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God's Gift – Starting Over, 02-09-05

by LauraBelle

Starting Over took a decidedly religious tone today as the focus was on Bethany, returning to her hometown in North Carolina, where her father is the pastor of a small country church. She is searching for the answers behind her memory loss. God’s gifts came into play for her on a number of different occasions.

Rhonda and Bethany’s first place to visit in North Carolina is Bethany’s home she shares with her parents, brother and sister. Bethany is very excited to show Rhonda her bedroom, the walls done in hues of blue. She says she redid it completely after her illness, because she wanted a new start. Before she had posters up of Christian Rock groups, and now her shelves are stocked with romance novels. As Bethany shows Rhonda the tiara she won at a pageant, proudly displayed in a glass box, she explains exactly how she felt the day she woke up in the room with no memory. Her head was splitting, and she was in a panic, thinking, “Where’s Dad?” As she switches form the tiara to a cowboy hat, she explains it was very scary, and it just made no sense.

Back in Los Angeles, Cassie sets to leave and take her GED, but can’t find her identification. Denise realizes this is a bad day for this when Cassie is still trying to mourn the loss of the fantasy she held of her mother. Identification in Cassie’s possession, while Denise is driving her to her test, she says it’s kind of sad that the goals she came here for may not happen. Denise tells her she has to push all those insecure ideas out of her head for the test. She tries to do this, and keeps repeating, “Cassie, you’re incredible.” As Cassie goes inside for the test, I hope the big door that closes behind her isn’t symbolic of anything.

Iyanla has another special assignment for Candy. She wants her to gather Rachael and Denise, and take Cassie out to lunch after her test for some sisterly support. Iyanla would like them to help her create a vision play for a future, to find out what she wants to do with the rest of her life. She might never need to go back to Alabama again, since it’s just a reminder of sad times.

Moving on to Renee, Iyanla also has an assignment for her. They are going to keep building the momentum they have going for learning how to give. She says she has learned she can give time, give of her emotions, and to be selfless. Asked what her favorite charity or cause is Renee replies The Humane Society. Iyanla gives her a donation jar and says she’ll have to sit on a corner with a sign to donate to her charity for one hour, and not say anything but thank you. For the second hour she is allowed to talk and ask for the donations.

Bethany and Rhonda visit Bethany’s Aunt Sheila to get some questions answered to begin the documentary of Bethany’s life. Bethany notes this will be interesting as Sheila is very “stubborn-headed” and won’t divulge information if she doesn’t want to. Bethany tells Sheila how she remembers when she first got her amnesia, she felt she had lost Sheila. She asks if they were in disagreement of something at the time. Sheila says they weren’t, but admits to a disagreement with Bethany’s father several months before. She refuses to divulge what the argument was about.

Asked about Bethany before her amnesia, Sheila talks about her having a “save the world” attitude. God gave her a gift of a beautiful singing voice, and she had planned on being a music teacher, yet refuses to sing since her illness. Bethany says she wouldn’t have the guts to sing now.

Renee, dressed in a short skirt and Ugg boots, sits on a busy corner with her Humane Society sign and receives not very much money. Once she begins actually asking for the donations, she receives much more, but still not close to her goal of three-hundred dollars.

When Cassie exits her GED test, she finds Rachael, Denise and Candy waiting to greet her with celebratory hugs. Over lunch, the women begin grilling Cassie over what she would like to do with her life. The problem is Iyanla didn’t share with the women Dr. Stan’s directions of not worrying about skills and education, and when they ask what skills she has, it only seems to confuse her more. Denise chooses this opportunity to request of Candy to not talk so much of her work at the prison, but talk about herself so they get to know her better. Candy says she will make a deal with Denise – she won’t talk about work if Denise doesn’t talk about inappropriate things.

Rhonda and Bethany go back to the house, and Bethany’s brother, Caleb, surprises her from behind. Befere her illness, Caleb says they were close, as she was such a tomboy and would play with him. He adds she was also the person that turned him on to punk music, which stuns her. He says the hardest thing was seeing her right after she lost her memory and between the drugs and screaming, wild eyes and pained look on her face, it was hard, especially when she was begging God to let her die. God gave her a gift to not answer that prayer of hers.

Jessica, Bethany’s sister, arrives and talks about their differences, saying Bethany was always over-zealous in her religious beliefs, and was a prophet while Jessica was the demon. Bethany would cry every Sunday in church, saying Jesus is so wonderful while Jessica would just laugh. In a very difficult, serious moment, Jessica says if Bethany’s illness hadn’t happened, she would have gone to college out of state to get out of that situation. Bethany starts to cry and says she never realized her memory loss and illness could be a good thing until this day. She herself is starting to realize it as a gift.

Renee returns with her donation haul and tells Iyanla she earned two dollars while silent, and around thirty dollars while speaking. This is to represent the working of giving and receiving. It also represents Renee’s life. When she was silent it represented her not speaking of her molestation, divorce and feeling stupid. Asking for the donations represented giving others the opportunity to help her now. She gave them the opportunity and received help back.

Bethany and Rhonda travel to Bethany’s small country church and meet with the co-pastor, Wayne, His biggest memory of Bethany pre-amnesia is her singing and playing the piano in church; he says he misses it a lot. Wayne believes she is lacking self-confidence now to prevent her continuing her music. He is asked about the trouble in church just before Bethany’s illness. He says they were working on a building fund, then, and that fell to the wayside as everyone rallied to help Bethany.

Denise begins a conversation with Renee, Rachael and Cassie about the conversation over lunch when Candy got upset. Candy is upstairs on the phone, and hearing Denise is getting her very angry. Cassie says she asks Candy to stop talking about prison life as it gives her nightmares. Candy can’t take it anymore and shouts out to the women talking about her.

Bethany moves over to the church piano with Rhonda. Bethany plays a tiny bit, and Rhonda encourages her to do more. Bethany finally gives in, plays a tune form the church music book sitting out, and Rhonda is in awe. It sounds so trite, but she truly has the voice of an angel. Rhonda points to the last line of lyrics in the song, “Things on earth will grow strangely dim, like memories.” What made Bethany choose this song?

Candy comes down, sitting across from Denise, to argue. She is very angry at Denise for bringing this up again. Denise argues that no one is trying to hurt Candy, and she knows it’s hard to hear that stuff. Denise tries to explain they’re supporting her, and she argues it’s not support. Iyanla, waling through the room, eavesdrops, then has to step in. Candy says she’s upset with people trying to read her. Iyanla points out yesterday Candy said she trusted everyone in the house, and when Candy insists she does, Iyanla says suppose their read of her feelings is correct. Iyanla shows her she reads Denise’s help like her father’s criticisms.

Back in North Carolina, Bethany and Rhonda have the big conversation with Bethany’s dad, the pastor. He is unbelievably tense. He says she met with her church group the night before she got amnesia and they were talking of things that were upsetting to her. Bethany felt out of place. They next morning his pager went off with random numbers then 911. He came home and found Bethany sitting on her bed squeezing her head in her hands, screaming that it hurt. He left to call the doctors, and when he came back she was sitting there like nothing bad had happened. They talk of the rumors of his infidelity a little, and he says “the guilty go down and the not guilty move on.” Rhonda pops the big one, “Did you have an affair?”

It’s entirely possible her father never had an affair, and the situation was so rough for Bethany, she couldn’t handle it. Somewhat like post traumatic stress disorder, she blanked out on all that pressure – her family, religion, aunt’s anger, music, etc. Everyone else’s life has been better since the illness. Is that a gift? Of course it was, but now that she has the tools to understand the situation better, she needs another gift. She needs her memories back so she can piece together which Bethany she wants to be; I suspect it’s a mixture of the two.

I welcome all questions and comments at LauraBelle@realityshack.com

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