The truth about lemonade and fitted jeans.

With permission, I have posted parts of this email from a reader.

This email, I believe, is the real gold of this post. And this girl is one hell of a writer.

Hey,

That 25 things list that went viral? I just read it. Again. I’m pretty sure it’s the first post I read by you, and I’m not even sure how I stumbled upon it. But I did. And I did again, today. At the end you say to come find you, if I need a listener. So here I’ve come.

The thing is, I hate the way victim looks on me. That ratty, stained, torn sweatshirt, it washes me out. And these days, I find myself pulling it on, morning after morning. It’s ugly. But it’s comfortable, and I don’t quite know how to shake the habit of grabbing it off the heaping pile of dirty laundry and slipping in one arm after the other.

My life doesn’t suck. Really, my life doesn’t suck. But I zip up that nasty, dull, grey hoodie each morning like it does. I hate the unflattering cut of that sweatshirt, how it hides and distorts what’s underneath, but I choose to put it on, to let it tell the world what I think I’m worth. Day. After. Day. I know the things. I know. The having to choose. To finally part ways with the dang thing and throw it out because it doesn’t tell the world who I really am. Doesn’t tell me who I am. Sells me short. This I know. So, Hannah, so, listening ear, how do I find the want-to? How do I shirk the sweatshirt for good?

I.want.to.take.the.sweatshirt.off. I do. I just need the courage. I need to want it bad enough. Want it bad enough to stop doing the things that scream, “This is all I’m worth,” the things that make that tattered, sorry excuse of a garment hiss, “See? This is who you are. This is all you’ll ever be. You’ll never change, you’ll never change. You haven’t got it in you. You’ll always come back to this. This is home.” I need that courage.

I don’t expect you to tell me how to find the courage. I know it’s choice. I know I need to open my eyes to the beauty all around that makes the choice worth it. I know I need to unclench the fists and the teeth and open this soul to all that heals, even hurt.

I just needed to get it out, Hannah. So, if you get to read this and you have a sec, say a prayer? Shoot me an, “I’m in your corner”?  That’s all. I want this, I do. It’s just hard to go it alone and sometimes it helps to have someone remind you that you can do it. That it’s worth it.

Thanks, Hannah.

T

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Dearest T,

I want to tell you a secret. And it’s a secret I never told anyone up until yesterday over rib eye tacos and chopped plantains at a restaurant where the food arrives to the table in adorable, little bowls. I guess I don’t know what makes a secret no longer a secret. I want to say the limit is 5 people or something. So it looks like this won’t be a secret anymore after tonight.

I used to hate pants. I used to hate wearing pants for the past three years. No one really knows that. I had a few pairs of them. I’d wear them occasionally but I always opted for dresses and skirts and tights. If I did wear a pair of pants, they were always looser. Sort of baggy. It’s strange to admit that here, that I hated the tightness of jeans. I hated feeling a waistband against my skin. I hated sitting down in a chair and being able to sense that I might have love handles. It was the leftover side effects of a body disorder. Every waistband was a reminder to me that I needed to be shrinking, not growing.

It wasn’t until a month ago that I walked into the GAP on Lexington Avenue and saw a pair of bright-blue jeans that I loved. Even just on the hanger, we were having a love affair. I took them with me into the fitting room. I geared up for the equivalent of the Hunger Games in my mind– a competition between all the districts of small voices in my head that told me how small I should be. How very little space I should try to take up.

I put the pants on. Slowly. Hesitantly. And I stared at myself in the mirror for what felt like a long time. And I didn’t forge a peace pact with my body or anything but I realized I was okay with it. I was okay with it.

I walked out of the GAP that day with two pairs of jeans and a body. Yes, it turns out that I have a body. And I have curves. And I have a shape. And I have all these things I never really took the time to see before. I’d been too busy hiding from it.

And surprisingly, there’s nothing destructive about my body. And nothing crumbles when I zipper jeans and feel the waistband against my skin. And if I just decide for myself that I’ve had enough of that, I can put it behind me. I actually have the power to put it behind me. And it’s enough for me to know, or at least predict, that when I am 76, I will have wished I loved my body a little more and went for the fitted pants. That’s enough for me to put them on.

T, I don’t want to be the person who lugs regrets like carry-on luggage into older age. I don’t want to have to say, looking back, that I was very fluent with breaking my own heart when it came to self-worth.

 

When I read your email– the beauty of all your syllables– I thought about those pants.

I thought about one of my girlfriend’s demanding I walk around to her side of the table in the middle of a lunch date and do a spin, right after I bought them.

“You have a body,” she said. “I didn’t even see it before. I didn’t know you had a shape.”

She didn’t know it because I covered it up. And I chose oversized layers. And I spent a long time wearing things that didn’t really fit me or flatter me simply because I wanted to be smaller than what I really was.

And I wonder if it might be the same for you and that word of yours– victim. I wonder what it would be like if you just decided today that you were done with that word. Done with that name. If it was being discontinued. Retired. Thrown away. I wonder if maybe all of us are a single internal shopping trip away from picking out better names to go by from the inventory of ourselves.

I wonder if you sat down for five minutes and you envisioned someone giving you the permission to cut that word out of every single dictionary and burn all the little shreds of paper that read the word “victim” on them, what that might feel like. I wonder if you would realize you’re okay without the word. You’re not destructive. You’re not a wrecking ball. You’re not someone who needs the word “victim” to keep her muzzled, and safe, and tame. You’re okay. You might even be better than okay.

I wonder if you will find that you have a contagious laugh. That you like mornings instead of nights. That you like your coffee black when you have the courage to try sipping it without spoonfuls of sugar mixed in. I wonder if you will see a lot more of this lifetime– all the curves of it– when you stop using a word that so quickly dismembers you and belittles you and tries to make you smaller than you really are. When you stop using the word “victim” as a comfort zone and you just learn the truth about comfort zones: comfort zones are a myth. They’re like reindeer with red lightbulbs attached to their noises to the people who live braves lives.

I wonder if you’ll wake up wide-eyed tomorrow and see the truth: we’re all looking for names and hurdles and things to be chains that keep us from fully living. We’re drawn to poems and stories where the limitations are lifted. And yet, some of us never move. We blast songs about learning to let it go. And yet, some of us will never stop holding onto the chains. It’s like we’re all just a single step away from realizing that the chains might be real but they’re paper. We could break them. We could really break them if we wanted to.

 

You’re ready.

It’s like you’re ready but you have just one more step in front of you. That’s all I really hear in your letter, T. I hear the voice that is sitting in between every line, saying, “I’m not this small. I’m just afraid of bigness. I am afraid that small is comfortable and small is safe and small is where I belong.”

Darling, small isn’t real. If your mind is already tumbling wildly over bigness than thinking you’ll be just fine playing a small life is a heartbreaking myth, as well. You’re denying yourself of the goodness you want. You’re mixing lemonade, pouring the sugar in, adding the ice and then saying to that heart of yours, “No, no, watch it from the counter but don’t you sip. That lemonade is for other people. Not you. Not you.”

T, you made the lemonade. You made it. And you have one more step. So say it with me, “And now, I’ll take a sip.”

 

I have a digital assistant.

Her name is Bethany. She is a bit of a powerhouse and I love her more fiercely than I get to tell her sometimes. She’s sort of like glue to the parts of me that don’t know how to keep an inbox organized. She wrote this article recently. And she wrote this one line. If I believed in face tattoos, this would probably be the line I choose to get needled across my nose and freckled cheeks:

“–what I’ve learned is that removing a label doesn’t change you—it frees you.”

That’s what will happen when you dismember that word “victim.” When you throw it away. You’ll be the same, sweet person. You’ll have the same heart. You’ll just be free. Imagine that. You’ll be free.

Don’t be afraid of being free. Don’t be afraid of the slow, long sips of sweet elixirs this life is going to give you on the day you choose big over small. Don’t be afraid of the fitted pants.

It starts by putting on the pants, one leg at a time. It starts with one slow slip.

tying you closer than most,

hb.

 

As always with these sort of things, post a note in the comments below for T. She’ll be reading.

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Filed under Beauty, brave

You were known. You were seen. You were here.

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“I think I’ve lost my life again,” I told her, twirling the stem of my wine glass as I talked. “That, or I don’t know how to be alone anymore. I used to actually be good at that.”

There it was, my chunk of honesty sitting square on the table between two heaping bowls of clams and pasta. I had to say it out loud. It was the kind of thing you say out loud or else you risk exploding from the inside out.

She just smiled. And said amen.

I wish we all had this kind of friend. The kind of friend where you can just word vomit everything you’ve been feeling and they don’t say much or tell you that you’re wrong to feel that way. They just show up with a mop. And they nod their head a lot. And you feel less alone, but like you’ve gotten something off your chest. You’ve finally told it to someone who holds these fragile secrets inside of you like fine china.

That might have been the only thing I needed to say all dinner. But I needed to say it out loud: I’m afraid of losing my life to things that don’t actually matter.

My best friend and I went on a short vacation this past week. We took two days to enjoy the sights of Raleigh, North Carolina, and then we attended a conference that serves as both a refresher and a restart button for small business owners.

Our trip had all the stitchings of the kind of things you know you’ll remember for years to come. A beautiful hotel right in the heart of Chapel Hill. Cookies when you check in. Long coffee dates with no email. Sitting on the hotel beds, surrounded by more pillows than what is really necessary for a single person, talking for hours about life. And dreams. And goals. And hopes. The chance to finally look around and notice things that seem too insignificant to really see when you’re slung in the muds of everyday life– the colors of mailboxes. The way the rain smells and steams off the pavement in Raleigh. The crooked grins of beautiful boys in blue polo shirts who park your car in straight lines.

The both of us wondered why it took so long. At that table with the clams, we wondered that. Why it always seems to take so long for us to just unplug and unclutter and look up to see that life wasn’t happening on a screen anyway. We get real good at convincing ourselves that life is everything that is happening in those screenshots and those retweets. But if you just look up for 5 minutes– if you catch the shade of blue in someone else’s eyes today– you’ll see that you were wrong to think that.

It’s hard to even imagine it but there used to be a time when moments were just moments. When you saw him from across a crowded room and he gave you a glance that only you could pocket and that one shot of a smile was yours, all yours. It wasn’t publlic. It wasn’t filtered. It was sacred. A connection.

I guess I don’t know what happened. I guess I don’t know how I lost my life to this– and how everything came undone and unbalanced. But I know it happened once before. Years ago, there was a time in the earlier stages of More Love Letters when I treated that company like she was everything. I was always connected. I was always scaling to-do lists. I was barely sleeping. I was living each day with a slew of wrecking ball habits and I was the one who crawled to the finish line of each midnight hour and wondered why I felt so empty. So drained. Unhappy.

And I wondered why– when it should have been so easy to just roll over and fall asleep– I’d keep the phone clutched in my hand and I would scroll and scroll and scroll through the thoughts and images of other people, absorbing their fragmented glimpses of daily life, like old hymns you read with the hope you’ll find yourself known inside of them.

I’d wake up and I wouldn’t even push the yellow, quilted blanket from around my legs before I was checking in and seeing where I’d been missed or mentioned the night before. Honestly, I don’t know how it happened but I guess that doesn’t matter if you know why it did. It isn’t that I wanted followers. It isn’t that I wanted numbers or another mention. I just didn’t want to have to be alone. I just didn’t want to have to sit by myself.

It’s like this vacant warehouse inside of me. I used to think it was a tiny hole and now I see that it is a warehouse. So much square footage. A hollow space inside of me that wants to be known. And seen. And valued. And I hate standing in the center of it alone.

So I look for things to fill that space. I look for the wrong things. Like social media. I let social media try to sooth the parts of me that whisper, “I want to be seen. I want to be known. I want to be more than just a face in the crowd. I want to be stunning. And lovely. I want to be validated for who I choose to be.” I try to let social media do that filling job for me. And then I wonder why I am surprised to find that warehouse inside of me feels more empty instead of full.

Because nothing about the life that gets lived on the screen is really real. Sure, from time to time it can be a blessing but it isn’t really quality. It’s just a lot of quantity. It’s just a lot of trying to fill the hunger on the inside with followers and emails that say, “please respond by tomorrow because we need this.” And so we do, because it’s nice to be needed. But it’s just a lot of empty measurements– a lot of empty measuring cups of false self-worth– that keep me spinning on my toes. And keep me singing out loud to the world, “This whole life revolves around me. It revolves around me. My life matters. Me, me, me.”

I think that’s what social media really does these days. More than it connects us. It claims to bring us together but I think we’re too distracted to see that it’s ripping us away from the one thing that really matters: each other. And how much we desperately need to show up for one another.

In the middle of the conference they had us all get up from our seats and find a space on the floor to lie down. Spread out our legs. Close our eyes. Don’t move. Don’t flinch. Don’t let our heads get cluttered with the “must-do”s for the evening. And they told us to imagine– to build a picture in our mind– of what we wanted life to be like in 5 years from now.

And normally I find these kinds of exercises to be cheesy. But I was exhausted. And laying on the floor of the hotel ballroom in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, I started to weep. And my chest was heaving. And they just kept telling us to dig deeper and see more details. What do you see? What do you see? Like a trigger pulled, I came undone.

Because I saw him. I saw us. Sitting side by side on a countertop, bare feet and legs swinging. There was no urgency in the moment. There was no other place to be. My head was on his shoulder. The only light in the room was the white lights of Christmas that we never bothered to take down off the windows. And my favorite song was floating all around us, it had come up randomly on a Pandora station. And I realized in that moment, he was exactly the kind of guy I always hoped I would fall in love with: the kind of guy who doesn’t say a word when your favorite song is on because he knows how much you like to try and live inside of every word.

It was just us. No phones. No notifications. No need to document that we were here because you’d only ever have to ask the other person in the room– ask them if it was real– for them to answer you with all the confidence in the world, “Yes, it was real.” You were known. You were seen. “You were definitely, definitely here.”

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How I show her how to love.

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In the middle of a crowded airport food court in Kentucky, I thought about my daughter. The one who doesn’t exist yet. The one who might never exist though I’ve already written her countless letters and etched her little notes on the edges of my diary pages.

In the middle of a crowded airport food court in Kentucky, I thought about my daughter and I thought about shoes. How one day, I might use the topic of shoes to inch my way into a conversation with her about great love stories.

 

When I lived in New York City, I remember calling my friend up one night on the commute home from work. I’d been struck on the subway by (what I thought) was a really amazing plan.

“So I could go to Good Will or some place like that and buy a bunch of shoes. I could get a bunch of high heels.”

“You’re going to spend your stipend on shoes?” (I was living on a $25 weekly stipend at the time. Yes, I was going to spend that stipend on shoes.)

“Well, it’s an experiment. It’s worth it.” I rambled into the phone as I passed bodegas and dollar stores on the way back to my apartment in the Bronx. “I could get a bunch of shoes and then write my number or an email address and leave them all over Manhattan.”

“Sounds very Cinderella-esque,” she said over the phone. “You actually think someone would pick up a shoe in New York City?”

 

The girl who lived in New York City her first year after college was evidently a different girl than the one who writes here today. I was obsessed with good love stories. I thought– with every shred of my being– that I was destined to fall in love in a coffee shop. I wanted to be Joey Potter or something. It sounds so lame to admit that. But I guess I have no shame. At one point or another, I think we’ve all wanted to feel like we could be the center of something– whether that’s a good love story or someone else’s universe.

But it was more than just falling into a good love story at that time in my life: I wanted to crafted one. I wanted to create one. I had so much control stuck in my bones that I wanted to manage the elements and I wanted to devise my own love story. It doesn’t really work that way. I’ve learned that over time.

I guess I’ll want my daughter to know that– just like shoes– you have to eventually stop being so hellbent on finding the “right one.” Some things are meant to be more seamless than we think. The girl in New York City didn’t yet know that it is easy to commit yourself to hunting for a great love story. It so much harder to make a commitment to yourself. But that might be the game changer, the thing that makes you ready, when you step up to commit to someone else.

 

Commitment. There’s that sticky word again. The one that makes my left eye twitch because big, red, blaring exit signs have always done me good. I want her to know that even if commitment looks like a scary word, she should see her way around it. Commitment is a constant word. It’s more than just love and fairy tale guts, it’s getting to say out loud, to someone else, “Even if right here feels like the very last place in the world that I want to be standing– because it’s just so hard right now– I am showing up to win your heart and prove to you that love grows and expands and evolves in time. I am making a commitment to you not to shrink out of this.”

But the shrinking will come. As it always does, the shrinking will show up and I hope she will know that just because a person falls apart from time to time does not mean they are disposable or not loveable. Just because a person falls apart does not mean that the white flags should get raised, or the scores should be cleared, or we’re supposed to walk away when someone hits the floor. I hope she knows that though the stars are charged with showing up in the sky, we are the ones charged with showing up for people when they hit the floor.

Because, just like everyone, she will know the floor. It’s a common place that we all can relate to– the tears, the fetal position, the cold hard wood against your face. It’s like a second language we’ve all learned on our own. She will know the feeling of her hands and knees sunk deep into the carpet and the kind of weeping that makes you feel like your heart might just explode out of your chest.

And I’m only ever going to be able to tell her that love is a rollercoaster that sometimes leaves us on the floor. You will be up. You will down. You will break someone at some point. Someone might leave you in pieces on the floor. But here is the hope (the hope, the hope): that whoever becomes her constant one will show up with glue and a hope to bind, not a hammer with a hope she can be fixed.

 

It will be a rush and a ramble to meet someone. Someone decent. Someone kind. Someone good. That’s how the culture will make her feel.

At points, the world will come at her from every angle and try to shake her shoulders like she is standing in the middle of a desperate post-apocalyptic war zone where she must get out there and find one of the last decent human beings alive. And fill out dating profiles. And go out to bars. And put herself out there. And. Just. Find. That. One. I hope I will be able to tell her that the world will make it feel like the search is endless but forced treasure hunts might only ever lead her to spots with no gold. Sometimes gold is the kind of thing that tumbles into a room unexpectedly.

“Don’t fear so much. Don’t worry so much, girl. Put down the map. Put down the compass. Get yourself a backpack and take yourself on a journey and make constant kinds of vows to your own self first. One day, someday, a person will arrive and they will quickly become your favorite novel. You’ll want to write your notes into all their pages. But for now, you have yourself an encyclopedia. Others might call that massive thing “your heart” but I’m just gonna call it an encyclopedia because it is miles and miles of things you don’t know yet. You don’t need to search. Stop looking around wildly. Just start reading. Knowing yourself will be the biggest gift you ever give to your own great love story.”

 

I like to imagine I’ll get to say these things to her and then I am forced realize that I probably won’t ever get to speak much at all. If her pretty head is anything like mine then she always, always be consumed with the anthems and the love songs and the poems that are writing themselves in her head. It’ll be me to face the mirror at the end of a longer day and ask myself the harder questions: “Did you show her love today? It doesn’t matter if you talked to her about love, did you show her love? More than that, did you show her how to love?” Was it evident in your moves? In your actions? In the way you made eye contact with the man on the other side of the counter?”

Because that’s what love comes down to. Not words, but actions. Not a constant debate of who to love and where to love and when to love. I don’t want to waste my time on things I already know the answers to: everyone. everywhere. always.

It will all come down to how. How I show up for her. How I show up for her and show her how to love.

So, for now, I just whisper things that sound poetic like prayers to me. Things like this: May love teach me everything it needs to be teach me so that I can show up and show her how.

May love be evident in all the things that I do. In the way I say hello to you. In the time and attention I give to you. In the things I push aside on my calendar because this… this… well, nothing beats this. And we will never have “this” back so I want to make sure we just stay soaking in it a little while longer.

May I know how to treat myself and others with respect. Because that is the core. That is the secret. That is the golden nugget.May love be evident in the friendships I make. And the apologies I make. And the time I make. And the messes I make.

May the love in my own story never be tame, but wild and fierce. May it sometimes be unexplainable beyond just these words: This is my heart. And it wants certain things. And I’ve wasted too long of a time saying sorry for that.

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Filed under Love Is...

Sevenly + Not for Sale + why the small stuff matters.

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If you’d asked me several years ago– right when I was getting out of college– I probably would have told you what I thought was the truth at that time: small things don’t make a difference.

Small things. Tiny acts. Glances in the right direction. Little things we carry on throughout a day, some on the to-do list and some not.

I would have told you that the things that actually made a difference were Big. They were Loud. They were Titanical. And they were Movements. I didn’t know back then that movements are stitched and made when many small things + small groups of people band together to shake stuff up.

In the last few years, my boat has been rocked by the little things. By the small things. By short emails. By quick phone calls. By brief exchanges that end up extending themselves into so much more. And by the power of something as small as a tweet or a website link, and how these small things ultimately stack up into movements that change the world we’re living in today.

Today I want you to introduce you to one of those movements that is near and dear to my heart.

Meet Sevenly

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I was approached by the company Sevenly several months ago after partnering up with Save the Children to raise awareness for the children of Syria. Basically, I fell in love. I was practically doodling Sevenly’s name and little hearts all around it in my notebooks (well, not really… but you get the point). Sevenly teams with up a charity every week, helping to raise both funds and awareness for a solid 7 days. Sevenly takes $7 from every purchase and gives it directly to the charity. At over 3 million dollars raised, Sevenly is leading the way for crowd-funding for causes while raising massive amounts of awareness through trendy apparel. You can get all the deets here.

In a nutshell: Sevenly gives generously. They love intentionally. And they produce swag that stands for something. Best of all—every purchase– big & small–  stacks up to make a difference for people. I’ll be teaming up with Sevenly on occasion to highlight some of the causes that resonate with me but there are noble causes every single week. It’s a company I recommend bookmarking so you can devour all their goodness on a weekly basis.

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This week, I’m partnering with Not for Sale + Sevenly to rescue children at risk of being trafficked.  Not For Sale works to fight modern-day slavery. They provide direct services to victims of human trafficking and people vulnerable to exploitation, and attack the root causes through education, skill development and job creation.

I’ve worked with several organizations in the past few years that are tirelessly giving their time and their energy to end human trafficking for good. I admire them with all my heart. It’s gutsy companies like Not for Sale– and the people behind them– that inspire me to advocate and raise awareness. They inspire me to keep in check these feelings that a small thing or a small group can’t actually make a difference. In the words of Margaret Mead, “Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” When I saw Not for Sale as one of the upcoming causes for Sevenly, I couldn’t not get on board.

The small stuff matters, it matters. I hope you’ll support.

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There are several clothing options on the site. Here is the link to the flowy tee pictured above.

I’m always in the mood to learn about cool causes + companies that are out there so please share in the comments below if you’ve been impacted by a brand or a cause.

DISCLAIMER: I am not making any kind of affiliate sales from Sevenly. This post is strictly to raise awareness for the cause at hand. I so appreciate your support of the brand!

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Filed under Moving & Shaking

The Anatomy of Brave.

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The core of her email– summed up into a pretty, little nutshell– was simple: You’re not brave. You might be this or you might be that, but you’re not brave. And you shouldn’t bother telling people that you’re brave because you’re too young to be brave, and life hasn’t hit you fully enough for you to be brave, and your life is too pretty to be brave. You need to do x, y, & z before you think you’re brave. Basically, you need to “LIVE A LITTLE” before you get to call yourself brave.

That’s the more eloquent version of the email that greeted me first in my inbox this morning. It was in response to a status I put up yesterday about handing in my first round of book rewrites and feeling in all of it, for the first time in my life, that I was brave. And I’d be all sorts of lying to you if I said I didn’t read the email, digest it, get a little sad, and call my best friend to ask her for a vent session so that I could keep this email from ruining my morning.

I know these kinds of words from a stranger aren’t supposed to matter to me. I’ve read all the advice from other writers who suggest you just tack on the line “Hi, I am a complete stranger dropping into your inbox to give you some advice on your own life…” before you read a single sentence and it will somehow soften the blow. But it doesn’t take away from the truth: words sting. Words cut. As one of my readers once told me, “Words can be weapons or balms, depending on how we use them.” And it hurts to read what people actually think about you– whether their addressing you out of truth, anger, jealousy, or genuine concern.

 

 

I get these emails. It’s not the first time. They can be a lot harsher than this. They can be a lot quicker. They can simply say, “I think you should die and I am going to go on wearing my leggings as pants.” Right on, you should. These emails arrive. And I still read most of them. And I brush it off after a few moments. And I have to make a real effort not to carry these negative words around with me for the rest of the day.

And I was never actually going to give this message from a girl who doesn’t know me a second thought until I realized that this email really bothered me. And it wasn’t her anger that bothered me, it wasn’t her mean words, it was just this: You don’t actually get to stand beside someone and tell them whether or not they’ve reached a level of bravery. You don’t actually get to determine what does or does not make a person brave, or lovely, or worthy, or good. That’s not your right. That’s not your calling. That’s just a tactic to try to keep someone else from reaching their full potential. If you ask me, the world already has enough of that floating around.

 

 

We’re surrounded by it. The negativity. It brews. And it’s thick. And it’s real. And this email didn’t make me bitter, it made me very genuinely worried. Because, you see, I have thick skin. And I can take criticism. But I remember a time when that wasn’t the case. And I remember that I was just waiting for someone to come and shut me up so I could use it as an excuse to never move and never try and never push and never break the box I kept putting myself in. I was hungry for someone to tell me I couldn’t do something because, as strange as it seems, I wanted to use that as an escape route for never stepping out there and daring to get my heart a little mangled by the chase of it all. And so truthfully, this email made me really worried for the person who can’t easily say that they’re strong when it comes to these kinds of things. It makes me really worried because we are surrounded by people who want to tell us what we can or cannot be and I guess I’m just really worried that you might be listening to them.

 

 

The things I face on my own journey call me to approach new levels of bravery that are relative for me on a daily basis. Bravery might look different to you. We all have different experiences with bravery, we all different ideas of it. To some, bravery is chemotherapy treatments that they endure week after week after week just to survive and keep scribbling in a leather-bound journal about the sunsets. To others, bravery is finding a way to feed 5 hungry mouths at the end of each day. To some, bravery is just being able to get out to bed and try. That, to some, takes a mammoth amount of bravery– to just stomach themselves in a mirror or stand in the middle of a relationship though they haven’t been honestly able to say since last September, “I love him. And I want to be faithful to him. And even when he hurts me, I stay.”

Here is the truth about bravery. Here is her essence– she can’t defined by a measuring cup or a yardstick or a square foot. Bravery isn’t the kind of thing you measure, it is the kind of thing you activate. It’s pretty obvious to everyone– we walked into a life that isn’t always kind or bearable or comfortable or good and it takes a real chunk of bravery to just get through a day sometimes.

Bravery– if you ask me– is the day my best friend told me that she was getting sober and I watched her hands tremble over the hurdles of what would come next. Bravery– if you ask me– is watching a dear friend of mine raise four beautiful children with all the grit she’s got, and showing up for those children even when she is tired & broken & worn. That, my friends, is titanical bravery to me. Bravery– if you ask me– is the day he was diagnosed with cancer and the only response on his lips was this, “I will fight this thing. I will be relentless and I will fight this thing.” Bravery– if you ask me– is just her showing up at my door, the one with the big red handle, and speaking the truth out loud, “I want more. I have been afraid to say it for a really long while but I want more for this life of mine.”

So no, you don’t get to stand here and tell someone that a hurdle that has taken them years to finally get over is something they should have learned to limbo under several yesterdays ago. That’s not kind. That’s not true. That’s just small.

 

 

And that is exactly the problem with the culture we are standing inside of today: we are constantly dictated by people that tell us that bravery is Elsewhere. And beauty is Elsewhere. And life, or a life you can actually be proud of, is Elsewhere. And Elsewhere is just a flimsy little measure we never plan to reach but it does its justice in keeping us from showing up to the life we’ve been given for this moment. Elsewhere is just a defense mechanism that allows you to keep your fists clenched and your heart not open to what life could look like when you grant it the permission to take your heart and run with it.

And as long as someone is telling us that we still need to do this and that and the other thing before we finally arrive into a space of worth, we get content with wasting space. And we don’t show up. And we stay on the insides of ourselves, just trying to fix every little thing that other people have told us is wrong, hoping we will eventually fix enough that we become adequate to help someone else. And darling, that’s not gonna amount to bravery, it’s only going to look cowardly of us in the end.

The criticism won’t stop coming. Really, it won’t. It will show up in big boxes and tiny vessels. At your front door and at your back window. And it will invite in the doubt & the fear & the worries. You make the action plan that gets you out of the grips of these things but it will surely keep coming. I can’t make many promises but I can promise you that.

No matter how far you go, or whatever kind of success or failure meets you, or whatever you do that seems noble or good or quite the opposite, people will continue to try to kick you down. They will try to tell you you’re not good enough. They will try to convince you that you’re not brave. That is the way of life. You can call it insecurity. You can call it anger. You know what, don’t even waste your time trying to give it a name. Just please don’t let it be the thing that keeps you from starting. You’re not supposed to stay standing in that one spot for too long.

 

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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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facebook. twitter. instagram. email.

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A call on 20-somethings.

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My words are not a parachute.

They won’t soften the landing when that moment buckles your knees and breaks you down to the floor. My words, they’re not no cold bucket of water. They won’t extinguish the doubt that blazes heavy, heavy, like a fire catching to all the pretty things you touch. Nothing I write can prepare you for that moment.. maybe you already know the one.

It’s going to hit you at some point. It might meet you randomly. 2am. 4am. When you’re standing in the middle of a crowded campus or alone in your cubicle beside a cactus you keep forgetting to water. No matter where you are, it’ll hit you. And you’ll look up suddenly. And you’ll look around. And you’ll let these words slip out from your lips, “Why am I here?”

Why am I here? And what am I doing? And this? Well, this doesn’t look like anything I thought it would be. Why does my life matter? Why does my life matter? Why does my life matter?

The moment, it’ll feel hollow.

Like all the insides of you have been scraped out. And suddenly the followers won’t matter. And the filters won’t matter. And all the digital things we share and tweet won’t hold much value at all. Something inside of you will be hungry for more.

You might cry. There may be many a’ ugly tears on your horizon. You might clench your fists. You might bite down hard on your bottom lip. You might pour a glass of wine and vow to forget it all by morning. But no matter what you choose to do, beware. That moment is gonna tidal wave you with all sorts of unanswerable questions and there’s only one thing I can promise you when it comes to that moment: you don’t need to have all the answers. They’re never going to arrive in one bundle like the back pages of a SAT prep book. You’ll never get all the answers so you can’t let that be the thing that keeps you from pushing forward into what’s next.

Someone got it into our brains that we needed to have every little thing figured out.

That some fairytale was going to greet us at the gates of adulthood. That life would look just like a movie. It’s simply not true. And if this is what it looks like to have it “all figured out” then we are living in some sort of coloring book where only half the pictures ever got Tickle Me Pink scribbled within their lines. We’ve got loans up to our elbows. We’re messy when we fall in love. We’re still trekking for the dream job or learning how to create it from scratch. We’re doing the best we possibly can within a world that started saying, right after two planes crashed into two towers, that we needed to make the most of this life thing. It was too short. It was too quick. It was unexpected at best. We needed to make the most of it.

We still want to be something really special and that’s not because the newspapers say our generation is the type that needs trophies for everything. We still want to be something really special for the same reasons that anyone, at any age, wants to be something really special: because it’s nice to be noticed every once in a while, even if it’s just by someone who has always taken you as you are. And in a world where it’s nearly impossible to get someone to look you in the eye instead of at the screen, it’s nice to be someone’s kind of Special at the end of a long day.

And we walked into the world and we were loud when we said we wanted to do something. I’d argue that we still do. We want to help people. We want to make some sort of impact. And that goodness inside of us, it never went away. It might have been covered. It might have been dimmed a bit. But if you’re anything like me then you still wake up hoping that this will be the day you will be brave and you’ll do something that matters. That’s all I really want if I am being truthful: To be brave and to do something that truly matters.

But the scary truth in all of it is that nothing in this world– not the magazines, not the networks, not the hyperlinks– will get us there. We have to be the ones to push aside the small talk and just resolve to be present, and connected, and intentional with one another. We have to be the ones to show up to this life if we ever want to do something that matters.

I didn’t want to turn this thing into a list.

Because the answer isn’t sitting in a list on the internet that someone wrote to tell you all the things you should and should not do with this 20-something life. And I know all too well that a list of things you “should” and “should not” do is never going to help you. Not in your 20’s. Not your 30’s. Not your 50’s.

So this isn’t much of a list. Maybe just call it the evidence I’ve gathered so far: I, personally, need to breathe more. Just because I want to have things figured out doesn’t mean I always will, so I really just need to learn to let that one go. Sallie Mae is an awful home wrecker but there is a way to live peacefully with her (after all, I’m the one who decided to stack these loans upon my shoulders). People will always have a lot to say about what you “should” do. Don’t entertain them if their aim is to belittle you. “Should” is a word that should be abolished from the dictionary.

You have to get out there. You have to feel life on your own skin. On your own terms. By your own rules. And maybe that’s the very first thing you need to learn to do– burn the rulebook and screw the boxes that other people want to put you inside of. Your life has nothing to do with tiny, little boxes that help you play smaller than you truly are. The point is to grow, not to shrink. But if you’re any ounce of human then you’ll always try to shrink before you grow.

Adulthood is a real thing but it doesn’t make much noise when it arrives. Heartbreak hurts but it makes you more resilient. Commitment sounds like an old-fashioned word but it will never go out of style. And it will always be a slow thing– a slow, slow thing– no matter how fast the world moves all around us. So commit to things. And get your heart involved. Take that risk, even if it means that something could break along the way.

If you are any bit like me then it doesn’t matter how much older you get, you still want to keep every person you encounter safe in your possession. But no, it doesn’t work that way. And you have to learn how to not be bitter when it comes to letting people go. I have to learn to loosen the grip a bit.

It’s beautiful to be young and innovative in the world today. And I will always fight you if you try to tell me that I am too old for Ringpops and sitting on counter tops while Jason Mraz trickles through the kitchen and the kettle hisses from the stove.

Life slips away quickly and unexpectedly– and time is the one, rare thing we always wish we had more of– so there’s really no time to sit here and write anything further when it turns out that life is actually everything that happens off the screen- unedited, unfiltered, and shared with others. It all comes down to other people. Other people are the lottery tickets of this lifetime that win every single time.

You get choices.

Every single day. You don’t get all the answers. But you will get those choices. Some mammoth and massive. Others tiny and seemingly minute. Each one matters though. Every single choice– every task that does or does not meet the to-do list– will ultimately stack up and answer one big question: whether you standing here– with gifted oxygen in your lungs– actually meant something.

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A dirty, little gospel.

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The palm of my hand stopped sweating somewhere around the 13-minute mark.

Finally. I was feeling comfortable and my shoulders were loosening up. He’d taken my hand at the start of the story saying, “Here,” as he stretched it out to me. I’d only known him for two hours but his hand reaching out to me, like a crutch to lean upon as I spoke, was a sense of home in those Northern Georgia hills that night.

I bobbed and weaved and the led the dinner table through a story I’d told to people dozens and dozens of times before about my losing and finding of faith. I know every crook and dark corner of that story, every time a person will let their jaw drop or bury their face in their hands. That story is a clearly marked and weathered roadmap to me, speckled with all the landmarks of other people’s reactions to hearing it for the first time.

When the story ended, our conversation fanned out into people.

People who fall beneath this umbrella word “Christian” and how offensively that one word rings out to the world we live in today. Saying, “I am a Christian” is taking a risk. It’s giving you an open door to not like me because of what other people have told you about me. You’ve read of me in the papers. You’ve seen me on the news. It’s relying on what you’ve heard about me to make a judgement that I am girl who thinks the world is full of this “dirty/clean” dichotomy and that I can’t roam with sinners because I am much too holy for that. That’s what the world will tell you about me and I don’t even blame you when you make the judgement because I, myself, am still trying how to not be offended by some Christians.

But the word “Christian” still stops me. Every time I hear the word “Christian,” my mind can’t shake the image of a massive warehouse filled to the ceiling with tiny glass slippers. I picture them everywhere. Absolutely everywhere. Delicate. Beautiful. Chipped. Scarred. And throngs of people coming in and out of that warehouse, trying to wedge glass slippers onto their feet, being so careful to find the one that doesn’t blister them or break when they put it on. And it’s this fragile, scared process of wanting to find the “perfect” fit and the “good” fit and the “beautiful” fit so that they can just be clean & right & dancing with this God who looks more to them like a judge than a father. And all I want to say to that image of perfectly constructed Christianity that breaks open in a world that is messy, messy, messy, is that my gospel is a barefoot one. I don’t wear shoes when it comes to my gospel. And I have no interest, no interest at all, in being perfect or right or blameless. Most days, I just want to feel like I’ve done something right.

I grew up hating the hymns that sat in the pews of my childhood church.

That’s where the hurt started to roar because the lines of those songs always made me feel worthless. Dirty, dirty, dirty. Needing to be clean. Needing to be fit. Needing to be reprimanded. And after years of rejecting those words, I get to tell you with my own lips that I am dirty. I am dirty and it has nothing to do with my worthlessness. I am dirty because I believe in a God who tells me dirt beneath my fingernails, and trudging through the muds of this messy life, is the most beautiful thing I will ever get to do. I believe in a God who tells me getting dirty is my job description. And there is always more work to be done that has nothing to do with condemning and judging and making other people feel worthless for what they walked into this day holding. My God calls me to dirt beneath my fingernails and conversations that crawl into the 3am hour and loving people hard, even when my own heart feels mangled. My God calls me to finger-painting with the messiness of grace and trash-picking in toulle-filled dresses and resting in the assurance that I am a child of God. I am a child of God. I find that title to be earth-shattering as I stand in the thick of a culture that never gives me enough value to hold me past dinnertime.

And despite what you believe, I am not afraid to sit in my corner of the internet and tell you that I think you are a child of God. And please don’t get offended by me because there is nothing offensive about the idea of someone making us perfectly. And there is nothing offensive about believing, if only for a half second, that we were made for victory and better things before we learned to give our little lives away to weaknesses and lies.

I believe in that.

I believe in love. I believe in a religion that never sat pretty in the church the way it raged beautifully when it was out on the sidewalks. In the hands of people who knew how to love on others right. I believe in people who use every shred of their composure to go out of their way to tell someone else how very striking they are. No matter where you’ve been or what you’ve done, someone should have told you that before. And if you’ve never heard that… well. let. me. be. the. first.

I don’t care that I don’t know you. I don’t care that I cannot list off all your bruises and battles like the backs of my own hands. Because if it took me knowing all of that about you then we would never get to the point where I apologize to you…And tell you that I am sorry that others have judged you. Or misread you. Or hurt you. Or screwed you over.

I am sorry for all of that and I beg you accept my apology for all the harm of humanity if it means you’ll think about moving forward today… because you have bigger work to do than feel the bitterness. You have much bigger work to do. That work is so big, so wide, so far, that it laughs at all those weaknesses and offenses that try to hold you back.

To me, it’s not about damnation.

It’s not about the “dirty sinner.” It’s this heartbreaking, simple, and yet stunningly complex story about a girl in a manger who probably looked up to the sky and asked, “Really? This is your plan for a king?” And she birthed a baby beside cow dung for the weary world to call him royalty. And that little boy grows into a man who illustrates to a broken world how to love people and treat grace like manna falling from the sky and have pretty decent friends and never waste your emotions on jealousy and gossip. And then he dies this horrendous death at a young, young age and he comes out of the tomb three days later and basically says to all the people who killed him, “I died for you. Yes, you. I don’t care what you did. I can’t love you any less. You didn’t know how to come to me. You didn’t have a map. You didn’t know the way. And so I solved all the issues– all your faulty GPS excuses–and just came to you.”

I mean, that’s pretty radical, even if you can’t believe in it. I think that even if I didn’t believe in anything, I’d have a really hard time finding anything more beautiful than thinking that the same guy who created beauty out of dirt is the one who gets all choked up crying over all his children and all the empty things we do, thinking as we watches, “I just love you so much that I will endure anything. Anything to prove it. And I’m going to let you make mistake after mistake after mistake and I’m still going to take you back. Even when you leave me, I will wait.” Because that is love eternal– waiting and staying when the rest of the world walks away. Half of the time, I don’t know what I want to believe in. But that? I want to believe in something as beautiful as that always.

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I can’t make you unpack your suitcase.

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When I unzipped the belly of the little red suitcase the book was sitting there.

It was sitting right on top. It was waiting for me. Two years ago, I used to think that if ever I sat down and finally read that book, it would probably be my favorite book. Maybe one day. Instead, I grabbed a sweater and I closed the suitcase shut. I checked the bag. I would see it in New Orleans. There’s never enough room for your second carry-on bag when they lump you into Zone 3.

Half of my life plays out in airports. The people who spend too much time in airports know I’m not saying that to sound romantic. It can be a tad whimsical. On quiet mornings. And when you aren’t getting a connecting flight in Atlanta. And when you get to fly into cute, little airports with baggage claim areas the size of your bedroom. But otherwise, it’s a lot of waiting. And watching other people wait for other people. And those scenes you used to watch in love movies don’t play out by the terminals anymore because security is too high.

And me? I’m always the girl who packs too much. I still can’t figure out how to pack lightly. It’s like a disease. I pack books I’ll never read because (let’s face it) I haven’t plucked them from my bookshelf in over two years so a trip to St. Louis isn’t going to make the cover look any more sexy to me than it did yesterday. I pack love letters for no apparent reason. I bring too many shoes. I convince myself I need a stuffed animal though I don’t and probably never will. And all the baggage I tuck and fold probably serves no purpose at all and yet I bring it with me because maybe it makes me think I can still be a person I let go of yesterday.

That’s baggage.

Baggage is anything that you still clutch onto too tightly with the hope that it will change or that you’ll change or that something will change. Baggage is anything you haven’t figured out just how to let fall off of you yet. Baggage is anything that does a poor, poor job of reflecting the person you were supposed to wake up and be today.

That’s baggage. And there’s too kinds. The easy and tangible: the lip gloss, the passport, the camera, the walletAnd then there is the real stuff: The sometimes clunky, often misshapen stuff I really don’t like admitting that I still carry with me. Like a shadow. Like a fanny pack around my waist. Like a second skin. No, no one likes saying out loud, “Oh, I should have let that go a long time ago and yet I never really did.”

I sat down to tea with a good friend last week. I could probably write an additional 1,500 words about the pretty pink porcelain and the Christmas lights still strung up around the shop that fool you into thinking every evening is the kind of holiday evening where a tree and mistletoe are waiting for you back home. We had three cups of tea (it sounds even more precise and romantic to type three).

And, as it always goes with old friendships, we poured tea and built bridges back into the lives of one another with all the stories that happened between November and now.

“So tell me it,” she said. “I’ve been waiting for this one.”

I sucked in deep. I went to speak. The story felt rehearsed by now. I recited it word for word.  And I made certain things sound more poetic than how they actually happened. And I stitched morals along the way. And the whole thing didn’t really end so much as in meandered into this weird grey area that left me thinking, when I said the last line of a story I’d already told too many people, “Man, I need to tell a better story than this. Otherwise, this is just pathetic. Sad. Too broken. Womp womp. Cue the world’s smallest violin.”

It was within that frumpy, sad little story (with very little ending) that I realized– baggage grows in these sorts of things. Baggage comes out of these sorts of things. It gets clingy in these grey, unresolved areas. It grows enormous and wraps tight to our ankles when we don’t give ourselves the triumphant, sweet endings we so deserve. That’s where baggage comes from– the exact moment when you think you are called to play small when life breaks your heart.

It’s like every single day we get to tell the coolest little stories that could make other people see themselves better and yet we are so hellbent on making ourselves sound broken instead. It’s like we’ve been given a million and one chances to be violins with our own lungs and we’d just rather rip out the strings and cry instead.

I’m just going to play metaphorical for a minute, baby: I can’t make you unpack your suitcase.

It’s not as easy as typing “DEAL WITH IT” and expecting that you ultimately will. If it were that easy? Jeepers, we’d never hurt one another again just because others hurt us in the past. Maybe the only advice I’ve got is really no advice at all so much as it is a movie quote I heard in a dark and empty theater this week, but I think it could tell you everything there is to know about about baggage: “The past is just stories we tell ourselves.”

That’s it. That’s all. Just stories we tell ourselves. Over and over again. And we decide if they chain us up or free us daily. Just stories you could somehow rewrite and let go of and turn into better memories when you start searching the seams of “what happened” for morals that actually make you grow instead of shrink.

You lost. You got rejected. He hurt you. You hurt her. It happened once. It happened twice. You didn’t see it coming at all. Your heart closed up. You got real good at pretending. There’s a bunch of reason, baby. And it would really interested to watch you get real– like SUPA REAL– with the man at the gate to A12, where all flights seemingly meet and merge, when he tells you to take everything out of your pockets and remove anything that might cause the alarm to go off. You see, if life were as literal as a Beyonce song, you’d get to take one of those clunky grey bins and dispense everything– all the old love songs, the words he used to say to you, the fights from old friendships, and all the little stories that are still missing their endings– into that bin. 

You’d get to walk through security, free from it all. And you’d get to keep walking. Away. Away. Away. Like a gangster. Like a baller. You’d get to leave the clunky grey bin behind– full of all that crap that only pushes you down with not-so-victorious endings– as you throw up your deuces and go. Go, baby go.

That’s the thing about baggage.

You either carry every clunky piece of it with you, like costume jewelry stacked around your neck, and you stay thinking one day you’ll find a better burial for those things then right here, or you pluck the lesson out from the thing and you resolve to let the thing go. Let the thing go, let the thing go.

Walk away. Make a decision for yourself that will make Aesop and all his little fables proud as you take the moral of the story and you leave the rest. As you pack the towels but you leave the mess.

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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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facebook. twitter. instagram. email.

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Though they never touch.

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Her away message went up first.

He quickly followed suit. Ten minutes later, two consecutive door slams came bustling from the computer speakers. He signed off. She signed off right after. Slam. Slam.

She’d typed the words “It’s over” to me and I knew that she and him had just been huddled up in their own corners of their bedrooms, crying and breaking things off in the most delicate of ways possible. Her fingers maybe curled and anxious, tangled in the wires of the rotary phone. Tears strewn all over this portable, hoping his mother wouldn’t pick up on the other line and hear him pleading for the girl to take him back. Please. Rethink it. Baby. I love you. Baby? Baby?

These were the rhythmic motions of a high school breakup before the days of text messaging, cell phone plans, driver’s licenses that let you hurl yourself into the car and drive across town just to stand outside the basement door and wait for the other one to prop it open and let you in. You could hold each other for 10 minutes and say nothing at all and try to convince your heart– your 17-year-old heart– that it would never need to let this one go.

One day I’ll get to tell my children that there used to be legitimate sounds of a front door slamming when someone would sign off the Internet for the night. One day, their mouths might halt wide open to learn that you used to have to listen to the dial up sound on the computer, never fully knowing if you’d get online that night because of too many busy signals. The most glorious word you could hear in those days was “Welcome.” You were on. You were online.

One day I’ll tell them that away messages used to read like Facebook statuses and that on the day my best friend’s heart got mashed up and served like applesauce, I waited for her to list “single” in her AOL profile before scanning the internet for Kelly Clarkson lyrics. I’ll tell them I took those lyrics, copy and pasted them into a word document, and dyed them all sorts of funky colors before printing them out. I sat there– before this tiny tin box– and I decoupaged the lyrics of that ballad all over it. Long, skinny strips of lyrics making that tin box seem not so naked anymore:

I’ll spread my wings / And I’ll learn how to fly / Though it’s not easy to tell you goodbye
I gotta take a risk / Take a chance / Make a change / And breakaway

 

I used to think those little lines of pop girl wisdom were all the words she’d ever need to read.

I thought breaking away was just that– taking a chance, making a change, and learning how fly. If you’d told me it was more than that, my 15-year-old heart would have never been able to take it.

I didn’t know that ties didn’t cut without making a mess. I didn’t know that breakups are quite literal– in the sense that sometimes you feel everything inside of you crunching and breaking. I didn’t know the lines of that song, the one that won’t stop flooding the airwaves, was really probably true, “Only know you love her when you let her go… and you let her go.”

One day I’ll tell my children that the sound of a real door slamming will hurt them more. The slamming of a door that isn’t automated or a sound effect that tells you when your buddies have signed off for the night. I’ll tell them I first heard that car door slam when I was 19 years old. Facebook was a new thing. Away messages were starting to become the “passé” thing.

I knew that I loved him. I suddenly knew that loving someone isn’t always enough. For a moment I prayed the door might never slam. And then I prayed for the resolve to know the truth: there was no other way.

It was after I reversed my car down the steep driveway, after I was driving away, that I noticed the two yellow lines on the roadside for the first time. I could see them before me. I could see them in the rearview mirror. They didn’t touch. They were going in the same direction but they didn’t touch.

I parked my 1999 green CRV on the side of an abandoned road because I didn’t want to go home and fall asleep without good night messages. It was two in the morning. And, as dumb as it seems when it’s not playing out before you in a scene from the Notebook, I laid in the road and got bits of concrete stuck in my hair. And the moment didn’t feel romantic. And no one laid down beside me and held my hand.

I sat up eventually, tucked my legs into criss-cross position and laid my hand down on the road. My hand fit right between those two yellows lines painted on the roadside. My hand was like a bridge to those two, bright yellows lines that were parallel, parallel, parallel.

 

Honestly, I felt like a loser in that moment.

I’d just gotten my heart-broken. I’d just made the first not-so-clean break. And all I could think to do was lay down in the middle of a road I knew no cars would come down and just be still. Just be still in knowing that I made the right choice.  Just be still in knowing that even though I made the right decision, it didn’t mean my insides would not stay yelling, Come back. Please come back. I can fix this. I promise I can be better.

I felt like a loser. But it would take that. It would take being the loser to find everything else. It would take losing to find that we were made to be losers. We were made to lose: friends, lovers, ourselves. Not always, but sometimes. It’s a natural process in life. It hurts like hell but it happens just as quickly as strange little reptiles shed their skin and cocoons get broken and we stop clinging to “what might have been.”

It takes losing to find out you couldn’t fix it. Find out that you aren’t some supreme fixer upper who sits in the clouds and restores the world with happiness. It’s not your job to make someone better. A relationship– love, or whatever you call it– isn’t a reason to play doctor to the person you kiss long and slowly at night. A relationship isn’t laying there, curled up in your corner of the bed, hoping you can change them. We, humans, we change on our own. Life changes us. Whispers change us. But only when we are ready. And only then.

It takes losing to find out you that mythical characters like Hansel and Gretel were actually quite smart. They were strategic. Diesel, little German children. They left breadcrumbs scattered all around the woods. And while it seems like nothing, it probably meant everything when it came time to trace their way back to a place called home.

It takes losing to find out that sometimes things just don’t work. There’s no rhyme or reason beyond that. Someone– somewhere out there– once sat at a drawing board and decided that on every little roadway they would paint two, bright yellow lines. And they’d have to keep coming back to refresh those lines with new paint. But the color would always be yellow. And those lines, they would go a lot of places. They would certainly weave and bob and push into a lot of new places. But they would never touch. They would never cross paths. And maybe there was no reason at all for that beyond that just being the way things go sometimes.

It takes losing to find that maybe we’ll never know the reason why those two yellow lines never touch, but does it really even matter? I guess making them overlap and become one isn’t nearly as important as the truth: though they never touch, the two always seem to get to exactly where they need to be.

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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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Joy, joy, joy & multiple forms of Hallelujah.

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Dear you,

I haven’t been around these parts of town much and this place feels sort of barren.

I’ve been in other places. In grocery lines. And homemade bunkers to shield myself from the New England snow. And shrouded in blankets. And running and dancing in Central Park. But I haven’t been here.

I thought I would come to you with handfuls of apologies but then I stopped, and I breathed, and I said to myself, “There is no reason to apologize. You’re growing up and you’re learning to be committed. And you can’t really apologize for growing up.”

I am committed to you. And I am committed to this blog. And I’ve wanted to write more throughout this season but I am doubly committed to a book that this blog made possible. I’m three weeks away from the deadline. I’ve been writing, writing, writing until my little fingers turn blue and I am just crazy about making these pages perfect for you. Maybe that sounds strange, but I think about you every time I sit down and try to lace another chapter through my bones. And keeping you in mind helps this whole process seem worth it. Gritty, but so worth it.

And this is what commitment looks like and I could have never imagined it would be this way 5 months ago when this whirlwind started. I didn’t know I would cry so much. Care so much. Learn so much. Heal so much. I didn’t know I would forget to eat. I’d forget to walk outside. I’d get so hung up on one single sentence that it was all I could say over and over again. I didn’t know this book would latch to my heart like a sloth, that it would grow me in the strange way that symbiosis works for other organisms. I didn’t know commitment looked this way. Void of fireworks. Void of pretty filters. Void of coffee always overflowing and laughter rolling upward to the ceilings. But joy, joy, joy and multiple forms of Hallelujah when you finally swing to the other side.

The skins of that word used to scare me.

On the surface, she seems fine. But commitment is the farthest thing from beautiful when you feel stuck in the mud, and the wheels ain’t turning, and you’ve got no choice but to keep going, and keep going, and keep going until you can make something move.

I guess I’m now starting to understand why commitment seems a little jacked up and flimsy in the world today. Because real commitment– hands all in with no hope of turning outward– is not always the picture-perfect, edited thing you’d thought it would be. A lot of times it’s tears. And it’s telling yourself you will get through something, even when you aren’t so sure that you will. And it’s lacing up your boots to get through these battlefields that seek to own you with doubt and insecurity and hopelessness.

And through all of this I’m learning that distractions are real. And distractions sounds like too helpless of a word that, at the root of it, means “an escape from what you are called to do”. The Facebook streams. The Twitter conversations. The filtered little things we peer through the lens of Instagram to find. The magazines. The Netflix. All of it could start as a simple distraction to you but grow bigger and bigger until you are stealthy in escaping through those channels everyday.

There’s thinking you will do something and then actually doing it. The two are completely, completely different and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. And when you start doing it– be it putting your whole heart into a relationship or all of your lungs into this lifetime– you will want to turn back. You will want to run, run, run away to a time when it was easier and it was comfortable and nothing made you fearful or made you feel like something was crawling beneath your skin.

Stay.

Please stay. Stay until the words come. Stay until you know what you feel. Stay until after you figure out what it is that you feel and you decide that that feeling scares you half to death. Stay when it’s hard. Stay when something inside of you thinks it might just be getting to the good part.

Don’t just stay when it’s blissful. Blissful ain’t never built a life in the way the bricks of struggle & challenge & strife build out a character inside of you.

You might want to leave but maybe that is all the more reason to stay.

Even when the world doesn’t get it and they shut out the lights and they all go home. Are you following them? Are you following them home?

Stay. And be committed.

Only then, only then, will the breakthrough come.

 

All this to say, I’ll be back soon. I’ll write soon. I’ll swing to the other side soon, soon, soon. Until then– I am waiting on joy, joy, joy and multiple forms of Hallelujah.

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