this place cannot be Home

Do you ever focus on the things you most would like to ignore? The facts that are most unrelated to reality or the most likely to cast reality in a dim light?

I do. All the time.

Like, I almost just threw my phone across the room and nearly burst into tears because my fingers had the great idea to pull up my calendar app to see how long it’s been since I didn’t spend every evening alone in my room. Why borrow that pain? Why not focus on the days where I’ve had really great days and come home to happily curl up on my futon to recharge because I was peopled out and didn’t want company?

I’m actually an optimistic person. I think. I see the best in people and events. For the most part.

Yet negativity is such an easy spiral to get sucked into. And you try to work through it on paper, because that’s the easiest way for you to figure things out, and it just gets worse. You work yourself into a frenzy and you can’t wrap it up because you don’t know how. You can’t scream at the people who have broken your heart because a public attack doesn’t allow them to defend themselves and that’s too innately infair. The fear is spread out on the table but goes unaddressed, and all the pain of the semester is documented like the video I took of the filth of my kitchen this afternoon.

I want to scream, but even my paper scream gets swallowed.

Because as much as I want to scream, I’m afraid to be heard.

Because if I am heard, someone might say something.

And I don’t think I can believe their love.

It’s not that I feel unlovely. It’s that I feel unseen.

Like, I think you could love me if you knew who I really was, but I don’t want your hollow allegiance to this mask that I wear. The mask that I am so ready to set aside if you ask.

Ask me, and I become real and vulnerable. Heck, you don’t even have to ask. Just notice the freaking mask, raise an eyebrow, and I’ll slip it off with a sheepish, ‘you caught me, but are you sure you’re ready’ kind of a smile.

So why wear the mask at all, if all I want to do is take it off.

Because when people don’t bother to see the mask, at least they’re not ignoring the real me.

Does that make any sense? I know it doesn’t have to; I’m just writing what I feel. But still. Does it?

When we play hide and seek as kids, what’s the goal?

It’s to be found.

If you leave a kid in hiding for long enough without finding him, he’s going to get antsy and eventually reveal himself. Maybe not give up his hiding spot, because the other goal of the game is to be the best at hiding. But still. Being found is central.

Plus I don’t think I even started out hiding. Sure, I started out college painfully shy and crazily overwhelmed. But I did come out of that shell. I did make an effort to meet people. To see them.

I even think it’s safe to say that I’ve seen people. I’ve found them, whether they were hiding deep or were wandering around without a hiding spot.

And not everyone’s going to be a match, I get that. Not every friendship becomes a David and Jonathan.

Actually, most friendships won’t be David and Jonathan.

But, like, could we actually be friends? Could we take the time to consistently see each other, rather than just off-handedly noticing each other once in a while?

I am so. Freaking. Lonely.

And I am so tired of feeling guilty for feeling lonely. I am tired of the arguments with myself over whether I am allowed to be disappointed by people’s behavior or whether it’s my own fault for expecting more of them than was realistic. What does friendship really mean? Is friendship, at its most basic, noticing when someone’s hurting, or is that something deeper than just entry-level friendship? Is my definition of friendship just way out of sync with reality? Are we really even friends, or are we just friendly acquaintances?

I know that I’m no model human. I know that I aggravate the heck out of people and I come across as aloof or as clingy far too often, which is ridiculous because those are pretty much opposites. I don’t always play well with others, and you probably won’t find a more opinionated person between here and the Rio Grande, but I do try. And I do care.

And if I didn’t care, then no one would have the power to break my heart.

It is the end of my second-to-last semester and I am ready to get the heck out of dodge.

I am ready to be back with the people who truly see me.

This semester I have sung. I have laughed. I have danced for joy in the sunshine and the wind. I have smiled at people and they have smiled back at me. I have embraced others and felt their arms enfold me in return.

Even so, at the end of the day every day, I still end up here. In my room. Alone.

And the thing is, it’s kind of too late for you to join me to make it all okay again.

Because I don’t believe you. Not anymore.

In 225 days, I graduate, and then I’m gone. Because this place—this dynamic—can’t be home.

– Melissa

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faith & hope & february

Most of you who read this blog (or at least the ones who do with any regularity) know that in September of my junior year of high school my mom had a seizure in my kitchen and was diagnosed with a tumor that, while benign, had to be surgically removed in November of that year. Nearly as many of you know that surgery wasn’t the immediate solution we’d all misunderstood it to be, and know that it wasn’t until February of my senior year that my mom had been seizure-free for long enough to resume things like driving and climbing ladders.

(If your mom is going to have seizures and not be allowed on ladders, get rid of vaulted ceilings, because cleaning those celing fans will become your job…)

The reason that I know that Mom was cleared to drive in February of 2014 is because that was when the two of us travelled to Texas so that I could tour colleges and audition for theatre programs.

It was a great trip, and it was great that I didn’t have to do all of the driving myself, because I was a nervous wreck. Like, I wouldn’t have a voice to order with when we’d stop to get food. I may have offended my grandparents, because I was much less like myself and much more like a mouse. I shut down when I’m overwhelmed.

We actually ended up at HSU (where I’ve ended up for the past two and a half years) twice: once to audition, and then once again because the theatre director invited us back to see the show that was opening the next weekend.

Both weekends that we stayed with my always-called-her-an-Aunt-even-though-she-isn’t who’s been friends with my mom since they roomed together in college a bamillion years ago. So I don’t know which weekend it was. But whenever it was, Jen arranged for a group/family/something to come pray healing over my mom, because although she was no longer having full-scale seizures, the surgery after-affects still often affected her vision and made her dizzy.

Let me just say that I didn’t grow up exposed to any kind of healing prayers ministry.

I’d read about it in books, with missionaries. That was cool. God does some pretty cool things for missionaries, even bigger than the God-sized works I’d seen over the past year and a half in my family’s life. But I’d never really experienced it in my life.

And we had two prayer quilts on the couch at home. Ones that people in my church had prayed over and held as they prayed specifically for my family. I liked those. I liked to wrap myself up in them on hard days.

Anyway, those people came over, and chatted for a bit, and then prayed over my mom, and she thanked them, and they talked a bit more, and then they left.

I’m 90% sure that everyone thought I was asleep in the back room the whole time, because I never showed my face, not the whole time, and no one ever called me out on my absence. After all, I generally had the decency to come and greet people when I was awake, and I definitely tended to be involved in prayer. Especially in prayer over someone so dear to me.

But I wasn’t asleep.

I was very much awake.

In hiding.

In tears.

Weary.

Scared.

And so achingly guilty from feeling like a failure for not wholeheartedly believing that God—the One who made the heavens and the earth and me and my mother—couldn’t (or wouldn’t, or something) heal that selfsame mother of mine that he created.

Guilt like that is consuming. You can’t fight it or flee it. It drives you to tears to that sting of salt in a wound that might never heal. It eats away at your chest and your stomach and your heart.

It consumes you and your world and your hope.

For that afternoon, I felt devoid of hope. And I felt isolated from the world, or at least from everyone else at the house, because they still had the hope I’d somehow lost.

I wish I could step into seventeen-year-old Melissa’s world. I wish I could wrap her in my arms in the hug she so needed and whisper fiercely to her that God wasn’t done yet and that someday the health problems really would be a thing of the past. I wish I could brush away the tears of shame and pain from her eyes and remind her that God’s a father who loves his little girl enough to hold her when she’s tired and afraid. I wish I could give her the words to ask for help, or even just lead her to the living room to lean on the faith of community in a moment when she was too worn out to pray.

Instead I’m here. And it’s been three years, and I’ve just a week ago accidentally discovered the scars that that afternoon left on my heart.

Lately God’s been teaching me the lesson on persistent prayer that I somehow didn’t quite learn the first time, and I think that’s why I’ve remembered what I’d forgotten. And as much as I initially didn’t want to deal with that long-buried pain, it’s amazing to now look back at all those days I spent praying and other people spent praying, and the days I joined them and the days I didn’t, and to see the outcome:

God’s long-time “not yet” was just that. It wasn’t a “no.”

There was never a point where God said, “Oh, yep, the statute of limitations has run out on this request. I didn’t get to it in time. Bummer. Guess it’s a definite no-go now.”

God did not heal Mom right away.

Instead He murmured, “I’m not done healing the rest of you yet.”

And then, not all at once but little by little, He healed her in his time.

He said, “Yes.”

I am currently staring down some things in my life that have been “not yets” for so long that I’ve given up hope of them ever changing. And let me just tell you, I did not want a reminder of a time when I felt like a complete failure in my prayer life to come up now as I’m daring to pray for God-sized results.

That afternoon, when a group of strangers took up the plea that I was weary from carrying, and the “yes” that eventually followed have become a tangible example for me of the power of persistent prayer and of the importance of being part of a praying community.

I’m not hiding in the guest room anymore.

– Melissa

a heart bound up with ribbons

Quick note: if you’re going to read this, please read it in its entirity. It starts off pretty gloomy, and I don’t want my friends and family to be uncessarily worried about me. I’m okay, I promise.

 

I think I finally get it. I get why bullying is such a hot topic, and I get how the bone-ache of others’ malicious words could lead to a rope-around-neck or blade-to-wrist situation. I haven’t ended up either of those places this past week, but that’s more a duration thing than anything. And a pride thing, too.

I haven’t slit my wrists because that’s too obvious. Because that’s too much evidence to leave of my weakness.

Sticks and stones will break my bones,
But words will never hurt me.

That’s how it goes, right? So why have the words of others wreaked such havoc on my heart?

I can tell you exactly the last time I hurt so bad that I asked someone to come from where they were to where I was.

Tuesday.

Before that, it was my Junior year of high school, either when my mom was having her first seizure or in the aftermath of all that when I had an absolute breakdown over something unremembered and I spent almost an hour working up the courage to accept someone’s offer of companionship—I can’t remember which one of those two times came first.

Four years. It took me four years to work up the courage for another cry for help. No, not exactly. I invited myself over to my best friend’s house this summer when someone was breaking my heart into a thousand pieces. But still.

I don’t ask for help any more than I accept offers of help.

So why the heck was it words that brought me to such a place of helpless tears this week that I whispered aloud the scream within my heart?

I barely left my room for most of this week. I made it to most of my classes and I didn’t skip work or rehearsals, but I wasn’t brave enough to face the people calling me a villain and so I postponed meals by an hour or more so that the kitchen would be empty again, and I used the door I never use so that I wouldn’t have to go past their door, and I stood for hours doing homework that isn’t due for weeks so that I would have something to occupy my mind with.

Fear has always had a pretty hefty presence in my life. But this stomach-churning terror of having to look at someone knowing what they thought of me and that, no matter what I did, I was going to do the wrong thing in that person’s eyes…it was new.

I’m not startled by fear anymore, but I was this time. I was when I realized that my chest was tight as I did homework and that breathing was hard and that this is what I’ve accidentally talked about when I’ve offhandedly said that such-and-such thing gave me a panic attack.

I’m finally getting it.

The words that tend to break us generally aren’t the ones we’re hearing for the first time. They’re the audible echo of that inner whisper that has always told us that we aren’t good enough, that we don’t deserve friendship or grace. You’re not losing your mind when you start to buy in, you’re just giving into what you’ve always suspected.

You’re berating yourself for not standing up for yourself while simultaneously berating yourself for thinking you don’t deserve to be told of your crimes. And it all makes sense in your head because your inner voice is all confused by the people trying to tear you down and the people trying to build you up and by the voice that sounds a lot like yourself.

Last night I drifted off to sleep wrapped in the memory of a night last semester with friends when I felt very safest and they felt the very most like family.

And that’s a win, because there’s no way I could have remembered that on Tuesday or Wednesday or even Thursday. (To be honest, I can’t even remember if I talked to people on Wednesday or Thursday, because I didn’t trust anyone to care about me a whit.)

But there’s still a twinge that comes with remembering things like sleeping on Maegan’s floor with Michael snoring and Righleigh hogging the blanket we were sharing and Sierra pretending to have been asleep for hours. It’s back to a whisper, but that whisper of unworthiness is still there, telling me that nights like those were flukes and that I need to reframe my expectations.

Honestly, I was struggling long before I fell sobbing to the floor in the dark on Tuesday night. I skipped church last week because I couldn’t bear the thought of standing alone while surrounded by people in twos and threes and holding hands.

This week was an overflow of every fear that this semester has been: that inner voice that assured me that I was alone finally found outer assurance voiced this week, and I couldn’t help but notice all the people who hadn’t noticed my withdrawal. And that on top of actual harassment was just too much.

Sticks and stones will break my bones,
But words will break my heart.

I didn’t slit my wrists this week. I didn’t find myself in a closet with a length of rope and a death wish. Thank you, God, that’s not where my story has led this week.

But there are gashes on my heart—from me and from others—still bound up as they heal slowly.

I think I’ve bound them up with ribbons, though. Because I’ve long believed that there is beauty to be gained from pain. And though this healing process is slow, I’m already beginning to see the glimmer of hope.

In forty-eight hours I will be home, and in fifty-two hours I should be hugging my crazy, gone-off-to-Chicago-and-thriving-but-I-miss-her sister. I’m clinging to that idea as I sit alone in my room for the I’ve-lost-track-of-how-manyeth night in a row.

I want to wrap this post up and top it off with a tidy little bow, but that’s not life, is it? There aren’t clear answers as to how any one story ends, and too often the happily part of the ever after is a bit up in the air. We breath in a lungful of air and then we exhale it and then we repeat the two-step cycle indefinitely. And in between those breaths we try to make some sense of this thing called life.

I’m writing from snuggled deep in a colorful blanket, and the music I’m listening to is full of lazy smiles and I’m smiling too. Things are getting better, in this house and in this heart, and I do have people who I’m talking to about few lingering fingers of gloom. I love how vibrant and beautiful life is tonight, and the shadows only make the light glow more brightly.

I found this song yesterday as I was looking for something else. And it made me laugh because someone basically read my mind. (Except for that double negative at the end…I don’t approve of that.)

So I’m going to leave you with this as I bid you goodnight and wander off to get ready to crawl into bed. Goodnight, friends.

Hear that? That’s what you are. A friend. Mine or someone else’s.

Because you are no more alone than am I.

– Melissa

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