I'm skipping over the taking a picture of myself in something I have been afraid to wear, and going straight for the FIVE WOMEN WHO HAVE CHANGED MY LIFE list.
Some of these women may have changed my life for the better, some may not have knowingly done it.
1. Helen Keller - I was obsessed with you growing up.
I read EVERYTHING I could on Helen Keller and wanted to be her. Not the blind, deaf, and mute person but the person who overcame EVERYTHING and became an amazing inspiration and teacher. Yes, Annie Sullivan, you deserve insane amounts of credit for shaping Ms. Keller into the person she was, but the strength in Helen Keller's character was inside of her and Annie Sullivan just helped her to get that out into the world so the rest of us could appreciate her.
My favorite Helen Keller quote is "The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt within the heart."
2. My grandmother, M. Irene Champagne Hart - you are inside my soul, and every day I am reminded of the awesomeness that you were.
Sounds cliche, but my grandmother, Grammy, changed my life exponentially. I remember as a little kid singing in the backseat of the car "YAY, YAY TO GRAMMY'S!" every time we would make the drive to visit her. It was always special, exciting, and fun. She had games for us to play, she always had Fiddle Faddle hidden in her cabinet, and always laughed and never got angry at us even when we were tearing her house apart like most little kids did. She even figured out that I was afraid of her wigs, and put her wig on the stairs so that I wouldn't fall and kill myself when I was learning to walk. Yes, to this day, I am still kind of afraid of wigs. I don't know why, but when they are not on a form or on a person, I expect them to come alive and smother me.
Growing up, my grandmother was always there. Even when my mother became more ill and started to withdraw from life and bring my brother and I into her abyss, my grandmother made the effort to be there for us. When my father and I left my mother, she took us in, and put up with my teenage bullshitty angst and still loved me when I told her I hated her. Through all the crap that I put her through, she was always there for me. I was ashamed of myself for a multitude of reasons as a young adult, and withdrew from the family. She still welcomed me back and was happy when I told her that I had gotten married. I spent the last months of her life visiting her, just being with her, and she taught me so much about unconditional love. Without her in my life, I would have been a very lonely, bitter bitch. I owe her so much and I miss her every day since she left this Earth. I look forward to seeing her again so I can return all those hugs and tell her how much I appreciate her.
3. My mother. Yes, you KNEW she would have to be on the list, right? Really? You didn't? Shocking. I know... funny, right? The woman who taught me to hate myself, that family didn't matter, and gave me my first cigarette when I was 7 years old. In spite of the crazy that was her, she did change my life. I am a much stronger person than I ever could have been with a "normal" mother. I am constantly mindful of how much my words may hurt someone, and I am kinder as a result. I understand that was not her objective, that everything that she did teach me was out of resentment and hatred, but I am who I am IN SPITE of her.
There is nothing more gratifying than proving someone wrong. I am happy to say to her, wherever she is, YOU WERE FUCKING WRONG ABOUT ME. I am not a loser, I am not ugly, and I am worthy of other people's love. I will never forget what you did to me, but I will NEVER give you power over me. For that, I thank you.
4. My aunt, Pauline Champagne Dee. Artistic, fun, and the person who showed me my first dirty movie. So, it was "Porky's," not exactly a porn but for the time it was VERY risque and AWESOME. Later on in my life, she was the first person I reached out to when I was trying to make amends to the family that I had isolated myself from. She welcomed me with open arms, and encouraged me to find the strength to rebuild my relationship with my grandmother. My aunt is a tough woman, and does not have much of a filter. She will tell you exactly how she sees it, and I have mad respect for her because of it.
When my parents separated, I spent a great deal of time with her at my grandmother's house, as well as at her home. She was my escape from the reality of being an asshole teenager and always made sure we did fun stuff. She is my second mother - and I really needed that female influence growing up. I wish I could be a better person and spend more time with her, but I am still battling a lot of those inner demons and am still working through some things. I hope she knows how much of a positive influence she has had on me, because without her, I would probably go insane.
5. My cousin, Diane Sheehan. Yes, I do have three very amazing women in my family who have influenced who I am, and every single one of them deserves a standing ovation and a lifetime of gratitude from me. Diane is one of the best people ever to grace this earth. She taught me the importance of feeling pretty. She introduced me to painting my toes when I was really young, and we slathered ourselves with baby oil to get tans by the pool in the summertime (nobody thought about melanoma back then!). I even spent the night at her house and we got up at the asscrack to watch Lady Diana marry her Prince. We did the same when Fergie married her Prince. So many cool memories with my cousin that have shaped who I am today!
She is 14 years older than me, but you would never know it. When I was 16, an old guy bagging our groceries commented on how cool it was to have a twin sister... he meant me and my 30 year old cousin! She was flattered, I was absolutely mortified. To this day, people think that Diane and I are sisters, or that her daughter Mary and I are sisters. We do look alike, but our ages are separated by 14 years either way - I am 14 years younger than Diane, and 14 years older than her daughter Mary. Kind of weird but just right.
So, there you have it. This was an effortless writing exercise for me, since I have always had these women in my heart or on my mind and they have in their own ways shaped me into who I am today. Some of it is bad, but for the most part amazing. I appreciate all of their influence no matter if it has been positive or negative. Without any of these pieces to the puzzle, I would not be the person that I am today.
And for that, dear ladies, I bow to you. (Curtsy is so passe!)