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

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