If I Were Forced into a Court-Ordered OA Group

It is six o’clock in the evening on a Wednesday. I am sitting in a semi-circle staring blankly ahead, trying not to make eye contact with the man directly across from me who has an oxygen tank next to him and keeps talking about how he wishes he could step outside for a smoke. There are only five of us so far. I know this because every fourteen seconds or so I look around the room as if I am searching for a clock on the wall, but in reality I am using my peripheral vision to count heads. Is that meaty woman by the door lingering there because she is afraid to commit, or is the success story for the night. I do not count her just yet.

We are all sitting on hard plastic chairs that are intended for children. That are so small my thighs are spilling over the sides. I shift uncomfortably in the seat, and I just know this will give me a rash, or deep lines in my softness, at the least. We are in the dank, dim basement of church that, five days a week, doubles as a pre-k for tired Methodist mommies who just need a fucking break for three hours in the morning so they can Zumba, then hit Publix alone.

My foot is asleep.

The woman beside me is breathing so heavy that with each intake I brace myself for the warm, garlicky steam to waft toward me. I close my eyes to pretend that I am in one of those funny sitcoms where I look over at her and we make eye contact and I say something funny and she laughs. The laughter breaks the awkward silence in the room and then we all become super best friends, bound together by our inability to control our emotional eating and our desperate desire to hide behind jokes, because that is the only way we think people will love us.

We start to meet outside of our designated meeting times. We start to have potlucks with things like kale salad (because we are trying) and Diet Coke (because we are not trying that hard) and we only refer to each other by the nicknames that we created (my best friend is Wynonna because of her red hair, and I am Momma Naomi because I like to tell everyone what to do). We start referring to ourselves simply as group.

I open my eyes to see a skinny, pale blond woman lowering herself onto a large, comfy rolling chair. Why does the skinny bitch get the rolling chair? Ah, she’s the mentor.

Twenty minutes later I say the first words I have said all night, after the blond says, Missy, tell us about yourself.

I’m quiet for an actual minute because I have learned that if you are fat, and no one knows what you are capable of, you can be quiet for so long that the silence gets awkward and the conversation goes on without you in it. This doesn’t work with the blond, because as much as I want her to be just one of the other fat people’s caring sisters who has volunteered to come tell us about Weight Watchers, she is actually a real, goddamn therapist who has been hired to try to reach us. To get us. To help us with our self worth. She continues to silently smile at me, her piercing blue eyes locking onto mine. Because this isn’t my first rodeo with a therapist, and because this is not the first time I have tried desperately to get a skinny, pale, blond woman to like me, I cave.

Hi! (I sort of wave to the group that I have actively been avoiding for the last half hour). I’m Missy and I’m a bread-aholic.

I laugh trying to ease into it. A few chuckles come from around the room and I am hoping I can figure out, by the end of the allotted time, who it was that laughed, because those my people. Meanwhile, the blond loses her smile. She ain’t playin’.

Uh, I am married and have one son and a poodle who is kinda, sorta, well he’s a shithead, but I love him. The poodle, not the husband or son. But I mean, they are sort of all shitheads sometimes, you know?

More laughter. Her smile comes back. Okay, keep going Missy.

I am 37 and have always been overweight. I was the kid who was picked on in second grade for having a big round belly, and also because sometimes I would toot when I sneezed, but never owned up to it.

More laughter. She doesn’t laugh, but her smile broadens. She is starting to like me now. I feel safe for no reason whatsoever, except that probably these other fatties get what I am going through and I assure myself that I am not the saddest sack this blond therapist has ever seen, so I decide to go all in.

Obviously, I hide behind humor. My biggest problem really is bread. Carbs. Sugar. I eat when I am sad. When I am angry. When I am happy. I enjoy over-processed foods, but could tell you what I am supposed to be eating, what I should never allow into my body, and how important portion control is. I know how sugar releases dopamine in my brain. I know that too many carbs can cause inflammation in my joints. I know that people like me, who eat a lot of added sugar, are twice as likely to die of heart disease. I know I should not drink Diet Coke, but when I’ve had a shit day, that’s all I want to do. I exercise five days a week, but I know that you can’t exercise away a bad diet. I do not jump on fad bandwagons. I don’t Keto, or South Beach, or Slim Fast. I know those are not healthy, and unrealistic for the long run. I know, but I do not adhere to most of it.

The group sits with their mouths agape. Oxygen man turns up the dial on his machine. Heavy-breather coughs. Blond woman’s smile fades away. I decide this is probably a bad time to ask if there is a snack table somewhere.

By the end of the night I haven’t realized anything that I didn’t already know. I grew up on TV dinners and pre-packaged lunch meats because we were poor and those went a long way. I never learned to read the ingredients on the box. When I was a kid they didn’t even have to tell you what the hell was in the food you were eating. This aided in a whole generation of new fatties cropping up. McDonalds became a thing in the generation before mine. By the time I was born we had so many different fast food choices it would make your head spin. It does make your head spin, because mental confusion is a symptom of bad eating. I know. But like most things, slowly but surely food and the elevated importance of it in our emotional well-being took over and no one, no one stood up to say we have to stop.

But, I also know that at this point in my life it is no one’s fault by my own for still being overweight. I have been given all of the tools that I need to succeed. Anyone can now Google how to rid yourself of sugar, how to restart your cravings. I know people who do the Whole 30 every other damn month. And they do it because it is freaking hard to stick to it. It is freaking hard to retrain your brain. Hard to live everyday in a mental fog, wishing and hoping for just a little suckle off the old fructose bottle. Because we all want to be happy, right?

I’ve never been to an Overeaters Anonymous group, and court-ordered would be the only way I would go. Though I am having a hard time figuring out what would make a court order you to a place like that. Do I need to stab someone over a lack of cheese at Taco Bell? What if I lifted a case of Little Debbie Snack cakes from the Kroger down the street? But I suspect if I did go to one of those meetings, it would end up being a lot like the scenario above, because although I do not know yet how to get a handle my emotional cravings, I do know myself.

For now I will continue to dream of the day I can pick up a stalk of celery and it can emotionally fulfill me like that bag of pretzels. I will keep refusing Diet Coke for La Croix, keep buying that damn Halo Top instead of the Ben and Jerry’s that I really want. I will keep buying the damn caesar dressing made from yogurt, because even if all that is bad for me too, it is still a hell of a lot better than I used to do, even I though I will still eat chicken wings whenever I get the damn chance.

For those of you who are struggling with the weight. Struggling with the cravings and the bad choices and the lack of exercise and all of the things, remember that you are not alone. There is help out there if you need it or want it. There really are Overeaters Anonymous groups, and if group therapy works for you, DO IT! There are nutritionists (that your insurance will indeed pay for, you may just have to ask), and there are good, honest gyms, or workout groups, or just people to walk the block with a few times a week. There is therapy to deal with the real root of your overeating, because regardless of what you think, you are probably not just a lazy, slob who doesn’t have the time. There are things, mental and emotional things, that are stacked against you. You just have to be committed to finding what works for you. And remember, one step at a time. Sometimes, quite literally.

I’m always here to lend an ear or a smack on the hand if you need me.

M.

For the New People

There are probably some things you should know about my family, for those of you who are new here, and maybe for some of you who are old here, but who like to hear my crazy stories. So I took some time to tell you a bit about my husband, Jerimiah, and our son, Jackson. Let me first say there is much more to know about them, but these are some basics. I am actively trying to get Jerimiah to start a podcast with me called Peanut Butter and Petty (in which he is Peanut Butter and I am Petty, duh) and we discuss our lives and regular, everyday things so you could learn more about us because I know you want to know more about us, but you are too afraid to ask. He is in refusal mode, as it sits. I’m close though, y’all. Really close. I think Jerimiah’s hold up is that he thinks he isn’t as “funny” as I am, and that we wouldn’t have anything to talk about. Meanwhile I’m like, two things: 1. No one will listen to that bitch except our friends Dave and Beth, your mom, my mom, and my sisters and 2. You give me too much credit and our “boring” life not enough. I really just want an excuse to drop $100 on one of those really fancy microphones so I can look cool in my videos, but that is neither here nor there.

So here we are. The first video is waaaaay off topic and the second one, though it may seem to be mostly about me (let’s be real, I am selfish and this whole thing is always about me) actually strives to give you a glimpse inside my son’s life. So enjoy! Or don’t, I’m not the boss of you. Ps… the three pictures below will only make sense after you watch the first video. Sorry, Jerimiah, but it had to be addressed. ❤

**UPDATE** Jerimiah replied to this blog post on my Facebook page with the following claims:

  1. The shorts were Levi’s not JNCO, although I was known to sport a pair or two. See attached pic.
*I concede on the shirt being green and red. But that is all.

2. While I was the proselytizing Juggalo trying to get his Juggalette, I never owned a shirt, but did attend one concert.

3. My green on green combo was hard to beat, let’s be honest here.

4. While you might make 50% of the shots you take, you miss 100% of those you don’t take. Remember that. 😂


A “wife beater”. While I do not agree with the term and know that it is offensive, I didn’t create the name. Also, don’t hit your fucking partners, you assholes. And remember, mental and emotional abuse is just as bad.
See, they existed. Still do, in fact. You can buy these bad boys on eBay for $30. No, Jerimiah, they are not your size. Ps… His were actually blue, remember?
This is as close to the actual shirt as I could find. I had to Google: “Vintage Adidas Front-Button Shirt”, but still this one is not exactly right. His was green and I not so, umm, easy on the eyes.
A bit about Jerimiah. And laundry baskets, and some tips on “changing a man”. Also, who wants to buy a used Poodle?
A little bit of soccer, little bit of basketball, a little bit of we are not good at either. Learning about Jackson Riker!

The Man Who Fathered Me

The story goes like this: My mother was the bartender at his favorite watering hole. He was married with three kids. They hooked up a few times, that led to a few more times, then more times, and eventually who could keep track. My mom loved him, and to hear her tell it, he loved her too, but you know, not enough to be with her. People knew about the affair. People at the bar knew. My mom’s friends knew, his friends knew, his wife knew, but still things kept going like that for years. I don’t know the specifics. I don’t know what he said when she told him she was pregnant with me, a 36-year-old, single mother of three knocked up with her married boyfriend’s baby in a small Catholic, midwestern town in the 1980s. I’m sure it didn’t go over well.

It’s tough to be the kid of a single mom. It’s tough to watch the father/daughter dances pass you by. To pretend that you are happy to make Father’s Day cards for your mother at school, after all, isn’t she my mom and my dad? It’s tough to see this man, the man who fathered me, day after day because my mom moved us into his neighborhood. It’s tough to watch your mother love someone so much, who just treats her like a pile of heaping trash (when he didn’t need her).

Then there is the stigma in the community. Adults knew who my father was. People mentioned his name to me on the street. In fact, I first learned his name from one of my mom’s friends. “Oh you know that old Ralph, your mom still loves him,” then laughter. I laughed too, even though I had no idea what or who I was laughing about.

Once when I was too young for my feet to touch the floorboard of the car, my mother drove me up to the IGA on 10th Avenue. It was a hot sticky day and we didn’t have air conditioning in the car so my skin was stuck to the seats and I was angry. Then, out of nowhere she points to a group of men working in the parking lot. They were all wearing construction hats and vests. One of the men, a tall, dark-haired man started walking over to our car.

“That’s your daddy,” my mom said. “That’s Ralph.”

For the first time in my life I remember getting a rush of excitement over the word “Daddy”. I had never heard it in relation to me before. I was the girl who didn’t have a daddy. As he made his slow, measured walk to our car I thought, for the first time, that my life was about to change. I thought this man, my daddy, was coming to us like he had promised. I thought we would do father and daughter things. That he would teach me to ride my bike, where my sister had failed, or teach me how catch a pop-fly. I thought we would go to the movies together on hot afternoons, and that we would eat around the dinner table like I had seem other families do. For the first time in my life, I was excited at the prospect of “Daddy”.

He made it to the car, as I was unsticking my legs from the seats and smoothing out my shirt. I wanted to look nice for him. He leaned into the car on my mother’s side, they said some things in a whisper, then he came to my side. He bent down, my face plastered with a huge smile, and he smiled back. He said, “Hi there, Missy.” And I thought my heart would explode. I was as happy as I had ever been.

That was the last time I would talk to my father, until the day after my 16th birthday when his name popped up on our caller id. I grabbed the phone and lurched into a tyraid. I called him a motherfucker. Cause he was. And an asshole. Cause he was. And a host of other names, ending with “Don’t ever call my house again, she doesn’t want to talk to you!” Only, I was wrong. She did still want to talk to him. Here they were all these years later, his kids long-since grown and out of the house with kids of their own, him still very married to his wife, and he was still calling her.

Well, to be fair, three out of four of his kids were grown and out of the house. His last kid was an angsty teenager with a bone to pick with him. But the time never came. In fact, I didn’t talk to him ever again. My mother did, to be sure. Years later, after his wife died, they hung out again. He was an old man by then, enjoying the solace of having lived a long life, surrounded by his kids and grandkids. Well, most of them.

My son was two years old when the man who fathered me died. My mother called me on the phone from 300 miles away. She told me that he died. I wasn’t sure what she was expecting from me. I’m not sure that she was expecting anything, possibly just informing me of his death, either way I said, “Hmm. That sucks.” Cause it did, for her.

For me, it was a relief. For me it was the end to having to worry about things. To having to make lists of things I wanted to say to him if I ever ran into him on the street. The end to ever having to wonder if he was proud of me, if he knew my accomplishments. Would he be happy to know that I am a grown woman with a wonderful husband who loves his child? Would he be happy to know that his grandson is gifted and enjoyed mathematics and technology? And is kind and humble? Would he be happy to know that I am smart? That I have earned a masters degree? That I strive to put the emotions and feelings of others before my own? Would he be happy to know that I turned out nothing like him, in spite of him?

It doesn’t matter anymore. Because for the first time in my life I have realized that the kind of man he was, the kind of man who lives a life of lies and deceit. The kind of man who fathers a child then runs from his responsibility, the kind of man that is exactly 50% to blame for all of it, but puts 100% of the blame and burden on his mistress, is not the kind of man that I care to impress any longer.

My mom used to whisper to me, “He is the one missing out, Missy,” and I never believed her. I always believed instead that I was missing something because I didn’t have a dad, but now I see that she was right. Now I see what I have accomplished in my life without him, and I am grateful for being the kid without a dad. Grateful for the lessons it taught me. For the conversations it provoked. I am grateful that I had someone in the back of my mind to do better than. If nothing else, I strive every day to be a better human than he was.

M.

PS… I forgive you Ralph. You can rest in peace now.

Mornings with Missy

I’ve been making these absurd videos for several years now, wherein I sit in my bathtub, or my closet, or my bed, or my car and I bitch and complain about life, or politics, or the wild animals. They were originally just for me, so I could look back and see how ridiculous I was being, but one day I shared a video on Facebook and it got a lot of reactions. Like a lot. Some people loved it and said I should be on television or radio. Some people hated it and didn’t want to be my friend anymore, of which I said, “This isn’t high school, dearies. Grow the fuck up.”

Either way, I have been amusing (for better or worse) my FB friends for some time now with my videos. Today I am sharing some of my earlier videos here, along with my newest one (where I am hiding in my bathroom reading Craigslist Personal ads for everyone’s enjoyment while I eat cheese). So, please do enjoy.

The day I had a standoff with that damn groundhog that terrorized me for months.
Hiding in the bathtub (back when I had a bathtub to hide in), PMSing and eating chocolate
Remember when everyone threw their coffee makers out, then got pissy because they didn’t have coffee makers anymore so they had to buy new ones? #FoxNews

Y’all eat a ton of horse shit all the time. #Nike
Craigslist personal ads. Also: Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a bacterium that causes infections in different parts of the body. It’s tougher to treat than most strains of staphylococcus aureus — or staph — because it’s resistant to some commonly used antibiotics.

Into the Fold

A whirlwind is really the only way to describe the four days that we spent in Washington D.C. this last weekend. A complete whirlwind. Jerimiah, Jackson, and I have been to D.C. once before, but only for one day while we were visiting Jerimiah’s mom in Maryland. Back then Jackson was just learning to walk, we had not yet made it to his first birthday, and President Obama had just been sworn into office. In short, we were in a very different time in our lives. So was our country.

Fast forward ten years and suddenly my little guy, who last time in D.C. was toddling across the Washington Monument, was marching down Pennsylvania Avenue, a smile on his face and a megaphone in his hand. He was marching for women’s rights. He was marching for his friends and his family. He was marching for his mommy and for his sister. He was marching for his own reasons too, recalling the first time he heard President Trump talk about “the wall” and asking whether his Hispanic friend, Angel, would be sent away. He made up his own chant: “Be a leader, not a Tweeter!” It was sort of, well, perfect.

Though Jackson may not have grasped what was happening around him, may not have caught the meaning of many of the signs, or heard the rumblings under foot of anti-semitism, or noticed the anti-abortion counter protesters, at one point he walked up next to me, grabbed my hand and said, “Mommy, I see why we came now.” And that was all I needed to hear. I, on the other hand, I had been a mess leading up to last Saturday.

The women in our family.

The idea to go to the Women’s March had come to my friend Beth and me (like most of our ideas) in a bursting blaze of wine and lingering indignation. We were at my kitchen island one evening a couple of weeks before, catching up on our recent holidays (complaining really about lack of sleep and lack of sound judgement) when she said, “Hey, the Women’s March is in a couple of weeks, wanna go and take the family?” “Uh, duh,” I responded, as I finished off the bottle of my Target “Clearance” red, and she started pulling up AirBnBs on her phone. It wasn’t long before we had roped in both husbands, our friend Meredith and her two sons, and a third friend, Merrily, who like Beth had the experience of the first march under her belt. The house was booked, the days requested off, the scene was set. Then came the shitstorm.

First there was the weather. I mean, who could have possibly known there would be a Nor’easter in January?! No one. No one could have predicted that. Washington got what five inches the week before the march. Or was it 15? 50? I dunno, but the temps were about to, as Lil Jon, The East Side Boyz, and Ying Yang Twins would say, “Get low, get low, get low, get low…” Yeah. It got low.

Then days before, the news broke about the march administrators. Now I can’t really speak a lot to this. I caught it in passing, Beth could probably tell you more, but it seemed like women fighting each other and accusing each other of saying things that should not have been said. It made people nervous. It made people scared to come to the march, scared to stand in solidarity with one another. Honestly I stayed far away from it, figuring I’d learn more when we were actually there, seeing these women in person.

Then there was the news of the change of venue. Originally the Women’s March had obtained a permit to march at the National Mall, but with the shutdown, the National Parks Service was afraid they would not be able to keep the mall clean and the snow removed in time for the march, so at the last minute a permit was issued for 10,000 to march on Pennsylvania Avenue. The one saving grace that the march would go right by Trump’s Washington Hotel, all was not lost.

Then the night before our president himself tried to steal the thunder by saying he would make a “Big, Yuge, Terrific” announcement at 3:00 pm on the day of the march. Then it was promptly changed to 4:00 pm, considering that is when the march ended. I think he knew better than to piss off 10,000 women marching past his house. Good on him.

Then of course, was the fact that hundreds of thousands of our fellow Americans had gone without pay for a month now. That weighed heavy on our minds and our hearts, and we tried to figure out how we could help them, while marching at the same time.

Le sigh. It was sort of chaotic to say the least, but still, we persisted.

Everyone made it to DC safely, having made the six hour drive from Charlotte on Friday. Saturday morning came and our crew readied ourselves for the street, even though we were all a bit groggy and some of us were, ahem, a bit hungover. The kids though, they were amped up! They had their signs (most of them made by Beth) and their megaphone and their marching shoes. Not to mention their hats, gloves, and layers of clothes. (In the end though, this day would prove to be the warmest of our time there.)

Spencer, Jackson, and Cooper (“The boys”) ready for action!

They boys seemed hellbent on making as much noise as they could, as well as giving out a number of “free hugs”, cause yeah, these are cool kids. Meanwhile, Morgan (the lone girl in the kid group) showed up ready for battle, her handmade sign garnering a lot of attention from us, as well as many people at the march. We will call her, well, wise beyond her years. (Basically, she pities ‘da fool.)

Morgan, who knew immediately she would tackle gerrymandering in her own district. (Yeah, she’s ten years old.)

At this point no one had any idea how many people would be at the march, what the scene would look like, how the marchers would react to one another, and whether it would be anything like the other two marches. I had never been to a march, period. I was nervous, I was anxious, and I was a little numb to what I was walking into. But I was ready. We all were. We were ready for whatever was headed our way, snacks and toe warmers in our bags, and smiles on our faces. At about 10:15 a.m. the whole crew took off from our house for the metro. We were only five stops away from the crowd that awaited us.

About twenty minutes later we rounded the corner of Freedom Plaza and saw a sight that I am not sure we expected. Well, I didn’t expect it. Thousands of men, women, and children lined the streets. Vendors selling merchandise, food, and hot coffee. Pink hats, 12 foot signs, and amped up fellow Americans ready to take to the streets together in love and in light. It was all a little much for me to take in.

The Crew (minus Jerimiah who was taking the pic). We were standing outside the Warner Theater, Freedom Plaza is in the background.

There was so much to see. It was like being at a circus, a parade, a concert, and a play all at once. There were smiles and voices. There were high fives and handshakes. There were hugs, lots of hugs. There were women crying. There were funny signs and serious signs and necessary signs. There was a camaraderie I don’t think I was fully prepared for. I simply stood, silently looking around trying to take it all in, trying to sear this image into my mind to recall at a later time, on an idle Thursday when I am in bed, my blankets pulled up over my head and I am sad. I wanted to bottle it. I wanted to capture the essence of the mood, the sight, the sounds all around me. In short, it was pretty fucking cool.

Waiting for the march to begin on the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and 13th Street.
Beth’s handiwork.
Merrily found her march sister! ❤
We had just been talking about the women marching in Mary Poppins!
Lots of signs wishing RBG well!
#ThanksObama
I liked the “Where’s Mitch?” sign, but I mean, come on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr has some wise words too.
Solidarity, sisters.
Marie Kondo would be proud.
I saw a few women with his poster, but this young lady said nothing, did nothing. Just stood in silence and a smile as the speakers took the stage. She didn’t need to. Her sign said it all.

We started marching and chanting and laughing and hugging promptly at 11 am. The march was just around one city block, but it took about two hours. In the middle of it Merrily, Beth, and I popped into a coffee shop to get the crew all warmed up with cups of joe, when a slight scare happened upon us. Meredith came in asking if we had seen Cooper. He had walked over to throw something in a trash can and the sea of people had swept him away. We tried to remain calm. He had his cell phone. The crowd was slow moving. And we had eyes all over.

His momma ended up finding him just a few feet away after a frantic look for about ten minutes. When he had realized he was separated from the group, he found a police officer and stood by him, looking for us and trying to call his mom. (Did I mention how smart these kids are?!) He seemed okay, we were all a little shaken up, though no one wanted to admit it, and after a small break to regroup we joined the masses again. At one point after we found him, Beth, Meredith, and I all looked at each other, a knowing smile spreading across our faces. Had we been worried? Yes. But this was a sea of mommies. A sea of grandmothers. Of women who have birthed and held and bathed these babies, the generations before us. Women who have seen more in their lives than we ever will. Our babies would be just fine among them.

Taking a snack break after we were all reunited again.

As the march wrapped up we saw more sights that conjured up pictures from the 1970s. Women in trees leading chants, women in bikinis (in that weather! Oh my goodness we wanted to put sweaters on them!) women holding hands, forming chains, women screaming, women with fists in the air, women with an air of determination to be heard and seen. And they were.

Upon seeing this Jackson really wanted to do the same thing. I said no. In hindsight, I should have let him… Next time.
Group signs, human chains, working together to get the message across.

Around 1 p.m. the march wrapped up at Freedom Plaza where a stage had been erected to house the speakers, of which there were many. There were speakers from the Women’s March itself, the very women who were reportedly arguing just days before taking the stage, including Tamika Mallory who went after the rumors head on, telling her Jewish sisters, “I see you.”

About 3 p.m. the kids lost steam. It started to sprinkle and everyone was a little hungry. That’s when Beth’s husband Dave, Meredith, and Merrily offered to take the kids for food and all meet back later. Beth and I wanted to stay to see more of the rally and Jerimiah was sort of along for the ride, so we split up. I’m not sure what the other group did, but I was sent screenshots of giant cinnamon rolls, so it must have been good! Beth, Jerimiah, and I walked to the other side of Freedom Plaza to try to get a better view of the stage. That is when we found the counter-protesters.

To the bitter end!

Calling them counter-protesters might not be accurate, I don’t know what they were or why they were there. I don’t know who they were trying to scare or upset. I don’t know whether they were there on their own ambitions or whether they were paid by some larger organization, though my money is on the latter. But they were there, and they weren’t going anywhere.

At first I didn’t see them. In fact I stepped right past them and didn’t even notice their signs, as I was fixated on trying to get closer to the stage and by this time of the day was ignorant to signs above my head. It wasn’t until Beth and Jerimiah made eyes at each other and Beth said, “They are trying to cover up their signs” that I looked over. There was a circle of women standing in front of a young man. They had him surrounded and they were holding their signs up above their heads, ushering people around him. I stepped around Jerimiah to get a better view. That’s when I saw the man’s sign.

It was a graphic depiction of a “late-term abortion”. Graphic in the sense that it was made to conjure up a disgusting scene of a dead baby, supposedly at five months gestation, outside of its mother’s body, cut up in many parts and covered in blood. Of course it was a depiction. It was not an actual baby, but a doll made to look like one. On the other side of the sign was what appeared to be a dead woman. It was all very morose. I spun back around trying to again focus on the stage, but I could not get that image out of my mind, which I what I assume they wanted.

Within a couple of minutes I found myself standing in front of the man, my signs held up above my head, giving the other women in the group a reprise from the sign holding. Beth was next to me holding her signs and Jerimiah was across from us blocking the signs of a young woman who had popped up. I’m not sure how long we stood there, but it felt like half an hour or so. At one point I lowered may sign and another woman took over for me, so I could take a picture of Jerimiah across from me. Another image I wanted seared into my brain for later.

I snapped this picture of my husband blocking the anti-abortion signs so I would remember it always. Remember his quick response. Remember our collective anger.

It wasn’t long before I overheard a discussion behind me. Another young woman had shown up, anti-abortion signs in hand, to spew ignorance at the crowd. Some marchers had stopped to try to talk to her. It sounded like a civil discussion. No one was yelling, no one was even raising their voice. The young woman was talking about science. About how babies are made at conception. About how they feel pain during an abortion. About how babies are “sawed into pieces” to get them to come out.

I stepped in. I didn’t plan to. My body sort of just moved over to her. I knew as I was walking that I shouldn’t do it. I felt the emotion rising up in me. I felt my head getting hot, giving me this sort of groggy feeling. Maybe it was the rain, maybe it was the cold, or the steam forming at the corners of my eyes, but I walked up and I told her Lydia’s story. I started with, “I gave birth to a dead baby.” The crowd of women went silent and all their eyes turned to me, the young anti-abortionist as well. They listened intently. They listened to me describe the chromosomal disorder. They listened to be explain the choice I had. The one I had because abortion is legal. They listened to me say her name, over and over again. Lydia. Lydia. Lydia.

Then when I was finished. When the tears were streaming down my face, Evangeline, the woman who was holding the disgusting sign said, “I’m sorry that happened to you, but that is different.” I wanted to scream at her. IT IS NOT DIFFERENT. But I didn’t. Eventually I walked away. I felt beaten down. I felt abused and assaulted. Even now today, I am not sure why.

Later that night I wasn’t so cordial with the crew. We ended up all meeting again at our AirBnB. I got to hear Jackson tell me all about the big cinnamon rolls, and listen to the kids run around upstairs playing Harry Potter and Monopoly and recounting the fun they had that day. I lay in my room, listening the talking and the laughing and the love being passed around the table. Everyone came to check on me. Beth and Meredith offered encouragement, you’re not alone, we are here if you want to talk. Jerimiah offered his love. His strength. His solidarity. After all, we had went through it together. Always together.

I eventually drifted off to sleep that night with horrific images in my mind, but I dreamed about my daughter. About the women I had met that day. About the women I have come to know. Come to call my friends. About all the daughters and all the women and all the lives that were lost, are lost. All the women I marched for.

It’s been a few days of processing for me. And I’m still working through my experience, but so far there is one thing I am sure about. I am so happy that I was able to be part of the Women’s March. I am so happy that I was able to use my voice for those who cannot. I am so happy that I stood with my husband and son by my side. That Jackson saw a strength in his mommy that he may have forgotten existed. That he saw his Daddy triumphantly helping women. That he understands what our powers can be used for. I am so happy that I stood alongside friends that I did. Women of caliber like those with me that day. I am so happy to have those women in my life. In my heart.

I am so happy to think that my daughter knows what I do, how I share her story, how I speak of her and about her, is to remember her. To better the lives of all girls and women, to keep her present always in this world and in my heart. I am so happy to have been on the right side of history. To have walked the walk many before us have walked. To have done my part, as tiny and as insignificant as it seems, I know in my heart that it made a difference for someone. And that will carry me for many more years.

I’ll leave you with this thought: As women we can’t allow the world to change us, to rearrange us, to divide us, or to deride us. We have to act responsibly and respectively toward one another if we are to get anywhere. We have to lift each other up, step on the backs of those who first carried us, then become the backs for the younger generations to hoist theirselves on top of. We are part of a fold like no other. And we must welcome each other with open arms, open minds, and open hearts.

M.

Ps… Below is our march song. 🙂 Enjoy.

Broken Record

I feel like a broken record sometimes, y’all. And believe me, I know what a broken record feels like. Just last week my dog ate one of my vinyls, Alabama’s Greatest Hits. At first I was so distraught, all I could do was throw myself onto the floor in a fetal position and cry, while I slowly sang:

There’s an old flame, burning in your eyes
That tears can’t drown, and make-up can’t disguise

Yeah, it was as emotionally-charged and odd as it seems. But later, when I tried to duct tape the record back together, telling Sir Duke Barkington that I wasn’t so much mad, as I was disappointed, I realized maybe it was a lost cause.

Maybe a lot of what I try to fix is a lost cause. Maybe a lot of people I try to convince are lost causes, not because they aren’t capable of learning, knowing, or growing, but because they are shut off to anything they do not understand, anything that scares them, anything that goes against their beliefs, set in stone, unchanging.

This past Saturday I had an encounter with an anti-abortion protester at the Women’s March in Washington, D.C.. I have never been face to face with a person like this before. Her name was Evangeline, she introduced herself after she asked my name. I told her it was Missy, and that I was the mother of a daughter who was not alive because she was very sick. Because she could not live outside of my body. Then I told her, unprovoked, Lydia’s story in short. She smiled as I spoke and nodded her head along like she was listening, but when I was finished she said just this: “I am sorry that happened to you. That is different than an abortion.” I explained that is not different. That in my hospital discharge paperwork I was released after having had a “late-term abortion”. And that if abortion rights were taken from women, I would not have had that choice.

She again smiled and said that she was sorry that happened to me but that my case “was different”, and most people just don’t “understand science”. I asked her what she meant by that, and she told me that babies are made at conception. I explained that my own children, one born healthy, one not, were fetal poles until 6 weeks gestation, no heartbeats, just a cluster of cells (I had ultrasounds to show it) and she again said, “I am sorry you do not understand science.”

I am sorry you do not understand science. I am sorry, but your case is different. I am sorry you do not understand science. I am sorry, but your case is different.

Around and around and around.

I am sorry, but your case is different.

I am sorry you do not understand science.

I am sorry, but your case is different.

My husband and best friend moved to block other anti-abortion protesters with their signs as I spoke with this woman, who was utterly mis-informed and completely lacked the ability to reason for herself. All I can hope is that when she packed up her signs, promptly at 3:00 pm (we assume she was paid to be there for a certain time) that she thought about my words and my story as she walked back to her warm van.

I know that sometimes I sound like a broken record. And I apologize for that. I apologize that you all have to keep reading my words and listening to Lydia’s story, especially when it makes you uncomfortable or brings up your own memories that you would rather forget. But for those of you still around, I applaud you. I thank you.

I see you. Trying to understand, to learn, to support me and the millions of women like me. Because there is no difference. There is no difference between my case and the millions of others. We are all women. Women doing what is best for us, for our mental health, for our economic or educational success, for our children, for our families, for our futures. And until EVERYONE can attempt to understand, can accept that legislating morality will not be tolerated, and can give grace, even to those who they fundamentally disagree with, then I will keep spinning this record. Around and around and around.

M.

My daughter’s hands and feet were perfect. The only parts of her body that were.
Lydia Elizabeth Goodnight
B: August 25, 2011

Brown Butterflies

I’ve been thinking lately about the different stages of life and how it feels like they sneak up on us, but upon closer examination, we sort of knew the changes were coming long before they came. But still they blindside us on some idle Tuesday when we feel wholly unprepared to take anymore shit from that particular Tuesday. They smack us on the hand, or the head, or if we are lucky, on the rear, and they shake us into a violent spiral of self-loathing and pitiful dread. And just like that, the person we thought we were is gone, and this new person has emerged. It’s sort of scary and weird and totally, totally jacked up.

I was complaining about this aloud to my husband last night. I complain to him a lot, especially on days when I have been complaining to myself aloud and my self hasn’t been able to come up with any answers. My husband, you see, is a saint of a different kind. He is patient with me. He listens to me while he rubs my feet or my back. He doesn’t get angry at me, unless I am down on myself and then he tells me to treat myself better. He even pretends like he doesn’t hear me talking to myself in the shower, or the bathroom, or the closet, or the kitchen, least I think of myself as crazy. He just listens and tries to help.

So there I was trying to explain to him that I don’t feel like any particular kind of “me” anymore, because the last set of changes in my life really did me in and I am super scared of the next change. He looked confused. I reasoned that approximately every three years I change. I go through a complete metamorphosis, sort of like a caterpillar, but instead of turning into a beautiful butterfly who flies through the rain forest, I get stuck being a brown butterfly. Not that being a brown butterfly is bad, it’s just that brown butterflies always seem to have short, tumultuous lives inside one of those manufactured rainforests at a children’s museum. Red butterflies with yellow and purple markings sail through the humid air of Ecuador, racing each other, making children stand in awe, and women look to the skies, close their eyes, and imagine a world unlike their own. Brown butterflies end up getting sat on by an oxygen-tank-wielding grandpa who was dumped in the “rainforest” because he couldn’t keep up with the toddlers and someone said, “You know what, I bet Dad would enjoy the butterflies.”

Again, there is nothing wrong with brown butterflies, they are just “eh” and “eh” is how I have come to see this “Missy”. The one right here, right now, in this present position in life. I’m not alone, I know that. My friend just asked me this morning, in a desperate voice in search of relief, “What the hell is in retrograde right now?” Eh.

Maybe it’s the time of the year. The “winter blues” is very real. Maybe because my whole life is in this sort of holding pattern that I have never been in before, and it is forcing me to work with and against questions that I just do not have answers for. It sucks, truly, but I am also grateful for so much. This leaves me feeling, well, eh.

I’ve been really fixated on these shifts of time lately. I remember visiting a butterfly “sanctuary” when Jackson was a toddler. (I’m using quotes for sanctuary because, uh, there is no real reason to have a butterfly sanctuary, other than to breed butterflies for human viewing in an enclosed space, yeah, I’m weird about animals in captivity.) But still it was kind of neat to see that many butterflies in one place. That is also where I learned, or maybe relearned, that butterflies have an incredibly complicated life cycle, and an incredibly short life span. Adult butterflies only live for weeks.

I started thinking about the stages of the butterfly, and of course to the stages of my own life, and I became really attune to the changes that have happened every three years or so. There seems to be a pattern. Like it takes three years for me to make any real progress. Or to make any big change. Or to even deal with simple things. I’m a slow learner I suppose. But, I’ve been able to trace my changes back as far as thirteen years, and it is a weird, ugly road.

Thirteen years ago I became a fiancée. I changed from just a girlfriend to someone who needed to start planning for a life together with this man that I loved, in a very pointed and serious way. Planning for the future was a BIG change for sixteen years ago Missy, whose only real job was to have fun. I bartended on weekends, spent money like an Arabic Sheik, and occasionally danced on tables, if the bar (more importantly the music) allowed.

Three years later I became a mother to a happy, healthy baby boy. If you don’t think parenthood pulls you into a new version of yourself, think again. And while you are at it, that isn’t just the “baby blues”. Get yourself to your doctor and say yes to the Wellbutrin with the side of Xanax, then figure out whether your body can tolerate both pills and a glass of wine each night at ten p.m. while you binge watch Netflix and secretly eat candy from the floor on the side of your bed that can’t be seen from the hallway.

Becoming a mommy was the biggest wake-up call I had ever had. Until three years later, when I became a mommy to an unhealthy, dead baby girl. Whoa. Another Missy came along. This Missy was sad most of the time. She struggled to conjure up new ideas. She regretted most of the decisions that brought her to that point. She blamed herself for much more than was her fault. She worried what this new mommy was doing to this little boy, who was tottering behind her everywhere she went.

Three years later I was no longer a mommy with a little boy tottering along behind. I became a kindergarten mom. That freaked me out so much, that in the same breath I became a grad student with two part-time jobs, and a myriad of obligations just to try to deal with the horrible quiet in my house. But, I settled nicely into that routine for, you guessed it, three years. Then last year, everything changed again. I graduated, stopped working, moved to the city, had a hysterectomy (changing both my attitude toward the future and my actual body), and I started to devote more time to myself than ever before. And I know this all seems great, and trust me it is, but sometimes the lack of things, things to learn, things to do, things to accomplish, makes me feel, well, eh. Because even though Missy keeps changing, there are some things that don’t change.

Missy has always been kind, empathetic, and open-minded. But Missy has also always been reactive, anxious, and diffident. Always. Through each set of changes. Through each three-year block. And those are the sort of things that don’t just go away with time. They also make changing and growing and being at the sort of crossroads that I am in now, hard to get through.

So now here I am. In what I am calling the “Eh Stage”. The “Eh Missy”. This Missy is not the most fun to be around, I’m really sorry you guys. This Missy likes to sleep longer, likes to dawdle over what to cook for dinner or what kind of scarf to buy. This Missy loathes small talk and would rather just sit silently, in her own mind, while others jabber around her, then get caught up in the middle of it. Content to do so. This Missy thinks slower, even slower than high school Missy who was always a little, tiny bit high, and certainly never understand chemistry.

But, like most things in life, it isn’t all bad. This Missy doesn’t shy away from waxing political, or making some waves in an attempt to better things for others. This Missy is finally able to admit that she needs to “think on things” before she can add value to the conversation. This Missy listens with her whole heart when someone needs an ear, she doesn’t let her mind race frantically to all her problems and responsibilities and just nod her head along occasionally. And like usual, some days are better than others.

Maybe this “Eh” stage is something you are going through too? And maybe it is because life has taken its toll on you. Maybe you find yourself in a rusty patch. Maybe the political world makes you want to vomit. Maybe you are almost 40 and freaking out (WE ALL DO, RIGHT?!) Maybe, probably, it is just a stage. A phase of life. Maybe today you feel like a brown butterfly. But maybe tomorrow you will end up all red and yellow and purple, and soaring through the humid, lovely air of Ecuador. Because really, it’s all so very temporary.

M.