I’m fat…. & lovable.

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I’ve always been fat.

At a very early age, I was told that I was disgusting and a pig. The person who spoke these words over me, was supposed to be the one person that shouldn’t have said them. I can still hear her voice in my head, daily.

The kids at school, when they were feeling especially mean, would taunt me with the nickname “Miss Piggy”. As I got older, classmates stopped making verbal remarks, but I always wondered if they were silently judging me. I couldn’t fit into the LIMITED jeans that were wildly popular like the other girls. Instead, I cloaked my body with wide leg skater jeans and baggy t-shirts. I dove headlong into the “punk” look thankful that it masked the outline of my body.

In high school, I started taking diuretics given to me by a friend. She educated me on different tips to lose weight and burn calories off of different anorexic sites she frequented. This season didn’t last long– I didn’t enjoy being on the toilet all the time and I was afraid my family would find out. I opted to just skip meals when I could.

Between then and now, I’ve tried everything. Calorie counting. Fad diets. Long hours at the gym. I’ve set goals. I’ve joined accountability groups. I’ve phoned a friend.

Each thing worked, momentarily. I’d lose some weight. Start feeling good about myself. People would start commenting on how good I looked. (Funny how I don’t hear the same compliments when I’m not losing weight.) But then something would happen, and I’d stall out/give up. 

No matter how many pounds came off, I still hated myself. My body. My face. The way my eyebrows stick out wildly. The thinness of my lips. The mole next to my left ear. The crookedness of my bottom teeth. The critique could go on, people, but I think you see my point.

I’m 30 years old, and refuse to have a full length mirror at my house. I crop every picture that includes anything below my chest. I labor over what filter to use on selfies, in an attempt to find that one that will hide the most imperfections. (The selfie song is right– Valencia IS the best!) I’ve become the girl who can’t leave the house, even to go hiking, without my make-up on. All in an attempt to feel lovable.

Because the real issue is the thought that because I am fat I am unworthy of love. That only those that can pull off a bikini or leg baring skirt can be loved. That a man, no matter how God-fearing, won’t love this package I am in. That I will be single until I lose the inches and the pounds.

BUT my worth, your worth is not based on your lack of muffin top. You are lovable because you are YOU. That’s it.

I’m aware that most, if not all, magazines are plastered with tall, skinny models. I don’t find any comfort in knowing that all of them have been photoshopped in some way. Thigh gaps put in later. Hips slimmed. Necks raised and thinned. The picture society paints as beautiful won’t change any time soon.

 

So, what do I do? What do we do?

Well, we keep speaking Truth to our hearts and to others. We cut off the internal dialogue when it starts pointing out our flaws. We speak words of life and beauty to our hearts, instead of words of disgust and disdain. It’s not an easy battle, but one I believe that is worth the fight because you are worth it.

You are lovely. All of you. Every roll, every pimple, every cellulite dimple. You add beauty to our world. Your laugh a unique song. Your smile a ray of light to a dark world. Your eyes sparkling with life. Your hands vehicles of love.

You. are. beautiful.

And you are worthy of love. Just the way you are. Just the size you are.

Take it from John Legend, you are perfectly imperfect.

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The Uncovering: A Memoir (Part 2)

Memoir Part 2

His body was silhouetted by the street lamp on the corner. I couldn’t see his face, but I could see the outlines of his tensed jaw. His voice eerily calm and seeping with rage. His clenched hands remained at his side.

“HOLLY!!! Get. Back. Here.” he yelled.

I stood barefoot in the middle of an unpaved road. My body covered by a thin night gown. Ruffles around the neck and wrist. I stood frozen for a moment. Silent. Shaking.

I turned and ran for the neighbors house. It was late and their house was dark, but my tiny fists pounded heavily upon their door. My mouth could barely form the word “help”, so I kept pounding until I noticed a light come on through the window. The door opened, and I scurried onto the front porch looking for sanctuary.

Moments earlier, I had been laying in my twin bed. Baby dolls and stuffed animals encircling my stiff little body. With each moment their voices got louder and words clearer. The thin adjoining walls did not mask the disagreement. I strained to listen as my heartbeat echoed in my ears. I held my breath to get a better listen. Would they kill each other tonight, I wondered. I repeated the name “Jesus” rapidly, almost inaudibly. It’s all I could get out before I bolted out of bed.

My physical body reacting to the turmoil and chaos in the next room. I’ve got to get help. I’ve got to find safety.

I may have been 5 or 6 years old.

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My neighbors had called the police. By time they arrived, my biological mother had made her way to us. I remember hearing the policeman ask what happened. I don’t remember responding. I sat in the dimly lit kitchen, watching her as she gave the report. I could tell she was angry with me. Her voice nonchalant, as if we’d just had a lovely evening.

We spent the next few days at my grandparents house who lived a few minutes away. We’d be back though. She always went back. The 10-minute car ride from my grandparents’ house to “home” were always done in silence. I’d watch as the familiar scenery passed before my eyes, and I’d whisper this prayer:

“God, I’ll do anything, please don’t make us go back. Please.”

Each return trip, stripped me of more hope. This was going to be the perpetual cycle. A few days, weeks, months of walking on egg shells before someone stepped on a land mine.

I know some of the disputes were my fault, or rather, they were because of me. Knowing this, left me feeling like a burden. I often wondered if I wasn’t there that maybe they’d be happy. Maybe they’d be less stressed about money. Maybe the drinking or partying wouldn’t cause so much strife.

The last fight I was present for was on Christmas Eve. I was 12 years old. I had been making comments about Christmas morning and opening presents and wondering about what I’d be getting from “Santa”. I knew full well there was no Santa (sorry kids!), but was just excited and full of anticipation.

I could tell she was tense.

I took notice, so I went to my room to play Nintendo. I still hadn’t saved Princess Peach, so I thought that might distract me and give my mother some peace. In the kitchen, I could hear my mother talking to my step-father.

“We don’t have any presents for her, J. What are we going to tell her?!”

I knew, even at my young age, that our family had financial troubles. For many reasons, my step-fathers drinking problem was only one of them, there just wasn’t a lot of money. I don’t remember that bothering me much. I always had clothes and food and things like that. Even the expensive FILA basketball sneakers that I needed to have even though I only played basketball in 8th grade and scored a total of 2 points. The only reason I scored those 2 points, is because the other team, realizing they would never win because we were ahead by so many points would toss me the ball. That’s another story though. I just knew that money caused a lot of conflict.

As their conversation got louder and angrier, I began mentally attacking myself. “You’re such an idiot, Holly. Why’d you even bring it up? You’re such a selfish kid. You don’t need presents anyway.”

As my internal dialogue continued, my step father walked into the doorway of my bedroom. I could see he had a cut on his forehead, and was bleeding slightly.

“Look what your mother did to me, Holly.”

The knife now in his hands. My mother still screaming in the kitchen. I didn’t say anything, my face obviously showing shock. As he walked away, I knew I needed to run. Again. The snow was deep that night, reaching my knees. I don’t remember putting on shoes, or boots for that matter, but I do remember how dark and cold it was as I ran down the hill.

At this time, we had been living in the unfinished house my step-father had been building for us. It sat on top of a hill that he had cleared, with his parents house sitting below.

My grandfather was the only one home at the time. We was awake, sitting in his electric recliner. He suffered from MS and was unable to get to me. I yelled in to the living room, letting him know I was there as I called my other grandparents for help.

The rest of the night is a blur, except for a conversation I had with my mother’s father. I was in his living room, only the light of the TV shone as I stared at it replaying the evening in my mind. There was a wooden TV tray table next to the chair I sat in, and my grandfather threw down 6 crisp hundred dollar bills.

“I hope you’re happy,” he said.

My eyes clung to the TV screen. A tear running down my face.

It wasn’t about money. Or presents. Or any of that. More than anything, I longed for some peace. Some silence.

“Silent night. Holy night. All is calm. All is bright.”

Ya. Right.

This was my hell. I fell asleep praying, asking God for a miracle. I guess I got it, because a year later, I was living in a new house with a new family and things were very much full of peace and love.

(To be continued.)

Singleness Perks (An Incomplete List)

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After last week’s post on singleness, you might be thinking that being 30 and single is all bad. Let me assure you, there are some pretty amazing perks to singleness. Sure, I’d really love to have a husband and kiddos to call my own, but for now I’ll enjoy the silver lining that comes with my relationship status.

#10: I only have to wash one person’s laundry.

That’s bad enough! Tuesday is laundry day at my house, which means that I haul my dirty laundry to a nearby laundromat where common drug dealers and wifi leeches gather. Most visits earn me a new best friend. One night it was a guy trying to convince me that someone stole all his clothes from a washer, but somehow it didn’t show up on the security video. Must have been quite the magic trick.

Once my laundry is washed, dried and folded I load it back into my car and take it home. It then promptly sits on my couch until Sunday (at the earliest). Seems like a waste to put it away when I’m just going to be wearing the same underwear, pants and sweatshirt tomorrow. Right?

Speaking of underwear, I only have to wash MY underwear.

#9: I don’t have to share my cheesecake.

There’s a local bakery/cafe that I like to visit every so often. They have the most amazing cupcakes and cheesecake around. On especially nice days, I like to get a slice of their Turtle Cheesecake and sit out on the patio and watch the world pass by. I get to do that without sharing!

I know how motherhood works, generally. I know that food (if not hidden) immediately becomes common property in a house. That means everything yummy gets claimed by grubby little fingers that will take one bite and leave it somewhere to be found by the dog who is grateful for the discovered treasure. Later to be thrown up (by said lucky dog) and cleaned up by Mom who only wished she had gotten to eat that brownie herself.

#8: Throw up, snot & other bodily fluids all belong to me.

This seems pretty self explanatory, but let me paint a picture for you. I was over at a friends house while her kiddo was sick. We just finished dinner and little buddy started one of his coughing fits. He grabbed the nearest garbage pail (really, quite thoughtful of him, I’d say) and handed it to his mom. At which point he threw up, what looked like a FOUNTAIN of vomit into the pail. He felt better, while the rest of us wondered if we too would lose our dinner. That night I had a dream I was swimming in a fountain of vomit. At least for now, the only vomit I’ll be having to clean up is my own. I’m ok with that.

#7: I get to choose where I spend holidays.

There’s no fighting with a significant other about where we’ll have to spend Christmas, Thanksgiving, Mother’s Day or any other holiday. Whether it will be with his parents, or mine, or if we’re going to try and start our own traditions with our kids. I’d like to think that for now, this makes me the favorite child since I can still spend every holiday at my parents house. Although, since I’m not bringing them any grandchildren it’s kind of a toss-up.

#6: I don’t need to clear my schedule with anyone else.

Basically, I do what I want. I come and go as I please. I can take an unplanned trip to see a friend or schedule an impromptu dinner date. I could go to a Midnight showing of a movie if I wanted. But I’d never want to do that because I like to go to bed early.

Although, I would like to clear up a common misconception. I do not have “more time” than someone who is married/ has kids. We all have 24 hours, and my days get filled up with work, meetings, volunteer opportunities, and LIFE just as much as anyone else’s. Please, keep that in mind. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard “You’re single. You’ve got the time to do it.” Oh ya, I forgot. All I do is sit home at night and weave baskets and write sad poetry.

#5: I get the bed all to myself.

I’m sure cuddling has its perks, but there’s nothing quite like being able to sprawl across the width of my bed if I want to. And I do want to, sometimes. It also means I can have 4 pillows on the bed and there’s no one to complain about it. I don’t have to make the bed in the morning because I’ll just be getting back into it later that night. I also don’t have to worry about stopping my “snooze alarm” habit any time soon. I can keep hitting it for an hour and the only person that’s going to get angry is me because it means I actually have to get out of bed now.

#4: The luxury of sleeping in on a Saturday morning.

Like I said, my schedule is of my own making. That means if I want to have a Saturday where I can lay in bed until 11, I can. I don’t have any little feet poking into my kidneys taking up the entire bed.  I don’t have to worry about taking a kiddo to an early morning T-ball game. I can keep my PJ’s on until 3 in the afternoon, and eat pickles for breakfast.

#3: I can eat pickles for breakfast.

I probably wouldn’t eat pickles for breakfast, but I have had cold pizza, chocolate chip cookies or the occasional Terra chip. Don’t judge me. I’m also a fan of breakfast for dinner, but that seems to be a trend that many (smart) families are picking up. Well done, friends.

#2: Shaving my legs is optional.

I get that this may be TMI for some of you, but it’s a perk that can not go unmentioned because its a big deal. Any woman will tell you shaving is a serious pain in the butt. The fact that I can go weeks without shaving my legs without another human being knowing is pretty spectacular. Summer kinda dampens this perk a tad because I try to conform to social norms as much as the next girl. Exposed hairy legs tend to be a turn off for single males.

#1: I don’t have any shame when it comes to celebrity crushes.

I’m never going to meet him. Or marry him. Be it Tom Hardy, Tim Tebow or Matthew McConaughey in “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days”. Seriously though, look at that face:

Someday, and someday SOON I hope, I’ll be trading these perks in for the perks of married life, but for now I’m grateful I can see the positives of this season. It may not be where I thought I’d be at this point in life, but sometimes its not that bad.

What about you? What perks have you found in your singleness? Or maybe, what do you miss most about being single? Comment below.

Forever Alone: The Single Girl Struggle

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Let me be clear about a few things before I get started on this enlightening rant.

I’m not mad/angry/bitter towards well meaning people who try and encourage those of us who are single. I understand that MOST of them were not single as long as some of us have been. So, they don’t understand that we’ve heard the same things many, many, many, many, many times before. Sure, repetition can sometimes be helpful. Like when trying to memorize the colors of bomb wires so you know which ones are safe to cut and which ones aren’t. They also don’t understand that even though cliches are cute, they are seldom helpful.

When it comes to encouragement for the single ones around you, let me let you in on a few things.

Some of us single people feel shame about our singleness. We often wonder what’s wrong with us. Do guys prefer short hair and mine is long? Do guys prefer girls who drive cars without rust spots? Do I not pray enthusiastically enough in public? Should I lose 50-100 pounds because I’m too fat for a boyfriend? Am I too opinionated? Too passionate? Too short?

Not enough.

Too much.

Unworthy.

Insufficient.

Just some of the words or thoughts we struggle with. For some of us it is a daily struggle. Some days I can’t go to a church service, young adult meeting, grocery store, or gas station pump without wondering why I’m single. I’ll look around and wonder how they have someone and I don’t. Ya, sure, I’m judgmental. Add that to the list of reasons why I’m single.

Seriously though. There’s this idea that you must be messed up if your still single. That if you had your crap together you’d be married by now. There’s some sin you haven’t dealt with and your singleness is a punishment from God. Yes, I’ve often thought God withheld a good thing (like a spouse) from me because I wasn’t perfect. Horrible theology, I know, but it seemed like the only viable solution. God hates me, I’d think.

Also, married people tend to think that we have these Hollywood ideas in our head about marriage. No, we know marriage won’t solve any of our problems. We know it won’t be easy. We know its not all hand-holding, giggling and loving eye gazes. We get that some days you struggle with how you could love the person farting in the bed next to you. We get it.

But we want to wake up next to a farting partner, instead of the pillow husband we’ve crafted. That we’d rather get tortured each night with the horrendous “dutch oven” than fall asleep with tears falling down our faces asking God one more time for a mate. (Again, I’ve heard stories. I know there will be tear stained pillows after marriage.)

It’s also not helpful to tell people they’re “too picky”. Listen, I didn’t wait 30 years to marry some schmuck. Sure, he may not be a bearded lumberjack who will sing me love songs and buy we chocolate when I’m being an emotional basket-case, but he’s not going to be just any schmoe. Trust me, I’ve gone on dates with schmoes. It’s horrifying, but the stories lend themselves as warning signs for the teen girls I counsel.

I once heard, “You’ve got to be a Ruth to get a Boaz”. There’s a lot of encouragement that mirrors this sentiment. Please, don’t tell single girls this. Ever. Firstly, the story of Ruth is a tad bit weird. If it were a movie, there’d be wedding bells as the credits scrolled, but God never intended it to be a chapter in the “How to Snag a Mate” book. Besides the fact that its not practical in our society (we don’t follow the Old Testament kinsman redeemer protocal in this century/country)– it was meant to be used as an example of our relationship with God. Secondly, this type of encouragement adds fuel to the “I’m not good enough” fire already raging in our minds.

EVERYONE (single, married, divorced, widowed, etc.) is going through a process of growth in their lives. Hopefully, we are getting more mature, more loving, less selfish and all that good stuff. Saying that there’s some kind of running rubric for my character and that when I get a certain grade THEN I’ll be ready for marriage is….dumb.

Give. Me. A. Break.

I should state here that I’m not saying that married people believe this. What I am saying is that sometimes the things we say can come off a certain way. Like, for instance, that we’ve got our crap together and you don’t. I assure you all, I am not perfect– just in case you thought that or something I said made it seem like I thought that.

And my favorite of all “He’ll come when you stop looking for him.”

NEWS FLASH: That’s not happening. Not today. Or the next.

I don’t know how you just stop wanting something like that. Ask me to stop wanting chocolate, and I think that’d be an easier battle to win. And I’m the girl who eats chocolate everyday. Like its MY JOB.

And define: “looking for”. I mean, I want a husband. I’m certainly open to the possibility of going on a date with the guy helping me at Verizon. Or contemplating stopping my car in the middle of an intersection because I saw a bearded fella, wearing a red flannel shirt riding a motorcycle (This thought did actually go through my mind). But I’m not at home every night staring out my window longingly with a can of Nutella in one hand and a spoon in the other. Ok, SOME nights I do have a heaping spoon of Nutella, but I’m never starring out the window at the same time. 😉 I’m still living life. I’m still enjoying my friends, my family, the opportunities I get to serve. I just also want someone standing next to me and enjoying it all with me.

I’m also not looking for a man to complete me. I am looking for a life partner because life seems more FUN when you’re experiencing it with someone you love.

I guess I should leave all the single people reading this with some encouragement. A few weeks ago my (married) BFF sent this to me. In all my years of hearing all the cliches, Bible verses, etc. this has been the thing that has brought more life and hope than anything else.

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P.S. If you happen to be a single, bearded, flannel wearing gentleman then look no further! I’m witty (obviously), I ‘m a brilliant writer (again, obviously) and I’m pretty good lookin’.

**Disclaimer: This is NOT a complete list of lines I’ve heard in my singleness journey, but I thought that was enough for now. Maybe a Part 2 some other time. **

I don’t love people.

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I don’t love people.

I mean, I know Jesus tells me to love my neighbor and I DO. I mean my neighbor on the one side is a guy who keeps his lawn mowed and even helps shovel my driveway in the winter. The other side, is a church and most of the time its empty. So, that was easy.

What? My neighbor means EVERYONE? Uh, that’s a little ridiculous. I mean, there are a lot of idiots out there. And you’re telling me I have to love them?

I prefer to love people who treat me well. Or in the very least, can be titled a “good person”. It’s easy to love people who we deem lovable.

But then there’s the not so lovable people.

Like the guy who rejected me because I wasn’t a size 6 (Or because I had opinions. Possibly a mix of both). Or the person who has corrected my grammar on FB about 5 different times now (Seriously, I’m not writing a novel, people). Or the person who’s been nasty to my bestie (don’t mess with my BFF). Or the person who sped up in the slow lane so I couldn’t pass them on the highway (HELLLLLOOOOO! I’m trying to pass you!) Or the person who looked at me sideways in the grocery story (Do I have something on my FACE?!).

By now, you must think I’m just a miserable, nasty person. Maybe that’s true, or maybe I’m just being honest.

I want to love people. I’m just honest about the struggle. Most days I don’t love people. I’ve spent most of my life hand selecting those I’ll love and those I won’t. It’s an arduous process for sure, but it seemed necessary. In doing so, I put a ticket booth at the gate of my heart.

“Got a ticket?”

“Nope.” Hands showing empty pockets.

“Sorry, Charlie. Move along.”

The issue then becomes, not that I’m not loving certain people, but that I’ve taken on the job as ticket collector. I’m the one calling the shots. There’s a better way. And, dare I say, MORE fun.

When I let Jesus run the ticket booth, I’ve got more time for the Merry-Go-Round and the fried Oreos (Try them once before you die). I’m no longer deciding who gets in, but enjoying those who get to join me on the adventure. Sure, there’ll be an idiot along the way, yelling and holding a sign that reads “God hates fags”. But maybe, just MAYBE, Jesus let him in too so he could see there’s more to life than hate and sign waving. Maybe it’ll take me loving him that will convince him to put his sign down. Probably not, but what if that’s all it took.

Love invites. It’s not saying I approve of your actions, but I love you despite them. That’s what’s so striking about Jesus. He loves flawed, ignorant, selfish people and it’s that kind of love that changes hearts. You’ll never overcome hate with more hate.

“The way we love each other is still the best proof that Jesus is alive. Who we are says a lot about who He is.” Bob Goff

 

The Uncovering: A Memoir (Part 1)

The Uncovering Part 1

Your story is the key that can unlock a person’s prison. Share your testimony.

-Unknown

Most people don’t know much about my childhood. That has been by design. Very few people have been allowed into that darkness because I have locked it up and buried it away. It’s not a pretty sight. People, in general, don’t like things that are ugly or awkward or difficult. They will quickly avert their eyes and keep walking. I’m no different. Pain comes with remembering and I don’t like to hurt.

I’ve been tight lipped for years fearing that if I voiced my disappointments, struggles, memories that someone would come along and tell me that I didn’t have a right to feel the way I did. That fear materialized a few weeks ago, on an early Saturday morning. After 7 years of silence, I heard my biological mother’s voice on the other end of the phone telling me how I “over-dramatized” my childhood. That things really weren’t that bad and that I was just a selfish kid.

I’m not trying to make myself out to be a martyr, or her a villain. I just want the freedom to express in hopes that in these words there will be freedom for my own soul and possibly for yours too. There are more prison cells to unlock, more memories to shine light on and it is my intention to do just that.

Many of my memories are triggered by an event, a smell, a voice. This past week, the bible school I attended, held its graduation ceremony. Looking at pictures of cap and gowned friends, instantly transported me back to that same event, 9 years earlier. The morning of I got ready with friends while my heart raced with anxiety knowing both my biological mother, her boyfriend and my step-dad would be in the same room at the same time.

The last time this group gathered was at my high school graduation. At one point it had me escaping from my own party to hide in my sister’s room to cry. My step-father had arrived at the ceremony with the stench of beer on his breath. This should have been no surprise since he drank all day, everyday for as long as I had known him. He refused to stay for my party because of others who would be in attendance. The others, included his ex-wife and her boyfriend. Things would have turned explosive if he hadn’t retreated. He not only drank, but without warning would transform from the life of the party into an angry, abusive, scary man. My biological mother lavished me with expensive gifts in an attempt to make up for our lack in relationship. At 17, I remember feeling sorry for her. She thought my love could be bought. At this moment, I was her shining achievement. Those feelings were book ended with me being the shittiest most ungrateful daughter– so it was difficult to enjoy “the moment”.

I had been determined that my college graduation would be different. That there was something amazing to celebrate. Three years of working two jobs and endless nights of studying now behind me and exciting new adventures on the horizon.

My class gathered in the hallway of the church where our ceremony would take place. Just us, together, one last time. My eyes filled to the brim with tears, not because of joy and excited anticipation, but because I was afraid. My heart was frail and I feared the conversations and conflict I knew were going to take place. My mom (the woman who took me in at 13 to raise as her own) came and found me. Somehow she just knew I was in turmoil and that at that very moment I needed her love and her hug. I was standing in a small huddle of friends, taking pictures when I saw her walk through the closed double doors. My heart gave a heavy sigh of relief, as the tears flowed. For the moment, I was at peace.

She hugged and kissed me, whispering in my ear about how proud she was of me and how much she loved me. We snapped a picture and she went back to the auditorium and I went back to my friends.

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The day progressed the way I knew it would. My step-father showed up late and watched the graduation ceremony from the sanctuary doorway. He hugged me as the class processional passed him. After which, he retreated to his girlfriend, his truck and a nearby steak restaurant. My biological mother played her usual part as manipulator and gave the day a familiar shade of shame. This accomplishment of mine seemed like a waste to her and my next-step plans didn’t sit well with her, either. Her slyly veiled jabs winded me, but I was able to endure like I had so many times before– with a tightly shut lip and a look of resignation.

I’ve journeyed on in silence. Resolved that maybe my silence would make me a better daughter. That silence would make me less of a disappointment. That silence would make me less disgusting in their eyes. Less repulsive. But my silence has kept the poison bottled in side of me and its time to flush it out.

(To be continued.)