Tag Archives: hurt

The First and Only: A Theory About Love

The loss of young first love is so painful that it borders on the ludicrous.
– Maya Angelou

As a writer (and general over-sharer), I have noticed this phenomena that occurs when I get a “topic” on my mind.  Something harmlessly and lightly crosses my mind – I think “hmm, I should write about that sometime” – and then suddenly that topic is EVERYWHERE. Even when I’m not consciously thinking of it, there it is. I see things that remind me of it. I see quotes that relate to it. It comes up in conversation. Now, I don’t know if these are actual “signs,” per se (I mean, if you buy a red truck, you’re probably going to start noticing red trucks…I think that’s just life), but nevertheless, they sure make it pretty miserable on me until I just give in and sit down and write about it.

So, here I am. I have no idea where I’m going with this so I’ll be just surprised as you as to how it turns out. Like author Margaret Atwood says, “If I waited for perfection, I would never write a word.” So, I’m not waiting. I’m just gonna start talking.

I’m going to tell you about my high school boyfriend.

I know, right? What the heck?!  Where’d that come from?  Hey, beats me. You don’t want to climb in this head, trust me.  It’s a circus in here.

Okay, maybe I do kind of know where it came from. In a conversation with a dear friend a month or so ago, I was asked how many times I had been in love in my life.  I’m not sure if I’ve ever been asked that before and the first answer that popped into my head was “You mean how many times have I actually been in love or how many times have I thought I was?” Which then led me to bring up this theory that I’ve always subconsciously had but never had actually vocalized. It’s kind of negative so if you don’t like it, just ignore it. I’m not a psychologist and I’m just babbling so you can pretend you never heard it.  (I also have a tendency to be wrong about things so there’s that.) But anyway the theory is this: I think we’re only romantically “in love” once in our life.  And it’s only the first time. I know, I know. That sounds awful. And I’m married and my husband is reading this so I’m probably in trouble. But whatever – I honestly believe that.  And here’s why. I think to be “in love” (at least in the romantic sense) requires complete innocence and ignorance. And I don’t think a person can truly allow themselves to feel the euphoria of being in love once they’ve learned what it’s like to lose it.

Let me try to equate this to something a bit more simple.  My younger siblings used to love jumping on a trampoline. That trampoline was the cornerstone of their youth. If they were awake, they were jumping on that thing. But then one day, my sister Jenny fell off of it and broke her leg. Now, I’m not Jenny. And I don’t actually know what it feels like to fall off a trampoline and break my leg.  But I’d be willing to bet my left lung that jumping on the trampoline was never the same for her again.

[I pause here to report that I just took a break from this blog and sent her a text. It went like this:
Me: “I have a weird random question for you. Did you still jump on the trampoline after you broke your leg on it?”
Her: “Yes ma’am! I was on one Thursday. lol!” (Jenny is 28 years old in case you were wondering…)
Me: “Sigh. Work with me here. Did it change how you felt about it though? Are you more careful now?”
Her: “I was to begin with. But I actually broke it because we had basketballs on there playing ‘popcorn.’ I landed on one and it broke my leg. Definitely haven’t done that again.”]

[Note to readers: Do NOT try that at home….]

So, anyway, there. She proved my point.  We’re all big dummies and we eventually get back on the trampoline, but we sure are more careful from that point on, right?  I mean, we don’t throw basketballs on there with us because…duh…that’s just stupid.  Point is…we lose a bit of that old risk. That feeling of euphoria. Because we kind of know better now. We know we can break our frickin’ leg.

Make sense?

Okay, so maybe throwing basketballs on a trampoline isn’t an obvious example, but it works. We adjust our game after that first fall. We are never going to allow ourselves to feel that invincible feeling of “falling” again because we now know what it feels like to land.

So, back to the high school boyfriend. His name was Nathan and he was my first love.  Some may call that puppy love, but I don’t know. The older I get, the more I think that childlike love was more real than this cynical adult will ever be able to feel again. I was hopeless. And so very ignorant. And oh man, our story had all the makings of a Nicholas Sparks novel. We were American high school seniors living in a foreign country. We had been best buddies before I found out I had cancer and he ended up falling in love with the bald-headed version of me. He traveled 6 hours once alone in a car with my step-dad – the guy he had just met FOR THE FIRST TIME – to see me in the hospital after a major surgery. When I had to miss the senior trip because of my health, he took me on a day-long train ride through Germany a few months later when I was healthier to try to make up for it.  And as if that weren’t enough?  Our prom was in a CASTLE…yes, a REAL castle…complete with my getting too tired and us going outside to sit on a bench and watch the full moon reflect off of my bald head as my wig lay on the seat beside us.

Y’all, you can’t make this stuff up. This was my life.

With our moms (who were younger then than we are now) – High School Graduation 1996, Giessen, Germany

Fast forward to the end of our senior year though. Those two 18-year-old lovestruck teenagers were getting ready to graduate and watch their entire world change like they could have never imagined.

Oh, we had all these plans. We had it ALL figured out. In the military, your “home of record” is the state you were in when the parent joined the services. Mine and Nathan’s homes of record were just about as far apart as they could be. His? Oregon. Mine? Virginia.  And this mattered because of our college plans – in-state tuition, where our extended family was, etc.  So June 6, 1996, came and went. We graduated high school – such a bittersweet day – and a few weeks later, I watched him get on a plane and leave my life.

Shortly after he left, I got on my own plane and flew to Virginia to live with my dad and start college. I was in college full time and working three jobs at one point just to save money to be with Nathan. I even applied and was accepted at his university and had every intention of moving there to be with him as a sophomore where we could begin to start our life together. It was what we both wanted and were working towards.  This was before cell phones and internet were a huge thing, so most of our communication was real-life letters. I still have them in a memory box somewhere. We wrote each other all the time – sent each other cards and even recorded our voices on cassette tapes and sent them to one another so we could hear each other any time we wanted.  (Long distance phone calls were not cheap.)  We were making it work and we were determined.

And then, just like that, everything changed.

He met someone else.

Oh, it was devastating. I felt like someone had pulled my heart out of my chest and stomped on it.  I hated him. I hated me. I hated life. I hated the military. I hated our parents. I hated cancer. I hated everything that conspired to bring me to this point I was at – a sobbing, hiccupping pile of crumbled, broken-hearted mess cradling a “Dear John” letter in my lap on the floor.

I survived though. We humans always tend to make it through these things we think will destroy us.

I refused to talk to him for a long time, but he kept trying. He still sent me letters for a few years and then when email became a more popular thing, he’d email me. He tried to keep in touch but I was so incredibly angry and would either not respond, or would respond sarcastically asking why he still wanted to talk to me when he had Miss Perfect now.

He and Miss Perfect stayed together for five years, by the way. It didn’t ultimately last, but it was apparently pretty serious. As it turns out, I ended up getting married and having two kids in the interim. And my marriage was ending about the same time his relationship was. So we found ourselves unattached and heartbroken at 22 and did the only logical thing.

Tried to get back together.

But, um, let’s just say that didn’t work. Boy had those five years changed us! He had become a successful college graduate living in the big city with a business degree and a big salary. I had become a broke, divorced mom living in the middle of nowhere. Just those five little years changed everything.

Anyway, I’m kind of digressing here. That was just some extra “what happened next” info that doesn’t really play into my point. So, what is my point exactly?

Darn it. I still don’t know.

I thought maybe once I started writing, it would all become clear. Honestly, it usually does. I start with an idea, have no idea where it’s headed, and then wrap it all up with a pretty little life lesson bow at the end. But I don’t really have a bow this time. I just wanted to talk about something that shaped who I am – at least as far as romance is concerned. I wanted to tell my “tragic love story” so that maybe you might think about yours and realize that we all have them.

Ok, and maybe there is something else.

No, I don’t believe I’ll ever feel the way I felt about Nathan again about anyone. But you know what?

I’m glad.

We were so incredibly innocent. We had no idea what lessons life was going to hold for us once we left the sanctuary of high school. We didn’t know what it was going to be like to pay bills, have kids, have real responsibilities. We had no idea what it was going to feel like to have to actually work at love.

No, at that time in our life, love wasn’t a choice. It was just something that happened to us and swept us off our feet.

But that’s not what love really is.

No, being “in love” is not where it’s at. LOVE is what it’s all about. The real kind. Love is the hard stuff. Love is saying I’m sorry. Love is saying mean things in the heat of the moment and then begging for forgiveness. Love is being hurt and yet choosing to move forward together anyway. Love is knowing that you can be yourself – the bad and the good – and they’ll still be there tomorrow. Love is knowing that you probably should have been given up on long ago, but yet you weren’t.

Love is choosing to stay.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m still a hopeless romantic at heart. But I’m learning as I go. And the older I get, the more I realize that the “in love” feeling can, in fact, still be replicated. It has just shifted a bit.

I’m just not going to find it in other people anymore.

Now I have to find it in me.

That feeling I get when I watch my grown children successfully living their lives. That moment when I have been training for months and finally reach the top of a mountain I’ve been determined to run up. When I finish a grueling project at my job knowing that everything was completed because of my hard work and determination. When I hear the sound of the audience’s applause at the end of a theatre performance that I’m so proud of.

That feeling I get when I write something and then look back over it and realize that maybe I did, in fact, say exactly what I was meaning to say all along.

So if you’re one of those whose romantic “in love” moment has been used up, stop mourning it.  Today. Seriously, stop it. Don’t glamorize it. It happened and it’s over – and that’s a good thing. We’re different people now and we have evolved. We don’t throw basketballs on trampolines anymore.  Got it?  Time to replace that feeling with these other beautiful moments of euphoria that are out there waiting for us to discover them.

There’s a lot more life out there to be lived. And so many more kinds of love to learn.

Well look at that. I guess there was a life lesson bow after all….

***

“You get over your first love by falling in love with something new.”
– Mo Ibrahim

 

the-book-of-love

 

 

 

 

Quick Fix

Quick Fix

Some learn to live with cavities of the heart.
But others?
Others need to fill the void.
They squeeze, they cram,
they fit whatever they can into the spaces
until it is too full
and starts to burst at the seams.

Then?
Then they look for a bandaid
to hold the pieces together.
And that works. Temporarily.

The problem with bandaids though?
They have to come off.

And that’s going to sting.

Letter to My Husband: Thank You for Not Believing in Me

“Christmas is not only a season of rejoicing, but of reflection.”
– Winston Churchill

I have what might sound like an odd present to give my husband this year for Christmas.

I want to thank him for not believing in me.

Sure, I know that sounds silly. A little rude, even. But if you were married to a person like me, I think you’d probably understand.

So, without further adieu, a missive of gratitude to my husband:

Dear Richard,

We’ve had a rough year. We’ve had some revelations brought to light; we’ve had some financial struggles; we’ve had a newly empty nest to contend with. This fourth year of our blended family marriage has been a tough one – the toughest one yet. Yet here we are. Still standing. Still loving one another. And a big part of the reason for that is something you’ve done that deserves recognition.

I want to thank you for not believing in me.

Throughout this tough year, I’ve said a lot of things I didn’t mean. I may have thought I meant them at the time, but in the long run, I didn’t. And you, knowing me as well as you do, didn’t believe me.

When I said we’d never make it when the kids were out of the house. When I said that having at least one of the kids here 24/7 was the only thing that kept us – a talker and a loner – from killing one another and that we might as well just hang it up because we weren’t going to last. 

You didn’t believe me.

When I said we were too mismatched and that getting married had been a mistake. When I said you’d be better off with someone who didn’t talk so much – didn’t think so much – didn’t complain so much.  

You quietly refused to believe me.

When I said that counseling wasn’t going to help us through the marriage-shattering news you gave me earlier this year. When I said that it was all your fault and nothing could be done to salvage us. You patiently heard me out. But you went to counseling anyway.

And you watched me go too.

You watched me learn that I had a role in this too. And yet you accepted all of the blame I threw at you until I slowly realized you didn’t quite deserve it all. 

You wouldn’t believe in me – no matter how much I screamed that it was true. 

And then. The worst of all.

When I said our marriage was over. When I said I was leaving. Yes, it hurt. It hurt us both. But somehow, deep down, you wouldn’t let yourself believe me. Would I have done the same in your shoes?  Would I have been strong enough to stand my ground, watch my wife hurt, let her rage, and yet still know that what we had was strong enough to weather the storm?  I honestly don’t know.

But I’m glad you were. 

You didn’t believe in me. 

I am human.  More human than most. I’m loud. I’m emotional. I’m impulsive. Unlike you, I don’t think through what I’m saying before I say it. And yet, somehow, you’ve learned to live with that. You, with your calm, steady way and a patience like none I’ve ever seen before, are the rock that holds this relationship – this family – together.  And it’s all because you’ve learned who I am. You’ve learned that I have faults and one of them (probably the biggest one) is my impulsive mouth. I wish it weren’t true, but it just is. You have your faults too, of course.  But that’s the thing – that’s marriage. We’ve learned those faults and we’ve learned to overlook them.

We’ve learned that sometimes the greatest gift we can give another person is just not to believe in them.

So, on this Christmas day of our fourth year, I just want to thank you, my dear husband. Thank you for being the reason we’re still here. Thank you for being the reason that our whole family will be sitting around the table in a few hours eating, laughing, and loving. Thank you for holding on when I was trying so hard to let go.

Thank you for not believing in me – but for believing in us.

Merry Christmas, my love.

Your wife,

Melissa

***

“Christmas, my child, is love in action. Every time we love, every time we give, it’s Christmas.”
– Dale Evans

 

 

 

 

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

 

Attention-Seekers: The Women’s March on Washington

“The best protection any woman can have … is courage.”
– Elizabeth Cady Stanton

***

“We’re with a group of strong, beautiful women. We’re fine.”

metropicThese were the words that my travel companion and dear friend Cassondra uttered to her concerned mother by telephone as we made our way into Washington DC by metro train for the Women’s March on Washington early on the morning of January 21, 2017.

I’ve had to replay Cassondra’s words many times in my head in the days since. I’ve needed the reminder that those simple words provide. I’ve needed the strength, the affirmation, the love.

Because, let me tell you, the days following Saturday have not been easy.

The only way I know how to describe it is that I’ve walked out of a sea of love into a swarm of hatred.

I live in a small, conservative area. I don’t mean to use the word “conservative” with a negative connotation, but I’m just going to have to say it like it is. The minds around me tend to be small. They can’t (won’t) stretch far enough to take in all that is out there in this big world. I’ve become used to it. I’ve become accustomed to the responses I receive any time I go against the flow (which is pretty often). This is nothing new. I knew there’d be negativity. I was prepared for it. It’s pretty much the status quo for me.

But what I wasn’t prepared for?

What took me surprise?

The response from some of my friends.

My FEMALE friends at that.

“I’ll march at the ‘we’re all a bunch of hypocritical asshats that love to point out the splinter in another’s eye while ignoring the log in ours’ protests.”

“I didn’t ask anyone to march for me.”

“No one ‘fought’ shit. You guys walked around getting pats on your back from people who already agreed with you.”

“They’re just a bunch of attention-seeking whores.”

Lovely, huh?

And, oh no….these were not comments that I just plucked off of the internet, mind you. These were said by women I know personally. Women I considered friends. In fact, one of them was one I had even considered one of my best friends right up until the moment my eyes met those words.

I feel shell shocked.

I’ve been running their words over in my mind.

Attention-seeking whores.”

Women (and men) just looking for “pats on the back.”

I suppose there is some truth to some of it. Really. For example – attention-seeking? Okay, actually yeah. That’s exactly what we were doing. Exactly. Drawing attention to the things that get swept under the rug. The drastic wage difference between men and women. The daily cat-calling, condescension, and groping that women are submitted to.  The men who make their eight-year-old daughters cry because they want their hair cut but daddy refuses to “let them” because the Bible says they’ll go to hell. (Oh yes. True story.) The Brock Turners of the world who serve three mere months in jail for damage that a woman will live with forever, because it may have hurt his little swimming career.

The men who brag about grabbing women’s pussies against their will because they have the power to do so, and yet advance to become the PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES.

Are we wanting attention? Well, yeah. I suppose you can say we are.

So, attention-seeking – I’ll give you.  Whores?  Hell, I don’t know. Maybe some of them out there have been paid for sex. Me, though? Notsomuch. So I’m gonna have to pull a snopes on you for that one. FALSE.

Now. Are we looking for “pats on the back”?

Hmmm. Actually, I think that might be the other way around. We were there to give those pats on the back.

nastywomanmanTo the woman I overheard trying desperately to hear on her cellphone as the crowd thickened and the decibel level rose because she was calling to make sure her son made it to soccer practice? Yes. That woman deserves a pat on the back. So, here. This pat is for you.

To the man who married a “nasty woman” and showed up to show his support and love for her and all women like her? This pat is for you, sir.

To the woman carrying the sign that said, “I’m the lesbian daughter of a Muslim immigrant?” This pat is for you, you strong, beautiful, brave woman. And here’s another one for your mom.

babyTo the many women in the crowd who carried their babies on their person for hours at a time so that they could be a part of an historical event to have their voices heard? This pat? Yeah. This one is definitely for you. What a story you’ll have to tell them. Kudos to you, momma.

To the little latino girl on her daddy’s shoulders beaming as she watched 6-year-old Sophie Cruz, daughter of Mexican immigrants, give arguably the most rousing speech of the day? That smile that covered her face as little Sophie told her, “I am here to tell the children, do not be afraid”?  Oh yeah, that one gets a pat on the back. And it would have gotten the biggest hug you’ve ever gotten from a ginger stranger if I could have reached you, you sweet little thing you.

hatefearTo the teenager holding the rainbow sign showing the USA and the words, “No hate, no fear, everyone is welcome here”? A pat on the back for you, little warrior woman. I know full well how tough it is for a teenager who is “different.” How brave you were to walk through the streets of that big city and show the other kids of the world that you were on their side.

To the woman wearing the race bib on your shirt that said “Sarah bear”? Being a runner myself, I had to ask you about it. I thought it was yours. When you told me that you were wearing that bib in honor of your young daughter who had just passed away? I couldn’t stop the tears from pouring. You definitely get a pat on the back. A big one. You possess a strength that I couldn’t possibly know. You are my hero.

To the woman who wrote this sign we found propped against a fence at the white house:

sign

This blog would go on forever if I kept up with all of these ‘pats on the back,’ so I’ll finish it up with one final one.

To the woman who stood by my side through it all. The woman I watched feed a homeless man; defend a woman who was being verbally attacked by a stranger on the street; force a parting of the crowd to help a woman break through to find her son. The woman who continually asked people’s stories. Who felt people’s pain. Who engaged everyone in conversation. Who shed tears on countless occasions simply because she was standing where she was and doing what she felt in her heart to be right. The woman who never wanted to be in front of the camera because she was too busy behind the camera –  documenting the happiness, the strength, and, sometimes, the pain. The woman who lost her job while we were on this trip because of a landslide in our small town, yet who set that worry and grief aside long enough to focus on the matter at hand, and do her part in preserving a piece of history. I laughed with her, I cried with her, I raged with her.

We became sisters.

cassondraSo, to Cassondra? An extra special pat on the back for you, lady.

*THIS* is what this trip was about. This is what this weekend was about. This is what that day was about. This was what that march was about.

Sisterhood.

Togetherness.

Connection.

Strength.

Love.

Determination.

We are going to be there for one another. We just are. Not just Cassondra and me. Every woman that stood there side by side in a collective love.  That day was just the start. The start of something big and beautiful.

And I will not…I repeat, NOT…let pettiness stand in my way.

There will be more stories to tell, I promise. Cassondra is a photographer and there will be photos coming that will blow you away. Her photos will tell stories that my words never could. Wait for them.

We are not through yet.

I just had to get this out while it was weighing on me.

I had to fight back against the oppression, even if it was coming from friends.

We won’t be stopped. You don’t have to understand this now. But one day you will.

One day you will.

not-over

Sign left outside a café the morning after the march in DC