How many of you are familiar with Marlo Thomas? If you are my age, you may recall her as the spunky, spritely Ann Marie in the 1960’s sitcom “That Girl.” ( I wanted to be her.) You kids out there may recognize her as the spokeswoman for St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, founded by her late father, the comedian Danny Thomas.

Somewhere between That Girl and St. Jude’s, Ms. Thomas married talk show host Phil Donahue, and more notably, generated the idea for a children’s book and album entitled, “Free to Be You and Me,” which celebrated diversity among all people.

I was too old to be in the target audience for that admirable endeavor, but the catchy title has stayed with me.

I’ve borrowed and adapted it for the title of my Icebreaker Speech this evening, which is:

Free to Be Me and Me

As a child, I learned to view the world simply. There was Good and Bad, Right and Wrong.

Doing what I was told was “Good;”  sassing or talking back, “Bad.” Simple, right? Especially for a kid with a burning need to be “Good.” I tried as hard as I could to be good. It was the only way to be.

There comes a moment in every kid’s life when childhood collides with reality, and shades of gray begin to color a previously black and white world. At some point, we must accept that we will not do everything right, all of the time, no matter how hard we try.

Nobody’s perfect, especially me. This was a tough concept for me to grasp.

Although I like to see myself as a certain sort of person, the reality is, I’m not just one way.

A hard worker, capable of staying on task for hours and producing great results, I am also capable of spending hours online, playing Lexulous with my friends,  filling shopping carts with shoes I will never buy, watching cat videos, and clicking through long slide shows with titles like, “8 Secrets about (the movie) Mean Girls.”

I’m a loyal friend, but very likely to forget your birthday, or worse, buy a gift that sits unwrapped and unmailed in the trunk of my car for months.

A health-oriented individual, I  nonetheless drink 3 cups of coffee each morning, wine nearly every evening, and my exercise routine fluctuates between walking my dog three to six miles five times a week, and sitting on my you-know-what for months, lifting nothing heavier than an ice cream scoop.

Despite a desire to present myself as put-together, I can spend an entire weekend in the same sweatpants, with my hair  doing whatever crazy thing it likes.

I’m the most morbid optimist I know, fretting into the wee small hours, equally certain of impending disaster and that everything will be just fine after all.

You get the picture. Despite my lofty aspirations to be the best, most productive version of myself, I fail. This used to discourage me to a degree that I would give up, and berate myself over every failure. I was just never good enough, smart enough, or anything enough. It’s the kind of faulty world view that leads dieters to eat the whole pack of cookies because they’ve already eaten one. (Not that I would know anything about that…)

It’s easier for me to recognize  and accept  conflicts and contradictions in others than  myself, but I’ve been working on it. If I can forgive you for disappointing me, shouldn’t I extend myself the same courtesy?

I  am serious and earnest, and silly and snarky. I ‘m a shy show-off.  I  dread going to parties, but I’m often among the last to leave.

Back when I was kid, I  wanted  to be a free-spirited single girl like Ann Marie. Today I’ll settle for  being Free to Be Me and Me. I encourage  you to be Free to Be You and You, too.

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