When I was in first grade, I had a substitute teacher tell me I was stupid when I asked for help with the math we were learning. We were learning to do addition when you have more than two sets of numbers. Math has never been my strong suit, and what was easy for my peers was insanely hard for me. I realized a few years ago that the substitute was wrong. I wasn’t stupid; it was just easier to tell me I was, instead of trying to figure out a different way to explain it to me.
Despite the fact that I’ve come to terms with what happened when I was seven, I’ve recently started to realize that it was that moment that set me on a path that I regret.
Throughout elementary school, I constantly found myself in situations where my peers seemed clueless about the things I was saying. I used words that seemed normal to me, and most of the time those words just earned me blank stares. I remember people commenting frequently on those “big words” I used. Around sixth grade it started to dawn on me that being smart was great, but it was really lonely. I already stuck out among my peers because my dad was both a pastor and the town garbageman, and being intelligent just was an added ingredient into the mix that kept me from fitting in.
So, I locked up my brain. I sealed up those parts that would help me achieve, and took to playing dumb. I found that if people believe you’re dumb, they go easier on you and quite a bit less is expected of you.
Recently, I’ve come to realize that I don’t want to play dumb anymore. It’s cost me too much in life, and I’m sick of giving up what I want because I’ve put so much importance on fitting in. Unfortunately, what I’m discovering is that it’s not terribly easy to undo nearly 20 years of playing dumb. I’ve spent so long convincing myself that I’m only average and am incapable of achieving anything, that my brain is rebelling quite a bit against my decision to unlock it. There’s also an element of fear. It’s scary to decide to stop choosing the easy option. However, I think (and hope) it will be worth it, in the long run.
Growing up, my life was surrounded by death. I’ve mentioned before that I grew up a pastor’s kid. The first church my dad was a pastor in, was also the church the town mortician attended. This meant my dad officiated A LOT of funerals. In the four years we were at that church, I attended more funerals than most people will ever have opportunity to attend. Then, when I was in junior high and high school, I regularly went to play Taps at veteran funerals. (The perk of living in the middle of nowhere and being a trumpet player). All of these experiences had a bit of weird impact on how I deal with death. Mainly, funerals don’t freak me out, and death doesn’t terrify me. I will admit that I can tend to be a bit callous about death. It’s not intentional. I have a very dark sense of humor, and on occasion I have cracked jokes that are in terrible taste, sometimes relating to death/dead people. (Nothing beyond PG, but definitely in poor taste).
Most deaths don’t get much reaction from me. People live, people die, more people are born. It’s the circle of life…
Yeah, I went there…
The point is, death has been such a large part of my life, I tend to just accept it as something that happens. When people die, I feel sympathy for their friends and family members they leave behind, but I’m afraid that sometimes I don’t feel very much beyond this about the dead person…
And yes, I do realize how horrible that makes me seem.
So, I was surprised by how sad I felt when I heard that Robin Williams had committed suicide. I can count on one hand the amount of celebrities whose deaths have really made genuinely sad (Jim Henson, Charles Schultz, and Mr. Rogers, in case you’re wondering).
It would be very easy to sit here and judge him for selfishly giving into an “easy” out. It would be easy to be angry that he willingly gave up a future, when there are millions who wish they could live for just one more day.
It would be easy, but it wouldn’t be right or fair. I’m reminded of what Tolkien wrote, ““Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends.”
I pray for those who are struggling with depression and who will witness this and think suicide might be their best plan. As someone who’s been down that road, I can honestly say life does get better.
My heart aches for his family. I grieve the laughs that will never be, and the talent that has been silenced.
I realized a few days ago that the last time I attended Good Friday service was in 2011. My aunt’s church was doing this living Last Supper thing. It was actually pretty cool. It was a drama, where the actors did a tableau of DaVinci’s last supper, and each character got to explain which disciple he was, and talk about his role in the story.
As usual, my grandparent’s were in town for Easter, and they went with us to the presentation. I knew Grampa wasn’t feeling fantastic, but he was determined to go to church that night. The next day, Saturday, he got progressively worse; and that evening, my aunt took him to the ER.
I spent the better part of that Easter Sunday with my family in the ICU. Grampa was in really rough shape, and we really thought that was the end of the road. It wasn’t, but it was the definite beginning of the end. He passed away in July of 2012.
The month and a half following that Easter Sunday, I spent a good portion of almost every single day at the hospital and then at the rehab center (after he was released from the hospital). Looking back, it was a surreal, but incredibly educational experience.
Anyway, like I said, that was the last Good Friday service I went to. Now, I love Easter. Being a Christian, the holiday has a lot more meaning for me than just bunnies and chickens and chocolate (however, I never turn down chocolate). This year I realized that I’ve made zero effort to try to get to Good Friday service since 2011, and I think I’ve finally narrowed down why. That service in 2011, was pretty much the last time I saw my Grampa even be close to his old self. Watching him get sicker and constantly waiting for the inevitable phone call was overwhelming.
It’s a weird to think of it as an anniversary, but it is. And, this year, it’s not one I’m handling terribly well. I’m really sad. I miss people in my family being healthy. I miss my Grampa. I even miss being a pastor’s kid (although, I’m not sure I’ll ever stop thinking of myself as a pastor’s kid. I spent 19 years as one, it’s a part of me that I can’t separate from).
Eventually, I’ll go to Good Friday service again, but not this year.
The requested theme this time? Books that are funny. I don’t typically read books that are considered funny, but I’ve come up with what I consider to be humorous books.
Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir)
Okay, I’m not just putting this first because my ad for my blog went live on the author’s blog (thebloggess.com) this week. This book is written by the author of the blog I just mentioned. I can honestly say that this book is the funniest book I’ve ever read. I read it over my breaks at work, and I usually ended up laughing so hard I would be in tears. This led to co-workers thinking that something was terribly wrong. Anyway, not quite sure where this rabbit trail is going, but the point is, this book is hysterical. It’s filled with stories of taxidermy, animals, arm condoms, HR, and her struggles with mental health issues. One word of warning, the author cusses a lot. I know that bothers some people, and doesn’t bother others. Personally, I think the content is worth the read.
Tina Fey has got of be one of my very favorite female comedians, and her book was a fantastic read. What I really appreciated about the book was that she showed her journey from being a drama nerd to being a successful writer. She doesn’t gloss over things like her time spent working at a YMCA at weird hours, or being part of the comedy minority (mainly, being a female).
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)
Okay, I’ll be honest, I’m currently reading this. I’m half-way through, and I can honestly say I love this book. She’s incredibly down to earth. She’s really honest about not fitting in, and when she has made decisions that could have been incredibly career damaging. Also, the story of her going on a Broadway audition with zero dance experience is fantastic!
This book is a collection of stories from the All Creatures Great and Small series. This book runs the gambit from absolutely heartbreaking to rolling on the floor laughing. I personally recommend the stories about Tricky Woo and Cedric the Boxer.
Pretty Much Anything By Dave Barry
I’ve been a Dave Barry fan ever since I was a little kid. If you’re looking for a good laugh, you really don’t have to look much further than his stories on toilet snakes, parenthood, and things that would make a good name for a rock band. He’s also has a blog (http://blogs.herald.com/dave_barrys_blog/) that has all the news you wish wasn’t true…
This is one of the best books I’ve read regarding growing up a PK (mine will be just as awesome…provided I ever finish it). They cover everything from food to church sports leagues to trying not to laugh during funerals.
Last week I was talking with a friend, and they mentioned an acquaintance who was struggling with something. My friend kept telling me that this other person had bad stuff in their past, as an explanation for why this person is the way they are. Of course, this got me to thinking. Don’t we all have bad stuff in our past? Sure, my bad stuff may seem like nothing to you and vice versa, but at the end of the day, we all have things that have happened to us that have turned us into the people we are. When I was growing up, my mom would always tell me that I could either get bitter or better based on things that happened. Out of everything my mom has taught me, this has probably been the thing that has stuck with me the most.
The thing is, I’m a processor. Whenever something happens to me, I need time to process the situation. Now, depending on the event, my processing time may be anywhere from a few hours, to a few days, to several years. I’ve been processing something that happened years ago, and the conversation with my friend last week, kickstarted my brain back into functioning mode. I’ve been debating all weekend whether or not to write about this. I finally came to the conclusion that the things that I have buried in my life are only going to harm me as long as I chose not to face them and keep them buried inside. There’s freedom in talking about things. Because I don’t want to get sued, I’m not going to write out all details (like names or dates). Suffice it to say, what I’m about to talk about happened several years ago, and I have more fingers on my hands than people who know about this.
When I was growing up as a pastor’s kid, every Sunday I almost always found myself standing at the back of the church with my parents after service. We would greet the congregation as they filed out heading for their cars and their lunches. Part of this ritual involved having my hand shaken, and getting hugs from nearly everyone who passed through. I never gave much thought to this practice, it was just what we did.
One Sunday, as people were passing through, one of the guys (he was probably in his late 20’s) gave me this hug, and for the first time in my life I got seriously creeped out by a guy. I brushed it off, and told myself it was nothing.
Except it wasn’t.
The next few weeks, every Sunday this guy would make a bee-line for me, and give me a hug that was just a bit over the line and intimate. One week, I tried hiding behind my parents, but not make it obvious I was. Unfortunately, that didn’t dissuade him.
Finally, after about a month of this, things came to a head. I came up with a plan to avoid this guy. As the service ended one Sunday, and we were walking to the back of the sanctuary, I asked my dad if I could have his keys so I could go to his office. He fished them out, and I quickly made my exit. My plan was to lock myself in his office and hide until everyone had left. I had just stuck the key in the door when I heard someone say my name, and by instinct I turned. There stood the guy. “I didn’t get my hug.” he said. He then proceeded to push me into the place where the door met door frame and give me this hug that to this day makes my skin crawl. Now, other, smarter, more savvy kids would’ve fought and gone running. I was in such shock I just stood there frozen with a brain that wouldn’t work, at all. Just then, this guy’s brother-in-law walked in, and I was released. Creepy guy took off, and I finished unlocking the office door, ran in and shut and locked myself in.
Not long after that creepy guy and his wife stopped being around so much, and I didn’t get any more awful hugs.
Now, I’m sure you’re wondering why my parents didn’t do something. Truthfully, they didn’t know until a few years ago, long after all this happened. I never said one word about what happened, and mostly blocked it from my memory. I was certain that I must have been a bad person to have something like that happen. I was certain it was all my fault. I no longer believe it was my fault. I’m not the naive innocent little thing now that I was then. I now realize that this guy had problems, and I just happened to be someone he set his sights on.
I really thought I had pretty much dealt with this. Then, this last week, I started thinking about the fact that even though nothing truly “bad” happened (although, I firmly believe if his brother-in-law hadn’t walked in something bad would’ve happened), this quick moment changed a lot in my life. I really shut down emotionally. I used to be this person who cared about other people and wanted to help and take care of them. I was definitely an extrovert. Following the hug, I slowly became more and more internalized, and now I’m a full-blown introvert. I struggle to force myself to be around people. The biggest change, though, is this:
No, I’ve not been turned into a llama. I do, however, have major issues with being touched. There are 10 people (this isn’t an exaggeration, I can count them all on my fingers, no toes needed) I know that I am willing to let touch me without wanting to physically push them away and then go and shower. What I find alarming is the fact that as much as I want a guy in my life, the idea of being touched terrifies me (and let’s face it, physical touch is part of relationships). I’ve also come to realize that much as I hate how heavy I am, I’ve not mentally been into losing the weight. Sure, I’ve given it a good go, but my mind has never been connected with the program. I think I’ve been using my fat as a defense. While there are guys who don’t mind fat girls, most guys avoid them. Being avoided because I’m fat means that I’m not going to get touched.
I’m sick of this. I’m horrified that I’ve let someone else’s issues have such an invasive effect on my life. He was a slimy sleazo, and yet his actions have had more influence over me than I thought possible. I refuse to let him win anymore. I’m tuned in now. I’m worth more than I’ve chosen to believe, and it’s past time for this weight to come off.