Redefining in 2018

2 01 2018

Have you ever felt like you lost your identity? It happened to me in 2011 when my husband, best friend and life partner passed away. I went from being Eddie the Baker’s wife to being a widow. Yuck, I still hate that title. The one thing that held me together through the grief process is my faith in God. I read the Word and I prayed even when it felt like my prayers were not getting past my ceiling. That is the thing about faith though. It didn’t really matter what I felt. I was leaning on what I knew. The one thing that became clear to me time after time in my crying out was this; God has said, Never will I leave you or forsake you. (Hebrews 13:5) I knew I was going to be alright. Nothing was going to tear me away from God.

It was time to redefine who I am. Yes, I am a widow and that means my life is different. I make all the decisions concerning life and finances now. Well, me and God. I pray about everything but sometimes I ask myself,” What would Eddie do?”.  After 28 years of leaning on his wisdom, I have a pretty good idea what his answers would be.

In the summer of 2016 my identity changed again when I retired from a 22 year career as a hairstylist in the film industry. It was a strange transition. I was no longer so and so’s hairstylist or working on such and such show. I had to leave my profession in the middle of a tv series because of an Interstitial Lung disease. That made it a little more difficult to accept because I didn’t want to admit that I couldn’t get the job done. As I look back to my first months of “retirement” I have to concede that I slipped into a bit of depression. I felt like I had just slinked off into obscurity.

The good thing is, I am way to much of an attention junky to hide myself away for too long. So, what’s a girl to do? Why, try out for America’s Got Talent, of course. The auditions were happening right down in Charleston, SC. and I had sent in the forms and got an audition date right after I retired. Actually, the actors I had been working with that summer convinced me to do it. Fawn flew into Wilmington, we picked up my friend Becky and headed off for a night in Charleston. The audition itself was really the anti-climax of the whole excursion. As I was herded from one area to the next and finally, after 6 hours, got to sing for my audition, the producer never even looked up from her paperwork except to grimace at  high note I sang.

I had also started lessons with a vocal coach as a way to keep my lungs as strong as possible. I auditioned for Opera Wilmington and was accepted in their production of Carmen. I met a new group of lovely and talented artists. I rose to the challenge of learning 52 pages of music with the lyrics in French!! Okay, I mumbled my way through some of the lyrics but I did it on tune!

My fun with singing did not stop there. My vocal coach invited me to sing at Opera Wilmington’s fundraising event. It was a Night of Italian music and delicious Italian food at Osteria Cichetti 11 in Wilmington! Can you say, right up my alley? I was planning to attend as a guest and supporter of Opera anyway, so when she asked me if I would like to sing the song we had been working on, I answered YES without hesitation. We worked the song into a duet, so I got to sing with my buddy Rusty. That was a full circle moment but i will tell that story another time.

I can safely say that I am still redefining my identity. I am leaving some things behind in 2017. I am creating some new titles for myself in 2018. I am now CEO of my own skin care business! One of the things about my Eddie that always inspired me was his entrepreneurial spirit! I watched him embrace working on merchant ships as a ship steward, try his hand at selling cars, create bread recipes for sandwich shops and start his own janitorial business with a bucket and a mop. I learned from Eddie that sometimes, you just have to jump off the cliff and take a chance.

So, this year, I am jumping off the cliff! I need to stay involved and connected to people! I still love the beauty industry. I still love helping people to look their best. I joined Rodan and Fields as a consultant over a year ago but I had no intention of running it as a business. I just wanted to get my own products at the deepest discount and maybe make enough money to pay for my own skin care. Over a few months, I saw some undeniable results in my fine lines and wrinkles and on my dark spots and uneven skin tone. I had an opportunity to help an amazing young lady who was dealing with acne. She started on the Unblemish Regimen and had wonderful results! I am thrilled that I got to be a part of that! The fact that I want to do more of that is what is giving me the courage to reach out and tell people about my business.  I have confidence in the Drs. who created this skin care and I am happy to have a vision and have goals again.

Life goes on and I am trying to keep up with it. I am looking forward to what 2018 holds for me. I am still Coni. I am still quirky, awkward in crowds, tell goofy jokes and sometimes laugh too loud. I am still a Mom, a Noni and a G. Noni. I am a friend. A good friend actually. I still love to sing and to tell people about Jesus! Wether I like it or not, my life is being redefined. I am a widow. I am a singer of Opera (in French and Italian so far). I am learning to live with a lung disease. I do not work in the film industry any longer. I am CEO of my own skin care company. And my skin looks pretty fantastic! Just saying.

It’s not over until…

21 10 2016

DSCN0353 In the beginning of this Widow’s journey I spent a lot of time on the couch, crying and thinking mostly. Did I do everything right? Did I miss something medically? Was I a comfort to Ed by continuing to work and bring in an income or should I have come home earlier?

Today, more than five years later, I know that I did the best I knew to do. I am still doing the best I know how to do as I continue my journey. I still feel the empty ache in my heart but I also experience something like joy when friends share a good Ed story with me. It is a comfort to remember how honestly funny he was and what a compassionate man he was. He was terrible at telling a joke and yet he made us laugh so hard at his attempt to tell it. Sometimes he would laugh so hard at his own awful jokes that we couldn’t help but laugh with him. God, I loved that man so much. Still do. And I know he loved me as deeply as anyone could.

I have had to learn how to manage my life without my biggest fan and best friend. I will honestly tell you that I do not like it one single bit. However, I am secure in the knowledge that God has more for me.

Ed genuinely loved to hear me sing. He would ask me to sing to him often. After he passed, my song changed. I went through a period of time when I thought I had lost my ear and my voice. Nothing I sang sounded right to me and I finally decided that I just would not sing anymore. I lost my song. I left my beloved praise team and hardly sang out loud in the congregation for quite some time. A couple of people really tried to convince me that I needed to be singing but I thought they were just being kind.

During this time, I was invited to sing in a choir that a dear couple was leading but first I made them promise that they would not let me be the old lady warbling out of tune in the soprano section. They assured me I could trust them to have my back. Every time the choir or praise teams sang worship my heart ached and I cried. I attributed those many tears to grief but I also think that God was cleansing my heart during that time. Music has always spoken to that deepest place in my heart. One step at a time, I began to feel my song again.    I am singing again. From my heart. I am a member of the choir now and sometimes I am asked to lead a song or to sing a special solo. I am honored to worship my Lord and Savior with Psalms and spiritual songs. My heart is healing.

I am blazing a new trail in this Widow’s journey. I am stretching myself beyond the boundaries of only gospel music. I have successfully auditioned for Opera Wilmington out of UNC Wilmington. I also have registered to audition for America’s Got Talent on February 1, 2017, in Charleston, SC. I am ready for new adventures and I want to grow in the journey. Here we go.