Tag Archives: passion

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

***

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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

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

To Read It or Not To Read It….

“A good novel tells us the truth about its hero…”
– G. K. Chesterton

There’s a debate in the literary world that most of you have probably heard of in some form or another. A “new” novel by Harper Lee was just released yesterday. It’s called Go Set a Watchman and was apparently written prior to To Kill a Mockingbird.

GSAWNow, depending on which story you hear or believe, the overall gist is that Harper Lee supposedly provided this book to her publishers, and they felt that there was a better story to be told—a story that the world needed to hear. They wanted the same characters that were in her book, mind you, but wanted the story moved back a few years. Altered a bit. Told from the viewpoint of the little girl, “Scout,” instead of the grown woman Jean Louise that is telling us the story in Go Set a Watchman.

Now, before I go any further, I want to give you this disclaimer. I have not read Go Set a Watchman. Not yet. Will I?

Therein lies the question.

Harper Lee is an incredibly private individual. I’m not going to profess to be a Lee scholar by any means, but I do know that she will not give interviews and detested the amount of publicity she received after To Kill a Mockingbird became such a phenomenon. So, why would she allow this publication now?  Ah, therein lies the rub. Did she allow it?

I read one article that stated:

Residents of Monroeville [where Lee now lives] gossip that Ms. Lee is mentally infirm these days, does not recognize old friends, could not possibly have signed off on the publication, never wanted to do a second book. But those who are closest to her scoff at such conspiratorial theories, saying Harper Lee, now 88 and admittedly frail, remains fully capable of making up her own mind.

Quite the fodder for controversy there, huh? Did she or didn’t she?  Is she a frail little 88-year-old woman (now 89, I think) who is being taken advantage of by those who stand to benefit from the profits that this new book will bring in?

Or is she truly what the article I mentioned above says she is?  (Click on the link to check it out if you haven’t already.)  Is she a little old lady who wrote a book long ago – back before the digital age where there would have been copies upon copies of drafts saved on a hard-drive or flash drive somewhere – who truly misplaced the draft?  According to the article, she was delighted when it was found.

I have to interject here for a second while I imagine this scenario to be true. I’m a writer too…obviously not of the caliber of Harper Lee…but a writer nonetheless. And recently, I lost a portfolio full of poetry that I had written over the past ten years. Why were they not saved on a computer somewhere? I don’t know. I just know they were in a folder and I lost them. I was devastated. I searched the house over to no avail…only to find it months later hidden in the back of my closet. I can’t think of another word to describe that feeling other than joyous. All of that work hadn’t been for nothing! My work had been found. Was it any good? I don’t know. A few of them had already failed to win anything in various writing contests I had entered them in, but did I care? No! It was my work and it was found.

Could I have, on some minuscule scale felt what Harper Lee felt when her baby, her novel was found? Did she care that it had once been deemed “not good enough” for publishing? I’m betting not. And when it was suggested to her that it was time to publish it, would she have denied such a suggestion?

Hmmm. I wonder. Some think she would have. And that she did.

But all of that “Did she or did she not want it published?” stuff aside, I think the bigger, truer issue lying behind the controversy is what has been revealed now that reviews have been released. Turns out, Atticus Finch – the protagonist of To Kill a Mockingbird – might have had a darker side.

Now, trust me, I get it. I get the reaction that literary lovers of Atticus are feeling. We LOVE Atticus. Atticus is the true epitome of goodness. He lives in our hearts as a hero, as a true pioneer of equality and justice. But you know what? He isn’t real. Really. He’s not. He’s a product of one author’s imagination…and only after influence from others as to what and who he should be. So, did Harper Lee really create Atticus Finch? Or did we?

Go Set a Watchman was written first.  What that means is that Harper Lee’s original intention was for Atticus Finch to be who he is in this book. Again, I look at this through the eyes of a writer. Do I have the right to tell Miss Lee that the image I have in my head of her character is better than the one she had? Is that my place? Like many others, should I thus refuse to read a book that tarnishes the glow that I put on this beloved man who touched my heart the first time I read this book at the tender age of 18?

I don’t know. But you know what? I don’t think so.

What it comes down to for me is this: there’s a new book out there. It’s a much-talked about book. A much-anticipated book. And a book that’s shrouded in conspiracy. Am I going to read it?

You bet your patootie I am.

Am I doing a disservice to Harper Lee if the rumors are true? Am I reading something that an author intended to keep to herself?  Possibly. But my writer’s heart just somehow knows that an entire novel could not possibly have been written only to keep hidden from readers’ eyes. Look at the history of it…she presented it to publishers years ago. Does that sound like a hidden manuscript?  I just can’t believe it is.

In my heart of hearts, I feel like this is the story that Harper Lee wanted told.

Will my mind change after reading Go Set a Watchman?  Will I wish I had never picked it up? Will I wish that my memories of Atticus Finch remained the way I had him – in all his saintly glory?  Hmm. Who knows?

But I can tell you this…I’m definitely going to give myself the chance to find out.

***

The only way you can truly get to know an author is through the trail of ink he leaves behind him. The person you think you see is only an empty character: truth is always hidden in fiction.”
– Carlos Ruiz Zafon

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

I’m Bothered

 “Here are the values that I stand for: honesty, equality, kindness, compassion, treating people the way you want to be treated, and helping those in need. To me, those are traditional values.”
– Ellen DeGeneres
I’m bothered.

Why am I bothered? I’m just a bit confused.

Hear me out while I try to work through this.

Most of you probably know this already, but I proudly grew up in a military environment. For those of you who didn’t have that luxury, let me tell you a bit about one particular aspect of that life – the people.

Whew.  The people.  Buddy, let me tell ya – we were a hodgepodge like you wouldn’t believe. You walk into any military classroom, or take a drive through military base housing and you’re going to see every color of the rainbow. You’re going to see black, white, Hispanic, Asian, and just about everything else you can think of.

But you know what I saw when I looked around those classrooms or rode through my neighborhood growing up?

People.

That’s it. I saw people.

griffins3

Giessen High School Class of ’96 – Giessen, Germany

Of course, I wasn’t stupid. I knew we looked different. But I didn’t feel any different from them. I just wasn’t raised that way. Was that a product of good parenting? Sure, mostly. But it was also a product of environment. We were just kids. Just a bunch of kids growing up with pretty much the same lives. Sure, we had other families back “home,” and I’m sure the differences would have been much more pronounced had we followed each other back for family reunions in whatever state we hailed from. But our daily lives didn’t have any of that nonsense.

Now, fast forward to my adulthood. Now, I live in the North Carolina/Virginia area. Bible belt. Southern pride. Sweet tea. You get the picture. It took quite an adjustment to acclimate myself to this new world. Sometimes I still fail at it, I won’t lie. There are parts of it that I just don’t like.

I don’t like the sameness.

It’s everywhere, man. Everywhere you turn, people seem to be similar. Similar in looks, similar in religion and beliefs, etc. This sameness makes me crazy sometimes. I miss my past. I miss my friends. I miss living in an environment where no one felt shunned because they were different.

Now, with that little disclaimer about my past, let me get to what’s bothering me.

I suppose you’ve heard about this whole confederate flag dispute? I know, I know – another thing to fight about….blah, blah, blah. Sheesh. What’s next? Aren’t we tired of controversy?  But yep – sadly, it *is* yet another thing to fight about. And you know why?

Because it deserves a fight.

There’s something I’ve always been a big proponent of, and that is treating others the way they want to be treated. Now, that’s not quite the golden rule. Go back and read that again. I didn’t say treating other people the way I would want to be treated. I said treating them the way they want to be treated.

I LOVE having my head rubbed while I’m trying to fall asleep. I’m like a cat, man, I’ll purr myself into the most peaceful slumber you’ve ever seen if you’re rubbing my head. But my husband, Richard? HATES it. If he’s trying to go to sleep, he wants to be left alone. Same thing when we’re sick. Me? BABY me! Coddle me. Treat me like the princess I am.  Richard? Go away. Shut the door and make no noise until this passes. And as you might could guess, there was a little bit of a learning curve with all of that, but now that we know each other, we know how to treat one another. If he doesn’t want me babying him when he’s sick, I won’t. If I do want him babying me while I’m sick, he will. (Well, sort of…)

hurtingMy point is this: if someone tells you they like something, do it. It’s respect. And more importantly – if someone tells you they don’t like something, then you don’t do it.  That’s how the world should work.

Wouldn’t that be nice?

Back to the confederate flag. It bothers people. It just does. That’s all you need to know. Do you think that flag stands for other things rather than the oppression of an entire race of people – fine. Think that. But guess what you don’t get to do? You don’t get to decide what that flag means to them. You don’t get to decide what it means to me. I do. It means hate. It means separation. It means a very, very misguided pride in something that our white ancestors did that we should be grossly ashamed of. It represents a reminder of a history that this country needs to rise above. Not erase, mind you. We can’t do that. But we can lock it up in the museums along with the Holocaust memorabilia and use it as an example of what not to do in the future. We can use it as a reminder of the atrocities that we have all risen above and moved past. That’s where it belongs. Not flown in our front yards or plastered across our public buildings.

I’m one of the ones who believe strongly in freedom – all freedom. Freedom of speech, religion, etc. But here’s the catch for me, ONLY if it doesn’t hurt others. This flag DOES hurt others. It rubs the past (and unfortunately, as that shooter in South Carolina let us know, the present) into the faces of those who were very deeply hurt by what this flag represents. This should be a country that everyone is free to live in with peace in their hearts. A constant reminder of their oppressions flown proudly throughout the land that is supposed to be their home is not a symbol of peace. And you know how I know that?

Because they told me so.

Why is it so hard to just be on the side of LOVE and ACCEPTANCE?  You know?  We are told that this symbol hurts our fellow Americans, so why do we insist on keeping it around? Why do something that hurts others on purpose?

See why I’m bothered? I just can’t understand people, no matter how hard I try…

***

American+Flag

 

 

 

 

Controversy

“I’m not an activist; I don’t look for controversy. I’m not a political person, I’m a person with compassion. I care passionately about equal rights. I care about human rights.”
– Ellen DeGeneres

So, here’s an idea. I know it might sound crazy, but hear me out.

So you’re sitting there and this crazy controversial issue pops across your radar.  Let’s say it’s…oh, I don’t know…Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner’s gender transition. (Hypothetically speaking, of course.) And let’s say that your uber-Christian beliefs tell you that Bruce (not Caitlyn – because you refuse to call HIM Caitlyn) is going straight to hell as fast as the little fire-breathing demon chauffeurs can get him there. And let’s say that you think, “Hey! You know what?! I think the whole world needs to know that Bruce is going to hell” and so you decide the next logical step is to post something about that on Facebook. And let’s say you lean back, prop your crossed-legs up on your desk, place your self-righteous hands behind your self-righteous head and wait, with a “God loves only me” smile, for the ever-supportive comments and likes to roll in like the waves at high tide.

ConflictBut then…wait.  What is this?  Oh no!  You drop your feet back to the floor, sit forward and stare at your computer screen in utter disbelief.  Right there, in the midst of the support you receive from your like-minded friends, suddenly a comment pops up that….*gasp!*….goes against your opinion.  Whaaaaat?  Oh yes, ’tis true. There it is. Right in the middle of the self-righteous (have I used that word already?) rants from you and your cronies, there is a comment that has the audacity to imply that you might just be wrong in your stance. A comment that suggests that CAITLYN Jenner is, in fact, not going to hell and that God actually loves HER just as much as He loves you.

Whoa, nelly!

So, what do you do? You pout. You and your friends gang up on the commenter and tell her how wrong she is and how “rude” she’s being by going against what you have to say.  About how she and anyone who agrees with her are on the wrong path and had better turn from sin and see the light. And then…in a display of utmost maturity…you DELETE said comment so that your post remains nice and one-sided like the good Lord intended.

There. That solves that.

But wait….along come other comments that go against your beliefs. What?!  There are more heathens out there!? “Delete!” Pretty soon, after tedious editing on your part, your post sits there just as you like it, with only the supportive comments accompanying it.  Shew!  That was a close one.

Oh, but wait.  You’re not done just yet. Since you know the initial commenter’s mother, you decide you had better tell her what her teenage child did. You proceed to send the mother…let’s hypothetically name her…oh, I don’t know…”Melissa”… a private conversation you had with her daughter (where you contacted her to tell her how rude she was being by disagreeing with you) and then sit back to wait for the mother’s wrath to ensue upon the kid.

But uh oh. This didn’t quite turn out like you thought it would.

Momma Melissa doesn’t quite agree with you.  In fact, Momma Melissa is actually PROUD of her daughter. Can you believe that crap? What kind of mother actually encourages her child to stand up for what she believes in and to speak out against something she feels is an injustice? The NERVE! What kind of mother has raised her children to believe that just because someone is different from you, that doesn’t make them wrong? What kind of mother would not only not punish her child for voicing her opinion, but would actually congratulate her for doing so?!

What is the world coming to?

But no worries. At least you’re not the one going to hell, right? Those poor lost souls….

So, back to my point. That crazy idea I had, remember? How about this? How about you not post controversial things unless you want a controversial response? Hmmm? How about that? How about you realize that Facebook is a public forum and, as shocking as it may be to you, there are actually people out there who think differently from you! I know, sweetie. It’s insane, it really is. But alas, ’tis true. Some people out there don’t sit at their computer pushing the little “share” button on articles knowing that they sit at the right-hand of God and that they alone are his chosen one. Seriously. Some people out there feel that we’re all created equal and that, if there is a God up there looking down on us, he wants us to love each other and save the judgment for him to take care of and decide for himself what he deems judgment-worthy.

I know, it’s weird, isn’t it?  But darling, these people do exist. Sad as it may be to you…they exist.

And those Momma Melissas of the world?  Sheesh. Look out, lady. You try to tell them that their kid has done something wrong, when they know good and well that they haven’t…well, be prepared to hear about it.

In fact, the really crazy Momma Melissas out there?  Ha!  They might even have a blog and might write about it and call you out in it.  Crazy, right?

People these days, man.  I tell ya….

***

“Follow the path of the unsafe, independent thinker. Expose your ideas to the dangers of controversy. Speak your mind and fear less the label of ‘crackpot’ than the stigma of conformity. And on issues that seem important to you, stand up and be counted at any cost.”
– Chauncey Depew