Dear Idina Menzel,
It's been a pleasure touring with you. Glad we picked the same spots!
Dear Summer of Dreams,
I still haven't wrapped my head around all you've given me--but I feel like the luckiest girl in the world!
There's no 'me' in 'cactus.'
Dear Portland Farm Party,
He spun me around until the banjo stuck to the hairs on the back of my neck and the twinkle lights danced on their own.
I'm learning that you get to be unconditional. You get to fall and cry and kick and scream but still be just as strong.
Dear Gordan Ramsay,
I want a white apron.
Dear Voodoo Donuts,
You were full of jam and you didn't tell me.
Dear Blackberry picker,
You say "Anyone who is depressed should pick and eat their own blackberries and they won't be depressed anymore." You're better than blackberries. And I pick you!
Dear Space 'Nerdle,'
"Pick me, choose me, love me."
Dear Cinnamon Tea,
All we see is sky.
Dear Giant Mugs,
The bigger the better. Like Texas (except I found you in New Orleans)!
You were the hook to the worst song at the open mic (but that was someone else's mama) YOU are what I want to be when I grown up. You is kind, you is smart, you is important.
Dear New York,
Guess who's back.
When we planned our makeshift tour; organized venues, stays, gas...there were so many elements left unconsidered.
We had discussed Disneyland--my one true caveat for spending a summer on the road--and gigs. I kept my fingers crossed that we'd make it to Oregon by the eclipse; packed multiple face-soaps and deodorants. We printed itineraries, added every venture onto Pinterest boards, found the top 50 donuts in 50 states...it all felt as well-conceived as a brand new thing can be.
And, after we played our first show in North Carolina, under the light of fireflies and an orchestra of crickets, I knew we were doing the right thing. From jam sessions in Atlanta to rehearsals in Nashville; to cover-shows in Austin to San Diego nights where the people danced and bought shirts, and believed in the words coming out of our mouths. That stuff's the thing of magic--and being a part of something so vulnerable has been such a gift.
We stayed in AirB&Bs which was another level of vulnerability; living in other people's homes--other people willing to share them. People never ceased to amaze us with their kindness and generosity.
That was until we left our car for fifteen minutes in San Francisco and returned to a shattered window, a missing guitar, missing bags, missing parts.
There is no point recounting the night, the morning; precariously moving glass to look under seats, hoping something fell and was not stolen. Staring but hardly seeing. Calling for help and hearing that people do not come to the rescue here.
This is nothing compared to floods or hurricanes; to marches, to car crashes, to bombings--but this moment began to overshadow the heart of our adventure--the people we had met and the shows we had played--it was all eclipsed by a darkness we never saw coming.
It was not a tragedy, in the way we have taught ourselves the word, off dirty newspapers and smudged screens, but it is a lesson in the opposite of kindness. And from the hands of someone else's sickness, I jokingly say it was a loss of innocence (but that doesn't make it any less true). Whatever parts of myself still believed in the the golden rule-- tarnished.
The next morning I woke up one eyeball at a time, squinting through the truth until it felt like a nightmare. But it was real. We waited for the glass to be fixed--we filed forms with people who had washed their hands before we walked into the room. It felt like a dead-end.
But we drove onward. And on our next stop, we were confronted by generosity that topped what we had seen before, a ten-fold. We borrowed instruments and played into the night, in the backyard of the people we were staying with, surrounded by bushels of blackberries, grape-filled vines, and the kindness of strangers.
After our pit-stop, we drove on to the eclipse.
The funny thing about an eclipse is that, unless you find yourself directly in the path of totality, the sun never fully goes away. Without glasses, though it may turn the world into Sepia tones, there is still a sun. And a person in too much of a hurry, with a stock meeting or a speech to memorize, or a girlfriend his parents are meeting for the first time, might miss the eclipse altogether. Because just as quickly as the sun disappears, it pokes its rays out as if to say, 'See, I'm not going anywhere.'
We pick ourselves up and it sucks and it's hard and, so often it is so unnecessary, but I have to keep reminding myself that the world is more than a single person: more than me, more than the person who broke the window and stole what was not his, more than the kindness of strangers; the heartbreak of a hurricane, the sadness of a storm.
And when my heart goes dark, confused by another's actions, it's a comfort to know that, as quickly as the shadows fell, there's always a light somewhere (as long as you are receptive to it) saying, "See, I'm not going anywhere."
My life has been a series of self-consciousness.
I was in a dance class when I was four. Our show costume was this bright pink tutu and, even though that bubblegum pink color was my favorite, I dropped out the morning of the show because I looked like a huge bubble in the costume and I was embarrassed, even then. Innocence bubble popped.
My mom tells this funny story about a birthday party, when I was still young enough to count on one hand, where someones mother found me underneath a table eating a bowl of candy by myself. I started hiding food at a very young age, convinced—if no one saw it—I didn’t have to own it. There would be no shame in food that no one else could quantify.
I went from under-tables to behind closed doors. Eating in hiding, not eating at all; binging, purging…people often compare food to control but, for me, it was secrecy. I was proud when I was empty. When my stomach churned and grumbled, it was rerecording the voices in my head. My father’s go-to line, you ate yesterday, when I’d skewer salad onto my fork.
I spent summers throwing up in the bathroom, to feel good in a bathing suit. School years drinking water and sucking on pretzels for food. Or eating a meal a day, only when someone was looking. Wrapping my thumb and middle finger around my wrists—feeling for bones, to feel small enough to be good enough.
In college I only felt beautiful when I was still hungry. I let my eyes dull, my hair unravel, my nails brittle. When I grew jealous or afraid I was not enough, I would exercise harder, eat less. Spend summers watching other people eat. Exercising hours for carrots; burpees until I couldn’t see straight.
I went to dance calls and left in tears, spilling my shame into the toilet; four years old, again, only now I felt like an elephant: clunky, too-big, too-wrong. I modified my life to fit into my mindset. I would never be thin enough or beautiful enough. I would never be able to dance.
I started teaching, tiny. But the more stressed I became the more I turned to food. And the more I saw how my opinion mattered, the more I remembered who I had been in high school and what I had needed to hear. So I bought kale and broccoli and enough vegetables to start a small farm. I decided, if I was going to teach by example, I couldn’t just teach kindness and passion and words—I had to live by them. I had to treat myself with the kindness I hoped they would; nourish myself to nourish them.
This summer, we’ve been traveling. We spend days exploring new states and people and nights playing shows in bars and coffee shops and places i’ve never heard of but am so grateful exist. I keep reminding myself that food is important. I have decided to eat donuts in every state and compare them. I spend hours making lists of places we have to see, and restaurants we shouldn’t miss. Convincing myself that, if I think it’s fun, I’ll be okay. So I’m eating and letting food anchor me to moments, to people, to life. But that doesn’t make it easy. I’ve started avoiding mirrors—I run in place. I keep food down. And I promise myself I’ll get back to a routine and be fine. We hike and I want to push myself further. I’m always too close to the edge.
This is me in a bathing suit: after bbq in Texas, biscuits in North Carolina, Purple Drank in New Orleans, tacos in Tucson, hummus in Nashville, Eggs Benedict in DC, fried chicken in Atlanta---and donuts everywhere. I’m not comfortable with the way it looks. But I’m learning to be proud of my body. I’m sharing to own it. To beat shame. To turn guilt into gratitude; you ate yesterday into what will you do today?
This is Me:
My name's Melissa. I'm the girl with her hands in her journal. Married to my best friend and planning a lifetime of adventure!