Author Archives: 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.

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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.

***

 

 

A Running Revelation

***

I glance at the clock. Only three minutes left. Three more minutes until I can shove all these files back into their holders and shut down this glaring screen. Three more minutes until I can push the paperwork aside and head home to throw on my running shoes and see the real world–the world that exists outside my window as I sit trapped behind a desk.

I’m a real estate paralegal. If you ever buy, sell, or refinance a house, I’m the face behind the paperwork. Sooo much paperwork. Legal terms, rights of way, percentage rates, amortization schedules, title insurance, property taxes – it all stacks up to the ceiling in my office.  Or at least it seems that way some days.

(Okay, it doesn’t really. I’m neat to a fault when it comes to my office. Things are so organized and put away where they belong that I don’t want to disturb them. Thus feeding my procrastination tendency. But anyway…)

Escape is near. T minus one minute. Organization complete, files and papers where they belong, tabs all closed, computer shut down…5:00 p.m.!  See y’all tomorrow.

My car rushes home to beat the sunset. (There just aren’t enough precious daylight hours this time of year.) A rare, warm late February day is screaming my name.  I’ve grown tired of the treadmill. My running shoes are begging for asphalt, and I plan to oblige.

I race into the driveway, run into the house to throw on my running clothes (a tank top! In February!), grab my headphones and hit the road.

I tune in to an audiobook, my preferred listening material for runs. I’m reading Uncommon Type, a collection of short stories by Tom Hanks. (Yes, that Tom Hanks.) As the crunching sound of my footsteps hitting gravel-filled pavement takes me along the curvy, country highway near my home, I keep Tom Hanks talking in my left ear as my right ear stays tuned to traffic. It’s not the best way to listen to a book, but even divided attention is enough for a book this good. And besides, safety first. I’m sure Tom would understand.

I continue on. Find a good rhythm. Crunch crunch crunch.

I round a corner and notice an old, abandoned home on my right. You see a lot of these out in the country. I always wonder what happened to get them to this point – what is the story that caused everyone in the family to pack up and leave the place that once held all their memories?  And could they (if “they” still exist) possibly know that a lone runner passes their land almost daily making up possible scenarios to explain their forgotten property?  As a writer, these untold stories tumble in my head, yet rarely make their way to the computer screen once my run is complete.  I wish that weren’t the case. I wish I could be like Tom Hanks – I wish I could see mundane things and put them into a collection of brilliant stories for some runner to listen to as she pounds the pavement.

But, alas, I’m just me.  I have great ideas, and then I forget them.

I need to do better.

Crunch crunch.

My attention returns to the abandoned home on my right. I’ve run by it hundreds of times as I’ve run this route, but today something is different. The bushes are cleared. The lawn has been mowed. A new sign has been added reflecting the home’s address.

Work trucks are sitting nearby.

It is winter. I haven’t run this route in so long that I didn’t notice what was happening. The cold and snow had kept me away but now the sunshine has led me to the change.  Then, as I look more closely, a sun ray lands on the newly-added numbers on the run-down home. An address.  My running route’s abandoned home now has four simple numbers adorned on a post outside. So someone can find it.  The mailman, perhaps?

Well, how about that!?

Crunch crunch.

Then, suddenly, from out of nowhere, those four random numbers strike a chord in my memory. What am I remembering? I know these numbers somehow.  What do they mean?

It hits me!  I did the work for this house.

This house.

I sat there months ago looking at yet another mound of paperwork that resulted in this! I didn’t know that the people buying a house to fix up (yet another house in a string of houses that fill my working days…) were actually buying this house to fix up.

Wow.

Look at what I’ve done. Look how important I am.

Crunch crunch.

As Tom Hanks fill my left ear and my right ear stays on guard for oncoming traffic, my inflated ego surveys the product of my handiwork. My profession has just become three-dimensional. I see the product in real life. It’s no longer just a bunch of words and numbers and plat drawings. It’s a renovation. It’s a renewal. It’s someone’s hopes and dreams.

It’s no longer a house. It’s a home.

With a satisfied smile, I continue running.

Crunch. Crunch. Crunch.

As Tom Hanks proceeds to regale me with everyday life happenings turned into the poetry known as short stories, I feel the inklings of my own story beginning in my mind. The story of a mound of paperwork turning into a home. The story of the real life that lies beyond the papers and the computer screen.

When I get home, I’ll start my story. But where should I begin?  Eh, I’ll figure it out. This story will make it to the computer screen this time.  Not like the others that disappear before I slip my running shoes off inside my front door. This one is good.  Too good to forget.

I run.

I look.

I listen.

Crunch.

Tom Hanks is still talking, his stories are still flowing, and yet. Yet. I feel like my story is just not good enough. Something isn’t right. So I saw a house that I did the paperwork on? Big whoop. Why does this matter?

What am I missing?

In the midst of my conundrum, my right ear detects a truck heading my way.

It’s an old pickup truck–faded red paint and a loud muffler. Typical transportation for this country area. In the distance, I can just make out the area on the front bumper where the license plate should be (a spot that renders itself useless in the state of North Carolina where you only need a back license plate). Squinting in the late evening sunlight, I see what the owners of this truck have done with this rectangle of unused canvas.

They have adorned it with a rebel flag.

A rebel flag.

Thoughts of any ego-filled, renovated house stories take a prompt backseat as my liberal blood boils. No, a rebel flag is nothing unusual to this area. We are in the bible belt. The “south.” Even as a transplant, after more than four years of living in this area I should be used to these sights by now.

But I never get used to it.

Angrily, my feet take me closer to the truck heading my way in the distance.

Crunch. Crunch. Crunch.

Who is this person? Has he never picked up a book? Has he never known a person of color? Listened to their stories? Learned about their ancestors and the struggles they had to go through just to survive? The inhumanity, the suffering…has it all fallen on his deaf ears?

The offensive truck comes closer and, as it nears, veers well over the centerline of the road into the oncoming lane to give me a wide berth.

Interesting.

As a runner on narrow country roads, this unfortunately doesn’t happen often. Some drivers seem angry that I’m sharing their space and will refuse to bend the rules of the road to slide over to safely pass me. In fact, some will even angrily stare at me as they glide by, refusing to budge even an inch outside their allotted, rightful lane.

But not rebel flag man.

No, rebel flag man not only surprises me by getting over but, as I start to make out his face behind the passing windshield, also smiles.

And then waves.

Waves.

What do I do? I’m not going to wave at a man sporting a rebel flag on his truck. It represents everything I’m against. It stands for all that I deem wrong with our country.

And then, it hits me.

(No, not the truck. An idea.)

That license plate is two-dimensional.

It’s “paper.”

Much like the things I see on my work computer screen, that little rectangle probably doesn’t tell the whole story. In order to fully see the man behind that wheel, I’d have to know more than just the information presented to me on the “screen” at the front of his truck. I’ve only seen the outside of his “house,” I haven’t seen the “home” that lies underneath the paperwork.

Suddenly, this thought process transcends well beyond a miniscule runner on a country road faced with a rebel flag toting truck driver.  So much of what we see in this current world is two-dimensional. Words seen on a screen; snippets of a remark seen on a news reel; a status posted on Facebook. It’s all “paper.” None of it has depth.

What if we could see it all in 3D? Would it look different?

My mind has considered all this in the few seconds as the truck begins to pass. In a last minute decision, my eyes meet the driver’s and I do what I didn’t think I would do. What I didn’t think I could do.

I smile.

And then I wave.

And then?

Well then, life goes on.

Crunch. Crunch. Crunch.

There it is. That’s it. Simple as that. This is my story.

Both my feet and heart quicken their pace. We have things to do.

I rush home, throw off my shoes, and open my laptop.

***

Lather, Rinse, Repeat

Another shooting.

More senseless deaths.

More Facebook warriors demanding justice. “More mental health awareness!” “More gun laws!” “Less gun laws! Second Amendment, by Gawd!” “Get God back in the schools!” “Get God out of schools!”

Lather, rinse, repeat.

We all get so desensitized to what is happening because it happens SO OFTEN. We are a country where a mass shooting headline on the news is just another mass shooting headline on the news.  “Oh man, another school shooting. That’s so sad. Thoughts and prayers. Let’s see what’s on the game show network…”

Look at who we are. Look at what we’ve done.

And note that I say “we.”  Not “you.” I’m including myself in this. I’m just as guilty.

I sat and argued on Facebook this morning. I think that no one – a person with mental health issues, a criminal background, or none of the above – should have access to automatic killing machines. I’m a big ole liberal. Guilty as charged. And if you are hugging your guns and spouting the 2nd amendment after something like this happens, I truly think you suck.

But after a few pointless comments here and there pointing all that out, I stopped.

It doesn’t work.

NOTHING CHANGES.

Instead, I changed gears.

I started reading about the victims.

As I started scrolling through the names that have been released so far, I, for once in my life, didn’t just skim them. I really read them.  I read the names. I looked the pictures. And I saw their stories.

I saw beautiful, 15-year-old Alyssa Alhadeff. Her long dark hair reminded me of my long, dark-haired 15-year-old step-daughter Lauren.

I read about Nicholas Dworet. I saw that he was a swimmer and that his swimming had improved dramatically over the past few years.  He even got a swimming scholarship and was headed to the University of Indianapolis after graduation. My thoughts immediately went to my 17-year-old step-son Riley. I thought about the awards ceremony we attended last year where he was chosen as the representative for the “Best of the Best” swimming candidate for our county.

Then I saw little Cara Loughran with her red hair and freckles. And suddenly I was looking at my own little redheaded, freckled 18-year-old daughter Kelly.

And then?

Then I looked at the 19-year-old perpetrator. 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz. A 19-year-old boy who will now be charged as a man who committed at least 17 murders.  And as angry as I am at him…as absolutely furious as I am that this man took the lives of all those poor innocent people…I can’t help but see something else.

I have a 19-year-old son too.

And while my 19-year-old son Jeff is very mature and a great kid, he’s still just that. A kid. This was not a man that committed this act. This was a child.

A messed up child just grabbed an automatic killing machine and took out 17 people while we were sitting here wondering what our significant other was going to get us for Valentine’s Day. Or while we were sitting here moaning because we were single on Valentine’s Day. Or while we were sitting here groaning at all the lovey dovey couple stuff posted on social media and raising hell about this Hallmark holiday that is just a money racket.

While we were living our every day, mundane lives that we take for granted, hundreds of lives were just completely changed forever.

So.

What is the answer?

What will stop this?

I don’t know.  I have theories, but what the hell do I know?  What do you know?  Yes, you, Facebook warrior. What do you know? What is the answer?

WHAT IS THE ANSWER?

Dear God, I don’t know.

But here’s something I do know.  And that is that there are parents sitting somewhere today who don’t need the “what ifs.” They aren’t comparing these children to the ages of their children like I am. Why?

Because these were their children.

This isn’t a what if. This isn’t a it could have happened to us. This is the real deal for them. Their babies are gone.

THEY ARE GONE.

And we’re not doing a damn thing about it except fighting on Facebook.

We are a bunch of friggin morons.

Sorry, nothing Earth-shattering in this blog. No answers to be found here.

Just one mother who knows, without a shadow of a doubt, that I am the luckiest woman on the planet to be able to go home and hug my babies today after work.

And who also knows, without a shadow of a doubt, that this could have been my family on the news today.

And until each and every one of you out there, greedy NRA ass-kissing politicians included, realize that fact too, nothing is going to happen.

Nothing.

***

‘We can say, yes, we’re going to do all of these things…thoughts and prayers, but what we really need is action. PLEASE. This is the 18th [shooting] this year. That’s unacceptable. We’re children. You guys are the adults. You need to take some action and play a role. Work together, get over your politics and get something done.”
– David Hogg,
student survivor of the Margory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting
February 14, 2018

***

 

Text sent during a 2014 shooting at Florida State University