Love is not a piece of cake.

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Love is not a piece of cake.

That’s the lesson I am learning these days. The other lesson I am learning these days is this: when life has a lesson you are clearly meant to learn, the whole entire world shows up to teach it to you. You get reminders of the lesson in songs. In traffic signs. In conversations. In strangers. Everywhere, through everything, the world shows up to teach you good. And it seems as though life beats that little lesson into you until you hold up your hands in exasperation and say, “Okay. I get it. I’ll learn this. I won’t ignore it any longer. We good? We good?”

Love is not a piece of cake.

Yea, that’s the lesson. And I don’t even mean that to play on a metaphor. I just mean, love is not some sugary, empty thing that looks surface-level pretty but fails to keep you full. If you keep meeting that sort of love then I think maybe you’re meeting an imposter. Some other thing dressed up and pretending to be love. Take caution, I’m no expert. I’m not someone who is going to yell in your face and tell you about the love you deserve. I’m just going to take off my own mask and finally admit it: I’ve worshipped the wrong definition of love for far too long. There was a strange kind of comfort in worshipping my own definition of love— it meant it could never hurt me, control me, surprise me or wreck me. My own definition of love let me be in charge of hurting, controlling, surprising and wrecking myself first.

Love, to me, was this script on repeat:

“Win people. Be worthwhile. Be the one that people want to love. Do what it takes to please them.”

And if someone came to me and said, “Listen, we need to borrow your definition of love. We want to print it in all the dictionaries,” then I would need to pity the world who would have to try to live inside my definition. Because love, to me, was blues eyes that stopped looking in my direction. Love, to me, was begging to my own strength to try to get it all right. Love to me was hearing scriptures like “love your neighbor as yourself” and laughing as I whispered, “That’s so funny. I barely even like myself.”

Love was promises we could not keep. Love was disappointment. And walls built up to keep me safe. Love was moats around castles. It was writing notes to ghosts. It was hinging my worth on being chosen. Love is all I ever wanted and the one thing I still feel too insecure to admit: I don’t want it. I need it. 

When my friend asked me to attend the church with her on Sunday, I was hesitant.

Like, really hesitant. It’s not that I hadn’t heard good things about the church. I just heard it was “traditional.” Simple. And the part of me that likes big, flashy church productions seems to naturally rebel against the idea of “simple.” To be honest, I think sometimes I like the flashy productions and poppy music because it makes gives me more layers of distraction to put between myself and God. Music. Trendy clothing. Attractive people who will surely mate and make even more attractive babies (though that’s everywhere). I’ve gotten used to going to church for people, not God.

So when I walked into the church, placed next to a super market I’ve driven past a dozen times before, I’d already scratched the hope for said-church off my list. I’d already given up on the church.

The lights weren’t low. The sanctuary wasn’t grand. We pursed cups of coffee in our hands as we waited for the music to start. I felt a bit like Lorelai Gilmore just because I am watching that show too much on Netflix these days. There was no flash. No opening. Just two guys and their guitars on stage. The whole hymn sat on the screen in simple white letters. They sang a song you only hear at funerals. The words pelted against my skin like rain in the moment you remember you like feeling it:

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,

When sorrows like sea billows roll;

Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to know, 

It is well, it is well, with my soul.

I stood in that church as the funeral song played and I thought to myself: I add so much excess to my own life. To my definitions of love. To my relationships. To God. And people. I still am stuck believing that if I just give you all my excess and all my barriers then you’ll be too afraid to love me. And you will leave me. And love will stay this “empty” thing. The “need to win” thing it’s only ever been to me.

Fittingly, the pastor spoke on love. She spoke on that overused verse: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and all your mind, and all your soul.” I always read that verse as: Love God and love people in the ways you know how to. But no, I never heard: love God and love people with your whole entire person. With all your doubts and all your fears. With the things you understand and things you’ve never understood. Love someone, even when you think you hate them. Love God, even when nothing is moving the way you wanted it to be moving. Love someone, even though you were never promised forever. Love people and God as if love were the kind of thing that has layers. Layers that let you go deeper and deeper, past whatever you think you are capable of.

To be completely honest and unscripted, I stood in that church and wrestled with God, saying: I only want love if it has more layers for me. I don’t want emptiness. I don’t want something that keeps me full for five minutes. But I don’t want to front it. I don’t want to fake it, either. If you’re real, then be real. Wash over me. Wreck me. Make me feel weak and woozy. I only want this thing if it’s real. I only want love if its the kind of love I can go ahead and stop trying to understand. Make this dance too exhausting for me that all I can do, in my own strength, is step on your toes and let you lead.  

I got an email just the other day from a girl who finally got the guy.

She got him. He finally said, “I am all in. We are doing this. No games. No hesitation.” Nike should maybe sponsor their newfound relationship because the two are about to hustle and do and jump the hurdles to make this precious love of theirs work. 

But anyway, she was emailing me, of all people, to say she was afraid. She got exactly what she wanted and now she was afraid to fail him. She wrote, “I’m scared. I’m scared that I won’t learn to actually let him in. That I’ll be so afraid & so guarded for so long that we’ll just hit a ceiling & never get better. I don’t want that for myself & I really, really don’t want that for him.”

Love is not a piece of cake. The lesson rears its annoying little head again as I start to type back to her.

It’s not a piece of cake. Love is not some sugary, empty thing that looks surface-level pretty but fails to keep you full. It’s not run by your own insecurities. It’s not susceptible to your own nasty thoughts.

Love is not a piece of cake.  If anything, love is a seven-layer dip and we just really comfortable with sticking to the surface with all those crunchy Fritos. We think, we’ll just stick to the surface and keep all our barriers up so that we can never get hurt.

Love is not a piece of cake. It’s a fist fighter. It’s a wrecking ball. It’s more than blue eyes and ghosts and slow dances that never became yours. It’s deeper than your own perceptions. It’s things you can’t see or touch.

It’s anything, anything but a piece of cake. I’m learning that old definitions must die hard. They either die hard or they swallow you whole. And me? I need a definition of love that feeds me more than a piece of cake with inflated frosting falling off the edges of it.

And so my request these days becomes: Show me love that is bigger than my brain, my bullies, my ballads and my bruises. I want a love so rich and so foreign that when it comes in my direction I think that I must give it a new name to make up for all the years I never knew what to call it.

I think I need a name for this thing called “love” so when it comes to knock at my door— to rearrange my heart like furniture I’ve grown fine with seeing sit in one place— I’ll know to let it in. I’ll know to let it in and wreck me good with its layers.

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The book is ready for pre-order!

To my readers,

I’ve written and rewritten this post about a dozen times.

Every time I think I’ve nailed it I sit on the backspace button and start over. My heart is thudding. My lungs are full of breath that I don’t know how to release. I am more nervous than that time Andrew U. asked me to be his girlfriend in the 8th grade and I fumbled to change my relationship status in my AOL profile (yes, I was severely nervous about that one).

I’ve come to the conclusion that I could either dress this post up in really pretty words or I could just come out, bite down hard of my bottom lip, and just say it:

It’s here.

It’s finally, finally here. 

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I am excited to share that my first book If You Find This Letter  (March 10, 2015) is available for pre-order!

Like, today. Like, right now. At all the major outlets where books are sold:

Amazon    B&N   Indiebound   CBD.com   Books a MIllion 

You can order it as a hardcover or ebook.

I’ll be honest: I’ve been crying all week. If you’ve followed along on my book writing journey then you know the truth already: I put my everything into this book. Absolutely everything. And you’re getting all of me when you get this book. It was exhausting & wonderful & a once-in-a-lifetime process to produce this book and I am just now getting the confirmation I prayed for this whole time: It was all so incredibly worth it. Thank you for that. 

So here’s the nitty gritty:

Pre-order sales matter a ton. They show booksellers and publishers that there is interest in what you’ve written. It would mean the world to me if you would preorder a copy of my memoir so that I can keep writing books for all of you. As a thank-you for pre-ordering, I’ll be continuously picking people out of the pre-order pile every month leading up to the release date of the book (March 10, 2015) to meet for half-hour online coffee dates. We will talk life, love, big plans, business, whatever you please! Just you + me + lots of coffee + heart stuff.

You can be eligible for a sweet, little coffee date by sending proof of purchase (a receipt, a screenshot, a selfie with your morning coffee, whatever!) to preorder@hannahbrencher.

And here’s another sweet thang:

I know March is a ways away, but I’ve got another project– a fold-and-mail stationery pad for writing love letters– that hits stores on December 23, 2014. It’s full of fun & funky prompts and it is perfect for the folks who adore snail mail.

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You can snag a copy here.

Sappy little side-note that doesn’t seem to fit anywhere else in this post: 

Each of you has no idea how much I’ve been encouraged by your comments, your tweets, your emails, and letters. Thank you for inspiring me to keep writing and keep pushing. I feel so blessed to have you in this community and I don’t know if I say it nearly enough: thank you for taking me just as I am. You are the gold that makes this whole life good.

hb.

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Filed under On Writing., Uncategorized

Stop sleeping with liars.

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First things first, stop sleeping with liars.

Stop crawling into bed at night, pulling the covers over your body, and letting liars hiss inside your ear: you’re unworthy. You’re not good enough. You’re falling short. You’re a burden. You’re alone.  

These liars take up room. They snicker and grow when you give them credit. They hold tight to your ankles. They make you feel like less: less of a lover. Less of a mover. Less of a shaker. Less of a person.  Please– for the love of lovelier things– do not fling away your life and feed it to the liars in your head that tell you you don’t add up.

You need to stop holding yourself back. The pity party must cease and you must de-invite the little liars to your darkest parts. You need to stop thinking you have never deserved good things for your life. 

 

It’s a relentless grind to figure out the point of this life but life is not a puzzle.

It is not a race. It is not a mystery to be solved by human hands. Life is a dance. A hands-all-in, feet-all-in sort-of dance that we start living the second we stop pulling it apart for answers.

And sometimes life (mentioned above) is just too short to buy groceries. Or do the dishes.

We all have a life we didn’t live. It’s there. It exists. It grows with every choice we didn’t make. I want to say the golden spot in all of this is reaching the point where that life you didn’t live can be surveyed without regret.

Not everyone in life is going to care about you, your favorite breakfast foods, or your pet peeves. Don’t even try to make them. Just appreciate those who come into your life and do care.

Find the line– the one single line of poetry or prose or song lyric– you would tattoo to your face. No, really. If someone came up to you and was like, “Today you MUST get a face tattoo,” you should know what pretty little line would inked on your face for all of eternity. If you don’t know yet, go out there and figure it out.

Self-pity doesn’t have an expiration date. That should terrify you.

Keep a diary. A real diary. And write down silly little details like the way his jeans were ripped or how the air seemed to smell on the morning after you two broke. You’ll want the memories later. You’ll never regret that diary on the day you crack it open and get to say, “I wrote it all down. It’s all right here.”

 

We’re all trying.

Really, we are. We all want to matter. We all want to count. We all want to be seen. So there’s your purpose for the day: Want people. Count on people. See people.

Tweets that get stuck in draft form are a sign from God that you weren’t supposed to write them. Don’t send them.

You already know the truth. It sits inside of you like a rock. Give yourself more credit. Stop saying you don’t know. You know. You know. I repeat, You. Know.

Not everything will be okay. And you know what? That’s okay. Sometimes you’re gonna lose. You’ll be a loser. And you’ll join the loser club, just like all of us. And then you’ll win again. It will be great.

Don’t write fear a love song. Fear has never deserved your love songs. 

It’s hard to leave. It’s always going to be hard to leave. It’s like there’s something stitched in our DNA that makes it feel nearly unbearable to let people and places go. But, at the same time, hard stuff is important. And sometimes you know it is time to leave. Don’t deny your feet when they tell you it is time to walk away.

Either life will be an adventure or it will be a waiting room. You pick.

Stop waiting for someone to come along and tell you that you can do something. You can. It’s already within you. You’re getting lapped by the people who never waited on approval. Hustle. It’s a real thing. This is your tough love siren going off in the distance: if you want it, step up. Stop telling yourself weak stories and just step up.

They might not change. You have to be willing to see that. People don’t always change. Even though we want to. The takeaway from that is this: People aren’t projects. They’re just people. We don’t get to fix them. You can’t build a life around an idea of person. You have to build your life around real things. Real and good things.

Write poems. Without rhyming or worry about iambic pentameter. Without judging them. Just write poems because they are groovy. Write poems because life is poetry. We’re the poems.

Drink hot chocolate. Abandon chairs to sit on counter tops. Screw the calorie count every once in a while. Find an author whose words are like truffles for you. Sit on the countertop, drinking hot cocoa, screwing calories, and reading Neruda out loud.

 

Not everyone will be your cheerleader.

Not everyone will understand. Let people think you are crazy. Crazy is a good thing. Wild hearts are necessary.

Stop waiting for someone to come along and tell you’re brave and capable and ready and here. Don’t hitch your life and all your hopes on someone coming along and telling you you’re brave and capable and ready and here. Sometimes people will tell us those things. Sometimes they won’t. Proceed believing in them anyway. You’re brave. You’re capable. You’re ready. You’re here. Do something about it.

Also– you’re human. That’s it. You’re not super human. You’re not subhuman. You’re just plain human. You make mistakes. You don’t scale walls. You hurt people without ever intending to. You get your heart ripped out of your chest. Some days the only language you can endure is tears and you’re like, “I’M SO FLUENTTT IN TEARSSSS. WHATTT ISSSS WRONNGGG WITHHH MEEE???” Like I said, you’re human. Go with it.

There is a time to tell the truth. And then there is a time to do anything but tell someone the truth—you have be so careful over the things you’re willing to let someone carry for the rest of their life.

There is an underlying storyline to all of us. It’s common and it’s overlapping: we all want to belong somewhere. For that very reason—be kind. Be graceful. We are all just trying to make our way home to one another after time on a road that left us tired and wanting for someone to ask us to stay.

Stop waiting for someone to come along and tell you that you can do something. You can. It’s already within you. You’re getting lapped by the people who never waited on approval.

We all have a life we didn’t live. It’s there. It exists. It grows with every choice we didn’t make. I want to say the golden spot in all of this is reaching the point where that life you didn’t live can be surveyed without regret.

 

You’re a vault.

Don’t let anyone tell you different than that. You’re a vault. You’re deep. You’re an onion with all the layers intact. Give yourself that credit. Don’t let people belittle you into acting like you are less than worthy—you are equal to everyone else on this planet.

Suffering is a real thing. I wish I didn’t have to type those words. But it’s real and it is, a lot of times, secret. Be kind to people. You don’t know the secret suffering they take to bed with them every night.

When you reach a point in life where it is nearly midnight and your friend asks you to go on a boat ride– to see the lake at night– you’ll be tempted to weave towards your bed instead. You’ll make some comment about how old you are getting. Hold up. Rewind. Accept the offer. The night will kiss you with stars. You’re gonna feel so small and lovely.

Accepting yourself will prove to be one of the biggest journeys of this lifetime. Pack the bags. Bring the toothbrush. March for the door and go. That journey is worth taking.

We make choices every single day. That’s what we do. Life is just a stacking of yes and no questions. Yes, I want this. No, I don’t. Yes, this is worth it. No, it isn’t. And each choice takes us farther and farther from away from the person we did not end up becoming. You make the choices though. And you get to pick the person who will stand in the rear view mirror. You get to decide if you’ll miss that person you didn’t become or not.

We live in a world where it’s easy to associate being single with missing pieces. That’s a tangled little lie that doesn’t deserve the energy it takes to untie it from itself. Being single doesn’t mean you are missing pieces. Single serves a purpose that has nothing do with the hunt to find someone else. In your own singleness, you can kick some serious ass. Don’t miss the chance.

Be open to criticism. Let it come from the lungs of those who want to see you better and thriving. Guard yourself against haters. In the words of Taylor Swift, the haters gonna hate. It’s up to you to shake it off.

Ban Adele. Not forever. Not for always. But in times when you feel low & down & insecure, Adele doesn’t help the situation. She enlarges the wound with her haunting language of loss. She makes us want to gouge our eyes out with pencils because WE. FEEL. SO. MUCH. If you are fragile right now, pump the brakes on Ms. Angel Pipes for a little while. Find some rap music. Listen to jams that reek of baller-status.

The quest to believe in something is personal and sacred. It’s a battlefield and a pilgrimage, all in one breath. And people will believe in a lot of things: God, boyfriends, altars, plane tickets, the works. It might not be your job to dictate to a person where to go or how to open up their hands. Some people will want your roadmaps. And some people will only want to know that you’re the reliable kind, the kind to stand at the front door with the light on– promising to be there waiting when they find their way home.

 

Love is a severely underestimated word.

We don’t give it enough street cred. That word should have you crawling on your knees in a struggle to just get better with it. You should surround yourself with people who challenge you on that word. What better honor in this lifetime than to be surrounded by people who make you constantly think and say, “My god, I want to learn how to love you so well.”

Turn your whole life into a quest to be good to those people. Like, make your whole life into a quest to figure out how to show up for them. At airports. On birthdays. On days where you know there is a decision lurking around the corner and they’re scared and wondering. Those good people are your people—fight for them.

And again, it’s worth repeating: stop sleeping with liars. 

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New girl.

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“Clothes,” I say.

“Plans,” he rattles back.

“Seasons.”

“You hair color,” he laughs.

We keep going back and forth. Ricocheting against one another. Only the roaring of the washer standing between our breaths of silence.

This was our favorite game. Categories. The game where you exhaust one another with all the possible types of cereal and sports teams you can think of before someone gives up and someone wins out. This was our own version of Categories. The category on the table: things that change.

“College majors,” I said.

“Shoes.”

“Shoes fall under clothes. I win.”

“Not true,” he denies. “Changing your shoes is completely different from changing your clothes… Keep going.”

“Fine. Profile pictures.”

“Good one,” he says. “Twitter bios.”

“Totally gave you that one.

We could go on for days like this, I kept thinking to myself. We could go on bantering and joking and having one another in this playful little way and nothing would need to be examined for a second or third time.

“Seasons,” I tell him.

“Kind of the like the weather but I will still give it to you,” he nudges me playfully. “Your coffee order. Definitely your coffee order. For instance, will you be a skim latte today or will you go for pumpkin?”

“Us,” I cut him off. “This.”

He doesn’t say anything. I let the silence fall on top of us like a blanket. All I can hear is the washer still going: whoosh, whoosh, whoosh.

“You ruined the game,” he said. “This was a dumb category anyway.”

“You picked it,” I answered him silently.

“I wouldn’t pick this,” he said back. His eyes were on the barren walls. The space that didn’t hold my things inside of it anymore. “I didn’t pick this.” 

Change isn’t just in the aftermath of falling in love or falling apart.

I’m learning this. I’m so used to pairing change with love stories that haven’t worked out in the creases the way I’ve wanted them to that I forget how change is so much more than that. It’s a location. It’s a best friend. It’s a person who raised you. It’s a place where you and I used to meet up and suddenly, suddenly, there isn’t room for one another anymore. Change is always wearing different costumes. It’s always wearing different makeup and capes and teeth. Change is just this thing that never fails to make me feel like I am standing in the Halloween aisles of Target, trying to figure out how it will dress up and show up at my door the next time.

Months ago, I would have lied to you. About this whole change thing. I would have acted way more gracefully and told you: change is a good thing. It’s necessary. We need it.

I still believe all those things but I think I’m giving up the graceful act— I know I am clumsy when it comes to change. I still fight this thing inside of me that doesn’t want to move. I still cling. And there was this one time when I spent a whole day in the library— a whole stretch of day— with every book I could find on butterflies flapped open and lying on the floor. I felt like a crazy person. A literal crazy person. Still, I spent that day tracing every step in the transformation process. Caterpillar, cocoon, butterfly. Caterpillar, cocoon, butterfly. Looking for any clue that something as dumb as a caterpillar could know the potential it had to actually fly. I stayed in that spot on the floor just until my soul could be fed with enough reassurance: even something as pretty as a butterfly clings to its old life as long as it can. Because it has no idea what will happen next. And all it can see is the dark of the next step. So no, you’re not wrong to cling. It’s okay to cling.

Change is not a trick-or-treater.

Isn’t that the scary part? Change knows exactly what it wants when it comes to your door. It’s you. Your whole body. Your whole being. The parts of yourself you said you didn’t want to release so soon. That’s change— always looking different and always asking for the same thing when it reaches you: the permission to come ripping into your life to shove you around like furniture. For the better. For the worse. For the chance to leave you different than yesterday.

It’s okay. Really, it’s okay. Don’t be afraid if you are changing. If you are not in love any longer. If you are stretched too thin. Don’t be afraid.

This whole thing— this entire journey— is about change. It’s about an equation you’re not supposed to be able to solve. It’s about dreams that feel too big for your body because you need those sorts of things. We all need things that are bigger than our bodies to keep us hopeful and to keep us going.

This whole thing is about learning to tell yourself ‘yes.’ And ‘no.’ And ‘stay.’ And ‘don’t stay.’ And allowing yourself to let go of the lie the world tries to feed you, the lie that tells you you cannot become someone different if you want to be. You can. I promise that. You can. It starts with change and a lot of little action verbs: breaking. changing. morphing. molding. doing. letting go. laughing. enduring. fighting. leaving.

Don’t be afraid. This is all a part of the process.

Today is the first day that I actually believed it.

The first day I actually believed fall might be a real thing in Atlanta. That people weren’t just lying to me when they told me that one day, one day soon, the leaves would shimmy and turn and crumble to the ground. The temperature would dip low and give the southern humidity a one-way ticket to go somewhere else for a little while.

It’s like I want to tell everyone around me who has an ear to hear it: This isn’t October the way I am used to. I am a girl who grew up watching the summer die. I could watch it in the trees. I could see it in the air. Summer dying, where I come from up north, is the most remarkable treasure you never had to pay for. It’s given unto you. And I hope I never take it for granted again.

There’s just something about those leaves though. Watching them change. Watching them cling to the green until the brown and yellow and red take over up until the point when they can’t hold on any longer and they fall to the ground.

It gives me hope. Like hope that I could become as good as change as those leaves. That I could stop clinging long enough to become a different shade or color of myself. That I could stop whispering the lie in my own ear: things don’t have to change, they can stay the same. 

Things don’t stay the same. They just don’t. People move. They leave. They don’t become who you expect them to be. You grow out of one another. Friends leave. We all shut doors. We open new ones. We shut more. And goodbye sometimes brings heartbreak and it sometimes hauls miracles into your life.  You have to let it fall off your lips sometimes just to know.

You will still watch the leaves fall off the trees whether you witness it with open hands or arm crossed over you in resistance. If you are anything like me then you need to be the one to beg yourself not to miss out on one of the most back-breaking beautiful things of this lifetime: you get to change. You. You. You are not forgotten in all of this. You get to become something new too.

And maybe that’d seem nicer if you could see the change before it pushed you into newness. But then again, it must not work that way for a reason. There’s got to be a reason why I have to be someone new but I can’t know everything about that new girl yet.

Maybe it’s the process. The unknown of the process that gets you good. Turns you gold and all that stuff. Maybe it’s the process– not the destination on a map but the dotted lines that get you there. 

Maybe we should go and see.

Maybe, let’s just go and see.

:: photo cred ::

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Do what it takes to make me your gold.

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He’s been talking lately.

Like a boy who goes radio silent for weeks before his name starts showing up on your screen again, God has been talking in that way.

I guess I should state the facts: he’s probably been talking all along. He probably has been whispering and trying his darndest to yell above the noise of my life and I just haven’t heard him. That’s usually the case– I am running, and doing, and pulling, and prying, and trying my hardest (my absolute hardest) to make life move without him. And that’s just the second fact: I like to be in control. I like to know the elements around me. I like to know what follows after Step 1. And so the idea of a God of the universe has always, sort-of rubbed up against me like sandpaper because I don’t want to let anything in that might make me unclench my fists and give up control. 

 

Give up control.

That would be the anthem of my life these days. Give up control & let me work.

That’s the first thing I heard when my car pulled onto the campus of the retreat center I was staying at for four days last week. I only had to speak one of the days. The other three days were like God’s perfect, compact entryway to tear into my life and show me all the parts of me that he could stand to change. It’s like he had a list. A List of Things to Change. 

I think that’s the part of God I’ve always resisted. I think maybe that’s why a lot of people resist God and try their hardest to disprove him, or hitchhike away from him, or make him a sliver of their life but not their whole entire life.

I used to think the people who made God the center of their orbit– the sun within their solar system– were crazy. I didn’t get it. I didn’t understand it. I thought, “Don’t you want control? Don’t you want to hold all the cards?”

That was God to me. God and I, we’d talk every once in a while. I didn’t look for him in the trees. I prayed when I needed stuff. God was like Santa Claus– I came to him with lists and I wanted him to leave presents for me while I was sleeping. I remember being really clear when I told God, “Listen, you get parts of me. You get very tiny parts of me but you don’t get all of me. Sorry. Not working that way.” Like I said, control is my thing.

 

The world has constructed a lot of gods out of God.

We live in this culture that does a really good job of taking one characteristic of the God of the universe and blowing it out to proportions where it smothers all the other characteristics.

I mean, it’s easy to believe in a God of Wrath. It’s easy to believe in that Leviticus kind of God. He’s the dude that ruins the party. He thinks less of us already. He holds his measuring stick high to our chins and whispers, “Just try, if you want. You’ve already fallen from grace in my eyes.” He points fingers and names names. And we throw up hands and curl in corners because this God never fit us. And this God failed the already failed ones.

When that is your own perception of God then it makes it so much easier to walk away from him. It’s easy to be free from the dictator God. It’s a perfect opportunity to bash him in circles and find common ground among the people who also have been hurt by a God of Wrath.

And similarly, it’s easy to believe in a God who is lukewarm. A passive little God who fits smug in your back pocket and you get the chance to pull him out whenever you need him to fight your battles. He’s like a Pokemon. I mean, it’s convenient to believe in a God who will always be smaller than you. It’s convenient to worship a God you get to play god over.

And then there is the God who showers you with praise. And the God who winks and nudges you at when you notice the bible verse on the bottom of the Forever 21 bag. It’s the God who doesn’t ask you to change and just exists to stroke your ego and tell you everything– every little thing– will be more than okay. He’s the God we plaster the quotes of on coffee mugs and journals. He’s sunshine and roses, always. Always.

But it gets uncomfortable when you meet the God who could stand to change you. The God who says, “Yes, I made you but I never had the plan of keeping you this way.”

This is the God who wants to morph you and mold you into something better. That’s supremely uncomfortable to believe in because the molding hurts. And the morphing hurts. And it would be easier– so much easier– to just stand in one place with the God of Wrath, or the Passive God, or the God who never needs you to dig deeper beneath the surface.

 

I met the God who could stand to change me.

I met him the moment I drove onto that campus and wheeled my little, red carry-on into my bedroom, the one with the rooster lamp and the strange farm scenes playing out all over my blue bedspread.

You see, I’ve been to this retreat center before. I’ve stood in this bedroom before. I know that if I walk to the closet and open the door, I will be met with all sorts of Sharpie marker scribblings all over the walls. The scribbles are from people who came to this retreat center with marriages crumbling and holding on by threads. Hoping God would move. Hoping God would pulse. I knew when I stepped into that room that, if I opened my closet door, I would find redemption stories dancing all over the walls in red and blue.

I left the suitcase at the door and I walked into the bathroom. I remembered the bathroom from the year before because the tub was massive, it was the type of tub I really hope I have one day. The type of tub that makes me think you’re a real adult if you have a tub so big.

I stared at the tub for a minute or so before stepping inside– clothes on and shoes on– and sitting down square in the middle of that tub. I am serious, I laid in the tub with my Nike pumps kicked up against the porcelain and I just closed my eyes. And I opened them. And I closed them. And the silence was deafening and I hated it so. I hate that kind of silence you can’t escape from, the kind that encloses all around you, because you know God is going to speak eventually. And you are afraid of what He will say. You are so afraid of what he will want of you.

I just stayed. Right there. I didn’t reach for my phone. I didn’t look for a way to push into some new distraction that would take me away from him so I easily. I stayed. And I started to pick at the polish of my nails. Flecks of red fell off and all around me into the tub. And as I chipped, he spoke. As I chipped, he spoke. And I was torn between interrupting. Interrupting to say, “I’ve missed you. Where have you been?” But I know his answer already.

I know he would have said right back, “I never left you. I never leave you. You’re just busy. You’re busy and you’re hustling and you are doing all these things that allow you to stay distracted enough that you never need to come to me. 

But haven’t you felt empty, child? Haven’t you missed the feeling of being full? Child, child, put your armor down. I never left you, you’ve just been trying to get away.” 

 

He’s right, I’ve been trying to get away.

Because I am human. And that’s what humans do. I pack and I flee away from the light. I look for the answers in the world all around me. I think I steer better and own my dreams better. But more than that, I have not stopped convincing myself yet that I am a better keeper of my own emptiness. I think I am really so good at guarding my own emptiness and letting no one near enough to touch and tell me, “You could clear this all away if you really wanted to.”

“Fine,” I whisper in the depths of that tub. “Just do it. Just do your work.”

Chip. Chip. Chip. The paint continues to fall away.

“Just make me into gold. All those bible verses, they tell me that I could be your gold. Do what it takes to make me your gold.”

Chip, chip, chip…

I feel him doing his work. Whispering into the old parts of me, “Done with this. Over with that. Gone goes that ugly part of you.”

Chip, chip, chip…

“Never again will you find your worth in this. Darling, aren’t you tired of holding this? Don’t you want to just let it go?”

Chip, chip, chip…

And then the quiet. I stay still. I close my eyes. Open them. Close them. And the voice comes back, the one that sounds like silver and victory. It rushes in to stop my sobs for good, “You, I love you. Gosh, it hurts so to express how I love you because I know you don’t see it. Somehow you don’t see what I think of you– you only see yourself through the lens of a world that wants you to get so small that you disappear altogether. 

I want so much of you. I am so jealous for you. I love you bigger. Bigger than your little mind can ever know. And that is why I can never leave you this way.  Sitting in the tubs of your own emptiness. That is why I can’t keep you here, clutching old garments of your past.

I have so much new for you, little bee. I have so much new for you. 

Baby, baby, all will be well. But you have to let me take it from here. You have to let it go and let me take it from here.”

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My booklist brings all the boys to the yard.

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A lot of readers have asked for my book list. And it kind-of, sort-of existed but it had been a long while since I updated it. In creating this list, I realized something: my day is torn between continuing to build and build upon this list and actually getting work done. I could write about books forever. And I could keep making a list and never be satisfied with my own selections. So I have decided that I will continue to build upon this list as time goes on. I will add categories. I will add new selections. And you can chime in through the comments to help me build upon this list.

Happy reading season!

hb.

 

A little fiction never hurt nobody.

Little Bee: I told my mother I was coming up with a book list and she nearly fell into a fit of rage jumping up and down with fists clenched screaming, “LITTLEEEEE BEEEEEEEEE. RARRRRRRRRRRRRR.” But no, seriously, you need to go read this book and then decide which room in your house you want to redecorate with all the pages. Next week on the blog I will post a tutorial on how to turn Christopher Cleeve’s book pages into wallpaper so that you can drool over it while cooking pasta in the kitchen or brushing your teeth in the bathroom.

Hemingway’s Girl 

Beloved

I Know This Much is True

El Girasol: A restless young woman searching for more finds herself in the arms of a Channing Tatum-esque man who just so happens to own an orphanage in El Salvador. Nuff said.

Plain Truth: Jodi Picoult is the junk of fiction. She does it all right & in an effortless kind of way like, “Oh, I just made your heart fall out of your chest with my ridiculous plot lines. Want another?” So read Plain Truth and then go build a bunker in your local library and camp out with all the books she’s ever written. The Pact is another solid one. And when the security guards come to remove you, scream that you’ve caught the Jodi and you are absolutely incurable. They’ll be sympathetic. I’m sure.

Firefly Lane: This book is perfection for the ones of you that feel like sitting in a pile of your own snot and tears tonight. A great story about friendship that will surely curl close the memories with your own best friends but there is just one thing I recommend: Keep your phone preset to dial 911 for the exact moment that you fall from the couch to the floor and begin choking and hyperventilating over your tears.

The Help: You is kind. You is special. You is important. This book is designated for a day where rain is cluttering the window panes and all your body is screaming for is a hot cocoa with whipped cream on top. These are the kinds of characters you want to pile up in your minivan and drive around town with stopping at various Starbucks to show off what a groovy clan you’ve got. Minnie will want to sit in the front seat, or maybe even drive the minivan. Fair warning.

The messed up sides of you will like these selections.

Gone Girl

Room: Also known as “The book that won’t stir you until page 50 but don’t give up on it yet.” I’ll admit that I stumbled and stammered and almost put the book down but that everything changed when I reached the 50-page mark. You go from barely holding up the book to gripping it tightly, sucking the oxygen from the teeny tiny pages. Twisted plotline. Twisted perspective. So delightfully gripping.

The Virgin Suicides: It took me a while to get into the actual plot of this book… or to distinguish if a plot even existed. But the way the author puts words together is its own form of crack. Like, if we were crack dealers he would probably be the king of us (so many crack references…).

Looking for Alaska

The Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

 

Creative Nonfiction is my crack.

The Year of Magical Thinking: Do you know how ridiculously tough it is for me to even type out that title. I get choked up. I want to retreat far, far away from this computer space to curl up in a corner with Joan Didion’s book and just weep & pour over it. Joan Didion is the loomer or the loomstress or the seamstress (whatever you call it) to literature. She chooses her words carefully & wisely and spins you into a better person because of it.

Me Talk Pretty One Day

The Opposite of Loneliness: This girl is on fire. Period. End of story. Marina Keegan passed away suddenly in a tragic car accident just a few days after she graduated from Yale University. Her writings went wildly viral as a result. Her words are gonna grip you and pull you and rip you apart. And you’re gonna be addicted to what she left behind.

Reading Lolita in Tehran

The Diary of Helene Berr

On Writing: a memoir of the craft: Three words: “Kill your darlings.” For any writer, this is the stuff… The. Stuff.

 

Lady Friends to Travel With.

Wild: You knew I couldn’t make a list without mah girlzzzzz– Cheryl and Liz. This book made me want to pack a backpack (quickly), invest in hiking boots, and then haul on over to the Pacific Northwestern Trail. Get ready for a good journey, babycakes.

Tiny, Beautiful Things: This. Just this. I can’t say much more. This book is my designated “I give it to every single friend going into any sort of life transition” book. I can’t type much more than that… I swoon.

Bread & Wine

Never Have I Ever: This memoir is hilarious and unbelievably relatable. This is the kind of narrator you hope to have always– one who writes to you as though you both are sitting down to coffee, retelling every detail. Pick it up and laugh. Hard.

Eat, Pray, Love: This book is a classic in my book. My loyalties are pinned to it. I will never deviate. Liz Gilbert is my favorite writer, hands-down. And this book brought me through a number of monumental things– break-ups, starts of new semesters, transitions, and my own book-writing journey.

Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dress: I read this book when I was 14-years-old. It made me want to be a hysterical writer. Susan Jane Gillman is the kind of gal you want to go traveling with. She is honest. She is brave. She. Is. Brilliant.

 

Dat dude upstairs.

Blue Like Jazz: I am still quite certain that there will come a day when Don Miller and I are sipping sweet tea out at the front of a wraparound porch. The man is genius. I’ve never had a single tempting to get a tattoo but some of his sentences are just so sticky that I think I want to ink them on my body in a forever sort of way. All of Don’s stuff is pure goodness. A Million Miles in a Thousand Years is another one I highly recommend, especially if you are beginning to wonder the purpose within your little bones.

Traveling Mercies: If God were to grant me a small pocket of time to be Tyra Banks and judge this book as it strutted down the runway, I’d say something so Tyra-like, “Fierce. This book… all its pages and stories and plots within… all of it is FIERCE.”

Help, Thanks, Wow. 

One Thousand Gifts: If grace could grow pages and a spine, it. would. look. like. this. book. Beautiful language. And a beautiful thought process living on the page. There is no possible way that you will turn away from this book not being better or stronger in your walk with God.

The Hiding Place

When we were on fire. 

Speak.

Where the Heart Waits: Not to be confused with “Where the Heart Is” about the girl who gets pregnant and delivers a baby in Wal-Mart. I am a mega fan over any ink that Sue Monk Kidd places down on a page. This book is perfect for anyone going with a dark period with God.

Tables in the Wilderness: This book isn’t due out until October but I got to read an advanced copy and Preston Yancey delivers a moment that body slams you and your current state of spirituality. I love this boy something fierce and I know this is just one of what will be many, many books from him.

Radical: This book should be renamed. To something like, “Hi, My name is David Platt. And I am going to smack you in the face with truth. And it’s gonna be uncomfortable. And maybe you will move to Africa when you are done reading… TBD.”

 

Young Adults are Underestimated.

Hunger Games: I don’t care what a single individual says: These. Books. Are. Awesome. Sauce. And Rue’s whistle is my current ringtone. Read the first one and you’ll suddenly find yourself dropping off the face of the planet to read all three. They are addicting so please, only start these books on a week when you don’t have engagements to attend. And let me know if you want to put in an order for a t-shirt that reads, “Real Men Bake Cakes” from my one day, some day clothing line.

The Book Thief: If this book were actual crack then I would be a junkie in a heartbeat. I don’t know what more to say than this book needed to be read by you yesterday. Go, child. GO.

The Fault in our Stars

The Perks of Being a Wallflower: This ain’t because More Love Letters is sitting pretty at the back of the new book (wink) BUT the story in general is one that will yank you back to your high school shoes and all you ever felt about fitting in and wishing to be infinite for a little while. A real coming of age story that shakes and stirs at any age or angle.

 

Sometimes I wish Seth Godin was my daddy (and other things you’ll say after reading these business books).

Start Something That Matters: Blake, the founder of the TOMS movement, tells a compelling play by play of all the nuts & bolts behind a grassroots movement turned global. I reference this little ditty often with More Love Letters and it is perfect beyond perfect for anyone that wants to dig into business but is allergic to numbers and case studies.

Quitter: This book was a major player in helping me find the courage and the resources to quit my day job. Jon Acuff is smart and spewing with know-how when it comes to the topic of living out your passion in a remarkable way. I would recommend this book to anyone-a-n-y-o-n-e- who is looking to be humored and inspired and challenged, all at the same time.

The Firestarter Sessions: I worked with Danielle Laporte for six months, once upon a time. And everyday was as inspiring as this book. It’ll kick you in the pants. It will drive you to new levels. And it will touch on a topic you probably need to face: FEAR. Plus, it’s really, really pretty and bright orange so it’s a great addition to any bookshelf just for its aesthetic.

Tribes

GirlBoss

If You Have to Cry, Go Outside: One of my favorites. PR Master Kelly Cutrone spits truth about the hustle. Be warned– it’s brutally honest and candid but you’ll learn a lot. She’s kind of like a merciless big sister.

The War of Art 

Essentialism: I have been on this wicked crazy rampage as of lately… One where I want to cut all the excess out of my life and just start fresh. This book is basically that idea, but in business format. Get ready to cut, cut, cut the junk out of your life.

Manage Your Day-to-Day: I don’t know if this book is available as more than an e-book but I got my copy for $2.99 or some absurdly cheap price. Which is crazy, considering it helped me completely restructure my day and squeeze the maximum amount of productivity out of me.

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Field Notes: Vol. 5

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You will have a moment when it is time to let go completely.

I don’t care that this is a men’s shirt. I ordered it. And I am going to wear it everyday.

I wept. A lot. A great deal.

Say it with me: BAWSEEEEE.

Gessika.

A man’s scent.

I nearly died of this cuteness.

It’s a MAD world.

LOL moment.

“No, it doesn’t work that way. You get to have me, or you have to give me up.”

Halloween be right around the corner.

This is legitimately genius.

New band obsession. Listen to “Gold.”

You’ve been served.

Meet the newest firecracker.

Tinder blogs are my new crack.

We need a whole set of field notes for doormats.

Have a beautiful weekend. Fill it to the brim with good people, good coffee, and rest. Rest– that’s an important one. If you don’t have any big plans, don’t beat yourself up. Sometimes we all need weekends reserved for doing nothing. Curl up & enjoy the goodness of a day or two off. 

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You get to lay down your armor too.

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At the time, the idea seemed flawless.

It couldn’t fail. Putting my phone number on the internet, I decided, was going to be the best decision of my life.

This sounds crazy when I type it all out and I feel like I should preface all of this by saying: at the time of this brilliant decision of publishing my seven digits for the world to see and call, I was reading a book by Bob Goff. The book is called “Love Does.” It’s a good one. Bob put a phone number at the back of his New York Times Bestselling book and asked people to call him. Like, he really wanted people to call him. And though I have never gotten the courage myself to give Bob a ring, I’ve heard from countless amounts of people that he actually picks up the phone. He talks. He listens. All that jazz.

I became enamored with the idea of being that accessible to people. This image was floating around in my head of me getting all wrapped up curly telephone cord and talking for hours with strangers. I could picture myself sitting on the granite countertop, bare feet dangling over the sink, as I got to hear the stories of someone else on the other side of the phone. I’d understand the cracks in their stories. I would get to be there for people. Whenever they needed me. Whenever they called. No questions asked.

That didn’t happen. First off, a human being who is already evidently awful at picking up the phone (or even keeping her cellphone charged) is not going to magically “get better” at it by publishing her phone number on the internet. Also, the only people who called me were men. I felt like I was on one of those hotlines where lonely men call in just to “talk.” And I’m like too nice to hang up the phone.

My “deep, life-shifting conversations” consisted of one man who called just to have some company while he was walking to the convenience store to get Tylenol at 11:30 at night. I didn’t pick up for the four other men who called. They all left voice mails. And while I don’t have too much advice for men, I am confident enough to make this public service announcement: Men out there– men of this wide world– do not (I repeat, do not) leave a voicemail for a girl you don’t know including any of the following lines:

I need to hear your voice.

I just want to hold you like you hold your letters. I just want to hold you like paper.

I want to be the words on your page.

That is not the way to a girl’s heart. It is the way to a prison cell.

All this to say: my phone number sat on my blog for a mere 24 hours before I was forced to take it down. And I got pushed back to the drawing board.

Here’s the thing: I like to help people.

I like to serve people. I’ve never really known how to just take up a hobby. I am ultimately the worst person (ever) to engage with in a challenge because I will be absolutely relentless to murder the competition once you get me going. I don’t like losing. And I don’t like not being the best at things.

Yes, these are the fatal flaws. I am admitting them just because I know, daily, that I am wrestling each one down to the ground and making them lose their power. That’s what you do with your fatal flaws— you make them lose their power. You refuse to stay just as you are.

So back to that phone number on the blog: I thought that was the next step. It couldn’t just be a simple thing like sending a birthday card in the mail. It had to be global. It had be to be earth-shattering. I wanted to be there for strangers. No, I just wanted to be there for everyone.

And while some might think that is noble, I have to come see it for the truth that it is to me in my own life: It’s easier to stay at a distance. It’s easier to be there for everyone if it keeps you too preoccupied to take on the hard work of being there for just a few “someone”s who will fail you and let you down and you’ll have to forgive them anyway.

It’s easier to touch a lot of lives instead of laying your hands upon a few and refusing to let go. That’s been my life for the last year and a half: you get on a plane. You stay in a hotel. You wonder what to do when they finally you drop you off with your suitcase and you have a random few hours to kill in a city you don’t know very well. You’re an introvert. And you just want to find a diner with two eggs, stale coffee, and good people watching.

You get on a stage. You talk to college students, mostly. You sit with them in tinier circles after the talk is over. You hear their stories. Their breakups. Their big dreams. You take selfies. You go back to your hotel. You leave in the morning. 

You love every second of it. Really, you do. But you never get to “do life” with those people. And that’s a hardship I still have not found my way around.

There’s a grey I can’t quite understand for moments with people that don’t last longer than our fingernails.  It’s like traveling is just two steps on repeat: fall in love. And get on a plane. Fall in love. And get on a plane.

And when the plane is ready to take off again, get you up to about 10,000 feet, your mind always wanders back to the place it hates to stand inside of: what would it take for you to stay?

That’s the scary stuff that no one ever talks about: staying.

And what staying looks like. And why the heck “staying” is like the monster that hides in the closet once you hit adulthood. You lose the fangs. You lose the strange things beneath your bed. The idea of just letting someone stay, of just staying where you are and loving the one you’re with, becomes a whole new monster to taunt you at night.

We don’t talk about that for some reason. Maybe it hurts. Maybe it’s vulnerable. But it’s like no one ever undresses how absolutely terrifying it can be to let others get close to you. Close enough to see the junk. Close enough to let in the ones who won’t judge you when you come to them, weary and wrecked by the day, and just say, “You know, this day didn’t feel worth it. I could have stayed in bed. That’s just what I want some days: to stay in bed so that the rest of the world can’t touch me.”

And that would be okay. That would be okay to say out loud.

I guess you can give your phone number to the world.

You could. And you’d probably get a lot of good stories out of it. You’d learn a lot of different types of laughter and there’d be nothing wrong with that. But I guess the bigger question for me was this: Is this what you need? Do you need to go wider— touch more and more lives— or do you need to go deeper with just few? 

You can go wide, and wide, and wide but it will never feel the way it feels to go deep. To force yourself into people’s lives like a hurricane. To let them actually walk into your life and get the chance to say to you, “Hey, you don’t have it all together. You’re not the best at everything. And you get to fail too. You get to lay down your armor too. Please don’t be afraid of the ones who want to get close and closer and closest to you.”

You can go wide, and wide, and wide but it might never feel the way it feels to lay beside your best friend in bed. It’s a queen-sized so you both fit. Only the skin of your arms touch. And that’s just always been your thing— laying in bed for hours, laughing over boys who became ghosts and a God who feels a little too big and mighty on most days that end with “y.” But today, she’s not moving. You’re not moving. And it makes you want to crawl out of your skin because you don’t have the words to fix her. You always thought words could fix things, until they couldn’t.

But you stay. And you let the silence go on humming like a dial tone. You let the silence get louder and louder. You do nothing to fill the silence up to the brim with words. And that makes you feel helpless and free, all at the same time.

You just stay. And you don’t try to fix a damn thing. And it’s harder than a phone call with a stranger who can’t touch your burdens in return. And maybe you just stay in bed that whole day. You pretend like the rest of the world can’t touch you. At one point you whisper the only thing you can say without trying to fix the unfixable sadness that sits between the two of you. 

“You’re okay.”

Maybe that’s all she needs to hear. Maybe that’s all you need to tell yourself.

“You’re okay.”

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P.S. I miss you.

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To my readers,

I am learning a lot as of lately. For one, I am learning that I am not a octupus. And that’s a real shame. I want eight arms. More than that, I want to do everything. An extra six arms would do me a lot of good. I’d be able to write and dream and think and plan and create and cook and shop and do an excessive amount of “more things” with the extra capacity that would exist from six more arms. Sadly, I wake up every single morning being just one girl. One girl with two arms who wants to take on the world.

So this isn’t really a post, per say. And it’s not an apology letter, I promise. It’s just a quick note to some of my favorite folks scattered across the world to say: Hey. I miss you. And I am coming back to this space really soon. I have all these ideas tumbling around in my head for new content. I can’t wait to write about faith, and falling, and failing, and freeing yourself, and fumbling, and all these “f” type verbs that I didn’t realize all started with the letter “f” until now.

I went back and forth with my mother on the phone this morning about whether I’d write this post or not.I was trying to juggle my iced espresso, cellphone, bag, laptop case, and planner— all while thinking about you.

I’ve felt guilty for leaving this space unoccupied for nearly two weeks. You know that kind of guilt? You wake up with it. You go to bed with it. You listen to Taylor Swift’s new song and it falls off of you for ten minutes. And then it comes back, this evil little hissing: you should be writing. You should be writing.

I’ve been all over the country in the last two weeks and I kept saying to myself in Seattle and Tacoma and Portland and LA, “I am going to sit down and write. I am going to sit down and publish something.”

And I didn’t.

I guess sometimes you publish things. And sometimes you just live. You break all the little rules you’ve made for yourself and you just live.

So if this were a summer camp letter then I’d have a lot to say. For instance, I visited this massive gum wall in Seattle and got to leave a pretty sweet note (see above). I mean, it was a wall. Full of gum. And I thought it was awesome. I put my feet in the Pacific Ocean for the very first time and had a Britney Spears Crossroads moment (please, someone get my reference). I sat down in a coffee shop in Seattle with two readers that, I would say, are as diehard as they come. And one of them waited until I was sitting, until I’d taken the first sip of my latte, to start talking.

“Can I ask you something I’ve wanted to ask you for a long time?”

“Anything,” I answered. I’m an open book like that.

“What’s your dad like? You never write about your dad.”

So I got to sit there, with a pretty dang good latte pursed in my hands, and tell her about the sweetest man I know. I don’t write about him much here. He’s a soft-spoken sort of guy. You’d say my mother is the hurricane and he’s just always been that rock. I got to tell her that I hope to marry a man one day who is half of my father. Half of my father would be more than enough for me. By the way, his name is Bill. And you’d be lucky to know him if you knew him.

I got to sit at a countertop in the middle of Eugene, Oregon and finally catch up with a really good friend— you know the kind of catching up where all the pauses in the conversations get filled with “I’ve really missed you. I am so happy to be here.” I got to attend the Yellow Conference and meet so many of your beautiful faces. And I got to have one of those surreal “pinch me” moments when I realized that I’m not just a writer. Somehow, somehow, a community has formed here. In this space. And we’ve done life together. You and me, we’re connected in ways I could not even imagine. I get to cheer for you and that’s the coolest honor.

“I think I am just going to write a short post,” I told my mom this morning. “I just want to say that I miss them. Because I do.”

“Then say that,” my mom said back. “But don’t be sorry.” Now that my mother knows I’ve lived a past life as an apology note, she won’t let me go back there any longer.

So that’s just it, the actual reason I wrote this letter: I miss you. And I think about you a lot. And I just want to be the type of person who, when she misses someone, goes out of her way to tell that person they are missed.

So yea, I miss you. I feel really lucky. And I am coming back soon. 

hb.

P.S.

If you want to write back in the comments below and tell me about your summer, I will be reading. I’d love to hear from you.

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Untitled. For too many good reasons.

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I am a girl who has only ever known how to want big things.

I used to apologize for that. I remember lying barefoot on the hardwood floor of my childhood bedroom, palms up to the ceiling and whispering, “God, I don’t want to know about your line-up. I know there are a million other people out there who you could use before me. People who haven’t screwed up as much as me. But if you pick me, if you use me, I won’t let you down. I promise.” I didn’t make promises much when I was sixteen but I felt like I could keep that one.

I always felt like it was this unattainable burden sitting heavy on my life that I wanted something more. I wasn’t the girl who saw her wedding dress when she closed her eyes. I never dreamed in fences and babies with my curls. I dreamed of coffee shops and communities and words on the walls. I was the girl who wanted to be in the lives of too many people— not because she wanted to be known, just because she wanted to be wonderful.

I am not alone.

After years and years, I know that now. There is a cafeteria full— a stadium full— of other people who are just like me. People who care too much. And dream too big. And want so much less than what the world can give them— they just want stories. Conversations that leave you sleepy-eyed and wired at 2am. Chances to fill journals. Mornings when the breath falls out of you because the sun is still so pretty when she rises above the hills.

Maybe you’re in that pack. That pile. I don’t really know what to call it. Maybe you have thoughts that keep you up at night. Dreams that beg at the door of your heart. You stare too long at other people because you want to try to pocket their every mannerism and commit them to memory. You resist the urge to clutch the barista and tell her she is beautiful and lovely. You cry during commercials. You don’t want to carry the world on your shoulders but your friends watch you daily, picking that big globe up and hoisting it upon you from 7am to 11pm. You fight too hard. You claw too hard to reach the unreachable. You haven’t been able to think in single digits since the age of ten or twelve because you keep thinking, you keep mouthing, “But this could touch the world. This could change the world.”

That’s all I wanted when I was a senior in college.

It was vague and broad but I was so confident I could do it. Really. I took up a whole column space in my college newspaper where I would write bimonthly like I was going to be some sort-of world shaker. I want to change the world. I want to do something really wonderful. I will find a way to wedge myself into your life and stay there forever. I will. Trust me, I will. I said those things on repeat.

A month before my graduation, before my life stitched a name tag called “adulthood” to its chest, I drove to Target in my CRV— the forest green one with the seats once full of boys and girls too nervous to hold each other’s hands. I stood in the stationery aisle and pulled out 100 letter sheets and 100 envelopes. One hundred thank-you notes I wrote out by hand to mail out across my campus, into the corners of the world. I created a website. I asked people to do something really simple: write a thank-you note after you read this one. Just say thanks today.

Simple. That’s what it is. When it comes down to the things that shift this world and shake up souls, the ideas are simple. They’re basic, not extravagant. And I think that’s just because we crave the basics, even when complexity is all around us— the nights where you can see the fireflies, the days where you got a good sunburn and you didn’t check your phone all day. Simple things— you and someone else having a party the rest of the world didn’t need to know about.

Simple. That’s where it always starts. Like a blog you create when you’re sitting beside your best friend and she says you need to write more. You’ve been holding out. You have so much to say. You promise her you will. You didn’t make promises much when you were 20 but you felt like you could keep this one. 

That’s what happened to me, at least— It was just me and my best friend and this blog I desperately wanted to delete because I didn’t see the point. And she kept saying, sitting right beside me, “Just keep writing. Just keep going.”

Just keep going. I’m not a big advice giver but I think, if I was, that would be my first pearl of wisdom: Just keep going. Keep showing up for things if you ever want to see them grow. You have to swallow your pride, and swallow the parts of you that want to see a movement grow in a day, and just get used to tiny movements. Tiny, microscopic shifts that may never matter to anyone but you. But celebrate the little things— I mean, I can’t tell you how big and how hard my best friend and I celebrated on the day we sat around a table in the middle of my campus center and I told her, “The numbers are spiking. I just got a comment from someone in the UK. Someone in the UK knows I am out here!”

That was a big deal— a single person in the UK knowing your name is a big deal. Celebrate that. And all the other little things. And then keep going.

Just keep going and keep your cheerleaders close. The ones who tell you you’re “something” before you ever believe it for yourself. Victories will come. And failures will grow out of you. And the world will do a lot to tell you that long hours and too much work matter more than flesh and bones. But your cheerleaders— the ones who found you first— will keep you going. They’ll pump you full of life. They’ll keep you standing on the ground.

Look for the people who understand you. They are out there. I promise you, they are out there. And when you find them, and you get them in your corner, they make one hell of a difference. Find them. Take care of them. Always keep thanking them. Always keep them close. Let them buy plane tickets. Let them talk crazy. Let them go. When they need to go out there in the world and see what it has for them, let them go. Commit their birthdays to memory. Celebrate them on their biggest and worst days. Spur them on, especially when they come to you and whisper kind of helplessly, “I don’t know what I want.”

This morning was quieter.

I didn’t get much sleep— just kept turning and turning until the sun poked through the blinds and gave me decent permission to get up. I dressed. Drove to get my coffee. Sat at my desk, looked around for a longer minute, and wondered how I got here: from a couple dozen thank-you notes to a life where I can tell complete strangers I write for a living.

I looked around my desk. Laughed because my mother always tells me I decorate my spaces— all the little corners and nooks I’ve ever been given— with too many words. My office, no different. I pulled out my phone and texted my best friend, the one who sat beside me during those first months of starting a blog. To this day, she still sends me a message after every single post. And I just told her, isn’t it wild? Isn’t it wild how things grow?

I watched the sun come through the skylight as I watched the three little dots ricochet across the screen, telling me she was writing back.

“How strange is that,” she said. “I remember talking about this over tea and Christmas lights in your apartment up in North. And now you’ve moved to Atlanta and your book comes out in March. And I live in Boston and I’ll be a lawyer in just a couple months.”

“We knew what we wanted,” I wrote back to her.

“We did. But if you had asked then, we wouldn’t have known.”

That’s the truth— we didn’t know. We didn’t have a clue. We just had full hearts. Looking back, I wish we’d let that comfort us more than how we let it scare us.

The computer started. My email opened. The day began. I whispered thank you. For the prayers. For all the days I didn’t know what I wanted.

For a moment, a quick one, I could hear my best friend whispering, as if she was still right beside me, “You know. Don’t doubt so much; you know and I know. Just keep going. You’re not supposed to know how it’s all going to unravel. Just let the road take you right to where you need to be.”

I make a quick promise to her– to keep letting this wild journey push me and pull me and make me new. I don’t make promises much, even though I am 26. But I feel like I can keep this one.

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Since some Mondays are worse than Sallie Mae, I created a little breakfast club/secret society to help kick Mondays off right. You are reading me right. Every Monday. Me. You. We roll out via email and your morning brew. I promise to meet you with only the good stuff. Highly recommended for movers, shakers, and original gangsters. No rules. You feeling me, boo?

click here to join the wait list for the Monday Morning Breakfast Club Email

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