Today’s lesson on Starting Over is one we all need to keep reminding ourselves. Live for the present, not the past or future. If we dwell too much in the past, we never give our future a chance. If we only live for what will be in the future we miss the enjoyment that today could bring us. As Rhonda mentions, when looking at the past, present and future, we need to look at the present in terms of it’s other meaning, to live for today like it’s a gift, as it truly is.
Cassie starts her day at the GED test center signing up for the big test. She signs up to take it the next day. The GED is finally here. It’s finally here in her present instead of her fantasizing it in her future.
Rhonda starts talking about the dangers of living in the past, present and future in Group. She points out that if we compare now to the past, we let it dictate our future. Just as damaging as beating ourselves up and living in the past is living in an airy fairyland. If we only live for what we will do in our future, we’re not doing it in our present.
Bethany admits to not thinking about her future. She lives in her past differently though. With her amnesia, she doesn’t live in her guilt remembering the things she has done, she lives in her guilt not remembering the things she has done. She is so fearful of not having memories, she is afraid to create new ones. Rachael admits to denying her past and living for the future. She often tells herself when she has her own family, her children won’t know the abandonment she knows, yet she refuses to admit being abandoned in her past.
Cassie believes she doesn’t live in her horrifying past, as she’s too afraid of being stuck there. She says doing what’s in front of her is the only way she can get by, but feels like she is about to crack, as she is dealing with too much. Asked if Cassie is doing too much, no one else agrees with her. Rachael believes Cassie is so concerned with what her future will be after meeting her birth son that she doesn’t live for herself in the present, and doesn’t focus on getting that GED now to better her future. Why these women can figure each other out so well, but never themselves, continues to be a mystery for me.
Iyanla and Renee meet and discuss Renee’s awareness that she feels stupid much of the time. Trying to get to the bottom of what part of her intelligence she feels deficient in, Iyanla asks Renee a series of questions on when she feels stupid, and Renee realizes she doesn’t retain information well. Iyanla points out that the other women in the house feel Renee isn’t a good listener, every small distraction takes her away. When Renee was violated as a young child, her mind went somewhere else to be able to deal with that emotional pain, thereby training her mind to shut off during upsetting or stressful information.
Iyanla gives Renee the assignment of working in a shelter for the day feeding the homeless to work on those core values of communication and confidence. Renee will be required to listen effectively to do her job there, even when upset or stressed while learning. She works in the kitchen preparing the food, then moves to serving in the soup line. Renee feels a sense of achievement after finishing her work.
Realizing Bethany has never allowed herself to be angry over the memory loss of her first seventeen years of life, Rhonda meets with her to try and bring that out. What if Bethany didn’t lose her memory but actually had it stolen from her, Rhonda points out. Bethany admits to never putting it in that perspective, but also admits to it all making her feel helpless and she doesn’t like that feeling at all. Rhonda tells her that unless she feels all those things that are stuck inside her, she is just waiting for them to erupt.
Rhonda leads Bethany into a room filled with Caution tape. She wants the room to embody a crime scene, so Bethany will realize what happened to her is a crime and not a simple loss. The room is filled with blank things such as a diary, appointment book and photo album. Bethany begins to cry and says this is just how her first day back at home after her amnesia was. Everything blank. She begins to let go of the pent up anger and cries saying it made no sense. She just wants to know her family. Rhonda leaves Cassie in this crime room, and tells her to write in the diary what she knows about herself.
When Rhonda comes back to the room, Bethany tells her she was surprised at how much she did know of herself. She started writing about her brother, then her sister, and it became easier to see what she really did know of herself. Rhonda says Bethany wasn’t just robbed of her memories, she was also robbed of the ability to connect with others. She needs to begin facing people she wants to love and facing what she knows. Bethany will decide her life, not her past or amnesia or parents. Rhonda leaves her with an empty birthday gift bag, and instructs her to fill it with something she wants to receive on her next birthday and then share it with her housemates.
Cassie meets with her tutor one last time before taking the GED test. She knows that when she feels anxious, she too quickly goes to her past and why she quit school in the first place. She knows she needs to work through that to pass her GED. She needs to stay clearly focused in the present. The tutor leaves her with a care package for her testing tomorrow. It includes an energy bar, eraser, aspirin and gum. A study has shown when students chew gum, they can stay more focused.
Rhonda calls Cassie and tells her to gather the women in the living room and wait, as she will be getting some support for her GED test the next day. The women wait very anxiously. There is a knock on the door, and in walks John Davidson, Cassie’s hero. Candy notes that since she’s been at the house, nearly every day Cassie has talked of John Davidson and her admiration of him. John asks for some private time with Cassie, and the other women all move to the dining room where they can still eavesdrop.
John asks Cassie how she knows of him. Cassie relates that when she was nineteen, she saw him on TV, and felt something very spiritual about him. She has always wondered where he found his strength and wrote him a letter. He sent her back a picture of himself that was inscribed, “Dear Cassie, You’re incredible,” obviously harkening back to his That’s Incredible days. That picture always brought her such inspiration to continue on in her life, but she has since lost it. She began writing his website recently asking for a new picture, but has now amended that to taking a picture of herself and writing “You’re Incredible” on it.
John sings a song about a young couple out on a boat alone with the chorus, “I am a ship. I’ll set my course. I’ll be the Captain. I’ll be a force. I’ll take the Glory, and I’ll take the blame. I am a ship.” John tells her after the song he feels the couple were all lone, just like Cassie. Her passing her GED and finding her birth son is not up to luck, but up to her, something inside of her. He tells Cassie it is amazing what she has done already in her progress and she realizes she is an inspiration herself. He tells her we all have to start over at some point. John leaves, and all the women scream. Cassie says, “I am incredible.”
Cassie says tonight she is totally in the present. Renee comes home from the shelter and can’t believe she missed Cassie’s special visitor. She discusses her work at the shelter, and Rachael believes Renee has made a huge step developing her character. She finally feels more connected with Renee and feels more compassion. Bethany shares her birthday gift bag with the other women and it contains a heart, as she wants a man by her birthday, not any different than most other twenty-one-year-old women. For the first time she is thinking of her future.
It is amazing to me that this show always seems to coincide with something I need to learn that day. I was beating myself up over something I had done, and wondering how it would affect my future. Now I know what to do. I am a ship.
I welcome all questions and comments at LauraBelle@realityshack.com