Author Archives: Melissa Edmondson

Shittiest Year Ever: The Truth

“We live in a fantasy world, a world of illusion. The great task in life is to find reality.” – Iris Murdoch

My kid just went through the hardest year of his life.

He had his colon removed. He had multiple surgeries and was in and out of hospitals through the entire year. In the middle of this, he lost his father. And in the process of losing his father, he lost his home. This 22-year-old “kid” (yes, he’s still a kid) had his entire world turned upside down.  And you know what I posted on Facebook through it all?

Smiling faces.

Yep. I posted the triumphs.

The photos of him walking after his first surgery. The photo of his first day home after his first 21-day hospital stay. The photo of him smiling at his new home (my house), surrounded by pets and love.  And, most recently, the photo of his triumphant first day back to work. His smiling first step back into “normalcy.”

Etc. Etc. Etc.

But you know what I didn’t post photos of during all that?

I didn’t post photos of the fear. The sadness. The anger. The pain. So, so much pain. Unimaginable, gut-wrenching pain – emotional and physical.

I didn’t post photos of him waking up and seeing a piece of his intestine on the outside of his body. I didn’t post photos of the bag of waste he wore on himself for months. I didn’t post photos of him doubled over in pain when his remaining intestines would not work properly. I didn’t post photos of the ribs we could easily count and the hipbones and shoulder bones that stuck out grotesquely with no body fat to surround them.

I didn’t post the photo of him as he climbed in the bed beside his dying father with tears streaming down his face.

I didn’t post photos of the fights.

Oh my god, the fights.

I didn’t tell everyone how awful some of the times got between us.

Jeff and I have always had trouble getting along – he was always his daddy’s boy and chose to live with him from an early age. The older he gets, the more I realize why we had so much trouble bonding. We are so incredibly alike. We feel things and we feel them hard. We get angry. We get scared. We love. We hate. We feel it all. Too much, and all at once.  (And, frankly, we both despise that facet of ourselves.)

There were arguments over EVERYTHING over this past year. Especially during those endless four-hour drives to his hospital. I like to take my time. I like to go in a gas station and peruse. I tend to be late for things. Jeff is always in a hurry. He likes to be insanely early for everything. He likes to get in a store and get out.

Every trip was a minefield.

But did anyone see that?  Nope.  Just our “on the road again” smiling faces in the car as we set out on that beautiful drive to yet another appointment. Yet another surgery. Yet another long, drawn-out hospital stay (and hotel stay for me) where we still felt like he wasn’t any better when we left.

And you know what else I didn’t post photos of?

The argument we had this week when he realized that this job wasn’t going to work and abruptly left it. When I got so unfairly angry at him over that choice that I told him he needed to find another place to live. When we fought back and forth over texts for days after he got his things and left. When he cried alone in an empty house that he had to go back to without his dad. When I cried alone in my bedroom because I missed him so much but somehow thought I was doing the right thing to make him a ‘better person.’

No. No one saw any of that.

And why not?

That’s what I’m sitting here asking myself as I write this.

Why didn’t anyone see all that?

Now, I didn’t lie. When I showed you smiling faces, we were really smiling. There were definitely happy times. There were bonding times. There were moments where, even though all of this tragedy was happening all around us, we both knew we would not have been spending this kind of time around each other had it not been happening. Somewhere deep down, even through all the turmoil, I think we both realized we were getting to know one another in ways we hadn’t taken the time to do in the past because we had never been afforded the opportunity.

So, no, I didn’t ‘mislead my public.’ I don’t think any of us ever do that on purpose.

We just conveniently leave things out.

We filter our lives so that they look the best they can.

Sometimes I sit and look at pictures that women post [yes, I’m being gender specific here because we all know it’s usually women] where they’ve filtered themselves to the point that they are practically unrecognizable. I hate to admit this, but I make fun of them. Sometimes even out loud. I make all the jokes. (“Hope they don’t go missing…no one will know what they really look like.” Etc.)

I’m kind of a jerk.

You know what else I am?

A frickin hypocrite.

Because I’ve done that with my life. I’ve done that with my kid’s life. I’ve given him this impossible standard to live up to.  All this darn happiness and strength and triumph. Why do I do that? Why did I do that to him? To me? To us?

Why did I make us think we had something to prove to someone?  Why did I subconsciously show him that he has to be tough all the time? That he has to be such a success?

Screw that.

Life is hard, y’all.  It’s so incredibly hard. And sometimes we’re going to make the wrong choices. Many times, situations are not going to have a silver lining.

They just aren’t.

Some of you may not know, but I write for the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. Later this year, my eighth story will be printed with them. My publicist sent me an email a month or so ago about an upcoming book title regarding overcoming tough times. They wanted to know if I was interested in writing a story about any possible tough time I’ve overcome lately in my life.

Ha! Seriously? How serendipitous. This was going to be right in my wheelhouse. Let the typing commence.

When I sat down to write this, that was my intention. I was going to spin out the best overcoming tough times story they’d ever heard.

But nope. Not this time.

Somehow the truth just started flowing out of my fingers and I am powerless to stop it. It’s time to be real. It’s time to admit that life is hard. Things hurt. Things hurt so bad that you sometimes can’t breathe. You sometimes spend almost an entire day in bed because you are too sad to even try to get up.

But then the next day, you do.

You just do. Because you have no choice.

So there you go. The other side of this horrendous, pile-of-shit year that my kid just went through. That I just went through. That our family went through.

And are still going through.

This is the real us. And you know what?

That’s okay too.

It just is.

Blogging Break: My 2020 Writer’s Block

“You may be able to take a break from writing, but you won’t be able to take a break from being a writer.” – Stephen Leigh

It has been almost two years since I wrote in this blog. I realized that with astonishment today as I looked back at my last post dated July of 2019. When I started this blog, I couldn’t imagine even going a week without writing in it. And yet, here we are. (Funny how life likes to make liars of us, right?)

So, why the absence?

Wow. Where do I even begin? I guess we’ll start here:

In October 2020, I lost my ex-husband.

(Ok, I know that’s a strange thing to say. How can I lose my ex-husband?  Yes, Kevin passed away – but is that allowed to be my loss?  Trust me, I struggled with that almost more than the grief itself. Was I even allowed to be grieving? What right did I have?)

But I digress. A little back story:

For the last five years or so of Kevin’s life, his health started taking a drastic turn downhill. In his late teens, he was diagnosed with Becker muscular dystrophy, a progressive disease that causes a slow deterioration of his muscles over time. He had trouble walking for his entire adult life, but those last five years found him in a wheelchair. Our son Jeff, now 22, spent his older teen and early 20 years taking care of his father. While watching his younger sister move away and go to college, Jeff stayed behind in their little small town with his dad. It was just the two of them – father and son; caregiver and patient; roommates; friends. His dad and I had been divorced since the kids were very young, but I still lived close by. I had remarried my wonderful husband Richard and we all got along just fine. My husband and I even rode over and played cards with Jeff and Kevin occasionally if you can believe that.

Then 2020 struck.

I know we all have our 2020 stories. But man. Ours was a doozy.

The year started with my son getting drastically sick. We took him to the local hospital where he was promptly admitted, diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, and, after a 20-day hospital stay (complete with a transfer to a larger hospital four hours away that specialized in his condition), had his entire colon removed. A seemingly healthy 21 year old kid now had an ostomy bag. Needless to say, this put a bit of a damper on his caregiving for his father. Suddenly, Jeff was the one needing care himself.  After some heartfelt conversations with my husband, we decided I needed to go stay with them to help.

I began living part-time with my ex-husband and son.

To outsiders, this was quite the strange situation. But to us? I don’t know – it just worked. My son needed me. And, even more than that, he needed to know that his father was being taken care of. Now, at this point, his father only needed small things. A little help with household chores and things like that. But that was soon to change.

In June 2020, the very day that my son and I returned home from his second week-long hospital stay for a second surgery, his father was attempting to walk down the hall to greet us at the door, and fell.  He broke his femur.

He was whisked away in an ambulance and, like his son, was transferred to a larger hospital where he would stay for close to a month. When he came home, his need for care drastically increased. He was no longer able to take care of his basic needs. Already suffering from muscular dystrophy, there was no way his other muscles could work in place of the leg that he had so badly broken. With little to no upper body strength, he couldn’t even transfer himself to a sitting position – meaning he needed help with pretty much everything he did to care for himself.

And then, he started getting worse.

At first, we thought maybe the fall and subsequent break had just weakened his muscles to the point that he had lost all energy. But soon, he began getting sick to his stomach. And then, the tell-tale sign – his skin starting turning yellow. After some bloodwork, it was determined that his liver was not functioning properly and he was, once again, shipped off to another hospital for more tests. Meanwhile, our son had his third surgery (the second of a two-surgery series that involved removing his ostomy bag and placing a surgically engineered “replacement” called a j-pouch) and was not healing as well as we had expected. So, with our son recuperating at home, and Kevin’s mother and I taking turns between caring for Jeff and visiting Kevin in the hospital (during the small windows of time we were allowed given the COVID situation), life became a bit hectic, to say the least. And, within a few days, we were given the diagnosis for Jeff’s dad – it was cirrhosis of the liver.

At first, there was a hope. Even though his cirrhosis was extremely advanced and treatment was probably not an option – there was always the chance of a transplant. Even with Kevin’s preexisting muscular condition, there was a possibility he was a surgical candidate. So off he went to another hospital – where we were soon to receive the devastating news: the cirrhosis was too far advanced. He would not survive the transplant surgery.

Kevin was told there was nothing that could be done, and he was sent home to live out his last days.

We were hoping to have 6 months to a year with him but, sadly, that was not to be. Less than a month from being sent home, he passed away early one Sunday morning while the rest of the family was sleeping and I sat by his bedside, holding his hand.

There’s so much more I want to say about his passing – and I’m sure I will one day when I find the words – but that’s not what this blog is about. What it is about, I’m not sure really. I just know that somehow I need to vomit this last year out onto a screen. As I read over this, it seems to be reading as a news report, and I’m sorry for that. But I’m still, even all these months later, trying to learn to feel what has happened to our family. I’m just not there yet.

After Kevin’s passing, Jeff’s condition proceeded to go downhill. At first, we all assumed that it was just emotional. Of course he was mourning his father – his best friend – so he’d need a little time to be able to concentrate on healing and adjusting to life without his ostomy bag. But soon, we began to realize the problem went deeper than that. He continued to lose weight and could not eat without immediately rushing to the bathroom to lose it all, one way or the other. When the kid who had just the year before weighed 182 pounds hit his lowest weight of 110, it was obvious that he was not thriving.

So back to the hospital he went.

Which brings us to now.

After a two-week hospital stay that ended at the end of January, my son is now on a PICC line where he receives his nutrients in liquid form that go from a tube in his upper arm that extends directly into an artery in his heart. Just since being placed on this line, though, he has gained over 30 pounds. It’s working!

After the year we’ve had, I’m almost hesitant to start to feel any hope; but yet, I do. A small part of me is truly hoping that maybe this time, the worst is behind us and there’s an end in sight to all of this disaster. Maybe that’s why I feel drawn back to this blog? Maybe a small part of me is ready to start processing what has happened to all of us? What has happened to me?

I don’t know.

I recently started therapy. (Zoom therapy of course as COVID still looms over us. Ironically, this whole story has existed amidst a pandemic and I’ve barely mentioned it…) I’ve only had one session so far and I found myself sitting there at first wondering what I was even doing. Why was I there? But as is the case with good therapy, the answer suddenly presented itself.

I have forgotten how to feel.

When there was so much requiring my attention – requiring my participation – I had no time to stop and process anything. No time to decide how I felt about it because it wasn’t about me. It was about my son. It was about my ex-husband. It was about my grieving daughter. It was about everything and everyone around me that needed me. They needed my presence. My action. My feelings would just have to take a backseat for the time being.

But now?

I don’t know. Maybe now it’s time to try to get out of my head, and see what’s going on in my heart. I haven’t checked in with that fella for a while. Maybe I better make sure he’s still there.

Thanks for listening. Maybe I’ll see ya again soon as I start the journey back to figuring out what’s in this jumbled head of mine.

***

A Car for my Ex-Husband

So, my birthday is coming up and Facebook has started doing its thing – asking if I want to ask for donations to a non-profit in honor of my birthday.  And I think that’s a wonderful thing. I really do. But I decided I want to do something just a little different.

I know someone who could really use something that would brighten (and help) their life, and I want to see if you would consider helping me make it happen.

I want to get my ex-husband a car.

Now, I know that’s a strange statement. And it might even seem a little superficial. But let me explain.

My ex-husband, the father of my children, has a condition called Becker muscular dystrophy. One day (probably very soon) Kevin will be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life. He is defying the odds at the moment and is still able to walk very short distances, but because of the weakened muscles in his legs and now his upper body, he falls regularly.  And when he falls, he is unable to get up on his own.  This has, understandably, limited his ability to go places on his own.  He can still drive – that’s not a problem yet.  But his biggest problem is getting in and out of the vehicle without assistance.  And since he doesn’t always have that assistance – and, thankfully, it’s not medically necessary just yet – he ends up just staying home a lot to avoid the trouble.

And that makes me sad.

We’ve talked about what could help him and the only thing he’s ever mentioned is wishing that he could own a vehicle that’s the “right height.”

Think about that.  How often do you consider the “height” of your car? If you’re like me, the answer is never. But Kevin has to think about that constantly.  He has to live his life according to whether he can get himself in and out of a vehicle.  And the car he has right now just isn’t cutting it.  It’s a regular size car, low to the ground, and he is getting increasingly unable to go places in it.

Now, if I were independently wealthy, I would love to just buy him a car that would meet his needs. But I’m not.  And, living on minimal disability to get by, neither is he. So I’m asking for your help.  For these last months (optimistically speaking, possibly a year or more?), I would like to see the father of my children able to still go out and do things without worrying about something as simple as whether or not he can get in and out of the car.  He is not to the point where he needs a handicap accessible vehicle – though that time will come.  For now, he just needs one at the right height. One that he can easily slide in and out of that is not too low to the ground.

We’re not asking for a brand-new vehicle. Just something that works. Something that will make just one aspect of his life a bit easier.

Will you help?  Any small amount will do.  If I can do anything to ease just one small burden of the man who loves my kids as much as I do, it would be my honor.  Please join me in helping Kevin maneuver through his last days of mobility.

Thank you for considering my request.

Click HERE to donate.

Kevin

Self Apology

“Apology is a lovely perfume; it can transform the clumsiest moment into a gracious gift.”
– Margaret Lee Runbeck

I caught myself doing something pretty silly this morning.

Now, mind you, doing something silly is a pretty regular occurrence in my world. So if I wrote about it every time it happened I wouldn’t get much else done. But this one kind of struck a nerve for some reason.

So, I’m riding down the road on the way to work listening to my audiobook like I always do. I have the audiobook downloaded to my phone and it’s connected to the car radio through the auxiliary cord. I usually keep my phone’s sounds on silent (if you call me, sorry – I’ll never hear it). So when a notification “ding” came through this morning, I immediately reached over to get my phone out of the seat and turn the sound off so the annoying dings wouldn’t keep interrupting my story. It’s hard enough for me to be in a decent mood as it is on any given day, so a morning ride full of dings would definitely start me off on the wrong foot. As I proceeded to disable said dings, I remembered I had a few apps open that needed to be closed. [Sidebar: I can’t STAND to have apps open on my phone. Or little red notification numbers. Or emails in my inbox. How do you barbarians live like that??] So, as I got a little swipe-happy removing whatever errant app I had left open, I accidentally closed my audiobook as well.

As the app closed and the story came to an abrupt halt, the first words out of my mouth were, “Oh shoot! I’m sorry.”

Out loud.

To myself.

I apologized to my own self for turning my book off. Geez!

Once I realized what I had done, I had to laugh about it. I mean, how dumb can a person be? Apologizing to yourself? Ha!

And yet.

As the day wore on, I somehow just couldn’t stop thinking about that apology in the car. Was it really all that dumb, after all?

It got me thinking about something.

I’ve been in a bit of a bad place emotionally lately. Something happened a few months ago that I can’t seem to shake. I acted in a way that was not quite myself, and I ended up hurting a few people in the process. And now that it has all blown after and all is forgiven and life has moved on, another emotion has kicked in.

Anger.

At myself.

I’m not sure if I’ve ever felt like this before. I mean, I’m a redhead so obviously I know what anger feels like. Duh. It’s my favorite emotion. But at myself?

Now that’s new.

Now I’m no stranger to being an idiot. This isn’t the first time I’ve done something stupid. Stupid is my middle name.

I sometimes think about that 17-year-old version of me who was diagnosed with cancer. That girl who went through chemo and radiation, who spent half of her senior year in the hospital, who went to her high school prom bald as a baby – now that girl? That girl was stupid. Everyone around her talked about how “strong” she was, and how tough she was being. But she never understood what they meant. She was just doing what she was told. She was, quite frankly, too dumb to be scared. She wasn’t old enough yet – mature enough yet – to know what it all meant. The 40-year-old version of me now who looks back on that kid just shakes her head and smiles. I now know what a serious situation that was – and what could have happened. But I didn’t then. I didn’t know any better.

I was stupid.

And sometimes I feel like not much has changed in the last 23 years.

Sometimes 40-year-old me is still too immature to recognize the situations that she finds herself in – to realize the full weight of what could happen if she makes the wrong choice.

And that’s what I did a few months ago. I made the wrong choice.

I messed up. I hurt some people – especially one in particular. But it seems like those people that I hurt have forgiven me. They were surprised, but that’s what humans do – surprise one another. No, they didn’t really expect that kind of behavior from me and, yet, they still love me. Life goes on.

But why does it not just “go on” for me?

For me, somehow, life has seemed to come to a standstill in some ways. It’s not ‘going on’ at all. And, why the heck not? Everyone else has moved on. Why not me? What am I waiting for?

Hmm.

Is it, perhaps, that I haven’t quite given out all the apologies I need to give? Maybe there’s someone left?

Maybe me?

Sigh. Maybe me.

Well. Okay then. Let’s do this. Here goes.

Melissa, I’m sorry. I’m sorry you didn’t know any better. I’m sorry you weren’t mature enough to recognize the seriousness of the situation you were in. I’m sorry that you carelessly took your life for granted – much like that 17-year-old did once upon a time. I’m sorry you weren’t thinking straight. I’m sorry you screwed up.

But, honey, now you know.

Now you know.

Now you have lived with the consequences of your choices. Now you have seen the hurt on the faces of the people you love. You’ve seen the hurt in your own face staring back at you from the mirror. You’ve learned. You’ve suffered. You’ve cried.

And now, sweet girl…you’re done with that.

Done.

Let. It. Go.

I’m truly sorry.

I’m sorry I let you down. I’m sorry I allowed you to make such a big mistake. But it’s okay now. It’s okay. Let’s move on from this. What do you say?

Well. Okay then. That’s done.

And, what now?

Apology accepted.

Okay. Maybe apologizing to yourself isn’t quite so dumb after all.

Let’s move forward.

***

“Do the best you can until you know better.  And when you know better, do better.”
– Maya Angelou

 

The First and Only: A Theory About Love

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Make sense?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And then, just like that, everything changed.

He met someone else.

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

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

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

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

Tried to get back together.

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

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

Darn it. I still don’t know.

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

Ok, and maybe there is something else.

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

I’m glad.

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

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

But that’s not what love really is.

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

Love is choosing to stay.

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

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

Now I have to find it in me.

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

 

the-book-of-love

 

 

 

 

I’m a Carrier

Hi there. I’m a carrier. It’s who I am. It’s what I do.
See, I used to not be a carrier. I used to run and play and be carefree. But I started feeling a little drifty so I wondered what it would be like to be still.
That’s when someone offered me this thing to carry.
At first it was nice. As they were handing it to me, it didn’t feel that heavy. It just felt firm. Steady.
And oh how proud I was! Look at me! I’m a carrier. It’s who I am. It’s what I do.
But then they let go.
And I was carrying it alone.
(Okay, this is a little heavier than I expected.)
But that was okay. It was so firm and steady.
And I’m a carrier. It’s who I am. It’s what I do.
So I carried.
And I carried.
And I carried some more.
It was still heavy but eh. I had gotten used to it.
Heavy was my normal.
Because I’m a carrier, you see. It’s who I am. It’s what I do.
Until.
Until one day, someone asked me why I was a carrier.
“Because I’m a carrier, you see.
It’s who I am.
It’s what I do.”
“But why?” said he.
“It’s who I ….”
Wait.
Is it who I am?
“What are my options?” asked I.
“Come run. Come play. Come be carefree!” said he.
So, after a moment of thought and hesitation, I stopped being a carrier.
I set it down.
I ran. I played. I was carefree.
But then night fell.
I felt that old drifty feeling and went to find my thing. My thing to carry.
Because I’m a carrier, you see. It’s who I am. It’s what I do.
But it was gone.
I searched frantically. I was lost. My thing was gone.
And of course you can’t run and play and be carefree in the dark.
So I crawled into a corner and held onto myself. And cried.
And waited for the dark to pass.
And it did.
Now it’s morning.
And here’s my thing. It was there all along, I just couldn’t see it.
Thank goodness. I can be a carrier again. It’s who I….well, you know.
So I try to pick it up.
And I can’t.
It’s too heavy.
Wait!
What’s wrong?
I’m a carrier. This is mine. It’s mine. How can I not lift it? I carried it for all these years.
Did it change?
No.
It didn’t change.
I did.
Sigh.
Maybe I’m not a carrier after all.

Quick Fix

Quick Fix

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

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

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

And that’s going to sting.

“You’ve Always Been Kind to Me”

“Do not let your assumptions about a culture block your ability to perceive the individual, or you will fail.”
– Brandon Sanderson

Something is bothering me. Bad.

So, recently there’s been some new temporary drama in our small town. (Drama? In a small town!? I know. Shocking.) Like all of the others before, this one will get dander up, split us all into two camps of yay and nay, and then move the heck on.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

But while it’s here in all it’s ugly glory, I have something to say about it.

Recently, a member of our small town community posted a complaint about a movie playing at our local theatre.  She was distressed because the movie contained “a black man and a white man” who “are a couple and put a rainbow flag on the dog.”  She says she and her girls noticed this and realized they shouldn’t be watching it and that “the world needs God.”

Okay.

If you know me at all (or if you don’t, you’re about to), you’ll know that this does not sit well with me.  As a lifelong advocate of equality, a very rebellious former church goer, and the friend, family, and mother to members of the LGBTQ family, I saw this post and FUMED.  I don’t know this woman (or at least I didn’t think I did). I’m not from this small town and don’t tend to know who people are like they seem to know who I am. (A big mouthed redheaded liberal showing up in a conservative southern small town tends to garner attention…who knew?) So not only did I share this woman’s comments on social media (she herself said that she was proud of her beliefs, so why would she mind my sharing them?), I also reached out to her privately.

I mean, what could go wrong, right?

Ha.

Honestly, it wasn’t that bad. I sent her a picture of my beautiful, brilliant, bright ray of sunshine daughter so that she would know who she was teaching her daughters to hate.  I told her all about how successful my girl is and how she’s working her way through college with the biggest heart you’ve ever seen on a person. And I told her that her relationship with her girlfriend is going on its fourth year, which is something not many teenagers can say. She responded to let me know that she “knew who my daddy was” (sigh. She did not.) and that I should be ashamed of “bashing” her like this.  I responded to let her know that I’ve never said one negative word about her, only shared HER words. (I mean if she’s so proud of her stance, why does she care that her public post was shared?)  And then kindly reminded her that she does not “know my daddy” and that I’m not even from here but whatever.  (My daddy already knows I’m an ass, there’s nothing she can tell him that he hasn’t been trying for 40 years to fix.)

But then came the kicker.

She said, “I have seen you at the checkout line [I’m working a part-time job as a cashier], and you’ve always been kind to me, as I have been to you.”

And you know what?  She’s right.

She’s right.

I remember her now. I have always been kind to her. And she’s always been kind to me. She’s always been this friendly lady who makes conversation in my checkout line. She’s never been hateful, never done some of the pet peeves that drive us cashiers crazy (lord, that’s a blog for another day…boy, do I have a list….), never been anything but a friendly customer shopping for her groceries.

We didn’t know anything about each other and yet, deep in her heart, she hated my child.

Hated. My. Child.

We look around at what’s happening in this country today and we wonder what has happened.  When did people who used to just coexist suddenly start not being able to coexist? When did we start seeing inside the ugly hearts of these people who appeared so nice on the outside?

Most of us blame the president.  I pretty much blame everything on our current president, to be honest.  But like my husband says, Trump didn’t start this.  He’s just the face of it. The country didn’t become this way because he was elected.  He was elected because the country became this way.

Is the reason social media? Facebook? Probably.  Ignorance is bliss, right? Well, it was. But there’s no such thing as ignorance to who people are anymore. People are proud. They have a platform. They have a place to air their insides. And sometimes those insides aren’t very nice.

Do I have a solution to this?  Of course I don’t. Is it going to change? Nope.

But one thing I will not do anymore is settle. I will not settle for silence. I will not settle for allowing my voice to go unheard. I will not settle for allowing this kind of ugliness to live in my surroundings and not speak out against it.

I’ll still be nice to this woman in my checkout line. Why?  Because I’m a hypocrite. We all are. (Also, I need money.) But will I know what’s in her heart?  Has the image she portrayed been forever altered in my mind?   Will I look into that smiling face and know what kind of hatred she holds inside her heart towards interracial couples and gay people?  Towards my own little girl.

You bet.

It wasn’t the first time I saw into someone’s soul, and it won’t be the last. Not in this day and time.

How is it all going to end?  I have no idea.

How do we keep living alongside people who are so inherently different from us?

How do we justify interacting with these people on a daily basis while our insides are screaming at them to wake up from their blind brainwashing?

My god, I have no idea.

But I will keep speaking out. And I know others like me will keep speaking out.  And eventually it will be our voices that are heard.

And the voices like this woman on Facebook will fade right into the background where they belong.

***

“Growth and comfort do not coexist.”
-Ginni Rometty

 

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

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

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

I want to thank him for not believing in me.

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

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

Dear Richard,

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

I want to thank you for not believing in me.

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

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

You didn’t believe me.

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

You quietly refused to believe me.

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

And you watched me go too.

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

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

And then. The worst of all.

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

But I’m glad you were. 

You didn’t believe in me. 

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

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

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

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

Merry Christmas, my love.

Your wife,

Melissa

***

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

 

 

 

 

Small Town Fame

“Sometimes I feel like a clown
Who can’t wash off his makeup…”
– Zac Brown Band lyric

***

So, turns out, I’m famous.

Yep.

Famous.

Now, hold on. Don’t go busting out the Google and whatnot. You’re probably not going to find anything except a reference to this blog and maybe some award for the most speeding tickets a human could possibly receive before the age of 30 or something. Oh, and maybe some Chicken Soup for the Soul books I’m in. (Okay. That part is kinda cool, not gonna lie.)

But otherwise?  Nada.

But I’m not lying to you though. Really. I am famous. It’s just that apparently you have to live in this small town to know it.

And, believe me, I do live in this small town.

Ugh.

Three days ago, I deactivated my Facebook account.  And trust me, y’all. THAT is a record. (I’ll be placing that trophy beside the  “Most Speeding Tickets Before the Age of 30” one if anyone ever gets around to bestowing me with the credit I deserve.) And while I’ve fleetingly wanted to pop on and see what’s up in Fakebookland, I’ve told myself that I’m not allowed to even peek until I get this blog written.  I’m mad at Facebook and I need to figure out why.

I have a wonderful (way-better-than-me-at-it) writer friend Vanessa who sent me something the other day that she had written but was not quite ready to post. While discussing what she had written, she said, “I don’t know how people who don’t write deal with feelings. I can’t even see the problem until I’m writing about it.” 

That really got to me.

I, along with probably every other writer in the world probably, agree with that statement. And yet, here I’ve been struggling with some kind of unnamed emotional turmoil and I haven’t even attempted to get it out onto this computer screen.

[Okay, sidebar. That’s not really my fault. I’m busy as everlovin crap these days. I work two jobs now. One of which has gotten progressively busier over the past few years. (I accidentally typed “tears” there instead of years and I’m thinking that may be my subconscious writing this blog for me. In fact, I’m switching between my work email screen and this blog as we speak so please ignore me if I start randomly turning into a passive aggressive smartass about your upcoming refinance.) So yeah, I’m finding it really hard to fit in time to write these days. Or run. Or sleep. I do find plenty of time to cry though, so don’t worry about me. Alrighty. Moving on….]

So yeah, I’m pissed at Facebook. And while I’ve been pissed at it many times in the past, this time has seemed to stick. I didn’t get over it in like 2.2 seconds like I always do and log right back in. This time kind of stung.

Here’s what happened.

I posted something late last week that I knew might not go over well with some people. Now, if you know me at all, you’ll know that there’s really no reason for me to give that disclaimer because pretty much everything I post doesn’t go over well with some people. But this time, I seemed to offend my own people. The progressives. The left-wingers. The Democrats. The liberals. The people that I am. Yup, I pissed off my own kind.

That was new.

Without getting into much of the details (because that is not what this blog is about), I posted about the recent firing of Megyn Kelly and how I thought that – in this instance – this may have just been a slip up and not the time to break out the “SHE’S A RACIST” posters and march though town. But hey, what the hell do I know, right? Many people commented tactfully – both agreeing and disagreeing with my stance – and I was honestly enjoying the conversation.

Until I stopped enjoying it.

Suddenly I started getting comments like this one:  “I thought Melissa had started this in order to have a discussion, but now I’m not so sure.” (Yes, this person referred to me as if this weren’t my post she was commenting on.) I asked her what she meant by that – weren’t we having a discussion? What was I missing? And then she proceeded to tell me exactly what I had done wrong.

I hadn’t agreed with her.

And she was just the first. Other comments followed and then the icing on the cake came by way of private message. Among other things, this message said this:  this is actually a very serious issue and you, as the liberal voice in Ashe County, publicly took a side that is against every collective body that you support, including the NAACP, BLM, etc.”

Um. Huh?

I am THE liberal voice in Ashe County?

Whoaaaa.  Hold up here a minute.

Who appointed me with that title because, no thank you. I’m not the voice of anything. Except maybe Melissa and most of the time I get what she’s trying to say wrong too so I can’t even really count that.

Seriously, when did I cease being a human being and am suddenly some kind of “personality?”

My second job that I’ve mentioned up there is at a grocery store. In the past few months, I’ve been surprised by how many people have come through my line and asked “Are you the Melissa that has the blog?” I’ve always met them with a surprised face and a “um…yeah?…” because I’m shocked that anyone reads this thing. I mean, yeah, I see the stats but I just assume that’s my husband clicking on it over and over again to see if I’ve bashed him lately.

[Sidebar #2. One of these customers actually came through and told me he was really pissed at my husband because of the last thing that I had written about him.  Yes, Guy at the Grocery Store, my husband and I have had a rough year. And I was really mad at him for a very long time. But we’re in counseling and I’ve forgiven him and we’re working on our marriage. And if we can manage to last two more days we’re even going to make it to our 4th wedding anniversary. So you can stop being mad at him now, okay? And I’m sorry I didn’t update you. My fault.]

So, yeah. I truly believed that it was just people who know me that read this. Not random strangers. So there’s this: the blog. I guess that makes me known, whatever that means. But I also guess that running my mouth has gotten me a bit known here in this town too. Like the time I, a progressive (unless you ask the people who are pissed at me right now), spoke about transgender rights at a local Republican party meeting. Or the time I joined a local protest at the courthouse when the county spent a bajillion dollars (ok, $2500) on putting big gold letters up that say “In God We Trust.” No, I’m not an atheist. But I’m aware that there are many that live in this county and we shouldn’t waste their hard-earned taxpayer money on something so blatantly unnecessary when we’re one of the poorest counties in the state. And then that protest led to me starting a group called Agreeable Disagreers which worked to raise that $2500 back and spread it back into the community where it was most needed. No, it didn’t take those letters down – what’s done is done – but some of us – Christians, Atheists and everything in between –  felt a little better about doing what was right.

But, of course, there were also those who didn’t think what we did was right. And those people don’t ever forget me.

And then, when Agreeable Disagreers didn’t stop at $2500 as was its original goal, there were the people who got used to the help that our group was doing in the community and when I had to slow down for my own sanity (y’all, taking on the problems of an entire county will weigh on you – trust me), these past supporters got mad at me too.  No good deed goes unpunished, right?

Okay, and there was the time I got into a screaming match with a police officer over a parking space, but I think I’ve given enough examples and we can move on here. The point is, I’m well-known.

And I don’t think I really realized that.

I’m not from this county. I moved here four years ago when I married my husband. I’m not used to this. I’m a gypsy. A nomad. A drifter. I never stay anywhere very long. I’ve been the “new girl” about a million times, but it’s never mattered that much. Sure, I’ve run my mouth, but then I take off.  If I became “famous” in those places, I didn’t stick around long enough to figure it out.

But I’ve stuck it out here. So far.

And man, I just don’t know.

On some small scale, am I seeing what it’s like to be a celebrity?  Am I finally starting to understand why Meghan Markle (this is a different Meghan, calm down) had to take a few days off from her recent tour because she was so overwhelmed? Am I starting to, sadly, see why people like Amy Winehouse and Robin Williams couldn’t handle the pressure the public put on them to perform?

I started this blog with a quote from a Zac Brown Band song. “Sometimes I feel like a clown, who can’t wash off his makeup.” 

Yes. That.

Guys, please try to remember that I’m a human being. Sometimes I’m going to disagree with you. Sometimes I’m going to say something that you agree with 1000% and other times you’re going to want to punch me in the face. That’s okay. You’re human. And so am I.

And when you tell me that I’m the liberal voice of Ashe County, please know that you’re wrong. No, I’m not. The only voice I am is that of myself. My overworked, overwhelmed, critical, weird-ass self. That’s it. That’s all I am.

Human.

Okay, if you read this far, kudos to you. This was a long one. And honestly, I do feel better. Thanks for the reminder to get this crap out, Vanessa.

Onward.

***

“Fame doesn’t fulfill you. It warms you a bit, but that warmth is temporary.”
– Marilyn Monroe

***