All of my life my friends and family have called me Mary Ann. My parents named me Mary Ann Dummeier, with Mary being my first name, Ann being my middle, and Dummeier my family name. Dummeier (pronounced Do-My-Er) is one of those German surnames that is difficult to track, difficult to pronounce, and easy to be the brunt of many jokes. If you do a Google translate on it, it comes up as "idiot." I think it's hilarious. Dummeier is a very unique last name and I'm proud to say it's mine. My father has always had this wonderful sense of humor that he passed onto me. He has always been playful and funny. One Christmas he wrapped up the dirty laundry in a big box with my real gift taped to the bottom.
My first name, Mary, came from my family too. My grandmother and my aunt (my father's mother and sister), both have the first name Mary, but neither of them go by it. My grandmother goes by her middle name, Loraine. My aunt combines her first name and middle initial, going by Mary D. None of my family has ever gone by Mary. My father and my brother go by their middle names as well...with their legal first names being Charles.
Mary has never settled well with me, when people call me Mary it's like nails on a chalkboard. The name Mary translates to "bitter" or "sea of bitterness" and can be traced back to Egypt. That's exactly how I've always felt about being called Mary, bitter. My mother's middle name was Ann. So it seems I was named after my family entirely, and while I love them with all my heart Mary has never suited me. My mother described me as the happiest child she had ever known, an easy baby, and a joy. I don't hold any bitterness for very long. It's just not who I am.
Over the last 21 years, I've been sequentially married to three different men. I've been Mary Ann Bravo, Mary Ann Lippincott, and finally Mary Ann Dube. All three marriages were rampant with difficulties. It wasn't until this last marriage ended I finally let go of all the bitterness that came with marriages that didn't work out.
In December of 2020, I moved into a new neighborhood, a new school district, and a beautiful new apartment that I absolutely adore. It was that choice that pushed me forward into the most amazing transformational journey. I'm an outgoing introvert. I love people, but I've always needed time and space to regroup. The COVID pandemic catapulted me into a work from home situation that gave me the most beautiful gift...quiet time to heal.
Now, 11 months after my decision to move I've learned how to love myself fully. I've taken a new job and I've started to see life in a whole new light. I've embraced my shadow. I looked deeply into my being for the pain that was hiding and brought it into my awareness. That single act of awareness taking away the power it had over me. I've started to allow my inner child, that part of me that has been hiding, to sing and dance, to play the piano and to simply start living again. I've never felt more alive. I've never felt more like me.
When you get a divorce you're given the opportunity to return to your maiden name or keep your name. Many people keep their former married name because it's easier and/or they have a child whose name is the same. When I married my third husband, I took his name. I've always thought it was just what you did to make yourself whole with them. After all, my mother took my father's name. I had no idea I would be married three times.
Now as my third divorce is coming to an end, I'm keeping his name for now. Not because I want to continue to carry his name, the memories, or his energy...but because I'm going to change my name to something that feels more like me. I've always been called Mary Ann, but it seems masculine and hard to me. So I've decided to make Marianne my first name, softening the way it looks and feels. Marianne is my name.
The search for a new middle name proved to be a challenge. I had remembered asking my mother once if my name hadn't been Mary Ann, what I would have been called...and she told me Elizabeth. So my new middle name will be Elise, which is a variation of that name. Marianne Elise is feminine and soft and it makes my heart so happy. It reflects who I feel I am on the inside. A little girl who likes to wear dresses and curl her hair and gather wildflowers. A little girl who plays with the ladybugs under a big pecan tree, where my father put my very first tree swing. A little girl who loved her Barbie dolls, and horses, and magic. That's who I really am.
I'm keeping Dummeier. It makes me laugh and fills my heart with love. Once my divorce is finalized, I'll request that my name be changed to Marianne Elise Dummeier. A true reflection of the person I was always meant to become.
I've been doing a lot of reflecting lately. It's been a while since I've put my thoughts onto paper. I've been thinking about human nature...the things we do to get from one point in time to another. Have we ever been thriving or have we always been in survival mode?
I think this is why so many of us have been fascinated with shows like the Walking Dead. It is a gruesome representation of what is happening in our world right now. The virus is greed. The one that's turned people into zombies and we're all trying to keep from being turned ourselves. The sad part is we're all already infected. Maybe we've turned already and we don't even know it.
We want to live. That's that sickening feeling you have every morning (or evening if you work a different shift) when you're getting ready for work. That's why you can't wait for your shift to be over so you have a little bit of life for yourself. Just a few stolen moments before you're back in the same situation you were before.
We're all feeling stuck in a vicious cycle of survival, and the truth is none of us are making it out alive. When COVID hit we were already in survival mode. That's why the panic struck. That's why people were stockpiling toilet paper and food. We were already repressed and fearful.
As this deadly virus continues to wreak havoc on our world, people are even more fearful and untrusting. It has changed our biology, our psychology, and our hearts. It has spiritually pushed us to the edge. It is testing our resolve. It has made us even more aware of how little control we have over anything.
This is the time to take a step back and ask ourselves what we're going to do with the life that we have. We may not be here tomorrow, of this we are keenly aware. What choices can we make to truly live today? It has to come from within. We have to pull ourselves out of this nightmare of a life and realize all we truly have is our hearts. It is the challenge of our lifetime.
I woke up at 3:33 this morning, it's pretty typical these days. I have a lot on my mind that my subconscious wants me to work out. I've learned a lot over the last 50 years. I've learned you carry your past with you everywhere you go. It doesn't matter where you are, it's there. The mistakes you've made, the little wins. They're permanently etched in your soul. You'll hear it in your breathing. You'll see it in the expression on your face. You'll feel it in the dull ache of your heart and the tears that come when you least expect it. There's no hiding it.
You'll lose people you love to death, to differences of opinion, to marriages, divorces, separations, to anxiety and to misunderstandings. And every single one of them will hurt as if a part of you has died.
I've learned that your past does define you, but so do the actions you take to move forward. I've learned that every single one of us wants to give up sometimes. Every person you meet carries their past, too. I've learned that not everyone recognizes their unhealed wounds, and I've learned what it feels like to be the mirror for those wounds. I've learned that I see myself in everyone I meet and that if I don't like what I see, I turn away.
I've learned that someone can be head over heels in love with you one moment and resent you the next. I've learned that when an illusion is dissolved, another illusion is easier to pursue than to create something that's real. I've learned that facing your demons isn't something everyone can or wants to do.
I've learned that the strongest people I know have had some of the most painful life lessons; and some of the most loving have felt the least amount of love.
I've learned that there's no such thing as having no regrets. If you're living your life, you're going to make mistakes. I've learned that being present is the only way to live no matter where you are. Sometimes it hurts, but feeling is the only way you can be present in the moment. And feeling is how you know you're alive.
I've learned it hurts when you let go, but it hurts more to keep holding on. I've learned that kindness is the single most important thing in life. And I've learned that being grateful and loving, even when you're feeling like things aren't going your way can really help get you through the day.
I've learned that there are beautiful people all over the world who understand me. I've learned that the more you're grateful for them, the more of them that appear in your life.
I've learned that life isn't easy, but it's beautiful even in its struggles. I've learned that there's nothing more beautiful than having a life to live. For this, I am grateful.
I wrote this screenplay in one day (about 6 hours). It was my first attempt at screenwriting, it is a rough draft. There was just so much energy inside my body that needed an outlet. Originally it was called "Consumption" because it is about what happens when we try to heal what's on the inside with what's outside of us. At the time, I was watching a lot of David Lynch films and this was heavily influenced by his style.
Click on my imagined movie poster for a readable PDF of the screenplay.
Over the course of our lives, we develop personas. As a child we learn about who we are by playing, I was particularly fond of superheroes and Barbie. I look back now and I can see the parts of me that are reflected in those characters. I also liked to pretend I was a famous actress, singer, and dancer. It brought me incredible joy. It seems to me that these are parts of me I've been neglecting while playing my other, more responsible roles.
When we start to mature physically, we start to explore the more adult types of roles that we will play. I took on the role of employee for the first time shortly after turning 16. I learned what it meant to have a job and the responsibilities that came along with it. I was still also playing the role of student, daughter, sister, and friend. I had other roles I was playing as well. I've always been a caretaker feeling incredible responsibility for the well-being of my friends and family, including the family pets. My mother instilled a sense of social responsibility in me early on in my life, volunteering at the fire department, police department, and nursing homes.
Somewhere along our journey we become fragmented, playing many different roles. People are often surprised to learn that I'm highly intuitive, took ninjitsu, lived in Japan, or grew up on a farm. The role that they've assigned to me in their story suddenly takes a plot twist.
I've adapted my "story" in the past to make others feel more comfortable. I've separated parts of me into digestible portions so others don't choke, but my authentic self wants to be a complete expression.
I think this personal fragmentation is a reflection of what happens when we incarnate here. We perpetuate the illusion of separation individually as well as the whole.. Many of us are starting to feel this incredible shift that is happening, where we are coming back together within so we can all feel more whole.
Don't be afraid to be all of you. That's what we're all meant to do. It's a process. Lean into it. Open your hearts and minds to all that you are. You are a perfect expression of all that is.
Photo credit: Joy Reactor
She came to my crib when I was just a baby, the ghost of a woman who's identity I will never know. I think she tried to tell me, but I was too scared and too young to know what to do. She wasn't like the others who visited me. She was angry, distraught, and frantic. I knew the difference between her and the spirits who loved me. She was a threat.
The first thing she tried to do was get me to touch her, and I must have been protected because she couldn't apparently without my permission. She showed me all these beautiful rings and asked me if I wanted one. All I had to do was reach out and take one, she had said. I knew better and cried immediately. After my brother was born in 1974, I started sleepwalking. I was only three. I would stand in front of his crib with my fists up, trying to protect him from the woman who seemed to enjoy harassing children.
Sometime when I was about four years old, I saw Snow White. I remember thinking that the woman who was visiting me must have been an evil witch, who wanted nothing more than to take me out. It became even more frightening for me. I started telling my parents that there was a witch in my room who wouldn't leave me alone. Eventually she started calling me names that I had not heard anywhere else, and clawed at the side of my bed.
When my older brother passed away in April of 1976, we moved away from the old Maryland farmhouse where we had been staying and I thought that I had gotten rid of her, but I hadn't. She followed me and continued to taunt me and ask me to just take a ring already. I refused.
We moved again in May of 1979 to a small house off highway 45 in Metropolis, Illinois. I remember thinking that maybe she wouldn't move with us this time. After all, we had moved half-way across the country. Two or three days into our new home and I was hopeful, but she returned and continued to express her anger.
I didn't realize at the time that I was psychic; I didn't know what that even meant. A little over a year after our initial move to Illinois we moved into the farmhouse where my father had spent most of his life. Finally, I thought she won't come here. This is my family's farm, but she did.
She creeped around our home like she always did, and I could never fully see her. What I saw was blurry air and sometimes the arm that she showed me trying to get me to touch her. I slept a lot. I went to bed early a lot. She kept me up for years at night and I continued to try to protect my younger brother from her menace.
When I turned 14, I started to mourn the tragic loss of my brother in 1976. It hit me out of the blue. I carried around my brother's picture, crying for weeks. We didn't have central air, in fact, the old farmhouse still uses window units to cool parts of the house. At the time, we only used window units in the kitchen/living room, and my parents bedroom. My younger brother and I would get to sleep on the sofa bed during the hottest of nights and on this one night sometime in July of 1985, I woke up to the most wonderful feeling. At the foot of the sofa bed I saw my brother again, solid as if he'd never been gone. "Tigger, stop crying. I'm okay." And he waved to me as he faded slowly and disappeared, but I could feel his love all over my body. I had never been happier. This connection changed me. I knew that there was something about me that was different and I started reading all things metaphysical I could get my hands on. It was this encounter with my brother that gave me the courage to finally stand up to that nasty woman who had wanted something from me.
A few months later she woke me up again. I couldn't see her but I could hear her calling me names. She said she was tired of waiting and that I needed to take one of these rings, now. I felt the anger rise in my body. I felt the frustration and the exhaustion from years of being tormented and I finally got the courage to stand up to her. "Leave me alone. I never want to see you again. Leave now and never come back!" I was worried that I would wake up my family and I did my best not to scream. As soon as the words were out of my mouth, I felt the air clear and the energy shift. She was gone.
I started my professional journey on January 9, 1997 when a close friend decided he wanted me to move to Chicago for his birthday. When he asked me to pack my things and be ready for him, I didn't take him seriously. Much to my surprise, he showed up six hours later with a friend and convinced me to take a leap of faith.
The next thing I knew I was working as a temp, learning my way around the city, and getting used to taking public transportation. He and his partner lived in an area of Chicago called Uptown, just off of Lawrence avenue. They were gracious hosts and allowed me to stay with them until I could get on my feet. It was one of the greatest gifts of my life.
While staying with them, I took the "L" train downtown to various locations in the city where I was assigned. I walked past the infamous Green Mill that was once one of the favorite spots for Chicago's notorious gangster, Al Capone. Across the street from the train platform was the Aragon Ballroom where I was fortunate to enjoy several music venues.
My first experience with public transportation was brutal. The cold wind causing my eyes to tear and both the condensation from my breath and tears stinging my face as they froze. I was not adept at dealing with the cold and I'd not been without my own vehicle since I was 16-years-old. I contemplated many times if the move was worth it, but I told myself over and over again if I wanted to get anywhere in life I had to take some calculated risks.
It was during the dot.com boom that I moved, so I was fortunate to always seem to find work. Chicago being the third largest city in the U.S. had its advantages as well as its disadvantages. One of the first things I learned while taking public transportation was that there was a lot of homelessness, alcoholism, drug addiction, prostitution, and desperation that was exacerbated by the harsh conditions of city life and extreme weather. No matter where you go, there are risks.
There was a homeless shelter just down the street from the train station. There was a drug rehabilitation center just down the street from the train station. As a sensitive person, it was heartbreaking to see the level of suffering that was obvious. Many people didn't see it. They didn't see the people pandering for money at the train station. They didn't see the homeless people dirty and disheveled that were very obviously, mentally ill. They didn't see the addicts that were having seizures in the alleys. Most people learned to tune it out, but I noticed.
One day on my way to work at PR Newswire sometime in May, I got on the "L" as usual and sat down next to a nurse in all white. She was reading a romance novel. A platform full of people had gotten onto the train with me. There were plenty of seats, which was rare. A man had gotten onto the train with me. He was obviously different dressed in suspenders, bowtie, jeans and rotund. He sat directly across from me and stared at me, holding a brown bag directly under his chin.
When the train approached each stop, the conductor would call out the stop. "Next stop, Addison, next stop, Addison." The purpose of the announcement was to help people who were too caught up in their distractions to get off on their correct stop. When the train slowly pulled to a stop at Addison, the stop that is next to Wrigley Field, the man jumped up from his seat pushing down his brown bag lunch to his waist. He walked up to me quickly and yelled "May I call you for a date?" and hurriedly exited the platform. When the doors closed I was in shock. My heart was racing and I wasn't sure if I should be concerned or not. No one seemed affected at all. I turned to the nurse next to me and asked her if she had seen what had just occurred. She broke from her book, looked up at me and replied, "Oh yes, nothing to worry about. I know him. He has Tourettes. That's actually the nicest series of things I've ever heard him say." And she reopened her book and ignored me for the rest of the ride. That was my first unusual experience with public transportation.
During the time I took public transportation in Chicago I had my wallet stolen, got propositioned, my life threatened, witnessed men masturbating, and fought off a man who tried to put me in his car. My small-town innocence and naivety was quickly replaced with street smarts. I was really grateful that I had spent time during college learning martial arts, it gave me a sense of confidence that allowed me to respond to danger appropriately.
Despite all the madness of the city, I learned a lot about myself and I grew both personally and professionally. I learned that I enjoyed writing more than anything. I got my editorial beginnings at PR Newswire. If I hadn't gone to Chicago I don't know where I'd be today, but I definitely wouldn't be here.
Every day is a new adventure. Live life fearlessly. Love endlessly.
Life has its ups and downs, that's why the rollercoaster is such a good metaphor. You get in line. You're forced to wait (sometimes for hours) for an experience that lasts for maybe a whole minute if you're lucky. The anticipation builds, a feeling of both fear and excitement. The closer you get to the platform the more you start to question your judgement. Do I really want to do this? You get into your seat, you buckle up...and you're off.
My first really memorable rollercoaster experience happened in May of 1984 during my eighth grade class trip. We took a school bus to Six Flags Over Mid-America in St. Louis, Missouri. Our adventure extended for two days and two nights. Our class was small and our fundraising abilities, extraordinary. We made so much money over the school year we even got $100 spending money a day while we were there.
I've always been, cautious. It's just a general part of my nature. So I was selective about which rides I would experience. On top of my cautious nature, I have a crippling fear of heights. A gift from my mother along with a fear of spiders.
The most famous ride of the park was the Screamin' Eagle. A large wooden roller coaster that the Guinness Book of World Records listed as the largest coaster at 110 feet (34 m) high and as the fastest coaster at 62 mph (100 km/h). Every one of my classmates took a turn or several on this majestic, historical coaster. I was going to take a pass, but two of my friends convinced me that I had to give it a chance, so I got in line with them.
When I got up to the platform everyone had someone to sit with, except for me. They got onto the train in front of me and when it was my turn, I was on my own. I got into the very back car. I have to admit I wasn't paying attention, because when they told us to push our bar into place mine didn't securely fasten and there were no seatbelts. At the time, I weighed in at about 105 lbs. soaking wet. When the car started up the hill, I started to panic. I couldn't get my voice, I couldn't scream. I was tragically silenced during a time when my voice was desperately needed.
Once we got to the top of the hill I managed to get out two words "Help Me." The couple in front of me noticed right away that my bar was not secure. The male was large and strong and managed to hold himself into his car with his legs, while he and his girlfriend held me tight so I didn't fly out of the cart to my death.
Fast forward to a few years into the future when a good friend of mine invited me to join her and the high school German club for an outing at Six Flags. I agreed to go as long as I wasn't asked to ride the Screamin' Eagle and after telling her what had happened to me, she agreed we didn't have to ride it.
When we arrived at the park, Mrs. Pyrtle, the German Club sponsor and high school German teacher gave us three rules to abide for a successful trip. The first rule was to use the buddy system. We were to be with another student at all times. The second rule was to return to the school bus at promptly 6 p.m. and the third rule was to simply not die.
The day was absolutely beautiful. We could not have asked for better weather and the park was not packed because it was during a school day. We rode rides over and over again. There was lots of laughter and happiness. It was getting close to time to leave the park and my friend asked me if I would ride the Screamin' Eagle. I was overwhelmed with dread and disappointed that my friend had asked. I had a very hard time saying no to people, but this time said "no" immediately.
My friend went into a long speech about why I should give the ride another chance. No one had ever died on it before. People had been riding it all day and no one was even mildly injured. I remember her saying "You can do this. Conquer your fears. You'll be glad you did." So I got in line with her. She promised she would ride the ride with me. She wasn't going to abandon me to ride it alone and we didn't have to sit in the very back or the very front.
We positioned ourselves carefully so we could sit in the very middle car. She climbed in first and I sat next to her. We made absolutely sure that our bar fastened. My heart was racing and I was sweating profusely even though it wasn't very hot outside. She made me laugh and reminded me that everything was going to be okay.
When we started up the hill the car was jerking. It was making unusual noises and there seemed to be a faint smell of something burning. It took more than 30 minutes for us to make it to the top of the hill. When we did get to the top we sat there for another 30 minutes or so, but it felt like an eternity. I turned to my friend and said "I think we're going to die." In her very calm and soothing manner she turned to me and said "Mrs. Pyrtle is going to be terribly disappointed."
A helicopter and men in harnesses came up the side of the coaster and removed us two at a time, slowly down the side rail that was maybe a foot across. I remember gripping the railing so tight that when we got to the bottom of the hill my hands were blue from the paint. The train had derailed, but we survived.
I don't think I'll ever get on that coaster again, but I think there's a lesson in this. Even if we think our lives have derailed, we can survive it. Be strong. Be courageous. Take chances but know when it's time to say no.