Category Archives: Loneliness

And when letters pour in, and emails pour in, and the whole world seems to need a love letter, I just want you to know…

I received a letter the other day. (Comical, right?)

It was the kind of letter that is painful to read because it stirred up old feelings and made me believe, for a mere moment or two, that I was right back in the muds of my yesterday. That, at any moment, I could be vulnerable to pulling the thread that would lead to my unraveling once again.

I stood still, I put the phone in my pocket, I breathed in to read:

I’m tired of feeling like this but cannot seem to break the cycle of blah. Part of me does not want to get better because I don’t want to get better just to fall apart again. How can I even begin to find something else to define me, when I feel so empty right now? Not that I expect you to answer or know the answers. I’ve had enough disappointment to know that no one has any answers. It’s just kind of a relief to be able to tell someone, and talk about it. That’s all I want to do anymore–talk about how sad I am, how much I need him & miss him. How angry I am. Am I even a good person anymore?”

She dumped her feelings upon the page.

I felt like I showed up to clean up the wreckage of Sandy with just a bucket and a mop. But more than her stories and her pains and her questions hitched to a prayer for answers, I felt my own emotions rushing back. I began nodding my head. I sucked back the tears. And I thought, “Goodness, I never had the courage to admit I felt this way. Ever.”

Instead, when my own life carried the same echoes of her print on the page, I ushered myself into a life of writing love letters to others and I covered my wounds with thin lined paper. I never faced the reality or taught myself this truth (this truth would have changed everything from the beginning): Loneliness is quite capable of swallowing us whole. And Loneliness will think to do a lot of things but it will will never think to spit us back up until we look around and realize that we have never been Alone.

Alone & Loneliness–they are two different things. One is thick and the other is a myth. We have never been alone, not a day in our lives. What kind of devil hissed this lie in our ears? Yes, we have felt tender. Yes, we have felt defeated. But no, we have never been alone so much as we have refused to let the others in.

Anyone who knows me–knows the heart of me, and the bone of me, and the bends of my smile–knows why I really started writing love letters.

It was not some strange aficionado for stationery. Never a day in my life have I ached to bring the art form of letter writing back to her fullness. It wasn’t a racing heart for cursive & curves on a page. It was a fear that I was very much alone in this world. It was a fear that I might never feel whole again. It was fear that not a single soul needed my footprints, my input, my laughter. It was a crippling belief that I would live and die and I would never have made noise in this world.

I fell apart and the letters just happened. And even in the scripting of hundreds of these letters, the falling-apart-ness never felt so robust, like it was going to be the end of me every single day.

And so, when this letter arrived in my mailbox the other day, that same familiar helplessness curled into my hip like a little girl gasping for her mama’s closeness. For a second I almost felt as though I was standing naked in the middle of the post office. Wanting to cry. And curl. And surrender. Because I don’t know each one of your faces and I have to get over the fact that it has come to kill me a bit inside.

I am not familiar with the frown lines of your yesterday. I would like to spend tiny eternities sipping tea with all of you but time is a cruel little mistress and she barely lets me pay the bills on time. And when letters pour in, and emails pour in, and the whole world seems to need a love letter, I just want you to know… No, I need you to know that you have never embarked on a journey of Loneliness alone. Even in this moment when the tears are dripping down your cheeks and you feel hollow and sucked dry, you are not alone. I know it feels otherwise. Trust me, I know it feels otherwise.

But Aloneness is something you need to admit. You need to talk of it. You need to speak it out into the air before it grows claws & legs & fangs on the inside and silences us into thinking that never a soul has tread on this lonely soil before. Every single one of us– short or stout, blue-eyed or kissed by the hollow of hazel– can tell stories of Loneliness. I know we’ve got so many of them. We could build cities out of stories of loneliness. There would be bridges and fountains and libraries and cafes made with the bold stackings of Loneliness.

The first step is to unravel it. To admit it. To go no more seconds, no more minutes, no more hours, thinking you are called to harboring emptiness alone. It’s not true. It is simply not true.

And hey, if you ever just need to let the loneliness drip out of you, you have my address. I will be reading.

PO Box 2061, North Haven, CT 06473

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Filed under Loneliness, Uncategorized

At last, at last. Her name, her name.

Loneliness. She’s a strange thing.

A silent slunker. A quiet house guest who slurps her tea too loudly.

Slurpppp. Slurpppp. Just to remind you that she’s there.

Around. Using moments when the house gets still & life stops moving at night to wear you down and water your bones with the thought that just might be it: Alone.

Alone. Alone.

A word we’ve too long cluttered with the thoughts of Unwanted & Apart & Isolated. All the words we convinced ourselves were never quite acceptable for the ones with the world in their hands.

You’ll push her off. Turn your cheek. Turn over the pillow. Turn up the volume. Turn on the phone to slide through a News Feed that will convince you: You’ve got people. They love you. They care. This feeling is temporary. Oh, so temporary. As you let the tears ripple in.

And so you tuck.

Tuck yourself into bed and the Loneliness  slithers.

She’ll crawl beneath your sheets. She’ll clutch you in the dark.

She’ll roll & wad herself within the Sunday Times and wedge herself into cracks in the wall.

She’ll start crowing your name, desperate in her approach, when the dinner party ceases and you’re taking the keys and driving back to an empty home. And her. Her again.

She’ll greet you at the door. Tap dance on the tile floors. Rummage through your closets to wear a floppy hat for your arrival.

“So where ya been?” she’ll whisper, before you even shut the door. Her voice the collection of every mystical Harry Potter creature to ever roam the library shelves. She’ll tap her knees together anxiously. She wring her hands for an answer.

Greet her, child. Greet her.

When you find her standing, slunking, at the door.  Greet her. A thing you never thought you’d do.

Ask her to sit.

You in one rocking chair. She in the other.

Turn on the kettle. Let her slurp her chamomile tea.

Engage her in a way that would make the busiest of people crawl straight from their skin.

Turn off the phone. Get quiet beside her. Get real quiet.

Submit to her and the stories she’ll tell. Leave her flabbergasted by the fact that she is speaking. Really speaking.

Talking… really talking.

Find yourself within her eyes as she unfurls her shoulders and unfolds her arms to be a thing that was never worth the fear you gave her.

“Oh, Miss, I…I never tried to hurt you. Never meant to… to scare you. Only wanted… f-f-f-friends. Conversationsss…sss. Or what’s that word? Ack… ack… acknowledgement.”

Folks, like me, we… we… we just want to know we’re alive. That someone sees us. I’ve.. I… I…. have never even found a thing that would give me a… I think you call it “a name”… something to call myself. Can you help me, Miss? Can you give me one of those? A name?”

And in that very moment that you’ve got Loneliness sitting in the rocking chair beside you… breathless for a statement… mouth watered for a chance to call something her own… name her.

Name her, child.

Name her for the sake of all the others who never had the Courage or the Time to call her what she is.

Delicate & Strange. Graceful & Clumsy, all at the same time.

Name her for the sake of all the slow moving truth that comes when we learn to call a thing by name: A chance to start over with less unknown in tow. A moment to accept the feelings that corner us in empty rooms and call them what they truly are: O.K. Just fine. Only staying for a little while.

Loneliness.

Like a lullaby.

Loneliness.

Like the relief that floods your ankles when you know a thing… really know a thing enough to give it less mystery…

Loneliness.

Like an old name, harbored & held, brought up again at a high school reunion. Ten years past.

Lone-li-ness.

Let her trace the sounds with her own two lips. To sound it out. & try it on.

At last, at last. Her name, her name.

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Filed under Loneliness, Uncategorized

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

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

The world called…. it needs your love letters.

via weheartit.com

I decided to stop writing love letters on a Monday and a reporter from the Wall Street Journal called me on Tuesday to talk about… you guessed it: Love Letters.

That’s how it always works though, right?

We’re sitting before a pile of love letter requests from across the country, tapping a pen against a slab of stationery while simultaneously plucking syllables from the sky for a girl in Toledo who needs a lesson in Loving Yourself 101 when Divine Intervention cracks the back of our chairs like a whip. We sit up straighter. We pay attention the message we are getting.

Me: I am done…

Seamstress in the Sky: Excuse me?

Me: You heard me, Maker of the Universe and all the Cows and Zebras. Done. 400 love letters, finish up this pile, and I am done.

Seamstress in the Sky: (silence)

Me: I have tired fingers…

Seamstress in the Sky: Yes.

Me: Callouses the size of Kentucky.

Seamstress in the Sky: Yes.

Me: I need to focus on other things, I want to write books! I cannot write books if I am only writing love letters!

Seamstress in the Sky: Hm….

Me: Could you say a little more? I am drowning in my own pool of snot and ink right now.

Seamstress in the Sky: Who do you thinks a love letter right now?

Me: The world… duh.

Seamstress in the Sky: Beyond that… yo Daddy is no fool. You know who needs one, just say it.

Me: Me?

Seamstress in the Sky: Conviction… say it stronger.

Me: Ok, ME! There I said it, I need a love letter… I need to learn how to write myself a love letter… I can hide behind another 100 or I can be a little selfish, sit down and learn how to write my own life into a love letter. But, you don’t get it God, it is not so easy to just drop it, people need it. People have always needed these letters.

Seamstress in the Sky: Well, I gave you a recipe… didn’t I?

Me: A recipe?

Seamstress in the Sky: Yes, a recipe. You, leaving love letters on the trains in New York City and mailing them all over the world. A recipe if I’ve ever seen one.

Me: Love letters to those who need them? That’s a recipe?

Seamstress in the Sky: Yes, that was a recipe. I’ve used that one before, tweaked it a bit for your own Loneliness… Did you a lot of good, I’d say. And you wrote 400, bravo Little One! But does it stop there? Do recipes only get used by one person?
Me: I guess not…

Seamstress in the Sky: What did you put into the love letters?

Me: Love. Encouragement. A few funny jokes? Sometimes my own stories…

Seamstress in the Sky: Seems like a solid recipe. Could others follow it?

Me: Well.. yea, of course.

Seamstress in the Sky: Then post the recipe somewhere, you love those domain names of yours. And see if people use it… If it is a good recipe, honest and true, other people will use it. Don’t worry about who or how, just cross your T’s and dot your I’s. Leave the recipe and step away.

And so here I am, crossing my t’s and dotting my i’s and finishing up my own pile of love letters and then passing the work on to you. Many of you have asked me how to get involved, how to leave your own love letters, how to be there for someone in need. It’s simple, really so simple, and all it requires is an honest and true passion to help another person, someone you might never meet, along with a stamp and your very best cursive.

So please check out MoreLoveLetters.com, or follow us here;  I created the site to be a guide for those looking to do what I did for the last nine months. I can so honestly say that is an art that will fuel you, inspire you, fill you and turn you into a very bright spot that the world needs so desperately right now.

And if you do nothing with the site today, nothing at all but this, please consider signing up for the Love Letter Email Alert List… Each month we will send out a call for love letters and then bundle and give them to a person who needs it most that month. The first call for love letters will come out this weekend and so I would love to have you involved.

Please send all love letters to PO Box 2061, North Haven, CT 06473 with one additional stamp (the gods of postage have not blessed me just yet).

I can promise you that your love letter will be mailed out to someone in need today.

Or shoot me an email today at Hannah@moreloveletters.com and we can get you leaving love letters around your parts of town…

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Filed under Loneliness, Love Letters

A Pep Talk for Losers.

I became a loser at the age of nineteen in a 1999 forest green CRV.

It’s almost crazy to know that with just the slamming of a car door you could lose the one who knew all your pet peeves and favorite song lyrics. That was the last they’d ever know of you, just those moments before the slam.

For a moment I prayed the door might never slam. And then I prayed for the resolve to know the truth: there was no other way.

It was after I reversed down the steep driveway that I noticed the two yellow lines on the roadside for the first time and the fact they did not touch. Same direction but separate in their getting there.

I’ve never admitted it but I sat in the middle of the road that night and put my hand between the two yellow lines, as if to forge a bridge between them. As if I knew those two yellow lines needed a bridge.

So you lost, I’d say to the girl sitting in the roadside with her head hung in her lap and her tiny hand placed between painted yellow lines. You lost. You lost. You lost. You lost. You lost.

But you know what, the world is still turning and some might even argue that its spinning faster than ever before. And if you just turned the corners of your lips upward a nudge then you’d still have a brilliant smile to show for yourself. And I am willing to bet that if you just tilted your head a bit, that strand of hair would fall between your nose and your eye and give someone reason to call you beautiful from nearly two miles away.

This kind of Losing can happen when you give someone your Time & Stories & Deep Seated Fears. They suddenly become a Singular, the Plural scattering away like teenagers running from the cops. Like a pack of boys sweating through their dress shirts as they skirt to the outsides of the dance floor while you stand in the middle. Hair curled. Palms on a plum purple dress. All the symptoms of a Taylor Swift ballad running through body. Everyone else falls away for a boy in a grey tie and clean khaki pants.

And Singular is more dangerous than Plural, little girl. You have many more chances to lose a Single thing. You’ll miss a Single thing much more.  

That’s the risk that sits at the table when Two Messy Souls learn to lean on one another and put love into action. After those first touches, losing will always be a haunter. A ghoulish, ghost. A sugar-induced child with a sheet over his head, two holes cut out for eyes, eventually ringing your doorbell to collect his candy.

So you are a loser, little girl. A loser. You might not know it now, but one day it will be lovely. Lovely because you’ll have learned how to find again.

You’re looking at me crazy as if I don’t know what the days ahead will be like.

Oh, I’ll warn you, there will be days where you’ll wake up, put on your shoes, and walk outside, fearing that the whole world can see a crater sitting in the middle of you. As if they are all just shaking their heads and thinking to themselves, something perfect used to fit right there.

And there might be days where you stay crumpled up in the sheets because you really just want to roll over and find a Familiar Head of Tossled Hair on the pillow beside you, not the foggy remains of a dream that you only want to share with that same Familiar Head of Tossled Hair.

I can promise it gets easier, the world eventually stops parading around you wearing memories of the Two of You like chunky costume jewelry.

I could tell you, though I know you would not agree, that you’ll thank the Good Lord one day for making you a loser. For bringing you to your knees and breaking your heart.

You know, I have to believe we were made to be losers. We were made to lose: friends, lovers, ourselves. Not always, but sometimes.

Because, like I said before, with Losing always comes the Finding. Finding that you couldn’t fix it. Finding that you tried. Finding the Goodness where you thought only Bitter lived. Finding you are better as the hours pass by.

Finding you won’t ever let it get this far again, finding you are happy to start over and uncover the passion and mystery waiting for you in the folds of your surroundings.

Finding that Hansel and Gretel, they were smart to leave breadcrumbs. To retrace the places they had been if only to get back to a place called home.

Finding that two yellow lines painted on a roadside don’t cross paths for a reason. Maybe we’ll never know the reason but does it really even matter? Though they never touch, the two lines always seem to be getting exactly where they need to be.

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Filed under Letting Go, Loneliness, The Tough Stuff

One day I will be able to say to my Little Ones: “This is how your Mommy came to write 207 Love Letters to 207 Strangers”

via weheartit.com

We sat in over-sized Alice chairs admiring the spouts of our teapots, appropriately short and stout, as they poured a sweet elixir into the bottom of our antique cups. We clinked our tea cups together and we made a toast. A Toast to Loneliness, Calluses and Love Letters. Two Months of Loneliness. Two rounded calluses on my writing hand. Two Hundred & Seven Love Letters Written.

Signed. Sealed. Delivered. I’m Yours.

I sat across from my Best Friend this weekend, a girl who has shown me a whole new dimension to what it means to miss someone in the last four months. We entangled the sharing of three cups of tea with dozens of Stories in one of my favorites spots in New York City. I moved my hands with each story, motioning all around me, to show her what I have learned from living in this Big City.

I think I have learned Loneliness best,” I told her.

Learned to greet Loneliness as if it were an old friend. Kiss it on the cheek and allow it to kiss back. Soft & Warm. Somehow Soft & Warm.

I never knew that Loneliness could be such a comforting feeling until it propelled me to write 207 Love Letters.  Thank You, Loneliness, for teaching a lost girl just how to script her Sadness into Love.

As you may remember, two months ago I began writing love letters to strangers on the 4 train. I became quite accustomed to the thrill of writing to strangers and leaving my letters behind as if they were my own personal trail of bread crumbs. Central Park. Grand Central Terminal. A Slew of Diners claiming to have the World’s Best Coffee. Through these letters I learned to pour out my heart to perfect strangers as if it were the same fine brew that spouted from my teapot. Leaving Letters Behind. For Some Romeo. Some Juliet. Some Heloise. Some Other Soul Who Needed Words That Day.

But the true gift behind these letters unveiled itself when you became involved. When we all stopped talking about Love Letters and we just started writing them. Asking for Them. Yes, yes, it all began when you pulled up a chair at my Love Letter Tea Party. Sitting Snug Between Ink, Stationary, Loneliness and a Cluster of Forty-Four Cent Stamps.

I never imagined on the day I promised a Snail Mail Love Letter to whoever emailed me their address that I would find my inbox full that night. Full of Requests from All Over the World. From Japan to Utah. From Canada to California. Some with Stories Tied to the request. Some Sad. Some Happy. Some in Desperate Need of a Linkage. Over 200 Love Letter Requests.

So what are you going to do now?” My mom asked me on the phone that night, knowing that I was already quite overwhelmed by promising a handwritten note.

I’ll start writing,” I told her. Because as much energy as it takes to write over 200 full pages of letters, I think it takes a lot more courage to ask a complete stranger to write you a love letter. I sent up a prayer to God for Strong Fingers, Strong Words and a little extra help on the postage, and then I began writing.

Anywhere. Everywhere. Each One Different. Giving me great practice in seeing all the ways one can dress up a single word. Love.

Some days writing Love Letters allowed me to tuck away my own Loneliness. Other days my Loneliness did her own little Macarena all over the stationary. And on the best days, my Loneliness unearthed itself from Behind the Ink & Signatures. Emerging like an extreme makeover contestant, coming out looking Radiant. Looking Like Love.

To all of you who asked for a letter, thank you for giving me the chance to write to you. To shatter the word “stranger” 207 times. That is an absolute dream come true for a girl adores any chance to shed the skin right off of that word. That is the best Christmas Gift I could have ever hoped to receive. You gave my Loneliness a purpose and for that reason I will never regret a single swooping of my cursive.

Many of You wrote your own Love Letters and allowed me to do the honors of sprinkling them all over Manhattan. Thank you for letting me pick the perfect spot. The perfect chance for someone else to hold that letter well & good. A Table in a Cafe. A Shelf of the NYC Library. A Pew in St. Pat’s Cathedral.

And a few beautiful souls sent stamps. They supplied the fuel for those Love Letters to do their own globe-trotting. Thank you for those stamps in the mail. For Pulling Out a Faded Book of Liberty Bell Stamps, Sitting Folded & Pristine in Your Wallet, and Handing Them to Me. Trusting I would put them straight to work in the corner of some envelope.

But one person in particular deserves the largest thank you of all. I have never been driven so quickly to try to tame my tears as when a box showed up at my Bronx apartment. Addressed to “As Simple as That”.I knelt down in my hallway, and opened the unaddressed package to reveal a Full Box, Bulging with Brand New Toys.

This is to the guy who sent a box full of toys to my class of preschoolers who might not have had Christmas gifts otherwise.

You attached a message that said you were not one for writing love letters. I hope you see that you wrote the very best Love Letter of all.

You taught me with your Gift that we all can write Love Letters. Some with Pencil. Some with Generosity. Some with Ears that Listen. Others with Hands that Hold. One way or another, we all have great potential to send a Love Letter off into this world. To Write Our Lives Into  A Love Letter, with the steps we take and the lives we touch.

I grew up saying that I would one day become a Professional Love Letter Writer and maybe I have finally reached that point. After setting down 207 final points of punctuation, I think I am finally there. And what have I learned from the calluses, the loneliness and the inbox full of requests?

That we are all in need of a Love Letter from time to time. A reminder that we are doing o.k. We are doing just fine. That someone, somewhere is sending us Light & Love. Be it from the Biggest City or the Smallest Town. With the Loudest Voice or the Quietest Whisper. To the One With the Toughest Exterior or the Most Broken Interior.

Turns out the world really does need more Love Letters and it looks like we have only just begun writing them.

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Filed under Humanity, Life Lessons, Loneliness, Love Letters, Love Yourself, Thank You, Uncategorized

Yes, yes, I am a Broken Hearted Young Lady but don’t come near me with a hammer & nails.

via weheartit.com

I am legitimately the easiest girl in the world to date. No, but seriously. Any guy would be lucky to date me.

Before I start sounding like the prototype of some half-dressed tween on the cover of Bop! Magazine let me explain.

A guy could sleep soundly at night knowing that he can never and will never break my heart, that my heart was been broken so many times before. By a Slew of Sad Commercials and Painful Truths Littered on the Fronts of Newspapers. Black & White & Tragedy all over them.

If I want anyone to know anything about me, it is this: My heart is broken. Very Broken. Quite Shattered.

And before I write further with this blog I think it is important to put this out in the open. I bathe my words in tones of optimism and joy, and I believe fully in all that I write. But at the core of it all, I am broken hearted and that is the sole reason for my writing to you all.

Yes, yes, I am a Broken Hearted Young Lady but don’t come near me with a hammer & nails. I could not stand it any other way.

It sounds strange but I have always had other people’s heartbreak pinned to my own heart. As far back as I can remember I have been writing the tales of other people’s tattered souls.

My family members would sit perplexed by stories that I wrote as a nine-year-old about tragedy and death, poverty of the spirit, cancer and separation from loved ones. Here I was, 4’6 and probably 60 pounds or so, click clicking away on my typewriter, pouring my heart, the same heart that beat for Aaron Carter and the Backstreet Boys, into the tragedies of the victims of suicide and Holocaust survivors.

I am surprised I was not in therapy for writing with a constant tone of morbidity at such a young age. I cannot explain it. I don’t think I ever will be able to. I just have found better ways of coping with it.

I take stock in the truth that just because a heart is broken does not mean that it is incomplete.

bro·ken (brkn) v.Past participle of break. adj.

  1. Forcibly separated into two or more pieces; fractured; cracked: a broken arm; broken glass.

I have written about broken hearts before, about how I think that people spend too much deeming what should and should not be broken. At what time. For how long. By who.

We spend too much time thinking that heartbreak does not have a place in this lifetime. That heartbreak should not fit into the equation. That, if one is heartbroken, they surely need to be fixed. Call the love doctor and stitch this baby back together.

To imagine a world that lacks any fractured hearts is unrealistic. I could spin this sentence into so many eloquent sentiments but I think it is better in its simplest form. It is unrealistic to think that when our own hearts our fixed, the hearts of neighbors won’t be broken next.

I feel bad for God in that sense. I imagine that up in his Big Armchair there is a soundtrack playing of the ripping and tearing all over the world. There is just no time to listen to Justin Bieber when your ears are in charge of taking in the symphony of shattered hearts from every space of green on this Grand Earth.

Perhaps a board exists that allows Him to keep track. A light up board. Oh, another heart just shattered in India. Yikes, seven hearts crumbled on the East Coast. Woah, 38,000 hearts in pieces before my morning scone?

Tough job. He should probably pass some of the work onto Santa. Santa could at least carry some super glue for the cracked messes in our chests within his sack of toys.

But I also bet God knows a thing or two about those hearts. The Purpose They Serve. The Good They Do. The Change They Erupt.

If our hearts were never broken over the cries for literacy then no pencils would come to be. If our hearts were never broken over the longing for clean water then no wells would be dug. If our hearts were never broken over the cries of our loved ones, then no hugs would be hugged. No Kisses Kissed. No Secrets Shared. No Promises Made.

I have found great comfort in a quotation by Bob Pierce, founder of World Vision: “Let my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God.” Stearns wrote this message upon a piece of loose leaf after witnessing the suffering in South Korea in 1950.

I don’t believe that I will reach a point in my lifetime where this ticker of mine is unbroken. It is not going to happen, I know enough of that already.

Better to make use of it, and rearrange the fractured shard to make new pictures. New. Bright. Arranged. Pictures. Be it listening to a story. Sending a love letter. Donating My Time. My Energy. My Life. To Others.

Trust me, it isn’t a resume builder nor a good icebreaker to a conversation. “Hi, my name is Hannah. My heart is severely fractured by the injustices of this world, want to grab some coffee?

But if anyone inquires about the humility of a broken heart, I think it is quite worth it at the end of each day. To extend one’s own heart and allow it to be ruined completely, in hope that through the wreckage, someone else’s heart will dance today.

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Filed under Disconnect, For a Better World, Loneliness, Reality, Simply Living, The Tough Stuff, Tragedy, Women

Becoming a “New Yorker”: Glass slippers don’t make for an easy morning commute.

The first time I attempted to be a real New Yorker I was nearly hit by a car.

For the longest time, looking like I belonged in New York City came with a belief in the practicality of impractical shoes while practicing a series of stony faces with “business” and “meeting in ten” written all over them. My knowledge of being a true New Yorker came with a belief in a fully stocked iPod, song after song serving as ammo to drown out the chaos around me, and a sense of indifference for my surroundings, as if the use of a Metro Card and hailing a cab was installed into my being.

So back to that time I was nearly road kill.

There I was, about the bridge the distance between 42nd and 43rd East, juggling all sorts of sophistication and city girl swagger along with my grande skim milk misto. Determined to abandon any 3rd grade instruction of looking both ways before crossing the street. After all, REAL New Yorkers do not look both ways. REAL New Yorkers don’t even flinch at dead bodies in the road.

Look serious. Have a mission. Stay focused. Head up. Chin up. Pensive, Hannah, pensive. Busy but sexy. Make the world believe you have everything. Strut and push to the front of this crowd. Strut, push, strut, push. Crap, don’t trip. Runway style. Total “Devil Wears Prada” predecessor.

Whoosh….

Ok. Look cool. You just nearly got pummeled by a car but stay cool. Everyone noticed but you will never see these people again. It’s o.k, you are fine.

If the judges of America’s Next Top New Yorker had seen this one they would have surely gawked at my performance.

A 3 from the Tyra of the show. A 2 from the Twiggy. A straight zero from the Janis Dickinson. A sympathetic 4 from the Nigel Barker of the show.

I may have interpreted the New Yorkers of this city all wrong. In trying to possess a certain exterior, I forgot about the interior. Correction: I sacrificed the interior.

I won’t lie to you. If you could look inside of me right this very second you would see it: I am falling apart inside. Nothing to worry about, it’s just that New York is a whole lot more glamorous and romantic when you visit at Christmastime or when you come for the day with friends and they don’t leave you standing alone on the platform.

New York City would be different, I am sure, if I had more than $25 in my pocket and I didn’t call the poorest congressional district in the nation “home.” New York City would be a different story if I was still comfortable with buying $7 jars of almond butter and if 4 floors of Forever 21 were still my mecca. If I had not sacrificed buying any clothing this year, because it turned out to be a want and not a need.

New York City is a different story for that fact that I shrink in stretching out my hand to a cute guy at a bar, introducing myself as a volunteer. A charity case. A girl you should probably buy a drink for, not because she is pretty but because she makes no money. On purpose.

I bet if I were to slide a Metro Card into the hands of Cinderella, she would feel exactly like me.

All dressed up but knowing that the clock will strike at midnight. And I will be plopped back in the Bronx with a pumpkin and a few mice.

I am practically drooling over the sound of a credit card swiping. I am on the verge of begging a tourist with a suitcase to let me show them a trick:

If I can prove that I can fit into your suitcase, will you take me home?

So I guess this is the point in my story where I know my shoe is lost. I have evidently lost something and I do not know just how I will gain it back yet.

But we forget a certain part of the Cinderella story, after the ball but before the grand shoe fitting. The In Between Time. Cinderella didn’t sit around and wait for the other shoe. She didn’t search frantically for it either. She went on cleaning, and sweeping. And Serving Others. Until everything fell into place.

She learned to live with one shoe on and one shoe off.

One foot in a world I have grown up knowing all my life, the other in a borough that challenges me every single day.

But here is my resolution: Instead of walking around uneven, I will take off my other shoe and walk barefoot for a little while. I will stop trying so furiously to be my illusion of a “true New Yorker” and start living like the 300,000 neighbors of mine who know the sound of poverty at the front door. The ones I came here for. I will take out the earphones, stop drowning out everything that I find hard to hear, look straight ahead with a smile on my face.

I will look both ways.
And then I will cross the street.

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Filed under Big City, Big Dreams, Humanity, Life Lessons, Loneliness, The Tough Stuff

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