Tag Archives: courage

The Resistance: Naomi’s Story

As a writer, sometimes I see words from others that are so much more powerful than anything I could’ve come up with myself. This is one of those times. Read Naomi Johnson’s words below, and ask yourself: what will you do today to change the world?

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“Did you ever think as a child that you would have helped Jesus carry his cross? Did you ever pretend you would have taken in a Jewish family and shelter them at your own peril? When I read “The Diary of Ann Frank” as a child, I fantasized I would do just that. I was young during the Civil Rights era. I saw my mom and dad stand up to racism in the 50’s and 60’s, but I was too young to register to vote or stand in solidarity. But I was certain I would have.

The ensuing years were spent rearing a family, working, and being caught up in life. There wasn’t much opportunity to be brave. But now we are here, and a defining moral decision is facing us, each and every one.

As a financial advisor, you are ill-advised to discuss religion and politics and many other personal topics with clients and prospects. In the Spring of 2016, I made a decision. I was going to become as authentic as I could be in my life, and share my journey and my truth.

I decided to speak out about my past sexual abuse, in the context of Donald Trump and his mis-treatment of women. I began up speak openly about my struggle to rebuild my life after being filled with guilt, fear and shame as a result. I shared my struggle with using food to stuff emotions and hide my damaged sexuality under a layer of fat. No one is more invisible in society than a fat woman.

I spoke honestly about the effects of my issues on my children, and how I was trying to be a better mother to my adult children than I was when they were young. When it seemed appropriate, I would ask clients about their tender spots, their struggles, what kept them up at night, their regrets, their hopes and dreams.

Here is the truth, it was the bravest thing I have ever done. I began to speak out about what I saw happening. Those who have been my Facebook friends know that all to well! I shared my feelings of horror about many of the evangelical leaders supporting Donald Trump. I shared how disheartened I was when Franklin Graham got behind Donald Trump, and that is not a popular stance here in Boone, North Carolina, the home of Samaritan’s Purse.

I shared how my family was so split over the election and the pain that caused. I talked about racism, and other hot button issues, including gender issues. When a client ridiculed Caitlin Jenner, I asked him point blank, “Have you ever thought about how much emotional pain a man would have to be in to have the gender reassignment surgery? (Truth alert, I was a bit cruder than that). He flinched, but there was a long pause as he admitted that he had not thought about that.

I lost some clients. I knew I would when I made the decision. I will probably lose more. And I am okay with that. Because doing the hard thing is worth it. To be open and not have to hide what I believe is worth it. To integrate my work and my life is worth it. And I have learned so much more about my clients’ hopes and fears, for when I became more open, so did they.

I do not have the answers to the divisive issues of our day. But I know this, the issues are hard and the solutions are complex. I know this: There is no “secret plan to defeat ISIS in 30 days”; I know that health care is complex; I know that normalizing racism is wrong; I know that name calling and mocking people is unworthy of a president; I know that a lie is a lie; I know that The Bible says that even the very elect will be deceived.

When I decided to embrace a more authentic life, I believe that, in some mystical way, I am helping Jesus carry the cross, I am housing the refugees, I am more openly standing against racism. These blessings more than make up for some lost revenue. And I believe that there are people who will find me and my partner Seth because we will take a stand.

I know this. It may get much worse, much faster than we can imagine. There are Nazis marching openly in the street. My dad and mom served in WWII to stop this evil. There are white supremacists marching openly with assault rifles, in front of the police, beating and kicking those in the resistance. Imagine if those young men were black, carrying assault rifles and jostling the police? Resisting the rising tyranny will be the defining moral issue of this time.

Here is my challenge to each of you: do what is right. It is as simple as that. You intuitively knew as a child what that was. You know you dreamed of being brave. You know how hard it is to stand against a bully. You have the chance today to take a morally courageous stand against what is being normalized in America. Become the adult your child dreamed you would be. Be brave. Like my mom, who left Ashe County, North Carolina, to fight Hitler. Like my dad, who left high school in Vermont to enlist and fight Hitler.

Welcome to the resistance!”

– Naomi Johnson

Naomi Johnson’s brave and courageous mother who served her country in WWII.

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  “Get up, stand up, stand up for your rights.
Get up, stand up, don’t give up the fight.”
– Bob Marley

 

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An Apology Letter to the LGBT Community

 

Dear LGBT Community:

My name is Melissa Edmondson.

Last week, I was invited to speak at a GOP meeting in my small area to give an opposing opinion on North Carolina’s controversial HB2 law. Why me? Good question. I have no idea.

speech

Photo by Jesse Campbell of The Jefferson Post

I am a progressive independent who tends to lean pretty far to the left – the last person you’d expect to be a keynote speaker at a GOP meeting. But there I was, nonetheless. The Republican party chairman, in what I think was a brilliant, heartfelt move, decided that we are a better community when we hear what one another has to say. And he chose me to deliver that message.

Does he regret his decision? I wonder.

I’ve gotten many responses since the meeting, both good and bad.  (If you’d like to read the news articles about how it went, you can click here and here.  And then a later report about the republican party itself and their standing after the meeting: here.)

The “bad” responses I’ve received generally involve the possibility that I might lose my job or lose business for my employer. He and I have both received those comments from people in our community. Yes, I know this sound ludicrous to some of you who may be reading this while in other areas. But trust me, this is Ashe County, North Carolina, and this is a very real thing here. If you do not fall in the majority with your beliefs, you are practically nonexistent (or some will try to see to it that you are). So far, however, I’m still at my job. Even a heathen like me can still whip up a few real estate closings here and there.

But, honestly, I want to tell you about the other responses. It’s the “good” ones that have bothered me most.

I keep getting told what a “hero” I am. How “brave” I am. How much courage it took to get up in front of all of those people to speak like I did. And every time I hear those words, I feel a sadness that I have had trouble explaining.

At first, I told myself I was just being silly. Maybe I’m just one of those people who gets embarrassed by compliments. Maybe I need to learn to accept them more graciously and have a little more faith in myself. Maybe it was just a self-esteem thing – maybe I needed to be proud of myself.

But no. That’s not it. Not at all.

The more I’ve thought about it, the more I realize what’s wrong. I am accepting misplaced credit.

I am not the brave one. You are.

I am a writer; a talker. Speaking my mind is something that comes naturally to me. Sure, it’s a bit easier to speak to people who share my beliefs, but the fact that the room was full of people who didn’t share those beliefs didn’t bother me. When you truly believe that what you are saying is the truth, you don’t care who you are speaking to. You are speaking because you know it needs to be heard. Yes, public speaking is hard. Terrifying even. And if you want to pat me on the back for speaking in front of people, okay. I’ll take that. Because I was scared out of my mind. (I just recently read a James Patterson book entitled “I Funny” which was aimed at middle-schoolers. One of the chapters was entitled “Public Speaking: Or As It Should Be Called – Public Execution).  Yes, I was terrified. But not because of what I was saying. I had absolute faith in what I was saying. It was just your normal run-of-the-mill fear of public speaking. Most of us have it.

So, yes. Yay me. I overcame a public speaking fear. Big whoop.

But bravery? HA! No, that is not bravery. What you do everyday is bravery.  Especially if you live here.

Although the world is slowly adapting to one that accepts you as you are, change is very slowly arriving to our little area. In some places, change hasn’t arrived at all. You have to live your life as a lie. You have to pretend to be someone you’re not.

Me? Brave? Any time a major event happens between my husband and me, I share it all over Facebook. Pictures of us holding hands. Snuggling. I get to hear the ooohs and ahhhs and bask in the lovey-doveyness of it all. What do you get to do? Hide. You can’t post pictures like that or even hold your loved one’s hand in public. You have to hide behind the veneer of what is ‘allowed.’

You are the brave ones.

Me? Brave? I can walk into any restaurant or store and know that I can shop and dine and not have to wonder if I’m going to be asked (or told) to leave. I don’t have to wonder if this is a safe spot for me to be in and wonder if the person behind the counter is going to treat me the same as others. There is no reason they shouldn’t. I’m just standing here being heterosexual, why should they treat me any different? You, on the other hand?  I can’t imagine what must go through your mind every time you walk into an establishment in this narrow-minded area that time has forgotten to visit.

You are the brave ones.

Me? Brave? I can go to the bathroom, for God’s sake. If I need to pee in public, I go to the friggin bathroom. There’s no question. There’s no hesitation. There’s no looking behind me to see if I’m going to be arrested. There’s no feeling I’m doing anything “wrong.” I go pee and I leave. I don’t give it a second thought. Some of you? I can’t even begin to wrap my mind around how hard this must be for you.

You are the brave ones.

Please accept my apology. Please accept my apology for taking the compliments and the praise that should be directed at you. You are the brave ones. You are the heroes. You are the courageous.

Yes, I spoke on your behalf. But I am not you. I don’t understand, and can’t begin to fully understand no matter how hard I try. I am sorry that it was me up there speaking on your behalf, and not you able to tell your story. I was the one that was welcomed into the “lion’s den” as one reporter referred to it.

Would you have been?

Somehow I don’t think so.

Did those people hear me? Was it worth it?  I don’t want to be pessimistic here, but honestly I don’t think so. But to tell you the truth, I don’t really care.

They weren’t the ones I was targeting. You were.

Please know that you have friends. Please know that there are more out here than just me. Please know that you are not alone. Not by a long shot. You are fighting one of the bravest fights there is to fight – the fight for equality. You are the heroes, friends. Not me.

They may not have heard me, but I hope you did.

Love,
Melissa

 

Everyday Friends

“The surest sign of age is loneliness.”
– Anne Dillard

Let’s talk about adult friendships, shall we?

I want to show you something that I saw yesterday.

“Wish those people who talk about their recent outings or make plans in my presence realized that they never invite me. Are they insensitive? Do they assume I’m busy or disinterested?
Feeling a little hurt because I’m realizing that I invested over a year trying to build friendships that will never be more than functional, practical acquaintances.
I’ve got people who live too far away for random, everyday interactions. I’ve got people I can call in a crisis but I don’t have that circle of local girlfriends I’ve been hoping for. Guess it’s time to move on. Problem is, surrounded by so many locals, no one has an opening for an ‘everyday friend.’”

friendship blogWhat you just read was an online post from my Facebook friend Tiffany. I saw it yesterday while scrolling through and I haven’t been able to get it off of my mind. I had a passing thought to blog about it, but then decided maybe not. Really, what could I write about? And what could I offer? Advice? Ha. Hardly. Why? Because I’m not qualified, that’s why. I’m just like Tiffany.

I feel exactly the same way.

And then today, as if the universe knew I was trying to hide from the thought, I received a message from Kim, a mutual friend of mine and Tiffany’s. This is what she had to say:

“I am sadly amazed at the responses to Tiffany’s post. Given the outpouring of understanding she received, I would love to see you blog about this. It is a widespread topic that we are reluctant to put out there. Oh, I’m whining, or pathetic, or some other dreamt up stupid adjective that is not accurate (except in our mind). You write THE best, honest, open and heartfelt pieces. For all of us who feel strangely disenfranchised, please write.”

Could I write about this? Really? What would I have to say?

So, the first thing I did was go back and read Tiffany’s post and peruse the responses. Here’s what I saw:

 “Ditto. Ditto exactly.” – Veronica

“I can relate to this.” – Blakeley

“I feel the same way.” – Heidi

“Thank you for your honesty. More people than you know feel the same way here.” – Becky

“I don’t have this either.” – Cassondra

(And let me just pause here to point out that Cassondra is my next door neighbor and a friend from my community theatre. Geez.)

Now, aside from the many commenters who simply voiced their understanding of Tiffany’s statement, there were also a few who attempted to rationalize it as well.

 “This makes me….wish I was less generally ‘hermity.’” – Season

Looks like Season seems to be blaming herself here. She sees it as a flaw in her own personality or is seeing it as her choice to be alone.

And on that same note:

“I don’t have it either. I think it’s harder to be close to people as I get older. I’m less trusting and more self sufficient.” – Melissa (Oh, wait, that’s me.)

Like Season (gosh I love that name), my comment fell into the same category. Somehow I feel as if I have chosen to feel like Tiffany does.

Some seemed to blame it on the small area we live in:

“Our area is a difficult place to form friendships. I had so many good friends in SC that I went out with on a regular basis. When we moved back home, I had my family but no friends.” – Andrea

“That’s the problem with small towns; they typically aren’t very welcoming to ‘outsiders’ in a deep friendship way. We really haven’t had good friends since we lived in Atlanta.” – Jill

And one mentioned the fact that we don’t make the time for these friendships:

“We are busy and allow the urgent to overtake the important, we don’t take time for girlfriend relationships.” – Cyndi

Then, one that really stood out to me and got me right in the feels:

“I struggle with this same thing. Since I’ve changed my life and try to focus on doing good I don’t have anyone that likes to come around either. It’s funny when you party and act wild you’ll have friends around but as soon as I sober up nobody calls or comes around. So I just hangout with my sweet boys all the time. But it’d def be nice to have a friend too.” – Crystal

(Oh, Crystal. Do you have any idea how strong you are, lady? I sure hope so.)

So, here we have a variety of women with a variety of reasons why they think they have lost this connection with other women. Which one is right?

Are Andrea and Jill onto something? Is it the area we live in? I can certainly relate to that if it is. As a woman who definitely did not grow up in this small town, I often feel left out when I see these female friendships that have been blooming for years.

Or, is it what Cyndi said? Is it the fact that we don’t make time for friendships? As women who are all grown up and now have jobs and kids to take care of and houses to keep clean, is it that we just don’t have the time anymore to pick up the phone and make a plan for a girls’ night? Again, I get it. It seems frivolous in a way. We are women – we take care of things. Who is going to keep things on track around here if we take the night off?

Or is Crystal the one who has it figured out? Have we just outgrown friendships? While we might not have all changed as profoundly as Crystal has (and again – you go girl!), we’ve definitely all changed. There’s no doubt about it. We get older and the things that were once important to us just aren’t anymore.

Or are Season and I the ones that have it figured out. Is it just our choice to not be close to people anymore? Some of us realize it, but maybe some of us don’t?

Sigh. Again, like I said at the beginning of this blog, I don’t really know why I’m writing this. I don’t have the ability to provide answers. Like another commenter, Conor, said, “I can’t offer advice, only empathy.” What is there to say?

Well, other than this:

Tiffany, you are obviously not alone.

“Do you know how many people feel the same way? You have opened up a conversation here that so many are afraid to even contemplate because they don’t want to recognize the hurt and rejection that comes with it. Community is SO needed!!!” – Julie

Julie, my dear, you are on to something. You see all of those suggestions of why up there? They don’t matter. They really don’t. We can sit and try to analyze it all day. Maybe there are a million different reasons it happens, but the fact is that it does happen. It has happened to so many of us.

And now, the question is this – what do we do about it?

I want to go out on a limb and hypothesize about something. I think social media plays a huge role in this conundrum. Now, hear me out here.

I have friends. Really, I do. In fact, I have about 1,045 of them. Don’t believe me? Just ask Facebook. Now, I’m not saying that I don’t cherish those friends on there. I do. In fact, I have a few that I don’t know what I’d do without. When I need a listening ear, I just type away and there they are.

But is that the same thing? Really?

How many times have I said, “I have a problem I need to talk about. Can I come over?” Or how many times have I reached out to someone else? How many times have I said, “I’m sorry you’re hurting, I’ll be right over.” I’ll tell you how many times. Zero. It’s just too easy to have a typed conversation. Or send a funny meme. Or post a facebook status and watch the empathy roll in.

But is that enough?

Tiffany’s status and the overwhelming amount of responses she received tell me that maybe it’s not.

So now what?

I’m a runner. One of the things I always tell people who are just starting out, and the thing that was always told to me when I was first starting out, is this: the first step is always the hardest. Even as an experienced runner, that never fails to be the case. Some days I just don’t feel like running. But as soon as I put forth the effort to just get into my running gear, lace up my shoes, and take those first sluggish steps out the door, it gets easier after that.

Maybe that logic is the same that needs to be applied here.

Kudos to Tiffany. She took that first step. She acknowledged the problem. And not only did she acknowledge it, she put it out there. What courage that took. And because of that courage, she received messages like this one from Christy:

“You, me, coffee? I’d love to spend time with you! I guess I always figure people already have their group of friends since I’m new to town. I always need more girlfriends, though!”

And there you have it. Will Tiffany and Christy become best friends? Who knows? Maybe, maybe not. Friendships are like relationships. Some work, some don’t. But, also like relationships, you have to try. You just have to.

It’s just way too lonely out here alone.

And as for me? Well, I guess it’s time to put my money where my mouth is. I have a neighbor that I’d like to get to know better.  And how ridiculous of me that I haven’t asked sooner.

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“The only way to have a friend is to be one.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson