Thursday, November 09, 2006

Stuck in the South

Traveling across the South, delivering speeches from the bottom of my heart, I've met a few transplanted Southerners who amaze me.

And not in a good way.

It's been an eye-opening experience for me lately, that some people just don't want to live where they've ended up. An awakening. In fact, a few women I’ve met … two, as of late … walked up to me after my speech and declared with innate sadness in their voices, “I hate the South … I’ve been here (30, 25) years … and I hate it. I’m originally from the North! I want to go back!”

I wanted to cry. Why? What made them tell me this, I wonder?

One lady hailed from Michigan, the other born and bred in Minnesota, but both women were quite clear in their voice and in their meaning. They hated the South.

“I’m stuck down here!” Their proclamation astounding, but nevertheless, they wanted me to know it!

And I thought to myself … Nobody should be stuck anywhere. Not in America.

But then, I’ve been thinking about these women for the past few days … why in God’s earth would they say this to me? There I was, clearly a Southerner, I’d just delivered my heart – an inspiring speech about Southern accents, Southern women, and my love for this region of the country … and these women, without warning, blurt out … “I hate the South!” I think it surprised them as much as did me.

Suddenly, I was at a loss for words.

Next shock ... they buy my book. (Maybe they bought it to be nice and then went home and buried it in the backyard or something, who knows ...)

I mulled their statement over and over for hours. Then I realized … I had to "put this experience to bed." I couldn't figure it it out. We all know there’s good, bad, and ugly everywhere you go.

Ah, but once you fall in love with a place … it’s like falling in love with a person … you love them faults and all. And just like a human, every area of the country has its good points and not-so-good points. Even Minnesota and Michigan.

But most, or rather the majority of women who hear me speak … have found a sense of pride in the fact they were born, grew up, and have lived, worked, and will die in the South. They’re women who’ve raised their children in the suburbs of Atlanta, Memphis, and Birmingham. They’ve carved out careers in the cities of Savannah, Tallahassee, and Charleston, and labored side by side with their fathers and then their husbands on rural farms in Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina. They’re women who’ve returned to the Southland when the rest of the country made no sense to them. The land of tobacco and cotton, mountains and sea dunes, red dirt and bayou—this land speaks to them, like none other. It’s home to them. It’s life to them.

My reply to the women stuck in the South was simply, “I’m sorry, it’s a real shame you feel that way, Ma’am.” And I smiled. Because whatever it was that made them feel this way … I am truly sorry it happened. Sorry they couldn’t get comfortable here. Because clearly--they’re miserable, unhappy women. The look on their faces were evidence to it.

As they walked away, I mumbled, “I would love to know how many Southern women live in the North and feel STUCK.” And then it hit me like two by four! Wham! I WAS ONE OF THOSE WOMEN!

But, bless God, I unstuck myself! I wanted to say to the women I met … How horrible for you to live in a place you don’t want to be. How devastating it must be to you each day you wake up as life passes you by and you dream about your home … wherever that is.

I wanted to reach out and take them by the hand and say, “Don’t buy my book, Darlin’. Save your money … and find a way to go home.”

Don’t live the rest of your life feeling … stuck in the South, or anywhere for that matter!

Blessings to you and yours.


Anonymous said...

What happens when you "go home" and get your soul crushed . . . and your heart ripped to shreds/splattered all over the wall?

Pamela King Cable said...

Dr. Mary ... maybe "home" wasn't where you thought. Maybe "home" was the place you left. But, I know what it feels like to have your heart ripped out and thrown to the wolves. I know. I'm so sorry it happened to you ... I wouldn't wish that on anybody. It seems to me, if you think your heart's beyond repair, you might just have to find a new home. That's what I did. God bless you and yours.