Tag Archives: motivational

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.

***

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

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That Time I Shut Up

“The world is filled with people who, no matter what you do, will point blank not like you. But it is also filled with those who will love you fiercely. They are your people. You are not for everyone and that’s ok. Talk to the people who can hear you. Don’t waste your precious time and gifts trying to convince them of your value, they won’t ever want what you’re selling. Don’t convince them to walk alongside you. You’ll be wasting both your time and theirs and will likely inflict unnecessary wounds, which will take precious time to heal. You are not for them and they are not for you; politely wave them on, and continue along your way. Sharing your path with someone is a sacred gift; don’t cheapen this gift by rolling yours in the wrong direction. Keep facing your true north.”
– Rebecca Campbell, from her book, Light is the New Black

Make sure you read that quote up there. Read it very carefully.

Did you read it?  Good. Now, go back and read it again. I’ll wait. Really, go on.

There.

[See? Still here. Told you I’d wait.]

I read that quote yesterday for the first time and it really got to me. And I mean really. I went back and read it again. And then again. And then one more time for good measure. Seeing those words, and then committing them to my heart and mind, reminded me of something that I don’t talk about very  much.

And today, I’m going to change that.

I want to tell you about the time I shut up.

I know, I know. Sounds like fiction, right? Me? Shutting up? But nope – this story I’m going to tell you is all true. Every last word of it.

Unfortunately.

Most of you who read this blog either don’t know me at all, or know me through the wonderful world of social media. With that being said, you know the “me” who is a talker. The me who posts a Facebook status or a blog post every time a thought enters my mind. The me who is a performer, a writer, an extrovert in every sense of the word.

But there was a time before all of this. A time before Facebook. A time before the writing and the sharing and the openness.

A time between performances. An intermission, so to speak.

I was involved in a bad relationship. Now, don’t take that as my saying I was in a relationship with a bad man. That’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying I was in a bad relationship. A really bad one. And what made it so bad was this: I was with someone who didn’t like me.

It’s true. I spent almost five years involved with a man who didn’t like me. Oh, he loved me, I suppose. But he didn’t like me. There’s a difference, ya know. He didn’t like who I was.

For example, he didn’t like when I told people things. Anything. Because, of course, I could have been telling them our problems and those things needed to remain private. So, I stopped telling people anything, good or bad, in person or on social media. I just stopped reaching out; kept to myself.

He didn’t like my writing because I might make him the subject of it and, again, that needed to remain private. My views were so outlandish anyway, no one would ever possibly identify with anything I had to say. I should just be quiet and save myself the embarrassment.

So I stopped writing.

intermissionHe didn’t like my acting. After being involved with community theatres for as long as I could remember, I let the curtain fall on those aspirations. Theatre took time and time was something I didn’t have. I needed to be with him, not out doing God knows what with God knows who for all of those hours. A woman belonged with her family, not on a stage. What was wrong with me?

So I stopped acting.

For someone as bold and blunt and hardheaded as I am, I’m sure it’s hard for you to believe this when I tell you. How could this have happened? How could someone like me become someone like that? But folks, I’m here to tell you – it happened. I wore my hair the way he required. (He once refused to look at me for an entire day because I straightened it and he wanted the natural curls.) I dressed the way he required. I obeyed the way he required.  (Until the time I didn’t – but that’s a story for another day.)

I became so entranced with trying to please him and be what he wanted that I lost me. I had no idea who I was anymore. I became depressed. I slept for hours at a time. I gained weight. In short, I was miserable.

Why does this matter now? Why am I writing about it all these years later?

A few reasons.

First, I posted a blog earlier this week that wasn’t popular with a few people. (Okay, a lot of people.) My viewpoint didn’t jive with some others…including that of my own brother. I don’t like disagreeing with people I love, and for a moment, I did what I used to do. I stopped talking. I got off of the internet for a few hours and didn’t say a word. I didn’t stand my ground, I didn’t argue my point. I ran.

In other words, I shut up.

But then a few hours later, with a sudden jolt, I immediately realized what I was doing. I was once again allowing the sound of me to disappear because someone didn’t like what they heard.

Second reason I’m telling this story: I saw something a week or so ago that I can’t seem to shake from my mind. There was a news story going around about a woman whose husband was being prosecuted because of forcing her to have sex with many men over a period of years. While the story itself was atrocious, the comments that followed the posting of the story were almost worse. I saw so many people saying, “she obviously wanted it or she wouldn’t have participated” and “why doesn’t she go to jail too? She is the one who did it.” Etc. etc. I saw the woman called every unsavory name under the sun, followed ironically by the question of, “Why didn’t she leave?”

Ah, yes. The “why didn’t she leave?” stance. My favorite.

Sigh. What is wrong with us? What is wrong with people today? Why are we so full of ourselves that we think we know everything? Why do we feel like we know the true story of something that happens behind closed doors that we’ve never even peeked around? Why do we feel that we know the obvious answer when this poor victim didn’t? Do we think we are that much better than her? That much smarter? That much wiser?

I don’t know, guys. I really don’t know.

But I do know this.

I am now someone who tries to recognize the ones who are between performances. I know too well what that feels like. I try hard not to judge. I try hard to remember that I don’t know what happened that put them where they are today. Until you’ve been there, you don’t know how easy it is to slip down that slippery slope of people pleasing. You want so badly to be loved…to be liked…that you find the pieces of you that they don’t like slipping away a little at a time until you don’t even recognize yourself anymore. If you haven’t been there, you don’t know. But trust me, it doesn’t happen overnight. It happens in fits and starts and the further you go down the rabbit hole, the harder it is to turn around and crawl your way out.

Back to that quote at the beginning.

Are you someone who’s between performances? Is it intermission time in your life? I’m here to tell you that I understand. I truly do. But I also want to tell you that I finally…finally…also understand what it feels like on the other side.

“Talk to the people who can hear you.”

Find your song again, friends. Find it and sing it loud. Sing your heart out. For the ones who like you, your song will be music to their ears. Your song will be the best one they’ve ever heard. To them, all other music stops when you start singing. Your voice is beautiful.

And for the ones who don’t like you? They won’t be able to hear you at all. They just won’t. And you can’t make them. It’s such a hard lesson to learn, but it is a necessary one.

Never, ever, let yourself believe what I did. Never tell yourself that the answer is to stop singing. Believe me, dear ones. There is a place for your song. A place that would be empty without it.

Find it. Okay? Promise me. Find it.

And don’t let anyone, or anything, ever shut you up again.

Intermission is over, my friends. It’s time for the second act.

BR9KJP Empty movie theater

***

Where is the Love?

“People killin’, people dyin’
Children hurt and you hear them cryin’
Can you practice what you preach
And would you turn the other cheek
Father, Father, Father help us
Send us some guidance from above
‘Cause people got me, got me questionin’
Where is the love?”
– lyrics from Where Is The Love? by The Black Eyed Peas

Lord have mercy, I’m tired.

Let me tell ya what I’m tired of. People. Yep, that’s it. People.

I have this bad habit of commenting on controversial issues on Facebook. I know, I know. Generally, I’m quiet as a church mouse and keep my opinions to myself [Disclaimer: This is a total lie.], but occasionally I’m known to spout off my opinion here and there. And when I do that, there seems to always be someone somewhere who has the exact opposite opinion from me who comments soon thereafter. And no matter how hard I to try to make this happen:

mutebutton

…most of the time (okay, every time) it just doesn’t work.

Current case in point: Shakara in South Carolina.

I’m sure most of you have seen or heard something about what happened with this girl in South Carolina this week. (Click here if you haven’t.) Now, I’m well aware that the media can skew stories, and none of us really know what happened that led up to this incident unless we were actually there, but there is a VIDEO (see link above) that we can watch showing what happened during the incident. Now, regardless of the surrounding story, I’d say that without any knowledge of what happened prior to or after this event, we should all be able to watch this video and see that what happened to this student was wrong.

Right?

Ha. Obviously not.

Once again, I expect the world to see things the way I do, and once again I’m surprised when they don’t. (In fact, my own husband disagrees with me on this one…which I’m not sure has ever happened with us before regarding a current events issue.) How two people can look at an incident and see completely different things still never ceases to amaze me.

Here’s what I saw.  “Officer Slam” (hey, I’m not calling him that to skew this story to my line of thinking – that’s what the guy is known as around the school) is called in to a classroom to remove a girl who refused to leave the classroom when told to. Why was she told to leave the classroom?  Well, the media says she was asked to leave because she refused to put her cellphone away. But really, does it matter? The teacher decided she did something that was so wrong that it warranted her removal from the classroom.  The student disagreed and remained in her seat, refusing to leave.

Now, let’s stop here for a second. Was she wrong not to get up and leave?  Sure she was. She was told to do something and she didn’t do it. A teenage girl refusing to do what she was told?  WOW!  Now, there’s a news story. That never happens. Those South Carolina teen girls must be different than the teen girls everywhere else because the others are never belligerent. Never refuse authority. Never think they are being treated unfairly or feel like they know better than the adults around them. Am I right?

The little heathen.

So, okay, back to the story. This crazy alien teenage creature who refuses to do what she is told to do is now subject to the teacher having called in the school resource officer. School resource officer tells her to leave the classroom.

Let’s break here again. Okay, now we have an officer telling her to leave. Again, this teenager does something that’s absolutely unheard of – she remains stubborn. She stands her ground and refuses to budge. Was she right to do that? Nope. Was she defying authority? Yep.

Back to the story.

Here’s where the resource officer has to make a choice. And here’s where the division line is drawn between how people see the incident. What should he have done in this situation? There are many theories on that. But here’s what he did do.

He put the child – the CHILD – in a choke hold and slammed her to the ground.  He then threw her body forward to the front of the classroom (breaking her arm in the process, for the record) and pinned her to the ground and put her in handcuffs.

W. T. F., man?

And here’s the kicker – it looks like our country is divided on whether or not he did the right thing here.  Did the right thing?  Again, W. T. F., man?  How on Earth is what this officer did, the right thing?

See, here’s what some will tell you.  “By Gawd, if I’d have behaved like that with my teacher or any adult for that matter, my teacher and parents woulda whooped my ass.”

Ahhhhh. The “I’d have gotten my ass whooped for that” defense. That’s my favorite. You know why it’s my favorite?  A few reasons actually.  Number one – it’s a downright lie. Nobody got their “asses whooped” nearly as much as they claimed to. But number two? It falls right there in the category of that other defense I love – “We’ve always done it this way.” Yep, kids used to get paddled in school (hey, I was one of them). And yep, kids used to get the hell beat out of them at home on occasion.  I get it. But you know what? That was then. People were IDIOTS.

You don’t fight fire with fire.

See, there’s this thing called evolution. Whoa now. Simmer down there, right wing Christians, I’m not talking about that evolution. I’m talking about humans evolving. Learning. Growing. Moving forward. Lots of things have changed. We don’t have slavery anymore. Women can vote. You know? Change? Evolvement? Thankfully, that’s what is happening in our world. And this whole beating the hell out of a child when they do wrong is one of those things that we used to do that was WRONG.

It was wrong. It didn’t work.

Let me tell you what happened to me when I was a teenager. I ran my mouth like nobody’s business. I know that’s probably hard to believe, but alas – ’tis true. I gave my mom a run for her money, that’s the truth. And did she beat the hell out of me?  No. Sure, I got spanked when I was little – I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about when I was a full-grown (physically, that is) teenager standing in front of her running my smart mouth. What did she do? She took things away from me. She grounded me. She took away my privileges. I wasn’t allowed to go places, wasn’t allowed to talk on the phone, etc.

Did it work?

Sometimes. Sometimes not.

But you know what happened? I GREW UP. I became a functional, successful adult. I still run my mouth, but she’s proud of me for it now because I’m usually saying something that others may not have the courage to say. I run my mouth on this blog. I run my mouth in short stories that have been published with Chicken Soup for the Soul. I run my mouth in my own self-published book of essays. I’m currently running my mouth in a novel that I will have published next year.

I run my mouth.

And that’s a good thing.

Because my mom raised me the way she did, I don’t fear running my mouth. Yes, I suffered slight consequences for it at times when I was being disobedient. But she didn’t completely kill my desire to stand up for myself and speak my mind. And now? Now, I’m an adult who is proud to stand up for what she believes is right.

Did my mom do the world a disservice?  Hmmm….I guess that depends on who you ask. But if you’re asking me? Hell no, she didn’t. She made me who I am and I am proud of it. I’m not afraid to be me.

Back to Shakara in South Carolina.

Something the world didn’t know at the time of this incident…something that resource officer probably didn’t know…is this. Shakara just lost her mother and grandmother. No, this doesn’t excuse her actions as some might be quick to point out. But you know what? It explains them.  And see, that’s what happens when you actually take the time to know someone’s story before you immediately jump in there and try to take control.

You can’t fight fire with fire.

Fire needs water. Fire needs soothing. It needs the opposite of what it is to put it out. Adding fire to a flame makes it burn brighter. Makes it do more damage. This young girl in South Carolina was damaged. And now? Now she’s damaged in a much more profound way.

Where is the love, people? Seriously. Where is it?

Where is the empathy? Where is the tenderness? Where is the understanding? What are we turning our children into by throwing them across a room when they test their bounds? I’ll tell you what we’re turning them into. We’re turning them into the cold, heartless creatures that are treating them that way. So many will say that “this is what is wrong with the world today” – that children are not “punished” for their actions. But I’m going to disagree.

This is what is wrong with the world today – a lack of empathy. This whole “shoot first, ask questions later” wave that seems to be sweeping the nation these days….that is what is wrong with this world.

But hey – what do I know, right? I’m just a loudmouth redhead who didn’t get the hell beat out of her for speaking her mind. So, here I am. Just another opinion among the crowd. But I can tell you one thing – I’m proud of the person my mother raised. And I’m proud of the people I’m raising.

No child of mine is going to be afraid to speak their mind. And I wish I could say the same for all of the children out there. This situation is a shame. A crying shame. Not just what happened – but the fact that so many out there agree with it.

I’m so sorry that Shakara will not know the world that my children know.

***

“If we desire a society of peace, then we cannot achieve such a society through violence.”
– Bayard Rustin

shakara

***

Wordkeepers: An Ode to my Writing Group

“If a story is in you, it has got to come out.”
– William Faulkner

artscenterTake a trip with me. Come along as we make our way to a tiny stone building that sits on a street corner in a small town in the mountains. In this tiny building, there lies one little room. At first glance, there is nothing special about this room—nothing magical. A few pictures on the wall, a podium, some fold-out chairs. A few windows that allow the last slants of evening light to dance across the hardwood floor.

People begin to arrive and fill the chairs—a wide variety of ages and genders. (There are probably even bigger varieties in religion, profession, and political standings, but you do not know this, nor do you care.) You hear the shuffling of papers, the scraping of one of the chair’s legs across the floor as its occupant tries in vain to find a comfortable position. You hear a nervous cough or two. More paper shuffling.

Now, the silence will be broken as the first makes her way to the podium.

A throat clears. A nervous voice rings out. “I wrote this piece when I…”

Ah. This is where the magic begins.

You are in the storytellers’ room, my friend. The first storyteller has begun her journey and soon the others will follow suit, including you.

Welcome to the group.

This is where we meet to shed the life outside these stone walls and dive headfirst into the world within. This is where the stories are set free. All are true, even the fiction ones, for they come from within the mind and heart of the writer, and what could be more real than that?

Join us. Experience a new consciousness. That thing that has been sleeping inside you will gradually open one lazy, hesitant eye and take a quick peek. Once it sees that it is safe to awaken, both eyes will snap open and, with a yawn that stems from far too much time spent in hibernation, the sleeping creature will come to life.
Prepare yourself. For once it’s alive, there will be no stopping it. You will no longer remember the life you lived before this being inside of you was allowed to roam free. It will rule you. You will be at its mercy. You will not be able to rest until you obey its command to release your stories into the world. At first, it will scare you. But soon, you come to realize that it is not there to harm you, it is there to save you.

You are free. You are free from the chains of self-doubt that kept you prisoner. You are free from the fear of criticism and critique.

You are free from the fear of succeeding.

You walked into this room not knowing what might lie within. Now you walk away knowing that you will never be the same. You are one of us.

You are a storyteller.

Welcome home.

***

 “Writing is an extreme privilege, but it’s also a gift. It’s a gift to yourself and it’s a gift of giving a story to someone.”
– Amy Tan

The Great Divider

“Yes! Truth, truth! What’s so awful about it? I like it.”
– Maggie, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

I haven’t been writing for a while. Why? Well, that’s a good question. I’m a very opinioned person so current events are usually the fodder for many of my blog entries…and there has definitely been no shortage of those these days. The Kentucky court clerk, the upcoming presidential election, the transgender boy who wanted to use the girls’ bathroom at his school – I’m telling ya, it’s a blogger’s smorgasbord out there.

But yet, there I sat. Silent.

Until now.

Now, maybe “silent” isn’t exactly the right word. (I mean, silence is not exactly something I ‘do.’) I’ve had a few things to say here and there…shared some articles and memes on Facebook…that kind of thing. But when it came to sitting down and writing my thoughts out in a blog, there just seemed to be too many. There’s just so much going on out there, where would I start? Should I blog about each issue individually? No, somehow that just didn’t seem to be the right answer. Deep down, I knew that there was an underlying theme to all that was going on in the world…all that was going on in my head and in my heart…and I couldn’t sit down and write about it until I figured out what that theme was.

And now, here it is.

Two specific events happened this week that put all of this into perspective for me.

As I said, I’ve been sharing a few memes and articles on Facebook with regard to current events. I’ve also ventured to comment on others’ posts as well. One such post was one about the Missouri teen Lila Perry, a transgender teen who, though born with male genitalia, fundamentally feels female and lives his life as such. But when he attempted to use the girls’ locker room at school, that didn’t go over so well. Cue the media.

lila perry

Lila Perry

Now, although I do feel strongly about certain aspects of this whole situation, I do completely see both sides of the coin. So, rather than venture into sharing or posting about this particular situation, I opted to just keep quiet and observe. Until one commenter really pissed me off. He referred to this child as “it.” Not “he,” not “she.” IT. That really got my blood boiling.

Like homosexuality, being transgender is something you’re born with. Argue with me all you want to, you’re not going to change my mind. It’s not a choice…it’s a truth. So, when this man called this child an “it,” it suddenly became clear to me what monsters some of us can be. Okay, let’s jump on the “choice” bandwagon for a second. Let’s assume that the kid was not born with a scientific disposition that made him feel female. Let’s assume that he is, in fact, choosing to live his life wearing a wig and dresses and that he actually ‘enjoys’ the ridicule and the, I’d venture to guess, thrashings he has received because of it. Ask yourself this, if you were truly in your right mind, could you choose a life like that?  I’m thinking not. So, if It Man is right and this child did actually choose this, then I guess it would be safe to say that he’s not in his right mind, right? That he is a “freak” and that he is “mental” as some of the other commenters have called him. Okay, so we’re agreed?  So, with that being the case…are you now going to call mentally retarded children “it”?  How about kids with down syndrome? How about anyone with clinical depression? Hey, those are all mental impairments, right? Are we all “its”?

I’m going somewhere with this, I promise. Bear with me.

Moving on to Incident #2 of the week.

Now, anyone who knows me know that I am not a fan of The Donald. It’s pretty safe to say that I despise Donald Trump. I hate everything that comes out of that billionaire bully’s mouth. So, being the outspoken liberal that I am, I occasionally share these thoughts in the form of memes or articles on Facebook. In the process of doing so, I have had the unfortunate occasion to find out that many of my friends and family are actually supporters of that blowhard. How do I feel about that?

Eh.

I mean, I wish they weren’t, don’t get me wrong. But I’m not going to change their minds anymore than they’re going to change mine. Is knowing that people I love disagree with me going to stop me from speaking my mind? Heck no. Who I am says nothing against who they are. I’m just me and this is how I feel. My own father and I have the most varying political stand points you’ve ever seen in two people. He’s Republican all the way, I’m Democrat all the way. How do we handle that? We mostly avoid the topic and when it does come up, we just condescendingly grin at each other’s ignorance and end the day with an “I love you” and move on with our lives. That’s how it should work. To quote my Aunt Rebecca’s Facebook status the other day:

A very wise woman once passed on a quote, from another wise woman, that stuck with me. “If two people agree on everything all the time, then one of them is not necessary.” Sometimes, we need the “sandpaper” of other’s opinions to “smooth out” our own perspectives.

We disagree and life goes on.

LAS VEGAS, NV - APRIL 28: Chairman and President of the Trump Organization Donald Trump yells 'you're fired' after speaking to several GOP women's group at the Treasure Island Hotel & Casino April 28, 2011 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Trump has been testing the waters with stops across the nation in recent weeks and has created media waves by questioning whether President Barack Obama was born in the United States. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)

But this week, that philosophy didn’t apply to a few of my family members. Because of my standpoint on certain things, and one of my family member’s disagreeing with those standpoints, she “blocked” me on Facebook. Now, I know that sounds silly. (The “I unfriend you” commercial comes to mind…) But silly as it may be, it’s actually pretty hurtful. In this day and age, social media like Facebook is a way that we keep in touch with people we don’t see every day. So someone “blocking” you is a way of saying “I no longer want you in my life.” And to have that coming from a respected, beloved aunt that you’ve adored all your life?  Well, let’s just say it doesn’t feel too swell.

Now, as things like this tend to do, this family division spread like wildfire. Sides were taken – I was accused of disrespecting my aunt. (I still for the life of me can’t figure out what I supposedly did – I haven’t had one direct conversation with the woman about anything, political or otherwise, in months.) I can only assume that my outspoken political and social opinions went against hers and that she took them as a personal attack on her character. I hate that. I truly do. In fact, I spent a good part of that evening crying my eyes out. Knowing that this woman I have always adored and that half of my cousins (though not as a big of a loss, truthfully) all decided that I’m some kind of monster and ganged up against me over some mysterious offense is a pretty tough blow to take. I wanted to defend myself…and I did for a while. As is always the case, I covered up my hurt with anger and responded accordingly which, as is also always the case, got me nowhere. I considered deleting my entire Facebook account (the typical cowardly way out). I considered contacting the family individually and begging them to show me my transgressions so I’d at least know what it was I was supposed to be defending. I considered so many things but what I finally settled on was this: sleep.

That’s right. I went to bed. I stopped crying, got a good night’s sleep, and then woke up with a clearer mind and vision. And I also woke up with the answer to my non-writing conundrum. Just like that, the tie that binds all of these events together was staring me right in the face.

TRUTH.

That’s what is happening here. Truth. You had the middle ages, the ice age, etc. And here is what we’re in now. The Truth Age.

Suddenly, people are no longer afraid to be who they are. Somewhere, somehow a switch has been flipped. Be it political progress (or regress, depending which side you’re on), or be it the social media craze that has swept our nation…people are now speaking up and letting the world know who they really are. Lila Perry is no longer living as a girl trapped inside a boy’s skin. She is now a girl. Gay couples are no longer living their lives behind closed doors as if they are some kind of dirty secret. Non-Christians are no long adhering to laws and customs that go against what they don’t believe. And I, little nobody Melissa in Nowheresville, am no longer afraid to publicly state my opinion on all of the above. And not only am I not afraid to do it, I now have a platform to use for it – Facebook. A blog site. Social media.

Remember that famous movie line from A Few Good Men? “You can’t handle the truth!” Well, there you have it. Some of us can’t handle the truth. We just can’t. Hiding our heads in the sand and pretending it doesn’t exist has just been so easy for so long. And now, suddenly, truth has descended upon us like a hawk who has finally located its prey. Truth is EVERYWHERE. It’s in the eyes of Lila Perry. It’s in the two men’s hands that are clasped in matrimony. It’s in the stubborn refusal to change that exists behind Kim Davis’ words and actions. It’s in the picture of a three-year old Syrian refugee boy’s body washed up on shore. It’s in the hatred behind the word “it” as some random man typed it onto a social media site as the description of a child.

It’s truth. Sometimes it’s ugly. Sometimes it’s scary. Sometimes it’s beautiful. And sometimes it’s all of those things all at once.

But it’s real. And it’s here. We can cast blame all we want to. Blame our President. Blame the Christians. Blame the media. Blame out-spoken redheads like me who won’t shut up. Blame, blame, blame. That’s what we do. But the only thing we have to blame is the fact that truth always rises to the surface.

“Three things shine before the world and cannot be hidden. They are the moon, the sun, and the truth…”
– Buddha

The truth is here, folks. What are you going to do with it? Hide from it? Let it divide your friends and family? Try to stop it?

Accept it?

The choice is yours.

But as for me? I welcome it with open arms. And I am more than willing to accept the consequences.

***

truth

Romance: Confessions of a Girly Girl

“The longer you have to wait for something, the more you will appreciate it when it finally arrives. The harder you have to fight for something, the more priceless it will become once you achieve it. And the more pain you have to endure on your journey, the sweeter the arrival at your destination. All good things are worth waiting for and worth fighting for.”
– Susan Gale
Okay, so I have a confession to make.

I’m a girl.

Yep, it’s true. A big ole girly girl. That’s me. Now, I try to be rational – keep my head out of the clouds and all that jazz. But deep down, I’m still a girl. I still believe in girly stuff…romance, love, heart flutters…all that silliness.

I’ve been a writer for as long as I can remember (though it took over 30 years for me to get up the nerve to call myself that) and I can remember being 14 years old and writing my first love song. Talk about girly…sheesh! Here are some of the lyrics:

“Love, it can stand the test of time,
It can cross over any lines
No matter what people say
They would find a way
Nothing could stop those feelings inside…”

Girly, huh? Oh, you should hear the rest of it. It’s all about two young people in love who are torn apart for whatever reason and they have all these miles and years between them and yet still they hold on to each other through it all. Then she’s dying and in he walks to hold her as she takes her last breath.

*BARF!*

It’s easy now to make fun of that little 14-year-old version of me who wrote those silly little love lyrics. But, if I’m perfectly honest with myself, a part of her still exists. A pretty big part actually.

Those of you who know me or who have read my blog regularly know that my husband and I do not have your typical love story. (Read more about that here if you want.)  We didn’t see each other across a crowded room and gaze into each other’s eyes as we realized we had found the one.  Ha!  Hardly. We met, dated, ended things. Crossed paths again, dated, ended things. Got back together, got engaged, got married. Some love story, huh?

And I’m going to be honest with you – that little 14-year-old songwriter side of me has always struggled with that a bit. Isn’t it supposed to happen like it does in the movies?  Aren’t you supposed to meet and feel this sudden fluttery feeling in your stomach and just know? Now, in all honesty, it almost happened like that with me. It didn’t take long for me to decide that Richard was what I wanted.  But Richard? Notsomuch. He struggled. He was coming out of a long-term relationship and just wasn’t sure if my redheaded, loud-mouthed, starry-eyed version of romance was what he was needing in his life at the time. It took quite a while for him to come around.

And that bothered me.

During my varied insecure moments over the years, I’ve questioned him about this. “Did you just have to convince yourself to love me?” “Did you just decide to force it because it made sense?” “How do you know it’s real?” “Do you ever wonder if you made a mistake?” Etc.  (He loves these conversations, by the way.) And every time, he just tells me in his quiet, no-nonsense way that none of that matters. He loves me now. That’s all there is to it.

But I’m a girl, darn it!  I want more than that!  I want answers!

My dear lifelong friend John Michael posted something on my Facebook wall one day that he said made him think of mine and Richard’s relationship. Here it is:

romance

I told him at the time that he couldn’t know how much that meant to me. I didn’t know why or how to put it into words, but something about that quote just really struck a chord with me. I love the phrase “tidier histories.”  A tidy history is something that Richard and I definitely do not have. It’s a mess.

But maybe that’s okay?

This morning I was riding to work listening to an audio book: Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this (or haven’t seen the Netflix TV series that sprouted from it), this is a true story about the author’s one-year stint in prison. Now, you wouldn’t expect to glean a love lesson from something like that, but…leave it to me…I did.

In one part of the book, Piper’s husband had written an article for the local paper about their unconventional love story. (It was unconventional even before she went to prison.) He talked about how he didn’t know from the start that she was “the one.” He said that it took him years to decide, even after they started dating, that he might want to marry her. He said he generally takes his time to choose anything in his life – even material things – and, because of this inability to make definite decisions, he tends to keep receipts for things he buys in case he decides to take them back. Basically, it’s not that he doesn’t want these things, it’s that he’s afraid he might be making a mistake. His fear of commitment (my words, not his) masks his desire.

Hmmm.

Now I’m sure there were thousands of lessons that Piper Kerman wanted us to take from her year of incarceration, but the one I took was this one. This tiny little blip in her book about how her husband wasn’t sure he wanted to marry her from the start.  I’m sure she’d be so proud if she knew this…

Turns out, I guess some people are just careful. They take their time. They make sure something is right before they dive in. Does that mean it isn’t real? Of course not. That just means they want to know they’re making the right decision before they make it. So, should I still be offended and worried that we don’t have that “movie” kind of love? Nah. I’d say what we have is better. I wasn’t just a passing feeling of romance that overtook him instantly. I was a long, well-thought out decision that he had to make. And in the end, my careful sweetheart chose me.

Awwww.  Well, how do you like that.

Now, does this mean I’m going to stop with all those insecurity questions? Am I going to lay off for a while and give him a break and rest in the knowledge that he does indeed love me and move forward without looking back ever again?

Psssh. Heck no. As if…

Hey, I’m still a girl. 😉

merichie

 ***

“For anything worth having one must pay the price;
and the price is always work, patience, love, self-sacrifice.”

– John Burroughs

Love Thy Neighbor. (Aw man, do I gotta?)

“But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” – Matthew 5:44

Okay, honest show of hands. Who else has unfriended or un-followed people on Facebook over the past few weeks? Anyone?

Well, I sure have.  *both hands raised high*  And you know why?  Because people are ignorant and that pisses me off.

Okay, so that’s not very lady-like of me, I don’t suppose. Doesn’t exactly go with that whole “turn the other cheek” spirit we’re supposed to have. But dear Lord, I cannot shut up when people are spewing hate and ignorance towards recent current events.  Racism, gay rights…you name it, people are throwing around their opinions about it…swearing that they know all and that the confederate flag should fly high and gays should stay in the closets where they belong. It absolutely infuriates me. So, what do I do?  I jump right in there and tell them how wrong they are.  And do you know what that solves?

Nothing.

10410790_10153491412603707_6179317090721641426_nNot one flippin thing.  In fact, it probably hurts my cause more than helps it. I am doing exactly what they’re doing, just in reverse. I am infuriated at them for being so judgmental and so narrow-minded, and yet I’m being the same way in a sense. I’m exercising my own hatred, it’s just directed at a different group – the ignorant and the narrow-minded.

Now, I’d like to believe that I’m a Christian. I fully believe that Jesus was who he said he was.  I really do. But I don’t believe that we are supposed to adhere to everything the bible tells us to do. I don’t believe that a rape victim should have to marry her rapist (Deuteronomy 22:28-29).   I don’t believe it is shameful for me to cut my hair (1 Corinthians 11:6).  I don’t believe that eating or touching a pig is forbidden by my lord (Leviticus 11:7-8). And I sure as heck fire don’t believe that  a woman is supposed to remain in quiet submission while she is in church (1 Corinthians 14:34).  Heck, just ask my husband – I don’t believe that a women should be in quiet submission anywhere. Ever.

I could go on and on and on with the things in the bible that I don’t believe are still accurate today. I believe that times have changed and that much of what was put in there was just what the writers of the time believed to be the case based on how things were done at the time they were walking the earth. I’m a writer – just about everything I write is tinged with my opinion.  (Ha! “Tinged.” Okay, maybe I need a different word there.) But still – you get the point. I think God wanted some stuff done and we were sucking at it, so I think he sent his son to explain it to us. And I think his son did a fine job of doing that when he told us to love our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:31).  In fact, he made it pretty clear that no other commandment was greater than that one.

And what have I been doing?  Failing miserably. I don’t love my neighbors. I hear and see the hateful things that people are saying about people I love and I get mad. I get ANGRY. And do I feel love towards them?  No, I don’t. I think Jesus rocks – and I think he had some seriously good advice, but I’m not him. I just can’t do it. I can’t feel love towards these people who make others feel dirty and worthless, and then use the bible as their weapon in doing so. The God I believe in wouldn’t stand for that for a second, and neither do I.

A woman that I recently did a community theatre play with posted something as her Facebook status one day in the midst of the hatred, and I want to share it with you.  Take a few seconds to read this, won’t you?

I will not “UNFRIEND” those who lack empathy or those who refuse to understand. If I “UNFRIEND” them, then I allow them to retreat deeper into their closets of ignorance. If I “UNFRIEND” them, I offer them greater refuge from the reality of the world around and deprive them of the opportunity to develop sensitivity and demonstrate true love for humanity. No, I will not “UNFRIEND” them. Instead, tidbits and snippets of my life will continue to pop up in their news feeds. I will continue to allow myself to be available should curiosity get the best of them and one day, they decide to try to understand. SOMEDAY; that closet of ignorance might get lonely and they might start to crave the richness of life that comes from connecting across the differences. Don’t get me wrong- this is not a passive surrender because I REFUSE TO LIE DOWN AND ALLOW THEM TO TRAMPLE MY SPIRIT!! I WILL STAND UP AND RISE ABOVE!! I will keep living this GLORIOUS life and do it with BOLDNESS, JOY, and LOVE because that is the true children of God!!
Tiffany Christian

Oh wow. Tiffany, what I wouldn’t give to have your attitude. I try, I really do. But then I backslide all over again. Am I just made of a different caliber of material than others?  Oh, I don’t know. All I can figure is this: I’m human.

That’s it. I’m human. I’m not perfect. And neither is anyone else. None of us have all the answers. We really don’t. Are gay people going to hell?  Heck, I don’t know. Is there a hell? Is there a heaven? Did that first haircut I got back in 1983 seal my spot on the front pew in the pits of hell?  Don’t know that either. NONE OF US KNOW ANYTHING. We really truly don’t.  So why do we go around acting like we do?

Why do I go around acting like I do?

Ladies and gentlemen, I don’t know the answer. I really don’t. But I’m pretty sure love is the first place to start looking for it. I have to try to find a way to get this anger and hatred out of my heart because it’s not healthy. I wish we could all just love each other, but there’s nothing I can do to help anyone else with that if I don’t first start with myself.

Anyone care to join me?

It’s a work in progress, friends.  We have to start somewhere.

***

“For to win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill.”

– Sun Tzu