Thursday, August 23, 2012

Girls in Yellow Dresses


Girls in Yellow Dresses
Remaining in the city in which I grew up means the threads of my past continuously weave their way into the tapestry of my everyday life, adding colour and context and allowing my memory to flourish in seamless harmony with my present.   I frequently pass places scattered all over town that call up images of the little girl that was me.  I see her clearly and without much effort which makes it easy to recall her feelings, her fears, her hopes and her dreams as she shares herself daily with the adult she eventually became.  One version of her comes back to me every single time I take the short cut home.  Passing by a certain elementary school, there she is, dressed up like Easter morning in a long, empire-waisted, yellow dress.  Though I was never a student at this particular school, I did have a most uncomfortable evening there when I was about eight years old.  It was an evening I’ve never forgotten, and won’t, as long as I live.  It was the night of my one, and only, piano recital.
I don’t look particularly good in yellow.  In fact, I look rather embalmed in that colour.  So of all the colours that could have been chosen for me to wear on that fateful night, yellow was, by far, the most appropriate, for as I was destined to be more miserable than misery herself, it was only fitting that I would be dressed in a colour that made me look as dreadful as I felt.  Of all the gifts that have perhaps been bestowed upon me, musical aptitude is not amongst them.  I well remember Mrs. Sammons, my piano teacher - she of the jet black hair that belied her advanced years and the insufferable metronome that sat atop her upright piano mercilessly ticking off both my lack of timing and my misunderstanding of the work I was feebly attempting to execute under her watch.  I remember her handing me the piece I was expected to perform at her annual recital.  As I gazed down in abject horror at the spider’s web of black whole and half notes covering the page, I saw a future of desperate practice sessions, day after day, all leading up to my inevitable doom, the public performance.   I don’t remember much about that actual night, apart from the horrible yellow dress, but as I don’t recall any catcalls or heckles, I suppose I managed to negotiate my way through my pantomime of a pianist without an overload of embarrassment.  But the experience taught me a lesson about myself that I’ve never forgotten.  I am not a public person.  Oh, I can muddle through if need be.  But it is not, and never shall be, who I really am.  I quit taking piano lessons before the next recital.
Recently I came across a wonderful online lecture done earlier this year by writer, Susan Cain, entitled, The Power of Introverts.  Because I’m not a shy person, I’ve never really thought of myself as introverted.  But as I listened to Ms. Cain’s insightful words, I recognized myself as clearly as if she were holding my portrait up as a visual aid.  For like her, I was also the little girl who preferred to read rather than be rowdy, who craved solitude, who lived inside books.  Research says that one or two in three of us is introverted.  Yet here in the US, our society is set up to celebrate the extrovert to such an extent that most of us feel slightly guilty when we crave being alone or perhaps choose staying in over attending a party.  As the little girl in that yellow dress, I clearly remember feeling that I was supposed to like being on stage and performing.  Why on earth didn’t I?   Ms. Cain tells us that it’s perfectly alright to occasionally let the phone go to voice mail and to cross the street to avoid making small talk, both of which I’ve done.  And she also tells us that “staying true to your temperament is the key to finding work you love and work that matters”.  I have certainly found that to be true.
This week I’m ensconced in a beach house with a couple of good friends, one of whom I’ve known since my teenage years, one of whom is a new addition to our circle of two.  Both are artists.  Both are introverts.  We split off each morning to our separate zones to work, meeting up for meals and bike rides when we choose.  We have deep conversations over champagne in the moonlight.  Life has been kind enough to teach all three of us to be true to our temperaments and we are grateful it did.  I’m so happy to have learned that lesson very early on, seated at a piano on a little elementary school stage in the South.  I’ll never wear yellow again.

*******************************


I encourage you to visit Susan Cain’s website to take her quiz on introverts.
  You may find you are one yourself.  If so, I welcome you to the tribe. 
 I myself had a perfect score. 
Take the quiz HERE. 
 You can also listen to her TED lecture HERE
 as well as pick up a copy of her excellent book,
 Quiet- The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, HERE


27 comments:

  1. That is good to know yourself and honor your nature. I am an introvert too and enjoy time on my own, and also time with family and friends, in balance. That is a lovely painting of the girl in yellow.

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  2. Thank you for introducing your readers to Susan Cain, Pamela, - I have enjoyed the last half hour taking her quiz and listening to her talk. Such good advice!!!

    As to piano recitals, I am with you in my horror of them. Unfortunately I went to a great many of them over the years, and eventually was subjected to playing in musical festivals, leaving me in palpitations! Today I play for half an hour every morning for my husband, - usually Scott Joplin, his favourite, but you would never catch me voluntarily sitting down at a gathering to entertain!!! And certainly not in a yellow dress...

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  3. What a wonderful post, Pamela. Your post, alone, validated my introvert tendencies, but, it sure was fun doing the little exercise. Thanks for the link - and the perspective.

    I don't wear yellow either.

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  4. Pamela, this is the most wonderful story, and I'm going to visit her blog too. Please hop over to see my post today, something real different and maybe a bit pushy...sending love...

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  5. Great post! I am only a fan of yellow on walls, not on me! Having married an introvert, I totally respect where they come from!

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  6. I love the light in this painting. Isn't it great to hang out with your pals?

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  7. Pamela I think I may be a semi introvert; it can be difficult for me to attend parties and events

    I too as a child cherished time alone to read(as the eldest of eight privacy was rare.)
    I will go and take the test!

    xoxo
    Karena
    Art by Karena
    2012 Artist Series

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  8. What a beautiful, insightful post Pamela - and how wonderful that you have found two like-minded friends to share a holiday where you can give one another space and then come together happily. So often these holidays with friends become unbearable by the end of the week.
    It seems to me you have found the secret of living - but expect you are missing Edward.(and he you)

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  9. Yep..I am...I ..wouldn't like to be anything else..Lovely post..thank you!

    Great painting!!!

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  10. Well, I'm also an introvert and I look terrible in yellow. I hated my piano lessons too, but I wore a pale blue organza dress with a fabric rose at the waist. As I sat waiting for my turn to play, I fiddled and fiddled with that rose until it wasn't rose-shaped any more. I doubt I ever wore that dress again and I, too, quit before the next recital. So much for developing 'accomplishments'.

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  11. I often think that one of the values of getting older is gaining wisdom about ourselves and accepting ourselves for who we are. I have also embraced my inner shyness and understood its value in a world that can't stop talking. And funnily enough, embracing it has made me less shy! I can't wait to hear what Susan Cain has to say on this topic!

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  12. Wonderful post! I can really relate to it. As an extrovert I have had many people in my life who were perplexed by my desire for solitude. I enjoyed Susan Cain's lecture and I will be buying her book. Thanks for sharing this!

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  13. I would say "Introverts, Unite!", but we rather wouldn't, would we? I too remember those dreaded piano recitals - alas, I missed the music gift, too - and I threw up after one recital (fortunately not in public). And that awful metronome! I had to endure a few years before my parents took pity and let me drop the lessons. It still seems surprising that my second child is not only highly musical (gets it from his dad), but loves to perform. At the age of three he was a big hit on stage with his daycare class annual production. He sang at the top of his voice and got all the moves down right. At 31, he's still at it singing his own songs now. The rest of us are all introverts and wonder if he was the changeling child. Nice to have an extrovert in the bunch, though.

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  14. Just spotted The Power of Introverts on a bookcase at my son's house and was tempted to pull it down but there wasn't time...maybe next visit. I, as an introvert, didn't know I had power...hmmmm...would like to see the author's discussion.

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  15. Pamela,
    What a delightful post. You always transport me with your words to the very event you're describing. I would be horrified to perform, not because I'm an introvert (or at least I don't think I am, I will take the test) but because at age 8 I would have been mortified to perform in front of an audience.

    I'm only now determined to recognize who I really am and allowing myself to say no to certain events and to all that goes with being comfortable in your own skin.
    Great food for thought, thank you.
    Karen

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  16. this is a fascinating post...thank you for the introduction to Susan Cain... xv

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  17. Correction on my earlier comment. I meant to say introvert not extrovert! Don't know how I did that.

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  18. I ended up on the introvert team...........I do love people at times but I love to be alone doing my own thing. I never had the chance to play piano - something I was told I might be good at because of my long fingers and wide hand span. However, like you, I don't think I would have been able to do the recital part........and yellow is not my color either, ha! ha!

    Lovely story Pamela - and the painting is perfect.

    I'm off again soon - check my post - back on the lovely small ship with all those extroverted Aussies most likely! That's OK though, they really are fun.

    Hugs - Mary

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  19. I found so many interesting stuff in your blog especially its discussion. From the tons of comments on your articles, I guess I am not the only one having all the enjoyment here! keep up the good work.

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  20. I'm fascinated by the paintings you introduce in your posts, I would like to know more about the painters. And I'm also learning a lot from your way of writing, you are so delicate and sensible, sometimes it's a litle dificult for me to understand but It's a new aim

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  21. Oh Pamela, so lovely to read this post. Earlier this year I too came across Susan's words on introverts. That is me through & through. For so many years I used to think that introvert & shy were one in the same & Mum often would introduce me as "this is the quiet one, the shy one", I used to believe I was somehow not like others & the way I felt was wrong. It took me many years to realize that it was ok to be "quiet" that the solitude I sometimes needed was just fine ~ I was feeding my muse. I slowly came to realize that i didn't have to be one thing or another, such a wonderful revelation! Coming across Susan'w words made me smile & remember all that early angst! Currently i am spending 3 wonderful days alone, phone unplugged, no visitors and loving it. Next week there are visits, a party, and lots of interaction to look forward too. yay

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  22. I will like to take the test, but I already know I'm an introvert. It has been very difficult for me to admit it, and to be admitted, because if in the US it's difficult to be one, here in Spain...

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  24. Sounds like your recital experience was similar to mine, although I continued the piano and play to this day. I was in only one recital, but I hated it so much that I told my mama that I was never going to be in another one. She must have know I meant it, for she never made me. I hate being in the public eye whether it's speaking or playing the piano. I've stopped feeling guilty or less than human for it. I'm okay with being the way God made me. I'm not apologizing anymore.

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  26. This is probably an odd way to meet but we have many mutual friends and I ended up on this post which I loved. When I was 24 and had some time off work as we had just moved I decided I finally wanted to take piano lessons, add that lovely skill to my other creative persuits. I thought it was going quite well but on the third lesson the kindly teacher laid her hand on mine as it lay on the piano keys and said "Dear, I think you have many talents but I don't think playing piano is one of them" She was absolutely right, I was tone deaf for heavens sakes. It is good to know a bit about oneself and I am sure if I took this introvert quiz that I would score perfect as well. Congratulations on your new book and I hope it has much success. xx
    PS. I have a 6 lb. sweet Daisy who would probably really like handsome Edward.

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  27. Great post! I am only a fan of yellow on walls, not on me! Having married an introvert, I totally respect where they come from!

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