Tuesday, June 11

I can't even

SOTD: The World Spins Madly On -- The Weepies

"The night is here and the day is gone//And the world spins madly on//I thought of you and where you'd gone//And the world spins madly on"

I know what you must be thinking: Life must be really kicking her ass if she's dusted off the "Rabbit Hole." 

Well, yes. But also, you know, sometimes you just need to Nora Ephron your way out of your own troubles and maybe write yourself a better ending. At least that's what I've convinced myself. 

Earlier this afternoon, I was scrolling Facebook when I encountered a photo of a young boy that I recognized. Above the photo was a brief post that began with the words, "This story is so heartbreaking," or something relatively similar. I was curious why this little boy who I recognized as the young son of an ex-boyfriend was breaking hearts. So, I read. 

In an instant I learned that the little boy had been murdered -- by his father -- in a murder-suicide. 

I froze. 

I reread. 

The words were the same. 

I stopped breathing for a full minute... 
My mind raced with every possible scenario that didn't involve what was just described. 

I finally took another breath. 

I reread the article attached to the story. 
My mind was tripping over itself trying to make sense of absolute nonsense. 

I began to tremble. 

Before I lost control of myself, I did the only thing I knew -- I reposted the story with a brief note about my speechlessness and concern for his wife and family. 

I began to shake. 

The next thing I remember was being in my mother’s arms. She lives next door so it only seems logical that I would go to her house for comfort. After sharing the tragic news I set out to do what I have had to do too many times in recent months -- contact mutual friends so they didn't find out the way I did. Sharing heartbreaking news is never easy, but this one was particularly troubling in a way I can't even put into words. 

Over the next few hours I would share conversations with friends I hadn't spoken with in at least a decade or more and took in messages from friends who relayed sympathy for what I can still only describe as a senseless and unnecessary tragedy. 

Along the way I began to remember every good and bad thing about our long on and off again relationship, which lasted through most of my college years. I recalled how even my own friends viewed me as the villain in our story after the breakup because he was just too gentle of a soul to have carried any blame. And for the most part, they were right. 

I remembered the night we first said "I love you" and how I had never said that to a guy before and it felt like I had rolled a boulder over a mountain. Then the night we shared that ultimately ended any chance we had at a future and the four other times we tried and failed to make it work. 

I remembered his handwriting and how it was ALWAYS better than mine. And his laugh. The stupidest things were amusing to him. I never understood how anyone could be that happy all the damn time. 

I escaped my memories long enough to see more of the story and it only left me with more questions. 

I will never understand the events that ended not only his life, but that of his 8 year old son. I can only say, the person I knew and loved would've never done this. 

I always imagined that one day, decades from now, we would reunite and laugh about the stupid things we did when we were young and didn't know any better. In my imagination, all of our friends would've been there and we would all just have the best time reminiscing. That dream was likely unrealistic, but the reality that it is now impossible is hard to swallow. 

If you are the praying kind, keep the Talley and Reagan families in your prayers. If not, send them good vibes. I cannot imagine their pain, but I'm certain, even Nora Ephron couldn't write them out of it. 

Saturday, August 20


Growing up in the eighties, without the internet, before CDs, it wasn't uncommon to sit on my bedroom floor listening to Delilah on some soft rock radio station in Atlanta. I was always intrigued by the people who would call in and tell their stories and then request a very specific song to be played - a dedication to someone they love, were estranged from or maybe just someone who's attention they were trying to get. I always wondered if their intended ever got the message. Probably not, I would think. 

It's been a while since I've posted & shared an entry here, but I promise, I am still writing. But because this is real life and, other, real, people are involved, I've decided it's best to write these stories, but I don't know if, or when, I will share them. It's the right thing to do. 

I can, however, try something new and also give you some insight into where my head and heart are.  Whether I'm writing, painting or simply sitting in the backyard thinking about life, I usually have music playing in the background. This week, a specific playlist has been on repeat and it's no coincidence that each song reminds me of a different person and situation they (or, sometimes, we) are going through. 

So, here's this weeks playlist. The YouTube link will take you to the full playlist, in case you need a little musical destruction. Also, if your initials appear beside one of the songs on the playlist, I am dedicating it to you. I believe most of you will understand why when you listen to the song and I apologize in advance if this makes anyone cry; but you should know I have cried at least once this week over each and every song. I've also taken a few of my favorite lyrics from each and emphasized the message I hope the person it is dedicated to will receive. 

I might not always make them personal, but I hope to continue to share playlists like this. So, without further ado, here's August 2016: 

 1) Something Beautiful by Tori Kelly 
 2) I Will Be There by Odessa
 3) Stand By You by Rachel Platten
 4) How To Save A Life by Nilu (cover)
 5) Buy This Town by Lori McKenna
 6) America's Sweetheart by Elle King
 7) Brave by Nichole Nordeman
 8) I'll Never Go Away by Erin McCarley
 9) Somebody To Love by Kacey Musgraves
10) Lost Boy by Ruth B 

Something Beautiful: (alpo) "Can't feel the love without the pain. The sun won't shine without the rain. You're not required to carry the weight. So let it go, here's my hand to hold. At the end of it all there's a smile for you waiting. So, breath in & let it go. Your tears are not for nothing. Let them fall, off. In every tear drop there is something beautiful. You are stronger than you know. You're something beautiful". 

I Will Be There: (glw/crw) "If you ever need someone, to just love you. If you ever need someone, to simply adore you. I will be there. Standing by your side."

Stand By You: (glw) "Tears, make kaleidoscopes in your eyes. And hurt, I know you're hurting but so am I. And, love, if your wings are broken, borrow mine 'til yours can open, too. 'Cause I'm gonna stand by you...Even if we can't find heaven, I'll walk through hell with you. Love, your not alone, 'cause I'm gonna stand by you". 

How To Save A Life: (cbwl) "Where did I go wrong, I lost a friend somewhere along in the bitterness" 

Buy This Town: (tlw) "If I could buy one night, I wouldn't buy the one you'd think. I'd buy the one when my eyes teared up by the light above the kitchen sink. And you held me tight. And begged me not to cry. If I could buy the sweetness of one kiss, well, that's the one I'd buy. If I, could buy one night. All the money in the world couldn't buy a drop of real love could it? And it really shouldn't now should it? If I could buy the stars, I'd polish them so bright". 

America's Sweetheart: (apw) "My kind of medicine is whiskey straight. I got a mouth to put you in your place, and they said I'll never be the poster type, but, they don't make posters of my kind of life...What do you want from me? I'm not america's sweetheart. So beat the drum with me; I'm not america's sweetheart. Well, they say I'm too loud for this town, so, I lit a match and burned it down. What do you want from me? I'm not america's sweetheart - but you'll love me anyway". 

Brave: (lso) "I've never known a fire that didn't begin with a flame. Every storm will start with just a drop of rain. But if you believe in me, that changes everything". 

I'll Never Go Away: (glw/alpo/tlw/apw) "I know you never thought, you could hurt this much. Losing what you love. You've lost yourself, your numb. Even though it's dark, there's a light somewhere inside you. Let me hold your hands, I'll help you find your feet again. It's okay to cry. How can I let you know - I got love. I got you love. I'll never go away, I'll never go away". 

Somebody To Love: (drmwah) "We're all livin' 'til we're dying. We ain't cool, but man we're trying. Just thinking we'll be fixed by someone else. Just trying to hold it all together. We all wish our best was better. Just hoping that forever's really real. We'll miss a dime to grab a nickel, over complicate the simple. We're all little kids just looking for love. Yeah, don't we all just want somebody to love"? 

Lost Boy: (kaw/jaae/mae) "There was a time, when I was alone. Nowhere to go and no place to call home. My only friend was the man in the moon. And even sometimes he would go away, too. Then one night, as I closed my eyes, I saw a shadow flying high. He came to me with the sweetest smile; told me he wanted to talk for a while. He said, "Peter Pan. That's what they call me. I promise that you'll never be lonely". And ever since that day... I am a lost boy from Neverland. Usually hanging out with Peter Pan. And when we're bored we play in the woods. Always on the run from Captain Hook. "Run, run, lost boy," they'd say to me. "Away from all of reality..."

Saturday, August 6

Lights will guide you home

SOTD: "Fix You" - Coldplay
"Tears stream down your face. I promise oh. Will learn from my mistakes". 

I wish there was a magic pill, or even a hug, that could actually fix me. This is a hard place to be. As the song says, 'stuck in reverse'. It seems every time I manage to find a little joy it's gone before I can actually allow it to spread into other areas of my life. 

I've read all the cliches. A heart must break to let the light in. Diamonds are made from coal that withstands intense pressure. What doesn't kill us makes us stronger. They don't help. It especially doesn't help when the people who know and love me describe me and lead with "the strongest woman I've ever known". I'm not as strong as they think. If I were I wouldn't be crying as I type this entry. I know what it means to sit at a bar and ask the bartender to pour me something stronger than me. (It would be more helpful if the bartender knew what that meant.) 

A vindictive person has decided that my encouragement of her daughter, to think for herself and question things that don't make sense, is out of line. To prove this, she has forbid her daughter from having any kind of communication with me and to ensure her daughter never has an original thought of her own, she took away her phone an computer. This precious child is 13 years old and from what I've read in her blog, deeply troubled. Something I can relate to. The feeling that life would be better without you in it. The difference being, the world would not be better without my Gabby, but there are more days than not I feel the world wouldn't actually miss me. 

I fight until there is no fight left in me. I avoid talking to my mother because I don't want to disappoint her. And today, the most promising job lead I've had since unexpectedly losing the job I gave up everything for, sent an email to tell me they are going in a different direction. 

If anybody knows how to fix me, please, please tell me. I don't know how many more days I can cry and still manage to get out of bed, get dressed and smile like nothing's wrong. 

I'm taking a break for a while. Don't worry - I will be fine. I just don't know how yet. 

Peace and love y'all. 

Friday, August 5

That was then...

SOTD: "Long Live" - Taylor Swift
"Will you take a moment, promise me this. That you'll stand by me forever, but if God forbid fate should step in and force us into a goodbye. If you have children some day. When they point to the pictures, please tell them my name...Tell them how I hope they shine!"

Believe it or not, I have actually been doing quite a bit of writing on here - only, it seems, I'm keeping most of it for myself! Last night I was working on a piece that I had every intention of posting. I had a deep emotional connection to it as I was writing, but then life happened making it even more personal. By the time I completed it, I was audibly sobbing. {It had to do with that real life interruption that just happened to seamlessly weave into my original post}

For better or worse, I was unable to share that piece. Not because it was too personal. In fact, I wanted the whole world to read it in that moment, but instead of 'publish' I accidentally pressed 'delete'. No matter how hard I try, there's no way I could come close to recreating that post. I accept that sometimes fate steps in and perhaps this was simply meant for me only. 

Tonight I've been thinking a lot about the past... And the future. {The present really is a difficult thing for me...} What I've realized is that although there are so many wonderful memories in the past, the people who helped me make them aren't really meant to be part of my future. We are different people living different lives. I am not saying I am washing my hands of them; I'm accepting our new reality and choosing to let them go. 

It's too painful to live through life feeling forgotten or unappreciated. I accepted long ago that I am one of the few people who still respect the art of a handwritten thank you note. I have made peace with it, although I don't ever see myself existing in a world where I don't send a card for a birthday or special occasion. I hope those who receive them will appreciate them as much as I enjoy sending them. 

My choice to let go of the people in my past is not easy. In fact, I expect that even after I post this, I will struggle with this choice. I will miss our inside jokes and the sound of their laughter. There will always be things that remind me of them. I imagine there will even be a few nights when I cry myself to sleep wishing I could call or text them for advice. It won't be easy. 

Deciding to let go has everything to do with creating a healthier future for myself. I need to feel like I can allow people into my life and not worry if they are going to get too busy to return a call or keep plans. I need to surround myself with people who are going through similar life challenges as myself - not people contemplating divorce or having babies. I need to know that if my world falls apart on a Tuesday night, there's someone I can call...who won't just answer, but will insist I let them be there. I've spent too much time making my life more accessible to people who rarely remember I actually exist. To say this has harmed my self worth would be an understatement. 

Obviously, I still care a great deal for the people from my past. A couple are even more important to me than most of my family members and have held my hand through some of my most difficult challenges. But I am in the middle of another one of those challenges and I not only don't have a hand to hold, the person who stood by my side so many times before doesn't even know I'm going through it. This has been an eye opening experience. It's not that I don't want to share it, I just don't think it matters anymore; at least not in context to their own life. 

The only thing I know for sure is that I have no idea how much time I have left. Whether it is months or years, I want to make the rest of my life, the best of my life. The only way I know how to do that is to let go of the past and embrace whatever and whoever the future holds. I will always hold our memories with great fondness. But now, I'm moving on. That was then. 

This is now. 

Wednesday, July 27

The Hardest Thing I've Ever Done

SOTD: "Karma Police" - Radiohead https://youtu.be/IBH97ma9YiI
"For a minute there, I lost myself. I lost myself". 

Most people think they know me. At least that's how I see it. But the truth is, I'm not sure anyone knows the real me. There is an expectation of me that I generally live up to, but it's nowhere near the actual person inside, the person I've spent most of my life hiding away. 

Sure, you know that I'm a liberal democrat, my mother is the greatest thing I've ever known and most of my friends know that I've confronted breast cancer at least once (although the truth is, the count is now at three). What I don't tell anyone is that as a child I was verbally and physically abused by the men in my life, I've never met my biological father and I was date raped during my first month of college. It would be an understatement to say I have trust and commitment issues. 

Some might say I should keep those things to myself. To them I say I have tried that and it didn't work very well. Others might ask why I'm telling the world now. To them, I don't have a specific reason, only that I'm aware of things around me and over the last year or so I've encountered people who share some of my experiences and others fighting different demons and somehow we've found a certain comfort in sharing our stories. I consider this a safe place and can't think of a better way to share these stories. So I'll start at the beginning...

I'm told that my mother found out she was pregnant after her first time with my dad. I've never really believed that to be the whole truth, but I did believe that she wanted to have me and his family did not. They didn't want me to ruin his life and all the things he had planned for his future. They asked her to abort me. She refused and he went his way, while she went hers. The unplanned pregnancy caused my papaw to cut her off. He was ashamed and disappointed. Luckily, the story goes on and when she brought me to see him as an infant, wrapped in a pretty pink blanket, he completely melted and fell in love at first sight. Without many words they moved on to a better relationship. Unfortunately, my papaw lived in Tuscaloosa and we lived in a suburb outside of Atlanta. I would spend a few weeks every summer with his mother, my great-grandmother, Mama Bea, and he would occasionally take me fishing or try to teach me how to make homemade ice cream on the covered patio of Mama Bea's cute little yellow house, but he was a man of few words. My fondest (or at least most vivid) memory from childhood with him is a story I've told more than a few times. It involves a Fisher Price doctor's kit and a promise from a 6 year old me to never become a lawyer - he was always afraid I would put away a bad guy who would later get out of jail and want to hurt me. I was maybe six years old and desperate to make him happy; of course I promised! Later I would learn I was not built with a stomach for medicine and anyone who knows me will tell you I should have broken that promise because I would've made a damn good lawyer!! Alas, I am nothing if not a woman of my word. 

Not long after the promise, my mother remarried for a second time (her first husband, was my brother's father). My step dad was a man named Tommy. He worked with my mom & had a daughter almost exactly a year younger than me, but she lived with her mother and not long after Tommy married my mom, his ex remarried and his daughter, Kristen moved to Aurora, Colorado. She would mostly visit during summer break and sometimes over holidays. My mom & Tommy were together for about eight years. During that time, they built a house and we moved out to the 'country.' When I was younger, my body was pretty awkward. I was taller than most kids in my class and I was pretty skinny. A lot like my brother except he is still just tall and skinny and I have struggled with my weight since I hit puberty. 

This would probably be a good time to mention Tommy and his daughter were both shorter and carried a little more weight; although I never realized that, in this context at least, until now. My mom was a thin woman. In fact it often surprised me that she could work as hard as the men around her given she had very little meat on her bones. Maybe she felt like this was something she had to be in control of - maybe she passed that on to me. When I was about 10 or 11 years old, Tommy commented on my thighs. He suggested I be careful what I ate, concerned that I was developing cellulite. I don't think my mom heard it, I would like to think if she did she would have stood up for me, but I would begin a lifelong struggle with eating disorders that would eventually lead to the one blemish on my perminent record when I was caught with diet pills at school in the 7th grade. That was in 1994 and my punishment at the time was a paddling by the school principal. My struggle with body image and weight would continue long after this incident, although no one really ever talked about it, at least not in front of me. 

My mom and Tommy were divorced in the early 1990's. It's a blur for me, I didn't even know the reason why until I was in college. Turns out, Tommy was having an affair and asked my mother for a divorce so he could marry his mistress - a woman named Donna who had two kids, a girl and a boy, close to my age. During the divorce I missed a lot of school and I went from being in the gifted program for talented children, to nearly repeating the sixth grade. But my mother moved us to a small rural town in Tennessee called Crossville. My grandmother had remarried a few years earlier and she and her new husband found Crossville on their honeymoon. They didn't just find a new town, they bought a farm and left their lives in Atlanta to raise horses and build their dream home in Tennessee. When we moved to live with them in January of 1993 they had converted half of an old barn into a house and my bed was in the loft above the kitchen. I started school on Martin Luther King day, which I had always known as a holiday in Atlanta, but in my new small town was not even recognized. Culture shock was a mild explanation of the changes I would experience that year. Luckily, because my classes in Atlanta were more advanced, I was able to finish the 6th grade without repeating the year. My brother wasn't as lucky, he had to repeat the second grade. It took me a while to find people who wanted to be friends with an outsider like me, but eventually I did find my people and I'm especially grateful for one of the best friends I've ever had (Ashley) and our friendship which continues to this day. She was one of only a few people who ever visited the farm and got to know my family. There were two others, Rachel and Jessica, friends from church who would come over on Sunday afternoon to ride horses from time to time and my first boyfriend, Jeff, who visited once and after being chastised with the nickname 'washboy', because he was constantly washing his hands, never came back again. In his defense, it was a farm. I washed my hands a lot, too. Also, we were barely 12 years old. 

It just struck me that I had far more visitors at the farm than I ever wanted. I was ashamed of it; the barn, my family, the whole situation. At least that's what I told myself. I think more than anything, I was embarrassed that my life was more than a little messy. Another thing about the farm is that it was nearly 30 miles from town. Or maybe 30 minutes. Either way, it was pretty far. Adding to my frustration was the blizzard that kept us snowed in for three sold weeks. If we didn't have farm animals providing eggs and milk, I'm not sure I would've survived. Our family dog, Tobey, who had been with us since the country house in Georgia, did not survive the blizzard. 

We lived with my grandmother and her new husband until right before I started high school. Things were not always great. Eventually, my mother had to move us out because she could not stand how 'Pop' was treating my brother. I won't say that my brother didn't deserve some punishment for the things he did, but he never deserved to be abused the way he was by Pop. I know, because he used to hurt me too. The first time I saw him lose control was before my grandmother married him when they lived together in Georgia. He had this little black pick up truck, a 5-speed, which was usually parked outside their house, on top of a hill. One day I thought it would be fun to pretend I was driving and not knowing at the age of eight that shifting the gears would cause the truck to roll, that's exactly what I did. Scared to death as the truck rolled down the hill to eventually crash in the ditch, when everything stopped I thought the worst was over. Little did I know it was only the beginning. In a matter of seconds, he had pulled the truck out of the ditch and back up the hill to park (this time with the emergency brake) right outside the house. The house that I was suddenly being dragged inside. He screamed and yelled and yanked me by the arm from room to room before grabbing a wooden broomstick and swinging it at me in the dining room. Luckily, at least for me, he hit the glass table instead. I had never seen anyone so angry. I was more than terrified and that was only the beginning. He would explode like this over the tiniest thing. I wish I could say I only experienced it a couple of times, but it happened at least a couple of times a year. My freshman/sophomore year of high school, my mom remarried again, briefly, and I didn't like her husband, so I lived with my grandparents. Unfortunately, without my mother there things were even worse than I remembered and aside from being thrown around the house and beaten until I was black and blue, it was during this time that Pop began telling me I would never be loved. "I would never find anyone who could possibly love me". I was barely 15 years old, I don't know why, but I believed him. Worse than that, most days I still do. My grandmother and I had once been incredibly close. But at her wedding, standing in a hideous teal green flower girl dress, as she said her vows, I said, under my breath, "Things will never be the same again". I don't know if I made that my truth or if I was simply that perceptive at 9 years old, but it was true. Things were never the same after that. As if the physical and verbal abuse weren't enough, he also teased me about my body and would grab my boobs and my butt and then laugh about it. I would cringe and my grandmother would do what she always did, pretend nothing had happened. When I finally moved back to live with my mom, I had to see a social worker who asked me to tell her everything. I did, just as I did here and they launched an investigation. In the end I was told it was his word against mine and nothing else happened. I would go to their house for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners with my whole family, but after I went to college, his daughter's ex-husband set the barn on fire one night, burning all of my childhood photos and memories along with many of their belongings and not long after they moved to Texas. I would only see him one more time (my college graduation) before he died from a very advanced lung cancer. When my family went to Texas for his funeral, I went to New Orleans to help rebuild the home of a hurricane Katrina survivor. I don't regret my choice at all. My grandmother, however, still doesn't understand why I have a difficult time expressing my love for her. It's not that I don't love her, because I do, I just know I will never get the apology I want. And sometimes I take that out on her by being a little bitchy. 

To say I was a little awkward in high school would be inaccurate. I was completely insecure and between trying to seem normal and also keep my troubles at home a secret, I'm actually surprised I managed to come out with the few achievements I did. I kept a scrapbook from senior year which holds, among other things, a note I found on my car one afternoon. It was from a secret admirer. At the time, I thought someone was making fun of me. It would be ten years later at my reunion that I would learn the truth, it was real. Not only that, but guys were afraid to ask me out because I intimidated them. I dated only a couple of guys in HS, and none of them seriously, thinking it was true, what Pop had said, no one ever wanted me. Learning the truth at 28 was a particularly troubling thing. On one hand I'm hearing the opposite of a horrible truth I had accepted, but at the same time I realize accepting that truth has molded layers of insecurity that I'm not sure I can just peel away. 

When I went away to UT for college, there was a bit of relief. It was a chance to start fresh and at first it seemed that anything was possible. My first week I went through sorority rush and pledged ZTA. I made lots of friends right away and things really did seem pretty good. Back then, in 1999, our homecoming game was right after school began. My sorority had a mixer with the fraternity that we had paired with for homecoming that year. It was the third week of school. I drank more than I should have and ended up in one of the bedrooms with a guy I had only met that night. He made me another drink and the last thing I remember was hearing "Back That Azz Up" blasting from a stereo in his room. I woke up laying on his couch without my pants. In faded moments of hazy memory I remember him climbing on top of me. That would be the story of how I lost my virginity. As I left the frat house that night, one of the older sisters drove me to my dorm and could see I wasn't myself. I shared some of what had happened with her and then she said, "That type of thing happens all the time."  She suggested I just move on and act like nothing had happened. I couldn't get out of her car quick enough. By the time I reached my suite on the 6th floor of South Carrick I was throwing up. My suite-mate came out to check on me and knew I wasn't just sick from drinking too much. I told her what happened and suddenly this massive life event became a topic that I would have to discuss with our RA, the Hall Director and eventually, the Dean of Students. It was in a meeting with the Dean that I was urged to seek criminal/legal action. I declined. I had learned following the incident that the guy wasn't even a student at UT anymore. He was living in Atlanta and had only returned to celebrate homecoming week with his brothers. Also, a few of my new friends had met guys that week, some of which are now married with children. I felt I could handle it myself and perhaps my older sister was right, I should just move on. Except I couldn't. I certainly tried. But I begin to fall into a depression that I didn't even realize was controlling every part of my life until nearly a year later. I waited more than 5 years to tell my mom and even then I didn't call it rape. All the insecurities of my youth were exponentially worsened by the events of my third week of college. And even today, I can't imagine ever feeling whole. I pray for wholeness, but my prayers don't seem to be enough. 

Have there been times I thought maybe everything would be better if I weren't here - Absolutely. Have I ever tried to make that happen - Never. It is my hope that by sharing these stories I might help someone else feel less alone and perhaps might find some form of healing for myself. I can't imagine a time when I don't struggle with issues of trust and acceptance, but I'm working on it. And the last thing I would ever want is for anyone to feel sorry for me. Was my childhood difficult - Yeah. Have these challenges effected who I am today - Probably. Do I think I should be defined by my past - Absolutely Not. If you must link my past with who I am today, I hope you will remember the many other things you know about me and the good times we have shared. I don't think about the bad things at all, if I can avoid it. I certainly don't expect you to carry my baggage any farther than this post. 

In the end, I'm still me. That's all there is and with any luck, that's enough.