Category Archives: Disconnect

I want to be more human than that.

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Courageous statuses that take a lot of guts & courage to admit warrant a record number of “likes” if you sculpt them right.

People dig the honesty. They well up at their computers. They support you fiercely with a “thumbs up.”

Just below those gritty statuses comes the powerful quotes. People can’t resist them. They “like” to say “Here, here! Thanks for glittering my webs with positivity.” People always approve of the status that gives them the vacation away from the person who uses Facebook as a diary to welp about bad service at TGIF and traffic jams.

Good news will herd in all the friends you forgot to unfriend two years ago. And selfies… don’t. Please. One per month if we must.

A “like” means Yes. I approve. Okay. Sure. Good quote! I’m sorry. That truly stinks. You go girl. Hoot rah. Better luck next time. The definition morphs like the skinnier skins of a chameleon on adrenaline, depending, of course,  on what kind of verbs & nouns you  hitch it beside.

 

I am almost embarrassed to unearth this Facebook Status Science that I’ve discovered in the last year or so. I blame it on the fact that I’ve always geeked out over social norms via social networks and I am a closeted sociology nerd who has yet to use her degree.

I am lost in admitting the harder truths: we’ve gone an extra step in sacrificing privacy to pedestal our own lives. We’ve pulled ourselves from moments, more sacred than we’ll ever know in this little lifetime, to arrange the coffee cups and share our presence at the indy bookstore with the world. We’ve fragmented our lives and boiled down each other’s feelings through likes & pokes & retweets & favorites.

Jeepers, I just wanna tell you this in my little corner of the internet: There has been nothing so glamorous about today. About eating cake because I have no groceries. And getting ice off the car with a tea kettle and shovel because it is lethally cold in these parts of the world and I am inept when it comes to actual “real people practical stuff”.

I love social media and how it cranks up our world but I still crave the moments that are for keeps. The conversations I know won’t translate straight into sound bites and book content. The moments when phones buzz from inside our heavy coats and we don’t even hear them. Because, yes,  your pupils look that dang pretty and I was never very good at taking my eyes off of you.

I crave the people who know me enough to ask me about my day. I need that. I really need that. Otherwise, you go for days & days only talking about work and the weather. And maybe a Kardashian. And you forget that there are actual bodies, actual souls with feelings, that have always validated your existence in this world with their unfailing love & presence. It was never about numbers or platforms for them.

 

I am afraid of becoming a performer.

Afraid that the beauty of networking through social will streamline into  a desperate need for approval by others, all of us governed by a “like” button that has become more of a “yes, life. well. done.” button.

I lose a little faith and then my mom walks in the room. She tells me she is headed for  drumming circle tonight to drum in the New Year while I am scrambling to schedule the tweets so I can see girlfriends tonight. And laugh a little. And remember to be 24 a little.

But my mama, she wears red flip flops in the winter and never fails to carry a kazoo. And she doesn’t believe in technology. Or punctuation. (Off, sorry mama.) And I have to be so envious that she has learnt to grow old without the unnecessary pressure of people who don’t matter.

My mama asks me how I’m doing. She’s never liked a status and yet she’s loved me deeply in an always sort of way. And her world is not cluttered by strangers and kids we all met in middle school who still take to “liking” our sepia-toned photos of wine and Thai food.

And, when she asks me what all this social media stuff means, I tell her true.

“It doesn’t mean anything. When it comes to real life, and real problems, the ones who care will call. Or text. Or find a way to extend beyond 140 characters to rise up and meet you at eye level. They press into you until you speak.”

And you have to be really careful with those folks. You have to make sure that you don’t get so sucked into performing that you forget the reliable ones. The good ones. The ones who stood by before we ever determined that 600 followers was a very good thing.

And. I’ve. Grown. Tired. Of the mindset that I must shine for the world through perfect glimpses of cropped images & fragmented dialogue that I pulled from a girls’ night on Tuesday. I want to be more human than that. i want to toast to a reality that ain’t so poetic or an actual status that is true for today:

I didn’t buy any groceries yet. I should have gotten them last week. My hair is a bundled mess and, left unkempt by a comb for more than three days, it will dread. I didn’t feel comfortable in my jeans this morning so I opted for a dress. And red lipstick. And rain boots that shine. Because I feel like rain boots should never be designated for days with just puddles;  They is just too fun not wear on a perfect little Thursday where the sun breaks through the clouds in all the right spaces. My dishes are dirty. My laundry is crying and weeping on the floor. My inbox looks like no one has ever loved it before.  And I realized just yesterday how people can break your heart just by staying who they are.

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Quitting Christmas. And what I should have told you sooner.

At 3:07pm on a Monday afternoon, while sighing restlessly alongside other anxious Target customers, I quit Christmas.

I realized I had ruined Christmas. Straight messed it up. Mangled it. Done it a disservice. Boxed it, botched it, in a way I never thought possible. And so there, with my hands full of snowman-decrepit cards that prove to be the only thing left when you shop the week before and a slew of sweaters I never actually needed, I placed my basket on the floor and I walked out of the store. I quit Christmas on the spot.

This is the point in the post where I apologize profusely to Target store employees for being "that" girl and overdramatizing my quitting of Christmas to the point of leaving stale merchandise in the middle of the floor for y'all to pick up. I am sorry. Very sorry. It was necessary for the completion of this blog post though.

The last few days have carried a melody of heartbreak that I never knew existed.

A tragedy 30 miles away. Hands I’ve once touched entangled in the devastation of an atrocious shooting. Twenty children pulled out from this earth before they ever learned the fine art of tying shoes and spelling bees. Our worry heightened. Our safety shattered. Our conversations inflated with gun laws and mental health,  and someone always trying to edge out the last word on Facebook, when we all might need to hush and stay silent for a while. We’ve never been the quiet nation but maybe we should learn?

The tragedy huddled us closer. The closeness of holidays made our hearts a bit weaker. Because lights are hung. And stockings won’t be filled. And Tonka trucks and toy  dolls will stay in the closet or be returned to the stores instead of being wrapped & tucked beneath an evergreen. It’s too much of an image to handle. It is a watercolor of the mind that will break you on the spot if you think too long of it.

But why now, and why this season, did we think that it was time to hold one another closer? And send cards in the mail. And hang ivy. And sing songs. And understand this mythical “reason for the season” that becomes all too cluttered by our shopping experiences and to-do lists that grow longer as the holidays grow near. And why now, do we shower the children will love and toys. And we scour the world for that perfect way to say “I love you” with a diamond or pearls. And we finally take a little time off.  And we breathe for five minutes before we start furiously plotting a newer year.

Why now? Wasn’t this the forgotten purpose of our yesterday? Wasn’t this the reason for even being here in the first place?

I think if Christmas had legs, it would walk right out the door. It wouldn’t come back.

I think if Christmas had fingers, it would head to AT&T, buy a phone, and make a Facebook. It would pounce up screaming in ALL CAPS on the endless statuses of people complaining or forgetting their children to voice their latest of opinions, and say, “Get off the dang phone and just go clutch someone, would ya?”

We are in desperate need of clutching. Of holding one another closer in a way that was more fierce than yesterday. Of facing one another to admit how hurt & broken & damaged we are. And admit how we screwed up yesterday but, as long as Tomorrow comes to visit in her bright red cape, we should start over. We should be closer. We should not worry so much about our image or our status or our need to always be right and just unplug long enough to see the pain in one another’s eyes. It’s there. It’s living. It’s bright. And it stitches every carol with a feeling of falsity. Because our troubles won’t be miles away. And we have to just face that. We have to just work with that. And, whether we think it or not, we are strong enough to over come that and make it through the troubles.

It is not a season to be merry and bright, so much as it is a season to finally admit to someone else, “Look, I need you. I need you on every one of my calendar days. And I love you. And I should not have waited for the stores to don red & green just to write that in a card to you. And I’m scared. Really. Petrified. Really. Because our world seems pretty broken. And I realize I cannot fix that. But I want to do better for you. Is that ok with you? I. Want. To. Do. Better. In. Loving. You.”

Tomorrow I might slide off the calendar. Tomorrow I might not be here anymore.

I don’ t want it to be the lights & the trees that convinced me to find you in the mess of this crowd, pull you out, tell you loud:

This life, I never understood it.

There was so much pain, there was so much hurt.

But you were always good to me.

And you filled me with a joy that felt like foam overflowing the mug.

& I’m Gonna See You Soon

& I Miss You Like Heck Already

& Be Good Until We Meet Again

& I’m Sorry, I Should Have Said This Sooner, But You Made All of This Worth It

& Just Hold Me Now, for the moment you have me, and Make Me Feel Like I Did You Right.

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An Ode to Camping Gear. And finding the “Us” that holds.

I am willing to travel across the country just 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.

Wait for me, please? It won’t take too long.

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. That you have not even found the doorknob yet and I’m already stringing the syllables to beg, turn back around. 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. Or that life would be bearable on different sides of the country or in separate parts of the world. Our that the world was the kind of thing we needed to see, that arms couldn’t hold us here forever. 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.  & I’m just a girl who got New York to coo in her ear louder than any other set of skyscrapers but who never got over the fact that we cannot 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 still take to crawling back to try it all over again.

You know, there are certain bones within me that want to see you fly. At least find your wings. & learn how it feels to flap them. I’ve always wanted that.

& those same parts of me want to find my own wings too. & feel the breeze on November mornings. & to know that if Life called me to live without you then I would somehow be ok with that.

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 just 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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Skeletons, tutus, and why death is a very sad thing.

My rearview mirror is the hangout spot for two skeletal creatures wearing pouffed tutus and itty bitty plastic Barbie shoes. 

Yes, that is the most frequently asked question upon sliding into the passenger seat and clicking the belt into place, “why do you have skeletons in your car?” Don’t we all get morbid and sassy with our car decor?

I used to nanny three children and every morning, without fail, we’d all pile into the car for the pool or lacrosse practice or ballet. Wherever the day was taking us, it’d be the four of us humans and two skeletons. And when children think you are strange enough, it’s practically nanny-self-sabotage to be rocking the skeletons 4 months before Halloween. There is no blog out there yet called Epic Nanny Fail but I’m sure I would be a favorite member if there were (now go little brain children and create this website). 

It’s called el Dia de los Muertos, Day of the Dead.” I tried to speak my peace one day. ” It is around the same time as Halloween. Many people in Mexico celebrate this holiday, taking the time to honor their dead and remember them.” The whole time I am spewing out words I haven’t been able to use since 11th grade Spanish class, I am thinking in my own head– Pump. The. Brakes. Hannah. Don’t overload them… it is laser tag day. But SO bring up the candy skulls and the cemetery picnics!

Calder, the 7-year-old,  interrupted.

But death is a sad thing.”

OOF.

Silence.

Cue crystal-sized car crickets.

“You’re right,” I told him. “Death is a sad thing.” 

We drove in silence for a while after that.

I have yet to come across the person opposed to this little boy’s statement. You could rattle on about celebrations & fiestas & parades but regardless, Death is still a sad thing.

Oddly enough, this post is not about my love for el Dia de los Muertos , my two little skeletons– one of which is named after James Franco (don’t ask),  or the fact that my mother fully stocked my closet with dresses that would be absolutely perfect for any fiesta when I was a little girl, leading to a downward identity spiral when I realized I was utterly culture-less and no Quinceanera was wafting in the distance. (If you ever get to see my school pictures, you would know exactly what I mean.) It is actually about a lady named Dee. A grandmother, if we want to be specific. A woman who taught me that Death is a very sad thing but that Life Well Lived gives Death the uppercut. Every. Time. 

It begins happening around this time of the year.

The Leaves Fall, the Weather Chills & People Begin Googling the word “Cornucopia” and coming up thumbnail images of  those silly bugles full of harvest foods. I start recognizing the pockets of this earth that still keep her. The memories that hide, like rail thin children, behind any Frank Sinatra ballad or song accompanied by bagpipes. A first chord and I am swept into a mess of tears and nostalgia as a swarm of Little Memories tug at my sweater.

It’s as if the air gets colder and we start saying things we never thought to say when the sunscreen was out– I miss you. And I wish you were here. And why can’t you just be here? It’s not fair. It makes no sense. Are you doing ok? I hope you are doing ok. Life is fine. It’s good, even. But I don’t miss you any less. 

I received an email the other day from a reader. She wrote in the email, “How did you become such a good writer?” Was there training? Could I recommend classes?

The question puzzled me.

I picked up my cup of coffee and walked around a bit, wondering how I became a writer, and a supposed “good one” at that. Then it caught my eye, a black and white photo of a strikingly beautiful woman. She is looking towards the camera and she is holding my mother in her arms. My favorite picture.

There was the answer. 

I am a good writer because when I was a very small girl, my grandmother told me that she would see my name at the front of a bookstore one day, my name dancing along the spines and book jackets of hardcovers. She told me of days when strangers would wait for my words, find solitude and peace in my syllables, uncover strength in my stories.

And that is all it takes, folks. It only takes a single person who tells you that you will one day be a very good writer to turn you into a writer who is very good.

If you go back and look closely at all of my writing, from post 1 to 300, she is there– more Hidden than the most Stealthy of Waldos. Behind every word that attempts to weave out “strength” or “love,” she is there. She showed me first that love is an action and a way of life. I am doing my best to pack those actions into the every, every day.

I live a life of love and that will make a writer very good, very good indeed. It will make poetry from places where there once was none.

The lucky ones of us have had someone like this. Someone who makes us believe that we are not so crazy, not falling short, but Perfect. Perfect. Perfect. In this very moment. And as they pass, we learn to celebrate them with our actions. To Eat Delicious Foods For Them. To Do a Little Jig For Them. To Remember Them, not as they are right now but as they were.

To remember the little things: how they loved the color blue. How they found great happiness in filling little notebooks with novels they had just read. How they convinced every person they came across of their Native American roots (it is still up for debate of whether was my grandmother was actually an Indian or not).

To sulk only on the sometimes but to pour the rest of it into making them proud. Letting them know, in a loud & clear kind of way, that you won’t ever plan to let them down. They wouldn’t expect that out of you. It was not a thought in your head.

And to honor them in little ways: by buying ridiculous singing cards, by always dancing to Danny Boy and by having Google updates sent to your email on the JonBenet Ramsey case (even 16 years later) just to stay well-looped on the greatest unsolved mysteries the two of you got all Sherlock Holmes on.

And, of course, by moving forward with the gifts that person helped you foster: a knack for prose, a special talent for story telling.

Because stories & words & memories are that much more powerful when writing for a beautiful woman whose name is still stuck in your lungs, the biggest of big fans– Dee.

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Grandma, I’m so teachable.

When my mama came to you with Remnants of Tears Still Yet to Be Cried left in her sockets and the stiff smell of Sadness on her breath, did you touch her wrist first or take her full force into your arms?

When she came to you looking more sleepless than Seattle, more worn than the limbs of the teddy she carried 17 years back, did you see her?

And when the strange ruckus of sounds moved out from her lips, “I don’t love him anymore. Will you help me call the wedding off,” Did you hear her?

When Indecision hijacked her Being— the tall frame and skinny legs of a daughter who was wearing a ring just yesterday—did you hold her?

Did you take it all in? And did you think, for maybe a moment, that before a more efficient version of the record player came around we should probably find a way to suck the tears from the eyes of one another?

Cause we don’t do that so well anymore, Grandma. No, we don’t do that so well.

You know, I’m afraid to admit to you that most of the fragmented pieces of my friends’ hearts come to me by way of messages that take up half an inch of space on my screen, that scream and howl beside Social Steals for yoga that is only 30 dollars this month. Only 30 dollars… I think that’s a deal.

That I’ve got more pain piled- like fluffed whites and linen- in my inbox. So I respond when I can. I click “reply” when I can. That I’m furiously tapping “Stay Strong”s and “We’ll meet up soon”s before my mimosa reaches the table and the conversation turns back to me.

Truth told, I’m scared. 1,500 followers lately and I’m most petrified, really. To tell you that all of this is Normalcy. It’s habit. Lifestyle. These Parades of Personality, this Character in 140 Characters, this Follow the Leader who has no reason to be followed, really.

I like mud runs. Chai tea with the skim milk steamed. I believe in people, in their goodness. I’ve been praying for my husband, wherever God has him right now, every day for three years straight. There’s not a reason to follow me at all.

And Grandma, I’m so torn. Because something like last night, four women sitting beside one another, laughing over thai food and wine while they talk of education for girls in India & poems in Brooklyn, never would have happened without a thing called Twitter. Torn because I’ve found God’s Children in tweets and they’d be the kind to join you for toast and hot chocolate. I know it. They would.

But I want to relearn Sacred.

Something you once told me would matter before the days I had to wonder if heaven had an inbox or if I could send a text message that would reach you through all the dirt. And the tears we cried. And the bagpipes that played when we placed you there, deep in the ground.

Sacred.

Like the dinners where phones don’t touch the table. Or moments when a vibration couldn’t take someone away from me so easily. Like boys whose faces glow without the help of a screen. Friendships founded, planted & rooted in dialogue such as this:

I’m struggling. I need you. Diner. Ten Minutes. No Questions.

Sacred. Like a time when you had me. You really had me. Showing up at my kitchen table to help me piece together the JonBenet Ramsey murder case, sitting with me for Tiny Eternities to talk about Who Done It. No text to answer on the other end. No reason to pin & tweet & tumble somewhere beside strangers who never called me “beautiful” with my ballet tutus on.

Grandma, I’m still teachable. Still so teachable. & eager to believe in the boy who makes poetry in hand movements, with blue eyes that sculpt lullabies like fragile fingers on pottery wheels. Eager to believe in Presence & Speechlessness & Skin: The First Connection.

Grandma, I’m so teachable. & ready to re-remember that I had you at a time when Apple was a thing that sat in the middle of table before you halved it and spread your love and peanut butter on top.

 

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The contents of this blog post will knock you to your knees. Please. Read. Carefully.

I know all the caves and contours, all the “Picasso Gone Buck Wild” contortions of a face thats just heard the words, “It’s over. I’m sorry. We just can’t do this anymore.”

They sit playing on a reel in an old abandoned movie theatre in my mind though I don’t make popcorn and watch them flicker anymore. No one has ripped my ticket stub to that theatre in years. 

But I should tell you that they’re hollowed in my memory and I could easily stand over the workspace of an artist commissioned for the Museum of Broken-Hearted Faces and guide her. “Add a little more droop over there,” “His face needs to be paler,” “Ah, yes! You’ve captured it perfectly… that is exactly what he looked like when I asked him to open up his chest for me so I could rip his heart out with my scrawny manicured fingers.”

I’m not a heart breaker by any means, don’t get me wrong; these are just the faces I’ve collected like Pokemon cards, the only gathered proof I’ve got to tell you I was raised by a woman who doesn’t believe in cell phones and would never let me unload my baggage—the Suitcases & Hat Boxes of Strangeness and Sorrow—into a text message gone marching towards the eyes of Another while I headed for the grocery store to cross avocados off the list.

“I don’t care how far you have to drive or how hard it is to say it,” I can still envision her telling me. “If you are going to break up with that boy then you better do it to his face.”

I have not always listen to her but, during the times I have, I’ve had to say hard words that I realized quickly cannot be remedied with a few swift taps of my phone. I’ve had to swallow hard and bite down on my bottom lip. I’ve had to wait. Mostly in Silence. For someone else to release me.

I’ve had to watch tears pour. I’ve had to mix those tears with mine. I’ve had to concoct slobbery messes of Pain & Unsaid Words & Missed Phone Calls. An elixir that I am so sure caked the faces of those once wearing petticoats and buckled shoes, rocking back and forth in their puddles of Salt and Sorry’s, saying, “There will be social media for this one day?”

I don’t diary my pain on Facebook. I won’t tell you that I am hurting through index cards and a Macbook camera. But baby, baby, it’s only because I’ve got a Mama who once sat me down and told me, “God created faces for a reason.” That we were made to see them, touch them, learn them like numbers sweet & sticky on the chalkboard.

And I’ve learned this best in 23 years: the best thing my face will ever learn to be is present for the moment my heart has lent itself to. Present to the face of the one who deserves far more than my text messages and voice mails.

(Mama: God gave us faces so that others could hold them when the Sorrow rolled in with the fog & the tide. Am I getting warmer? Warmer, still?)

People– all the “They”s and “Them”s stacked upon “He”s and “She”s, boiled down to “Me” and “You”—people deserve this… You.

You. Deserve. This. Don’t you know it, baby?

You deserve words that don’t always sound like poetry because they are shaky & breathy & said out loud without a script, instead of tossed into a blog post where the title line don’t warn you right, “The contents of this blog post will knock you to your knees. Please. Read. Carefully.”

You deserve pauses.

Big.

Ol’.

Pauses.

& Losses of Words.

You deserve the sometimes weighted, sometimes throated explanations.

Regardless, you deserve the explanations and the effort it takes to say them out loud.

And you… well you deserved far more than what I gave you after we heard the news that time… I’m sorry I didn’t realize that sooner.

And if you deserve this then that must mean Me… Me, yes, Me. That I deserve something too.

I deserve to know when your heart first decides it is time to pack his bag, stand off by the side of a dusty road, stick out his thumb and wait for the nearest jeep wrangler to pick him up. I deserve to see the paleness in your face. I deserve to show you my face, when you’ve washed me clean with words you’ve been needing to place in the “Box of Said and Meant It” for far too long, and tell you- with my own shaky voice- that I’m going to be just fine… that I appreciate the honesty…

I deserve the times you tell me that your kind of social is dinner parties where people use their hands when their speaking and their phones are tucked in coat pockets letting other people get used to the scripted message we should all be telling one another when the laptops close and it becomes 5 o’ clock somewhere. I’m not here right now. Please leave a message. I’ll get back to you… In the morning… Because I’ve got someone who folds me in better than a file and who doesn’t need an e-vite to grab me by the face tonight. I’ve got someone who draws me to eye level more instantly than Instagram.

I deserve to tell you… well I guess you deserve to hear it… that you’ll always be one of the greatest Single Characters in my book– no matter where the time takes us, no matter how we come out from the rubble.

You deserve to know that there have never been 140-Characters when it comes to you… No sir, only one… only one…

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She would play a part in history. A part in the History of Love.

I rarely share stories as true and raw as this one but I’ve found that when you empty out your own pockets full of heartbreak and lay them before the world you often open up the door of healing for someone else, a door hidden in the vines and thickets for far too long.

When Depression first arrived, wearing quiet but bone-crushing shoes, I couldn’t call it by name.

It was just “sadness.” It was just “I’ll feel better next week.” It was just “I cannot get out of bed this morning.” It was anything but Depression—a diagnosis that hissed and hummed in my throat as I struggled to find the words to tell my friends that I was falling apart. That I couldn’t find a place in this world. That I felt sorry… Sorry for the sidewalks that took my footsteps. Sorry for the people that took my handshakes. Sorry for taking up space when I really should have been smaller. Skinnier. Quieter. Invisible.

It had gotten to a point where dressing was harder, where I ached while wearing clothing and wanted nothing more than to disappear when I walked out the front door. I didn’t want conversation— I didn’t want you to ask what set me apart or what lit my heart on fire. I didn’t know. I felt nothing. Nothing but hot tears on my cheeks. Helpless.

I remember crawling from my bed one morning, already knowing by the heaviness on my chest that it was going to be a Hard Day. Are you seriously going to unravel before you even get ready for the day, I asked myself. Are you really this pathetic?

I couldn’t stand. Couldn’t do anything but let my knees kiss the carpet and put my forehead down on the floor. Maybe to cry. Maybe to pray. I glanced to the right of me, noticing an object wedged underneath my dresser.

A pair of pink sunglasses. Little Girl Sunglasses. Barbie decaled. I instantly remembered Audrey—a four-year-old girl with a love for Nutella and Disney Princesses—and how she had sneakily placed these Little Glasses into my suitcase before my move to New York City. They were perfect and prim and a reminder to look at the world through Pink Shades every once in a while, if not always.

In just one summer, Audrey had shifted my view of the world. She had helped me to relearn the entire thing from a three feet tall perspective. We danced. We loved. We made wishes on hot tub bubbles. We painted our nails. We didn’t fear. We ate peanut butter on counter tops. We felt beautiful. We played in the waves.

Audrey—too young to even spell her name correctly—taught me Fierce Love for the first time, a love that literally wells up inside of you and overflows with all the things you want for Someone Else. I wanted the world to be kind to her. I wanted things to stay magical. I wanted her to believe in every dream she placed her finger upon. I wanted her to trust in maps and compasses, in the beating of her own heart, in the goodness of fairy tales and the love stories of life.

Clutching the little girl sunglasses, I began to weep. Collapsing onto the floor, curled up and shaking.

Remember how special I think you are, I had whispered to Audrey during nap time. Remember that you are limitless, I always wanted her to know. That you shouldn’t be fearless but don’t let those fears dictate your choices. That you may never remember a girl whose hair magically turned from curly to straight from one day to the next but remember her love. Her Morphing Love.

This is all your Little Bones need. A Love that morphs into Ambition. Imagination. Creativity. To Grow Them Strong.

A Love that will leave you seizing days and dreams with both hands long after I have stopped holding them.

I felt for a moment like a child coming out of the swimming pool, teeth chattering, being wrapped tight into the plush towel that mama used to pull and tuck around shoulders. Letting the warmth pour in.  All the things I had wanted so fiercely for the holder of these Little Girl Sunglasses, it was all the things I had forgotten to want for myself as the Depression took me in by the shoulders and shook me, shook me, shook me.

I had forgotten me. A girl who deserved fierce love. A girl who deserved quiet moments. Days of rest. Clarity. The truth that it is fine to not have it altogether. The finest laces of life. Good stories. Happy endings. A girl who deserved to stand in the world, unafraid to use her megaphone. Unafraid to make noise. Unafraid to be the foolish one with the will to change the lives around her and know that she would play a part in history. A part in the history of love.

Until that morning, it had been Get Stronger. And Stop Crying. And Be Better. And Eat Less. And Try Harder. And Do, Do, Do.

It hadn’t been Depression, or This is Beyond My Control, but rather a boulder on my back that I couldn’t stop apologizing for. I am sorry I don’t feel like talking today. Don’t feel like walking. Don’t feel like moving. Don’t feel like waking up. Impossible feelings that can only be met with Love, a Love that waters the weak and rusty limbs of the Tired and Trying in Tin Man fashion. Only met with a hushed whisper like the ones that come after nightmares, “Shh… it is OK. It is OK, my sweet one.”

I didn’t get better on that day. I cannot type out the miracle that didn’t happen. Getting out of Depression was a slow and steady process. It took many days of Change, snapping and shifting in my bones, to make me whole again. But I stopped apologizing. I started acknowledging that I deserved just as much as anyone else. Happiness. Joy. Moments tucked into sepia-stained photographs. Laughter that comes from the belly. I deserved that kind of Love and it was fierce and it was pulsing and I was craving and unwilling to let the prospect of it go.

Fierce Love. It is not a passive arrival. It is not a fearful contender cowering in the corner. Fierce love is a tidal wave of awkward and imperfect but incomparable passion for goodness. For ourselves. For others. For the world. But it starts in our own souls, bubbling up like a river. Eventually pouring outward onto others.

It’s sprawling.

It’s sun on the face after a cold winter.

It’s unfailing.

Unconditional. Unwavering. Constant.

It is saying, “I deserve this,” and finding the strength to hold out your hands.

This post is also featured on my second site, The World Needs More Love Letters, and is the launching post for the Stratejoy Fierce Love Course.

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Filed under Disconnect, Loneliness

Goldilocks, Gretel & Goliath: Thoughts on Grief and Turtlenecks

I know too many people who are hurting these days. They are grappling with God and why he takes some of us away, hides someone we love like a stray sock in the hamper. Today,  if you are a) hurting b) missing someone c) keeping Grief in the guest room of your house d) thinking today might be better if someone particular were sitting beside you, someone you wish hadn’t taken all your best secrets with them up to Heaven, if you are any of the above, well I wrote this for you and a woman named Kim.

These days I’m finding my way around grief.

I’ve got seven books on grief just flopping all over my bedside table because I want to learn it so badly, and still, I am stuck with this comparing of grief to a turtleneck shoved under a pristine tutu.

Though it was nearly 20 years ago, I can recall quite perfectly the invincible feeling that overwhelmed me as I sashayed around my elementary school during my first Halloween parade, hair slicked back into a knobby bun with 99 cent gel, a classical pancake of pouf fluffing out around me in Degas fashion.

And then my mother went and ruined my life. She slaughtered my ballerina status with a heinous white turtleneck that she insisted on jamming beneath my leotard, going all maternal on me and caring about my health while all I wanted to do was prance around the night in my Little Pink Tights, without a jacket or a thermal.

Tinkerbelle never got pneumoniaaaaaaaaa, mooommmmmmmmmmm. Roooooaaaarrrrrrr. I acted out my tantrum right there, in case you couldn’t tell.

Seriously though, turtlenecks beneath a leotard are no good. They make Jasmine look silly. They make ninjas look like wimpy fools. I want nothing that they have to name after a leathery, slow sea creature on my body.

They are, I imagine, how grief must feel on the chest. Uncomfortable. Lumpy. Hot. Bothering. A pain to adjust to. Sometimes strangling. Unwelcome. And you swear, everyone is focusing on the turtleneck and how unnatural it looks. The grief and how decrepit it makes you feel to the outside world.

I received an email from a woman named Kim the other day who told me first that I had changed her life. Immediately I wanted to respond and tell her there was a mistake, a typo in her email:

Dear Kim, I change shoes. I change coffee flavors. I am learning to change tires. I will change diapers, one day. But I don’t change lives. Love, Hannah.

Kim wrote that her mother passed away in January, just days after being diagnosed with lung cancer (one day soon I will write a letter to cancer, and it won’t be lovely by any means). Suddenly, holidays took on a new meaning for Kim, parts of her hollowed out.

Grief, the mighty Goliath that he is, forced himself into rooms to sit beside Kim, like a Ginormous Goldilocks sitting in Too Tiny Chairs. I am beginning to see that no matter how much of life we get “good at,” we never get good at letting Grief in as a house guest.

He’s too big. He’s too messy. He breaks plate. He’s terribly loud. He lets the cat out and it doesn’t come back. He breaks the washer and then the dryer.

It’s as if I can see him rumbling and barreling through all of Kim’s rooms, snorkeling food and knocking over fine china. Reckless, so reckless, with the memories of her mother.

Before releasing every ounce of love I could slam into the keyboard for Kim, I sat, considered how much I really do like my “a” key and my “?” key and decided to keep reading before breaking the keyboard over brokenness.

She told me that when the sympathy cards rolled in she felt this overwhelming need to thank others for their condolences. So she bought a box of cards and a pretty sheet of stamps… they sat there. Untouched.

And then she bought another box. Again. Unwritten Upon.

And then she bought another box, this time with smaller cards. Less intimidating, right? Still… untouched.

You know, I cannot quite put myself into Kim’s shoes. I don’t know grief like this, I don’t know the reality where the maker of my favorite grilled cheeses and macaroni necklaces no longer calls me to see how my day is going.

The thought makes me want to look up say, “God, you’s a crazy fool… you really think we can take all this?” All This Anguish. All This Turbulence. Tell me God, why did you think I could go without a Him and a Her and a She in this place?

And yet, yet, I’ve seem Him, that same Crazy Fool of a God, weave some of the most astounding healing processes out of Loss.  As if he’s whispering messages to the sun and the trees and air like games of Telephone, “Tell my Little One down there that I care. I. Care. So. Much. And I won’t leave her like this. Slumped Over. Tired. Sucked Dry. Gosh, it’s killing me… but she’ll be lifted soon.”

And He uses you. And He uses me. To Get One Another to That Point of Lifting.

Kim found MoreLoveLetters.com last week, which means she found me and that is where our emailing began. She told me that recently she felt ready to let go of all the stationery, all the boxes of cardstock that no longer served a purpose now, months after the passing. And so, she plans to write love letters and leave them in memory of her mother, a woman who would have loved the project and swallowed it whole.

And here I am, unexpectedly somewhere in the middle of Kim’s encounter with the Goldilockish Grief. And suddenly we’ve got this great purpose, this Great Plan, to turn Goldilockish Grief into Gretel Grief.

A chance to sprinkle the grief like breadcrumbs to help another home. Pouring the grief into letters that another might find. Sewing and stitching the grief into pages meant for people like you to read. Telling that grief that he can stay here or there, but he cannot stay in our houses any longer.

Isn’t that what they would want, sitting up there in the trees of Heaven? To look down and see us sowing something miraculous just for them? I can see them now, all the ones we’ve loved and lost, Too Soon & Too Quickly, singing down to us like the Whos of Whoville:

“It’s quick. And it’s short. And it won’t promise you much. So be on your way. Be on your way today. Don’t stay crying for me, I’m not afraid any longer. Don’t stay sad for me, that’s never what I taught you. Use me. Use the tears you have for me and sow those tears into something bigger. Something that would make me smile and tell you that I am proud. And then, and then, come back to me–after a long, long day– and tell me every inch of it.”

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Filed under Disconnect, The Tough Stuff, Tragedy

Sorry to say, they don’t have an app for this kind of thing just yet.

I am going there tonight.

The man who punches my ticket on the train knows it. The librarian, she knows it too. Even the man roasting hot dogs on the sidewalk of the New Haven Green gives me a look as if to say he knows it too.

I am going there tonight.

I stop at the red light, fingers drumming the steering wheel. A man in a silver Acura beside me. My eyes must tell him because I swear he mouths it to me, “Honey, honey, honey. You are going there tonight.” As if it were a tune. A melody.

“You have not been there in a while… It’s time, it’s time,” I say as I unroll the mat from its curled stature, letting it fall lifeless and flat onto the carpet before me. I stand on the edge of the mat and let the heat start to water my limbs, like a tin man begging for his oil. Squeak. Squeak. Squeak.

I am going there tonight.

The sign on the glass door of the two-story brick building tells me from the start, in big thick Helvetica lettering, that I cannot bring anything into the room with me beyond a towel, water bottle, and yoga mat.

Nothing else.

No cell phone to buzz in the billows of my pocket. The calls will have to wait. No laptop to light up the dark of the room as the lights turn down and we lie in dead man’s pose. The email will be there when the 90 minutes is over. It will pile over the hour and a half. I am so sure.

And here I am: Most vulnerable in 104 degrees. Becoming my own version of a Little Teapot. Tip me over. Pour me out. Steam rises up from the floor, knitting itself around me and somehow the thought of No outlets. No easy ways out. No escapes. Comforts me.

104 degrees, 90 minutes and 27 postures to go, and all I am holding is a posture. A cobra pose. And my breath.

A layer of sweat welds my tank top to my body. I am reminded once more of The Thing That Is Wise To Realize As We Grow: that sometimes there is nowhere else to go but inward. Some days you have no choice but to get down deep in the depths of your own messy feelings and sort stuff out. Sorry to say, they don’t have an app for this kind of thing just yet.

Inward. Arguably, the hardest place to visit but a place we’ve all been called towards at one point or another. Not an easy path, not a known set of stepping stones. Like grandmother’s house… when you don’t yet know of the Big Bad Wolf’s hiding spot along the pathway. And yet, you know its best to brave the dark forest because something warm lies down there in the lit up windows of a place that strips you bare and dares you to look at your true self, beyond Twitter profiles and Linked In connections.

You need to go off on your own, there is no other way for It Will Keep you Sane, to once in a while, pull your apt-to-tapping fingers away from the keyboard to acknowledge the Real, True Feelings that sit in your stomach, waiting to come out from hiding places behind a junk box of email, like another one of Glinda’s terrified Munchkins.

Suddenly Loneliness is diving down into triangle pose beside me, Regret stands on one foot in a superb tree position and I am asking tough questions that don’t get answered in 140 characters or just one spell of quiet time: Do I love this girl in the mirror? Is she happy? Is her heartbeat being accounted for?  What will happen to her when she is alone?

Alone, alone, alone. Will she shrivel and die? Curl and cry?

Or will she be o.k.? When the Loneliness bends down and the Insecurity rises up to the rafters? Will she be o.k.? When Fear shares the mat and she’s forced to exhale the Smallness for Something Bigger, Something Grander? Will she be Braver? Will she be Stronger?

Will she be o.k? Lord, will she be o.k?

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Filed under Disconnect, Loneliness, Poverty

This is my Calcutta. Go. Find. Yours.

I recruited Mother Teresa for the Tea Party Planning Committee at the age of eight.

At 40 pounds or so, I was a peace sign-toting diva with a thick infatuation for vintage typewriters, Mexican Worry Dolls, and a nun who wore no shoes while roaming the streets of Calcutta.

I gathered from my surroundings—the crooks of our home filled with sunflowers and books on this woman with a face wrinkled by the Sun’s  Golden Kisses, and who always kept Little Children in her lap—that she would be a riot at my tea parties.

She’d bring good stories and hungry children. I’d greet her at the door with tea and peanut butter crackers. & chocolate cake.

And then I would tell her, in Little Girl fashion, all the ways in which I hoped to trace her figure with chalk on my driveway before she departed so I could spend months & years after trying to fit into her figure. Trying to be worthy enough to receive a pet name from God like “Little One,” to be a love letter writer for God in this world, to be his Little Pencil just like her.

“But Mama T, I don’t know how I’ll do it. Because I am not a good hand holder. And I want to advocate for children but I cannot always be beside them. I’d rather keep my feet in good condition. I still like pretty dresses. I don’t how I would handle living in a hut.”

Mother Teresa, digging fiercely into her chocolate cake, would shake her head and be honest. She was Always Honest with the World. She’d Be Honest With Me.

“You’ve missed the point. We’ve all got some kind of Calcutta. Go. Find. Yours.”

I didn’t make up that Mama T mantra myself; she actually said it in an interview once. That Calcuttas—places of great need, desperation, loneliness & poverty—are everywhere, if only we have the eyes to see them.

Soup kitchens. Corporate cubicles. Shopping malls. Orphanages. College campuses. Africa. All Places & Spaces to Pin Your Heart Upon and Vow to Plant a Garden Where People Say, “Nothing Will Grow Here.”

Mother Teresa. Martin Luther King. Gandhi. All the notables we write about for college essays when we are on a radical “change the world” rampage, not a single one of them thought to Change the World. That was not their goal. Not their motivation.

They simply found a garden to plant, a place to till & farm & plant all day long, so that others would prosper from their labor. So that others would breathe & eat & be less lonely & feel more loved because they woke up before the sun to plant the world with Goodness.

I’ve always been told that it is finding the place where your Deepest Gladness meets the Deepest Hungers of this World. That is where God sits. And waits. And delights in using your Fingers and your Spirit to Spin Miracles.

Finding that kind of Calcutta does not come from an eagerness to be a world shaker, it comes from stumbling somewhere that could use more Love. More good. And deciding not to ignore that place. Not walk away this time. Not turn the cheek. Not flip to another channel.   

The Internet. The World Wide Web. She is my Calcutta right now. While some call her “impersonal,” I’ve come to love the possibility she gives me through just 140 characters, the Laughs & Souls to Be Collected in Putting Yourself Out There in a blog or a tweet.

And Mama T, I don’t think she would have been a Tweeter. Nor one to “Like a Status” on the “Book.” She’d be lost on Flickr and very much Linked Out of LinkedIn. But I think she would agree that this spanning space of urls and hash tags is a Calcutta of its own, that it too is a perfect place to spread more peace. More Love. More Connectedness in a Disconnected World. Through Social Media. & Technology that brings the Poor to the forefront. The Lonely to the Love Letters. The Eager Ones to a Place where they can Volunteer & Help & Advocate.

The Internet, and all the other Calcuttas that stretch far beyond the foldings of India, are a place to put oil in the lamp. To send out messages of love. To offer support. To stretch us to a point where we all have no choice but write down in our statuses or our diaries at night:

This is not about me. This will never be about me. This is actually about my neighbor—be it right next door or fifteen worlds away. The Humanity I Can Show Him. The Love I Can Give Him. The good I can do only after I’ve dropped myself to my knees and started to plant a garden in the Calcutta that needs me most. 

Where is your Calcutta?

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Filed under Disconnect, Poverty