Author Archives: Melissa Edmondson

Small Town Fame

“Sometimes I feel like a clown
Who can’t wash off his makeup…”
– Zac Brown Band lyric

***

So, turns out, I’m famous.

Yep.

Famous.

Now, hold on. Don’t go busting out the Google and whatnot. You’re probably not going to find anything except a reference to this blog and maybe some award for the most speeding tickets a human could possibly receive before the age of 30 or something. Oh, and maybe some Chicken Soup for the Soul books I’m in. (Okay. That part is kinda cool, not gonna lie.)

But otherwise?  Nada.

But I’m not lying to you though. Really. I am famous. It’s just that apparently you have to live in this small town to know it.

And, believe me, I do live in this small town.

Ugh.

Three days ago, I deactivated my Facebook account.  And trust me, y’all. THAT is a record. (I’ll be placing that trophy beside the  “Most Speeding Tickets Before the Age of 30” one if anyone ever gets around to bestowing me with the credit I deserve.) And while I’ve fleetingly wanted to pop on and see what’s up in Fakebookland, I’ve told myself that I’m not allowed to even peek until I get this blog written.  I’m mad at Facebook and I need to figure out why.

I have a wonderful (way-better-than-me-at-it) writer friend Vanessa who sent me something the other day that she had written but was not quite ready to post. While discussing what she had written, she said, “I don’t know how people who don’t write deal with feelings. I can’t even see the problem until I’m writing about it.” 

That really got to me.

I, along with probably every other writer in the world probably, agree with that statement. And yet, here I’ve been struggling with some kind of unnamed emotional turmoil and I haven’t even attempted to get it out onto this computer screen.

[Okay, sidebar. That’s not really my fault. I’m busy as everlovin crap these days. I work two jobs now. One of which has gotten progressively busier over the past few years. (I accidentally typed “tears” there instead of years and I’m thinking that may be my subconscious writing this blog for me. In fact, I’m switching between my work email screen and this blog as we speak so please ignore me if I start randomly turning into a passive aggressive smartass about your upcoming refinance.) So yeah, I’m finding it really hard to fit in time to write these days. Or run. Or sleep. I do find plenty of time to cry though, so don’t worry about me. Alrighty. Moving on….]

So yeah, I’m pissed at Facebook. And while I’ve been pissed at it many times in the past, this time has seemed to stick. I didn’t get over it in like 2.2 seconds like I always do and log right back in. This time kind of stung.

Here’s what happened.

I posted something late last week that I knew might not go over well with some people. Now, if you know me at all, you’ll know that there’s really no reason for me to give that disclaimer because pretty much everything I post doesn’t go over well with some people. But this time, I seemed to offend my own people. The progressives. The left-wingers. The Democrats. The liberals. The people that I am. Yup, I pissed off my own kind.

That was new.

Without getting into much of the details (because that is not what this blog is about), I posted about the recent firing of Megyn Kelly and how I thought that – in this instance – this may have just been a slip up and not the time to break out the “SHE’S A RACIST” posters and march though town. But hey, what the hell do I know, right? Many people commented tactfully – both agreeing and disagreeing with my stance – and I was honestly enjoying the conversation.

Until I stopped enjoying it.

Suddenly I started getting comments like this one:  “I thought Melissa had started this in order to have a discussion, but now I’m not so sure.” (Yes, this person referred to me as if this weren’t my post she was commenting on.) I asked her what she meant by that – weren’t we having a discussion? What was I missing? And then she proceeded to tell me exactly what I had done wrong.

I hadn’t agreed with her.

And she was just the first. Other comments followed and then the icing on the cake came by way of private message. Among other things, this message said this:  this is actually a very serious issue and you, as the liberal voice in Ashe County, publicly took a side that is against every collective body that you support, including the NAACP, BLM, etc.”

Um. Huh?

I am THE liberal voice in Ashe County?

Whoaaaa.  Hold up here a minute.

Who appointed me with that title because, no thank you. I’m not the voice of anything. Except maybe Melissa and most of the time I get what she’s trying to say wrong too so I can’t even really count that.

Seriously, when did I cease being a human being and am suddenly some kind of “personality?”

My second job that I’ve mentioned up there is at a grocery store. In the past few months, I’ve been surprised by how many people have come through my line and asked “Are you the Melissa that has the blog?” I’ve always met them with a surprised face and a “um…yeah?…” because I’m shocked that anyone reads this thing. I mean, yeah, I see the stats but I just assume that’s my husband clicking on it over and over again to see if I’ve bashed him lately.

[Sidebar #2. One of these customers actually came through and told me he was really pissed at my husband because of the last thing that I had written about him.  Yes, Guy at the Grocery Store, my husband and I have had a rough year. And I was really mad at him for a very long time. But we’re in counseling and I’ve forgiven him and we’re working on our marriage. And if we can manage to last two more days we’re even going to make it to our 4th wedding anniversary. So you can stop being mad at him now, okay? And I’m sorry I didn’t update you. My fault.]

So, yeah. I truly believed that it was just people who know me that read this. Not random strangers. So there’s this: the blog. I guess that makes me known, whatever that means. But I also guess that running my mouth has gotten me a bit known here in this town too. Like the time I, a progressive (unless you ask the people who are pissed at me right now), spoke about transgender rights at a local Republican party meeting. Or the time I joined a local protest at the courthouse when the county spent a bajillion dollars (ok, $2500) on putting big gold letters up that say “In God We Trust.” No, I’m not an atheist. But I’m aware that there are many that live in this county and we shouldn’t waste their hard-earned taxpayer money on something so blatantly unnecessary when we’re one of the poorest counties in the state. And then that protest led to me starting a group called Agreeable Disagreers which worked to raise that $2500 back and spread it back into the community where it was most needed. No, it didn’t take those letters down – what’s done is done – but some of us – Christians, Atheists and everything in between –  felt a little better about doing what was right.

But, of course, there were also those who didn’t think what we did was right. And those people don’t ever forget me.

And then, when Agreeable Disagreers didn’t stop at $2500 as was its original goal, there were the people who got used to the help that our group was doing in the community and when I had to slow down for my own sanity (y’all, taking on the problems of an entire county will weigh on you – trust me), these past supporters got mad at me too.  No good deed goes unpunished, right?

Okay, and there was the time I got into a screaming match with a police officer over a parking space, but I think I’ve given enough examples and we can move on here. The point is, I’m well-known.

And I don’t think I really realized that.

I’m not from this county. I moved here four years ago when I married my husband. I’m not used to this. I’m a gypsy. A nomad. A drifter. I never stay anywhere very long. I’ve been the “new girl” about a million times, but it’s never mattered that much. Sure, I’ve run my mouth, but then I take off.  If I became “famous” in those places, I didn’t stick around long enough to figure it out.

But I’ve stuck it out here. So far.

And man, I just don’t know.

On some small scale, am I seeing what it’s like to be a celebrity?  Am I finally starting to understand why Meghan Markle (this is a different Meghan, calm down) had to take a few days off from her recent tour because she was so overwhelmed? Am I starting to, sadly, see why people like Amy Winehouse and Robin Williams couldn’t handle the pressure the public put on them to perform?

I started this blog with a quote from a Zac Brown Band song. “Sometimes I feel like a clown, who can’t wash off his makeup.” 

Yes. That.

Guys, please try to remember that I’m a human being. Sometimes I’m going to disagree with you. Sometimes I’m going to say something that you agree with 1000% and other times you’re going to want to punch me in the face. That’s okay. You’re human. And so am I.

And when you tell me that I’m the liberal voice of Ashe County, please know that you’re wrong. No, I’m not. The only voice I am is that of myself. My overworked, overwhelmed, critical, weird-ass self. That’s it. That’s all I am.

Human.

Okay, if you read this far, kudos to you. This was a long one. And honestly, I do feel better. Thanks for the reminder to get this crap out, Vanessa.

Onward.

***

“Fame doesn’t fulfill you. It warms you a bit, but that warmth is temporary.”
– Marilyn Monroe

***

 

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May 1, 1994

 

On May 1, 1994, something happened that would change my life from that moment on.

And I have no proof.

None.

Sure, I have the adolescent scribblings of a 15-year-old future writer on some paper somewhere. Because that’s how writers deal with things. But that could have all been made up, right? I have one or two people over the years that I may have mentioned it to. But what does that prove?

Nothing.

And even worse, I have tons of “evidence” that shows that what happened on May 1, 1994, didn’t even really happen. I have friends who are still friends with the person who hurt me even now. Twenty-five years later.

What’s even worse?

“I” stayed friends with the guy. Yep. Me.  After a year break of not speaking to him, I even eventually dated him.  Oh yes, you read that right.  I dated him.  Because I truly believed he was sorry. I believed that I made it into a bigger deal than it was. I believed that he was a changed person and that it was the “drugs that made him do it.”

I believed that I had the power to let what happened to me turn him into a better person. I believed I had changed him. I was a martyr.

What happened wasn’t really as bad as I thought it was, right? These things happen. Mistakes are made. He was a good person – just a little misguided.

Just look around – everyone thought so. Everyone loved him.

Everyone still loves him.

So it couldn’t have really happened, right?

I couldn’t have really said No and cried my way through something that ripped me apart – emotionally and physically. I couldn’t have really crossed from childhood into adulthood in one defining moment that would forever color my world into the “before” and the “after.” I couldn’t have really let that moment lower my self-esteem to the point that I thought I deserved no better.  I couldn’t still be talking about that lack of self-esteem to my marriage counselor trying to hold onto yet another relationship that runs the risk of disappearing because of my twisted view of myself.

None of this is really happening, right?

Because I have no proof.

No evidence.

Only what I carry around inside me. And that doesn’t count.

Right?

Just ask the Supreme Court. I do not matter. My memories do not matter. My pain does not matter.

My government just confirmed that for me and for millions like me.

So I better just be quiet.

Shhhh.

***

“Sometimes the only proof is silence.”
– Melissa Edmondson

 

 

 

Marriage to the Truth

“No legacy is so rich as honesty.”
– William Shakespeare

I was talking to my dear friend Vanessa recently and she used a phrase that will not leave my head. Vanessa, like me, is a writer. Vanessa, unlike me, doesn’t realize it. She will though. We all have to arrive at our destinations on our own time. However, while she’s in the process of this impending realization, she said she has discovered a similarity in all of the writers she knows.

We are all in a “marriage to the truth.”

Wow.

She went on to elaborate a bit by saying that we are the people who can’t keep secrets. We have to share. The things that are inside us simply have to come out. They just have to. Anything else is not an option.

I’ve honestly never thought about it that way. (Thanks, fellow writer.)

But, she’s right. At least for me anyway. I physically cannot keep things inside me. If I try, I get sick. I throw up. Isn’t that crazy? It’s like I have a disease and writing is the only cure.

Now, I don’t necessarily mean that every time I get upset, I have to sit down and write a novel. No, writing does not just consist of creative writing. Writing is simply an expression in words.

And boy have I been expressing lately.

If you are my Facebook friend, then you know I’m hurting right now. Bad.

However, in some crazy, misguided attempt to keep the details a secret, I’ve only expressed my hurt without some of the more important factors. And, in doing so, I think I may have led people to an incorrect conclusion. So I want to clear this up. Not just for my husband’s sake, but for my integrity as well.

My husband did not cheat on me.

Yes, I’ve posted memes about lying. About hiding things. About hurting the person you love. I’ve posted statuses about being heartbroken and about seeing a woman I despise out around town and not killing her. (Still proud of myself for that one.) But again, let me make this clear. Both for myself and for you. And for him.

My husband did not cheat on me.

I still won’t give all the details because this is his story too and not just mine. But if I’m going to live a public life like I do, then I have to live it honestly and without leading people to believe something that just didn’t happen. To sum it up, I found out about something (two things actually) that happened prior to our marriage.  One, he confessed to. The other, I found out on my own.

Yes, both instances involve another woman.  However, it’s not quite that cut and dry. There are other factors in play. (As I’m sure there always are in these circumstances.)

Am I excusing his behavior and saying he did nothing wrong? Absolutely not. He hurt me to my core.  And he knows it and accepts it. But the “standard” definition of cheating isn’t the only thing that does that kind of damage. Please don’t deduce from my public displays of hurt that my husband cheated on me during our marriage. He did not. He betrayed my trust and he kept secrets from me. This part is true. But he did not betray our wedding vows.

I’m hurt and I’m screaming out in pain. But there’s no need for me to inadvertently do more damage than what already exists between us. In more ways than one, my husband is a good man. If you know him and are surprised by him hurting me, then you’re right to be. This is not who he inherently is. Do not “hate” him on my behalf. Do not judge him based on my pain. This is my pain. Mine alone.

I appreciate everyone’s love and support. I’ve seen more good through this pain than I ever thought existed. Practical strangers have reached out to me to try to soothe my hurt by telling me they’ve been there. Of course, all of our stories are unique. No one has ever been exactly in another’s shoes. But regardless of the circumstances, I’m sure most of us have felt betrayal. And each time someone reaches out to tell me I’m not alone, it’s like another stitch being placed in this gaping wound.

Thank you for helping to heal me. Truly.

But don’t let your healing lead you to despise my husband. He’s not a bad man. He made a few mistakes and betrayed my trust. There are specific circumstances that make this not your “typical” cheating story. And again, even though my pain is public (because I don’t know how else to be), he is in pain too. He just grieves privately.

Our story is ours. Not just mine. Ours.

And I have no idea how this story is going to end.  But thank you for understanding that I need to tell it in my own way.  My marriage to the truth is one marriage that is not going to end any time soon. Of that one, at least, I’m certain.

Pokes from the Past: The Scrapbook

“If we open a quarrel between past and present, we shall find that we have lost the future.”
– Winston Churchill

So, I was digging through my past a few weeks ago (a/k/a an old trunk) and I found a scrapbook I had made once about 10ish years ago. I didn’t tell many people about finding this thing – not even my husband. (I guess he knows now, though.)

Heh.

So, yeah.  Sigh.  The scrapbook.

I debated writing about this at all.  But see, I have this problem. I’m a writer. And when something wants to be written about, it will NOT. SHUT. UP.  Seriously. It won’t leave me alone. I can’t do anything else until I vomit this mess out onto a page. So here I am. And here’s my vomit.

Enjoy. :/

So, why was I digging through that old trunk anyway? Oh, I don’t know. Maybe I was lonely. Maybe I was bored. Maybe it was because my daughter’s getting ready to head off to college. Maybe it was because I was getting ready to turn 40 (yep, I turned the big 4-0 on August 2 — yay).  Maybe I was stuck on this precipice between my past and my future and, in an unwillingness to move forward, I decided I wanted to move backward instead? (Dude, that’s deep.)

Heck, I don’t know. I don’t know why I decided to take a headfirst dive into the past but, alas, I did. And I found this scrapbook. It was a scrapbook I made as a gift for an old boyfriend. (As you can see, the relationship must not have worked out because I’m the one that ended up stuck with the ‘gift.’ But anyway…)

Okay, let me describe this thing to you. Yes, it was a scrapbook but it wasn’t what you’d expect. It wasn’t filled with photos and ticket stubs and dinner receipts or whatever it is that you scrapbook people do. It was actually just a scrapbook full of emails.  Yep.  Just…words. This boyfriend and I were actually only a couple for about three months total. (He’s still a very good friend of mine, believe it or not – life is weird…) But, the way we started out was almost what you’d call “pen pals.” This was before texting became such a big thing so emails were the latest non-phone-call means of communication of the time. We sent each other these long, flowery (and sometimes hilarious) emails over the span of about a year before we ever even dated. Then, once we started dating, I decided to put all of those piles of words into a book and give it to him as a gift for Valentine’s Day.

Long story short, he loved it.

But.

We broke up shortly thereafter. (Switching from friends to a relationship had been a HUGE mistake at the time.) He gave the book back to me. I hid it from myself. Years passed. We got over it. Became friends again. Life is fine. I found the book.

There.

You caught up?

So, since all is well, the book shouldn’t have bothered me. It should have just been some fun old memories to chuckle over and then toss back in the trunk. That is fully what I expected.

But it didn’t quite work out that way.

I started reading that book and…no exaggeration here, people…I started SOBBING. Seriously. And I didn’t even know why. I mean, this guy isn’t some lost love from the past. He’s my friend. He’s still in my life. In fact, we still talk about things almost as much as we did back then. What the heck was wrong with me? Why did the past tug at me so hard? Obviously I wasn’t missing him. He’s right here.

So, what was I missing?

Oh yeah.

Me.

Yep. It was me. That girl that was writing those long, heartfelt emails is definitely not the girl who is sitting here writing this blog. What happened to her?  My gosh, that girl felt things. She had so much to say. She gushed about movies and books and her kids and…love. Yep. Love. This cynical old 40-year-old used to believe in that crap.

Okay, yes, I’m married now. I must have believed in love again at some point. But y’all, it’s not the same. This 40-year-old’s form of love is much different than that 30-year-old’s form of love in that scrapbook. I mean, that 30-year-old made a scrapbook. That’s enough evidence in itself.  Who has the time or energy for that mess?

But seriously, what has changed?

I mean, I was still a working mom back then. Kids. A house to take care of. And alone at that. Can I really blame a lack of time for my change? No. I can’t. Honestly, I don’t know what to blame.

All I know is that I miss her. I miss the girl who trusted people. That girl had been through a few heartbreaks of course, but they didn’t damage her. Made her a wee bit more cautious maybe, but she was still willing to see what was out there. This 40-year-old version of that girl just isn’t like that anymore.

I guess the older you get, the worse the sting.

I don’t bounce back so quickly anymore. Each hurt – each blow – hangs on just a little longer. There’s no longer a need to put together a scrapbook of memories because I don’t really want to remember. And who cares anyway? My family fights me within an inch of their lives when I just want to take pictures for Heaven’s sake. No one cares about maintaining and saving these memories except for me. And frankly, I’m kind of tired of that.

My missives have turned into grocery lists.

I don’t really know what the point of this blog is. Like I said before, sometimes something is in a writer’s head and just has to come out. I guess it’s not always going to make sense.

All I know is that I found a piece of myself hidden away in a trunk and I had forgotten that that version of me even existed. And I wish she’d come back. I kind of liked that girl.

 

***

“Is it really him or the loss of my innocence I’ve been missing so much?”
– from the song Strawberry Wine by Deanna Carter

 

Empathetic Acting – Okay or Nay?

“I’m curious about other people. That’s the essence of my acting. I’m interested in what it would be like to be you.”
– Meryl Streep

***

Okay, my dander’s all up.

For those of you that know me well, I’m sure you’re shocked. I mean, me?  Irritated? Feeling passionate about something? Shocking, I know. But alas, ’tis true.

And in this day and age, you’d think it would be about politics or Trump or something. But nope. This time, it’s about theatre.

Theatre?

Yep, theatre. I’ve argued over a lot of things before, but theatre is new to the list.

[Disclaimer: I had originally intended to say that I was arguing with an actor for the first time, but my husband politely reminded me that that is sooo not true. I have a lot of friends who are actors. And I argue with them about everything. So, I scratched that and made it a little more specific – it’s definitely the first time I’ve argued with someone about acting.]

To be even more specific, the argument was over who should and shouldn’t portray certain characters.

Okay, here’s how it started. This was a post I saw on Facebook.  Apparently it’s a new “pledge” that we’re supposed to take, both as actors/directors, but also as theatre and movie-goers (that’s all of you):

“As a cis performer, I will never play a trans character. Should I ever direct or produce, I will never cast a cis actor to play a trans character. As a cis consumer, I will do my best to avoid projects that do the above. In addition, as a white actor, I will never play a non-white character. As an able-bodied actor, I will never play a character with a disability.

I will not occupy space that isn’t mine.”

I write about a lot of things in this blog, so I’m sure I’ve mentioned before that I’m a community theatre actress. I’m also sure I’ve mentioned that I live in tiny little nowhere, right smack in the middle of the bible belt.  And if you didn’t know, now you do. And armed with that knowledge, I’d say you could probably correctly infer that “trans” actors, “non-white” actors, and “disabled” actors are probably a bit few and far between in this area. So, when I saw that “pledge” that all of us actors are supposed to take, I recognized the absurdity – at least for my little neck of the woods.

If we waited for those people to show up – especially ones that had the ability and the desire to tirelessly work, unpaid, for months, to produce a show that would be viewed only three or four times – we’d never get anything done.

So, I said that. I commented on the post.

And it all went downhill from there.

I was accused of not hearing these people’s cry for justice. For not allowing them to tell their own stories.

Okay, stop.  If this were Hollywood, there might be tons of people showing up to claim these roles. But it’s not. It’s a little county in the middle of the North Carolina mountains. We performed The Wiz for goodness sakes. We had approximately one and a half black people in it and we had to beg them to do it.  (And how lucky we were to get them – holy crap, they were phenomenal.) But were they offended that we did the show anyway, even though we were unable to cast the entire thing with people of color as it is intended?

I don’t think so.

Or were they?

We did To Kill a Mockingbird. While we had a few people of color who were able to join us but, again, we were faced with a 99% white cast. But we still did it. And it was phenomenal.

Should we have left that story untold because we didn’t have enough people of color to play the roles?

We performed Wait Until Dark. I portrayed a blind woman, Suzy. Should I not have done that? Should we have not performed that powerful show about a disabled woman who uses her superior intellect to outwit her would-be killer? Should we have not shown that audience that anyone can overcome their disabilities and kick some bad guy booty, simply because we didn’t have a real blind woman to play the role?

And how about when we performed The Dixie Swim Club. My good friend and actress Rebecca portrayed an aged woman with Alzheimer’s disease, who didn’t leave a single audience member dry-eyed for four straight performances. Should she not have done that?  Should she not have given a voice to the millions that suffer from that horrendous disease because she didn’t herself?

What about my sweet friend Cynthia portraying Shelby, the diabetes-ridden daughter in Steel Magnolias? Should she not have done that since she’s not diabetic herself? Should I not have portrayed her distraught mother who loses a child because I’ve never lost one myself?

No.

No, no, no.

Let’s stop this.

Theatre is one of the most beautiful things around. If you haven’t been a part of it, you’re missing out. It accidentally teaches you empathy. You become another person. You literally “walk a mile in their shoes,” so to speak. What better way to understand someone than to tell their story? To actually become them?

Now, I get it. I know where this pledge came from. Apparently Hollywood actress Scarlett Johansson was recently cast as a trans man in an upcoming movie and there has been a cry from the trans community about not being represented fully because it is not a trans person playing the role. There’s even a hashtag for it – #supporttranspeopleinentertainment. I get it. I do. But my question is this – was there a more qualified trans candidate?  You have to be more than trans – you also have to be an actor. A damn good one. Acting is a business, like any other. You have to be great at what you do, or you’re going to passed over.  I’m all about fighting for equality – believe me. I run my mouth about it all the time. But there comes a time when you have to really ask yourself what you’re doing. Are you really asking for equality? Or are you asking for special treatment?

Regardless of the big Hollywood story, however, let’s take it back down here to our level. In the community theatres of the world, you are just not going to have the abilities to fill every role with a person who is what they’re portraying. And, frankly, isn’t that what acting is all about?  Isn’t that what we’re doing?  Telling a story for someone else?

Is there really something wrong with that?

If you ask me – NOPE. Not only is there not something wrong with it, but it is exactly what we all should be doing – acting or otherwise. We need to take every opportunity we’re given to try to understand what it’s like to be someone else, and to let their story be heard. For the actors of the world, we do that with our acting talent. For the writers of the world, we try to do that with our writing talents.

I recently read Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult. Ms. Picoult wrote a powerful, almost life-changing novel from three perspectives – a privileged white lawyer, a discriminated black nurse, and a male white supremacist. And my, what a story it was. In the end of the book, she wrote an author’s note. In that note, she said that she was well aware of the backlash she’d receive from writing this book. How dare her try to speak as a black woman? And she was right – there was definitely backlash and mixed reviews. But as she described in her note – she has written about many characters in the past – victims of rape, men, abused spouses – all things that she, herself, is not. And how did she do that? By talking to them. By learning about them. By putting herself in their shoes and living their lives through her words.

And why did she do it? Because she could. She was given a gift. She’s a storyteller. And with this gift, she knows that it is her duty to give voice to the voiceless. She is using her talent to change the world, one novel at a time. And, personally, I think she’s doing a damn good job of it.

Stories deserve to be told. Silencing them is never the answer.

Never.

What say you?

***

“Stop explaining yourself. Shut up and act!”
~ Craig MacDonald

***

Sunday Run: A Heathen’s Story

“It was not enough to come and listen to a great sermon or message every Sunday morning and be confined to those four walls and those four corners. You had to get out and do something.”
– John Lewis

It is Sunday morning, and I am not in church.

Now, this is no different from most Sundays for the past few years, mind you. But as the granddaughter of a devout Southern Baptist Christian, there’s not a Sunday morning that dawns without that old ingrained guilt in my soul for not having my buns firmly planted on a pew where they belong.  However, Guilt and me have gotten a bit used to each other.  I don’t let him talk me into things as often as I did when I was younger.

So, no church for me.

But, why?

Sigh. Honestly, I don’t know.

I have a ton of excuses, but not really any that would impress Grandma. I mean, my life pretty much revolves around ample Sunday morning churchgoing opportunities. The aforesaid Grandma, for instance. I know where she’ll be, without fail, and would love to have me join her. And I do sometimes, don’t get me wrong. But that’s not for the church itself – that’s to see and spend time with her. She lives a good 45 miles away, though, so it’s not the most convenient scenario for every Sunday morning.

You know what’s not 45 miles away though? The church at the end of my driveway. Yes, my house literally sits in the backyard of a small Methodist church that my mother-in-law attends. But have I ever been in there?  Nope.

(Okay, that’s a lie and you’re not supposed to lie on Sundays. One time I went in and peeked around when no one else was there. But I’m thinking that might not count.)

Another nail in my Sunday morning heathen coffin? My husband actually works at a local church on Sunday mornings. Yep.  As he gets up early and heads to town to get the rented venue open and rev up the sound equipment for the upcoming hip, contemporary, and even entertaining church service, I sleepily wave goodbye to him and snuggle deeper into the covers.

I kinda suck.

So, with all these opportunities staring me in the face – why don’t I go?  Oh, I don’t know. I’m not an atheist. (Although some have mistaken me for one lately and that’s okay. I’m not offended.) But I’m also not really a believer either. At least not in that book written by a bunch of men who were as flawed as I am.

But let’s not get into that.  That’s not what this story is about. My faith, or lack thereof, could fill a novel and you don’t want to read that and I don’t want to spend time talking about it either. So to save us both a word-induced nap, we’re going to skip that subject and I’m going to try to get to my point.

Alright. As we’ve established, I was, again, practicing my newfound heathenism this morning and not attending church.  What was I doing instead? Running.  I find myself doing that a lot on Sunday mornings lately. Whether there’s some deep sense of spiritual guilt that drives me out the door on these mornings in order to more quickly pass those previous pew-allotted hours, or I’m just making use of the rare few moments of alone time with no responsibilities, I’m not sure. Either way though, my running shoes see a lot of Sunday morning asphalt.

Today being no exception, I laced up my shoes and headed out the door to beat the forecasted midday heat. And what do I run into?

Churchgoers.

Yes, seeing as how I’m in their backyard, it’s inevitable to go for a run and not pass the church. But I usually try to time these Sunday morning excursions so that I don’t have to face the good people of the world as they exit their cars and head into the sanctuary where my darkened heart “belongs.” My mind supplies enough ingrained guilt without those angelic pairs of eyes adding to the heap. But alas, this morning something went wrong and I blew it. I wasn’t watching the clock and I messed up.

So, I steeled myself. I put on my “armor” (aka headphones) and prepared to rush right by them without a glance in their direction. They were not going to make me feel guilty on this particular morning, no sir. I’m a grown up and I can do what I want. I can certainly run fast enough in my running shoes to get away from them in their Sunday best if they try to catch me, right?

Game on.

I increase my speed, prepare to zip right by, and then…..one of them speaks to me.

Crap.

Busted.

I mean, come on lady. I’m running here. I have my armor in my ears – can’t you see? I’m dressed in way-too-short-for-my-age running shorts and a tank top; I’m obviously not rushing down here to beat the church bell.  Surely to gosh you’re not going to invite me in there looking like this, are you?

She mumbles something and I reluctantly remove my headphones.

I’m sorry, what?” I call out, slowing my pace but not fully stopping – acting like I want to hear her reply, but making it obvious that I have no time for chitchat and that my hell-bound soul has already made its decision to run this morning and she was absolutely not going to change that.

“Just wanted to make sure you saw this!” she calls out cheerily and points to the wooden box in the corner of the parking lot.  To my surprise, she was showing me a water stand.

Now, I’d seen this water stand before. And I appreciated it for its uniqueness and the kind hearts that must have erected it. We are a beautiful mountain county and many bicyclists make their way through our secluded area on their weekend treks, so a wooden water stand had been built and placed at the corner of the church parking lot with a drawing of a bicycle and the letters “H20” painted on its side to make the bikers aware that there was refreshment waiting for them. So, it wasn’t a surprise to see it – I live here and I’ve seen it many times.

But I sure was surprised to have it offered to me.

If you get thirsty during your run, make sure you get some water!” she called out, and smiled and waved as she made her way into her house of worship.

Well, I’ll be.

I couldn’t help but grin.

What a gesture. Not only was she not there to make me feel guilty about not attending church services, but was actually offering to help me in the activity I chose to do instead of accompanying her into her sanctuary.

Wow.

With a smile plastered on my face, I called out a thank you to her retreating back, and continued on my journey.

So, no. I didn’t go to church today. I didn’t go last Sunday and, frankly, I probably won’t go next Sunday. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t commune with my own personal version of the God that exists in my life.

God was everywhere this Sunday morning.

My lungs breathed her air. My eyes beheld her beauty in the cloudless sky above me and the mountains that surrounded me. My feet caressed her earth as they padded across six miles of terrain.

And then, in the midst of it all, she not only acknowledged my unique form of worship, but she took the time to speak back to me.

She stepped outside and offered me a drink of water.

***

“There is no need for temples, no need for complicated philosophies. My brain and my heart are my temples; my philosophy is kindness.”
– Dalai Lama

***

Conditioned.

 

I’m hurt.

I will react.

I’ll scream in anger.

I will tell you that I’m in pain.

I’ll tell you (loudly) that you’re wrong.

I’ll forget myself and feel all that is true inside.

I’ll show you the fear and rage and pain that you caused.

And then I will immediately change my mind.

I’ll remember what I am allowed to feel.

And I will remember what I am not.

I’ll tell you that it is not your fault.

I will tell you that I am sorry.

But I’m not going to be.

Not really.

***