Hope 2012: A Blog Relay

Update: Friday, August 10: At last count there are 81 posts in HOPE 2012, and at least 196 people invited. I’m scheduling closing ceremonies for Monday, August 13, so there’s still time to write if you want to! Go write, you crazy people! Write!

The Olympics are starting today! Or, at least, all the Olympic fanfare starts today. Something Olympic and big is starting in some fashion today. That’s what I know. (I may not be an expert.) At any rate, hoorah for whatever exciting thing is happening today!

Yesterday while I was on my run, whilst thinking about the Olympics, I had this idea that I instantly fell in love with, which I then thrust on several other talented bloggers, proving that while I still completely hate exercise (sorry guy that told me I have a bad attitude), it isn’t totally useless. So, here’s my idea:

Hope 2012: A blog relay

A blog relay! Themed! Like the Olympics! (Yes, I know I’m both being obscenely nerdy and overusing exclamation points.)

So here’s the thing. I’m going to blog about hope, and I asked a bunch of fabulous, diverse, wonderful people to do the same. Then, they’re going to ask people to do the same. And then they’re going to…you get the idea. And just like in a relay race, we’ll go farther and faster than we could if we were doing it alone. Hope, in its beautiful, strange, unexpected and stalwart forms will be noted. Documented. Acknowledged. Appreciated.

I can’t wait to hear all the stories, perspectives, wisdom, and wit that is going to ooze straight out of these posts like that energy goop straight out of its space-age pouch. Hold on to your freaking hats, people. It’s going to be great.

Keep an eye on this post and the blogs listed at the bottom for more hope-filled goodness. And if you want to join in—do it! You can snag the little graphic if you want, too! Go to town, spread some hope, and have an awesome freaking day. In a couple of weeks I’ll post the “closing ceremonies” (more nerdery, I know), highlighting bits and pieces of all the HOPE 2012 posts that I can find.

So. Excited.

Without further ado, here’s my contribution to HOPE 2012

So, of course, predictably, after I came up with this snazzy idea for a hope relay and talked a bunch of people into it, my mind snapped its vicious little jaws on any shred of enthusiasm and inspiration it found laying around. “Oh, look!” it said, “there’s some hope…” *squeeeeesh* “That’s better. Continue.” And as charming as that is, it’s not entirely helpful. So, after a lot of anxiety-producing brainstorming, I’ve come up with the thought that makes me most hopeful for my future. Here it is:

It’s okay to fail.

It’s A-O-K to suck. To be wrong. To have everyone in a 5 mile radius turn to you in one accord and say, “…boo.” It’s totally and completely fine.

Now, for those of you out there that didn’t come out of your childhood with an angry but witty inner voice latched on to you like a rabid monkey, this might sound like common sense. But for some—myself included—this is a radical thought. This is revolutionary. This is sacrilege.

See, the anal-retentive perfectionist soul requires a daily sacrifice of self-worth. If you’ve done something good, something decent, something okay, the perfectionist soul requires that you bundle it up and set it aflame as penance for the fact that someone, somewhere, is better than you. That’s the requirement when you’re doing well. Imagine the price to pay if you’re wrong, or last, or embarrassingly terrible; it’s high and swiftly collected.

I think the real driving force behind my fear of failure is a fear of rejection. I read an article over at Lifehacker recently that talked about how rejection has a powerful effect on us, even resulting in something that, to the brain, is almost like physical pain. No wonder we fear it. But, as the article suggests, the solution isn’t avoidance, it’s embrace. It’s building up immunity. Building up resistance. Taking away the power of the pain. (They suggest playing a game in which you aim to get rejected once a day, which I think is hilarious. Maybe I’ll do that once I stop feeling like a scaredy cat.)

And here’s the thing that I keep thinking about: so I do something really sucky and stupid and everyone looks at me like I’m a Klingon for a second; then what? Who cares? Is anyone going to stab me in the gut with a javelin? Is the government going to repossess all of my belongings for writing a bad blog post, or getting a script rejected a thousand times, or forgetting important birthdays? No. And I think the simple reason behind it is that no one cares as much about what I’m doing as I do. In my mind, the process of me failing starts with people saying, “She’s terrible,” and ends with them saying, “let’s murder her in the alley.” When in reality, it’s more like, “She’s terrible. Ooohh…nachos!”

And just like that, me and my failure are forgotten by the light of neon yellow, cheese-flavored goo. No big deal.

The idea that it’s okay to be wrong gives me hope for a day when I don’t feel the need to dash myself on the rocks of self-hatred. Maybe I can just do things I like—things that inspire me—and not be fettered by the fact that I’m not the best. And—not to always talk about my kid, but those little buggers sure do make you think twice—maybe my daughter won’t absorb my crippling dysfunction and she’ll actually feel kinda okay about herself. She’ll try, and fail, and try, and fail, and get some freakin’ nachos.

And here’s the real amazing, frighteningly hopeful thought: what would I do with myself if I wasn’t so freaking scared all the time? What would I try? What would I embrace? What would I learn? Who would I meet? So many roads in my life are off limits, guarded by a big, smelly, hairy fear ogre. If the ogre’s gone, it’d be an entirely different voyage.

So that’s what I say. There is hope. Push that ugly fear ogre out of your way and go fail your pants off. Let’s do it together.

(Let’s do failing together, not “doing it” together. Ugh. That’s a terrible ending. *shrug* Who cares?)

Passing the Baton

Ready for more hope? Keep your eye out for these folks:

Jerrod at Never Had One Lesson

Cancer never looked more evil than it did last Saturday when it covered an 8-year-old.

As I watched him, all I could think about was the opposite of hope. Despair was the only thing my mind was concerned with. The typical “how could this happen” and “but he’s just a kid” thoughts were all I could think about. Then it hit me. [Read the full post]

Amy at Reams Photo

…Let everything happen to you: beauty and dread… [Click here for Amy’s post featuring hope expressed through photography and a perfectly fitting poem from Rainer Maria Rilke.]

Denise at Victory Road

Matt at The Church-State Guy

…thinking of hope made me remember what initially made me passionate about the church/state relationship in the first place: I saw people who navigated it well, with grace, and candor, and integrity. That’s seriously hopeful stuff. [Read the full post]

Todd at ToddAndrewClayton.com

Kristen Mae at Abandoning Pretense

From the second I started thinking about hope, my thoughts were clouded with this fearful cynicism; but after contemplating the subject over these last few days, I see that my fears are merely the flip-side of my hopes; that one almost can’t exist without the other. [Read the full post]

Jenn and Casey at So This Is Love

She is little.

Too little to know what she knows of the world.

The neglect of her parents. The failure of a system that is supposed to protect her.

Bruises that have healed from her skin, but remain in her heart.

She folds herself into a chair, pulling her knees close to her. Protection. Defense. Knobby-kneed line in the sand. [Read the full post]

Hope 2012: A Blog Relay

What Happens When a LOT of People Read Your Blog

Photo By vic.bergmann @ Flickr

Okay, so…if you didn’t catch all the hubbub, last week I found myself and this little piece on Freshly Pressed. They say that it’s “the best of 382,958 bloggers [&] 1,052,405 new posts.” And a LOT of people subscribe to, and read Freshly Pressed.

It’s kinda like getting high fived in the face by two thousand strangers, with a hammer.

I mean, it’s good, right? Like, high fiving is a feel-good activity, but this—this is INTENSE. I mean—whoa.

There’s me…lookin’ all normal like it’s NBD.

So, when I came back to my trusty little computer after a morning at the zoo with the kid (who told me that the bonobo had a “crazy butt.” She’s two. She’s not wrong.) and discovered a billion WordPress notifications, I knew something was up. So I checked my Freshly Pressed feed, and there I was. Me. Lookin’ all normal like I belonged there. At which point, I was entering Crazytown. Population: me and, like, 2200 other people.

Of course I didn’t hyperventilate a little. Come now; I’m an adult. And of course I didn’t start criticizing myself, wishing I had updated this, and spruced up that, and thinking about how surely someone would get upset at my fledgling feminism and wag their finger at me, and how I’d have to apologize for…I dunno…something… *pant, pant, pant*

And this got me thinking about Brené Brown again, probably because I love her so much and want to hug her (which is inappropriate from strangers, ya’ll. Somebody help me.). It got me thinking about vulnerability, and how writing is inherently vulnerable and how I feel like I’m exposing myself in the desert, just waiting for the sun and wind and sand to shave my skin off. It’s mildly terrifying.

Being creative in any form is hard. I have seen more than one person a little off his rocker after years of the ups and downs of art. They say that you are your own worst critic and I, frankly, am a damn good critic. “Slice to the bone!” I say as I wield my red pen of judgement. “Let no sentence go unscathed!”

It reminds me of a scene in The Anniversary Party (has anyone seen it? I kinda liked it. Until it turned into a drug-fueled sex party, that is. Some good moments nonetheless). I love this:

Sophia Gold: Sally! His image of you is a possessive, fragile neurotic!
Sally Nash: But I *am* a possessive, fragile neurotic!
Sophia Gold: No you are not! You are Sally Nash!

But this is what Brené keeps telling me: vulnerability is GOOD. It’s what allows us to connect to one another. And connecting to one another is what makes us feel human; it’s what makes us feel alive. And—boy—that’s basically what I want. I want to feel human. I want to feel alive. I want to feel connected and less alone. And the more I reveal of myself and live that out truly, the more connected I become with people. Hot dang.

Writing here is fostering relationships with real life people that I’ve known for a long time—just because they get to hear the intimate details of my mind and heart in a way that might not come up in casual conversation. It’s also connecting me with new people—a new tribe of writers that make me feel like I belong somewhere. Like my friend Jerrod, whom I’ve never met in person, but was the first person who made me feel like I might actually be okay at blogging.

It’s good. It’s terrifying and nerve-wracking and it has the power to make me feel elated one day and dejected the next, but overall—it’s good. Thank you internet.

So on days when I get to see SO MANY people like and respond to my work—to my vulnerability—I have to just take in the good and be thankful for the experience of connection. I have to look myself straight in the eye and say, “You are Sally Nash!” (It’s okay that my name is Melanie. It works just the same).  I need to bottle up this feeling and hold on to it for when the dark cloud of self-doubt comes again (which is due in like, what? 10 minutes? 2 hours? Something like that.)

Life—sometimes that shit’s magical.

So, I want to thank all of you that have been reading, subscribing, like-ing, commenting, and engaging in general badassery. You all are THE. BEST. Go get yourselves some beers, you little rascals.



What Happens When a LOT of People Read Your Blog

Your Words Matter. Don’t Be a D*ck With Them.

Psst. Check out my featured post over at Studio30Plus, a writer’s collective for people over 30. Here’s a preview:

Photo By melinnis @ Flickr

Our Words Matter

When you write them down and send them to the glorious internet; or get them bound, published and shipped through Amazon; or get them typeset and printed and in the hands of a producer—those words weave together to create our thought world. Your words go out there and tell us who we are. They tell us what our values are. They paint what is stunning and gorgeous; what is dark and horrifying; what is magical, and what is macabre.

Go read the rest, okay? Cool.

Your Words Matter. Don’t Be a D*ck With Them.

Shirley the Sheepish Feminist

So, I think I’m a feminist. Maybe. Kinda. Probably a lot. I’m not sure. Honestly, I’m not terribly schooled in women’s studies or the feminist movement, so I’m kinda wingin’ it here. So, I think I should do what I always do when I’m unsure about something: ask Google.

Asking Google: Am I a feminist?

Google, in its omniscience, directed me to Wikipedia, which says that

A feminist is “an advocate or supporter of the rights and equality of women.”[3]

and also that

Feminists have worked to protect women and girls from domestic violence, sexual harassment, and sexual assault.


They have also advocated for workplace rights, including maternity leave, and against forms of discrimination against women.

By those parameters, I’d absolutely say I’m a feminist. Why do I have this lingering feeling that “feminist” is a dirty word? Where did I get that from? Because, really, I can’t NOT want equality for women. I can’t NOT want to protect women and girls from domestic violence, sexual harassment, and sexual assault. And, by golly, I think that women should have rights in the workplace, and that boobs shouldn’t keep them from getting good jobs, and that they should have the same pay opportunities as their dude counterparts. These are all no-brainers…so why am I such a chicken about it?

I’d like to be Melanie the Magnificent Feminist, but…I’m not really magnificent. I’m more kind of terrified. And timid. I’m more Shirley the Sheepish Feminist (not that Shirleys are weak, I just like alliteration.) It sucks.

Case in point: I’m so sad to say it, but I’m kinda pissed off at Jerry Seinfeld.

And I like that guy a lot. I think he’s really funny and awesome. I loved Comedian (have you seen it? It’s good.). In it, Seinfeld is humble and hard-working, even after years of his staggering success. He connects with his craft in a really beautiful way. And he’s hilarious. There’s no arguing that. It’s a pretty kick-ass flick.

But then…he comes out with his new show, “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” which premieres on Crackle.com tomorrow. It’s a simple show that looks really funny—it’s Seinfeld driving around with different comedians, getting coffee and chatting. I’m sure there will be GREAT moments in the show. But as I watched the two trailers for it, I noticed something was missing: women. There’s more than half a dozen comedians in the trailers and not a single one is female.

Really? Shouldn’t it be called “Dude Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee”? Or “Comedians with Penises in Cars Getting Coffee”? I mean, just to be clear about it? Because there are a ton of funny women out there. Funny women that Seinfeld has worked with over the years.

Where are the women?!

And this is about where I start to feel pretty sheepish about things. I hear that voice pipe up that says that I shouldn’t need to see women everywhere. Why is it important to have women in a silly comedy show? Why does it matter? Can’t Seinfeld just do what he wants? Aren’t you being too sensitive? (Also, you can’t be funny and witty and fun AND be a feminist. Everyone knows feminists are a bunch of downers.)

And, I dunno. Maybe I am being too sensitive. Like I said, I’m a terrible feminist—I’m just starting to really explore it. But I’ve got this feeling in my gut that if one of the best comedians of the last 30 years has a show that highlights other comedians that he deems valuable, and none of them are women, the message is that women aren’t capable of being in that class of talent; women don’t make the cut. And I hear that message all too much.

After the message that we don’t make the cut, comes the message that we’re lesser-than. And after that, it’s that we should be sexy to get what we want. Then it’s that if you’re sexy, you should expect to get ogled. And then…and then after that…? The path is long, and windy, and shitty, and it paves the way for girls and women everywhere to think less of themselves; to expect less for themselves; and to silently take abuse. It’s a tired song and I’m sick of hearing it. What’s more, I don’t want my daughter to ever hear it.

So, even with that voice inside telling me to pipe down and stop being such an entitled shrew, I just can’t do it. It bothers me. I want to see women succeeding and being valued so that I can feel like I can succeed too. I want my daughter (hell, all daughters) to grow up in a world that doesn’t limit women, define them, reduce them or abuse them because of their gender.

And so I’m posting this complaint about the ab-fab Jerry Seinfeld and his inability to hunt down even one, good, female comedian. Come on, Jerry. You can do it. Please, oh, please prove me wrong on this one. Don’t be one of those guys.

What do you think? Am I being “too sensitive” or is this something we’re way overdue in changing? Cough up those opinions, peeps.

Shirley the Sheepish Feminist

I Can’t Even Imagine: Linnea Lomax

Linnea Lomax, 19, went missing on June 26, 2012 in Sacramento, CA. Visit helpfindlinnea.org to see how you can help her.

I’ve written before about how parenting is really, really hard. Part of the reason it’s so hard is because you’re forced to love people a whole lot. You don’t have a choice. Whatever your kids do, you still freaking love them. They’re part of you. Part of the fiber of your being. Part of you that you have little to no control over.

So if your kid goes missing—a part of you goes missing too. A part that you love with a deep, sacrificial love that you can’t turn off. And that’s what is happening with Craig and Marianne Lomax in Sacramento ever since their daughter, Linnea Lomax, went missing on June 26, 2012, after leaving an out-patient mental health facility.

Here’s part of a letter they wrote to their missing daughter in the Sacramento Bee:

We love you beyond what words can express. We have cherished you from your first breath and our affection has only increased with each day. We never imagined loving anyone as much as we love you and your brother and sister. No matter what happens, our love for you will not falter. We will never stop loving you passionately. Never.

Read more here

That’s what I’d say, too. That’s what I’d say to my girl if I couldn’t find her—if I didn’t know where she was. Those are the words that would race through my mind with every waking moment.

So, I’m putting this poster on my blog, because if it were my kid, I’d want a random stranger to post my girl’s face out there so that I could maybe hear from her and know she’s safe. I just can’t imagine how frightened these parents are. Well, I actually have a pretty active imagination, so I can…I just don’t want to.

Please keep your eyes open for this young woman if you live anywhere near California.

I’ll hold out hope from here that Linnea Lomax will find her way back to her family, safe and sound. Blessings to all her family and friends.

See HelpFindLinnea.org or the Help Find Linnea facebook page to learn more about how you can help.

I Can’t Even Imagine: Linnea Lomax

Jean and Sofia: A Short Story About a Mostly Sane Woman and Her Duck

Photo By tifotter @ Flickr

One day, after a particularly stressful meeting at the office, a woman stopped at a fruit stand, and purchased a small duck out of a large, cardboard box. Why? She didn’t know. She just thought it was a good day for a duck. A companion duck. A life duck. Sometimes, a small duck seems like the solution to a bad day. Typically, it’s not.

The woman went home with her duck, and put on the kettle to make that kind of soup that you just pour boiling water into.

Her name was Sofia. The duck. Not the woman. The woman’s name was Jean. So Jean and Sofia fixed their eyes upon each other as the water in the kettle began to sound out a low rumble.

Jean was looking for answers. Looking for peace. She was searching Sofia’s black, beady eyes, hoping to reconnect with nature, and the land, and find some sort of mystical power that would make everything make sense. And as the anticipation in her heart grew, and the kettle water rumbled louder, a small, unobtrusive squeak found its way to Jean’s ears.

“Do you have a cigarette?”

Jean’s eyebrows dove inward in disapproval. Not only had she not reconnected with the spiritual guide she had hoped to find, but she was also, apparently, hallucinating.

Ahem. “Sorry. My voice is scratchy and quiet because you can’t just go talking your head off while you’re in that cardboard box because, in general, no one wants to buy a talking duck.” Sofia the duck, while small and fluffy, was very self-assured, and wasted no time making apologies. “How about that cigarette?”

Jean made an about-face to the decorative mirror on the wall. She checked her pupils. The kettle began with a low moan behind her, but rapidly belted out it’s alarm.

“Might want to get that kettle,” Sofia suggested.

“Sure. Yeah. Thanks,” Jean replied. It had already been a long day, and she decided not to fight against whatever malfunction her brain was experiencing. And hey, at least it was just a small, talking duck, and not an old, naked wizard. Things could be worse. “I don’t smoke, actually. Not for several years now.”

“That’s a shame,” sighed Sofia, “I get cranky without the nicotine. I know what you’re going to say, too, but I’ve tried the gum and somehow it’s not the same.”

“They say it’s a muscle memory thing, actually. Like your muscles enjoy the process of lifting the cigarette and taking a drag, and it’s actually just the process that is so satisfying,” Jean proposed, “Maybe you can just pretend to smoke.”

Sofia rolled her eyes. “One of us should be the smart one,” she quipped, “and it probably shouldn’t be the duck.”

“Just trying to help,” Jean replied. “Do you want some soup?”

“Is it vegan?”

“Of course. For the most distinguishing of waterfowl.”

So Jean and Sofia sat at the dining room table, enjoying their vegan soup made from dehydrated vegetables and grains of some kind. Jean, not knowing exactly which utensils ducks prefer when eating vegan soup, had provided Sofia with a small espresso cup from which to slurp. It worked just fine. Jean wondered what they would talk about, assuming that a 30-year-old accountant and a juvenile duck would have little in common.

“Wanna watch some tv?” Sofia offered. Yes. Television would do.

As they flipped through the channels watching a dance competition; a witty political commentary show; more than five variations of a whitening toothpaste commercial; and a very serious scene from a reality television show in which young teens were embroiled in a fierce debate over who should be the leader of their alliance, a kind of comfortability set in between Jean and Sofia. Sofia snuggled into the crack between Jean’s leg and the couch. She caught Jean’s eye and gave a little shrug as if to say, “I am a duck. We tend to snuggle in small places.” Jean let out a long, tired breath as she turned the channel in time to catch a mean pirouette from a girl with pink hair and strong, thick legs.

“I don’t know how you do it,” Sofia admitted softly.

“How who does what?”

“You. Everybody. People. I don’t know how you run, and fight, and work, and do so much on the damn computer, and…and all of it. It’s like you’re set on going crazy. Wait…is that the goal? Is everyone trying to go crazy?” Sofia puzzled, feeling like she might be on to something.

But by this time Jean had started to cry.

“Oh shit,” Sofia grumbled, “Oh shit. Umm…come on, there. There, there.” Sofia rhythmically patted her wing on Jean’s leg like she was keeping time for the world’s most apathetic marching band. Then she spouted, “Oh look! LOOook! That guy with the dreads is back! And look!—he’s so terrible! I can extend better than that and I don’t even have arms!” Sofia flapped her wings at the screen. “Look!”

Jean looked up, even though she didn’t want to. She wanted to grab the little duck and bury her face in its side, feeling the downy young feathers tickling her nose. Had Sofia not been a talking duck, that’s exactly what Jean would have been doing. And Sofia wouldn’t have the ability to protest. But instead, the duck was somehow prodding at Jean’s dark shadows, bringing out the things she’d rather not feel. Things she’d rather not acknowledge.

“It’s just that I don’t know what I’m doing and, at this point, I don’t think I ever will,” Jean sobbed.

Sofia let out a half-quack, half-laugh, “Is that all?!”

Jean frowned and wiped her nose, her sadness swiftly replaced by fierce annoyance.

“Sorry, sorry,” Sofia recovered. “It’s just that…none of you do. Every day that you all pull through is a true and shocking surprise to me and, frankly, all other wild life. Every day we think you’ll probably all kill each other and take us down with you, but you don’t. You’re all surprisingly adept at surviving yourselves.” Sofia shook her tail as she wedged herself back between Jean’s leg and the couch cushion. “You need to relax.”

Jean sighed. She did feel a little more peaceful. Sofia closed her eyes gingerly and smacked her beak a couple of times.

“And buy some cigarettes,” she added as she nodded off to sleep.

Jean and Sofia: A Short Story About a Mostly Sane Woman and Her Duck

All the Melanies

Photo by rachel sian @ Flickr.

It’s a long one today folks, so buckle up! I won’t be offended if you read it in a couple sessions. I also won’t be offended if you send it to 84 people to have them read in two sessions. I’m cool like that.

When I was a kid, there were no Melanies. Just me. I literally don’t remember any other Melanies. Wait, no. I’m wrong.

When I was in the fifth grade, there was an 8th grader named Melanie. She came and found me once. We met in the grassy area that the mobile classrooms circled like a wagon train. She verified that, indeed, my name was Melanie and, surely enough, I was much smaller than her. She also told me that earlier in the week, some kids got in a fight and a girl had a chain from her nose piercing to her ear piercing and the chain got pulled during the fight and now she’s missing part of her ear AND part of her nose. Thanks, 8th grade Melanie, for the cautionary tale of trinket-wearing.

But after I switched schools there was nary another Melanie as far as the eye could see. Wait, damn. I’m wrong again. There was another Melanie. She was a twin. Melanie and Wendy, if I recall correctly. I’ll Google it. Google knows freaking everything.

Anyway…aside from the two other Melanies I knew in the first 19 years of my life, I only knew of one additional Melanie on the planet: Melanie Griffith. And, honestly, she was not the kind of Melanie I was. She was blonde.

Then, my brother fell in love by going to India where he met a German woman who he decided right then he would probably marry. Of course. Isn’t that how everyone finds their spouse? When I asked him if her name was Olga, he answered, “No, her name is Melanie.”


So, having left my maiden name behind by that point, I thought about how I definitely should have committed more crimes, because my rap sheet was being neatly and easily passed along. So many petty crimes went undone. Sad.

So now, there were two of us. Old me, which was now married to my brother (what?), and new me, with a new name that was really just the old me re-labeled. And married.

And then I went to a grammar workshop.

The teacher of said workshop announced that we were to get up, pair up with a stranger, give them a high-five, tell them our name, and describe what we hoped to get out of the workshop.

A) I don’t like getting up. B) I don’t like strangers. C) I don’t like high-fiving on command. I’m not a dog. (Though if a biscuit of some kind were involved it would make the transaction much, much easier.)

Given my list of annoyances, I was relieved when the woman in front of me turned around, caught my eye, and didn’t even pretend like we were going to high-five. “Perfect,” I thought, “now I don’t have to walk anywhere or touch any strangers.”

“Hi,” I say to her.

“Hey,” she says back. And then—this person I’ve never met—she says my name. To me. She says Melanie Crutchfield.

“Why is she saying my name?” I think to myself, and then I look confused. She looks confused. We’re both confused. And I say, “What?” And she says my name to me again, only this time it doesn’t quite sound like my name. So I say, “What’s your name?”

By this time she’s checking my pupils to see if I have a concussion. She hands me her grammar workshop handbook, on which she has written her name on the “Name” line. And there it is…

Melody Critchfield.

Holy shit. I can’t believe it. Her name is Melody. Critchfield. In a dinky town in central California, in a class of 85 nerds, I, Melanie Crutchfield, sat down behind and then paired up with what I assume was me from another universe. A me named Melody Critchfield.

I rambled on and on about this stunning coincidence for a while (likely with excessive grinning), until finally we all sat down again. But grammar was the last thing on my mind.

All I cared about was Melody Critchfield. I was convinced she knew something secret about me. She knew what I should be doing with my life. She knew the secret to my happiness. She knew what hair products to use to keep my fly-aways down. I don’t know how she knew these secrets, these gems, but I knew she knew them. I could feel it in my bones. I stared at the back of her head, trying to commune with her soul. I was probably breathing heavily. These were not my best moments. But, hey, when the alternate universe presents secret other you, you can’t be expected to keep your crap together. So I didn’t.

When we broke for lunch, I followed her to the cafeteria. I let four or five people pile up between us, as to not be too obvious. You know, playin’ it cool.

She put chocolate milk on her tray. So did I. She picked up a paper boat of mac n’ cheese, but then put it back in favor of lasagna. Four people later, I picked up and put down mac n’ cheese. Then I, too, favored the lasagna. She got grapes, I got grapes. She got jello, which I hate, and I got the jello. Lasagna, grapes, jello, chocolate milk. I would eat in tandem with Melody Critchfield and in our communion she would pass her secrets to me.

She payed with cash. Crap. I never carried cash. Never, ever, ever. I rummaged through my purse—nothing. She got her change and I started to sweat. I inched up to the cashier and stared him in the face. “I need to pay with cash,” I said aloud. Like a crazy person. “Okay,” he replied. Like a sane person. And then I remembered! I took off my shoe and fished out a twenty. I always kept a twenty in my shoe, in case someone stole my purse. Sure, now if my purse was stolen I’d be left completely unprepared, but you make certain sacrifices when you’re trying to align yourself with your universe twin. The cashier begrudgingly received my sweaty payment and handed me my change, just in time for me to spot Melody Critchfield sitting outside under a tree. I dashed for the door.

I popped through the door with such inelegance that I startled Melody Critchfield and she looked up at me.

Now, my plan had been to just sit nearby, under a different but similar tree, eat my lunch at the same pace and in the same fashion as Melody Critchfield, and let the universes do their business. But instead I stared at Melody Critchfield like she was a roman candle.

Melody Critchfield looked behind her like you do when you’re sure someone’s looking at someone else even though it looks like they’re looking right at you. There was no one behind her. So she smiled at me with half her mouth. I smiled back with half of my mouth. I was happy to know that our half smiles could unite into a complete, two-universe smile if they wanted.

I was still thinking about this as Melody Critchfield set down her lunch, and walked straight up to me. Uh oh. Other me was ballsy. It was kind of ruining my plans.

“It’s not a big deal,” she announced.

“Oh yeah. I know,” I agreed. Then, “Wait. What?”

“It’s not a big deal,” she repeated, “Chill out.” She pointed knowingly at my lunch. “Go get some mac n’ cheese, or whatever you eat, and stop being so weird about it. We have similar names and we signed up for a grammar class. Trust me when I say this is not the most meaningful day of your life.”

I really did want some mac n’ cheese. And while her intent was to dispel the aura of providence surrounding her, the effect was quite the opposite. She knew what I wanted to eat.

“Sure. Yeah,” I chuckled. “Of course. Uh. Yeah…I’m just having a weird day. Too much coffee.”

“Alright then. See you later,” spilled out of her mouth as she walked away.

I watched her walking away, Melody Critchfield, the keeper of my life’s secrets, who had just swatted me away like a fly. I couldn’t stand it. So I squeaked out one more thought, “Just one more thing: what do you do for a living?”

Melody Critchfield dropped her head. “I’m a writer,” she breathed, clearly convincing herself not to strangle me. “Now go away.” And she kept on walking.

A writer. Melody Critchfield, a writer.

I was going to be a writer.

For those of you who have heard this story, you’ll notice only parts are true. For those haven’t, have a fun time guessing! Oh, also, have you subscribed to my blog yet? You kinda should. Click this link for the RSS feed, or scroll up to the email subscription on the right. You won’t regret it! (You’ll probably regret it.) Love, -M

All the Melanies