As a blogger sometimes coming up with a topic can be hard; it can take days’ worth of brainstorming and planning. Then there are other days where a topic just slaps you across the face, that’s what happened to me today.
I was scrolling through Facebook aimlessly. Taking a break from the things I should be doing, and needing a minute to catch my breath. As I was scrolling I wasn’t even paying attention. I noticed pictures, but glossed over statuses. It was all going in, but then directly back out, with no recollection at all. I really couldn’t tell you anything I saw. But then, there he was. My scrolling stopped as I was staring into the face of John Wayne. I paused for a minute to think about what that meant, and with a smile continued scrolling. I chalked it up to coincidence as I continued to run through the overwhelming list in my head; things to do, calls to make, accommodations to discover. I couldn’t help it; I was still fixated on how my life was changing, and how I was facing a new reality that was out of my control.
After a few minutes I went back to what I was working on, without giving it much more thought. The night progressed as normal. We ran errands, did chores, completed homework, and even went to a meeting. It was life as usual and as I returned home several hours later I was feeling even more rundown than before. I was frustrated by the fact that going to the grocery store required sunglasses, and that loading the dishwasher could leave me feeling lightheaded and in pain. It was just too much. It was overwhelming and I wanted life to return to normal. I was fighting tears and trying to remain calm as my phone started buzzing. I ignored it at first, but after multiple buzzes I gave in and looked down to check. Oddly all the messages were from Twitter. After quickly responding I decided to take a moment to scroll through, see what was happening, and use the minute to calm down. Much like what happened on Facebook, hours before, I began scrolling, half reading, mostly skimming. Then there it was. A follower had put out a tweet about John Wayne. Realizing this was twice in a matter of hours I paused. No longer could I chalk it up to coincidence. I couldn’t help it, instead of crying I was now laughing, and while laughing I found myself saying, “Okay, Okay, I get it!”
I know this isn’t the reaction most people have to seeing or hearing about John Wayne. In fact if you asked people my age about John Wayne you would probably get a generic answer. “He is an actor,” or as one of my mom’s co-workers declared upon seeing a John Wayne coin after their business trip to California “Hey, it’s that dude from the airport.” That definitely isn’t the answer I would give though. You see John Wayne isn’t just an actor to me, and he definitely isn’t “that dude from the airport.” He is my reminder to be strong.
Several years ago, when faced with some obstacles, and struggling to stand up for myself, my brother said, “You don’t need a WWJD? bracelet; you need a What Would Frieda Do? bracelet.” For those of you who don’t know, Frieda was my babysitter, except she was more than that… she was like a grandma, a hero, a friend. She taught me to be strong. She showed me that standing up for myself is important. She let me know that you stand up for what you believe in, even if you are standing alone. She taught me that when everyone else turns right it is okay to turn left. She believed in me, and that allowed me to believe in myself.
Frieda was a huge John Wayne fan. There were pictures of him on her walls. His movies were frequently playing on her TV. Heck at some point she even had a life size cut out of him in her living room. She loved him! He was a hero to her, and she was a hero to me.
When I first started teaching I struggled; I would frequently let people take advantage of me. I worried more about being kind than I did about standing up for what I believed in. I was getting frustrated with the situation, and wasn’t feeling good about myself. I wanted to do what was right. I wanted to stand behind my beliefs, but it was hard, and I was being pushed down every step of the way. I was feeling defeated, and I just didn’t know what to do. That’s when I got the idea. Just like my brother had previously suggested, I needed to stop and ask myself “What Would Frieda Do?” I needed that reminder. It didn’t have to be a bracelet, but it had to be something that would make me stop and think. It needed to be something that would send me the message, without others even stopping to think twice. That’s when it hit me; I needed John Wayne in my classroom. It would be the reminder I needed, and would fit right in with my cowboy décor. After months of searching my parents found a tin John Wayne sign and it was perfect. I hung it on the wall across from my desk, and while everyone else thought it was just a part of the décor, to me it was a constant reminder to be strong; a reminder to stand up for myself.
Since that day I have frequently noticed John Wayne popping up in my life. He seems to appear on days I am feeling down or getting overwhelmed. He appears when I’m on the verge of tears, or when I just don’t know how to move forward. This past year, on the anniversary of the day I lost the baby, John Wayne appeared multiple times on my newsfeed. Shortly after my car accident he appeared again. Then today when I was feeling overwhelmed by my new reality… there he was, not once, but twice. It always makes me stop and smile, especially on days like today where he has to appear multiple times for me to pause and take notice. Those days I imagine Frieda saying “Hello, I’m talking here, are you listening?” I have to laugh and say “okay, okay, I get it. BE STRONG!”
It’s the reminder I need; the reminder that it’s okay to stand up for myself, even when others are trying to push me down. It’s that special message sent to say “I know you can do it. Be strong!” You see, many people believe their loved ones drop pennies from heaven. Pennies to show they are watching; pennies to show they are loved. Maybe your loved one does drop pennies, mine doesn’t, but that's okay, mine sends John Wayne.
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