No More Lies – Weekly Writing Challenge: Truth Is Stranger Than Fiction

wpid-IMAG0661_BURST002.jpgI remember this day. I was sicker than a dog, some Ukrainian sinus infection that I refused to succumb to. I should have stayed in bed, but I wouldn’t. I continued to act healthy until I just couldn’t fake it anymore. Fever. Cough. Sinus pressure. I felt terrible. I was miserable.

But this was the day my neighbor’s daughter, Anya, brought out her books to show me how she could read English while I was waiting on my laundry. This was the day we played with clay putty, something I used to do with my grandma, something to me incredibly nostalgic. See that bracelet on my hand? She wanted to give me that, a prize she had won in class. She wouldn’t take no for an answer. I wore it for the rest of the trip, never stopping to think that it might look silly. I counted it precious. It was a comfort, a reminder of the day I learned the truth.

And all it took to rattle my nice little American world was a little girl in a cramped Ukrainian apartment who wanted to show me her English.

This was the day I finally understood that I wanted to make a difference, that I could make a difference, even if it was just teaching a little girl one word of English in a far-away country.

I suddenly remembered a day ten long years ago, standing outside my house at fifteen, breathing deeply of the wind and wondering where it had been, where it was going, and was that some kind of Eastern spice I smelled in the air? I was dying to go and find out. That girl was all fear and trepidation, unsure, and insecure. That fifteen-year-old girl had no idea of where she would be ten years later, that one day she would just up and go away for a month all on her own. Sometimes I remember the girl I was and smile, because I owe it to who I used to be to be who I am now.

I owe it to myself to live my dreams.

We owe it to the young versions of ourselves to fulfill their dreams — those dreams we used to cherish.

People have continually picked this one picture out of my hundreds and commented on how I’m “glowing” or “look really happy”. Maybe I had a fever. Maybe it was just because I was sick. Maybe it’s sweat. But the one comment I can’t argue with, the one that gets me every time, is: “You don’t look like that over here.”

Deep down inside, I know they are right.

There’s only been a handful of times in my life that I can remember being really truly as happy as I was in that picture, when I was relaxed, didn’t care about how I looked, or if I was pretty, or if my tummy pudge was showing. Only six brief moments when I was convinced that life was going to be good and worth living. This was one of those moments, illness notwithstanding.

Because this was the day I realized that my life was a joke. I hadn’t been doing anything worthwhile or helping anyone or making anything better. I was treading water, just taking up space and wasting time playing games on people and computers. I hadn’t really been living the life I dreamed of in the secret attic of my mind, and I had spent a great amount of time and effort trying to convince myself otherwise. I claimed to want a career, a house, and a family. But did I? Had I only been pretending after all?

The truth?

I was living a lie.

This was the day I stopped lying.

Advertisements

Weekly Photo Challenge: Forward

Babi Yar

Babi Yar

The quiet of the park belies it’s past. It seems impossible that anything awful could ever happen here. But this is Babi Yar. This is a place out of a nightmare, a site of mass murder, horror, and hate.

But on this day, it was peaceful and calm. People covered the steps of the monument in flowers — things of fragile, fleeting beauty — wishes and memories.

This is how we honor the departed. We remember. We pray to God it never happens to us or to our children. And for as long as we live, we keep moving forward.

In response to The Daily Post‘s Weekly Photo Challenge

Maybe It’s the Little Things

This morning was grey and icky. I was awake half the night with a cough. I took one look out the window this morning and thought, “Maybe I shouldn’t have changed my ticket after all…” Originally, I was to have left yesterday, but for one reason or another, I pushed my return date back 5 days. Now much more stressed and several hundred dollars poorer, I wondered, “Why exactly did I think that was a good idea?” I finally managed to drag myself out of bed, wrap up in my Ukrainian coat, and brave another moody day in Kiev. I told myself, “I need Wi-Fi. I need Wi-Fi. I need… Oh! Pizza!” Yes, the bakery had pizza again.

image Continue reading

Let Us Cross Over

In about 10 hours, I am leaving for Ukraine. I should probably sleep sometime between now and then. And finish packing. (No, I’m still not done.)

A few days ago, I looked up this phrase online, “now let us cross over”, thinking it was part of an old hymn or Scripture or something. I thought it might be a nice mantra to keep in mind for my trip, since I’m crossing over the ocean. What I found was not what I expected. What I found were the last words of Stonewall Jackson. After he realized the war was over, he spoke these words: “Let us cross over the river and rest under the shade of the trees.”

Those words seemed to me when I read them, a welcome into a place of peace, a safe haven, that state of mind when all the tension is gone from your body…like after a really good massage when you are so relaxed and loopy you almost seem drunk.

It made me think of summer, cool breezes, bird song, and wind through leaves. Lazy afternoons, sweet tea, and teenage dreams.

It gave me visions of paradise. A place without war. A place of rest. As if a whiff of memory still lingers on those words and I could smell it.

And then I read that Stonewall Jackson was shot and eventually killed by friendly fire just after speaking those words. Cheery thought, that… “Let us cross over” indeed.

As the time for my departure charges toward me like a raging bull, I feel strangely calm. Except for that time I thought I didn’t have proof of insurance. Then I felt like I was in a red outfit trapped with an angry bull. Other than that I’ve been fine. And I did find my insurance card, in case anyone was wondering.

I feel like I am going home.

But I also feel this is only the beginning, like walking through a doorway.

As though this is only a shadow of what is to come.

Tunnel of Love, Ukraine

Dedicated to my dad, Robert Sherman.