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The Opening Heart of Renee – Starting Over, 03-04-05


by LauraBelle

It’s truth time for several women in the Starting Over house. Not only do they face Board of Review, but just the news from the Board of Review sends several women to begin questioning themselves.

Rachael seeks advice from Bethany on how to deal with the upcoming memorial service she is planning for her mother and Jesse. She isn’t sure how to handle being in front of all those people. Bethany gives her advice based on her own experience “giving up her crown.” It isn’t explained, but I am assuming she had to give it up after her amnesia. Bethany tells her just to be herself and not Billy Graham.

Vanessa meets with Dr. Stan and is asked if she believes she is independent. She thinks so, as she’s been alone so long. Although her mom traveled with her to gymnastics meets, she still felt very alone.

Dr. Stan believes Vanessa has a poor sense of self, since she’s always trying to please others. She tells him sometimes she just begins to think her ideas were silly, and it becomes hard to trust herself. Talking to Dr. Stan about the issue of not going to college for fear of losing her boyfriend, she admits both the boyfriend and her brother thought the same thing that she would only end up quitting. Dr. Stan’s goal is to get her to realize her boyfriend is not her life, but just a part of her life.

Without warning, we are thrown into Board of Review with the six housemates, Iyanla and Rhonda. First up for review is Bethany, and this is her first time, so she is nervous. Asked what she is doing right, Bethany replies she has accepted the loss of her memory, she is having fun, is taking risks, and is opening up to her housemates and herself.

Bethany believes she still needs to work on being honest, and then starts mentioning how it’s been too easy to put weight on since her gallbladder surgery after high school Everyone is shocked, having never heard about this before.

Rhonda asks what percentage of the day Bethany is honest, and everyone is shocked more to hear she has been keeping from the other women that she has her headaches one hundred percent of the day, which is against the agreement she had made to let them know about such things. Furthering it, Rhonda asks what percentage of herself she believes is acceptable, and all are saddened to hear her say the only thing she likes about herself is her love for others. Bethany’s life coaches know this self-hate is the reason behind her not taking care of herself.

After Bethany says she believes she deserves a B for her work in the house, the roommates are asked to name one good change they have seen in Bethany since she joined the Starting Over house. In just the short time she has been there, Vanessa has seen Bethany open up about new things and doesn’t have to be pushed. Cassie believes Bethany is starting to show her own personality.

All know there is still work to be done. Candy recognizes Bethany’s per body image, Rachael would like her to be more honest about how she feels, and Renee says she needs to eighty-six the pop tarts. Bethany doesn’t eat well, and Renee points out she’s not five-years-old, and Renee is concerned about her health. Cassie wants her to start loving herself. What is very interesting here is that all the women reflect this advice back to things they still need to work on about themselves. Iyanla very much agrees with the women, and says the one thing she would like to see is Bethany affirming her worthiness, as it seems she is on self-assisted suicide.

All of the women would like Bethany to stay. Renee says she has come so far, she deserves to stay and work on these things; Rachael would like her to stay as well but notes she needs to really start behind more honest. Candy says she should stay but really needs to get rid of the fat pictures of herself.

Rhonda believes Bethany to be very self-critical. Bethany gave herself a B, and Rhonda would have graded differently, but believes the grading for Bethany should reflect what she believes she is worth, so a B it is.

Up next is Renee, saying she has been working hard at being the President of the Giving Club and working on her values. The most important giving she did was to the Ronald McDonald house because it was to give back to her dad. She would also like to thank everyone for helping her out.

Asked to name one good change in Renee, Vanessa noticed that when Renee’s dad didn’t come, she acted more like an adult about it. Bethany would love to be just like Renee some day, and Cassie notices that when Renee entered the house, her heart was closed, but now she has great compassion for others and herself.

Iyanla tells Renee she has begun to personify grace, elegance and commitment. She tells Renee she has given to the world in order to heal herself and she is pleased to tell her she is graduating. Renee admits to a mix of emotions – she is excited about getting out there and showing what she has learned, but she also knows it will be hard to do things alone outside the house. Cassie hates to see Renee go, but she knows she is ready.

The first thing Renee does when she leaves the Board of Review is to call her dad and tell him she is graduating. He cries for her and tells her he is very proud of her. Renee says she came to the house broken, but will leave being back together in one piece again.

Cassie has passed five of her GED tests, but failed on the math, only getting a 380 when a 410 was needed. Today she is retaking the math portion. She is confident, in a good mood and ready. Bethany drives her to her test, and as Cassie sets out her tools of a calculator, ruler and a few pencils on the desk, she also sets out the pink Courageous Cassie button given to her by Rhonda.

Iyanla leads Group in honor of Renee’s graduation. Asked what she will do her first week outside the house, Renee says she will work as much as she can the Fashion Institute is there in California and she would love to get enrolled, and she will meet with her dad. He lives in California as well, and she thinks it will be very healing to the two of them if she lives nearby to work and attend school. Iyanla asks what will stop her, and Renee says nothing.

Reviewing her work in the house, Iyanla notes first how important it is the Renee transformed all her relationships that needed healing – those with her mom, her dad and all the friends she had felt she had done wrong. Iyanla also wants it noted that Renee did all of her activities alone, unlike other housemates. Renee had such a strong need for external validation that Iyanla wanted her to learn to validate herself. Renee’s old self portrait is shown, and her face is split. Crying on one side and happy on the other; Renee explains she was hiding. Her new self portrait is a giant open heart with the names inside of all the people that have helped her while on the Starting Over house.

Of course graduation means an Andy Paige makeover. Rachael would love to see Renee get rid of the tube tops and dress more funky. Iyanla wants her to lose the hair, and would also love it to reflect Renee’s funkiness. Renee is quite worried as she has been growing it for six years after a bad short haircut. Andy notes Renee seems to feel her femininity is tied to her hair.

Rachael calls Iyanla and tells her, “Baby Girl’s in a slump.” Iyanla is not surprised, as the news of Renee graduating has left everyone feeling differently this day, and questioning themselves. Rachael has begun to see how her family has used her. Her grandma expects her to give her money all the time and always wants her to take her out to dinner when she visits. She says her family never gave her what she needed and they sit around and wait for her to fail.

Iyanla asks Rachael if she feels good enough, and Rachael says she does, but still wants her family to validate her feelings. Iyanla tells her to live beyond other people’s expectations of her. Rachael, crying very hard, says she doesn’t believe they want her around, and wants to ask them. They always say someone has it worse and act like she is so pathetic. Iyanla tells her her family is mistaken, as she has experienced a terrible loss.

Rhonda is with Vanessa and discussing her first step of releasing other people’s expectations. She tells her she has to stand alone and live self confidently, trusting her inner self. Asked how she feels this moment, Vanessa says she feels crappy and like she is gaining weight. Rhonda gives her a memo board to wear around her neck all day and write down her feelings. Her second assignment will be to go to lunch by herself and record her feelings on a small tape recorder. Before Rhonda leaves, Vanessa hugs her and begins to break down. Ronda thinks this is the first time she has allowed herself to be honest, truthful and sad. Reflecting back to the issues with her boyfriend, Rhonda tells her nobody’s love is worth it if she doesn’t love herself.

Going through Renee’s clothes, Andy notes she doesn’t have one particular style. She thinks Renee needs to stop dressing twenty-years-old, but her real age of twenty-eight. She tells her if she wears just one business-like article of clothing a day it will give her a more polished look.

Vanessa goes to lunch with her memo board and tiny tape recorder. She asks for a table for one and records thoughts are all based on what she thinks others are thinking of her sitting there alone talking and writing. She thinks they think she’s crazy and stupid.

After redoing her math GED, Cassie talks to Rhonda about writing up a five year plan. In her first year Cassie would like to be living in California and be working as a medical assistant. In the second year she would like to meet the man she will marry, and in her third year she would like to get a book published. Rhonda tells her in order to turn it from wishful thinking and fantasy to a dream, she needs to realize what she has to do to accomplish things. Before she can get a book published she has to write. Cassie is worried since both Denise, recently graduated, and Renee, graduating this evening, had come to the house after Cassie, and she is still there. She realizes this is a reality check that she isn’t done yet.

After her lunch, Vanessa reports her feelings back to Rhonda. She admits to being embarrassed and realizes she was doing “mean-talking” to herself. Rhonda tells her her feelings of being depressed, ugly, stuck, bored, dumb and a loser are all generated by the fears of other people. If no one else is around, Vanessa doesn’t know what to do, and is like a robot with her reactions.

In the previews for Monday’s show we are promised a secret visitor for the graduation, and at first figure it must be a Starting Over graduate. Instead, we are told it will be Renee’s dad. I wonder if this was planned all along, and the reason he didn’t come visit her when he had originally planned to, or if this was impromptu after hearing she was graduating. Not that it matters, the most important thing is he is there … after seven long years of he and Renee being estranged. Be sure to bring a Kleenex box or two to the TV with you for Monday’s show; I know I will.

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

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