Pauline-Tutu

By Pauline Baird Jones, {grow} Community Member

I puked on my tutu just before I was supposed to dance with the fairies in my first recital.

My mom took me, and my tutu, home in disgrace. This was my first episode with humiliation. I can still remember the feeling of all those eyes as a path was cleared for me and my thoroughly soiled, very fragrant, tutu.

Thus ended my dance lessons and any hope of becoming another Shirley Temple. I didn’t know at the time that I had  processed a life lesson.

I was five.

I got older without too much awareness that I was holding back.  I wasn’t trying to do the things I wanted to do in my life that were a little risky so that I didn’t puke on my proverbial tutu again.  I justified my life by telling myself I was being practical and doing what needed to be done. I had dreams of becoming a writer, but well … I was busy and I’d think about that later.

And then I ran across an essay by author Louise Plummer called Fear, I Embrace You (later complied into Thoughts of a Grasshopper, Deseret Book, 1992). In the essay, she asks a question that was like a thunderclap in my ordinary life:

“What keeps us from making our mark?”

I shifted a bit uncomfortably in my seat and read on, running smack into this:

“I have come to realize that becoming the self we dream of being means taking a risk that feels life threatening …”

The risk we face in the journey to becoming isn’t dying, it’s puking on our tutu. That fear feels like dying. Fear dresses itself up like the safer choice, it’s the un-puked on tutu, the path of common sense, and it smiles and soothes while it kills our hopes, our dreams, our becoming.

In the silence that followed this a-ha moment, I almost let regret do it to me again, as missed opportunities and all the pulling back from becoming raced through my head. Oh, those paths not taken.

I was 25.

I can smile now at that person. I can look back and see the places where I embraced the fear, instead of letting it hold me back. I became a playwright, a writer, a novelist and a screenwriter. Along the way I became some other things I didn’t expect that can mostly be summed up as a grown-up.

Sometimes, I still let fear sneak back in and trip me up. I can see the places where I pulled back or turned aside. Where I limited myself. It’s frustrating to realize that fear has to be faced again and again and again. It is, as Plummer points out at the end of her essay, “our companion for life.” For her, fear is a driver of her creative energy.

For me, it is the signal that it is time to suck it up, to puke on my tutu, and become.

I’m now fifty-five-ish (grin). Okay, I’m fifty-seven and going to my 40th high school reunion this summer.

So I try not to spend time with regret. When I realize I’ve wandered into the too safe zone, or that I’m pulling back, I assess where I goofed, wrap my arms around the fear, and try to get back to becoming.

I allow myself to puke on my tutu.

pauline jonesPauline Baird Jones is the award-winning author of 13 novels.  Her latest release is Relatively Risky: The Big Uneasy 1. Originally from Wyoming, she and her family now reside in Texas. She can be found becoming at www.paulinebjones.com

Top photo of the author courtesy of the author.

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