Tag Archives: relationships

Attraversiamo

“I crossed the street to walk in the sunshine.”
– Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat Pray Love

(I wrote this nine years ago and never showed anyone. It has been on my mind lately and I decided it was time to share it.)

***

“Attraversiamo.”

With this last printed word, meaning “let’s cross over” in Italian, I close the book and stare through the tears at the wood-paneled wall before me. Sitting alone on a Friday night in my small newly acquired two-bedroom mobile home, my thoughts are consumed with the book I have just read.

Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. Just a random bookstore purchase, like so many before, yet this one has changed everything.

I am 30 years old and my second marriage has just ended.

My children from my first marriage—two adorable, bubbly redheads who are the only lights in my life—are at their dad’s for the weekend. I have no distractions, no bedtime baths or tuck-ins to take my mind off the nagging lessons that Eat Pray Love has instilled into my brain.

I’ve messed up. This thought bursts forth before all others and refuses to be ignored. I look down at the closed book on my lap and those three words are all I see.

I’ve messed up.

In Eat Pray Love, Elizabeth Gilbert documents leaving her life to travel for a full year. Could I do that? Could I travel the world in search of the “me” that got lost in those last two marriages? Would a plate of Italian spaghetti or an Indonesian medicine man fix everything for me like it did for Liz?

Of course not. I’m a mother. A broke, divorced mother. I can’t leave.

So what then?

Prior to my second marriage, I was what some would call a fireball. A fiery, spirited gal, with red hair to seal the deal, nothing could get me down. Even my first failed marriage, painful though it was, did nothing to stop my headstrong determination. The same spunk that entered that marriage with me trailed along after me as I left. I was still the same, just a little broken-hearted and slightly off course. But that would soon ease and, with a little time and forgiveness, both my kids’ dad and I would see the split for what it was: necessary. We would soon learn to co-parent and eventually even call each other friend. I was going to be okay.

And then I met my second husband.

I wonder what it was that had drawn me to him. Although my feisty personality gave off the aura of independence, the truth was that I wanted someone to take care of me. I didn’t want to be worrying about bills and packing school lunches alone. I wanted a partner. Then suddenly, there he was.

Hindsight is always 20/20 as they say. In retrospect, I see the red flags I overlooked then. A controller can easily be disguised as a caregiver. He wanted to do things for me. For a tired, overworked single mom, this was a welcome turn of events. Little by little, he began to take care of it all, making decisions for me to help clear my heavy load.

Then came the other changes. What clothes I wore, how I kept my hair, what friends I could keep. Others seemed to notice what was happening, but not me. It just felt so good to be loved. To be noticed.

This couldn’t go on forever though. One morning as I sat in my doctor’s office trying out yet another depression medication, my doctor said something I would never forget. She pulled her chair right over to me, sat down and looked me straight in the eyes. “Melissa,” she said, “I do not have a medication that is going to fix your marriage.”

Fix my marriage?

Armed with that old redheaded stubbornness, I marched out of that doctor’s office with the certainty that she was a quack. If she wouldn’t give me a different medicine, I’d find another doctor who would. Something was wrong. It was chemical, I was sure of it. My life was great.

Really.

But later that night, lying in bed beside my snoring husband, the doctor’s words kept running through my mind. I needed to talk to someone. But who? The only friends I had now were my husband’s friends. I used to have friends from work, but my husband had convinced me to take a job in a smaller office where there weren’t so many annoying office functions and parties to attend. I cut contact with all of them at his suggestion – moving on was easier if you would just forget.

Maybe one of my old theatre friends? I once loved community theatre so much. It had once been such a huge part of my existence…where had it gone? Ah yes. My husband didn’t like the time that it consumed. My place was at home with him and the kids, not out doing God knows what with God knows who. It was time to grow up and be a wife and mother. Isn’t that what he had said? So no, the theatre friends were out. I hadn’t talked to them in so long, I couldn’t call them up now in the middle of the night.

I had some friends from a women’s church group that my husband allowed me to go to on Monday nights. Maybe I could call one of them? No, I couldn’t. He told me that talking about my problems in that group was only asking for trouble. He made it clear to me that our business needed to remain private and was not to be shared with a bunch of busybodies who wanted nothing more than to spread the news throughout the church.

So, who could I call?

Mom.

I snuck out of bed and walked into the living room. I pulled out my cell phone and just as I had her number keyed in, my husband walked into the room. Of course, making a phone call in the middle of the night could only mean one thing. I was cheating on him. I attempted to show him the number I was dialing, tried to prove that it was only my mother, but he wouldn’t listen.

I had to be stopped from making that call.

And I was.

I packed my bags the next day.

Now, here I am only a few short weeks later (many bruises healed, many to remain), closing the last page of Eat, Pray, Love and sobbing like a toddler.

Elizabeth Gilbert’s words fill my mind.

“If you’re brave enough to leave behind everything familiar and comforting – which can be anything from your house to your bitter old resentments – and set forth on a truth-seeking journey… then the Truth will not be withheld from you.”

Where is my Truth, Liz? Where is it?

“If you’re brave enough…” Is that what I was? Was I brave to leave my husband?

Just like that, I receive my answer. Somewhere deep inside me, a fiery redheaded community theatre actress screams, YES!

Yes.

This is it. This is why this book has gotten to me. Today is the start of my journey. It may look like a little rented, singlewide mobile home, but to this lonely, lost sojourner, it is the first step towards the journey of freedom.

Attraversiamo.

I head to the telephone to call my mom.

***

gilbert.jpg

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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

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

***

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

The Basic Human Rights Struggle…um, I mean The Same-Sex Marriage Struggle

 “Gay rights is just one of the social issues I’m interested in. I think that people might be less tense about it if we would all accept the fact that not everyone is wired the same way.”
– Charlaine Harris
Let me start this out by saying that I’m the least informed person when it comes to politics that you may ever meet in your life. Why is that? I don’t know. I just have a brain block or something when it comes to that subject. I don’t like things that don’t have a clear-cut right or wrong answer. To me, politics is just a massive pile of personal opinion being thrown around that ends up creating laws that force others into submission, regardless of how they may feel about the situation. Call me crazy, but I just don’t like that crap.

And you know another reason I stay out of it?  It’s pretty simple, really.

I HATE when people don’t agree with me.

I do. Oh my gosh, do I hate it. Why are other people so darn dense? Why can’t they see that I’m always right??? Sheesh.

Which brings me to one of the current topics of political discussion these days. Same-sex marriage.

Unless you live under a rock (and hey, if you do – scootch over, I’m coming in too), you have heard that same-sex marriage is a hot topic these days. And now, it has made it to the supreme court. Hearings started yesterday and the outcome is not expected to be heard until June 30th.  June friggin 30th.

protestSo, let me get this straight.  (No pun intended.)  A discussion is going to start on April 28 and is going to continue throughout TWO FULL MONTHS before the final decision is made…and it’s all about whether or not two people who love each other can get married?

Excuse me while I scratch my head for the next two months straight because I don’t know what the heck is happening here.

For those of you who don’t know me, I’m a voracious reader. I constantly have a book going. Actually, I usually have at least three books going at any given time. I listen to audio books in the car, I carry a paper book with me wherever I go, and I have audio books on my phone so I can listen to them when I’m running. Now, for someone who reads as much as I do, there’s a massive potential for me to be supremely intelligent, wouldn’t you say?  I could be reading “how to” books and history books and current events books. But nope. I just listen to novels. Made-up stories. Not anything earth-shattering or informational. Just pure old-fashioned entertainment. But every now and then, a little nugget of awesomeness slips through from one of these novels. Let me share one with you. This is from The Patron Saint of Liars by Ann Patchett.

(Young girl to a nun): “What would the church say about something like that?” (Nun’s answer): “No, the question is what would God say. And that’s between her and God. It’s none of our business.”

Now, did you catch that? It’s NONE OF OUR FRIGGIN BUSINESS. Why in this world is it going to take TWO MONTHS for a bunch of supreme court justices to sit around and decide the fate of something that is none of our business? It just blows my little novel-reading, politics-ignoring, pea-sized mind.

Am I looking at this too simply? Perhaps. But is the world making this much more complicated than it needs to be?  YES. For God’s sake, YES.

I know this may come as a shock to some of you, but Christianity is not the only religion in this country. (I’ll pause here while some of you catch your bearings. Breathe. Just breathe.) Thus, that whole separation of church and state thing that everyone ignores. We are a country of diversity. Beautiful, precious diversity. Why is it any of my business what the neighbors are doing with their personal life? Why? If same-sex couples are not allowed to marry, are they all going to suddenly break up, repent, see the error of their ways, and get back in straight relationships where they belong? Puh-lease. This is a formality. Straight people are straight, gay people are gay, and there is nothing that a supreme court is going to be able to do about that. It’s nature, people.

I was recently at a conference for my job. Now, I work in real estate, mind you, and guess what topic came up at this conference? You guessed it. Same-sex marriage. A local North Carolina county register of deeds was the guest speaker and she was speaking about the changes that have been enacted in relation to same-sex marriages being filed with the court. While same-sex marriages are supposed to be recognized in the state of North Carolina now, many court workers have refused to participate in the preparation and filing of the licenses. So, how has North Carolina responded to this little problem? They have allowed the workers to refuse the work if it goes against their beliefs. Oh, same-sex couples can still be married, mind you. But they have to wait to be sure the register of deeds herself (or himself) is present because they, unlike the other workers, are not allowed to refuse. What the heck?

Scene. Okay, I’m a worker at the register of deeds office. You with me? I’m sitting there playing solitaire on my computer and in walks my ex-boyfriend. Yep, that sorry, no good ex-boyfriend of mine that broke my heart into a million pieces. And who does he have with him? The good-for-nothing little blonde that he LEFT ME FOR. And what’s he there to do? Get a marriage license. Are you kidding me? Oh HELL NO! That jerk doesn’t deserve to be married. So, nope. Not gonna do it. Why? Because my BELIEFS say that this lowlife doesn’t deserve marriage like the rest of us do. Why not? Because he’s a cheating bag of scum. So there. BAM! No marriage for you, sucker.

And guess what? I get to keep my job. Nanny nanny boo boo.

Oh, wait. That scenario is different, you say?  Pray tell me how? That was me letting my personal beliefs interfere with my job. Why on earth do I get to continue working there? Shouldn’t I have to do my job or get the heck out? What is it about this that I’m not getting, people?  Help me out here.

At this same conference, the register of deeds was talking about all of the new e-filing systems and how technologically advanced North Carolina is when it comes to those matters. Somewhat under her breath, she followed that up with, “North Carolina: technologically advanced, but legally backwards.”

Amen, sister.

I_Support_All_Kinds_of_Love_by_Hazel_AlmondsWhat’s my point of this blog? Nothing really. Just a rant, I suppose. Just some rambling thoughts about an issue that affects people I love. Will what I say make a difference to anyone?  Probably not. But should I keep saying it? You betcha. If one person out there knows that one other person in this world has their back, then my job here is done.

Why can’t we just love and let love?  I just don’t get it….

***

“If Sue loves Joe and Tom loves Joe, Sue can marry him and Tom can’t. And the difference is based upon their different sex. Why isn’t that a straightforward question of sexual discrimination?”

– Chief Justice John Roberts, April 28, 2015

Greed

“Greed is not a financial issue. It’s a heart issue.”
– Andy Stanley

Christmastime is here, ya’ll! The time of love and friendship and family and happiness and….greed. Wait, did she just say greed?

Why, yes. Yes, she did.

Greed.

[Now, bear with me here, folks.. This isn’t going to be a Debbie Downer post. I promise. There’s a method to my madness. Sometimes.]

As much as I’d love to think that life is all sunshine and rainbows, sometimes…well, sometimes it’s just not. And there’s something about Christmastime that brings out that horrid green-eyed monster of greed. (Yes, I know “green-eyed monster” is supposed to refer to jealousy, but I couldn’t think of a better analogy so I stole that one. I mean, green = money, right? I think it works better here anyway. So there.)

Think about it: it’s all about spending, spending, spending this time of year. And while, yes, you may be spending money on others, look at what it takes to do it. Black Friday – the notorious day of doom. Trampled customers, fist fights over a food processor or a $99 TV or whatever, miserable store employees getting yelled at by miserable customers. And on, and on, and on.

And aside from the shopping, you see greed in family life as well. Divorced families arguing over where the kids are during which times. Different sides competing over the prime Christmastime slots with the young’uns. Oh yeah, the monster definitely comes out in divorced families with kids during the holidays. Heck, I’ve even recently seen a very financially well-off ex-wife decide that Christmas is a good time to decide to spring a custody/child support suit on the not-so-well-off, devoted father of her children. That’ll teach him, right? Revenge. Greed.

Evil.

I’m telling you, people, it’s enough to make your skin crawl.

I was standing in a gas station the other day during my lunch break from work contemplating which fountain soda I wanted to pollute my body with this time, and which size cup of pollution I was going to spring for, when the concept of greed presented itself to me in full force. After choosing the biggest cup I could find, I put just a bit of ice in the cup (hey, can’t take up room in the cup with ice…sheesh…) and proceeded to fill the cup up to the tippy top rim so I could acquire the absolute biggest bang for my buck. Then, after a cat-and-mouse game of finally finding the right lid for said cup, I sat the cup down on the counter and went to snap the lid down. And…..guess what happened?  The cup was too full (of my greed) and the lid caused the syrupy, toxic liquid to spill out over the top. All over my hands, my shirt, the counter, the floor…you name it, Coke was on it.

Dang it.

(And you can bet that lazy, green-eyed monster didn’t stick around to help me clean that crap up either.)

Because of my wanting just absolutely as much as I could get, my greed spilled over onto me and caused a huge mess that I was left to clean up alone. And something tells me that concept is not only going to apply to fountain drinks…you catch my drift?

So, there I was back at work after my lunch break, covered in sticky Coke remnants,  when I logged onto Facebook to see if anyone else was having as crappy a day as I was.  (Misery loves company, ya know.)  And that’s when I saw the post that stopped me right in my tracks. It was a “group post,” meaning that I didn’t know the person from Adam but it showed up in my newsfeed since I was part of the group, and it said simply this: “I am afraid I can’t buy my four kids anything at Christmas.”

Wow.

She went on to explain that she had thought she was going to be able to cover it, but with Christmas just around the corner, it was looking like she wasn’t going to be able to pull it together. Four kids, a single mom, and no money.

My greedy Coke spill quickly because a distant memory as my thoughts immediately went to this woman and Christmastime. What was she going to do? I empathized with her situation. I too know that feeling…I’ve been there many times myself. But somehow, with the help of family and friends, Christmas always managed to be a success for my own kids in the end.  We have been very lucky.  Very blessed.  But I know too well that “momma” feeling of worry and stress over your kids at Christmas. And what if this woman didn’t have family to pitch in to help like I always did? What if she really truly was alone and had no way of providing a Christmas for those four eager, expecting kids?

I just had to do something. I just HAD to.

That’s when the emails started. Emails between myself and this mother (finding out clothes sizes, Christmas list wishes, etc) and emails reaching out to people in the community for help. I posted on Facebook, made some phone calls to local organizations, got some help from the women’s group at the church I attend, and….within hours (HOURS, people)…I had an army of people ready to help this mom.

Wow.

Now, this was only four days ago, mind you. Four short days ago. And as of this moment, Richard and I are going to have to take his truck to be able to fit everything to deliver to this woman tomorrow. For a few days out of this Christmas season, greed was completely forgotten. All around the county (and even surrounding counties thanks to some of my non-local friends), people dropped what they were doing and went out and Christmas shopped for children they had never met in their lives and, frankly, that they probably never would.

In a communication yesterday with this mom, she made this statement, “I just can’t believe this is real.” And you know what? I have to say I agree. That hardhearted, pessimistic woman who stood at that drink fountain cleaning up Coke and thinking about all the greed surrounding her this time of year (including her own) was no more. Now, here she is…not believing that this is actually real. Not believing that a plea for help from one slightly jaded, disgruntled, Coke-covered grinch has managed to turn itself into a crusade. A mission. A swelling of love and generosity that will be soon be turning into a beautiful, happy Christmas in one little mountain home in North Carolina, filled with four smiling faces and one very, very grateful and relieved mom.

Wow.  (Have I said, “Wow” yet?)

So, am I changed by this? Oh, you can bet I am. Like you wouldn’t believe. Does greed still exist in this world? Well, of course it does. But from now on, I am going to do my very best to practice a different kind of greed in my own life. From now on I am going to be greedy for things that aren’t things. I am going to start being greedy for human kindness. Greedy for compassion. Greedy for love. I’m going to soak up as much of it as I can.  And then do you know what I’m going to do?

I’m going to come back here and I’m going to tell you about it.  And I want you to do the same. Let’s start sharing the good stories, shall we?

Get out there and be greedy, my friends.

Merry Christmas.

greed

***