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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

***

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Silly Kid Quotes: Week 8

“You can learn many things from children. How much patience you have, for instance.”
― Franklin P. Adams

Silly Kid Quotes: Week 8!

I borrowed a kid for this week’s quote.

This is my good friend Bobbi Jo’s now-7-year-old daughter, Avary.  I adore this kid. I got the chance to babysit her and her brother one week last year and I collected a few funny memories from the experience.  This is one of them.

sillykidquotes8

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

 

 

 

 

Epilogue

“The greatest test of courage on earth is to bear defeat without losing heart.”
– Robert Green Ingersoll

So, I wrote a blog last week. It was about a race I ran. But it wasn’t just any ole race, mind you. It was a race in which I finished…DEAD LAST.

Now, I struggled with whether I should hit the little “publish” button when I was finished, but in the end decided to go ahead and bite the bullet.  I blog plenty about the great moments in my life, so I figured it was time to blog about one of the not-so-great.  Time for a little honesty, ya know? A little humility. How would it be received? I didn’t know. But I did know that I was putting myself out there for public embarrassment. And yet, somehow, I didn’t seem to care. I felt like I had something to say, and so I said it.

So, what happened?  How was it received?

huntersheroes

Hunter’s Heroes race – Mile 9

I was blown away (to put it mildly) by the response. It has been viewed almost 8,000 times now and shared and posted over 1,000 times.  A women’s running site featured it.  Many running groups on Facebook shared it and a few even contacted me requesting me to join. I was contacted by runners all over the world who thanked me for being the voice of so many “back-of-the-packers.” I was even contacted by one person who ran the actual race I was blogging about.  He was one of the first finishers and admitted that, even up there in the front of the pack, he felt so many of the things that I felt too.

Wow. I’m in awe. All this time, I’ve been trying to do awesome things so I could blog about them – and it turns out that blogging about a “failure” is what ended up resonating the loudest. Who knew!?  I guess suffering through misery and embarrassment and then rising back up to tell about it maybe isn’t quite what you’d call “failure” after all.  (I think a lot of us need that reminder every now and then in our lives – we don’t give ourselves enough credit for all the times that tends to be the case.)

So I decided it was time for a little epilogue. What happened to that runner who finished last in that race? Did she ever run again?

Yep. She sure did.

MOJE

Just before the start of the MOJE race (Mount Jefferson is behind me.)

In fact – only 6 short days after that race, I ran a race called the MOJE. This is a 6.6 mile race, in which 3.3 of those miles are straight up a mountain.  (The other 3.3 are back down – but I probably didn’t have to clarify that.) MOJE is short for Mount Jefferson – which is a 1,342-foot climb. (Add 100 more feet to that for the training I did because I thought the course went even further – leave it to me to make a hard thing even harder!)

Now, I’m not going to lie. That MOJE race was front and center on my mind as I finished last in the race less than a week prior. I remember thinking there was no way I was actually going to do that race. I was going to show up, get my shirt, and leave. Now, I’ve never actually done that before, but this time was going to be an exception. No mountain climbing for a last place race finisher, sheesh. What was I thinking? I couldn’t hang with the big dogs. Was I insane?

But, like it always does, time healed the sting of that last-place finish and by the time the MOJE rolled around, I knew I could do it. I trained. I trained hard. And now, I had learned what it felt like to be last. I already knew that being last was not the most horrible thing in the world that could happen. I survived – big deal. And I would survive this one.

MOJE3I wasn’t last in the MOJE, but I was close. And you know what, who cares? As the faster runners were making their way down the mountain while I was still hoofing it up, I got more “good job”s and high fives than I could count from them as they passed by. This was the friendliest race I’ve ever been a part of. And I finally…FINALLY…earned one of the coveted MOJE race t-shirts. (And we all know I only do races for the t-shirts. I’ll pretty much do anything for a t-shirt, but that’s a blog for another day…)

You know, I ran my first full marathon back in November and I can honestly tell you that I was just as proud (if not prouder) of myself after I finished this mountain race as I was of that one. Not only because it was tough (and that’s an understatement!) but because it followed a time in my life when I could have easily given up, yet chose to keep going instead. Like my shirt says in my race finish photo, I made the choice to keep moving.

And I’m so glad I did.

And that, my dear friends, is what it’s all about. Truly.

MOJE2

MOJE finish line. Time: 1:21:31

***
“Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald

Silly Kid Quotes: Week 4

“Children have to be educated, but they have also to be left to educate themselves.”
– Ernest Dimnet
If your Monday is going anything like mine is, I’d say you could use a little helping of Silly Kid Quotes right about now, am I right? Up to bat this week – my oldest: Jeff

He’s 17 now, but this is a little conversation we had last year:

sillykidquotes5

Confessions of a Last-Place Finisher

“I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.”
– Michael Jordan

I want to show you a picture I took just before I started a 10-mile race this morning. I want you to pay particular attention to one part of the picture, okay? Here, let me point it out for you….

mesmile

Did you catch that? The smile…see it? Well, let me tell you my dears, that was the last time that bad boy was on my face until much later in the day. Why’s that, you ask?

I’ve been running for three and a half years now and today – “it” happened for the first time.

I, Melissa Edmondson, finished dead last in a race.

That’s right. LAST. 

So…as is the usual custom for me, I’ve decided to write about it.  You know – take an embarrassing situation and make it public. Because that seems to help.

I’m going to take you on a little trip. You ready? Now, you may want to sit back and prepare yourself – seatbelts and whatnot – because you, my friends, are about to take a little journey through my brain. Gentlemen, start your engines….

One heaping helping of humility coming right up!

Thoughts That Run Through a Last-Place Finisher’s Brain:

1. Man, that first mile was FAST! Get it, girl. Should we slow down? Nahhhh…we’ll need that time we just saved. You’re killing it!

2. Second mile? Fast again! Dang, girl. Now, you know you have 8 more of these to do, right? And it’s going to start going uphill. Think we should slow down a bit?  Heck no, this is a race! Rev it, baby!

3. Oh, here comes the finish line for the 5K runners. If I only did the 5K, I’d be finished now. But no way – not me! I’m a distance runner! A big, bad distance runner! Good-bye, 5Kers, I’m moving on. Woohoo!

4. Hmmm. Is it just me, or is it really quiet now that the 5K people are gone? Where’s everyone at?

5. *Cricket. Cricket. Cricket.*

6. I’m just going to take a quick peek behind me and see what’s back there. This is a long straight-stretch so I should be able to get a good feel for who is behind me.

7. WTF?! Where are the other racers? No, seriously. Where are they?

8. Oh God, here come the hills. You can do this, you can do this. You’re a distance runner. You’re a distance runner.

9. It’s frickin hot out here.

10. Okay, mile 5. That wasn’t too bad. Half-way through. You can do this, you can do this.

11. *Another peek back.*

12. I’m seriously the last person.

13. Okay, here comes mile 7. Yay, a water stop!  An excuse to walk! At least I don’t know anyone out here…I’m just a stranger finishing last, no biggie.

14. Oh crap. Is that my friend running the water station?  WHAT!? Yep, that’s her. Oh no. And look at the sweet little girl handing out water. Act happy. Act happy.

15. Take the water and smile. Take the water and smile. Take the water and smile.

16. I think my friend may have just taken a picture. I hope I smiled. And I hope the cops weren’t behind me in the picture since I’m last. Oh, did I mention I’m in last place?

DEATH

17.  I bet I didn’t smile. *Turning to look behind me.* And yep, there’s the po-po. Great.

18. Mile 8. You’re not dead. Keep going. You can do this. You can do this.

19. You can’t do this. You suck. Just quit now.

20. Good God are these hills ever going to stop!? Who runs a race in the mountains? And where are all the other people in this thing? Seriously!? What are they, aliens? Who runs this fast in the heat and hills? I hate them. I hate me. I hate everyone and everything.

21. I’m totally going to blog about this.

22. I’m totally not going to blog about this. This is embarrassing.

23. I need Coke. (The liquid kind.)

23. Mile 9. My phone is dying. OMG – seriously? All this work and my phone is dying? Now, how am I going to post on Facebook about how miserable I am?

photo

24. Oh, good – another aid station!  I hope there’s Coke.

25. No Coke. Jerks.

26. I’m kidding, they’re not jerks. These volunteers are so dang nice. I wish I wasn’t almost dead so I could actually tell them how much I appreciate them.

27. Phone just died. My life is over.

28. For the love of God, here comes another hill. Screw it. I’m walking.

29. You’re going to walk in the last mile? Hell, yeah I am.

30. You shouldn’t walk in the last mile. You’re almost there.

31. SHUT UP!

32. I know these volunteers want to go home, and I’m the sole reason they’re still out here. I suck.

33. I KNOW that has been more than a mile. Am I being punked?

34. Oh good, a cop escort. Wave at him. Wave at him. Smile. Be nice. It’s not his fault you’re last – he’s just doing his job.

35. THANK GOD! I see the finish line! I hope the cop doesn’t turn his siren on. I’ve seen them do that at the end of a race. How embarrassing that would be.  Please, please, please, let me just slip across the finish line quietly with no fanfare.

36. *SIREN*

37. I hate my life.

*Sigh*

And there you have it, folks. A dead last race finish.

I was fully prepared to head home and throw my running shoes in the trash. Okay, maybe that’s a wee bit dramatic, but I had seriously decided that distance running was no longer in the cards for me. I just didn’t have what it took and that was all there was to it.

But then…the next few hours passed.  And in those few hours, a few things happened.

First, I had this conversation by text with my teenage daughter:

photo2

*sniff* What an awesome kid.

Then, I texted a friend who completely understood me and let me vent. That was nice. Yes, I finished. No, I didn’t quit. But sometimes we need those friends in our lives who “get it.” You know? The ones who just let you rant and swear you’ll never run again, but who know you’ll come crawling back like you always do.

Then, I got a message from the friend who was handing out water. (The po-po picture-taker.) This is what it said:

I am not as elegant with words as you but I will try to express my feelings. I was honored to cheer you on this morning and offer water to those who passed by. The race is only possible because of runners like you. Thank you. Running is not a gift of mine, and I would stand out there for 6 hours if it meant serving someone who is serving others. Grateful to call you friend.

Here come the sniffles again….

I’m not even going to pretend that I am happy with my performance in this race. That would be a lie. But geez, it’s not the end of the world. I was alive to run. And in this race, in particular, I should especially remember that. This race was done in honor of those who have lost their lives in the line of duty. It started three years ago as a small honorary race for a fallen police officer, and has now grown into a wonderful thing that lets so many family members of other lost heroes know that the community cares for their loss and appreciates their sacrifice.

Sure, I was last. But I am alive. I was running. I was moving. I could come home and whine and complain and then wake up tomorrow morning and start all over. Some people don’t have that luxury.

I will live to run again. It was just a bad race, that’s all. It happens. I just need to take a breath, relax my aching muscles, and get up and try again.

I suppose that’s what life is all about, right?

***

“I complained that I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet.”
– Proverb