvert, as are a whole lot of writers, and as an introvert, I avoid being the center of attention. In fact, I was one of those seemingly rare women who did not look forward to having a wedding. To be clear, I wanted to be married; but I didn’t want a wedding, because the idea of being the focus of so many people was absolutely petrifying. (I did it anyway, and it was more than fine).

But I digress. The underlying issue is about more than introversion: It’s about feeling like I’m actively seeking attention, and changing my name to a symbol feels like I’m becoming a big attention-seeking missile. But perhaps becoming an attention-seeking missile is exactly what I need to push myself to do.

What helps a lot is what my friend Mary O’Donohue told me: If you have information to share that could potentially help someone, and you don’t share it because you’re afraid of stepping up and allowing yourself to be visible, that’s selfish. That makes sense to me. And I don’t want to be accused of being selfish. It helps too, to remember that Prince was shy, and had to force himself to overcome that shyness so that he could share his music.

Later in his career, Prince encouraged others to share their gifts by the way he found and promoted new musicians. I’m going to keep sharing my gifts too, the way he would want all of us to do — stage fright be damned.

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