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Halfway Down The Stairs – Starting Over, 02-10-05

by LauraBelle

Many of the women in the Starting Over house right now are partially to their goal, yet not all the way there. It could make them very complacent to think it’s enough, not perfect but good enough for them. There was a poem I read as a child by A. A. Milne, about being halfway down the stairs. Not at the top, not at the bottom, so this is where they stop.

Rhonda posed the big question to Bethany’s dad in North Carolina, and he is finally forced to answer. No, he did not have an affair. Bethany puts everything she has into asking if it’s not true, then why do the rumors persist? He tells her that in life and in the ministry those type of rumors happy. Rhonda knows Bethany wants very badly to believe him.

Iyanla and Rachael are decided where to go from here now that Rachael has decided to take the chance and search for her father. She knows his first and last name and thinks he resides in the San Francisco Bay area. Iyanla says they will hire a detective to search for him, and Rachael is urged to ask Aunt Ellen for information even though she knows Ellen will be unwilling. If nothing comes of finding him, Iyanla says they can just store him in the pile with the other losses Rachael needs to mourn; at least she’ll know one way or another.

Drill Sergeant Alec Hunter comes to see Denise. He has been sent by Rhonda to teach her real discipline and routine. He throws some camouflage clothing, hat and boots at her and tells her she has five minutes to change. As she leaves, he shouts out that quitting is not an option. Before it even starts, Denise says drill cramp sucks; Drill Sgt. Hunter is cute, but a jerk. Candy is laughing in the background, saying, “Oh happy day!”

Fully dressed in her cammies, Drill Sgt. Hunter tells Denise he was told by Rhonda that she was a quitter. When she says, “Yes, Sgt.,” he makes her do five push-ups for not saying, “Yes, Drill Sgt.” Asked to take him to her sleeping quarters, he takes one look at her bed, strips it down, and tells her to remake it. He tells her this is all about attention to detail and going the distance. As she cleans the window sills, Drill Sgt. Hunter is complaining she’s not doing it right. Denise is holding so much anger inside about this whole thing. He gives her fifteen seconds to finish, and when she doesn’t, she does fifteen pushups.

Back in North Carolina, Rhonda and Bethany are now talking to her mother. They instruct her to go back four years and tell them what it was like for her. Bethany’s mom says it was a tough time, but notes everyone came together and stayed together after that. When Bethany broaches the difficult subject of the rumors and what exactly was going on in the church then, Rhonda is happy as Bethany is finally choosing herself. Her mom tells her it’s hard to talk about, but that it wasn’t about her. She adds some people were just not happy with underlying things that happen in a lot of churches. When Bethany asks if she experienced a trauma that caused all this, her mom tells her dad could address that better. She just can’t do it.

Bethany’s mom tells her she believes her father was just trying to make things right at the church. Two other people were having an affair, and she thought the church was going to split up over it. Her mom is asked of the day Bethany lost her memory, and she says she thought she was having a mental breakdown. Bethany feels bad, she says, because she knows there is times she has pushed her mother away, to which her mother replies she only saw Bethany hurting. Bethany tells her to look at her and tell her how it feels to see her daughter hurting. Her mother tells her she would rather die herself.

Iyanla meets with Candy and asks how much she knows about her body, telling her until she learns to care for herself, her care of others is in jeopardy. Candy tells of having a hysterectomy because of having fibroid tumors. Afterwards, she was told it wasn’t really necessary as her tumors were operable, but as long as the doctor was in there, he decided to go through with it anyhow. Candy’s response was, “How could you?” She knows this is one of the reasons behind feeling less female, as bearing children was a fundamental part of who she was. Iyanla tells her although she is always in charge at work and of her family and household, she also needs to be in charge of her mind, body and soul. She is being sent to a female doctor to get another perspective.

Candy sees a female General Practitioner and says she is usually very nervous when she sees a doctor. She tells her history and explains the mishap with the hysterectomy in 1994. The doctor tells her it’s so odd as surgery usually isn’t necessary at all for fibroid tumors. Candy explains her normal busy day at the prison and at home taking care of her children and her home. The doctor tells her women are so busy these days, they don’t take time to care for themselves, and urges her to make sure she follows through with regular doctor’s appointments, including mammograms.

Rachael starts her search to get in touch with her heritage and roots, and starts with obtaining her own birth certificate. She places a call to San Francisco General Hospital to obtain a copy of her birth certificate, yet she admits to still being hesitant. She next places a call to her brother and asks about her birth father; she and her brother share the same mother, but not father. He tells her that their mom didn’t want her to have contact with her father, and she wouldn’t let him get in contact with Rachael. In a very supportive moment, he tells Denise all fathers want to reach out; she shouldn’t feel so abandoned.

Moving on to Denise’s bathroom, Drill Sgt. Hunter asks if she actually cleans her mouth with that toothbrush. As she scrubs her toothbrush clean, he tells her she accepts being sloppy. Witnessing most of this, Cassie says she is waiting for Denise’s anger to appear while Renee says she would have thought Denise would crack by now.

In the kitchen now, Denise is being forced to scrub out the microwave. When she is through, Drill Sgt. Hunter points to the spaghetti sauce he can still see residing in the microwave, telling Denise it doesn’t meet his standards. Totally blowing it out of proportion with an odd comparison, he tells her this is akin to being on watch in combat, and somebody dying.

Denise, now cleaning her second bathroom of the day, sweeps and sponges the floor with rubber gloves on. Still not up to par, Drill Sgt. Hunter has her do more pushups. After several, she asks if she may have time to recover, and he replies no. The gloves are off … literally. Denise takes off the rubber gloves and continues her pushups.

Rhonda, Bethany, her parents and grandparents, meet up in a restaurant in her hometown. Bethany asks her grandpa if she used to get stressed out, and he tells her she was involved in so many things, he believes she became “washed out, as if the Lord said, you need rest.” Rhonda asks if Bethany was the type to be in others’ business, and is told she was a problem solver and good listener. They had thought she would go into the ministry. Bethany is shocked, and is told it’s true; she had thought of the possibility of working with children. Bethany replies, “That’s crazy!”

Bethany talks again of looking for her Aunt Sheila in desperation after her amnesia, and doesn’t understand that. Her grandfather says if she wants to get rid of her headaches, he thinks she just needs to go forward. Her father points out none of these are new questions; she has been asking the same ones for four years. She may have never listened to the answers before.

Denise is now outside doing calisthenics. She and Drill Sgt. Hunter sit down for a water break. She tells him he has standards, huge standards, and she realizes she needs more of a balance. She stresses she understands the message, and that she learned she doesn’t really have any standards. He tells her she has been doing things halfway, and that won’t get her very far in life. If she lets things go, it will lead to letting more and more go.

After Drill Sgt. Hunter leaves, Denise talks with Candy about his high standards. Even Candy admits that’s “extreme clean.” She tells Denise she gives her props for sticking through it, and now Denise sees that Candy’s standards are more a happy medium. She laughs that Drill Sgt. Hunter actually said, “I love the smell of cleanser in the morning.”

In Group with Iyanla, the talk is all of the dangers of being a quitter. Denise admits she quit caring how she lived before. Candy says she quit on her marriage. She did everything she could, yet it was still bad. Renee knows she quit with school, and believes herself to be the biggest quitter she knows. Iyanla says quitting relates to if we’re complete with ourselves, and sometimes we burn out before we are complete. This is the case for Rachael. It’s easier for her to quit before she feels any more losses in her live.

Denise believes everyone needs the perseverance to get to the finish line. She admits to being a quitter and says she is still angry about today with the drill sergeant. She says she felt humiliated and demeaned. Rachael asks if he reminded her of someone she knows, and Denise knows it reminded her of her dad. Being told she’s not good enough makes her angry. She says she can’t get things done sometimes without a push. Iyanla says why push, choose. Instead of waiting for someone to push you along, you need to make a choice. If you’re happy where you are at, fine, but if you aren’t, you need to make the choice to go forward. Iyanla winds it up saying she is proud of Denise for not quitting with the drill sergeant even though he reminded her of her abusive father.

Back in North Carolina, privately Rhonda and Bethany touch base on just what Bethany is feeling now. Rhonda asks after she has learned more of her life before the amnesia, does she still feel it’s a possibility it was brought on by trauma. She says yes, as it seems like it was so much stress. She says this will help as it frees her up to not be so scared of the truth any more. She found a connection with people from her past during the visit, and in the process she feels she found Bethany.

From the moment these women have entered the house, it was their life coaches pushing them along, and teaching them the needed skills to be that person they desperately want to be. At some point during the show, before they truly start over, they need to take those skills they have learned and make a choice to better their life instead of waiting for that push. Only after their choose that better life for themselves will they truly have started over, and get back to the top of the stairs.

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

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