Story Time

In Uncategorized on 01/02/2015 at 11:21 am

I really wanted to do a New Year’s post. Isn’t that what all bloggers do? But no matter how many times I tried to recount my favorite song of 2014 or my goals for 2015, I couldn’t nail down anything of substance – which, in hindsight, is probably the motto of all 20-somethings.

So I went to breakfast yesterday, New Year’s Day, resolution-less and with a champagne hangover only a basket of fries from a greasy-spoon diner called “Cousins” could mediate.

We were sat at a table adjacent to the coffee counter. I noticed an old man sitting by himself sipping coffee and we briefly made eye contact. He had a baseball cap on embroidered with UNITED STATES ARMY VETERAN. It was decorated with pins and buttons. He had no front teeth. He was in sweat pants. He was my spirit animal.

While I glanced at the menu, he kept looking over at me. I couldn’t help but look back,which is when I noticed he had a large framed picture sitting on the counter in front of him. Not an 8 x 10. I’m talking about something the size of a concert poster.

“What’s that guy looking at?” I whispered to my friend.

“If you come over here, I will tell you all about it,” the old man interjected. Apparently I needed to learn to whisper in 2015.

After a brief pause to determine whether or not this was really happening, I reluctantly scooted my chair out and walked toward the counter. But what happened next was sobering.

As I stood over the Vet’s shoulder, I saw the contents of the frame. It was a collage of pictures, maps, and articles from World War II – the morning they dropped the bomb. The first picture was of his friends who captained the plane. It was 2:45am; just around the time the mission commenced. They were eating breakfast. “They had the provisions all ready for us at a quarter-to-three,” the old man said.

“Over here is a layout of the runway,” he continued. “We drew this blueprint ourselves over a map of Long Island, New York. It’s all we had!”

Ivo was his name. I know that because there was a black-and-white picture of him as a young man clipped from a newspaper with a caption on it toward the left side of the frame.

“This is you?” I asked.

“Yes, that’s me. I was a medic.”

He was a medic. He probably saw it all. No, he for-sure saw it all.

We talked for about 10 minutes total. He ended the chat by saying, “There you have it. All you need to know about the Enola Gay.” (Which I found out was named after the pilot’s mother.)

“Thank you so much for sharing. And thank you for your service.” What else could I say? Was I supposed to hug him? It was like the end of an awkward first date. I returned to my seat.

A few moments later, Ivo finished his coffee and stood up. He was about 5 feet tall, hunched over. He then grabbed his frame, which was as big as him, and walked out of Cousins into the cold all alone.

I’ve heard the phrase “We need to do more for our Veterans” before. I never fully understood what that meant. I’m sure I still don’t because I can’t tell if I’m heartbroken, impressed, or a little of both that after all these years, Ivo still carries that frame with him wherever he goes and tells the same stories to whoever will listen about the day our country dropped nuclear bombs in Japan.

Regardless, I left breakfast with a vision for 2015. It’s to listen to others tell their stories. As a writer, it’s always about getting out whatever is swirling around in my brain and having little-to-no time for anything or anyone else. But something happens when I let others take the floor.

I like that I’m still thinking about Ivo today. That I’m motivated to Google him, learn more about this period of history, and to see how I can help Veterans like him. After all, he’s a story-teller like me. And I’ve got to do more for my kind.

Emily Belden is the author of Eightysixed: Life Lessons Learned


Let There Be Light

In There's a point to this on 11/14/2014 at 10:52 am

A strange thing happened around 1am last night.

I generally pride myself on my ability to keep it together. To weather storms. To right wrongs. To settle scores. But sometimes, the stressful things will circle like a shark, and before you know it, you’re in the belly of the beast and all you can do is retreat.

That was me yesterday. Stress kept piling up like teetering Jenga pieces and I knew I wasn’t far from a breakdown. So I retreated. For me, that looks like a fire in my fireplace and a glass of wine. By 9pm, the fire had smoldered out and the wine had run dry. It was time for bed.

I’m not a religious person. But that doesn’t mean I’m above asking for a little help every now and then. So as I put the final glob of toothpaste on my brush for the day, I looked in the mirror and I said out loud to no one in particular: “Please. Please shine some light on me. Shine some light in the right direction, and I’ll gladly get on that path.”

Cue laying in bed with Buzzfeed on my iPad until my eyes couldn’t stay open any longer…

Just after 1am I heard a snap from the living room and woke up. At this time, I saw that my husband must have left the bathroom light on and my OCD just couldn’t allow that, so I got up out of bed to shut it off. The only problem? The bathroom light wasn’t on.

A roaring fire was crackling in my fire place.

A fire better than I had ever built.

A fire that was hot.

And I literally could not believe my eyes.

My husband had been asleep for hours. I had been asleep for hours. The fire had been out for hours. If you were to ask me what the chances were that this thing would have kicked up on its own sometime in the night, I would have said zero. Zero.

But there I had it: precisely what I had asked for. Light.

I decided to stay up by the fire for about 20 minutes. I fed it with scraps of paper and junk mail. I rubbed my hands together by it to feel the warmth of the fire that was built especially for me. I can’t describe the peace I felt. The trust I had in the universe.

And with that, I went to bed feeling light-hearted.

Restraining Order

In I swear., There's a point to this on 11/05/2014 at 12:01 am

Before it becomes overplayed, totally irrelevant, or the thing that makes her even more successful (hey, you never know), I want to address the whole Lena Dunham / Child Molester thing.

(Which, by the way, is one of the weirder things I’ll ever say in life.)

For those of you who don’t know what’s going on, do a simple Twitter search for “Lena Dunham” and let yourself have one of those “Wait. This really happened?!” moments. She basically explained in her highly-anticipated debut memoir that she assumed the role of – and I quote – “a sexual predator” – toward her younger sister when she was a child, knowingly using her to learn about sexuality. And now, everyone who once raved she was god’s gift to 20-somethings wants her tarred and feathered. All the while, Lena spirals out on Twitter, canceling book tours, fighting with bloggers, and begging right-wing lunatics not to “twist her words.” How symphonic.

As a fellow memoirist, I knew it was only a matter of time before I would be asked for my thoughts on the things written in Not That Kind of a Girl. See below.

In Eightysixed, there’s a scene wherein my potential suitor talks about his favorite pastime: getting Happy Ending massages. In the original manuscript, the unfiltered commentary that ensued was something along the lines of, “Maybe he wasn’t cheating by getting them, but I certainly was not going to let some little Asian woman get between me and my happy ending.”

I remember my editor calling me about this specific paragraph. She said, “Emily Belden is a lot of things. She’s a writer. She’s a friend. She’s a creative soul. She’s a bad-ass. But, I will tell you one thing Emily Belden is not. She is not a racist. And that’s why this sentence has to go.”

A racist? Did she honestly think that my inner dialog about that disturbing date would make people perceive me a racist? She did. And as the editor of this book, a professional working for the publisher with whom I signed a binding contract, I trusted her judgement that “No Little Asian” had no place in my book. So we scrapped it. And I’ll tell you what. I don’t miss it one bit. Because it was one line. And it didn’t define the book.

Look, I get putting it all out there as an author. It’s your right to say what you want, how you want. Just as long as it’s understood that a “right” is not to be confused with a “pass.” It’s my opinion that there is an adult responsibility that comes with publicly recounting childhood memories of sexuality. Some things just don’t need to be – can’t be – manipulated into creative genius.

So as my trusty editor would say, Lena Dunham has a lot of things. She has a series on HBO. She has a rock-star boyfriend. She has a best-seller. But, I will tell you one thing Lena Dunham does not have. She does not have restraint. And that’s why my support for this girl has to go.

Emily Belden is the author of best-selling memoir, Eightysixed: Life Lessons Learned