Episode 10: La Vie En Rose
Welcome to Sing With Your Feet, the podcast in which we take those little rocks in our glass slippers, and, with a little bit of fairy dust, turn them into actionable steps to make our lives better.
The podcast in which we learn how to listen to what is at the heart of our irritations, so that they don’t rule us any longer, or at least, that our feelings about them don’t rule us anymore.
The podcast in which we learn compassion for ourselves, knowing when to let ourselves off the hook when it comes to things we cannot control, and in which we practice expressing those things to those we love so that we can get the help we need.
My name is Lily Fields, and I’m going to be your Fairy Godmother for the next half-hour or so. We have a lot on our plate today, so let’s just jump right in!
Now, now, now, Lily Fields. (That’s you. That’s one of those poorly-done regional accents Matt talked about at the top of the show. You sound like a Southern Belle to me, and I kinda like ya that way.)
Glass slippers? Glass slippers? Do you know the last time I wore heels, Lily Fields?
- Okay, you wanna talk about shoes? Let’s talk about shoes for a second, country bumpkin, because, while I am speaking about removing metaphorical rocks from metaphorical glass slippers, I have no shortage of things to say on the subject of real shoes. Especially considering that this Podcast is literally called Sing With Your Feet. I’m just going to digress for a second.
You know, I do sing, often, even with my voice and not just my feet. In the years after I had my babies, I stopped wearing heels to perform in. I had been, until those scalawags were born, an avowed wearer of unthinkably high heels. My friend Caroline would say, “There goes Lily again…wearing shoes meant for the eyes and not for the feet.” Although I hated to admit it, she was usually right.
When my post-partum depression lifted, one of the first things I did was go into my closet and get out my favorite pair of heeled boots. I put those on and for the first time in four years, had the posture of a woman who knew what she wanted, who knew where she was going and knew that nothing could stop her from obtaining it.
That very day I was to be singing backup for the brilliant Matt Kugler, the one who sings the theme music for the show and who warned you that my accent skills are quite limited.
I was having a great time. It often happens, when I start singing and really enjoying myself, that I stamp my feet a little bit. It’s idiosyncratic, it’s just part of who I am. Well. That day, the very first time in four years that I wore heels to sing in, mid-foot stomp, the heavy wood heel of my right boots went flying across the stage. I had to finish our set on one foot.
You would think that would serve as a lesson to me, but it did not. I just got the shoe fixed.
To reassure you, at this very moment, I am wearing Zebra stripe converse high-tops with a fancy yellow sundress. I do own practical footwear, too.
Holy cow, did I digress there. Sorry.
All that to say, yeah, I know you aren’t wearing glass slippers, silly. But that feeling of having a rock in our shoe is among the most annoying, most irritating sensations known to woman. And I would bet that you have a few things in your daily life that are like those little rocks. You would love for those annoyances to go away, but you can’t figure it out.
That’s what Fairy Dust is for. Don’t worry. I’ll explain. Sometimes, though, towels on the floor are not just towels on the floor.
- Don’t you go off on another tangent, Lily Fields…but towels on the floor are towels on the floor.
Yes, they are. But they don’t always mean what our country bumpkin minds make them out to mean. That person you live with who leaves the towel on the floor doesn’t necessarily do it to drive you nuts. As a matter of fact, let’s give them the benefit of the doubt: they probably don’t do it to drive you nuts.
3.What do you mean Lily Fields, about letting ourselves off the hook? Are you not the one who says that hard work always pays off?
Yes, yes, my dear, that is the motto of the International League of Fairy Godmothers. And I do take that very seriously. But there are circumstances in life which we need to accept, ones we need to find workarounds for. And very often, we can’t do this on our own. We need to learn how to ask for help, which is, admittedly, a very difficult thing to do for some of us.
Well if you ask me, it sounds like you want us to live La Vie en Rose.
You know, country bumpkin, there is a difference between living our Ideal Life and living La Vie en Rose. It comes down to the difference between plans and wishes.
Digression: Facebook group
Before I digress from the topic of learning how to ask for the help we need, I want to quickly remind you about our private Facebook Group called “You Are Not Done Sparkling Yet.” Since March 1, we have been taking a deep, day by day dive into the themes that make up the overarching themes of our Ideal Life. The goal is to get us thinking about the tiny, practical things we can do to make progress towards our Ideal Lives.
This topic of asking for the help we need will surely come up. No woman is an island, not at home, not at work, not in her extracurricular activities. Sparkling is a community affair, and sometimes we need some help to find ways to articulate our needs, and sometimes we need encouragement from people on the other side of the world to go out there and ask.
This is your weekly reminder that you might really need professional help. You might just need a therapist, or a counselor. Find one in your area who can take you on and help you unpack some of the deep-seated reasons why it’s hard for you to ask for what you need.
Get professional help. Are nodding? I hear you nodded. Good girl.
Wicked Stepsister: Plans and Wishes
LiElla Kelly, your Wicked Stepsister, has the intriguing dayjob heading up an End-of-Life Planning consulting firm called Leaving Well. As any Death Doula worth her salt, she has a few thoughts on the nuances between “planning” and “wishing”.
I’m going to pass the podcast over to LiElla for a bit. Wicked Stepsister, the dancefloor is all yours.
Let’s have a wicked conversation. But first, by way of a little reminder, Do you remember why I’m wicked? A couple episodes back, I explained that people tend to find my choice of conversation unpleasant, some might say extremely unpleasant…and extremely unpleasant is a rather informal definition of wicked. So…with that definition in mind, let’s get to it. Let’s have a wicked conversation.
Today’s topic is final wishes. You may be surprised to learn that this term, final wishes, is a term I don’t care for. It implies mere thoughts or hopes and I think we can do better, no scratch that, I think we should do better than just final hopes. Don’t get me wrong, I want you to think about your final wishes, your ideas and your preferences…but then, I want you to go a step further. I want you to turn those wishes into actual plans. Maybe you’re thinking, ugh that sounds like work. Oh, it is…but it’s also an act of love and therefore, it’s worth the effort.
When we create an end-of-life action plan, we give our loved ones a road map. Perhaps you’re thinking I really haven’t cut that wide of swath, I’m not that impactful, no maps required to navigate my exit. Sometimes we sell ourselves a bit short, but trust me, you matter. Even just the thought of you not existing sets off panic alarms in the hearts of your family and your friends. The thought of you not being there, makes them feel lost. They need a map.
So, give them what they need. Think about your ideal death. And then make an actionable plan, a roadmap for you and your loved ones to follow. And here’s the big thing, don’t just draw the map, discuss it. Have conversations about what you want and how you plan to make it happen.
Perhaps you could try this, bring up a celebrity death in a low key, easy way. Maybe something like, did you see that Luke Perry was buried in a mushroom suit? What kind of burial would you want? It’s that simple, just get the ball rolling. I need a quick little side bar here, about Luke Perry…I’m going to post a link in the comments but there are 4 quick things that I want to comment on…
1. Luke Perry was a hottie.
2. He chose a burial option he was passionate about, he had done his research.
3. He chose green burial. I love that. Maybe we can chat about green burial later.
4. He was 52 when he died and yet, he had had conversations with his family. They knew what he wanted.
Be like Luke. Start having these conversations. Don’t just wish, make a plan and share it with those you love. Remember, talking about death won’t kill you…I promise.
I really appreciate you putting that into words for us. It is so easy for us to get caught up in our heads, and then forgetting that those we love cannot read our minds. Planning, articulating, speaking our mind while we still can seems like the only way to live our Ideal Life.
I’ll put a link in the show notes to LiElla’s work and to an article about Luke Perry and his mushroom burial suit.. Remember, LiElla always says that talking about death won’t kill you. Reading about it won’t, either.
1. Recognizing what drives us crazy.
After my children went back to school post lockdown in 2020, handwashing was elevated to a whole new level in our house, as I am sure it was for you too. There were songs to be sung, soap pumps to be filled and refilled…
And there were filthy mirrors to be cleaned. What’s the relationship, you may ask? Well. It is about my children’s absolute refusal to dry their hands on a towel.
For days, I couldn’t understand what was going on in the bathroom. Why in the world that mirror was such a mess. Then, one day I caught the boys washing their hands, and saw that instead of drying them on a towel which was 100% hidden in plain sight and completely at their disposal, they just flicked their wet hands a few times at the mirror and were done with it.
No amount of asking them to not do this seemed to make a difference.
Now, I have a theory about dealing with these little tiny irritations, these little tiny proverbial rocks in our shoes: If it is within our power to do something about, and if it takes less than a minute, we should do it now. Just do it now! Don’t question it. It’s literally as simple as removing a rock from our shoe. Sure, ya gotta take the shoe off. But once the rocks out, the irritation is gone.
So, to help, start by formulating the irritation in the form of an Ideal Life statement: For example, in my Ideal Life, I am a person who has a clean bathroom mirror. Then, grab the paper towel and the pfsht pfsht and clean the mirror.
Two things are being accomplished with this: One, you are getting closer to your Ideal Life. Two, you have a clean mirror.
This, my friends, is called progress. And progress is a call for celebration. How exactly does one celebrate a clean mirror, you may ask?
Here’s what I did: I stood in front of my sparklingly clean mirror, I looked myself in the eye, and said, “Mirror, Mirror, on the wall. Who’s the fairest of them all.”
I swear I heard the mirror reply, “You are, Lily Fields.”
2. It does not mean what you think it means.
In my house live two little boys, one indulgent husband, an ancient black cat and me.
Over Valentine’s Day, the three other humans went on a little trip, leaving just the black cat and me.
For four days, I had no one I had to be for anyone. Where I would drop my keys, my keys would stay. If I left the door unlocked, it stayed unlocked. If I left clothes on the floor, they stayed on the floor. If I didn’t make my bed, my bed stayed unmade. If I left dishes in the sink, they stayed unwashed.
Can I be honest about something that happened? At one point, I walked into the bathroom and saw a pile of clothes on the floor, a familiar rush of emotion overtook me. The one that feels like a cocktail of being disrespected and taken for granted and unloved and unlistened to. I actually had this thought:
“Why don’t they put things away!”
Except, the “they” in that sentence was actually me.
I did that. I was the one who didn’t put things away.
That pile of dirty clothes on the bathroom floor was all my fault.
And the reason why I didn’t put them away had nothing to do with disrespecting myself, or taking myself for granted, or not loving myself, or not listening to my repeated requests for dirty clothes to go in the washing machine.
It was simply because I forgot.
You see, the people we live with do not solely exist to disrespect us, to take us for granted or to prove to us we are unlovable.
Sometimes, they just forget. Sometimes, they are caught up in what they are doing and might even have every intention to get back to the thing they have been repeatedly asked to do. But sometimes they just never get around to it. Or, they never get around to it on our timetable.
Listen to what I am going to say: We are always within our right to ask the people we live with for their help. Very often, we don’t ask. We just expect them to read our minds. Asking is a first step to getting what we need.
Once we have asked, we cannot then take their failure to act, personally. We must believe, it is our job, to believe in the good intentions of the people we live with. This is part of giving our enthusiastic consent to the life we live now, and the circumstances we currently live in.
I want to suggest that the one thing you can do to make this part of your life less painful is to learn how to ask for what you need. It’s a very hard thing to do, believe me, I know. Learning to ask in different ways…with our words, with a little handwritten note on the counter, with a text message… I’m not suggesting that we start nagging.
But I really do believe that for a great number of us who struggle with expressing our own desires and our own needs and setting limits, that learning how to ask for what would truly help us, is another critical step to living our Ideal Life.
Start by standing in front of that perfectly clean, sparkling bathroom mirror and start expressing your needs. Out loud. To yourself, first. Hear what it sounds like for your needs to be articulated in your own voice. Get used to that sound. Get used to the feel of the words, “What I need from you right now is…”
Go ahead. Say those words out loud. Right now:
“What I need from you right now is…”
Practice this. Practice makes progress.
3. The things we can’t control
I have mentioned this before, but at the same time as I was experiencing post-partum depression, my body also decided to start down that inevitably exciting road called peri-menopause.
Bless you if you have no idea what that means. Let me try to define it, okay? It’s like adolescence, only you are now a grownup with access to heavy machinery and have the responsibility for small children.
One of my favorite podcasts, Sawbones, hosted by Sydnee and Justin McElroy, is touted as a “marital tour of misguided medicine.” On Sawbones, Sydnee, a medical doctor, discusses the history of certain ailments–or at least, those which were historically considered to be ailments–and medical cures for these ailments.
Justin, for his part, makes topics like hemorrhoids, birth control and leprosy more approachable by standing in for us, who know nothing but are nonetheless darkly curious. It is always enlightening, often laugh-out-loud funny, and sometimes, absolutely terrifying.
What frightened me was an episode about an ailment that was once called, “Hysteria”, that is, any inexplicable malady a woman might experience. Ranging from lack of libido to too much libido, mood swings, depression, fatigue, forgetfulness, ambition…anything that was “ailing” a woman was lumped into this category of diagnosis.
While this sounds awful, let me just digress for a second and tell you that at one time in history, in the very city where I live, women with these very same symptoms could be accused of being a witch, like with the broom and everything. So, at least this garbage diagnosis of Hysteria wasn’t going to find us burned at the stake anymore.
The treatments for Hysteria are laughable by today’s standards, but one in particular did eventually give rise to the modern sex toy industry. So maybe it’s not all bad.
But how about, for the unlucky ones, a Lobotomy? Don’t mind if I do… On Sawbones, Justin McElroy apologizes to women across time for the ways we have been misdiagnosed. This is rather cathartic and is deeply, deeply satisfying. I’ll link to the episode in the show notes so you can enjoy.
While we can laugh and cringe at the fact that there was a time in history, even not that long ago, when women, particularly women of a certain age, were considered to have a “wandering womb” and that was what made them act outside of societal norms, the episode freaked me out anyway.
Is this hysteria?
Why did you freak out, there Lily?
It happened at lunch time.
As I mentioned, given my peri-menopausally induced, abnormally uncool chill factor these days, I needed to start being markedly more intentional about the very simple things. Things like putting away the bread knife when I am done using it, or putting my phone always on the counter in the same place when I get home. Failure to do these things causes me–no exaggeration whatsoever–to experience rage unlike anything I’ve ever known.
Obviously, it’s not the fact that I didn’t put it away that drives me crazy. It’s the fact that I can’t find it when I am looking for it that enrages me.
Prior to my hormonal roller coaster, I could simply step back, and with absolute chill, say, “okay, where was the last place I used it,” and typically find it within a minute or two. Except that, as previously established, I have zero chill anymore. None.
Nowadays, my mind plays tricks on me. So when I don’t put the knife away immediately, my brain fills in the hole and tells me, “but you were just using it. And I remember you putting it away.” But my brain can’t tell that it was three days ago that I intentionally put it away, not that two hours ago I left it in the sink and put a bunch of dishes on top of it. My brain doesn’t care about the details. It just remembers that I did once in my life put away the knife with intention.
And without fail, I will start to freak out. “But I was just using the knife. I just saw it.” And then, brandishing the ultimate tool in my tool box of misery, I will whisper “I’m losing my mind.”
Well, yes, kinda. Or maybe it’s just my “wandering womb.”
This same thing happened the other day with a document I needed to give my husband. I checked everywhere for this document which, if it is not in my wallet, is kept in a very specific place. Naturally, it was in neither, and I was walking out the door to catch a train. Being late would set me back for the whole day, and I could not find that stupid document. I left without giving it to him.
I ended up finding it, much later in the day, in my purse, where I had already spent ten minutes searching for it that morning. It had gotten squished up under some facemasks.
So it’s not just selective memory. It is selective vision as well.
I’m losing my mind.
Well, yes, kinda. It’s that wandering womb again.
So…it’s lunchtime. I gave the keys of the apartment to the eldest scalawag, who likes to take the elevator by himself and unlock the door like a big guy. I usually come up a few minutes later.
I saw where he had put the keys upon entering. They were on a little piece of furniture in the hall by the front door. My keys have a bright green Berlin ampelmann keychain on it. (It’s ancient and supercute.) I didn’t touch it or anything, I just saw the ampelmann and said to myself, “okay, my keys are right there,” instead of picking them up and putting them where I always go to look for the keys when it is time to leave.
I actually walked past them three or four times, moving the things around them to put them away. There was a grocery bag, a water bottle, a cardigan, a school craft project, some mail. I was putting that stuff away mindlessly, in a concerted effort to make my own life easier later in the day.
In the meantime, my youngest scalawag got himself into a snit about something, and decided that he didn’t want to return to school in the afternoon. I forced his little shoes onto his feet. I got on my own scarf and coat. I sat over him trying to zip up his coat for far longer than I needed to while he flailed and cried about not wanting to go back. So, FYI, my chill factor was negative, as was his.
Once everyone had their coats on, I reached for the keys and they were no longer there.
How is this possible? They were right here.
I had been moving things around them since we got home. The keys had been right there.
I went to the place where I usually would go look for the keys. They weren’t there either. I checked my coat pockets. I checked my other coat pockets. I checked the pocket in my purse where I carry my keys. I looked around the floor.
I was getting increasingly panicked with every second, because now, not only could I not find the keys, my youngest was wailing and shouting rhythmically, “I’m not going. I’m not going. I’m not going.”
Then I stopped searching for a second and turned quickly to my youngest.
“What did you do with the keys?” I growled at him.
“I don’t have the keys!” he shouted. It was not unheard of that he “misplace something” on that little piece of furniture. He’s done it before, sweeping my sunglasses into one of the drawers by accident.
Now, the eldest scalawag is getting impatient, because he is clearly a genetic descendant of my father, my sister and myself, who cannot stand the thought of being late to anything.
So he’s chanting. “We’re gonna be late.” My youngest is back to “I’m not going. I’m not going.”
And I have lost the keys that were only minutes before sitting right here.
“I’m losing my mind,” I said. And then starting chanting, “Ce n’est pas possible. Ce n’est pas possible. Je perds la boule,” (It’s not possible, I am losing my marbles, speaking in French to benefit my neighbors who are walking past the door hearing us all uttering our mantras) as I took a third and fourth look in the basket where I keep the keys. In my coat pockets again.
Everyone is now chanting and no one is happy. Lobotomies welcome.
For some reason, I reach into the back pocket of my pants, and realize that I had, at some point while mindlessly putting away the cardigan and the grocery bag, thought I was doing myself a favor by mindlessly putting the keys in my back pocket.
I said nothing besides, “Let’s go,” as I stormed out into the hallway, beckoning to the boys.
“But we can’t leave the apartment open!” the eldest objected, panicking.
How do I explain to him, gently, that my womb is wandering and I’m kinda losing my mind?
“We won’t,” I replied, holding up the keys. “You are going to lock it for us.”
This kind of thing didn’t used to happen to me. Or at least, if it did, I didn’t freak out about it. But I’d been feeling like it was happening more and more often, and I had less and less chill about it.
The Wandering Womb
I needed to find strategies to deal with the lack of chill. First, needed to find a phrase to replace, “I am losing my mind.” That may be what it feels like, but I needed to not stoke the rage by saying those words out loud. I read something on a completely unrelated subject that reminded us to “just breathe”, and while I hate that kind of pat, pretty advice, I may just have to take it.
But I also, genuinely want to learn how to deal with this with humor. Like, imagining the voice of Justin McElroy saying, “Ah! It’s just the wandering womb again!”
I am also all the more determined that I must keep my house decluttered, make sure that there is a designated home for everything and that I put the things away immediately when I find them out of their designated home. It’s also incredibly important to get buy-in from my family members about this, because while they may not intentionally be trying to make me crazier than I already am when they don’t put things back where they go, they can help keep me in my right mind by putting things away when they find them, too.
My doctor said, “every woman goes through it, Madame.” He’s a man, keep in mind, telling me that my menopausal brain fog is “just a phase.” I would love for him to live with this for just twenty-four hours. If men experienced peri-menopause for just one day in their lives, there would be solutions. Real solutions, not just temporary hormonal solutions that just put off the discomfort for a few years.
I would have just as easily accepted him saying to me: “Breathe, madame. It’s just your wandering womb again.”
But let me tell you one thing, one positive thing, that came from all my hysteria: I have no filter anymore with my indulgent husband. Things got so bad with my mental health, with the feeling that I was crazy, that I had to ask him for help.
I needed his buy-in to make sure that, whenever possible, for my sanity, that the keys were always put in their designated place. If he found them, he would put them there. To make sure that, whenever possible, he put the bread knife back where it belongs
Once he understood that I wasn’t just snapping at him, at everybody because I was a mean old lady, once he understood that this fog was a real point of suffering for me, he, because he is an indulgent and kind man, started making a concerted effort to help alleviate the little things that trigger my hysteria.
You see, in the midst of the things we can’t control, there are small things that honesty and authenticity can help us make progress in. In this case, I can’t do anything about the menopausal fog. But by being honest about how it was making me doubt my sanity, I got the help I really needed.
Remember to join us in the private Facebook group called “You Are Not Done Sparkling Yet” for our nitty gritty examination of the Ideal Life Themes. I will link to it in the show notes.
You’ll also find a link to LiElla’s website and some of her resources about planning for our own death. She covers some really sensitive topics with compassion and kindness and touch of humor. You would do well to check it out.
Don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast on your favorite platform, and by rating and reviewing the podcast, you help other people find it, too! Thank you so much for sharing it with people you think could use a Fairy Godmother.
A great big thank you to Seven Production here in Mulhouse France for the use of the song “La Joie” as the intro and outro to the show, to Matt Kugler who sang it and Claude Ekwe who wrote it. You guys know how to bring La Joie!
This is your Fairy Godmother signing off. Just remember, it is never too late to start singing with your feet.
Talking Points: The Wandering Womb, Plans versus Wishes and La Vie en Rose vs the Ideal Life. Also, it does not mean what you think it means.
Sawbones: Hysteria Episode: https://maximumfun.org/episodes/sawbones/sawbones-hysteria/
If you’re curious about Luke Perry and his final wishes, click here: https://www.bbc.com/news/48140812
Check out LiElla Kelly, Death Doula on her website, https://leavingwellmt.com or on Instagram: @leaving.well.death.doula.
Our private Facebook group, You Are Not Done Sparkling Yet (https://www.facebook.com/groups/309886354511956) is available to give you a place to get some encouragement and support as you navigate the pursuit of your Ideal Life.
Special thanks to Seven Production in Mulhouse, France for the use of the song La Joie as the intro and outro to the show. Check them out here: https://7prod.fr