in the Middle

Hi. Hello. I’m Melissa. But you probably already know that.

My speaking patterns are pretty Middletonian tonight. Thanks, Mr. Eno.

But seriously, my mind is still caught in the patterns of the play I’m currently on tech crew for: Middletown by Will Eno. It’s a beautiful piece, full of explorations of life and deep meanings that make me tilt my head to one side contemplatively somewhere or other every night.

If you’ve never been on a tech crew, never been part of a cast, then I don’t expect you to understand the madness of tech week. Sure, it’s great and all. Great and utterly exhausting. It’s madness, and exhaustion, and frustration, and elation, and it all comes together on opening night.

Tonight was opening night.

Coming into this show, I was incredibly nervous. After all, I am the kind of person who likes to know exactly what she’s doing and exactly how she’s doing it so that there is very little risk of looking like an idiot. I was talking with a friend tonight and this proverb came up:

“Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent,
and discerning if they hold their tongues.”
Proverbs 17:28 (NIV)

But it’s hard to keep silent as a sound designer. The goal is kind of to…you know…make sounds. And I had never sound designed and I had no idea what I was doing or how I was going to do it. It was risky.

Sometimes, though, you get assigned a job and you know it’s going to grow you and so you take a deep breath and say, “Okay.”

I said, “Okay.”

The long and short of the story is that I didn’t fail miserably, and I have fallen madly in love with bluegrass music. In fact, the hardest part of my job is probably having to not dance during all the transition music. I have to sit still and wait for the cue to fade the music out and that is so hard!

I really do love this show.

I love the thoughts Mr. Eno has to express.

For the past three nights, there has been one line per night that has reached out and entwined itself around my soul. And by entwined, I mean that it resonates so deeply that it kind of hurts a little bit. It hurts for me and it hurts for the people I know who have faced blackness. Who have stared into the depths of a seemingly empty life and longed for a glimmer of hope.

“…I wanted to be an emergency, somehow. I always felt like one, deep down.” – John Dodge

Don’t we all? I sometimes do. Maybe not always, but sometimes.

I feel the need to be someone’s emergency. I feel the need for someone to notice my silent screams and to drop everything to come running because I am worth it. I need to feel that I am worth it. That I have worth.

“We all have our dark nights. We’re probably never as alone as we think.” – Mary Swanson

‘As we think.’ As we fear. We fear—I fear that I am desperately alone. It circles back to that worth thing, and I look at what my life is and I know, without a doubt, that I am not good enough.

I am a mess of scars and tangles and raw places. I am rude and venomous and cold.

How can I be anything but alone?

How can I be worth it?

The night is dark, far darker than I think anyone can understand, and deep down I suspect I deserve it. I deserve to be alone.

It doesn’t have to be true. I am the girl who is loved fully and unconditionally. Who has been deemed so ‘worth it’ that a perfect somebody died to save me from myself. He died. I fear death, and maybe he did too, but he died for me to shout that I am irrefutably worth it.

I know that.

But sometimes, in the dark of night, I am still afraid.

Maybe we all are. Maybe you are.

You’re not alone. Know that, please, above all else.

You are not alone in your fear. You are not alone with your fears.

Truth runs deeper than what you feel, what you imagine.

The truth is that you are loved fully and unconditionally. You have been deemed so ‘worth it’ that a perfect somebody died to save you from yourself. He died to save you from your fears. He died to shout that you are irrefutably worth it. And now he lives and promises that you are never alone.

We’re never as alone as we think.

“There’re people like me in the world, I think. You don’t hear much from us because we usually don’t say anything. But we’re out here, trying to get a hold on the whole thing.” – The Mechanic

Us: the mostly silent messes.

We don’t talk about our failures enough, I think. We’re too quiet about our fears.

We dupe ourselves into believing that somehow everyone else has it together. That nobody else has as much to hide as we do.

Can I admit something?

I am a wreck.

That wasn’t really a weighty admittance. I’ve said it before. And I’ll keep saying it. Not as self-deprecation, but as hope.

I am a wreck, and you are a wreck, but we’ve been deemed salvageable.

My life is a salvaged wreck, and somebody’s putting me back together. Slowly, sure, but it’s happening.

Please don’t read this and think that I’m on the edge of crisis. I’m not. Tonight has been truly wonderful, and I’ve kind of been floating all day.

I jumped off of a couple of steps earlier and shouted for joy.

The world is full of joy.

Tonight isn’t one of those dark nights.

But my soul remembers them.

My soul remembers how quickly clouds can darken the skies, and it cries out for someone to understand those moments. I think Mr. Eno does.

I don’t know where you’re at tonight, physically or emotionally.

If you are physically in Abilene, come and see Middletown. No matter where you are emotionally. Please. We have six more shows, November 13-14 and 19-22, and this really isn’t something you should miss.

If you are not in Abilene, find and read Middletown. Especially if ‘dark nights’ and ‘being an emergency’ resonate with you. Read Middletown, and know that I am here to listen. I don’t claim to even begin to have all the answers, but I can listen.

I am good at listening.

And I never want you to feel alone.

Hit me up on facebook, or comment here, or—if you know me in person—come up and start a conversation. I don’t bite. And I’m serious: you never have to let yourself feel alone as long as I’m around.

Feelings are sticky. They don’t make sense. (Trust me. I am currently battling the Battle of the Unruly Emotions and it is downright ridiculous the lies I’m being fed. Like, um, let’s stop ignoring the perspective I am going to great lengths to try to attain, please. And that’s all totally beside the point.)

Fear is sticky, too, and it convinces us that its presence is justified. But it isn’t, and finding an Other to give you some perspective on what you’re fearing is really helpful.

It’s really important.

God’s love is sticky, too.

And it’s not an adhesive that you can escape. You are loved, more than you will ever comprehend. It’s okay if you can’t understand that tonight. But please know that. Know that your mess can never be too much. I promise. Bigger than that, God promises.

I love you. I love your humanity and your soul and your destiny for something bigger than yourself.

So goodnight, sweet human. Whether or not it is night where you are. It’s night somewhere, right? In some Middletown somewhere on the planet. Sweet dreams.

– Melissa
my anthem, on the dark nights

A True Story

Once upon a time there was a college student who desperately didn’t want to write a paper.

(That student was/is/will be you.)

And so, because she was in college and she’d shortened up her focus in life to whatever made her happiest for the next half hour, she decided that the paper could wait.

Of course, if she wasn’t writing the paper, then she had to be doing something else. Because she had this desperate need to either be productive or to distract herself from her unproductivity. So she pulled up the internet.

The internet was/is/will forever be full of all kinds of beautiful and not-so-beautiful nonsense.

But she was a college student.

So the only things that mattered were Facebook and video streaming services.

She didn’t have Netflix, because she was too cheap for that, so she used Amazon Prime and streamed some old TV show that made her shudder a little and smile a little and actually accomplished nothing at all except for giving her something to do for almost an hour.

Then the episode ended and she had to find something else to do.

There was still that paper that she didn’t want to write.

But she still was focused on the next half hour, so she closed all the windows pertaining to the paper and pulled up a playlist full of music that she was learning to love. And a blank document so that she could write a story.

This story goes nowhere.

It has no climax.

It is unwilling to acknowledge that it has a moral.

(It does, but don’t tell us. We’re choosing to learn things the hard way.)

The college student doesn’t live happily ever after, but she does manage to live despite her mistakes.

We all manage to live despite our mistakes.

We acknowledge our idiocy and we sometimes shake our heads in rueful amusement and we sometimes choose to do things differently the next time.

But sometimes we just pull up our favorite video streaming service and waste another hour while an unwritten paper stays unwritten.

– Melissa

i am not the girl with no substance

I worry.

I worry that people think I’m no more than the silly nonsense I spout on a regular basis. That they won’t take the time or won’t have the opportunity to find out that there is depth to me. There is some level of maturity here. I do actually have opinions and philosophies that don’t involve random animals.

It’s not that I don’t have control of the situation. I could resolve myself to stop being so ridiculous and try for a closer impression of what is culturally considered to be normal behavior.

I just don’t see the point in being serious or somber all the time. Because some days my heart is breaking inside of me and it’s honestly really fulfilling to see you smile at the unexpectedness of whatever I just said to you. I feed off of your laughter and it helps me laugh, too. Life isn’t a tragedy, not even when I most suspect it to be, and sometimes my gibberish is just a maddened attempt to remember that.

And on the days when I’m really doing fine, or when I’m practically glowing with joy…then there’s definitely no point in being somber. Because why act all depressing when you actually feel like singing? So sometimes I sing nonsense ditties, and sometimes I tell you stories about the time I babysat a worm while his mother was at work, and sometimes I will offer to write the paper you’re currently bemoaning because I know my version of whatever your topic might be is wildly more entertaining than whatever you were planning on writing and maybe the break you’ll take while I hijack your laptop will help you to see past the struggle to find a reason to smile.

That’s what I think, at least: that life doesn’t have to be filled with solemn adherence to “reality”. That maturity doesn’t have mean that we stop hoping for fantastic happenings.

Also, can I just take a moment to point out that I really hate small talk? I do. I don’t see the point of it and I have trouble engaging in it. And if we’re having a conversation that you would define as ‘small talk’, just know that I am finding some purpose in what we’re talking about. Even if that purpose is simply to learn more about you based on your opinion on things like the weather.

(Not kidding. Your opinion of the current weather, your mood on Mondays, the way you roll up your sleeves, they all say something about you, and I’m often fascinated by the message. Which has no real bearing on the point of this post, so sorry about the rabbit trail, but I’m not actually sorry because this is my blog post and I do what I want.)

I am not a small-talker. But I am a storyteller. In case you hadn’t noticed. Which, considering that my life is full of adventures and oddities and ridiculous occurrences that you’d think only happen in books, isn’t an awful thing to be. I love to tell you wild tales, filled with vivid language and wild hand gestures and just enough embellishment to make you eye me in disbelief so that I can dissolve into laughter and correct myself and still leave you astonished. And when I get bored with the insanity of my own life, I turn to the grand adventures of the characters in my head. I’m sorry that your imagination has faded with time and disuse, but mine hasn’t, and that brings me great joy.

But for all the stories and for all the nonsense, I do know how to be serious. I know how to walk into chaos and step into leadership and get things done. I know how to steel myself for the hard talks, when we don’t agree and we’re breaking each other and ourselves and something has to be done. I know how to sit and listen when what you are going through is anything but a joke and you just need someone to be there to acknowledge that it’s not okay and remind you that you are not alone.

Please do not mistake my jubilance or silliness for a lack of substance.

Or maybe it’s not a mistake. Maybe I am wrong and I am completely deluded and shallow after all. But if that’s the case, then maybe take a breath and contemplate what your relentless solemnity is gaining you.

Don’t forget to laugh.

Because even if you don’t agree with my pell-mell dash of chaos, you were not designed for perpetual sadness. The world is much too beautiful for that. There are just too many things reasons to smile.

So find one!

Laugh!

Rejoice in today, because tomorrow will be hard too. Life is hard. I grant you that. But smiling makes it just a little easier.

And for those dark days, I will be here to make jokes you can’t understand and burst into seemingly spontaneous laughter because of something that happened six years ago that I just remembered, and maybe my joy will be enough for us both in that moment.

I worry that no one will take me seriously.

But more than that I worry that people won’t remember what a joy it is to not be confined to seriousness.

– Melissa