What Rob Lowe Taught Me About Being Myself
This is a story I tell my friends. It's a silly story about a time I made a decision to be myself. Not a huge, courageous story. Just a little one. Little decisions add up. I hope you like it. It's a follow up post to this post, where I tell you my favorite new question: "Where is it written?": The Best Question I Learned This Year
I was a homeschooling mom for years. You instantly have a caricature of a HOMESCHOOL MOTHER in your head, right? I know, I know... I did too. The entire time I was a homeschool mother, I fought that caricature. But here I was, stuck in the middle of two: I had had to take my daughter to a group lesson where our little adorable children were playing Suzuki violin. IN a living room. WITH other homeschool moms. ALL squished on uncomfortable couches and the one lone coveted throne of a rocking chair (which homeschooling mother got that one? The one whose child was proficient in Latin?? The mother who had healthy homemade granola packed for her cherub's post-lesson snack?).
I sit between two mothers - trying not to move lest I actually touch them. I pull out my book and start reading (very intently so as not to invite conversation). The lesson starts. Violins squeak. Homeschool mothers think precious thoughts about their precious child with the precious violin. My child being especially precious.
Then...my eyes catch the title of the mother's book next to me: The Inner Experience: Notes on Contemplation by Thomas Merton. Here's Merton's description on Wikipedia: American Trappist monk, writer, theologian, mystic, poet, social activist, and scholar of comparative religion. Wow, I think, that's heavy material for THE most distracting room in the universe.
And then I realize what I sit holding in my hand: Stories I Only Tell My Friends: An Autobiography, by Rob Lowe. Here's Rob Lowe's description on Wikipedia: Rob Lowe is an American actor, producer, and director.
I look down, his (beautiful) face is the entire front cover. Rob Lowe squints, his hands shielding his eyes as he looks up at the homeschool Merton mother and me.
I'm ashamed to say: I shut the book, turning it over so the book endorsements are face up (instead of Lowe's face face up - definitely not as handsome, but definitely more intelligent). I sit there for a few minutes feeling weird that I had mistakenly messed this up. Unwritten standards ABOUND in this room. I missed it - wasn't this my chance to pull Treatises on Trinitarian Theology or Latin For Little Linguists out of my Violin Group Lesson Tote Bag O' Intelligent Things?
Then I quickly realize if I don't read, my full attention will be on the scratching sounds of beginning violinists. And nobody - NOBODY is emotionally healthy enough to handle off-tune "Twinkle, twinkle, little... STAR..." in every possible Suzuki rhythm (If you haven't tested your strength by living through Twinkle, Twinkle in the "Mississippi Hot Dog" rhythm, have you even LIVED?)
If anyone cares to ask, they would know I love stories of people. I love to know "how did that make you feel? what happened next? who helped you through that? who is your best friend? how did you make it in your career of choice? what is your biggest fear???" So of course biographies are a favorite genre of book, and OF COURSE, I grabbed Lowe's biography from the New Books Library Shelf. I want to know what stories he tells his friends!!
I feel embarrassed. Then I feel embarrassed that I feel embarrassed, because:
1. Who cares. If they judge me for reading Rob Lowe's autobiography, here are some truths:
-I just did a good deed by allowing someone else to feel better about themselves! WIN! (This same statement is the same I tell myself every time I trip or run into a wall or forget to send in kid forms to school, or..... the list goes on!!)
-It LITERALLY* does not affect me if someone else judges me. Doesn't change my life one bit, does it?
-I may find a true friend. Someone who has also read this book. I may add another member to my tribe! Then I'll have a story to tell MY friend!
(*Bonus points if you get the LITERALLY joke. You are in my tribe.)
2. What do I have to prove? I'm there with my child who is learning violin. My child is my main goal here. And I've shown up and supported her. Task accomplished.
3. But most likely, I am the only who is thinking about me. I am the one putting these standards on my head. Put the burdens away!
4. Where is it written that I have to pack homemade granola, read Catholic theology and act like being in a room with 10 beginning violinists is, like, the HIGHlight of my year? (When it took enough energy just to make myself drive there on a Saturday morning and sit in a hot, stuffy room next to strangers on a couch??)
I had a choice to make. Try to fit in with this frazzled group of moms. Or just be myself and enjoy how absolutely flipping brilliant I was to remember to bring entertaining fluff to read over the dulcet tones of classical violin music. Thomas Merton could wait. I had more important things to learn.
I flipped the book back over. I looked at Rob. He looked at me. I opened to chapter 3.