Friday, April 29, 2022

He ain't heavy.

 On February 16th my brother, my only brother, took his own life.

That seems like enough to say, and yet not enough at all.

The past few years have been so heavy with fear and loneliness, but this is next level. I can't even begin to describe the void in my soul. He was so broken and so beautiful. 

The broken people are always the most beautiful, aren't they?

My brother was an addict. I am certain this is the first time I'm typing this here, but this is reality. Every dark, secret shame he had is now laid bare. Every dark secret I kept for him was worthless. Pointless.  He was an addict. For many years I was so terrified he would overdose...that the drugs would take his life. The reality was worse. So much worse. I can't think too much about his last day on Earth. It takes my breath when I think about it. When I think about how lonely and sad and scared he must have been...I almost can't fathom it. 

It hurts.

I don't know if it will ever not hurt.

I have tried, in the last 73 days, to be okay again. I have worked. I went to my workouts. I taught my Zumba classes (oh, hey, I'm a Zumba instructor now. By the way). I laughed with my kids. I did my laundry, I cleaned my toilets, I fed my dog, I bought my groceries. 

I sat in my car and screamed until I was hoarse. I have cried so many tears I could fill up an ocean. I have a horse sitting on my chest twenty-four hours a day. I have sat in meetings and not heard a word that was being said. I have said the words "My brother took his own life" more times than should be necessary in one lifetime.

I have seen things I should have never had to see. There is something so horribly messed up about seeing your brother, lifeless in a cardboard box. My hand shook so hard when I signed his death certificate that I'm positive no one could read my signature. There have been moments that I stopped and reflected on the things I've done over the past few months and those moments have knocked the wind out of me. There are no words. Just sorrow. Just deep, unrelenting sorrow.


My brother was an addict. He suffered with bi-polar disorder. He took his own life. 


My brother was beautiful. He was funny. He was kind. He made me laugh more than anyone else on this Earth. He was sweet. In the last few years especially he was the person I told all of my secrets to. He was the person I could trust more than anyone else. I told him things I've never told my sisters, never told our parents. He was my confidante and my friend and I loved him.


I knew he was an addict.

I knew he was broken.

I loved him.


That's what love is, I think. I saw the addiction. It scared me sometimes. I saw the mental illness. That scared me less, honestly, but sometimes that scared me too.

I understood it though. I understood him in ways I wish I didn't. 


I understand depression. I understand it deeply. Intimately. It slowly, dangerously dances with me most every day of my life. I go to work and I go to my workouts and I teach my dance class and I laugh with my friends and I smile and I look totally normal and fine and meanwhile inside I feel like I am worthless and pathetic and  an idiot and sad and that no one could ever possibly love me.

That's what depression looks like for me. It has been my constant companion as long as I can remember. I've tried to break up with that bitch for years, but she's still here so I've learned to live with her. I've learned to call her a liar and ignore her when I can, but she's always, always here. I have trouble believing I am worthy of love and respect. There is a constant inner monologue in my soul that tells me YOU AREN'T GOOD ENOUGH AND YOU WILL NEVER BE GOOD ENOUGH. 

Some days I believe it. Some days I don't. Either way, it's always there.

I get addiction too. People are sometimes surprised that a fully grown-ass woman does not drink alcohol, but I don't. I won't. Because I know if I did, I would be an alcoholic. That's just the truth and I'm not trying to be dramatic. I would be an alcoholic.

I know I was...I am, I guess, a food addict. One does not get to a place in their life where they need to lose 200 pounds without being a food addict. For me it was sugar and carbs. One hit and everything is okay again. I know how  this sounds, but seriously. Something in my brain wanted that all. the. time. People think I'm extreme that I gave up sugar and stopped eating carbs, but I knew it was going to kill me. That's not hyperbole. I was afraid I would die young and not see my children grow up and that was that. I have an addict brain and I always have. I always will. I'm an addict without a drug of choice. 

It's not the same, you might say, and you are right. It's not the same. It's why I stay away from things though, because I know how easy it would be to slip into that world and never come back. 

I know I am broken. My brain is broken. I've known that for many years.

I know my brother was broken. I think he always was.

We were broken together. It was the two of us. After a while he couldn't hide his messiness anymore and I have (thus far) been able to keep mine under wraps pretty well, but it didn't matter. We understood each other. I knew who he was, or at least most of it. I loved him anyway. He saw my depression. I talked to him for a long time about my loneliness. I told him my fears. He understood. He understood more than I ever realized.

I feel like an orphan. 

I feel like I don't belong in the world anymore.

I don't know what my place in my family is anymore.

It's all terrible. Honestly, it's all just so terrible.

I miss him. I miss him so, so much.

Friday, December 24, 2021

Christmas wishes

I wish every single child on Earth could wake up and experience the magic of Christmas. That every single child was loved and wanted and respected. That no children goes to bed hungry tonight or any night. That every child everywhere has the opportunity to grow and learn and have whatever life they want to have.

 I wish we had this house when Jonathan and Megan were small. I can imagine them running down the stairs to the fireplace- a real fireplace instead of the stockings hanging on the t.v. stand. Not that we have a need for a real fireplace in Eastern North Carolina, but still. They are almost 24 now and there are so many things I wish I could take back. So many things I wish I had done better. So many things I wish I could fix.

I wish Ginger was still alive. I miss her so much my heart aches sometimes, even though it's been nearly two years since she left us. How can it be almost two years already?

Oh yeah.

I wish this damn pandemic was over. I wish things could go back to the before times.

I kind of wish that. Not exactly because a lot of the before times was also terrible. 

I just wish.

I wish that I didn't struggle so much with my body. I wish I didn't have to convince myself every single day that there is something redeeming in who I am. That my weight, whatever the number on the scale, doesn't define me. I wish I didn't struggle with food and eating. I wish I didn't feel like I have to work out three times a day.

I wish I didn't feel like I have to do everything all the time. Like I constantly have to prove myself. Like if I ever, ever stop then someone will figure out that I don't belong and kick me out.

I wish I wasn't so scared of the wolf at the door. I wish I didn't live in constant fear of the next domino falling and everything coming apart.

I wish my husband didn't have epilepsy. I wish he'd never had a brain injury. I wish I didn't feel him slipping away sometimes. I hate it. I hate it so much. Even though our marriage has evolved into something really lovely, sometimes I really miss who he used to be.

I wish I could go back sometimes. 

I wish I didn't want to go back. I wish I could trust myself to change the outcomes if I did. 

I wish I could tell five year-old Stephanie and twenty year-old Stephanie that life would get better. That the hard times don't last. That there will be people, maybe only a few but people, actual live, real people who do love you. Maybe if I could tell five year-old and twenty year-old Stephanie then 46 year-old Stephanie wouldn't still find it hard to believe.

I wish.

I wish there wasn't so much hate in the world. I wish the vast amount of conspiracy and misinformation that is turning families against each other didn't exist. I wish people who claim to be followers of Christ and outwardly shout hate and discontent and cruelty would just stop. 

I wish I wasn't so lonely. I wish it wasn't so hard for me to be myself. I wish everyone could know the me who does elaborate dance routines in the privacy of her living room, with only the dog as an audience as much as I wish people could know the vulnerable woman who sometimes sits in her car and wails in anguish at how damn hard everything is before drying her eyes, walking inside, and getting every hard thing done. I wish I didn't have so much absolute fear of what people would think or do if they knew the real me. I wish I didn't have so much confirmation of how much people hate the real me.

I wish addiction wasn't a thing.

I wish my son would find a woman who loves history (and talking about history) as much as he does.

I wish my daughter could find a full-time job.

I wish America could get it's proverbial shit together. I wish there wasn't so much hate and division and stupidity. I wish every teenager, every police officer, and everyone serving the country could come home safe tonight. 

I wish people would learn to listen. I wish people would stop thinking anyone gives a shit about whether or not Santa Claus is a man or woman or what Dr. Seuss books were pulled off the shelf and start talking about things that actually matter like children not having a decent education or food to eat or a stable home to live in. Like people in jail forever for minor drug offenses and people who have money buying their way out of jail no matter how many crimes they commit. I wish everyone could feel loved and seen and heard and valued. I wish people talked about what matters instead of yelling about nonsense.

I wish I could find the peace I only find when I'm walking in the woods, talking to Jesus. 

I wish I knew what was so awful and horrible and repugnant about me that people in my family and people that I considered good friends decided that I wasn't worth talking to anymore. I still have no idea what I did wrong. Maybe it doesn't matter- maybe I just don't even need to know. It does hurt though, and I wish it didn't.

I wish you love and peace and grace and wisdom. Today and always.

I wish.

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Life update or whatever I guess.

 I don't know who I am anymore.

How many times have I said that over the years? I don't know. Hundreds? For sure. Thousands? Maybe. 

Yet here I am again.


The loneliness is overwhelming sometimes.  Oppressive.  The last 18 months have genuinely been the hardest of my life. I don't say that lightly, and if you are a long-time reader you know I have been through some serious shit in my life. I won't rehash it all here, but it's a lot. A lot. 

This year (emotionally) topped them all. In a bad, bad way.

I just want to feel okay. I just want a break. I just want someone to take care of me, just for a little while.There is so much responsibility in my life, every single day, and it's so exhausting. I don't know.


I just turned 46 and I am not who I was when I was 20. I am not who I was when I was 40.  I'm not even who I was when I was 45.


Honestly? It's terrifying.  I hate it.


Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Every heart has a rhythm

 He has been to Hell and back; over and over.

More times than any one man should.

It is nothing. Nothing to him.

Death is nothing.

He has died over and over. A little boy who saw too much and felt too much. Who fell. Bruised and broken.

Head down on concrete. Shattered.

Gun down his neck, across his forehead. Purple and red. What could have happened next? I cannot bear to think of it. I wake up in the night sometimes drenched in cold sweat at the thought of that gun. The gun that shattered his nose and every bone in his face. The gun that could have ended his life.

There are so many scars on his body. So many scars on his heart.

So much is lost. He will never get back these memories. He will forget the beautiful experiences we have. I will be a stranger, sooner rather than later.



He survived. Again and again.

He changed me.

He saved me.                                                                                                                                       

You have a purpose, I tell him. There is a greater plan for your life. You are a fighter. You are immeasurably strong.

What if, he asks, this is the plan?


You and me. Coffee dates in the car. Kissing in the pool. Long talks and quiet hikes. Cooking dinner together.

Laughing. So much laughing.

What if what I am meant for is this and this alone? This ordinary, beautiful life.

If so, that is okay. I know this.

Sometimes I think this too, I say. That maybe his purpose was to love me. To make me whole. To help me recognize who exactly I was meant to be.

I bite my tongue. It sounds so selfish. It sounds so vain.

Who am I, anyway? I am no one. I am insignificant. I never mattered before. I never knew my worth before him. Before he held up the big, beautiful mirror that is his heart and said, see? See how worthy it is? See how you were meant to fit with me? See how we are two souls made of the same magic?

I was only the remains of all who have loved and broken me. I was only this until I knew him.

He is quiet, as he often is.

Thank you, he says, for saving me.

Monday, June 14, 2021

The ultimate deadlifter

 Nearly every week of my life, Monday through Friday, I go to Bootcamp. If you had told me 10 years ago that I would go to Bootcamp every day, and voluntarily pay for someone to put me through the toughest workouts I've ever done I would have laughed in your entire face, but here we are. I really love how we grow and change. I really love how we are not meant to be stagnant as people. I really love jumping up on boxes and slamming down heavy ropes. I love Bootcamp. I do.

On Sunday my Bootcamp is closed and on Saturday they only offer a couple of sessions and those are generally pretty early in the morning so on those days I go to my other gym. My $10 a month gym that has a bad reputation because of Tootsie Rolls.  

I also love this gym. 

I was thinking about why I love it, as I was walking in two Sundays ago. There was a small car  backed into a space close to the building (I'm not good with cars, but I think it was a Toyota Corolla or something similar), Every door of the car was open and they were playing music so loudly that I could hear it  before I even opened my car door. I park pretty far away too.

This isn't unusual I guess. Lots of people play really loud music. This music, however, was praise music. Really loud WE LOVE JESUS SO BAD kind of music. Someone in the car was shouting. It didn't sound like mean or angry shouting. It sounded like worship.

I walked over to the car (side note, Jason would absolutely kill me for admitting this, because he thinks I'm not careful enough. I try to tell him that I grew up in East Tennessee and it's completely my nature to stop by the side of the road and say, "Are y'all alright?" if I see anything out of the ordinary, but to no avail. He lost his mind when I got between a man who was loudly angry screaming at a woman one day in the parking lot at Wal-Mart, but that's another story for another day) and before I could say anything the man who was sitting in the drivers seat shouted, "GOOD MORNING! PRAISE JESUS!"

So I said, "The boot of your car is open". As you do.


I am not kidding when I say there were approximately ten people in this Toyota. Praising Jesus. They came into the gym later and all got swole or whatever. 

Praise the Lord and pass the weights. 

I like it.


There was a woman on one of the treadmills recently wearing  a dashiki. I know it was a dashiki because I was afraid it was going to get caught in the treadmill so I touched her shoulder and told her. I also told her her dress was beautiful and she told me it wasn't a dress, it was a dashiki. I didn't know that. 

 She was lovely.


Blue jeans guy was there this weekend. He wears jeans on the treadmill, sometimes Haggar slacks. He wears loafers, not sneakers. He has a fanny pack. Sometimes during his power walk, he pauses his treadmill and pulls a protein bar out of his fanny pack. 

He seems nice.

There are still a lot of men at the gym who try to hit on me. There are a lot of women who give me looks. There is legitimately someone who runs up and down the aisles, literally right next to the actual treadmills. 

There is also a girl who works at the counter, who nearly teared up when I came in one day wearing a t-shirt that said, "Protect, support, and believe in black women". There was a lady checking in one day at the same time as me who told me  I was perfect and that she wanted to look just like me. Most people wipe their equipment down. Most people ask if you need help if you are doing something wrong. Most people would touch your shoulder if they were afraid your dashiki was going to get caught in your machine.


I don't know. It's not that deep. It's just life. The guy eating the protein bar on the treadmill is just doing his best, just like the rest of us.   I check my watch to make sure I've burned the calories I wanted to burn.  That guy might be making sure his blood sugar doesn't get low. The older ladies who walk super slow are probably just really proud they are walking at all (as they should be, I hope I get to be that old). No matter where we are, we can try. We can do a little more. That's all it is. It's a simple and as complex as that.

Yesterday, I walked past the praise car again. No one was in the trunk this time.

"Good morning," I said.




I just think it's beautiful. Weirdly, oddly, and sweatily beautiful.