Lightning in a Bottle

dream business entrepreneur heart-centered business women entrepreneurs Jul 12, 2019

A few years ago I spoke with a medium, a psychic. Toward the end of our conversation, she told me that my father had come forward and wanted to apologize for not being more present in my life when I was younger. He said it wasn't entirely his fault, that someone was trying to protect me and therefore prevented us from spending time together.

This confused me at first, but as I reflected on it, I realized it was my mother who was protecting me and I began to recall that, yes, Dad and I did not spend much time together at all. In fact, the only time I can recall was when, at age seven or eight, he took me on my first flight in his plane and we flew over Mount Monadnock in southern New Hampshire. I’ll never forget seeing those hikers, how tiny they all looked, and how unusual the perspective was viewing them from above. It was magical.

I’m the youngest of six and that is more likely the reason Mom shielded me. I often describe myself as being “born into a crowd” and being “raised by wolves” (the wolves aspect is for another blog). I think that’s why I crave alone time yet feel simultaneously excited and at peace with a flurry of people rushing around me, whether it’s my big Scottish family or a pod of strangers.

Dad didn’t have much opportunity to spend alone time with me with my five siblings vying for attention, in both positive and negative forms, and working ten-to twelve-hour days to provide for his large family. It was controlled chaos from sun up to way past sun down.

He loved his scotch and steak—and his alone time, particularly after a few scotches. The living room was his sanctuary. The couch was fortressed with his magazines, Scientific American, National Geographic, Barron’s, and Arizona Highways, and his state-of-the-art Telefunken stereo blasted jazz, the Boston Symphony, or the Pops at any given time.

As kids we never hung out in the living room—that was our parents’ respite after family dinner. The six of us would jam ourselves in front of the TV in the small family room off the kitchen, a quarter of the size of the living room, squished together on the couch or on the floor, with one lucky person, usually Jamie, getting the coveted lone leather wing chair.

Dad was a brilliant man trapped between the life he was expected to live and the Renaissance man deep in his soul. He towed the line as the eldest and only son—Exeter, Yale, Harvard, then dutifully joining my grandfather’s firm, Fish and Richardson, as patent attorney. His Renaissance-ness was evident everywhere while I was growing up.

He designed our first house in Swampscott with Frank Lloyd Wright flair, and it was scattered with his design/build “early Kirkpatrick” mahogany furniture—very sleek and European in style. After a vacation to Germany in 1960, no doubt to escape from the six of us, he had the 1960 Porsche Super 90 he and Mom rented to tour the country shipped over because he admired and appreciated its precision engineering. Unheard of in that era.

A consummate gardener, Dad sought out unusual specimens to enhance our small yard; a Sequoia Redwood now soars 100-plus feet in our former side yard. He modeled the kitchen in the new house after industrial kitchen design with two separate ovens underneath a sprawling cooktop and center grill, three separate units and all stainless. Again, unheard of for a simple residence in 1960. No avocado-green range for my dad! And yes, he loved to cook, delighting in new-found flavor combinations and techniques a la The Galloping Gourmet.

He sailed and boated, piloted his own plane, skied, scuba dived, dabbled in photography, and played indoor badminton like nobody’s business, all the while keeping in step with the proverbial drummer of my grandparents’ expectations.

Yet when opportunities presented themselves to gently chide my grandparents’ aristocratic lifestyle, he did so with loving and poignant humor.

“Marty, you need to name your house. You live on the Neck now and everyone names their home. Pick a proper name.”, my grandmother insisted.

“Mom, I am happy to report that after deep and thoughtful consideration, we have chosen a name for our abode. We shall name her ‘Mar-Mar’ to represent the two of us, Marty and Marion, and I will personally paint it in large red letters on the big rock at the bottom of the driveway so it’s not to be missed.”

But as the years went by, the daily pull of towing the line dragged him down, and the playful and inventive Renaissance man dissipated. His light began to fade. The scotch may have assisted in diluting it, but I think age and some sense of regret may have been the heavier weights. He would drive, not walk, the one-tenth mile to the yacht club, take the launch out to his sailboat, and just sit there. He wouldn’t go sailing or even invite anyone aboard. He would just sit there, probably read, but mostly watch as everyone else and the world moved around him.

Was it the life that he created, one in which he remained the dutiful son under the weight of an expectant lifestyle, that snuffed out this Renaissance man? When did his light get stifled? When did he become just lightning in a bottle?

I’ve wondered lately what is that main thing that holds me back from taking action.

  • Why do I restrain from voicing my opinion or sharing my artwork and my writing?
  • What is it that makes me afraid of showing my light and my brilliance?
  • What stops me when I know with one thousand percent certainty that stepping beyond my comfort zone will make my life richer and more fulfilling than I ever imagined and in endless ways?

For me I think it’s exposure. To some that may seem odd, but I am, in my core, very, very shy. In fact, I’m even uncomfortable taking my daily power walk so I tend to seek out complicated routes of small streets. I am afraid of people seeing me, being noticed. As the youngest of six, I realize I was most comfortable being in the background, even though I have always known I am meant to step forward. And I must step forward.

When pondering over what holds you back and what your fears are in creating the life of your dreams, take a look back to what your role was as a child.

  • Are you still in that role?
  • Do you take a step toward your goals and then gravitate back to it?
  • Why do you stay in your child role?
  • To be accepted, loved, and feel safe?

While your child role may feel comfortable to you, it could be that it is only comfortable because it is familiar to you and was expected of you. But being too comfortable and familiar does not allow us to grow or for our hearts to sing.

I’m not suggesting you throw away that role. It’s a critical and important part of you and damn, it feels good to go back to now and then. Just be aware of it and how it may be restraining you from doing what you know in your heart you want to do and be.

At the end of my conversation with the medium, she told me that when the vision of my father left her, he dispersed into a thousand fireflies. “When you see a firefly, know your father is with you,” she said.

Pop the cork and release your light! It’s never, ever, ever too late. No matter your age or circumstances. Every day is a new opportunity to live the life that is singing in your heart. Take even one small step each day outside of your comfort zone, even a toe dip will do. With each step, and each toe dip, the water will become more familiar and comfortable.

Now go out, you Brilliant One, and be that firefly! Someone needs to see you flying freely.

Live Your Light!


GROWTH STEP: Think back to your childhood and journal on the following questions. What was your child role in your family? Are there aspects of that role in your other adult relationships? Do you like that role? Do you want to step beyond that role? Has that role held you back from doing things in you life? What are those things?

If you care to share thoughts and insights about your child role, post them on the Building to Brilliance Facebook Page.


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