“Battle of the Fittest”

While packing up our stuff this summer to go into boxes to go into storage in preparation to finally move we found a LOT of paper.  Like, a LOT.

And, totally randomly, I cam across some old writing assignments from one of my English classes at BYU. Weird, right? Sheesh.

But I kind of liked this one. As did my instructor; I got a perfect score.  And thought I’d share it. Because…that’s what I do. (Ironic, really, when you read it…)

Totally autobiographical, by the way. This is me more than a decade ago… sigh.  A small insight into the inner workings of a crazy person’s depressed brain function!

Battle of the Fittest

I wish I could say that I’d handled things better, but I didn’t.  I wish I could tell you that I’ve always been sure of everything, but I haven’t. I wish I could remember how strong I was, but I wasn’t.  I had everyone fooled, though. No one knew.  I don’t eve know if I did. 

I think, though, that if I had known, I would have made it worse.  I would have spent my time beating myself up, wondering what was wrong with me, why I wasn’t able to cope on my own.  Actually, I know this is true.  I know that I’d have pushed it aside.  I am Stone: I don’t have feelings. 

When the Missionaries in my ward became aware of my membership on the varsity wrestling team they were shocked.  They called me after a pro-wrestler, as a joke. But I let it stick.  I became Stone Cold. 

Before this I’ve never been one to open up to people, never willing to tell what’s on my insides.  I think I’m loud and boisterous sometimes just to avoid admitting what to me has become failure, admitting that I am hurt, that I am upset, that I need help.  But my name “Stone” took on a whole new meaning.  It wasn’t a name, it was me.  I was Stone. I was strong, immovable, cold as rock and rough as sandpaper. 

About a year earlier one of my school friends had dropped dead at lunchtime in the Taco Bell parking lot. He wasn’t healthy to being with, but it was shocking nonetheless.

A bit later on a childhood playmate of mine passed away inexplicably. My mother shared the news with me over fish and chips one evening, claiming the first of my peers to go.  “Second,” was my reply, my head bent down, intent on studying my coleslaw. 

It’s okay. It’s not a big deal.  They’ve got to start dying off at some point in time, right? Everyone dies? 

So when I didn’t cry after Annie’s mom had been diagnosed with liver cancer and died within the same month it was normal. 

And when I found out that Grandpa died a day after we heard about Candace’s dad, I was fine.  Louise called me right after I’d found out about Brother Potter, but I couldn’t tell her.  Louise’s mom was killed in a car accident two years earlier, who was I to care? 

My teachers at school were sympathetic the first time in that month when I told them I had to miss class for a funeral.  They cautiously pried to see how serious it was to me, and I told them it was okay, just a girl at church’s mom; I had to play music.  But when I came up to them two weeks later and told them I’d miss most of the week – two more funerals – they were in shock. “You know a lot of people!”

Well, not anymore. 

The question would finally come, and I’d answer. “Oh, no biggie.  Just one of my best friend’s dad’s funeral on Wednesday, and my grandpa’s viewing the same day, and then his funeral on Thursday.” My writing teacher recoiled in horror, and another student came up to us to explain, through her sobs, hat she would have to miss a couple days for her grandfather’s funeral and recuperation, if that was okay.  Both looked at me standing there, my face betraying nothing, my features unchanged.  The Stone would not give way. I wasn’t about to embarrass myself in front of the classroom like her.  I was too strong. I didn’t need the tears. 

At the first funeral I held it together. Candace and her siblings didn’t need me to add to their grief.  The Bishop had asked me to lead the music, and I did as if it were a regular Sacrament meeting, ignoring the words “God Be With You ‘Til We Meet Again.”

At Grandpa’s funeral the only things I paid attention to were the strange robes and irreverent actions of the man they called a minister.  I hated my grandmother’s brother for taking my spot as the musical number, he who was only the brother-in-law; I was the granddaughter.  We sang “How Great Thou Art,” and pretended to listen as the congregation recited the Lord’s Prayer.  I wasn’t upset, though.  Joe and I spent the “refreshment hour” being greeted by old people and making ringing noises with our half-filled glasses to see if anyone would check their hearing aids. 

It was church that Sunday.  I don’t know why.  I can’t even identify the feelings that I had managed to bottle inside of my being.  Candace’s sister, Bonnie, got up in the meeting; she having found her father’s lifeless body the Saturday earlier, who blamed herself for his death because she never got up to check on that noise in the night, whose mother was crazy, whose father was now dead, whose brother was on a mission in France and unable to offer support, who suddenly found this huge burden to carry, stood to address the congregation. 

I looked over at Candace and Allan and Heather, all sitting together, watching their sister bravely raise her head. 

I looked at my own parents, sitting with me, and my brother.  I thought of Annie, who had been shipped off to live with complete strangers. I thought of Will, laying in the Taco Bell parking lot at lunch. I thought of my grandfather, his beliefs. 

I’ve been taught the Plan of Salvation my entire life.  I’ve always known about it. I still do. I know of its truth.

I just don’t understand it.

As Bonnie stood there and cried into the microphone, attesting to the truthfulness of the Gospel and speaking of the mishaps of her family I cracked.  It was like Moses had struck the rock in the wilderness to bring forth water for the thirst of the masses. The flood that held Noah’s ark afloat re-enacted.

Still, I tried to conceal it.  The convulsion in my shoulders were fought.  I refused offers of tissue, afraid that it would give me away to others. The stone had broken, by the dam remained.

I leaned forward and put my head down, so they couldn’t see.  They couldn’t know.  It wasn’t about me.  I had no right. 

It was finally time for Sunday school – I couldn’t go to my class; Candace’s dad had been the teacher until a week ago. 

I ran, down the hall, away from the people.  I needed to find refuge.  I needed to find a place where no one would see me.  I couldn’t do this anymore.  I was ashamed of myself for letting it out.  There was no reason for me to do so!  

I found myself in the Young Women’s room at the far end of the hall.  No one would find me there.  I was safe.  I seated myself on the piano bench that had been my home in that room since I was a Beehive, and let the thoughts sweep over me. 

Why him? Why, of all the families out there did it have to be theirs?  Why did they need to be tested so?  Why, when everything was already messed up as it was did God have to take their father?  Why did he take Annie’s mother away from her?  Why the only person Annie knew as family?  Why couldn’t He have taken my life and flip-flopped it? 

Tears streamed down my face as I let myself finally release the pain.  My chest heaved with the newfound effort of breathing as I fought with myself for silence. 

Wasn’t I strong enough? Couldn’t I take it? Why was my life so simple? So good?  Why couldn’t the Lord have burdened me instead? What was stopping me from being capable? 

Suddenly, the door opened.  My head shot up, eyes searching for the impossible escape, tears still flowing.  The Young Women’s President entered, placed her bags on a chair, and came to sit with me. 

I stiffened, held my breath, tried to calm myself.  My face was as red as my heart, the blood filling my head with colour, my eyes giving me away completely. 

“It’s okay to cry,” she said as she rested her hand on my shoulder.

I looked at her, my heart swollen with ache, my lungs fighting for breath that I would not give them.  I told her it wasn’t okay.  I wasn’t allowed to do this.  I had no right.  It wasn’t about me.  There was no reason for me to be upset.  I had no feelings.  Prattling off to her the reasons why I shouldn’t be crying my hold was lost – releasing the air to speak released the air to let it out.  I was sobbing again. 

I don’t understand!  I don’t know what’s wrong with me!  I don’t know what it is that I’m feeling, why I’m feeling it.  It’s not right.  It’s not about me. Why am I doing this? Why am I so selfish? 

My heart flooded out through my tears, my questions, my anger.  I wept through the entire block. 

And then I was done.  The floodgates closed.  My breathing returned to normal and the colour drained from my face.  I could put my arms around Candace just for supper.  I could once again stand in front of all these girls who looked up to me and be there.  I didn’t need anything, anyone, anymore.  

I’ve been able to remedy the problem, whatever it was.  I cannot for the life of me place what feelings I had raging inside of me that day, nor can I explain my need for release. 

I’m alright, though.  I’m good now.  I don’t feel anymore.  Stone has returned, and oh what a wonderful thing. 


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