I turn 31 tomorrow. I’m not the kind of person that will ever say I’m 29 over and over and over again, even to be cheeky. I’ve earned these years, this last one especially. I found myself in a myriad of places I never thought I would be this year…
I found myself under the warm Bahamian water, alive and free as I swam with the fish.
I found myself packing up our truck not for our soggy Washington home, but to go to Rhode Island for a new adventure.
I found myself hunkered down with my family, laughing, singing and playing games by the light of candles as a hurricane raged around us.
I found myself on the outside of a church I had once loved. Scared and sad that it no longer made sense to me.
I found myself buried under piles of paperwork for services for my children. Wars waged on paper.
I found myself surrounded by people who love me for who I am, for what I do, for what I write. People who have been there for me when I was broken, scared, happy or sad. People who might violently disagree with me, but who love me still the same.
I found myself cold, broken, alone. Fighting a depression that wanted to win. An anxiety that worked to suck any joy from my existence.
I found myself saying goodbye to Abby as they put her in yet another ambulance. I found myself, soul completely rung out, after four hours spent in the ER trauma room as nurses and doctors worked to get her breathing to slow. I found myself exhausted, sad but grateful as I held her in her in her intensive care unit bed as I watched the events at Sandy Hook Elementary unfold.
I found myself without words as autism was linked to such evil, then I found myself combating that notion through Autism Shines.
I’ve found myself at too many specialist appointments with Abby.
I found myself crying into the shoulder of an unknown nurse after I left Abby in an operating room, then crying into my husband’s shoulder when we learned her hearing loss was permanent and that the anatomical abnormalities in her airways would only lend themselves to further respiratory problems and hospital stays.
I found myself in the capital building surrounded by hate. Where fingers were pointed and people taunted based only on their orientation. I left that place and then spent the rest of the night with the judged, the outcast, the amazing. People who only want to love and be loved in return. I found myself in awe at their patience, the loving attitude, their kindness.
I found myself the mother of four growing children that I could not be more proud of. Who teach me more everyday about myself than I could have ever learned without them.
I found myself at thirty. And to be honest and only a lot narcissistic, I like what I found. This year has been even harder than the one before it, but I am grateful. I found my spine this year. My passion. My voice. My bliss.
Here’s to another year just like it (meh, let’s be honest, I could do with less hardships and more time spent in the Bahamas…).
Social Anxiety Disorder is not my friend. She thinks she is, but our relationship is toxic. She’s constantly telling me that I can’t go somewhere, that I can’t meet people, that I can only be friends with her. She makes it so I sweat too much around people and say all of the wrong things. Each time I try to distance myself from her, she proves that my relationship with her is the only one that works. “Stay home,” she says, “where it’s safe and comfortable and where we can be alone. You can’t make an ass of yourself if you’re BY yourself.”
I’ve been trying to get away from her. I’ve tried medicine that would quiet her. The problem was, it quieted everything else. The good friends I had in Humor, in Empathy, in Joy. I knew that all I could do is the one thing I hadn’t done yet. Confront her.
I did this by doing something she’d never let me do: I auditioned for Listen to Your Mother. LTYM is a national series of live readings by local writers. I really wanted to be apart of it. On the morning of my audition S.A.D. taunted me, “You’re really not feeling up for this. I mean, this isn’t your thing at all. Why not just stay home and write a post to get all of this out. Why be with people?! People are the worst! Look at all of these books here. You love books! Here…read a book…” I almost listened to her. I almost stayed home. Thankfully, Jessica was going to be there from Boston and had threatened me with bodily harm if I didn’t do it. Much to the chagrin of S.A.D, I went.
I chose a piece that was uncomfortable to give to further shove it in S.A.D.’s face that I don’t need her. That she doesn’t control my life.
I got the part. I got it! We’ve had two rehearsals since and while S.A.D. has been with me through all of it, her voice has been drowned out mightily by the voices of the 13 other women that I am doing the show with. New friends that I would not have made if I had stayed within my comfort zone, if I stayed at home with my anxiety. Women who have challenged my way of thinking, have made me see new insights to to the beauties and even sometimes, the ugliness of motherhood. These women have pieces that will make you laugh so hard you’ll be afraid that you’ve broken something, cry the ugliest of ugly cries, and everything in between. I am humbled to be in a cast of such amazing women, and so grateful.
Confronting our demons is tough. But it’s a fight worth having. I will never be without S.A.D., but I can do whatever is possible to drown out her voice amongst the voices of people, of feelings, and of life.
Today I made the goal that I WOULD post today. I wrote it on my status update that I was going to blog after Abby’s six month review, which I knew wasn’t going to be fantastic. In my brain I composed the beginning of this post. Several beginnings, as I usually do. I was rushing around trying to make my house not look like it was growing and moving with lifeforms unknown and thinking about stories I wanted to share. I wanted to tell you about the Imagine Autism Walk yesterday and how proud I am of my son for LOVING his autism. A post to end Autism Awareness month. Then I started braintinkering with a post about Listen To Your Mother- a show I’m in this Saturday. How I am in awe of the amazing women I’ve been able to meet because of it. How I’m learning to come out of my own shell blah blah blah blah. Then I started thinking about the shit that has gone down in the last week in the autism and Down syndrome communities and wanted to write a hard hitting angry piece. Just as I started to REALLY steam the doorbell rang for Speech Therapy for Abby followed by her six month review. I promised myself that one of those posts would get written before the day was over.
A review is when you sit around and talk about all of the fantastic gains your child has made in the last six months. You make new goals that your child will not only master, but far surpass in the next six months. Except, I knew going in, this wasn’t going to be that meeting. I knew her speech had stagnated. Abby doesn’t talk. She DOES communicate, but she really doesn’t have many words, and those are rarely heard. She’s said “mom” but has never called me that. I want her to call me mom. I want it so much. We started with Speech. No surprises. We moved to occupational therapy. Surprise. Goals not met. We moved to physical therapy. Surprised again. Goals not met. We moved to feeding. Those weren’t met either.
None. None of her goals were met. We wrote the same plan over again. Same goals. It’s not to say that she hasn’t made progress. She has. It’s just slow. I called Lance and ugly cried while I ate a block of packaged meat. I’m not sure why I’m telling you that part. I was pretty messy. I just straight up chomped into it instead of eating it by the slice on something like bread or in a salad. I felt myself slowly climbing back into my Motherhood Box of Shame that I’ve worked like crazy to get out of. That it was MY fault for not pushing her harder. For working harder with her. He said, “It’s hard for me to feel like we need to push her harder. Sure, we want her to progress, but she’s so much more than can be quantified on an evaluation. She’s so much more than what she can’t do. On top of that, she’s got so much to her that can’t be taught, and I don’t want to take any bit of that from her in the race for goals.” He reminded me of what the last six months have been like for Abby. She’s been really sick. Correction, she’s been patient, upbeat and strong while she was really sick. She’s had surgery that she just barely stopped having nose bleeds from. Correction, she had multiple surgeries all at once, and was up and walking and laughing the next day even though she wasn’t feeling great. She dances through the same kind of allergies that make me feel like a very hateful zombie. She’s amazing. Talking will come. Motor skills will improve. It isn’t a race. She’ll get there in her own time. In the meantime, she is herself. She’s confident and stubborn and spirited and wonderful. That’s stuff that can’t be taught.
I did not meet my goal of writing a blog about Autism, Listen to Your Mother, or anger. Things change. I’m glad they do. I sat down earlier to find that a lot of people had commented on my status with words of support and love for me and Abby and how they’ve had times where there wasn’t progress. I cried as I felt such love from people I’ve never met.
My goal wasn’t met. Neither were Abby’s. Life got in the way. But at the end of the day, I’m so grateful that it did.
Today, by 11am, I had already put my head against my husband’s chest and whimpered, “I’m THAT Mom, Lance! I’m thhhhaaaaaaaat Mom.”
Yup. I’m the mom that schedules her son’s neurodevelopmental (it’s really a thing. Not a fun thing. But a thing) appointment at the same time as her daughter’s first “Rhythm, Movement, Dance and Song” group. Except, I didn’t actually know that was the name of the group or where it was exactly. And, apparently, I didn’t know what time it even started.
I’m that mom.
I woke early and desperately tried to get Casey to get ready. He laid naked on the ground for a full ten minutes playing with the cords to the blinds with his toes and harassing Peyton before I started just putting his clothes on for him. As soon as I started, he realized that he was no longer grounded from the Ipad (we’ve had to implement grounding for headlocks, no matter how light hearted they might seem), and took off to find it. This, while the other boys were hounding me for “sports apparel” (THEIR WORDS, even) for a spirit day at school. “Are you kidding me guys? ALL OF YOUR CLOTHES ARE SPORTS CLOTHES!” I finally tackled Casey down on the stairs and got him to cover up his privates. Another ten minutes of him not looking for the Ipad as I chased him around with the rest of his clothes later, he was ready to go. Lance came down to a scene where Abby is crying because she now thinks it’s cool to force me to feed her (aint nobody got time for that!), and I wasn’t and Carter and Peyton are BOTH screaming at each other about the computer because one of them wasn’t stuck breathless in the clamps of a headlock. I might rethink that policy. It brings the noise level WAY down. Casey was bemoaning the fact that I wouldn’t let him take all eight of his Angry Birds to the appointment. Lance tried to sneak up on me as I was angrily slapping peanut butter on bread and in his tiniest, most scared voice said, “Hey…how’s it going?…” then quickly backed away to avoid getting singed when I breathed fire.
No sooner had I gotten Lance and Casey in the car to go to the Children’s Hospital did Lance call me with, “Uhhhhhhhhhmmm, so…..where am I going?”
I finished getting the other boys their sports clothes for spirit whatever and sat down to get Abby to feed herself while I scrolled through my email. Peyton yells to me “Hey, can I get back on the computer? I’m asking because I don’t want you to be cranky with me. You’ve been very cranky this morning.” Ouch. There is a time in every mom’s life when she realizes that her child is right and needs to reevaluate her methods. If I had only been better prepared no one would have gotten yelled at this morning. Things could have gone so much smoother. Realizing this, I pulled Peyton into a warm embrace and apologized to him for my actions earlier and committed to be the kind of mother that doesn’t ever have to yell.
Just kidding. I did nothing of the sort. I’m not THAT Mom. I said, “You’re right Peyton, come closer so I can punch you in the skull.” For a minute, all was silent as we all pecked away at our various devices. Scary Mommy’s book dropped today. I love her and had to shout it to the world…on Facebook. While there, I totally forgot about the TIME and my boys almost missed the bus.
I’m that mom.
I’m not sure any of my boys had breakfast. I just realized that.
As soon as they were off, I ran upstairs to get myself ready for Abby’s toddler group. Realizing that I didn’t have the *time (*read: desire) to shower, I hastily washed my bangs (I’m a genius!) and pulled my hair into a ponytail. I ran downstairs to do the same with Abby’s hair as she sat looking at her bowl of cereal nobody was feeding her. She’s such a freaking princess. She also really hates having her head touched now. I go two ugly pigtails done and threw on her clothes. Realizing I can’t find ANY socks for me, I throw on the first two I grabbed out of our mismatched sock bin and RAN out of the door (just as Jill Smokler on the TV I forgot to turn off says on the Today Show, “we have contributors on Scary Mommy” and I’m all THAT’S ME! I’M FAMOUS! She mentioned ME! because I am, as you well know, a crazy person).
We get to the university and as I’m running into the building I see another mom running in with her daughter, too. I say, “Are you going to the group here? Do you know what group it is? I don’t even know where the hell I’m going.” And she says, “Yeaaaah, today is the last day of our signing group…I don’t think that’s the one you’re going to…” So I, late now, run up to the Early Intervention office and to a very surprised group of therapists and parents I breathlessly say, “Am I in the right place?” Abby’s seemingly always-nervous case worker comes out of her office. I put Abby down and put both hands on my knees as I pant. Two flights of stairs. I’m as out of shape as I look. I stand up straight and without realizing that there’s a small hoard of cute little kids with a variety of disabilities in the room I all too loudly say, “I swear to you, I’m losing my SHIT.” gasp.
Yeah, I’m that mom.
She takes me down to the music room where I’m relieved to find that I’m not late…in fact, we’re the only ones there besides the music teacher. Man! Am I glad that I didn’t blow this off! She would have had no one come! I introduce myself and fall in love with the very artsy lady that runs the group. She’s very direct. “Oh, I thought you were in our 10:30 group.”
I totally was! So now I wasn’t ten minutes late, but an hour and twenty minutes early. Fortunately she took pity on me and let us stay for her 9:30 class, that soon filled with moms and cute little toddlers. The class is a community class that we get to go to for fee because of Abby’s diagnosis. We’re so lucky, huh? The rest of those suckers have to PAY. The moms in the class were super cool, too. And guess what, NOT A SINGLE ONE OF THEM WAS WEARING PANTS. I mean, we weren’t naked, but we all were wearing sweats or yoga pants. My tribe.
I noticed all of them were taking off their shoes. And their kids shoes. It was a shoe free class. I…I had gotten my socks from the missing sock bin. They not only didn’t match, one was my son’s and one was mine. One was pink, one was stained and had grey toes and heels and “PEYTON” written on it. I couldn’t go barefoot either though, because it’s not summer yet and I have not yet taken the time to shave the hair off my toes. There is much hair.
A “Rhythm, Music, Dance and Song” group is just amazing amounts of silly with a toddler that doesn’t hear well and a mom that has no rhythm and is totally tone deaf. Add to it that the room was warm and we were moving A LOT. I was already a sweaty mess from running up and down the stairs (I kid you not) and having to meet new people (the social anxiety disorder makes me sweat…which makes me or anxious…which makes me sweat more…which makes me want to not meet new people ever because I become a gross filter-free sweat monster). I couldn’t take off my sweater because I didn’t want to be the smelly kid in class. Not that I actually would have smelled, they just would have thought that given the massive pit stains on my favorite grey shirt. (Why do I wear grey? That’s the dumbest thing ever)
I am the mom with ugly hair toes, mismatching socks, and pit stains. But my bangs were clean!
Casey’s appointment finished, and they met me at Casey’s school. I had forgotten to send the paperwork with Lance to the appointment, so now I would have to have the school fax it over. Because I’m that mom. Casey actually WENT TO SCHOOL (this is huge…he usually can’t go back if we’ve messed up his schedule at all…but I think going with Dad made it okay so now Lance is going to take him to all of his appointments he ever has). I take Casey to where his class and three others are practicing for their jazz concert. I walk up to his teacher and principal who are talking together just to make sure they know to call me if Casey decided that he couldn’t handle the upset. As I was talking to his super cute and fantastic teacher, Casey reached up and ran his hand over the sparkles on her sports shirt…right over her chest…oh goodness.
Having already said a four letter word in front of a group of children once already that morning, I decided to hightail it out of there. Which is where we began. Me burying my face in my husband’s chest as I said, “I’m THAT mom.” He patted my back and said, “Nah. You’re great. Also, Abby squished the Rice Krispy Treat you gave her in her hair.”
Of course she did. And of course, instead of going home to clean it out, we went out for lunch. Because I’m that mom.
Okay, so maybe I should back up. Or not. The fact of the matter is that I DON’T HAVE CANCER! I want to run up and down my street with my arms in the air screaming it. But that requires a great deal of physical exertion so I thought I’d just shout it from my blog.
I DON’T HAVE CANCER!
We sort of thought I did. I mean, we were a little scared about it. Okay, Lance was a little afraid. I was out of my mind. Because I’m the type of person that’s CRAZY ANYWAYS. Also, because there’s been entirely too much cancer in my life. Anyways, three months ago, Lance jabbed me in the neck with his index finger and said, “What’s that thing?!” I hadn’t noticed a swollen lymph node popping out. I felt around and found another at the base of my skull. I figured I was about to get sick, and didn’t think much more about it until a couple of weeks later when I was at my general practice doctor getting my crazy meds hashed out. I mentioned the lymph nodes and he said that they were probably nothing and said to wait a month and come back. So I did. They didn’t change a whole lot, one got bigger, one stayed the same. So he sent me off to an ENT and to get an xray. The ENT sent me to get a CT scan and a biopsy. In the middle of this TWO WHOLE EFFING MONTHS WENT BY.
During this time, Abby had surgery and my brother and sister came out. Jamey, who is medical school felt the nodes and seemed worried. I worried more. My general practice doctor assured me TOO MANY TIMES that it was nothing and doubled my anxiety meds, bless his heart.
I named the first lump Ned, the second lump Rod and anxiously awaited the third lump (That actually showed up just two weeks ago!) to name Todd. I bedazzled Ned once. I also drew a face on it that I had forgotten about until my ENT appointment. I made my whole neck red rubbing it off when I realized it was still there.
Anyways, after my damn file sitting on the damn ENT’s desk for A WEEK because he forgot to sign it, then another ten day wait, I got into see a pathologist on Monday who did a core needle biopsy. The CT had come back only showing the enlarged nodes, so it wasn’t something horrific like neck cancer. If anything, it would have been very early stage lymphoma. The initial ultrasound before the biopsy looked good, too. Just large nodes.
They said their main concern was my family history of lymphoma. (So it’s my sister Shelby’s fault. I’m gonna GET HER for this.) Biopsy day was also April Fool’s Day which was just a little bit hilarious. As soon as the biopsy was over, I immediately sent everyone who knew what was going on differing results. Rickets, rigor mortis, a testicle, syphilis, and gonorrhea were among the diagnoses. My favorite exchange was this one with my cancersister Shelby:
The biopsy itself was actually super easy. They numbed me up, stuck the needle in and then SNAPPED out a few pieces. Then I think they vacuumed out some, too. I wanted them to vacuum out my jawline, but they said no. Something something ‘we’re pathologists not plastic surgeons’ something something.
I want to say that I spent these last couple of months like a rock.. Not worried or anxious. Just positive and upbeat about how everything was going to be fine. But you know better. I was just a shade above a complete mess. Not the whole time, really, just most of it. I couldn’t keep my crap together more than usual and I was pretty useless. So, actually kind of like a rock. Stationary. Immobile. Heavy. Everyone says to not google. They’re right. Don’t do that. I am amazing at (in that I use it) google scholar and I love real scientific articles, but I couldn’t find anything that was making me feel better. Anything that fit my symptoms better than Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. And as I read more about the symptoms, I GOT more of the symptoms.
Turns out, my superpower is psychosomatic symptoms of illnesses I don’t have (which is totally different than being a hypochondriac, you gigantic turd. It is). I kid you not, I would FLUSH. I had horrible chest pains. I was itchy. I was tired. The tired was the doubled dose of my anxiety meds, the itchy was because I had all but given up showering, and the chest pains was anxiety and heartburn from my steady diet of garbage, but FLUSHING? Who can make their body do that on command?! I plan to use this new-found power to make myself believe that my boobs are spontaneously growing and perking up. No need for augmentation when your just huge amounts of insane like me.
Anyways, after five days of waiting, my super secret super spy/oncologist brother in law got the results so I didn’t have to wait for them to go back to my silly ENT. No cancer. They don’t know what’s causing it. The biopsy I got is 97.7% accurate, (thank you google scholar) and that’s enough to be a huge freaking relief. Because the Flander’s family of nodes has been around for so long and not getting any smaller they’re still going to surgically remove Ned to biopsy the whole thing just to be 100% sure. I think they’re just doing it because my sister had cancer. Now she has to come out for my surgery, right? This is ALL her fault.
Anyways. Relief. I can go back to only mostly sucking at remembering to do things. The greatest relief in all of this is that I don’t have to figure out how to tell Casey. I worried so much about how he’d take it.
I’m also pretty glad to just not have cancer, too, I guess. I wouldn’t be good at it. Shelby rocked it. She never complained. She was like this huge beacon of light and faith to all around her. My dad was pretty good at it, too, all things considered. I mean, he died, but he was nice about it. I would have been just miserable to be around. I don’t do sick well. Also, my head is not evenly shaped.
I am sad that I don’t get to “accidentally” discover I have a unicorn horn under all of this hair or announce my cancer diagnosis to Melanie by singing telegram. That would have been pretty cool.
As mothers, we all too often put ourselves in the Motherhood Box of Shame (have you seen Despicable Me?). We spend too much time stuck feeling badly about what we’re doing and not doing. Making things exponentially worse, we are bombarded with chastisement by other moms, by our friends, and the media. Sometimes it’s direct. There’s an article about how we spend too much time on our phones, or a diatribe on a blog about being a stay at home mom is the only way to have good kids. Sometimes it’s indirect. We see on Pinterest all of the crazy crap other mothers are doing. A friend makes an offhand remark about how much time she sees you online. As you read, watch, listen and internalize, you metaphorically pull out your Box of Shame, and climb in.
The worst part about the Box of Shame is that once you’ve climbed in, it takes a whole hell of a lot to get yourself out. Shame builds on shame. Guilt breeds more guilt. Cardboard turns to brick, walls are made out of our own self talk, neighborhoods out of the guilt we feel when we compare ourselves to others.
Today, I once again started myself out in that Box. I woke up, looked at the sorry state of my house and already started to feel bad. If I spend the day cleaning, Abby will spend the day watching Yo Gabba Gabba. If I spend my day playing with the girl, the house is a wreck when the boys come home…to wreck it further. I build further- if I clean, it will just be undone anyways, so what’s the point? I get too bored playing with Abby, and that makes me sad that I’m not the kind of mom that actually likes playing with her toddlers. I begin to remind myself of just how much I’m not cut out for this. Then I feel guilty for not loving being a stay at home mom because I know that I am truly fortunate to be able to do so- especially given the needs of my children. I find myself laying in the bottom of the Motherhood Box of Shame, stuck from the get go.
I’ve seen many a therapist for this very thing. I have a long history of making therapists cry. As much as I appreciate their sympathy, I need someone who is going to tell me to nut up and throw me out of my box. I get that things are hard. I get that I deserve a break from time to time. But reality is that it’s tough for every mother, no matter what the needs of her children are. I need a way out of this damn box. I need a way to take a break without giving myself a hard time. So, I’m asking you…what do you do? How do you stay out of the Motherhood Box of Shame? If you climb in, how do you get out? What works? What doesn’t?
I’m honestly asking you for help. Do you ever deal with this? Go all sorts of Dr. Phil on me. I need it. And maybe other mother’s reading will, too.
As I walked up to the Rhode Island State House I took a minute to catch my breath. The building is beautiful. I marveled at how quiet it was outside. I was pretty much alone. I looked up at the building as I tried to steady myself. The quietness outside, the peace I felt, I knew would soon dissipate. I could hear the yelling from inside the building.
In fact, I had already spent hours inside, holding a sign, and singing with people on both sides of the marriage equality debate. For a minute, it wasn’t quite peaceable, but it wasn’t angry either. In fact, I laughed at a lady standing behind me holding a “Equal Marriage” who introduced herself to a man carrying a sign in opposition. They shook hands and she she said, “It’s a pleasure to be protesting with you today!” We sang patriotic songs, and the protesters sang along with us. They sang hymns, and we sang along with them. For a minute, for a very sweet minute, even though we disagreed, things were okay.
Sadly, it did not last. The screaming intensified. There soon began jabs and shouts of misconstrued Bible verses. There were condemnations to hell. I felt my heart start to squeeze. Being someone that hates crowds and contention anyways, I decided that it was a good time to ditch my laptop I’d been lugging around all day and feed the meter. I spent a minute in the stillness of the car, wondering what the hell I was doing there. I’m a straight, Mormon, mother of four kids. I can count the number of gay friends I have on one hand. Why on earth did I feel so strongly about this? It had cost me a lot. My faith, some of my friends, and it’s meddled with relationships with people I love most. Why haven’t I been able to just shove that feeling down…why have I felt so compelled to act? I have been dealing with a crazy spell of fatigue lately, too. I was so tired. I put my head back for a minute on the seat and thought about just. driving. home. Getting into bed. Cuddling up with my husband.
My husband. The man I married just months after I had turned 19. No one stopped us. There were no hoops to jump through, no “separate but equal” civil union for us. We were in love. We wanted to spend forever with each other. We got married. I love being married. I say that a lot. These last few moths have been trying, to say the least. Abby’s surgery and the news of further surgeries needed and her hearing loss being permanent. Lance was told he is to be furloughed at the end of April because of these budget cutbacks- he will have to stay home one day a week without pay. A fifth of our salary right out the window. I think about how much weight I carry around, how much worry weighs shoulders. My marriage takes that weight and divides it. It softens the blow of trials hurled at us. Along with that, my marriage intensifies joys. At the end of the day, when I am being swallowed up in Lance’s arms, I am calm. I am happy. I am grateful.
Thinking about that joy, I knew I had to go back in. How could I deny that to anyone? How could I not support more of the very thing in my life that makes me so happy?
I took a deep breath as I opened the large doors to the capital building. It took me a minute to get my bearings. The heavy doors muffled most of the sound. Things had gone from bad to worse. This is what I was greeted with:
Inside the rotunda the sound of the protests drowned out the efforts of the LGBT and supporters as they tried to sing songs. I heard the worst things said to these people. That they were evil. That they were trying to ruin society. The list goes on and on. At one point I burst into tears. A woman who was there with her partner came and wrapped her arms around me. I told her I was so sorry. That I was so sad that she had to deal with this. I sobbed about how wrong it is and she just hugged me and said, “It’s okay. It’s okay. Thank you for being here for me. Thank you for caring.” Me. She was worried about ME. I’m straight. I don’t have to deal with people telling me I’m an abomination because of how I was born. I watched as the supporters resolve started to crack a little because even when we tried to together sing as loud as we possibly could, “God bless America, land that I love…” we still could not be heard over the yells of “No! NO! NO!” of the protestors. We were so outnumbered.
The people who had come with their children had left some time before. I heard one mom talking to her daughter. Her daughter said, “I thought this was supposed to be a special day.” The mother, “It is a special day. But some people just weren’t being very nice.” The girl, “I don’t like it when people aren’t very nice.”
Eventually, things got too out of hand, and we were moved to a holding room upstairs. Exhausted and a little defeated, I found a seat next to some ladies who brightly spoke about their business, the years they’ve been together and how excited they were to just one day get married. We listened to the testimonies that were given on both sides. I watched as the supporters visibly cringed when they were compared to people who practice bestiality and pedophiles. The room exploded into cheers when Matthew, a 13 year old boy, gave an articulate and impassioned plea to let his parents get married.
After about 9 hours there, I was too tired to go on. I started to feel sick to my stomach and sent a text to David, the man I had been working with on my testimony. I went and met him, took a couple of pictures in front of the hearing. I apologized for not being able to stay, and he hugged me and thanked me over and over again for my support. He said they’d deliver my written testimony to the committee and that we’d be in contact. The people working there had been there since early that morning and were going on zero sleep. Yet, even at 11pm, they still met me with smiles on their faces.
The snow softly breezed around me as I walked to my car. In my mind, the song, “Hallelujah” played. The song speaks of David and Samson’s fall from grace. It speaks of sin and of love. Then…
You say I took the name in vain
I don’t even know the name
But if I did, well really, what’s it to you?
There’s a blaze of light
In every word
It doesn’t matter which you heard
The holy or the broken hallelujah
I did my best, it wasn’t much
I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch
I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you
And even though
It all went wrong
I’ll stand before the lord of song
With nothing on my tongue but hallelujah
In the end, many on both sides thought they were doing God’s work. I feel strongly that my life has brought me here. Maybe it’s having a marriage that I love so much. Maybe it’s having kids that aren’t always treated equally because of who they were when they were born. In the end, whether you hear me singing a holy or broken Hallelujah, know that I’m still singing it.
And know, that whatever side you are on with this issue, kindness lasts longer and goes much further than anger. I wonder how it would have been if the protestors just kept singing with us, and us with them. I know with a surety that in their efforts to protect marriage as they see it, they did nothing to bring people closer to the God they believe in. As I sobbed amidst the crowd, I kept thinking, “This is not the God I know. This is not the God that I was taught about. If it were, I would have nothing to do with him. But it’s not. The God I know is tender and loves everyone. The God I know cares for all of his children.” They did nothing to make the LGBT community feel loved and accepted. It didn’t have to be that way. It could have been kind. It could have been spiritual. The same testimonies could have been shared in front of the committee. No one would have had to compromise their beliefs. But no one would have had to leave there feeling so broken.
I got home and cried into my husband’s chest until I fell asleep. I fell asleep grateful for my marriage in a whole new way. It was so easy. We fell in love, we got married. The people I had spent the entire day only want the same. I want that for them, too.