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SHE

2. SHE is no longer the understudy.

SHE had been sitting alone at this table for 17 minutes now.  She fidgeted with her dangly necklace, checked her phone habitually, felt her face flush with embarrassment. She stood out in this place like Rudolph’s glaring nose. No, worse. She was the inappropriately naked character in the everybody’s worst dream, wandering around with no place to hide. Could she possibly be more conspicuous?  People were staring at her. And not just people – couples – this was definitely a romantic restaurant. She felt their eyes pitying, wondering, “That poor woman. Surely she’s not eating alone?”  

She second-guessed her decision to come inside and be seated rather than wait in the car, but it was a hot August evening. Getting a table had seemed a better option.

Her husband should have been here a half-hour ago now, but he was routinely late. He wasn’t answering her texts, so he was likely on his way. Should she go ahead and order drinks? No. This is their anniversary. No hurry.  She would continue to wait for him.   

She alone restaurant

The waiter came to the table a second time. She smiled awkwardly and assured him her dinner companion would be there any minute. Then came the message: “Got distracted. Sorry. Don’t have time to meet you now, but you can come here and maybe make it in time to have barbecue with us.”

I’m sorry, WHAT??

He had just stood her up on their anniversary?

Her heart began to race; she felt her face flush with anger and humiliation, and that all-too-familiar feeling of being unimportant.  

She now had the choice to join him for – of all things – baked beans and coleslaw with his buddies, or leave the lovely restaurant, go back to the hotel, and feel sorry for herself.

Suddenly she realized her third option, and this moment would serve as the catalyst for her future. A simple return text, filled with measureless subtext: “I won’t be joining you.” She had always been an afterthought in his life, and his treatment caused her to always put herself in the background as well. That ended with this moment. She would no longer settle for the role of understudy in her own life.

She put her phone away, took a deep breath and looked around the room. Suddenly it seemed no one noticed at her at all.  

The waiter returned a third time. “I’m having dinner alone tonight,” she said, looking him in the eye. She perused the entrees and mustered the confidence to have dinner – very publicly – alone.

Posted in Uncategorized

SHE

1. Fully Alive in the Dark

fully alive in the darknessSHE hears voices.

Engulfed in the darkness, she hears voices. Voices giving guidance, offering words of hope, encouragement, inspiration. Voices assuring her she isn’t alone, insisting the depths aren’t as black as she has painted them.

Engulfed in the darkness, the voices try to fix her, change her, help her. Well-meaning voices pervading her with their wisdom, their experience, their truth. Myriad voices, spouting fountains of words that only push her deeper.

Indistinguishable Voices.
Garbled Sounds.
Empty Noise.
Cold Words raining down on her.

Engulfed in the darkness, she huddles alone. Submerged in a pool of tears, drowning in the incessant chattering outside the obsidian walls that drive her soul further inward.

The voices urge:
“Hang on.” But without light, she can find nothing to grasp.

“Things aren’t so bad.” But the death of hope eclipses every good thing.

“Keep looking up.” But in the desolation, her open eyes are blind.

Engulfed in the darkness, the foundation beneath her erodes, day after day, week after week, month after month. Unwillingly, she puts down roots there among the shadows of death. No bloom, no bud, no flower. A colorless weed in the mud.

No desire to survive, yet desperate to live.

The voices continue, but she has long ceased distinguishing their words.

Engulfed in the darkness, a hand slides under her own. No sound, just touch. The warmth softens her forever-numb fingers. The hand clasps her own, unafraid to grip the murky darkness. “Who are you?” she whispers, straining to catch the voice.

But the only sound is silence, collapsed by the comfort of contact.

In the darkness, the hand engulfs her, holds her, lifts her exhausted body – unable to stand independently – but grateful to be upright.

Deliberately, increasingly, the stabbing pain of lifeless limbs regain feeling. She lingers for some time, resting in these hands. Hands that do not diminish the darkness. Hands that do not promise change. Hands that simply hold her until she finds the strength to stand again on her own.

The darkness has not gone, but she is now fully alive in the midst of it.

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Thoughts on not Having Another Birthday

There is always a last time.  The ugly truth about last times is they often come without warning.  The last time you carry your youngest child.  The last time you run and play like a kid.  The last time you feel butterflies in your stomach. The last time you hold someone in your arms…never to be with them again.

stacey-mSuch was the last time I saw my sister’s face. She was twenty-eight. Tall. Blonde. Beautiful. Passionate. Protective. Determined. Spirited. She left me on a Friday. She would leave the rest of the world twenty minutes later.

After her funeral, we mourners sat in the dark together as a forever incomplete family, the light now offensive to us. Staring at the walls, unable to look at one another, the constant threat of nausea chewing our insides, trying to make sense of this new unthinkable reality.

A well-meaning casserole-bearer tried to lighten the mood: “You must stop this!  Stacey would not have wanted you to be pitiful like this!”

Had my body not been surreally numb, I’m certain I would have laughed aloud. Still, I managed the words: “Excuse me??  Did you KNOW my sister? She would be highly insulted and offended were we not sitting here in our metaphorical sackcloth and ashes, completely miserable in her absence. She would scream, ‘Do you not miss me at all?!’” And  that was the truth. 

We didn’t remain in the dark forever. The numbness slowly dissipated and feeling returned, but with the same pins-and-needles stabbing at our very souls to remind us there will always be pain in continuing to live without her.

Tomorrow she would have celebrated her 50th birthday.  She would have loathed the half-century mark, and I would have razzed her about it mercilessly. She would have arranged to get her hair colored, and have her toes painted.  She would have bought a kicky new pair of ankle boots (which she lived in, as she had legs to her neck and hated that her jeans were always too short.) I would have wrapped up a fabulous gift complete with a wildly inappropriate card, and we would have indulged in chocolate cake topped with chocolate icing topped with chocolate ice cream topped with hot fudge. Because, you know, 50.

But 28 was the last birthday I would celebrate with her.  I didn’t know it would be the last one. I don’t remember it. I don’t know if I went to Georgia or if she came home to Kentucky  or if we met in Nashville . I don’t know where we went to dinner. I don’t know what I gave her. I don’t know because nobody told me to pay attention. I didn’t know it would be the. last. one.  

Saturday, a dear friend allowed me to walk with him to the graveside of his sweet wife. His last moment was a year ago.  Mine was twenty-one years ago. Neither of us expected our last words to these precious women would be the last ones they would ever hear. We have regrets. Unfinished business. Uncaptured embraces. Unspoken words. Things we would have done, time we would have spent, words we would have said… had we known it would be the last time. So he spoke to the ground as though she could still hear him, and I fought, somewhat unsuccessfully, to hold back tears. Time is cruel when it comes to grief, as the wounds scab over but never truly heal, and sometimes the slightest bump will cause them to break open and bleed as though fresh.

snow-angel-copyWhen I sat down to write this a few minutes ago, I had no idea what thoughts would land on the page.  I’m not going to edit them, I’m just going to leave this here as an Ode to My Sister: “Thoughts on Her Not Having Another Birthday.” And reuse a phrase I have used before:

“Stacey, it’s hard to believe you would be fifty.  
It’s even harder to believe you’re not.”

So…Happy Birthday from down here.  May you find an angel to paint your toenails a lovely shade of pink, and indulge in some heavenly chocolate.

See ya, sis.

Posted in Quirks and Other Weirdness

I feel, therefore, I am.

I was crying.  Scratch that.  I was sobbing.  Ugly, runny-nose, red-eye, hyperventilating squawks of despair even the waterproof mascara could not contain.

Kacey was quick to console…until she learned I was intentionally reading stories I knew would break my heart.  “Mom. Stop.”

“But…but…but…” I protested, gasping, “she was laboring…and then the baby…and oh the sadness…” Incoherent blubbering, as the crocodile tears fell from under my reading glasses.

“Take a B vitamin and SUCK IT UP, woman.” She rolled her eyes at me.

heart-vs-mindForget the dichotomy of the right-brained vs. the left-brained, the introvert vs. the extrovert, the optimist vs. the pessimist. The personality contrasts that most affect my life are the Thinkers vs. the Feelers.

And the differences have nothing to do with intelligence or brain dominance or gender or age.

Most of us (let me just make the transition here)… most of YOU are Thinkers.  You watch movies and are simply entertained.  You read books and maintain the ability to fall asleep when you go to bed.  You meet a suffering friend and are able to be kind and supportive without letting it ruin your day. You endure personal loss, and upon reaching the “5th Stage of Grief:  Acceptance”, you pick up the pieces, buy a yellow shirt, and move on along.

We Feelers don’t do that. We CAN’T do that. Believe me, we try. We often think there is something wrong with us because we dwell on everything. We FEEL everything. Deeply. Your telling me to “stop it” or “get over it” is like telling me to stop breathing.  The way I feel things is not a defect in my personality, nor is it simply part of who I am. It IS who I am.

Now, some of you Thinkers THINK you are Feelers. You aren’t. Just because you can BE emotional doesn’t make you a Feeler.  If you can reason your way out of an emotion – EVER – you are a Thinker.  And some of you Feelers  assume you must be Thinkers because all you do is think, think, overthink. Don’t be fooled, that’s part of what makes you a Feeler.

Feelers can’t shake the emotion, whichever emotion it happens to be.  I am the one laughing the loudest. The one using sarcasm to deflect pain. I won’t settle for an answer of “I’m fine” when I know you don’t mean it. I will struggle to break down those walls you build around you.  I am not the one gossiping because I refuse to assume the worst about you. But I will take all kinds of crap from you and for you because I don’t ever want you to have to feel the pain I have felt.  Ever.

Feelers crave passion and connection. We automatically put ourselves in your shoes to better understand you. Sure, we are the cryers. But we are also the entertainers. And the huggers. And the empathizers.

tumblr_lqpz0qLo0x1qm6ac1o1_500This does NOT mean we are always depressed and gloomy. Far from it.  But when we are, there is no shaking it, and definitely no faking it. We take no comfort in “Things Will Get Better” or “If It Is Meant to Be It Will Happen”.  We only know it is NOT better and the thought of living without whatever it is, is more than we can bear.  And we feel this, not only for ourselves, but for anyone whose story we become a part of.

Unfortunately for me, it only takes 17 seconds for me to invest my heart in someone else’s story.

And it doesn’t even have to be a REAL story.

cramer-krasselt-letters-to-dadstill-boy-back-750xx1648-927-76-0By the time the little boy in the Packaging commercial throws paper airplane messages over the backyard fence, I’m sniffling. Before Tim McGraw mentions x-rays as a reason to “Live Like You Were Dyin’,” I’m overwhelmed.  When Max grows tired of the Wild Things and wants to be where someone loves him best of all, my voice is quivering.. And I am unabashedly mourning when I realize that no matter how much Noah reads to Allie from “The Notebook”, there really is no such thing as a happy ending in a Nicholas Sparks story.

Tears of laughter. Tears of loss. Tears of frustration. Tears of hope. Tears of anger. Tears of joy.

So when you see me, I will probably be crying.  Or I will have just been crying.  Or I’m about to cry (just give me 17 seconds). If you’re a kindred spirit, you will give me a hug and shed a tear with me.  If you’re a Thinker, you will offer me a Kleenex, tell me it will be okay, and wonder what the heck is wrong with me.

Nothing.  I’m a Feeler.

Posted in Just Funny, Parenting

Sleep Like a Baby…

I’d forgotten.

Saturday afternoon reminded me.  

I needed a nap.  It wasn’t even optional, as I was nodding off in the “upright and locked” position. So I snuggled Charlotte, nibbled on her thighs (because, you know, Cute Aggression), and scratched her tummy until she dozed off. Then I curled up on the opposite side of the sectional, with a fuzzy purple blanket, hoping to catch an hour before she woke.  

Music softly playing, eyes gratefully closed, consciousness ebbing away as logical thought became nonsense… when suddenly pudgy little hands steal the fleecy covers.  My eyes open to Charlotte vaulting onto my head from bouncy couch cushions.  “M.E.!  I wake!” “Yes, Doodle Bug, I see that. “You wanna watch Daniel Tiger?” I ask.

I flip on Netflix, confident she would engage in the electronic entertainment and allow me a half hour undisturbed.

Why can’t my internal optimist EVER be right?

“M.E. I hundy.”

“No you aren’t, we just ate lunch.”

Though unable to unglue my eyelids, I still distinguish the sounds of her unzipping and rummaging through my purse. Click, clasp, smack.  Then sticky fingers tapping my face, “M.E., dipstick. See?”  Squinting slightly I detect, heavily smeared lipstick surrounding her mouth.  She looks like a tiny Vegas showgirl.    

“M.E. I need dink.”

I debate the options, knowing she probably is thirsty and also knowing I should de-clown her little face, but lamenting leaving the warmth of the purple fleece. But I do, because, you know, I love her, and she’s cute. But mostly because she won’t leave me alone until I do.

Back to the couch, toddler on the loveseat with her bottle of water, I recline and regain the warmth.

“M.E., you go nigh nigh?”

Yes, baby.  You watch Daniel Tiger and let M.E.take a little nap, okay?

Seconds later her breath is warming my face, followed by her fingers poking my eyeballs.

charlotte june 15 (2)“Charlotte, don’t poke me in the eyes, it hurts.”
“Sowwy.  M.E.? M.E.? M.E?”

“Yes, baby?”

“I wuuuuv you.”

Oh my.  Too much cuteness. I grab her and swing her up onto me and squeeze her for a minute.  “I love you MORE!” I insist.

“I wuv you mostest!”

My heart melts for the twelfth time today.  But my eyes are still begging for some semblance of sleep.

“Charlotte, would you rather listen to Annie?”  
“AnNIE, AnNIE!  Ya ya!”

She begins to dance in anticipation of her favorite musical score.

I flip over to the Pandora station and attempt, once again, to lie down.

She starts her sing-along with the introductory prelude.  I obviously can’t sleep through this, but at least my eyes are closed.  It’s a step in the right direction.

Again, I feel her hovering over my face: “M.E.? Otay?”

I peek one eye open to see her holding her water bottle. “Otay?” she asks again.  I tell her yes, but she seems unsure.  “M.E.?  OTAY?” she queries again as she shows me her water bottle. I reiterate my approval, assuming she is asking to drink her water.  Smiling, she turns the bottle over and deliberately drenches the ottoman.

Well, I DID just give her permission. 

“He he he, I dup idout.  I get napin and wipe idup.  Otay?”

Sigh.  Yes, baby.  Get a napkin and wipe it up.  Whatever.  I let my eyes fall closed yet again as I listen to her drag a dining chair across the floor, climb up onto the counter for what turns out to be the equivalent of three trees’ worth of napkins, and toddle back to dry up the squishy ottoman.

The soft serenade of “Tomorrow” in the background now as the sweetness of sleep engulfs me.  

Scene change. Charlotte mimics the choreography of the on-screen girls and whacks me in the head with a throw pillow.

Yep.  It’s a Hard Knock Life.

Giving it up, I get up and dance with her.  And make coffee.

“M.E., I go Mommy now?”

You betcha, baby.  I strap her in for the 12-minute drive back to her house.

And, as fate would have it, she fell asleep before we pulled out of the driveway.

Posted in Quirks and Other Weirdness, stephanie2morrow

An Anarchist with Tweezers (or Why Writing is Hard)

Friday finds me staring out an enormous steel-grid window, trying to give voice to a character I created 13 months ago.  I can’t decide if she’s a she, or he’s a he, or he-she’s an “it”.  I can’t decide if she speaks in first person or if the stories should be narrator-driven. And if I don’t move forward with him soon, my series of wildly popular children’s books will not have time to generate millions of dollars in “merch” in time to fund my retirement in the Tiny Dream Home.  

A year and a half ago I made the leap to full-time writing. Well, okay, maybe not a leap so much as a giant scissor step. (Mother May I?)  And maybe not so much full-time as “when I find the time.”  But still…I naively convinced myself this would be an easy gig.  After all, I love it. I’ve known since 7th grade English class that I am, inherently, a word person (despite the fact I spelled inherintly, inherantly, inherrently incorrectly three times before resorting to Google).   

While I was mistaken about the simplicity of writing, I still spend my days filling blank pages with words.  Myriad words. Pretty words. Words that make you laugh. Words that make you cry.  Words that make you think. Words that make you feel. 

Or, like today’s offering, words that just make you read for four minutes because it’s Friday and you’re distracting yourself with Facebook and counting the minutes until the weekend instead of finishing up today’s work (or is that just me?).

I’ve been14600489_10154030839061801_1874055504_o disillusioned how difficult the process is.  I can edit for days on end.  I can mold somebody else’s content or idea into something very readable.  I know my gift.  “Coming up with original content” isn’t one of them, despite my attempts at originality in life. Maybe I’m deluding myself even there.  Really, I just use logic to make life choices, rather than follow mainstream thought. This has branded me a hippie, a progressive, a weirdo, an anarchist (do not read “antiChrist:”) or in my own mind, a salmon swimming upstream. A salmon with great hair. But I digress.

To be more honest, Friday finds me staring out an enormous steel-grid window, giggling at the goofy things people outside do while waiting at the traffic light.  Then again, I just plucked a whisker out of my chin and realized I’m on camera. Lovely.  Plus, I’m sipping an iced mint matcha, which cost me six bucks, and is basically just green tea and milk with a mint leaf garnish.  Whatever.  Writing is hard.