Category Archives: Best Friends

If I said there was something more… would you believe me, girl?

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Sometimes I wish you could be my Polly Pocket.

Not my blog reader, not my friend, but my Polly Pocket. I wish you could be less than an inch tall so that I could carry you with me always and you could see the world beside me and we could talk deep into midnight about all the things our little sockets of hazel and blue saw that day. And then we could wake up and do it all over again. You, and me, and your cute little plastic outfits.

I’d be so good to you if you were mine.

I would’ve propped you up on the dashboard of my car and let you man the Spotify stations as we drove and drove and drove until we lost track of the roads and street lights. I would have given you fresh Tennessee air. I would have let you nearly drown in a glorious vat of sweet tea. I would’ve sat you straight on the railing of a boat as we cruised out to the center of a lake in Northern Georgia and watched fireworks shoot up in the air. Together, we would have celebrated freedom and the summer air.

You’d get to watch the world with me. You’d see the wrinkles, and hear the stories, and I’d never have to tell you anything you didn’t already know. If you were always with me, we could process every bit of this confusing, wild thing in the flesh while we layed beneath a blanket of stars and tried whispering to a God who is both a knitter and a maker.

There is 860 miles between you and I that I don’t know how to tell you about.

It’s as if I traveled far away and came back different and I’m forced to try to explain to you this new skin I am standing in. I don’t know what to tell you. I don’t know where to begin. The experience feels too ripe to pluck just yet. It’s all still resting in single words that have yet to meet their sentencey soul mates: Goodness. Hospitality. Home. Sanctuary. Rest. Laughter. Chik-Fil-A. Peace. Rain. Contentment.

Before this, the first instinct was to share and share and share. And overshare. And add a filter to that. And nail the right angle with that. And to announce to the world that I am having a good time, and that I wish you were here, and too bad you’re not, but I am having a good time anyway.

And then life happens. And people get real. And stories get shared. And secrets get told. And hands get held. And tears get shed. And we all realize the thing we knew ten years ago in the middle of our gadgetless little existence– it was never about the networks. It was never about the followers. It was never about the approval of where you were and what you were doing or who you were with. But it was always about the relationships you could foster in the flesh far more than a fluid invitation into every moment that looked filtered, and pretty, and perfect on the screen.

 

“If I told you to pull back… if I said there was something more… would you believe me, girl?”

It’s almost like I could hear God speaking that single question into my ear over & over again as I soaked in the southern hospitality that only comes from people who learn to care about you before you ever even walk through their door. You’ve been a living prayer to them all along. You’ve rested heavy on their hearts for all eternity and a day. ( And yes, God sounds very much like the memes of Ryan Gosling in this moment but we can analyze that strangeness some other day.)

But I can feel Him pushing me. Pushing me to pull back into relationships that hold me together at the seams in a way I’ve grown nostalgic for. The kinds of relationships I don’t want to clutter or talk about too loudly. I want them to stay simple and true because that is the way they’ve always been to me. The kind of people who I keep in my grip because I am admittedly so, so afraid, in a partially unexplainable way, that if I look away they’ll be gone. I won’t have them any longer. I’ll be grabbing for dust.

The kind of people who take me for who I am and never ask me to be different. Because who I was yesterday was good enough always.

If it takes unplugging, and escaping, and driving down the coast to Somewhere Else for me to get back intact with that then it’s probably, certainly something I should have never lost to begin with. It’s probably really important. It’s probably something I should always keep in my eye’s view so that it never gets misplaced for too long.

Admitting that is a starting point. It ain’t no cut-me-a-piece-of-cake-and-call-it-easy-sauce alteration. It’s not the flicking of the light switch. It’s not the waking up different tomorrow. It’s a slow and steady process. It’s weeding things out of your life to keep and make room for others you hope will arrive soon. It’s shutting off more. It’s stepping back more. It’s being present more in a way that hurts when you can’t turn to the screen for comfort and escape.

It’s not pretty. It’s not sensical. But it’s like reaching the end of the yellow brick road, pulling back the curtain, and realizing Oz ain’t it. He just ain’t it. And yet you’ve been given the chance to click those ruby reds and start over again… you came this far,  it’s not too late to start over again, girl.

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Filed under Best Friends, Live with intention

They came back. For girlfriends who know the Distance like shoe sizes & salaries.

They sat in oversized arm chairs and talked about the Distance as it if were the 5th person in the room.

As if each one of them had felt the Distance curling close. As if they all had sat beside the Distance once or twice that month and watched it grow restless–switch, unswitch its legs– before it finally sighed and said, “Will you pour the cider or will it be me?”

They were growing. Changing. Moved into a season of chaos & clutter & Grownup Things and just trying to keep up with the curveballs this Babe Ruth of a Life had been known to throw.

There were salaries now.

Events with RSVP’s hitched to the bottom. Benefits– whatever that truly meant to  girls who just wanted to buy a good pair of heels and a salmon dinner.

There were bills arriving all the time. Less & less the mailbox was a place for surprise & serendipity; the mailman ousted from the “tooth fairy status” he held when it came Christmastime and the toy catalogs began pouring in.

There were obligations. And invitations. And all the “ations” it takes to make a girl grab her beach towel and head fleeting for the cape.  There was laundry to fold. Lunches to be prepped. Time slots to be handled like eggs on the stove. Careful not to burnout, careful not to overload.

There were calories. Suddenly, calories– poking out from the folds of tin foiled packaging– meaning something more mammoth than ever before as metabolisms grew slower than old men in velour. Dresses to fit into. Workouts to uphold. And nights to just say “screw it” and pour another glass.

There was life.

& the truth that it was quicker these days. & harder, much harder, to catch the good fistfuls of it. Like golden locks. Like clumps of sand closer to the water, perfect for sculpting the sand castles-turned-mansions by sunset.

There was the life & the fact that lived above it all–above the calories, the salaries, the RSVP’s & VIPs: No matter the Distance that curled at their feet, they never stopped holding this one prayer high, “Please keep them safe until I see them again.”

That was friendship.

Stripped off from school & college & clubs. That was friendship. Minus the solo cups and too tiny crop tops and foolish mistakes turned rich with laughter by the morning. That was friendship. When the overtime flooded in & babies started crying & foreign lands began cooing to the ones who had the Traveler’s Itch.

That was friendship to a group for girls who needed no explanation, no starting line, no rolling of the dice to indicate who would go first when they finally folded into one another again.

They came back. Carrying stories, they came back. Carrying stories like wise men from the east, they came back. Unearthing tales from the time capsules they buried in their own hearts until a time such as this. Unfolding & unfurling & every kind of “un” when it came to the conversations they’d snipped short like pixie haircuts just one week before, left as cliffhanger with the classic text message, “You have to hear this in person.”

They came back– from every angle of the map– with all the space & gaps & gap-toothed boys that filled the time slots less precious than this one.  The chance to be girls. Just girls again. In a world that made them executives & teachers & writers & auditors. Just girls with tales of the boys they’d loved. The lives so busy they’d forgotten to dream. & the pieces that had broken off between “the time I saw you last.”

Always & always, the girlfriends came back. For the edging out. The sorting out. The pulling apart the mess from the sane like the stray red sock snuck deep into the pile of whites upon whites. That’s what girlfriends were for. They came back, knowing more of this & that but never closing in on the questions they all ached to answer: who would go next. & why. When would this distance end. & how. When would friendship not be held to pinpoints on the map. & when would “together again” reach them after that night.

They came back, knowing nothing but a single prayer they’d learnt to whisper in an endless way, ” Please keep them safe until I see them again.”

 

 

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Filed under Best Friends, Women

Finders and Weepers but never the Keepers.

I don’t often find the words for you. But when I find them, I always want to keep them.

“We will map it out in the sand,” the Girl with the Curls said to her Most Precious Friend.

“That way we will never forget it, that we are coming back to one another.”

The Girl with the Curls All Up in Her Hair was a bit older in years. She’d seen more stretch of the earth. She’d touched more tops of fingertips. She knew the good that could somehow live in a word as strange as “goodbye.”

She patted the ground for her Most Gracious Friend to come and sit down beside her. And then she began to clear away the rocks to make for a space, a map that would mean Together during a time of Apart.

“This is where I will be,” said the Girl with the Curls, tracing a circle out in the sand. “I will always be here and you can always find me here.”

She set on clearing a space several feet away, “And here is where….”

“There,” said the Girl with the Curls’ Most Lovely Friend, pointing back at the newly traced circle. “There is where I want to always be.”

“But we…”

“There.”

“I know it would be eas…”

There.” Her finger grew relentless with its pointing. “There or here. Whichever one keeps me with you.”

The Girl with the Curls had no answers. No answers for why, one day, she wouldn’t smell the lavender in the hair of her Best Friend or how she’d have to call upon her memory to play back the sound of a laughter she used to marry with her own percussion of giggles.

And so she said nothing. Not Much. And she let the Hunger for Words & Goodbyeless Goodbyes fill the air, thick like the humidity of August that calls curls to go untamed and motherless.

The two girls sat in the sand and stared at the circle for a very long while. They sat still & quiet until the stars had no choice but to join them, resolving to shine their brightest on this Night for Girls who were Never Good with Letting Go.

“It will come one day. One day we won’t be sitting here beside one another. It’s just the way it has to be,” the Girls with the Curls finally spoke, laying her head down to see the whole sky. Her curls splayed and spiraled across the parts of the map that hadn’t been drawn yet.

“But why?” asked her Most Sacred Friend.

The Girl with the Curls just nodded her head in Unknowing. And her Most Real Friend stared and let the whistles of silence out from her lips.

For they both had learned the hearts of one another—all the curves and spots of wear—as if they  old watercolors perched up on the mantel of a hallway from childhood. They’d learned each other in an easy way, in moments as slow and wonderful as the whispered names of French sugared sweets. Savarin & Souffle. Tartin & Brulee.  The two girls marveled at how it was never a thing that took effort or angst. They had simply found one another at a time when all they craved were open books and a Someone to sit beside when the world rocked crazy. A Someone to sit beside and find your whole self understood in a world that rarely leaves room for Understanding to take off her shoes.  That was the best thing they could have. They knew it in conversation & secrets & nights of tea with three lumps of sugar. It was the best thing they could have.

“I’ve never really known but it’s a thing called Growing Up,” said the Girl with the Curls to her Most Radiant Friend. “I think it’s probably beautiful but awkward and silly at times, with just pinches of pain to remind you of Aliveness.”

 Because that is how most things are: beautiful but awkward and silly at times, with just pinches of pain to remind us of Aliveness.

“But we can’t do it together? I want to be Growing Up with you. Not without you… I don’t want a reason to draw maps in the sand.”

The Girl with the Curls heard the stinging in the voice of her Most True Friend. She didn’t have reasons. She didn’t have answers. And she, also, never wished for Growing Up without her Best Friend beside her, Growing Up too.

“You know,” she finally spoke. “We could be Artists & Weepers. Dreamers & Dancers. We could own the stars if we wanted to. We could climb mountains and let the salt waters of the ocean pucker up to our ankles. We could be Explorers. & Finders. & Lovers. But I know we cannot be Keepers. A Carrier, maybe, but never a Keeper.”

“But why? What is the difference?”

“A Keeper would mean that we stayed here. And we never moved. And we held each other’s hands too tightly. And we never saw the world.

And you never became You and I never found Me in the spaces of this place where we were supposed to Be.”

For the Girl with the Curls had no answers. No connect the dot reasons. But she knew she could never be a Keeper, no matter how badly the urge tickled at her. To keep her Most Gifted Friend all to herself would only lead to a lifetime of picking Regret up by the armpits and spinning her round & round.

The world needed a Best Friend like hers. Strangers needed her. The sick needed her. The lonely needed her. And how does one become a Finder if they always stay a Keeper?

“Carry,” said the Girl with the Curls, to fill the spaces in the air left for Sadness & Sorrow & I’ll Miss You & Take Care. “I can be a Carrier. I promise I will be. I’ll carry you wherever I go.”

“Really?” said her Most Sacred Friend.

“I’ve already started,” the Girl with the Curls bit back more words.

She’d already started: The Letting Go. The Packing. The Looking Backward for a moment or two. The Finding but not the Keeping. And the Carrying. The Always Carrying the Heart of her Best Friend.”

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Have yourself a Merry Little Living Room.

I realized then, in that Living Room that only existed for Five Nights of Six Girls’ Lives Somewhere Square in the Season of Giving, that if you find something inside of yourself that can be given to make another fly when you are no longer there to compare wings, then you give it.

“It was two years ago.

Can you believe it?”

Her message pops up on the screen, the corners of the chat box cutting into the layers of ugly Christmas sweater images sitting in my newsfeed.

“The Living Room,” I type.

I know she is talking about the Living Room. I know it will lead into a conversation that will be both good and bad. Both the tangs of sweet and bitter. We’ve never felt anything like those five days. It has not been the same since. She knows it. I know it.

You don’t know how this blog started. Not a single one of you. And if you did, you would realize that it was all one big, giant accident. Two years in the making and it all started with an accident. This blog only exists because two arm chairs, a tangle of tree lights, a battery-powered candle,  five other girls and a Living Room existed first.  

The five of them might be reading this right now and if they are then I want to make sure they hear this: To the girl in an office space in Boston: I am lucky to know you; I wish I told you that more often. To the girl curled up in the campus center with a coffee in her hand, waiting for the next campus meeting: Dinner last weekend wasn’t enough to get out how much I miss you these days. To the ambitious young lady scrolling through this post on her BlackBerry as she gives herself a break from the law school text books: I am your biggest fan because you’ve always been mine. And to the two world shakers, sitting side by side in Kansas City: I could not be more proud of you.

It started Two years ago Today with just Two of us sitting in Two oversized arm chairs, probably at Two in the afternoon. We decided to maneuver the beastly chairs into the middle of our campus center’s stage, sit them around a fake Christmas tree that breathed a sense of Home for the Holidays into the both of us with its pretty little plastic limbs. Any college student knows that it is important to claw and clutch these moments where the holiday season miraculously shows up amidst a chaotic cluster of final papers and tests.

We came back to the two arm chairs and the tree later that night. Another one joined us.

Three Arm Chairs. Two 12-Page Papers. One Tree. And we decided to call it our Living Room.

Another night. Two more girls joined us.

Five Book Bags. Four Arm Chairs. Three Laptops. Two 12-Page Papers. One Tree.

And one battery-powered candle that provided us with flicker of fake glow with one flick of a switch. We roared in laughter over that candle. Oh, how it glowed. We figured that a Living Room needed pictures, so we brought frames. And a candy bowl. What is a living room without a candy bowl?

The last girl tapped in. She demanded a kitchen. She studied better in Kitchens than Living Rooms. So we extended our Living Room and added a table and chairs.

Eight Red Cups. Seven Leftover Brownies. Six Girls. Five Book Bags. Four Arm Chairs. Three Laptops. Two (still not done) 12-Page Papers. One Tree.

Six girls, headphones plugged into their computers, all humming to a different tune but consciously inching closer and taking turns in pointing out that it might never be this way again. One would head for Rome. Another for Prague. One would graduate. They pointed out the hard stuff: that it would never be this way again.

And they were right. Never since then have the six of them shared a single space where the laughter is just the right amount of Heavy and their dreams sing loud enough, above the Christmas carols, just how true they planned to become one day.

At the time, I had this WordPress page and two blog posts. Already, I hated blogging. The whole thought of it scratched at the back of my neck like a tag left carelessly on the shirt collar. Until one of our nights of endless studying in the Living Room, one of the girls started to ache. Her heart swelled. She needed something beyond  a life chat or a hug, a reminder that she’d be ok. I remember walking away from the Living Room that night, plugging my computer into the wall and soaking in the silence as I played with words like cold broccoli and wrote to her. Tap,tap,tap & Publish. I remember thinking: there is so much that we cannot give to one another but I suppose there is trying.

This blog was born out of that Living Room. That Try. That Give. That realization that I never wanted a space for me if I could find a way to make it about someone else. And from it I’ve learned that our lives might never be so much about ourselves as they are about the people who sit beside us. Who Round Our Dinner Table. Who Call Us First, After We’ve Hammered Our Pain into a Text Message. The ringer on our phone goes off and already we can hear them saying, I don’t care if you are sobbing, just speak.

I realized then, in that Living Room that only existed for Five Nights of Six Girls’ Lives Somewhere Square in the Season of Giving, that if you find something inside of yourself that can be given to make another fly when you are no longer there to compare wings, then you give it. That, while you sit in a moment as pristine as the seconds after all the flakes have settled to the bottom of the snow globe in your hands, that we really don’t get any kind of Forever with One Another. We get Chances. We get Moments. We get Raw Opportunities. We get Doors Wide Open. We get Unforgettable. But we don’t get Forever’s. Never. Ever. If we knew that now, and if we remembered every time we found our feet standing beside someone we wish the world for, what would we give? How would we give? Would it be everything? Would it be more than we could ever imagine?

Some days I think about it, how I’d give anything to go back there to the Living Room to the Six Girls Who Made It Home, to thank them all for giving me this starting thread in a tapestry that has mended hearts, inspired others, and Grew Me Up  in the best way possible.

I know I’d have given more if I really stopped to think about the Forever that would escape us all in the moment, slip from our fingers like the holiday season. I know I’d have said it more: I love you but I’ll never keep you here, far away from flying. But promise to turn back sometimes and tell me how you’re soaring.

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I’d bring you sugar. You could borrow flour.

I am willing to travel across the country to show up at your door and tell you this: I’ve got camping gear.

Yes, that’s right. Camping Gear.

I know I have it somewhere cramped up in the attic. Wedged between a few lawn reindeer and some worthless pieces of junk that my father insists on classifying as antiques.

A tent. Two sleeping bags. That’s all we need right?

Can I have five minutes? I just need five minutes to find the dumb camping gear.

You are shaking your head. Like that won’t do? Like we cant pitch a tent somewhere between my backyard and yours and, for once, let Distance slip away before your hand slips from mine?

Target then. There is a Target right down the road. We could pile into the car right this second and be there before that little hand on your watch even laps the bigger one twice.

An air mattress. We’ll buy one. Blow that sucker up. I’ll even let you take the bed and I’ll sleep on the floor. Does that sound better than the camping gear?

Please don’t turn. Don’t walk away just yet. I have other ideas. Jeepers, I’ve been filling notebooks with all sorts of ideas.

You’re saying it won’t do any good to hear them. I know that. But could we just pretend for a moment that it might do us some good? That we might be capable of sticking our heads together and coming up with an excellent plan where Miles and Stones and Milestones wouldn’t get between us.

You know, it’s really easy to tap out how much I miss you over the phone. Tap. Tap. Tap. Done.

But I need 140 characters and then some kind of eternity to show you how it feels to know I won’t be seeing you soon. That it’s already been too long. I don’t think I like it very much, saying those kinds of things.

I. Won’t. Be. Seeing. You. Soon. It feels all kinds of awful rolling off the tongue.

This whole growing up thing, I don’t know how much I like that either. It would probably be easier, better, if the automobile had never been invented. Or buses. Or trains. Or any kind of thing that left us gripping a map and going separate ways.

Or cellphones. Or pens to write letters. Or stamps to mail them with. Or any kind of method that left us staying in touch without the touching.

If we never got the crazy idea that life would be bearable on different sides of the country or in separate parts of the world. That’d we’d be ok as pen pals or friends who only see each other once in a while. I’ll warn you right now: the Once shows up a lot more than the While. I’ve been waiting for you by the door.

I mean, Boston is pretty on you. You make Chicago look damn good. You wear San Diego like a scarf.  And I’m just a girl who got New York to coo in her ear louder than any other set of skyscrapers but I’m still not over the fact that we cannot just smack the cities together and play neighbors for a while.

I’d bring you sugar. You could borrow flour.

And we could stop talking about Growing Up as if he were a Lover, a tall and handsome Lover, who’s already broken our hearts six thousand times and yet we are still crawling back to try it out again.

You know, there are certain bones within me that want to see you fly, and find my wings too. And then there are other bones, the not so funny bones, that wish you and I could just find some moment to call our own.

A moment where we wouldn’t be leaving. Or walking. Or thinking at all.

No going. No planning. No growing at all.

It wouldn’t need to last long. A few seconds or so. Just long enough to believe that one day we’ll stop scratching this itch that tears the “You” from the “Me” and find ourselves sitting on some front porch with sweet tea in our hands saying things like this.

It was good to see the world. The Whole Wide World. We learned quite a lot, wouldn’t you agree? From all those Miles and Stones and Milestones between us. But look, look, we have finally found an Us and I don’t want to see it go.  Us. It tastes sweet, sweeter than anything I’ve tasted in a while. It tastes like some kind of tomorrow that I’ve been looking for.

So I’ll tell you one more time, I’ve got camping gear somewhere in my attic. It should  only take me five minutes to find it.

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Filed under Best Friends, Big City, Disconnect, Girl meets Boy, Hunger

And they were lucky girls, lucky to have one another in a life made for singing about bicycles built for two.

Kathleen & Dee

“Do you feel like switching today?” she asks me.

“No Duhhhhh. I always feel like switching, Silly.”

Together we reach our hands over each other’s heads and pull off the imaginary helmets of hair, like oxygen-starved astronauts devouring air for the first time.  She gets my red curly locks and I get her blonde braids for 60 glorious minutes.

That One Luscious Hour, after math problems but before lunchtime, was an epic chance to let down my two, imaginary Barbie blonde braids and swing them round and round, living out my 1/64th Native American heritage on the school blacktop.

That’s how she and I became best friends; the closest thing to sisters without the blood or cousins. Eighteen years of friendship woven since that very first hair swap. Since

Corey & I

we both first realized we could escape the world and what it was and the way it worked through one another.

The memory does a nostalgic little rain dance in my head as we sit across from one another. Newly 23, beautiful and no longer swapping hair styles during the coveted hour we’ve managed to uncover within a tangle of fulltime jobs and final exams; some would say we’ve moved onto more grown up trades: stories, jokes, qualms, and advice. All still just as knotted as my hair back in those days. Still just as silky and gold as her fine, fine braids.

Friendship. I can tell you that the definition sits on my kitchen wall, cropped and comfortable within the confines of a 4×6 frame. The black and white photo is a picture of my mother’s Aunt Kathleen and my own grandmother, Dee. The two of them were best friends. Inseparable. Passing away within one year of each other.

And while I assumed they were tied together so fiercely by their Irish roots, Dee always being the one to don a sequined green beret and fill her lungs with Irish proverbs, it turns out my Grandma was not a stitch of Irish. For that reason alone, the other girls shunned her. A Bright-Eyed German Girl with no friends just because of her nationality, growing up in a Big City that would one day mature into a Brewing Pot for the Irish, German, Mexicans, English, Vietnamese & Dominican population. Spades, Aces, Clubs & Hearts all leaning against one another in a House of Cards.

But Kathleen swooped in and swept Irish from the requirements of her friendship with Dee to create a bond between the two of them that lasted all their lives. And they were lucky girls, lucky to have one another in a life made for singing about bicycles built for two.

Sadly, I don’t know much about Kathleen. I don’t know whether she stood her ground and told those mean girls off, or whether she silently linked her arm within my grandmother’s and showed her first how to walk in the other direction. Regardless, I still believe she might’ve been a lot like my best friend, teaching me to stand up for myself without ever being a stitch of sorry for taking up space in this world.

She’s my Yellow, I would tell anyone about my best friend. She is absolutely my Yellow in the way that Kathleen was Dee’s Blue. The world would spin just fine without Yellow or Blue but it is so much brighter with those hues added in. Yellow in laughter. In Jokes. In talking as the sun goes down. In still talking when it rises up again. In the way a best friend knows your heart is breaking before you even hear the first crack. In the way she is a fellow artist, painting the mural of “Growing Up” alongside you, a mess of Gold and Silver Paint that crawls the walls of buildings you’ve both known since childhood.

In the way you sometimes part but manage to keep folding paper cranes out of the rich papers of Missing You and Needing You and Praying for You. Every Night. No matter the multitude of prayers spilling over into the lap. Your name. Always there. Without Doubt. An asterisk beside it.

The questions of a 20-something—Why am I here? And what do I do next? And was this the right move?—sit silent for the sacred hour that finds she and I in the same place. Sits Silent in the Name of Friendship. Suddenly there are no worries. No need to tap it out to the galaxy: LOL. Because we’re really sitting right there, kicking our sandals up and Laughing Out Loud over the way things used to be when we were chronic Curly Lock Swappers. No other places to be. No need to look down at our feet to make sure they are still planted into the ground. There’s just my best friend; the keeper of my stories and the secrets that left us linking pinkies. Promising never to tell.

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Filed under Best Friends, Life Lessons, Live with intention, Uncategorized

23 Candles: A handful of pearls from the 22 women who took my 22nd year and grew it into something Memorable.

I have never been good with birthdays.

They make me squeamish. A little queasy. I really should be donning a crown and beating the pulp out a watermelon pinata but really I am always left wondering if I have packed enough learning into 52 weeks, done enough with 12 months.

And so here I am, newly 23, and wondering what the purpose to 22 really was.

Come on, I make symbolism out of my morning coffee, there was no way I was going to let a whole 22nd year slip by without looking for the life lessons behind it.

So…After 365 extraordinary days, 365 days with so much life packed tight into them, I can confidently say that my 22nd year was one shaped by 22 young women who have crisscrossed my path with theirs at some point this year, leaving me with arms full of wisdom, courage, and inspiration. My life would not be the same without these 22 women and they lessons they taught me in a span of twelve months. On this special day, I would like to share those lessons with you.

I would like to dedicate this pearls of wisdom post and my 22nd year to these world shakers who made me the person I am today. Thank you for teaching me with your light, your love, and your life.

Find that place in this world that fits you like an over-sized sweater. Find that place that makes Ruby Slippers seem totally practical if it really means clicking them will bring you back there again & again. Find that place that will always take you back into its arms, borders and intersections no matter how far away you travel or how long you have been gone. –Stephanie Rushford. Stephanie is a freelance politics writer who allowed me to see New York City from her own eyes. I will always remember a night this winter spent roaming the financial district near the 9/11 memorial and hearing from her what it means to be young and in love with a City that Knows Her Name.

Don’t let the universe regret you. –Azure Antoinette. Azure is a spoken word poet recently spotlighted by Oprah who helped us run our poetry workshop in Brooklyn this April. We spoke for about an hour on the phone and yet it was one of the best 60 minutes out of the whole year. Azure amazes me daily with her poise and grace, and her fervor for all of life. I am beyond ready for a musical July with her.

The world will try to get you to quit believing in fairy tale love. Don’t let it win so easily. Believe in frogs. Lost shoes. Carriages made from pumpkins. Pixy dust. And falling hopelessly, so hopelessly, in love. –Audrey. Those who know my blog know that my best writing is forever indebted to a four-year-old diva with a serious Princess Complex. Only two feet tall, Audrey showed me how to relive my whole life in one summer, three feet shorter and looking at the world through a pair of rockin’ pink shades.

The job that you want and will delight in doing for the whole of your life probably doesn’t exist out there just yet. You are going to have to create that job. –Lindsay Pollak. The ultimate expert on careers and the workplace, Lindsay is someone who will have you itching to network and map out your dream job in seconds. I owe this young woman a great deal of thanks for the inspiration and pushes she provided me with while job hunting in the last few months.

Adventures are guaranteed to come knocking at your door. Keep your ears perked for that Adventure’s rapping on the wood; get up out of bed in slippers and pajamas and greet the adventure whenever she arrives.Christen Brandt. Director of She’s the First, Christen is not only someone I love working with but also someone I love sharing life adventure’s with. I am constantly in awe of the readiness she holds in nearly every situation tossed her way. I am looking so forward to our future adventures…

Whatever role you play, play it with every ounce of yourself. Walk away at the end of each chapter knowing that you made your heart breakable for a very good reason; so that you could scatter it and leave it with others who needed it more in the moment.Carleigh Baldwin. I am lucky to call her a best friend, Carleigh is an individual who I look up to and respect for so many reasons. And I am absolutely ready to see her rock her first year of law school.

In all that you do, ask yourself “why.” From your morning coffee to your route to work, ask yourself “why” and if you cannot uncover the answer then have the courage to reevaluate.–Halle Butvin. I interviewed Holly back in 2010 and this piece of advice has stuck with me since. Founder of One Mango Tree, a fair trade company that helps bring women in Uganda out of Poverty, Halle is a role model who I absolutely admire for her endless efforts to be the change she wishes to see in the world.

Allow yourself to be the Rare, Limited Edition, Version of yourself that really, truly are. Don’t ever belittle how very beautiful you make this world.Nikita Marie. Confessions: I want to be this girl. You should be friends with this girl. You will NEVER, EVER meet a more stellar individual. Of this I am sure. Nikita is a serious world shaker who inspires me to paint beautiful pictures out each of my days. Seriously, spend fifteen minutes with this young woman. You. Will. Be. Glad. You. Did.

Serve a purpose in whatever you do. You are here for a reason, don’t let the opportunity slip.–Carla Blumenthal. If you could only meet one more person for the whole of your life, I wish it would be Carla. I am extremely honored to know Carla and to call her a great friend. In a short span of time in the Big City, Carla filled my pockets with her wisdom on every aspect of life, to doing the work you love to growing spirituality in an ever-growing city.

Leave time in your day, every.day, for the following things: inspiration, love, symphonies, glitter, friends, fine art, prayer & Gloriosity.–Chesley Turner. This young woman reads me like a book and I thank the Good, Good Lord for her always. Inspiring, moving, poised and passionate, Chesley is someone I look forward to growing old with, chatting about the days when we were young, fabulous, running wild around New York City in mini skirts and heels that defied the borders of “spectacular.”

Make space in your life for people who surpass wearing their heart on their sleeve. Carve out special room for individuals who walk around this world with a staple gun in hand, stapling their heart to the sleeves of others. Lauren Lankford. I am honest in saying that I would love nothing more than to sit beside Lauren and talk about all things under the sun until the sun herself went down: Life. Love. God. Mistakes. Grace. Creativity. Founder of the Good Women Project and Love Drop, I never can seem to pick my jaw fully up off the ground over how much of herself Lauren has given to others. Selfless. Selfless. Selfless & Remarkable.

SARK, one my favorite inspirational gurus, writes that there is a great difference in life between telling the world about the tree you have drawn in your mind and actually showing the world that tree. Have enough courage to cease talking about the tree, walk outside, and plant it. –Tammy Tibbetts. I simply cannot string together enough good sentences to say how much I admire Tammy and how remarkable of a mentor she has been to me since first meeting her. Founder of She’s the First, a tree planted deep in my own heart now, Tammy has shown me the importance of letting your dreams live outside of your walls and the potential they hold when unleashed out into the world. I am blessed to call her a good friend.

Be the person who enters into the room with a smile on her face, wine in her hand, and a good story waiting to dive off into the crowd. In six, simple words: Be the Life of the Party. –Lauren Albert. Lauren teaches me daily what it means to embrace the spontaneity and hidden potential within each hour, second, and minute. She is my go-to gal, a dancing queen, a heart-to-heart companion always ready for a deep conversation and a glass of chardonnay. And , for all of these things, I am lucky to be so close with her.

Take time to sit down and map out what you want out of life. Gather up those who support and love you best to make those dreams and desires into the very best reality. –Selena Soo. I first met Selena at a power girl brunch but since that first meeting she has helped to sculpt me into the professional and world shaker I long to be. I will forever thank her for challenging me to design my dream job, it is because of her that I know I am inching towards it. Closer & Closer each day.

Be present to people. Give to them your time, your energy, your shoulders, your hands and your ears. When you are there, be sure to really be there. And when you are here, Be Here. –Laura Collins. Anam Cara is the Gaelic term for a “friend of your soul.” Laura challenged me, pushed me, and changed me in eight months of living with her. The greatest gift she gave me? The Gift of Presence, something I know she will continue to give as she heads off to Peru this winter.

Let life court you. Allow it wine & dine you. Let life get down on one knee, pull out a big ol’ diamond ring, and slip it onto your finger. –Mackenzie Filson. I don’t play favorites all that often but there is no denying: this girl is on the top of my list. I believe she and I have covered our souls with very same wallpaper… A coffee date lives in our future; this makes it nearly impossible to resist begging the future to get here now.

Tell others when you admire them, when they have changed you, when they have pushed you and challenged you and held you up at times. Chances are, if you have not told them yet then they have yet to know it as true. –Kaleigh Somers. Reasons why I adore blogging: this girl. Kaleigh has shown me, over and over again, why I wake up everyday to write out into the world via this blog. I cannot help but thank her endlessly for being a source of inspiration, an honest critic, and one of my biggest fans.

Don’t just bend backwards for friends you love. Bend in any direction they need of you. Front. Back. Side. Up. Down. Just be there to bend when they break. Becca Provost. I had the pleasure of watching and learning from Becca for eight months this year. From the very start, I admired the attention she gave to those who mattered most to her and with what delicateness she treated her friendships. Anyone would very fortunate to know this young woman… extremely fortunate to call her a friend.

Befriend creativity. Let it swim in your veins. Keep you up at night. Leave you lost in Central Park, sitting on a park bench, plotting story lines until the street lights come on. And after you befriend creativity, befriend the stranger sitting on the park bench beside you. –Libby Segal. She calls herself an “aspiring director.” Let’s all get real and just start telling the truth: Director will only be the beginning to what this girl will accomplish in her lifetime. Watch out world, this one is going to shake you. Big. Time.

Read your heart out loud to the ones you love. Read your heart out loud as if it were your favorite novel. Celia Fox. My very best friend, this girl has shown me and taught me what it means to read my heart out loud. I find it hard to tell her with real words how very proud I am and how excited I am to see her chapter in Kansas unfold… And how pumped I am to make endless Dorothy comments towards her. Love you St. End!

“Agape means that we love a person for what they are. Every person has an infinite mystery within themselves. Agape means that we never confine the person to what we know of them.  To love anyone is to hope in them always.” --Lindsay Field. If you do use Google today, use it to look up this word. It is a life-sculpting word that Lindsay introduced me to throughout the year. A strong young woman, I am beyond excited to see the next chapter of her life unfold as she heads to Equador for the next year.

Wake up and look around. The sights are too good to be missed at any time of the year.Britt Blicharz. A best friend, Britt teaches me this always and often. That no matter what time of the year it is– winter, spring, summer or fall–there is reason to stop what you are doing and breath in the air. Smile. Laugh. Maybe even cry. And thank God you are alive…

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Filed under Best Friends, Happiness, Life Lessons, Uncategorized

This will give us enough of a good feeling, a right feeling, to go on knowing nothing at all.

My best friend smells of leather ballet slippers and lavender hand soap. 

The scent mingles with the highlights in her hair as I hug her, taking me back to the nights spent sharing secrets on hardwood dance floors while nursing the blisters that came from uptight tap shoes.

And though I file away people I have met, placing their name beside a concordance of eye colors within my head, smelling my best friend became a new addition to daily routines only after I met Maggie.

Maggie was the queen bee of the nursing home I was forced to visit during a day of service in college. Truth told, I didn’t want to be spending my Saturday morning playing gin with old folks sharing stacks of Aces and Spades with the dentures sitting on both sides of me.

I made the Macho Mistake of checking my phone beneath the table while waiting for Maggie to make her move.

I don’t understand all you young people,” Maggie spoke, directing her comment right at me without a tinge of hesitation. “You are always talking to one another on a screen. My grand-daughter talks to all her best friends on a screen. That is not a best friend! You need to be able to see your best friend, touch your best friend, smellllll your best friend.

Maggie will forever be the reason why, when my first child asks me for a cell phone, I will retreat to a cedar chest settled beside my bed and pull out a chalkboard like the ones the pilgrims used to practice their ABCs upon.

Here,” I will say, stringing the small board up with a bright red cord and saddling that little sucker right around my child’s neck. “This is even better than text messaging. You just write that message down and pass it your friend.”

Presto, handwriting practice and social interaction all in one swift swipe.

And then I will pull six more chalkboards from that cedar chest and plop them onto the table beside my child. “Here’s more, in case you need to send out mass messages.”

Yup, this conversation will take place right after I buy my girl her first petty coat and teach my son all the Right Ways to walk along the Yellow Brick Roads that Pave the Hearts of Young Girls: Tell her she is beautiful. Always.  Never tell her she looks big in those jeans. Buy her flowers even if there is no occasion. Admire her and do not fear being in awe of her; there is nothing more radiant to watch than a young woman who knows her way. 

But, in all seriousness, I am already fearfully watching from the car window as my children scurry onto the school bus; already pleading endlessly with the gods of socializing that they will sit beside Someone. And that they will like the bus ride adventure beside that Someone so much that they decide to share lunch with that Someone.

Their feet will grow bigger. Their hands will grow bigger.

But still, they will itch to sit with people and find Someones. And call before texting. And just show up even before calling. And know how to use those ten fingers of theirs.

Lesson Number One, my little kiddies: Your hands will never feel so full and so well used as when they find themselves enveloped and interlocked with those of another soul in need. 

Another Restless, Itchy Soul who needs Love. Well, don’t we all need love? We might not know much of what we want in this life, nevermind what we actually need, but we know enough to distinguish how it feels to rest our heads on Certain Shoulders or to be wrapped up tight into Certain Arms. And let’s face it, no one told us we had to know everything so I think that sticking to knowing Shoulders & Arms & Ten Fingers and the power behind them is plenty.

Because that will give us enough of a good feeling, a right feeling, to go on knowing nothing at all.

No, I don’t want my children to miss out on that. To miss out on Certain Shoulders and Life Changing Conversations because their noses are super glued to Kindles or their minds are surfing the Internet ten thousand miles away from the dinner table they are sitting at. Their Faces Illuminated by the Glow of the Screen from Beneath Them. 

I want them to know certain things that will never be unearthed from a pile of mobile devices, certain things that I believe will define their lives and leave them without worry as to what this life is actually for: the way it feels to say sorry in person instead of cowering behind an email address. The way it feels to gush over another human being without fear of being cut off after 140-characters. The way it feels to sit beside someone with Palms Sweating and Heart Racing; feeling so awkward, so uncomfortable, so anxious but so incredibly alive. 

Lord knows one day I will be sitting in the same spot as Maggie, preaching to a restless youngin’ of the days when we still received letters in the mail and we trotted over to the neighbors to borrow a cupcake tin.

Cupcake tins, neighbors, and handwritten letters may all be extinct by the time I play gin with young college students.

But perhaps they will learn from me what Maggie so graciously taught in her preaching of smelling best friends: we have precious time upon us; spend it with friends. There is laughing to be heard, names to be learned, manners to be used and friends to be pulled in after a long spell of “Missing,” transporting you right back to the days of lavender soap and sitting on dance room floors.

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Filed under Best Friends, Disconnect, For a Better World, Humanity, Simply Living, Uncategorized

Ways To Stop Poverty. Step 1) Acknowledge your own.

I knew in that very moment, sadness had a sound…

A thick layer of frost covered the places where our ignorance had once been. So thick that we heard the sound from beneath our sleeping bags and extra layers. We knew our cardboard roof had fallen in.

We had constructed our home for the night as if it were a Lincoln Log cabin. Examining and planning our shelter meticulously. We were college students attempting to master the skill of cardboard shack building. But no amount of cardboard & diligence,  strategy & optimism, would guard our roof from the night’s chill and the frost she carried.

We cuddled closer to one another. She to I and I to She. We could barely muster an ounce of body heat but our whispered words and our visible breathing sustained us. She was cold. I was cold. Together we were freezing, Together Nonetheless.

Last November I slept out in the cold for a night with my college peers to attempt to put a face on poverty. It is one thing to talk about soup kitchens and cardboard beds. It is another thing entirely to hear the roar in your stomach when one serving of soup and two bread sticks just is not enough. Another thing entirely to feel your hands go numb. Another thing entirely to scrounge like a beggar, attempting to convert any shred of light in your soul into warmth for your body. It hits 2a.m. and you say to yourself, “Oh this is another thing entirely.

Often we think poverty and our mind draws up an image of a child in Africa with a belly bloated from starvation. Or a man on the church steps curled up into himself, preparing for the night’s sleep. Concrete Pillow.

But poverty is not merely a barren bank account or a foreclosed home. Not just a pile of food stamps and donated clothes.

Mother Teresa said it best, that poverty of the soul- hunger and thirsting for something to pull a person away from loneliness- is far different than the need for bread and water. There are a lot of us living in poverty right now. Some of us don’t even see it or recognize it after so hastily assigning the face of poverty to that homeless man or that welfare mother.

You cannot always touch it. You cannot always point a finger at it.  You cannot take a census of this kind of poverty, good luck packaging poverty for another human being into a statistic. All I can advise is sitting with a person long enough and you will see it in their face. An emptiness in their souls.

Some might say that the worst kind of poverty is a day without a friend, without people to talk with.

We need each other more than we care to admit.

All the things in the world will never be able to shield us from the day when we realize we are alone and we were never really crying out for more clothes and valuables. We were crying out conversation. The comfort of a shoulder aligned next to ours.

It was not until this morning did I realize the poverty in my own life. Standing in the middle of a Sunday church service. People Clapping. Singing. Dancing. Praising Sweet Jesus. And I was envious of them, because they all held hands so easily. They leaned on one another so completely. Someone might look at them and say, “They don’t have so much. I have more money, I have a better home.” I would laugh at this someone and reply, “Don’t you see it? They have everything. Everything that Matters. They will surely keep the world spinning with love for one another.I think I have met the richest people in all the world.

If you want to stop poverty, you must touch your own first.

I am only two weeks into my service and already I see how easy it is to construct a life around materialism. To live a life outward without ever nurturing the inward. Life gets hard when I can no longer hide behind a piece of plastic to swipe. A full closet. A computer screen and a signature. Life gets hard when you realize that all you have focused on really doesn’t even matter.

The roof is falling in and I am finally dealing with it. I have to. There is no other way. Normally I would attempt to fix the roof all by myself. I am getting used to this idea of others helping me build back up again.

I hope one day a person asks me this: “How do manage to take the insanity of this lifetime? There is so much struggling, suffering, heartache and injustice.”

You see, normally I would respond with some abstract idea about how we are all internally equipped with love and the power to push through. We simply prevail on our own.

But lately I think I might just look down at my hands, the very hands that will do good, good work in the next ten months. Not notice the hands, but notice the gaps. In Between The Fingers. They are welcomed gaps. They are not there by coincidence. The gaps exist for the fingers of another to fit perfectly inside of them. Be it the Love of my Life. A Friend of my Soul. The Ones Who Raised Me. A Stranger. No matter who, the gaps do exist for another.

A constant reminder: We were designed with gaps so that others could fill them. We were not designed to go this road alone.


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Filed under Best Friends, Humanity, Loneliness, Poverty

She knows my whole heart. And she does not judge me for any of it.

She is a friend of mind.  She gather me, man.  The pieces I am, she gather them and give them back to me in all the right order.  It’s good, you know, when you got a woman who is a friend of your mind.  ~Toni Morrison, Beloved

There are days when I want to literally curl up into my Inbox and just wait. I could find a cozy spot between the sent items and saved drafts and just wait. I would even settle for making a bed with the piles of junk mail and deleted items. Just To Wait.

Life might be easier this way, if all we were expected to do with our days was wait to hear from our best friend. A friend who gets us completely.

My best friend and I email each other almost every day. Sometimes I have great difficulty in coping with the fact that we have the adjective “Long Distance” attached to our friendship for what could be a very long time. But we have a bond that I cannot explain. She Knows Me. I Know Her. And at the end of each day we cling to that understanding.

Our emails are a mess. A Literal Mess. Sure, you could uncover the paragraphs. The punctuation. The breaks and beginnings. But our hearts are splattered all over the messages. I sometimes think after I send an email to her that I should recieve a notification that says “Mailbox over size limit” because we pack so much emotion, hope, desperation, questions & answers, and an overwhelming love for life into each email. No gigabyte or megabyte seems justifiable.

Someone asked me the other day what was the best thing about my friendship with her. “She knows my whole heart,”  I said. “And she doesn’t judge me for any of it.”

I guess as we grow older we learn what is important and not so important when it comes to friendship. I once thought friendship was all about quantity. Lots of friends on the playground. Plenty of friends to sit next to at lunch. Too many friends on Facebook. Always people to text message. But sometimes having so many friends can make us feel so little in this world. Insignificant, as we cling to our generic messages and irrelevant friend requests.

I now see that friendship is about something much deeper than numbers like “7″ or “12.”

My mother always warned me not to pick and choose my friends like colors out of a crayon box. She feared the ease I found in becoming bored with one and moving onto the next in such a natural manner. I always replied that it was best to have a lot of friends. “A lot of friends, Hannah?” she would ask. “Or real friends?”

She waited for me to learn (in the way no parent ever hopes for: The Hard Way) that friends, real friends, are there without question. They are not be seeking out the next best route to make us feel worthless or weak. Friends, real friends, are loyal to a fault. They lend relevance to the cliche “catching you when you fall,” as they know when to stop walking next to us and start walking close behind. Arms Out. Ready for the Catch. Friend, real friends, never give us a reason to ask if our secrets are safe with them. We trust the second that the deepest intimacies of our souls reach their ears they are tucked straight into the heart. Locked and Keyed. And there they stay.

Friends, real friends, let us Wallow, Cry, Scream, Be Mad at the World. They accept broken hearts and bad moods as currency to our friendship on some days. But they are real friends because they know when to tell us to snap out of it, to straighten ourselves up and get back out there in the world. Friends, real friends, know when our sadness is no longer an excuse for missing out on life, when our delusions have gone too far and when we need to smarten up before the World deals us a harsh lesson. Friends, real friends, are the kind who rejoice in our victories. We count on them. To Celebrate. To Commend. To Be Proud. They also give reality checks and bring us back down to earth when we get ahead of ourselves.

Friends, real friends, help us to uncover things that we were not meant to find on our own. Sometimes diligence. Other times passion. Sometimes kindness. Other times persistence. Friends, real friends, are a saving grace in a world that seemingly becomes scarier every single day. Because this world comes with a lot of potential for pain: bullies on the playground, broken hearts on the concrete, broken dreams in the gutters.

Sometimes there are no better words than this to describe a true friend: No matter where you are, in your hometown or a big city, someone, somewhere knows your heart. They know the pieces. They know the stories. They know the struggles. And they choose not to judge you for the mess that you are. Someone, somewhere, carries you in their heart wherever they go. And that will always surpass carrying around a number like “1,700 Facebook friends” or “300 followers.”

Someone, somewhere, never made you a number. An obligation. A project. A chore. They simply made you a friend and, in a world that seemingly requires so much to be happy, it became all you never knew you were even missing in life.

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Filed under Best Friends, Simply Living, Thank You, Uncategorized