Posted by: Erica | February 17, 2010

It’s too late, I clicked “publish”

“I walk a lonely road

The only one that I have ever known

Don’t know where it goes

But it’s home to me and I walk alone”

If I had to define my life in one word, it would be “obedient.”  I was a model child.  I kept a clean room, practiced piano, studied for tests, minded my mother, left my father alone.  Adolescence was more of the same.  When I graduated high school at the top of my class, I could have done anything.  What did I choose?  Steve Harthun.  I wanted to explore Ivy League schools, but wound up at the nearest college with an open -admission policy lenient enough for him to gain admission.  A year later, I became the model wife.  I thought it was the right choice.  My culture had suggested it was; at age 19, I was the last of my group of friends to walk down the aisle (and none of us were pregnant).  I thought it was the Christian choice.  My Granny told me, “Better to marry than burn.”  It was my choice.  I take full responsibility. 

For four years, I woke up before dawn to iron his work clothes, match the tie, lay it at the foot of the bed next to a clean towel and wash cloth, where he would find them when he woke up to start his day.  I headed off to school and maintained an “A” average studying to be a doctor even though I passed out at the sight of blood, because it paid a lot.  I came home every night and cooked a fresh meal because he didn’t like eating leftovers.  He left me after an hour’s notice that our marriage wasn’t working for him, on Memorial Day weekend so that I shouldn’t forget it.  My Granny said, “If you marry another, it’s adultry.”

Soon afterwards, my mother died.  I found myself without a model to fit.  I went back to school and found writing.  At the time I graduated with my B.A., I was advised to keep going on for a Master’s…to find my voice.  I found Martin.  I don’t regret it.  He is a model husband. 

“I walk this empty street

On the Boulevard of Broken Dreams

Where the city sleeps

and I’m the only one and I walk alone”

Let’s talk about what I didn’t do.  I have never smoked a cigarette, never experimented with drugs, never been drunk, never snuck out at night, never slept with anyone I haven’t been married to, never had a cavity or a broken bone.  Sometimes I feel like I never lived.  I wonder if people who do all these things sleep better at night, having made their peace with past mistakes instead of agonizing over the missed opportunities. 

“My shadow’s the only one that walks beside me

My shallow heart’s the only thing that’s beating

Sometimes I wish someone out there will find me

“Til then I walk alone”

I am a semi-genius.  What does that mean?  It means maybe if I’d had an extra bowl of Cheerios before my last I.Q. test, the numbers would have added up to the real thing.  It means being told throughout life that you can do something amazing, but lacking whatever critical element it is that gives you the ability to actually do it.  It means seeing more than my share of the “gray” in life instead of black and white–the ugly gray.  But, at the same time, not wanting to shed your pessimistic view because it is key to your gift.  This is not something that I’m proud of.  Even as I write this paragraph the word “arrogant” keeps repeating in my head.  I haven’t ever shared this information with anyone other than my husband, until now.  I’m not trying to boast.  I consider this a curse more than a blessing.  For years, I have felt like a failure because I have no great work to prove otherwise.  So more than anything, this irrepressible (oh, how I try) urge to express myself is a constant irritation and a burden to my family.  Hope is found in oysters.  That the grit I cannot purge will somehow, throughout the decades of pain, become a pearl of value, beauty. 

“I’m walking down the line

That divides me somewhere in my mind

On the border line

Of the edge and where I walk alone”

Every day I go to work as a research scientist.  I am finding it harder and harder to identify myself as such.  It feels like just a paycheck.  Every day feels like another one wasted, putting off something else I should be doing.  I do it for my family and for the part of me that is a mother and a wife.  I love those parts of me.  I have succeeded here.  I know that.

“Read between the lines

What’s F***** up and everything’s alright

Check my vital signs

To know I’m still alive and I walk alone”

Last Friday, I came home from work with a ridiculous crush on the lead singer of Green Day.  I took off my high-heels and just sat down in the floor of my closet.  There was a pile of laundry across the room that I didn’t want to do, so I just stayed there underneath a sizeable portion of my dead mother’s clothes. 

What I did want to do was turn back the clock fifteen years and join the punk rock movement, take a political stance, make my mark on the world. 

Don’t worry, it didn’t take me long to figure out that what I saw in Billie Joe Armstrong had nothing to do with anything missing in Martin.  For the record, I think that if I punked his hair and tackled Martin with a tube of eyeliner, I may have discovered his celebrity look-alike.  The aching I feel is more about seeing what I want to be.  Realized potential.  Genius:  full-scale.    Should a 32-year old, Christian wife and mother feel this way?  Is this normal.  I don’t know. 

 “My shadow’s the only one that walks beside me

My shallow heart’ s the only thing that’s beating

Sometimes I wish someone out there will find me

‘Til then I walk alone”

Hard stuff to share, all the gray.  I feel an incredible amount of responsibility as a mentor to the next generation.  I also am scared of what revealing myself will mean to relationships with family and friends.  There would be a lot more blog entries if I wasn’t.  If I could talk about abortion, evolution, Chaucer.  And, for crying out loud, data on global warming is not a political conspiracy.  It is collected by scientists who undergo refereed scrutiny by other scientists, not democrats. 

Why am I writing these things now?   Because my shadow is always there.  It is be the complete me or perish. I want rid of whatever this is within me.   I have to cast the pearl.  I have to write in order to feel alive.  I have to try, anyway.  I love my family and my God, but need something for me, too.   I also happen to think that both Martin and God are man enough to handle it–that they will still love me, the ugly, gray me. 

(Italicized lyrics to “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” by Green Day)



  1. Never too late!! Blog away, please. As a “not so close to genius” Christian, I think I could use a challenge to the traditional Christian mind-set, if not to change my mind, then to challenge me about why I believe the things I say I believe. Maybe to shake me out of some spiritual and mental malaise. Be yourself, Erica! Can’t speak for all your family and friends, but I will love you for sharing the real you, even if we don’t agree on everything. And I agree, God can handle the real you…He made you, and you aren’t a mystery to Him, even if you try to be.

  2. Erica – you know that I like frankness! God gave you a marvelous brain for a reason, and He has given you the freedom to use it! You should never apologize for your convictions or ambition – go for whatever it is you dreamed!

  3. I too love Green Day and have 5 or 6 songs on my mp3 player. This post evoked a lot of emotion in me, a lot of suppressed emotion. That is what a great writer does though and what separates the good from the great. You have an incredible talent! I don’t deal well w/emotion. I don’t watch chick flicks and I don’t listen to sappy music. Usually it’ll all get to me once or twice a year and I just lay in bed and cry. Chris is wonderful and just lays w/me too. I don’t think medication is a bad thing. I tried a low dosage once and it didn’t do much for me, but I had to try something. I finally came out of my funk & was able to go along w/my life and feel normal again so I know you will too. Keep writing!

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