Diane’s Rear Deck Speech
Front Porch Swing Speech
(for us grandmas)
AS ONCE UPON A TIME
I FOLLOWED MY STEPS TO THE RAIN BARROW
THE WAY SEEMED MUCH LONGER
THE PATH OVERGROWN
THE STARS MUCH FARTHER FROM HEAVEN
THORNS CLAWED AT MY HAIR
CRYING WARNING TO RETURN
BACK THE WAY I HAD COME
WATCHING THE STARS
SHOOT ACROSS THE SKY
I HEARD MY GRANDMOTHER REPEATING
“STRIVE FOR THE UNREACHABLE STAR
CONQUER THE UNBEATABLE FOE
FIGHT FOR THE DREAMS IN YOUR HEART
DARE TO LIVE
WHAT FEW MEN
HAVE DARED TO DREAM”
AND I SURMOUNTED THE BARROW –
RENEWED WITH STRENGTH
EMBRACING ITS WORLD WITH MY HEART AND MY TEARS
THAT NIGHT I REMEMBER
“When I wrote that poem at 17, I was the girl, not the grandma, and now here I am, the grandma, and what did I do?
“Well, my darling granddaughter, I will tell you what I did.
“For so much of my life I did what I shouldn’t have done – I did what I thought everyone else wanted me to do. Sometimes I did that without even knowing what they thought, because I was afraid to ask them.
Then someone whose opinion I valued said to me, “It’s only life; don’t take it so seriously.”
“Now, I know that might sound flippant, and like I was not taking life seriously, but the point made was that I was taking some things too seriously.
“I realized then that I either get only one life, or I get more than one life. One or the other. If I chose to believeed in reincarnation, I could simply wait and fix in the next one anything I messed up in this one, theoretically. But one believer in reincarnation once wrote, “Why not just go ahead and do this one right?”
“And on the other hand, if I really and truly only get one chance, then if I do nothing with it, I really screwed it up! So, why was I so worried about screwing it up? What did it matter? I would live and I would die, but that’s the only chance I know I have to try and do what I wanted to do with my life.
“The most important thing I can tell you is to live your life for yourself. Be who you are, fully and freely, and share who-you-are with those around you. If something you want to do scares you, then do it! See first-hand – by doing – what is the worst that can happen, and you might find out it’s not nearly as bad as you thought it would be. One thing I learned over the years is that even if you have one bad experience, that one experience is not enough to tell if you’re going to like something or not. It might not have been representative of what that experience is really like. Maybe something went wrong, but because you have no experience with this new, new thing, you don’t know.
“Don’t be afraid; face your fears.
“Anytime you start a habit, remind yourself that habits were made to be broken, and break that habit before it starts to control you. Face it down.
“Dare yourself. Scare yourself.
Scare yourself into living large!
“So, what did I do when I heard those thoughts in my midlife and decided I had had enough?
“I quit my job, which was paying me good money, while I was in mega-debt, and while the economy was spiraling rapidly down into the 2nd Great Depression. I rented my house, moved to North Carolina to live with and then marry the love of my life, your Gampa Barry, and then I started devoting myself to my writing while pursueing a real estate investment business on the side, just to give me income to pay off the debt so I could get your Gampa to marry me. He’d been married before to someone who didn’t work, and took a lot of his money to pay off her school debt (run up while they were married), and he didn’t want to do that again. Of course, by this time, it was no longer an issue for him, but I’d never wanted to be a financial burden to anyone – it was always one of my stubborn pride things – so I wouldn’t let him pay off any of my debt, tho I did let him cover all our living expenses: the mortgage, the utilities, the food, clothing and entertainment.
“What did I get for all this? I got to spend my days using my analytical ability working the real estate side of the business, and set aside - devote – time to my writing, and to be at home when your Gampa was home and when he went into the office and came home. I could come and go as I needed in my work, to be with him and to see your daddy and your uncle when they were around.
“I got some part-time work from my former bosses and did some projects for the folks in Georgia whom I’d been supporting when I quit, and that was both an ego boost and a help, but it was not easy to walk away from my job with that much debt when the market was crashing and real estate prices had tumbled and I had a mortgage to pay, as well as child support, and braces for either your dad or your uncle.
“But I had to scare myself into living large, and I knew that my dream was with your Gampa and that what we had was the real thing and that I could do this other thing if I just believed in myself.
“There was a general – maybe a Chinese army general – who forced his troops to win by cutting off all hopes of retreat. After they’d crossed a river, he had them blow up their boats and any bridges so they had to face the enemy and win, or die.
“So many people come to the US from their homelands. Our ancestors did. I always wondered: ‘What did they leave behind? What did they seek?’
“Many people leave with nothing, and so they succeed. They have nothing to lose.
“Do I have nothing to lose when I have something? Is it better to have nothing to lose, or to have something to lose? If I have something to lose, should I get rid of it so that I have nothing to lose, and thereby force myself to succeed or die?
“I basically had a 401k, which is not a retirement plan, but is money that one uses during retirement. In one year, it had grown 30% which was really something, and I was very proud of my choices. As the mortgage crisis of the earliest part of this century unfolded, the market started dropping, oil prices were rising, doubling within a year I think, and my portfolio lost 17% and the following week when I checked, it was down 30%. What was the point of watching that money disappear? The only way I could get it out, since my home had lost any equity it had gained in the past two years, was to quit.
“So I quit and used that money as cash to help me make my child support payments and my mortgage payments, my student loan payments, and my minimum credit card payments, as well as buying some investment real estate (multi-family dwellings), until I could get to a subsistent income, and then from there, the rest is history. The income grew to be enough to support both your Gampa and me, and then to allow him to retire and write the way he had always dreamed as well, and for us to travel and let me write some of the historical books like James Michener used to write.
“Quitting my job allowed me to use my analytical skills as well as my ability to express myself in writing to open up new worlds and possibilities to both young and old around the world, and that is really what I saw my life’s purpose as being.”
“And did you do that, Gram-ma?”
“Well, I needed to make a whole bunch of money in a real short time in order to do that, dear. I think when I calculated how much travel I wanted your Gampa and me to be able to do, I needed to make about $8,000,000 in 5 years. And while I made good money at my job, and had good bosses, and a real flexible schedule, my job was interfering with my ability to make more money than that, to make as much as I needed..
“Even when I thought of taking the plunge and quitting, it scared me big time! — Why, it was unheard of to quit a job without another job in place! Here I had debt, obligations, and a mortgage, and was going to move out of state with no job in place, only a place to stay and someone who loved me and would cover my living expenses.
“But I knew I wanted to live with love and happiness in my life, and that I didn’t want to have worries about money and debt anymore, so I had to do something drastic. I also had other detritus I’d accumulated that maybe could be put to better use in someone else’s life, not mine.
“Some of those things, I planned to sell, but none of it would be enough to eliminate my debt and going into bankruptcy wasn’t an option if I wanted to continue to have a good credit line to use for the investment real estate business I was going to start. But it would give me some money, and it would help me start eliminating some of the things in my life that were not me, things I’d accumulated through the years because of other people.
“I also had access to a few people who had done this before, but none of them I knew personally like your great-grandfather, and he wasn’t going to help me.
“I also had a story your great-grandmother had told me about that, tho, and that was that once they’d lost a million dollars and things were tough when that happened, but it was obvious that they’d gotten through it just fine because when I knew them, they were able to buy whatever they wanted when they wanted to, no worries. So, that was a real person I knew who had failed at what I was about to do, at least failed on one occasion and one transaction, but who had not failed overall.
“I think the most important thing to remember about failing is that you only fail when you stop trying. Once you give up, then you lose.
“So much of what controls our destiny is what is inside our own head – our thoughts.
“So make sure you always hold only pretty thoughts in that pretty head of yours. When a negative thought comes clouding your face, tell it to shoo off and replace it with a positive thought – maybe just the exact opposite thought. Will you promise me that?
“Will you promise to think of me whenever you have a negative thought and remember what I said about telling it to “shoo off” and then replace it with the exact opposite thought? If you can laugh at it, so much the better.
“So, yes, dear, I did that. Not exactly the way I’d planned, but eventually I had enough investments working so that your Gampa and I were able to devote ourselves to our writings. He had his dreams, but mine was to use my writing and my other skills to open up people anywhere – here in the states or elsewhere in the world – to the possibilities that life offers them, to help them learn to live fully, too.
“I think so many times people shut down and stop believing, so I tried to show people in my books how other people were just like them, even if they lived in a different world from theirs, to show them the similarities, the commonalities.
“I wanted them to open up the possibilities in their lives by giving them a glimpse of something and letting them believe – if just for a moment – that it could be true. I think most of life’s inventions comes from such dreamers. First they visualize, then they create. I wanted to get them to visualize; to see what could be; to see what they could be; to see what we could be.
“I’ve had letters from some of my readers who’ve said that I’ve had an impact on their lives, and I hope that for every letter, it means I’ve actually touched 20 more folks who didn’t bother to write. Wouldn’t that be wonderful? I count the number of times my blog gets hit, and that gives me other information about how much people are searching to connect with others, to feel that life is worth living, that their life is worth living.
It’s okay to doubt that, because it helps you think about what it is in life that is important to you, and to help you shake off that detritus, too, that weighs you down.
“Now, I think we need to go see what your Gampa’s gotten up to. You never can tell with him, you know.”