Tag Archives: NC

An Apology Letter to the LGBT Community

 

Dear LGBT Community:

My name is Melissa Edmondson.

Last week, I was invited to speak at a GOP meeting in my small area to give an opposing opinion on North Carolina’s controversial HB2 law. Why me? Good question. I have no idea.

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Photo by Jesse Campbell of The Jefferson Post

I am a progressive independent who tends to lean pretty far to the left – the last person you’d expect to be a keynote speaker at a GOP meeting. But there I was, nonetheless. The Republican party chairman, in what I think was a brilliant, heartfelt move, decided that we are a better community when we hear what one another has to say. And he chose me to deliver that message.

Does he regret his decision? I wonder.

I’ve gotten many responses since the meeting, both good and bad.  (If you’d like to read the news articles about how it went, you can click here and here.  And then a later report about the republican party itself and their standing after the meeting: here.)

The “bad” responses I’ve received generally involve the possibility that I might lose my job or lose business for my employer. He and I have both received those comments from people in our community. Yes, I know this sound ludicrous to some of you who may be reading this while in other areas. But trust me, this is Ashe County, North Carolina, and this is a very real thing here. If you do not fall in the majority with your beliefs, you are practically nonexistent (or some will try to see to it that you are). So far, however, I’m still at my job. Even a heathen like me can still whip up a few real estate closings here and there.

But, honestly, I want to tell you about the other responses. It’s the “good” ones that have bothered me most.

I keep getting told what a “hero” I am. How “brave” I am. How much courage it took to get up in front of all of those people to speak like I did. And every time I hear those words, I feel a sadness that I have had trouble explaining.

At first, I told myself I was just being silly. Maybe I’m just one of those people who gets embarrassed by compliments. Maybe I need to learn to accept them more graciously and have a little more faith in myself. Maybe it was just a self-esteem thing – maybe I needed to be proud of myself.

But no. That’s not it. Not at all.

The more I’ve thought about it, the more I realize what’s wrong. I am accepting misplaced credit.

I am not the brave one. You are.

I am a writer; a talker. Speaking my mind is something that comes naturally to me. Sure, it’s a bit easier to speak to people who share my beliefs, but the fact that the room was full of people who didn’t share those beliefs didn’t bother me. When you truly believe that what you are saying is the truth, you don’t care who you are speaking to. You are speaking because you know it needs to be heard. Yes, public speaking is hard. Terrifying even. And if you want to pat me on the back for speaking in front of people, okay. I’ll take that. Because I was scared out of my mind. (I just recently read a James Patterson book entitled “I Funny” which was aimed at middle-schoolers. One of the chapters was entitled “Public Speaking: Or As It Should Be Called – Public Execution).  Yes, I was terrified. But not because of what I was saying. I had absolute faith in what I was saying. It was just your normal run-of-the-mill fear of public speaking. Most of us have it.

So, yes. Yay me. I overcame a public speaking fear. Big whoop.

But bravery? HA! No, that is not bravery. What you do everyday is bravery.  Especially if you live here.

Although the world is slowly adapting to one that accepts you as you are, change is very slowly arriving to our little area. In some places, change hasn’t arrived at all. You have to live your life as a lie. You have to pretend to be someone you’re not.

Me? Brave? Any time a major event happens between my husband and me, I share it all over Facebook. Pictures of us holding hands. Snuggling. I get to hear the ooohs and ahhhs and bask in the lovey-doveyness of it all. What do you get to do? Hide. You can’t post pictures like that or even hold your loved one’s hand in public. You have to hide behind the veneer of what is ‘allowed.’

You are the brave ones.

Me? Brave? I can walk into any restaurant or store and know that I can shop and dine and not have to wonder if I’m going to be asked (or told) to leave. I don’t have to wonder if this is a safe spot for me to be in and wonder if the person behind the counter is going to treat me the same as others. There is no reason they shouldn’t. I’m just standing here being heterosexual, why should they treat me any different? You, on the other hand?  I can’t imagine what must go through your mind every time you walk into an establishment in this narrow-minded area that time has forgotten to visit.

You are the brave ones.

Me? Brave? I can go to the bathroom, for God’s sake. If I need to pee in public, I go to the friggin bathroom. There’s no question. There’s no hesitation. There’s no looking behind me to see if I’m going to be arrested. There’s no feeling I’m doing anything “wrong.” I go pee and I leave. I don’t give it a second thought. Some of you? I can’t even begin to wrap my mind around how hard this must be for you.

You are the brave ones.

Please accept my apology. Please accept my apology for taking the compliments and the praise that should be directed at you. You are the brave ones. You are the heroes. You are the courageous.

Yes, I spoke on your behalf. But I am not you. I don’t understand, and can’t begin to fully understand no matter how hard I try. I am sorry that it was me up there speaking on your behalf, and not you able to tell your story. I was the one that was welcomed into the “lion’s den” as one reporter referred to it.

Would you have been?

Somehow I don’t think so.

Did those people hear me? Was it worth it?  I don’t want to be pessimistic here, but honestly I don’t think so. But to tell you the truth, I don’t really care.

They weren’t the ones I was targeting. You were.

Please know that you have friends. Please know that there are more out here than just me. Please know that you are not alone. Not by a long shot. You are fighting one of the bravest fights there is to fight – the fight for equality. You are the heroes, friends. Not me.

They may not have heard me, but I hope you did.

Love,
Melissa

 

Mayberry Half Marathon

“The obsession with running is really an obsession with the potential for more and more life.”
– George Sheehan

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  • Second half marathon = *check!*
  • Goal time met = *check!*  (Well, my goal was 2:30 and it ended up being 2:30:44.  Those last 44 seconds don’t count, right?)
  • PR = *check!*  (My first half marathon took 2:43)
  • Miserable pain in legs and hips afterwards? = *DOUBLE CHECK!*

So, today, I completed my second half marathon in Mount Airy, North Carolina.  It was called the “Mayberry Half Marathon.”  Yep, that Mayberry. blog If you aren’t familiar with the area, this is the town that the Andy Griffith show was based on.  And buddy, let me tell ya, they sure use that as a draw to the area!  (As they should.)  You can see everything from Wally’s Service Garage to Floyd’s Barber Shop.  Pretty cool stuff.

So, my day started with a 4:15 a.m. alarm.  (Whaaat?  Seriously?  I’m getting up at 4:15 a.m. to go make myself miserable???  Yep.  Welcome to being a runner.)  blog1And not only did I get up at 4:15 a.m., but so did my boyfriend and his kids to come along and be my cheerleaders.  If you’re a runner, you know how very much this means to us.  Yes, we’re running for ourselves and it’s a very private, personal sport, but when it comes to races, there’s nothing like a cheerleader.  And I had three.  His kids had the option of staying home, but they chose to go to support me.  Talk about warm fuzzies. 🙂  They’re just as sweet as their dad.

So, after our 2+ hour trip to Mount Airy, I get all signed in and get my sweet shirt. blog3 (I was also given the shirt and goody bag – complete with running socks (super sweeeet!) for my Australian friend Zoe who earned hers as well from across the world.  Read that blog here if you missed it!) So, I’m checking out my awesome long-sleeved silky moisture wicking shirt and suddenly I notice this little phrase written up the arm.

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Um.  Say what?

Now, although I don’t live “too” far from Mount Airy (about two hours away), I wasn’t extremely familiar with the terrain.  And let me just say…. Holy. Cow.  They weren’t kidding.  The hills were insane!  I started out thinking this was going to be a pretty chill course.  blog7I love looking at the little smile on my innocent, unassuming face as I took off from the start line.  That smile started fading right about the 8 mile mark as my legs started screaming at me that this was the worst, stupid, most idiotic idea I had ever had in my life.  And I couldn’t help but agree with them.  Yes, the course was beautiful, but who the heck cared!?  I was too busy looking down at my legs to be sure they were still there because the numbness was starting to make me doubt that fact.

blog6“Oh, dear God, please let me finish this thing.  I’ll do anything you say from now on.  Scout’s honor.”  (I was never a scout and God knows that, so I’m sure he realized I was just kidding.)

But alas, scout or no, God followed through and allowed me to cross the finish line.  Barely.   Nah, I’m exaggerating.  Without knowing what the course was like, I had hoped for a 2:30 finish and I finished in pretty much exactly that.  2:30:44.  (As I mentioned before, those 44 seconds totally don’t count.  I was right at 2:30, so I’m going with that.  Bam!)

Note the distinct difference in my face from before the race to after.  Ha!

Am I proud of myself?  You bet I am.  Why?  Well, lots of reasons.  One – I finished.  Two – I started.  Three – I got this awesome medal…

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(There’s that mention of hills again!  This time I knew why!)

But aside from all that stuff, you know the deeper, more real reasons that I’m proud?

“Running is not, as it so often seems, only about what you did in your last race or about how many miles you ran last week. It is, in a much more important way, about community, about appreciating all the miles run by other runners, too.”
– Richard O’Brien

Keeping that quote in mind – here’s one of those reasons.

blog11That picture is the result of my friend Zoe’s half marathon that she ran, in part, because of me.  Our training together for the last few months led her to run her first half marathon all on her own in Australia.  Together, we helped each other get to this point, and she SMASHED it!  I’m so proud of her.  And I’m proud of myself for helping to inspire one other person out there in the world to feel this intense feeling of pride in herself.  There’s nothing like setting out to complete a goal, and completing it.  There’s a strength there that can’t be explained.  But trust me – it’s good stuff.

And on that same note:  I also got to witness a couple success stories at the race itself.  I spoke to one woman just before the race who was telling me that she was unsure if she would even be able to run.  She had trained hard and had started experiencing some serious pain in her hips and knees just a week or so ago.  The pain wouldn’t ease.  She said she was just going to do a little warm up and then make her decision whether to follow through with the race.  This conversation occurred in the bathroom line just prior to the race, and I lost her after that.  Throughout the race, I thought of her and wondered if she had been able to do the race at all.  At the awards ceremony, I got my answer.  She finished THIRD OVERALL.  How do you like that!?  I felt so proud of her it was almost like I knew her personally.  And that’s another reason why I love being a runner.  We are as proud of each other’s accomplishments as we are of our own – even when we barely know the person.

I spoke to another guy who was completing his 11th half marathon of the year.  One per month.  And he was from Nashville, TN, and is planning to run the Music City Marathon in April – the same one that I’ve got my sights set on for my own first full marathon.  Eh, we’ll see.  My legs still hurt too much right now to make that decision.  But either way – small world.  I just love the conversations that take place among runners.  We’re a family of sorts.  We get each other.  And we all see each other as equals – whether we finished 1st or 120th.  That’s one of the most beautiful things about this sport in my eyes.

And finally, to wrap it all up.  You know what really, really, makes me love these races?  This.

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I am so lucky to have my biggest fan by my side through it all.  He is always, always there.  With an encouraging word and a congratulatory kiss, he is part of the reason for my success.  Yes, I believe in myself – and I know that is the reason why I keep progressing.  But to have someone believing in you along the way?  That sure does add to the sweetness of the whole thing.  I’m so incredibly blessed.  I hope he knows how important that is to me.  I’m in a women’s running group on Facebook and I hear of so many stories that don’t always work out this way.  So many significant others don’t understand what it’s all about.  And without the understanding, they don’t follow through with the support and the encouragement that these women so desperately need.  I saw one woman mention that she has done everything she can think of to show her husband how much running means to her.  She has posted her bibs and medals on their bedroom wall – begged him to come to races – and still.  Nothing.  I feel so bad for her.  Support from our loved ones is a gift that we eagerly open like a kid on Christmas morning.  I am so sorry for the women like her who have nothing to open.  Thank goodness she has that women’s running group on Facebook.  Hopefully it can put a little salve on her wounds as she receives the virtual back pats from those of us who understand.

But for the grace of God go I, man.  I’m tellin ya.

blog9So.  Half marathon #2 is in the books.  I’m a happy camper.  Another success to tuck under my belt…..until next time. 🙂

Thanks for joining me on the journey.  And if you haven’t started your own journey, my request to you is this.  Start today.  It’s out there.  There is something that is going to make you feel the pride in yourself that running has allowed me to feel.  You need it.  Trust me on this.  You need it.

Find it.  And don’t stop searching until you do.

***

“Racing teaches us to challenge ourselves. It teaches us to push beyond where we thought we could go. It helps us to find out what we are made of. This is what we do. This is what it’s all about.”
– Patti Sue Plumer, U. S. Olympian