A Little Stronger than You Think


Last week, I was writing in a library, and I saw a woman suddenly get up from her chair by the window and stand a few feet away. I was fairly certain I knew what was wrong. I got up and went over to her. “Is there a wasp?” I asked. This library had a long row of windows, and many of them were open, sans screens.

Yes, she said, there was.

“Do you need help?” I asked. Not that I wanted to help. I don’t kill insects—I get other people to do that for me, namely my husband. If I can get the bug to crawl onto a piece of paper, I take it outside and set it free, but if it flies and stings? No can do. If I try to kill a hornet, wasp, or yellow jacket, I am so scared I scream (quite loudly, and yes, that is a genetic trait I inherited from my maternal line), and I often miss. 

But this woman was probably two decades older than I was, and no one was helping her even though there were people around. I confess, though, that wasn’t the only reason I considered stepping up: stinging insects love to find me. I have been stung multiple times in my life while not even knowing that the bug was there until I felt the sharp prick. So if anyone was going to get stung in this library, it was going to be me.

I had only my computer and a mouse, no paper. “Do you have something to hit it with?” I asked. 

She handed me a thin newspaper insert. It wasn’t going to do the trick. “This isn’t enough,” I said. She found a magazine and handed that to me, too.

Before I began my reign of terror, I had to remind myself that I was not allowed to scream. This was going to be hard because instinctually, I scream. It’s not a plan; it’s not something I want to do, but it happens, and it isn’t pretty. 

I took a deep breath, and I swatted at the wasp (and okay, I yelped a little, but I did not do an all-out scream, though I’m pretty sure I was sweating at this point). Once, twice, three, four tries, and after each thwap the wasp just zipped to some other part of the window and went on with its day. How many lives did this wasp have, and how mad was I making it by trying to kill it?

The fifth time, I was patient and stood back to assess first instead of just whacking furiously. The fifth time, I made sure the wasp was on a flat surface. The fifth time, I got the job done. (I felt badly for it, too—the wasp hadn’t been doing anything wrong, but I didn’t one hundred percent regret it, either.) 

I know it’s small and pretty insignificant—killing a wasp—but I thought about how if my husband had been there, I would have asked him to (made him) do it. I thought about all the tiny things I learned how to do after my first marriage fell apart: eat out by myself, show up solo at dances and dance weekends, set up a tent and camp on my own, change my air filters, negotiate a mortgage, and the list goes on and on and and on of the small things that still add up. But maybe, most importantly, I learned how to ask for help, something I didn’t do all that well in my first marriage.

Maybe it’s okay that I ask my husband to kill wasps for me, but it’s also okay being reminded that I can do it if I need to, that I can step up and be a little stronger than I think I am.

What is one thing you have done (big or small) that you didn’t think you could do? I want to know.

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April is National Poetry Month! Who’s as excited as I am? Every week next month, I’ll be celebrating by posting a poem weekly on my blog. This year’s poets include Cathryn Essinger, Hannah Cohen, Barbara Costas-Biggs, and Brian Satrom.

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Photo by Karim Ghantous on Unsplash.

Buying Breakfast on Any Given Day


When I had to renew my driver’s license today, I thought about the first time I went to get a Tennessee driver’s license, just after I had married and moved four hours and across state lines to finally live in the same city and house as my new husband.

Back then, I felt shaky in this new place. I knew almost no one, I had no clue how to get around (I’m still working on that all these years later because this city is not on a grid!), and I had left a wonderful group of friends and my tight-knit dance community and the familiarity and comfort of a place I had lived for a decade in order to move here. Yet that town in which I had lived was also a place where I had faced some pretty big losses—divorce, the severing of two close friendships, breakups with boyfriends that hadn’t always gone so well.

My new husband, Preston, took a day off work and drove me to all the offices I needed to go to get my car registered in Tennessee, to get my driver’s license, and to get all our insurance straightened out. I remember us sitting with the insurance officer and his asking if we were married—we said yes—and then his not understanding why I had a different last name. It was as if he had never heard of the concept of a woman keeping her name (and maybe he hadn’t), and I worried in that moment about all of it—the choices I had made to move after years of saying I would never date anyone long-distance ever again. I had made an exception for Preston. But where in the world had I ended up?

We also had one of the biggest arguments we have ever had just after I moved—not big in volume, big in depth. The space between us widened for days. And scared me. I was someone who had made some pretty big and stupid decisions over the years. I worried: Could this be another one of them? 

It’s been over a decade now that we have been together. Recently, he and I went out for breakfast. It’s not my favorite meal out—I’m a lunch fan—but it’s his favorite, and frankly, any meal with him is good because we get to talk, and all these years later, I still love our conversations. As we were finishing up, the waitress dropped off the bill and told us we could pay at the counter, and I was trying to tell him a little story I had heard, and I could tell he wasn’t paying attention—his eyes were focused elsewhere, he wasn’t responding. He was clearly distracted. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I’ll explain when we’re outside.” No biggie, I thought, and we both got up. 

As we made our way to the front of the restaurant, I saw some of our neighbors (yes, I know a few people now! Not many, but a few!) and I stopped to say hi while Preston went to pay. I chatted for a couple of minutes and then caught up with Preston just as he was finishing with the cashier.

“Sorry about that,” he said as we left and walked to our car. Then he told me that he had been distracted because there was a couple sitting near where we had been sitting, and they had looked distressed. “So I paid for their breakfast,” he said. “I told the waitress to just tell them someone wanted to treat them.”

I thought of this story today as I drove to get my license. I thought about the leap of faith I took to move and marry him. I thought of the leap of faith he had to take, too—I mean, I could have turned out to be a psycho once I moved in (surprise!). I’m glad I know how to get to the driver’s license office by myself now, but mostly I am glad that I married the man I did—the kind that would happily take me there if I needed him to, the kind that would buy breakfast for two strangers, the kind that does things like that on any given day.

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash