i Thank You God for most this amazing...

" this is the sun's birthday;  this is the birth 

day of life and love and wings; and of the gay great happening illimitably earth"

I  first discovered this poem several years ago.  It spoke to me then and filled me with joy and excitement and happiness so much so that I brought it to the Unitarian Society.  I very much wanted to come right up here and read it in the middle of the service.  But of course I didn't.

I wonder how the poem makes you feel?  Saying thank you for "most this amazing day."  It still fills me with joy.

But it took me a long time in my life before that poem could have spoken to me....

Except for my father, my hero, who died when I was 8, I grew up a mostly happy child until I was 12.  Then I found I had to compete with girls for boys and girls for girl friends or just compete to keep up in Jr. High.

Even before that, when I was very little, I was very, very shy.  In kindergarden I was too shy to raise my hand to go to the bathroom so I was left back a grade.  Going through high school and junior high school I never raised my hand in class, and I dreaded being picked on.

One by one, I would notice the kids who talked in class, and I never did .  So I felt more and more uncomfortable.  When I had to give a speech in speech class I feigned sickness.

I studied very hard In Jr. high and high school.  I had no life except to go out for sports and then to sequester myself in my room, only to come down for supper.  At the dinner table, my step father took over, regaling us with his day at NBC.  He worked there as a radio producer of a 3-hour segment of Monitor, a weekend news and information program. He worked with the likes of Bing Crosby, Bob Hope and Nichols and May.  After working with Nichols and May they sent the family a case of gefilte fish.  Being the WASPS that we were we did not know what to do with it.  So it stayed in our pantry for months until we threw it out.

My step father was the king, and I felt very small and was unable to insert myself into the conversation,  even if I had wanted to.  

I went into a depression when I was 12 and was depressed for a long time.  I went to college because everybody in my school did.  I was the oldest child, and there seemed no other option.  I picked the only major, physical education, which I thought I could get through.  But I knew all along that when I got to speaking in front of my peers, I could not do so.  One day I brought a college roommate home and my mother asked her " if I ever talked..."

I developed a nervous breakdown and came home.

When I was 33 my depression lifted.  That was when I came out as a lesbian.

 I was still afraid and reluctant to take any leadership role or participate in groups, even though I was the founder of Hikin' Dykes in 1976, an indoor and outdoor activity group, the first of it's kind.  From here on I was living OK enough, I got counseling and I took an antidepressant which helped.  

But there was very little joy.  None of the feelings that I love so much in e.e. Cummings,' poem.

I still had the same fears of speaking at the dinner table, in groups, or speaking in general.  I would run or disappear when the situation became uncomfortable.

When I came to Northampton in 1994, we had womens pot lucks and even then when we gathered in a circle and had to introduce ourselves I disappeared into the kitchen to avoid speaking.  I was then in my early 50's.

What a case for an extreme introvert.  I have always been shy  and fearful and full of doubt.  This has, of course kept me from fully enjoying and participating in life.  Once upon a time I wanted to be a Billie Jean King, because I was a pretty good tennis player.  Or I wanted to be an advocate for women's rights, but I was terrified of public speaking.  Or I wanted to be an inspirational speaker but did not have the confidence.  And I couldn't ever have become a PE teacher!

I kept muddling along.

BUT:  I thank you God for most this amazing change in my life.

I'm not even sure how it happened.  It's possible that e.e. Cummings has something to do with it.

There were other things, earlier things that happened.  I spent many years pushing through situations, taking speech courses in New York City as painful as they were.   I would attend 2 out of 3 sessions and that was hard enough.  I took improv classes, but again cut the last session.  And I took any number of Self Actualizing workshops; life spring, Actualizations, EST, etc.  Hoping they would help me.

More recently, I did a year  of intense role-playing therapy along with bio feedback. And I had support from people here namely Janet, Kate and Katharine.  

At some point, that e.e. Cummings poem appeared, as I've said.  And then I forgot about it for awhile.

Last winter I went to Florida for a few weeks and reconnected with an old friend.  The sun, the fresh air, spending time with my friend were all wonderful.  Things began to flow--and I started liking myself.

I had also recently joined some groups at the Senior Center.  I found people who were accepting, and groups where I felt I could belong.  One group was EARN -- a group of retired people working to support each other to find part-time jobs.  We're really connecting with each other and making an important difference for lots of people.  Also,  I have started enjoying the people here at the Unitarian Society more.

At a new LGBTQ group at the Senior Center, I led the group at our table and volunteered to help put together and help with a women's discussion group.  This is the first time I have felt like a leader since I led hikes for my group in the 70's and 80's.  But back then I would ask myself what would happen to me when I was older and no longer able to be sporty anymore. I would say to myself: I am not very articulate and life is all about talking.  What happens to an introvert in a world full of talkers?  But now, I don't have the same trouble speaking in a group.

All this from a poem?  Maybe not quite.  I think it's about the process of growing up.  I have found that it is most important for me to like myself.  I can be anywhere and be OK.  I am 76 years old and feel like I am being reborn.  

So, I am happy, grateful, "alive again today".  I've learned that other outcomes of finding oneself are loving and giving.  I am more freed up from myself, and so I have more love and more to give.  Which is why I wanted to share my story with you.

Now every day is wonderful.  Every day is beautiful.  Every day is Amazing.  And that I am standing before you speaking from this pulpit is itself Amazing Grace.