When It’s Hard to Say “I’m Sorry,” Write It in a Yearbook

24 Oct

I am in the beginning stages of helping plan my 10-year high school reunion.  (Wow! I feel old.)  And this, of course, has prompted me to browse my high school yearbooks and such.  My school days (all of them, not just high school) were often difficult.  Kids were cruel, as kids often are.  Sometimes, especially cruel.

That’s not to say that my school experience was all bad.  It wasn’t.  We all eventually grew up (sometime during the summer before senior year) and learned to get along despite our socioeconomic/racial/personality/whathaveyou differences.  And I’ve never been one to hold a grudge, always forgiving people despite the lack of apology.  But as I was skimming my old high school yearbooks, I did come across an apology – the only one I ever remember receiving from a once-cruel classmate – written in blue ink on page 22.

Laura,

How goes it?  Well I want you to know that you have been a great friend.  All those times I was mean to you when we were younger, well I’m sorry for that.  Keep band strong next year.  Maybe you’ll get Drum Major next year!  That would be awesome.  Well I’ve gotta go.  I’ll write more later.

Your friend,

It was nice to read nearly 10 years ago.  Still is.  There is so much power in a simple “I’m sorry.”  I think so many times, we make offenses and then move on as if nothing ever happened, expecting the person on the receiving end to do so as well.  We’re penitent, and we expect others to realize this without our making it known:

My husband knows I was only angry and didn’t mean to say the hurtful things I did.  I don’t have to say, “I’m sorry.”  My best friend will forgive me for letting her secret slip.  After all, it was an accident.  My mom understands how busy I was last week when I forgot to call her back.  There’s no need to apologize.  My little brother won’t mind that I forgot his birthday.  He understands I have a lot of things on my mind.  My son knows I love him, even though I angrily yelled at him out of frustration.  My sister will forgive me for going overboard on the teasing.  She knows I didn’t mean to be hurtful.  That girl at church who walked in on us gossiping about her probably didn’t even hear what we were saying, anyway. The list goes on.

Not every wrongdoing is easily glossed over.  Many offenses are forgiven, but not all are forgotten.  Words and actions that may be no big deal to us can have a lasting effect on the recipients of those words and actions.

“I’m sorry.”

A simple phrase.  It’s not always easy to say.  But it is comforting, and sometimes necessary, to hear.

Overwhelmed

9 Oct

This is how I feel.

All.

The.

Time.

Breaking News: Sarah Palin’s Latest Child Is a Baby

29 Aug

While reading the Tennessean online, I came across an article about John McCain selecting Alaska governor Sarah Palin as his running mate.  The article gives a brief overview of Palin’s political/biographical background, ending with this final sentence:

She and her husband Todd Palin, have five children. The latest, a baby, was born with Down syndrome.

I find it so comforting to know that Palin’s latest child was a baby, and not, I don’t know, a chicken or an alien.  Rest assured people, the Tennessean has confirmed that Palin’s latest child was indeed a baby.  You can go back to your arguing over who would make a better president: Obama or McCain.  Thank you for your time.

I Am from Venus, My Husband Is from Caprica: An Argument Over ‘How I Could Just Kill a Man’

29 Aug

The other day, I came home from the gym and my husband was downloading music to his iPhone.  He had his headphones on, and I could barely make out the lyrics.  The song: “How I Could Just Kill a Man.”  Here is the conversation that followed:

Me: (semi singing/rapping, most likely bustin’ some Luda moves) Here is something you can’t understand, how I could just kill a man. Is that what you’re listening to?

Husband: Yeah, you know that song? (obviously surprised, maybe even shocked)

Me: Holla!  Ice Cube.  Of course I know that song.  Do you not know me at all?  (The song is actually sung by Cypress Hill, but Ice Cube is in the video.)

Husband: (with a totally puzzled look on his face) No, baby.  Rage sings that song.  You know, Rage Against the Machine … the rock group.

Me: Sweetie, that’s a rap song.  You know, thug life.  How else would I know the lyrics?

At this point, a small argument ensued over who originally recorded the song (duh, Cypress Hill) and who covered it.  Wikipedia gave us our answer, but offered no help in in resolving the conflict that arises from the fact that my husband and I are not only from two different planets, but two different solar systems.

Heck, I’m not even sure if we live in the same dimension.

What’s on My Nightstand

21 Aug

  • engagement photo (we look so young) because every girl needs a photo of her man by her bed to remind her that she’s loved
  • sea breeze scented candle for relaxing aromatherapy
  • notebook, complete with notes, to jot down those late night thoughts that chase away sleep
  • a green and blue polka dot pen because pens should be fun, not boring, in order to enhance creativity
  • Billy Collins’ Poetry 180 – modern inspiration, a good read
  • bedside lamp to provide light for nighttime reading and writing
  • Dasani water, the only kind I drink
  • striped coaster to protect the furniture from ugly water rings

Arousal

19 Aug

The blank page leers at me

like an imperious tiger eyeing

the weak gazelle in the herd –

the small, delicate one with wild,

darting eyes.

His rough tongue

laps greedily at his carnivorous incisors.

He is not hungry – no,

solely cavalier.

A lust for domination primes his axons,

contracting muscles

that know only to devour.

Iron eyes – penetrating –

unclothe her vulnerabilities,

defy her to rise.

Oprah: Inside the Lives of America’s Poor

17 Aug

*I saw myself on Oprah yesterday. Well, I saw the self that I try to forget about, the part of me that I hide and pretend never existed even though I don’t think I can ever forget it did. I saw the part of me that few people even know about, the part of me that most people are somewhat shocked to hear about when I do actually tell them. It is the part of me that I am more likely to share with total strangers than with those people whom I consider friends or even acquaintances.

When I left home to go to college, I started over. I made a new life for myself, a life that most would consider “normal,” middle-class. But the fact of the matter is that I grew up poor, always on the brink of and most of the time below the national poverty line, below the Mississippi poverty line. There were times that I didn’t know it because my mom worked so hard to give her children a “normal” life, but there were also times when I knew the reality of it all too well. Times when I was afraid of what might happen to my family, when I worried about where we would live or how we would pay for things. I knew what it felt like to get free lunch at school and to have a classmate see my mom use food stamps in the grocery line, to wear clothes that did not originally belong to me, hand-me-downs from older peers, and to be pointed out as different, as not good enough, as a poor kid, to be called “white trash” by classmates.

I saw myself on Oprah yesterday, but I also saw other children who have worse lives than I ever did, even at the lowest point. I also saw my mom, a single mom who worked three or four jobs, who deprived herself to give to her children, who knew that there were others worse off and didn’t hesitate to help them. Some people looked down on her and judged her, but I know she did the best that she could with what she was given. My mom sacrificed herself to give her children what they needed to break the cycle and live a better life. I know I had it better than so many other kids, but I had it worse than almost all of the kids that I knew.

For many years, I have lived with both shame and guilt. Shame because at a young age I was taught that I wasn’t good enough, that other people were better than me. Shame because our society associates poverty with some sort of moral or mental decay, or just plain laziness. Shame because our society believes that people live like that because they want to or because they deserve it. I feel guilt because sometimes I buy into that erroneous belief. Guilt because I hide a part of myself that has shaped me into the person that I am now. Guilt because I sometimes pretend to be someone that I am not. I also feel guilt for wanting more and for having more for my life. Guilt for moving ahead while others are left behind. Guilt because I sometimes feel like I don’t deserve the life that I have now because I lived the life that I did then.

What makes me special? What makes me different from other children who are caught in the cycle and can’t get out of it? I know I’m not that different. I was blessed with an extended family that helped out when we needed it without seeing us as a “charity case.” I was blessed with school teachers and church leaders who helped give me the skills and the confidence and the hope that I needed in order to break the cycle. I was different, I am different, because I had hope, because I believed that I could rise above it even though everything in my life told me I couldn’t.

I don’t want to hide myself, or parts of myself, anymore. I don’t want to feel shame or guilt anymore. I just want to be. And I want to give others that same hope that is so desperately needed and so rarely seen inside the lives of America’s poor.

*This post was originally published on March 23, 2006 to my old Xanga blog. I am re-posting it here to continue the discussion over on Living Oprah.

** On another note, I would love to be able to import that blog to this one, but I have no idea how. Does anyone know how to do that?

Instead of Blogging …

12 Aug

I am watching the Olympics. I LOVE the Olympics. I love the athleticism, the competition, the sportsmanship. I love the excitement and suspense. I love the symbolism, the peace, the unity. I love the back stories of the athletes, the struggles, the obstacles, the overcoming, the realizing the dream. I love the sense of pride for my country I feel when one of ours takes home the gold. I love hearing our national anthem played on an international stage. I love the Olympics. Michael Phelps is my hero. Go Team USA!

Miss Martha’s Ice Cream Crankin’: An Ice Cream Lover’s Dream Come True

5 Aug

Sunday was an ice cream lover’s dream come true. The Martha O’Bryan Center held its 23rd Purity Miss Martha’s Ice Cream Crankin’ Contest on the lawn of First Presbyterian Church in Nashville. Basically, it’s all the homemade ice cream you can eat, dozens of unique flavors, all for $8. After church, lunch, and a little naptime, you had better believe the Rutabagas were there for this one. All you can eat homemade ice cream. Who doesn’t love that? We even managed to drag the husband along.

(Read more here)

Back Where I Come From … You Don’t Have to Worry About Getting Stuck on the Side of the Road

28 Jul

Back where I come from, the small town of Eupora, MS (population: 2,300), you don’t have to worry about getting stuck on the side of the road. (Yes, I said road. There is really only one street in Eupora, and that is Main Street). If you get a flat tire or are in a car accident or run off into a ditch, someone you know or who knows your mama will stop to help you (or to call your mama) before you even have time to get out your cell phone and call a tow truck. By my estimates (and this is hardly mathematical), for every ten people that pass by (if that many people would actually pass by you in that small amount of time), you probably know at least half of them. Of the rest, at least half know who you are because they know your mama and them. And the others are probably some strangers who don’t live there. Here’s story to illustrate my point:

On one particular foggy evening during my Freshman year of college, my boyfriend at the time (DP*), my BFF (Kimmie), my closeted at the time gay BFF (JD), and I were headed back to Starkville in my champagne-colored Altima after a Sunday night service at the First Baptist Church. Thick fog made it nearly impossible for DP to see the road ahead, and I failed to remind him of the big, giant curve you have to navigate before you get to the bypass. As a result, DP drove straight through the curve, bounced off the “stop ahead” sign, and landed us completely unharmed into the ditch.

This was back when only the “cool kids” had cell phones, and Kimmie was the only one cool enough to fit in that category. After getting out of the car and laughing for a bit at how funny we thought the situation was, we called my mom. She wrangled up one of my little brothers, a pickup truck, and some car towing apparatus and headed over to bail us out. Meanwhile, we just hung out on the side of the road and waited for the assistance. Within about 10 or 15 minutes and after only one phone call, mind you, my mom, my sister, all three of my brothers, my dad, my uncle, my mammaw and pappaw, two ex-boyfriends, and a couple of random folks who saw my car and knew it belonged to one of those Hitt kids had all converged on the scene.

My car was probably halfway out of the ditch before an office of the law arrived. This is largely due to the fact that no one thought to call for that kind of assistance. Why get the authorities involved when you can handle a situation yourself? Needless to say, when my car landed in the ditch, and we had assessed that everyone was uninjured, I was able to laugh it off. I didn’t have to worry about how I was going to get my car out of the ditch or how I was going to get back home or whether or not anyone would stop to help. I lived in a small town. I had community. I had people. I had no worries.

Now that I’ve moved to a somewhat larger city, basically Nashville, TN, I do have worries. I don’t have that kind of community any more. I have friends. I know people, but it’s not a large number, and they are spread out over the greater Nashville area. Of the 2.300 or so people in Eupora, (10,000 in the whole county) I probably knew more than half of them, and half of the rest most likely knew my mom and them. That’s more than a thousand folks that would fall into the “not a stranger” category. Now, in a metropolitan area of roughly 1.6 million people, I know less than 100, maybe even less than 50. And only a couple of those know my mom and them.

I love my new home. It’s a great city, and the opportunities available to me here are vast, especially when compared to what is available to me back home. Though I loved growing up there, I don’t think I could ever go back. But I do wish I could bring that community, that sense of place, of belonging, to where I am now. Sometimes, without it I feel a little more lost, a little more alone, and a little more afraid of what would happen if I found myself stuck in a situation where I needed to rely on people, on neighbors, on friends, on a community that doesn’t really exist for me here.

Does anyone else ever feel that way? Is it a sign of our changing culture? Of the shift from the community to the individual? Is it time for Americans to start becoming part of communities again?

*Names have been altered to protect the innocent and/or guilty.

Related: My Hometown, Y’all