The Motivating Mantra of My Younger Years

March 14, 2011 § Leave a comment

While most 18-year-olds and the law consider an 18-year-old an adult, I still felt like a child.  Like a little girl in a big girl’s body who had to hide.  Someone who couldn’t cope with normal things, like driving on the freeway, going new places, meeting new people, or getting out of my comfort zone – and my comfort zone was really, really small.

From the Lens of T.H.

And so, with much encouragement from my parents, I enrolled in college.  I no longer had the incentive to see Tom Jones perform in Las Vegas, so this is the slightly twisted mental game I played with myself in order to give myself the courage to move forward in my life:

“If I am going to get Tom Jones to fall in love with me… I have to get out of the house.”

“If I am going to get Tom Jones to fall in love with me… I have to drive to college.”

“If I am going to get Tom Jones to fall in love with me… I have to walk into that classroom.”

From the Lens of T.H.

Why did I need to use the idea of Tom Jones falling in love with me in order to do the things I feared?  Obviously there was a lack of ego strength; a lack of confidence and self-love; a teenage self-loathing based on anxiety, teasing, bullying, rejection, not relating to “normal” kids at whatever age, being different from others, etc. The sheepish teenage girly-girl in me liked his exhibitionism and told me I needed my motivating mantra because he was handsome and must be as wonderful as my youthful hopes and dreams (projections, really).

My subconscious was sending some kind of message I didn’t know or understand at the time, and had something to do with me knowing that Tom Jones would never fall in love with the person I was.  So somehow I had to become the kind of person Tom Jones might fall in love with.  I couldn’t become the kind of person I needed to be just for myself, so I had to become the kind of person someone really special, someone who had a gift, might fall in love with.  If someone who has value loved me… it would mean I had value… right?

From the Lens of T.H.

If you look at ego development from Erik Erikson’s (esteemed developmental psychologist and psychoanalyst) point of view, adolescent occurs between 12 to 18, and is a time in which you find your identity through what you do, who you socialize with, how you define your beliefs, how you begin to grow away from your family, begin to move into your own social circle, and become part of society.  Somewhere during the normal course of childhood development, I grew physically tall, but was emotionally stunted; my family defined my beliefs and I had accomplished none of the steps of maturity listed above.

While I did a lot of praying, I didn’t know any other ways to help myself, so I “attached” to this singer who was able to express so beautifully and powerfully, in song, every emotion a human being could feel.  I depended upon his voice to always be there for me; I depended on his songs to identify or express how I felt; and once I saw Tom Jones sing live in Las Vegas I depended upon him to make me feel like a woman.  I also depended upon Tom Jones to never reject me.

From the Lens of T.H.

In Tom Jonesville I was safe.  Entry into the real world as a college student, however, was challenging because I had become so withdrawn it was difficult to be around strangers (basically, anyone I didn’t know, which meant everyone).  I lived in fear that someone, especially a professor, would speak to me and I would have to respond.

Thus began my secret life with my motivating mantra, “If Tom Jones is going to fall in love with me, I have to…”  And though it may sound odd, this is what helped me negotiate the scary dark corners of my younger years, and yet another way… the singer saved me.

Road Trip to Vegas!

February 20, 2011 § 2 Comments

At 17, I spent months preparing to see Tom Jones live in Las Vegas. I pushed myself to the limit just to accomplish my mother’s bribe to get me out of the womb tomb of home.   I was nervous about leaving my safety zone.  Whenever I wasn’t home, I felt like a modern-day Dorothy, in the Wizard of Oz, running though an obstacle course of insecurities and just wanting to click my heels to get home.

While I had the support of my family and a lot of prayerful support for all of my free-floating anxieties, as I look back as an adult, I wish someone had been able to talk to me realistically about my fears.  Like a typical teenager, I thought I was the only one on the face of the earth who had these weird feelings and thoughts.  I didn’t even know there was a name for panic attacks.  And there were no Lucinda Basset infomercials at 3 am in the morning to identify symptoms and share successful solutions that gave birth to her Midwestern Center for Stress and Anxiety.

Tom Jones – Writing a Note

One thing I wasn’t nervous about was the fact that we three sisters and Mom would look good in Vegas.  We were all into fashion, and Vegas in the 70s was not the Vegas we know now.  It was not the “family place” it has become; it was a place where adults went to gamble, see the shows, and enjoy the hotels.  No schlepping around in ratty t-shirts, jeans, and flip-flops.  You dressed up when you went to Vegas.  You wore your best jeans or “pantsuits” or mini-skirts during the day, bikinis with cute little cover-ups at the pool, and lovely cocktail dresses, gowns, or sophisticated pant outfits for the shows.

And so we loaded our luggage into “ Sea-foam,” Mother’s big ol’ Cadillac with a white-beige leather top and gorgeous aqua bottom that looked like a wave on four wheels, and hit the road.  We were all really excited, which helped get us through the flat four-hour ride through the desert from Newport Beach to Las Vegas.  Once we got there we decided to eat lunch at The Flamingo Hotel, because – duh! – even Mom had listened to the Live from Las Vegas album a gazillion times and wanted to check it out.

We arrived at the Hotel International and it was huge and gorgeous and modern and Vegas beyond our imaginations.

Tom Jones – Reading a Note

Our bevy of beauty and the ugly duckling, (I am now able to identify this as a distorted belief, but at the time, it was my tiny world view), explored the hotel and took advantage of the April sun and pool.  Later we played the slot machines.  My sisters were well over 21, and while I was still a teen, my height and quiet manner feigned maturity, allowing me to appear to be of age.  I was able to pull down a few slots myself, and I felt like such a grown up!  I think we spent a whole $35 in quarters, and someone won back about $25.

To tell the truth, however, the only thing running through my adolescent head was that Tom Jones is here.  He is in this hotel.  I am going to see him.  I am going to hear him sing.  Like a calming mantra slowing my breath, I was breathing in Tom Jones… Breathing out Tom Jones… Breathing in Tom Jones… Breathing out Tom Jones… Calming my nerves and soothing my anxious soul…  I was only 17, and waiting to see… the singer who saved me.

My Story

August 19, 2010 § Leave a comment

I have loved three men in my life, respectively, my father, singer Tom Jones, and my husband.  My father was married to my mother for over 60 years before he passed away days before his 91st birthday.   It is well known that Tom Jones married his first love.  And I am married to the love of my life.

Tom Jones is what I like to call the object of my transformation, but in object relations theory of psychology, he was technically my object of transition.  He came at a time and place in my life when, as a teenager, I was teetering in the abyss of a black hole.  While life appeared so simple for so many, it felt so complicated for me.

This is my story of how Tom Jones saved my life and how my path to maturity took a twisted turn into song, sound, celebrity, and sanity.  It’s a fun superficial story – a sexy pop star, backstage visits, and Vegas in the 70s baby!  It’s also a journey that took me years to fully understand.  Would I have gotten to peace, love, and joy without Tom Jones?  I don’t know, because he is inextricably linked to my delayed development.

Shortly before my mother passed on, I bought the old TV show, “This is Tom Jones” DVDs, which we watched in her bed together.  Time and space and illness disappeared and we were as giddy and giggly and had as much fun as we did when we watched it together four decades ago.  My mother was very religious with conservative values, and I decided this was my moment to ask her why she encouraged and allowed me to chase my Tom Jones dreams.  She reached out her hand, squeezed mine gently, and looked at me with love in her eyes and said, “Because he was all you had, Judi.”

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