Category Archives: Reality

We’ve all got some good love, that’s what my mama says.

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I had no choice but to ask my professor for an extension while reading Toni Morrison’s Beloved for the first time.

She recommended we read the book by candlelight so we would be forced to scrunch up our eyes to focus on the words. One by one, as they marched on the page. Taking our time to dip our toes into each word. Because the words within that book’s spine are rich words; the skins of those letters are practically coated in dark chocolate. Sweet Goodness.

So, against my better judgment in knowing all the dorm’s rules and regulations about the use of fire within four walls, I would sit curled up in the shoe closet of my apartment beside wellies and rain coats reading Beloved by candlelight. Reciting the words out loud, rolling each sentence around in my mouth like a hard candy I hoped would soon dissolve so I could finally swallow it whole.

Trust me when I say this: I didn’t make reading by candlelight look elegant or tasteful. Or romantic for that matter.

I could only sit with the book for fifteen minutes at a time before needing to take a walk. Take a drive. Something nested inside of my stomach every time I picked up that book and melted quickly into a pool of tears and snot, cross-legged in the middle of a broom closet.

“Hatred,” my professor told me. “You are feeling the wrath of hatred. Of the way humans have learned to hate one another.” Is that what this feeling is, I wondered? This knotting, sinking feeling in my stomach over the way human beings can treat one another so badly? This is Hatred?

It was as if I’d never knew of the word all the years it pummeled from my mouth on the playground at school or after a geometry class I really could not stand.

Is there medicine to take for this? A cure for this? Am I ever going to be normal again, or am I destined to cry over slavery right in the middle of casual conversations for the next few years? Because I can hardly eat and barely think over something that happened over 100 years ago. I am a wreck, Professor. An absolute wreck leaking Titanical tears in Dunkin Donuts with chocolate munchkins wedged within my cheeks.

“Read on, there has to be love somewhere.” Oh, but its dark and terrifying when you cannot just have the love front and center. All love. And no hatred. Some would tell you quickly, the world just does not work that way.

I recently read that when the Dalai Lama first encountered the word “hatred” he needed to have it explained to him several times. When it finally clicked, he put his head into his hands and wept.

The thought of His Holiness trying desperately to make his way around this word has clung to almost of all of my thoughts this week; dangling off of to-do lists and swinging from conversations over coffee with friends, making me back track to my days in the broom closet crying over Beloved.

Because how? How do you explain such an awful & sad concept to a man who has never known it before?

I can picture a crowd around the Dalai Lama, young and old, those brought forward to try to explain to him just exactly what Hatred means.

“Oh Dalai, dear Dalai, it’s so ugly and rotten. No makeover, no matter how epic or extreme, will ever turn this word pretty,” a young woman cries.

“Oh Dalai, dear Dalai, Hatred is doomed to roam the earth; ugly, heavy, and unwanted. But powerful; too, too powerful,” an old woman joins her.

“And you better watch out,” comes a man out from the crowd, speaking in a hushed tone. “Because it doesn’t walk… and it doesn’t talk… It slinks and slunks and slitherssss. It roars coming out from the mud!”

“It’s more like a bonfire,” another man says. “Eventually we pile enough “Should” and “Could” and “Would” onto an already booming flame and it makes people stop wanting good for one another.”

“I think it took my mother in the night!”

“And it destroyed my village!”

“It ransacked my home!”

“It split my country!”

“It killed my people!”

I can see him now, face poured into hands, weeping for the way the world operates off of Hatred. How we strap it to the backs of one another. How we slip it into speeches and watch it cut… a person, a population, a country apart. Pulling the Fam from the Ily and the Hu from the Man.

And suddenly a Little Girl emerges from the crowd, tears streaming down her face as if she just left a candle burning in a broom closet as she walked away from a classic novel.

She rises on tip toes and tugs on the garb wrapped tight around the Dalai Lama’s waist. “Don’t let them give up,” she whispers. “Or the hatred will spread. We’ve all got some good love, that’s what my mama says. My mama says its Goodness but its like a lantern that will flicker and fade… I don’t want my Goodness to fade.”

“I agree with your mama,” I think he would say. “But you and I, we cannot cry much longer tonight. For tears, in closets or in palms or upon cheeks, will never do the world good unless they are transformed into something Stronger that we can use to combat the Hatred and make sure that Goodness never fades.

The ones who keep the lantern burning, they don’t cry and then give up. They find a cause that rips the world to tears and then they set out to dry the eyes. With loud voices. And louder actions.

So let your words be good, your actions be good, your intentions be best, and your lantern be bright. Don’t let that hatred sink like an anchor deep in your stomach.  You’ve got the Good Love, so spread it child, spread.”

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Filed under Humanity, Hunger, Reality, The Tough Stuff, Uncategorized

For years following that night I thought I might tell people that closure was smashing a teddy bear with your father’s hammer until the voice box inside gave out.

“Do you think closure exists?”

The letters of the text message, restless and exposed at the front of my inbox, begin rising with a leavening of old love stories we once spent hours telling to one another.

Closure.

It is funny how the very word can send doors swinging wide open after having been locked for years. Doors you swore you lost the keys to.

She’s asking me because I am a relationship guru, a closure Buddha, I think. Because I have mastered the art of letting go, that’s why. No, she’s asking me because the word has meant a lot to me in the past and I am still not perfect when it comes to closure. Turns out, none of us are.

When I was younger my definition of closure was two parts what I digested during Dawson’s Creek and one part my attending a Closure Ceremony in the 9th grade.

A Closure Ceremony. My first and only one.  Translation: A group of girlfriends sitting on the driveway as July hissed humidity into our hair, watching our friend with a broken heart bigger than her own body take a hammer into her hands and begin smashing a slew of keepsakes that a boy had given to her throughout two years.  

I am over him,” she said, after chucking the broken pieces of a charm bracelet he had assembled for her tiny wrist into the bog beside her house. “I don’t want to think about him ever again.”

For years following that night I thought I might tell people that closure was smashing a teddy bear with your father’s hammer until the voice box inside gave out.

But the part of it all that I didn’t understand was that even after the Closure Ceremony she still waited, ready to pounce on any conversation that carried his name. To Spill Ten Thousand Stories About Him as if she were being granted permission to speak after years of silence. To make herself a victim to Ten Thousand Stories where the ending never gave her any sense of “Happily” or “Ever” or “After.”

And so instead, closure became a word to me that didn’t make much sense and yet the world was obsessed with talking about it as if we were legitimately closing things. Toy Boxes. Screen Doors. Treasure Chests. A concept that allows us to mold excuses like play dough to explain why we cant get into that next relationship or why it is just too difficult to move on. 

It just seems like a fancy metaphor for what we all really need to say but never find the space or place to say it out loud: This hurts. It hurts really, really bad. And sure, it is in the past but I sometimes feel the prick as strongly as the day it happened. And I don’t know how to move forward. And I cannot inch my way around trusting that it won’t happen again. And I want to stand still and dissolve a little. Because it hurts. There, I said it, it hurts.

But I have always believed that this is what humanity is all about: learning to dance even in that pain. Even with every single door around us swinging open and closed. A Symphony of Swinging Doors. And Yet We Still Dance to the Rickety Tunes Life Spins onto Our Record Players.

To close, for good, would mean to stop telling a story that we know by heart. Not to forget the beginning or the middle or the end, because that won’t ever happen if we are thinking practical. But to silence our heart when the story comes up and threatens us with sadness that perches like gargoyles on old, beautiful cathedrals.

Closure. I think it does exist. But only when we stop living in circles of “what was” to meander our way into “what could be.”

Only when we admit to ourselves that we deserve Good Stories, Better Stories. The Best Stories. Without so much bruising and battering on a daily basis. And surprisingly, it takes a lot of courage to want that for ourselves.

Only when we validate with words that, “Yes, that time in my life was painful and it was hard, but I got stronger. Maybe my heart broke, my knees shook, and maybe sometimes I wish that it never actually happened but I am writing a better story off of what I know now. And with just one look I can already tell you, my sentences are stronger than they have ever been before.”

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Filed under Humanity, Hunger, Passion, Reality, The Tough Stuff, Uncategorized

A guru at equipping souls with a Simultaneous Sense of Eating, Praying & Loving, once wrote that we cannot expect to win the lottery if we don’t first buy the ticket.

I spent two years stealing love notes from my brother’s bedroom just to admire the handwriting styles of his girlfriend.

I may or may not have contemplated stapling the letters to my trendy Unicorn sweaters of the time and wearing them around with my jacket unzipped. Not to expose any juicy secrets, of course, but  to show people what eloquent handwriting looked like. The kind of stuff Hallmark Illustrators gnaw on for breakfast.

Instead, being the slightly neurotic ten-year-old that I was, I took out my Lisa Frank planner and scheduled a time slot from 4-5p.m., Monday thru Friday.

Handwriting Practice.

Yes, yes. While other girls read Tiger Beat Magazine and gushed over the Backstreet Boys, I holed myself up in my bedroom, unfolding love letters from their paper football form, to master the technique behind a round & full lowercase “a” and the precise swoop of an uppercase “Y”.  The anticipation of one day seeing these same delicate letters parade on my very own book reports and love notes was enough to keep me diligent for two entire years. Close to 300 hours or so of handwriting practice.

I’ve grown up keeping this notion closer to me than I would my purse on a packed subway car: If we want something then we need to work hard for it. Every Single Day. Every Single Day we carve out time for that Dream of ours. We don’t merely coo at it or coddle it, we bring it into this world. Loud & Rapturous.

I also grew up cursing the God who put a great deal of distance between Point A & Point B.

Why not connect them closer, God? Why not give me what I want right this very moment? It would probably make His Sky High To-Do List much shorter. More manageable.

It would be much easier this way, if we could pick up our deepest desires from the racks of the department store & plop them into a cart.

Chances are, a lot more dreams would live to see their realization if we were able to skip right from Point A to Point B. If Time, Energy, Hard Work, Rejection, Struggle & Discernment were not so adamant in demanding a seat in our Ambition-Covered Wagons.  

I’ve written it before but I still believe that our dreams are very much like infants. We conjure them up in diaries and during long commutes but we have to then step up to be teachers to them. Teach them to Walk, Talk, Sing, Dance, Shake, Shimmy, Move, Be. Understand their weak beginnings. Understand their wobbly legs. Covet the progress. Smile at the Baby Steps.

But the one thing we cannot do if we ever hope to find them as a reality, sitting across from us like a familiar stranger who knows how we take our coffee, is belittle them. Degrade them. Find small boxes to shove them in. Let them collect dust on a shelf within our memory.

You see, one day our dreams being labeled as “unreachable” won’t cut it anymore. They will grow stale. They might fall apart. They will tire from us putting “Cannot” and “Should” in front of them in line. And they will slink into a slot just as forgotten as the lone sock, abandoned under the bed and left praying for some sort of companion who understands their wool & texture.

Elizabeth Gilbert, a guru at equipping souls with a Simultaneous Sense of Eating, Praying & Loving, one wrote that we cannot expect to win the lottery if we don’t first buy the ticket. I don’t know about you, but I have some tickets to buy… some dreams stored up inside of me that need to start sending their resumes out to reality.

So here’s to taking some coins, sunk deep from our pockets, and listening to the sounds they make as they clink on the counter.

 “One ticket please,” I say. “Matter of fact, make it ten.”

Here’s to finding Point A together, no matter how opposite our directions are from one another.

Here’s to kicking Struggle & Rejection, Doubt & Animosity, out from the cradle that our dreams slumber in at night.

Here’s to picking back up that piece of chunky purple chalk and writing our dreams out to the world. Fine Handwriting Practice or None.

Here’s to placing Point A down on the map and finding one way today to make a sudden movement.

A Baby Step.

A Crawl.

Even just a shoulder shrug.

On our way.

To Point B.

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Filed under Big Dreams, For a Better World, Love Yourself, Reality, Uncategorized

He had this Dream of turning the Jangling Discords of this Nation into a Beautiful Symphony of Brotherhood.

Wade in the water,
Wade in the water children.
Wade in the water
God’s gonna trouble the water

I gather my Strength in a place where people have no choice but to come through the door wearing a full armor suit’s worth of it.

I fold the Strength up into my arms like a little child, his legs dangling over the sides, as I stare at the front door and envision it three hours from now. Swinging. Swinging. Bringing in Hope, Carrying Out Heartache. Bringing in Heartache, Carrying it Out Again.

Right now the space is deserted. Empty but Loud. Creaking with its Emptiness. Let the King Hand of the Clock Round the Courtyard and 60 Royal Seconds Three More Times and then watch as this place fills with a Concordance Of Faces that know Promise, Angst and Hard Work but very little English.

It has become almost ritualistic. My slipping from beneath the white covers at 5a.m. to walk down 2 flights of stairs and find a spot to sit, Curled Up, in the middle of an Immigration Center. Not many people can say that their living room doubles as a heartbeat to hundreds of people within the inner city.

The center pulses at this time. The Sun has not even begun to stir or think about hitting snooze on her alarm clock but already the Immigration Center & I are drawing up Strength for the morning. Strength for the sun and the way the door will swing in just a few hours. Even the walls are beginning to speak; I am certain that if I hold my ear up to just one of them I will fall deep into the telling of Ten Thousand Stories.

I did not fully meet Strength up until this year. Only heard about Strength from other people but never really saw it in action so fully until I began calling this borough, “home.” Strength does anything but take up a resting spot in this place. It sits in the classrooms of this Immigration Center, upon the faces of individuals who are trying desperately to remember Letters on a Chalkboard. They know full and well that Language has Edges & Angles in this Country, not so much like the cushioned space in their mothers’ arms. Strength sits in the classroom, and in a church, and in a line for the food pantry or the seats of the 4 train that carry these people and their Tired Soles to their Jobs.

Jobs.

Jobs that pay $7.50 an hour. Not enough to feed the family of five or keep a mother from the fear of teetering over into welfare. The people of the Bronx are still rallying like in the days of Dr. King to fight for a living wage. A Living Wage. A Wage That Allows Them To Live.

There is so much that I don’t understand. A lot that makes me uncomfortable. A lot that I will never again be able to hold my cheek away from. I guess we reach a point where we can never turn away again. Never Walk Away Again. But Still, There Is So Much I Cannot Change. So Much I Cannot Process.

It makes a girl wonder, as she sits cross-legged in the middle of a Immigration Center that Pulses So Loud: What am I to do today? Why am I here? How come I am the one who will get to walk away?

Pack up my bags come June. Wave farewell to a Borough that Learned to Burrow A Break In My Heart, and sink back into a life that doesn’t yield a $25 a week stipend. But a Career. A Career that Provides Much More than Just a Living Wage.

It is here, in these quiet moments when the Bronx is still stretching her arms and readying herself for the day, that I realize that Love is my only option. It’s not technologically savvy. It is not resume worthy. It doesn’t take experience in HTML or CSS Coding. It is not something we even want to mention anymore unless we are standing knee-deep in the card aisle at Hallmark. But its all that matters. Loving. Loving until it hurts. Until it shatters our souls into a million little pieces. Perhaps it is not the desired solution of this world, but it is what keeps me intact, what keeps me holding the hands of preschoolers that I want so much for, what keeps me staring into the eyes of young children on the UNICEF posters whispering promises to them that one day they will be So Much More than Just Poster Children.

Love until it hurts. Love After it Hurts. Keep Loving, even when it would be so much easier to just walk away.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, he had this dream. It was Deeply Rooted in the American Dream, the same one that is still not within the grasps of each body that claims this soil as home. He had this dream to turn the jangling discords of this nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.

One day,  I think to myself.

One day we might just hear that Symphony.

Together will begin with the slow start-up of a cello. Equality will join in with the violin. An Acceptance Trio will begin to hum. Acceptance of Color. Acceptance of Religion. Acceptance of Sexuality. Justice will enter in on the piano. And Peace will sit atop the piano that Justice plays and she will look around and smile. She will shimmy from the side of the piano and step up to the microphone after a few chords.

Brothers and sisters,” she will sing. “Get up, get up, it’s time to get up.”

The microphone spans a couple thousand miles.

“Get up and dance. Get up and swing, children.” Peace will Sing. Peace Will Sing.

And we all will stand, lace up our shoes and begin to shuffle towards the dance floor. Shuffling. Shimmying. Holding Hands.You with Me. Me with You.

Fox Trot. Box Step.

Shaking Our Hips to a Symphony of Brotherhood.

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Filed under Disconnect, For a Better World, Humanity, Money, Poverty, Reality

Here, let’s try this: You pick my pockets and then we both see just how loud I can sing.

You doing o.k.?” he asked, towering over me. Three Times My Size.

“Yea, I am fine. Thank you.”

I could feel him up against me, we were both packed tightly into the cramped subway car. No moving room. Nowhere to move.

Just making sure,” he replied, flashing a wide smile at me.

I smiled back with uneasiness. My lips pursed with the realization that the tugging at my bag just moments before had not been my imagination. That his checking up on my look of apprehension was not a genuine, heartfelt gesture but a way to cover up what he really should have said. “I just stole from you. I just reached into your pocket and took your metro card and your money and now I will proceed to smile and walk away now.”

And that is just what he did.

You could have never held your bag tighter. You could have never spoken up the second you realized he had reached into your purse pocket.  There are just some things that you could not have done and in those moments you just stand there and you take it and you find a quiet space in your mind to count your blessings all the way home. And you wish in your head that you had not been so naive or that he had not smiled at you. “If you are going to steal from me then just do it,” you think to yourself. “I have much better smiles in my life, I never needed yours.”

And maybe you get home and you double bolt your door behind you and you find a place to sit down. You put on “Hey there, Delilah” because for some reason that song really comforts you, the thought of someone thinking your spirit is comparable to the brightness of Times Square maybe. And you just sit there and you pick your mind for reasons as to why you are so agitated. It is not because he took your metro card. It is not because he stole some money or a Starbucks gift card that a friend gave to you. It could have been worse, much worse. No, no. You are agitated and infuriated for another reason altogether. For The Fact That You Have Never Felt So Small In Your Life. So Little. So Helpless. So Without A Voice. Regardless of what was taken and how much he still managed to reach into your life and take from it. Reach Into Your Space And Violate It. And you imagine that feeling of violation won’t go away so quickly. It will stay and it will pester you but eventually it will dare you to do something more.

And you sarcastically wish that man well, him with his deceiving smile and all, and you pray that if he uses your Starbucks card tonight that he will order “Skinny” instead of whole milk. Because he desperately needed the Skinny (but that is as mean as you will get). And you sit there longer and you draw back your comment. Anger is not a pretty quality. Resentment never serves a purpose. Nasty Comments Get No One Any Where.

And so you reach for the phone and you call people. You call home. You call your roommates. You call for comfort and validation. And they will all agree with you that what he did was wrong. Oh, he got you good, he even managed to squeeze a smile out of you. And from every voice that picks up on the ends of another telephone, no matter how many miles away, you realize you will never be alone. That no matter what happens, if there is some kind of injustice in your life someone else will pick up the phone and validate it. Or squeeze you a little tighter. Or offer you support in the form of a prayer or a shoulder.

And because of this, you stop feeling so sorry for yourself, for the fact that some jerk is feeling a little more empowered today, and you realize that you are absolutely blessed to be able to speak up. To have a voice. To feel violated but to be able to say it, because somewhere in Afghanistan a woman just became a victim and no one said a word. Because somewhere in China another mother just had her baby girl ripped from her arms, And No One Listened to Her Screaming. And it happens in Sudan & Uganda & Ethiopia. Femicide. Honour Killings. Rape. It happens absolutely everywhere at every moment except that no woman can say a word.

And it is almost funny because you spend most of your days going from meeting after meeting at the United Nations about Women and their Status. And you are all about the “Girl Power.” And you put on your high heels and you smile at cute business men at busy intersections because you know you are feminine and you “own it.” But you have never really taken on the twang of Shania to say, “Man, I feel like a woman” for any of that stuff.

However, you have never felt so much womanhood as when he reached into your pocketbook and took what was yours. You have never felt so much womanhood as when you picked up the phone and you told someone what happened. And you realize that God gave you syllables & words to speak out. And some women don’t have that. Some women will never have that.

And that is when you realize that being a woman in this country, a real woman, has nothing to do with the height of your heels. The Size of Your Chest. The Color of Your Hair. It has nothing to do with cramming yourself into tiny little boxes labeled “pretty” and “petite.” Nor does it have anything to do with the Fad Diets or the Beauty Magazines or All The Weight that She Just Lost. It has nothing to do with the Competition you find for yourself or the Bad Mouthing you do over a social networking site. No. No. Being a woman in this country means you have a voice and a choice over how you will use it.

And you realize that you have the freedom to speak and so you do. You put down the arms of Competition & Jealousy & Envy & Dislike for other women and you pick up better Ammo. A Voice that is Strong. A Heart that is Kind. A Mouth that is Classy, Speaking Words of Love rather than Hatred. Unkind Words won’t get you far, and if they do, then have fun looking the mirror at the end of the day. Arms that Hold. Brains that Push You Forward. Drive & Ambition that no one can steal from you. A Spirit that will be Relentless for the Lives & Dignity & Happiness of Other Women. Other Voiceless Women Who Share The Same Heart Songs With You. And you will sing. Sing for Them. Sing for your Sister and for your Mother. Your Best Friend. Your Mentor.

And then you will smile. Oh, you will smile. Much Larger than that Man Who Stole from You. And you will tuck yourself into bed tonight knowing that God made no mistake in making you a Woman and giving you a voice. And with those two factors clearly intertwined, you will realize that it is time to make noise.

It is time to make noise.

 

 

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Filed under Reality, Women

You were never made to be an oyster. You serve the world much better as a pearl.

I found her sleeping, wedged peacefully between two filing cabinets. Her face told a different story though, of a little girl who wanted a bed to sleep in, with pillows surrounding her on every side.

I’m used to hearing her voice on a daily basis. I’m used to smiling inward when she speaks.

The absence of her voice is what prompted me to go looking for her.

And Find Her. Slumped. Two File Cabinets. Abandoned. Worn Out.

I approach the corner of the room, kicking debris from under my feet. Moving a few chairs out of the way. Pushing things to the side. Just to sit down next to her.

Her eyes open as I kneel to the floor.

I say nothing. I am just so happy to see her.

She is wearing a traditional bright yellow Mexican fiesta dress and a pair of cowboy boots. She clutches a tape recorder in her two tiny hands.

You left me here,” she says, opening her eyes as if she had never been sleeping but rather, waiting for me to rescue her. “I am not even supposed to be here but you stranded me. You left me, Hannah.”

The Moment. The Moment when guilt kidnaps coherent sentences. The Moment when another person’s accusations are more right than anything you swear you’ve ever told yourself.

How long did it take for you to realize I was missing?”

“Not long. I stopped hearing from you. I am used to our long and winding conversations. I miss them.”

I don’t know when is the last we have had one, Hannah. I think I have been sitting her much longer than you know. Not that you have had much time to look around and see.

“But how did you get here? I didn’t put you here,” I ask, looking around. The room is cluttered. Inspirational photographs and old tattered newspaper articles line the walls, overshadowed and dulled by the mess of stuff that makes my brain look more like a garage sale than an actual place to do my thinking.

I belong in your heart, Hannah. That is where I have always lived.” She begins to pick herself up off the floor, dusting off the party dress and stepping over me.

“Yes, I know. That is why I asked, how did you get in here?”

You put me in here. Little by little you packed me up and sent me to live in your head, surrounded by all these things & people & goals that you don’t even care about.

“I did that?”

Yes, you did that. It wasn’t long ago that you were listening to me, that you and I were talking nearly every day. I would wake up energized, ready to whisper new ideas into your being. I was always so happy to see you run with my ideas and make them a reality. For you to live out your dreams.

“We are a good team.”

Were. We were a good team.” She is not letting me forget the split so easily. “Do I look like I even belong here? Do I look happy to be here?” Her tone is rightfully accusatory, advanced for a second grader.

She looks like a little child lost on “Bring your Daughter to Work Day.” An eight-year-old girl holding a tape recorder who stumbled off the path towards her birthday party and ended up in an old, cramped office space.

“I didn’t mean to put you in here. Honestly, I don’t even know how that works.”

It happens everyday. Other inner children told me it would just be a matter of time before you stopped listening to me, like everyone else. I thought you were different but I could see it coming from miles away. I may only be eight, but I am pretty smart, Hannah.

It starts one day when you get a real look at the world. How hard it is. How miserable some people can be inside of it. And you start to forget things. You start to forget our conversations and you swap them out for Grown-Up Stuff. Logistics. Loans. Taxes. All the things that you think you should be talking about, instead of talking to me.
Before long, you are no longer filling your heart with inspirational conversations and words of wisdom, the kind of stuff you used to feed me on.

And this is what happens: Your mind begins to be cluttered, instead of your heart. More and More Into Your Mind. Less and Less Into Your Heart. And you run out of room. Your mind, and all its Worries and Fears, need a place to stay. And so, often without realizing it, you clear out your heart. You make space in your heart for more worries and more fears. And all the things that once mattered in your heart, they get squashed. They lose their footing. Just last week I had to sit cramped in between your Loan Worries and your Spiritual Angst. Do you have any idea how uncomfortable that was?

That stuff isn’t in my heart though. You are in my heart. My dreams are in my heart.” I want to prove this eight-year-old version of myself wrong. She may be small, but I know she is smarter when it comes to wisdom of the wise.

The second you stop relying on your dreams, on the people you care about, and you start listening to this Foolish World instead, then your heart & your mind begin Swapping. Trading. The other day your Heart passed me off to your Mind. Do you have any idea how that felt? To go from being your guide to being some cast away? To go from sleeping under a canopy bed, cushioned by our dreams, to a cold floor next to a filing cabinet full of Insecurities.

“I’m sorry.” The two weakest words in the world. I know that they are.

I am just hurt, Hannah.” Looking into her eyes, I realize that even with the fourteen year distance between us, our eyes have stayed the same. Brown. Green. Yellow. A mess of Golden Sunshine around the pupil. Always confusing people, making them too afraid to say the word Hazel.I always thought that you would prove people wrong. That you would hold tight to your dreams of being a writer, of being an editor, of creating and inspiring and making people feel alive and validated. I was excited to see that happen. To see that come to be.

But it won’t happen if you start living in this world so much, if you become bogged down by all that you have always refused to believe in. The tea parties that I attended in your heart were always so good. I sat next to your mother, and your grandma, Celia & Carleigh & Corey. And I chatted with your Ambition and your Love for Others. And I have never been happier. There are no tea parties in your head, Hannah. Just sad little coffee breaks with Mr. Should, Mr. Cannot and Mr. Mustn’t. Old, Cranky, Obese & Negative.

“I let you down, I know that. I get that. But its not so easy to avoid getting swept up in this world and the money to be made and the fortune to have.”

It is not that you won’t have money or fortune, Hannah. It’s just that it was never your job to go worrying about it. To abandon me, and my voice, to listen to a drawn out, impersonal voice recording of the Worry of this World.

“It is so hard not to listen though.”

Then close your ears and just listen to me. I swear I won’t let you down. Have I ever? You are thinking too much about oysters these days, Hannah. Oysters and their Way of Life. You were never made to be an oyster. You serve the world much better as a pearl. And you have to believe in that, because it is your calling in life. Beyond Money. Fame. Recognition. Some people are blessed to come in this world for the sole purpose of taking the oysters and helping them to realize their potential as pearls. Don’t take that blessing for granted.

Tears fill my eyes as her small freckled hand reaches out to touch my wrist. Her fingers dance along the pearls that line up neatly in a row. My own pearls of wisdom.

“Can I come home now? It’s cold in your mind, cold & cluttered and I don’t have my yellow sweater to wear to keep me warm. I want to come home. Back to your heart. We can start over again, there is still time.”

I want nothing more than to bring her home again. To listen to her voice inside of my heart, an eight-year-old who knew all the beauty in dreaming and living with a heart wide open. In her cowboy boots. In her party dress. She was always the belle of the ball when it came to my heart. My Passion adored her. My Ambition blushed when she would show up. My Dreams ran in a frenzy to hug her first upon walking through the door. The Shirley Temple of My Heart. The Hostess of My Dreams.

“Yes, we can go home.”

Her hand falls into mine and I wrap my fingers tightly, so as to make sure that I never let her go again.

Together we step around the clutter and the littered documents of Mr. Should, Mr. Cannot and Mr. Mustn’t. Back to her tea party with the people that love her, believe in her and want to see her take a big sip from a Cup Full of Aspiration, the World as her Sweetener, her Potential as her Creamer.

 

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Filed under Big Dreams, Reality, The Tough Stuff

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

Keep painting the world, dipping all your brushes into the same big bucket called “A Better Place.”

I learned at sleep-away bible camp in the 5th grade that God had messed up in making me.

One) It is beyond me why a bunch of camp counselors would make a bunk full of homesick, Bible-toting adolescents draw pictures of what they missed the most. Two) While others around me struggled to capture the soft features of their mothers and the shades and shadows of their fathers, I learned I was a real artist. But it was only because my bunk mates were drawing their families and I had drawn a bed. Drawing a bed is pretty hard to mess up.

As the pictures were hung up, one by one around the cabin, it was then that I saw how screwed up of a human being I really was. Susie’s family, Rachel’s dog. Alyssa’s teacher. Hannah’s bed. I contemplated taking a canoe out to the middle of the lake (even though I failed my swim test) and just waiting. Eventually some author would come along and write a book about me, place me in the character realm right next to the Grinch who stole Christmas and Ebenezer Scrooge. Two other individuals who didn’t know how to handle other people either.

Contrary to popular “Hannah Katy” rhetoric, I have a very hard time letting feelings show. I have never been a hugger, I am not used to being touched and (I will just admit it right now) I don’t like animals in the least bit. Believe me I tried to adore the furry friends on the front of folders in elementary school, it just was not happening. Phrases like “I love you” and “I miss you” often lose their way to detours put up by my own insecurities.

I sometimes wonder, if we were to read the description and qualifications of being a human off of Craig’s List, would we apply for the job? We would never be guaranteed to know if the position was short term or long term. We might find it appealing to experiment with abstract concepts of Love and Happiness and Loss, we might wonder why a position as extensive as this is unpaid. We would more than likely question why no manual exists to help us out when things fall apart. We might wonder why, when we grow older in the position, we will move miles and miles away from ones that we love. And we will label it life. And Living. And Becoming Masters of the Art of Missing Others.

I genuinely used to believe that I could skip this whole “missing” business, if I did not get too attached to anyone then I would never have to miss them. I could go on missing my bed, not my family.

We could get rid of missing each other altogether, why not do that? The whole thing is pointless. It’s hard. It’s not fun. It’s quite heartbreaking. But  it might be better to miss someone deeply then to miss out on ever knowing them, in fear that “Goodbye” might one day emerge from their lips.

Te Extrano, as the barbers across the street might say. I miss you. I miss you when the subway pulls up but you are not waiting alongside me to take the ride into Manhattan. I miss when the world falls asleep at night but I am used to your laughter as my bedtime story. I miss you when the coffee pot drizzles in the morning, when my “real laugh” comes out. I miss when you when I see a big white van and I think to myself: We should all be riding together in there again, singing songs about changing the world. I miss you when a little child asks to hold my hand; I gladly outstretch five fingers but I know your five fingers don’t stretch back.

I miss you as the leaves start changing their wardrobe, blushing a luscious shade of red before falling to the ground. I miss you as the world begins gathering closer, stores begin hanging wreaths before Halloween candy even leaves the shelves, and the holiday season tip toes towards us.

I miss you. And some days I want to take up topography so that I can rewrite the maps. Put Timid Towns of Massachusetts Next to Burly Boroughs of New York City. Draw the Confident Coast of Cali Next to the Vibrant Villages of South Africa and Peru. Take the Chicago Skyline and Sew It Right Above All Our Heads.

It does not work that way, in the same way that we cannot keep every person we love by our sides forever. My best friend gave me a card on the day I left for New York, it reads quite perfectly: “In the end, I think that I will like that we are sitting on the bed, talking & wondering where the time had gone.

You are There and I am Here and, as hard as it is, I will resist chopping off the T from There to place you Here. I am becoming fine with missing you, I even believe I am lucky to have you to miss. So maybe I don’t inherit your smile or words on a daily basis but I trust that someone else does, someone who might need it more than me right now.

I trust the world enough to know that we are separate for a reason. We go to our own corners of the world to spread Love & Influence. Compassion & Radiance. You take Chicago and I will take New York. We’ll all meet up somewhere in the middle, missing each other wildly, but with a collection of stories that we could have never found if we had chosen to never part.

From Worcester to South Africa, Chicago to Peru, San Diego to Lawrence and back to North Haven: Be safe. Be strong. Keep painting the world, dipping all your brushes into the same big bucket called “A Better Place.”

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Filed under Big City, Big Dreams, Disconnect, For a Better World, Love Is..., Reality

If my heart be a DVD then I need bonus features. If my heart be an album then I need unreleased tracks. If my heart be a dessert then….

If anyone asks: I am currently in the process of coaxing my heart away from turning into an Oreo Cookie.

You can laugh now… I have even provided you with space to do so right here: __________________________. But I am pretty serious about this one.

Lately I adore making sense out of life by use of food metaphors. I find that I am easily addicted to turning life’s sours into lemonade and talking consistently about “cake” in my life that I want to have and eat too. There is just something about food that lends itself as a dynamic duo of universality and durability when it comes to talking about the hard lessons we need to learn. Plus, it is not so serious. While it is hard to laugh about the state of my heart, it is easy to laugh about Oreo Cookies.

This “Oreo Cookie” heart of mine hatched from a conversation with a friend of mine. We ALL have this kind of friend: the one who says it just as it is. No chocolate frosting to sweeten these answers.

I was mid-mini crisis and so I called him to meet up. I can always count on him to carry Resolve, Wisdom and Directness in one hand, and a Latte in the other.

Ok, Hannah.” He says, looking more tired than usual. “Tell me the story…. the story that existed before you told the 11 other people before me.”

His comment caught me off guard. I would admit feeling stung, except the look on my friend’s face seemed more hurt than the whole of my feelings at the time.

I don’t blame him for not jumping out of his seat to give me good advice. He knew he was probably the seventh pair of ears to hear the story. A story meant appropriately for only one or two.

And here, my friends, is when I came to compare my heart to an Oreo Cookie. Although I am a sucker for the creamy insides, there is no denying that Oreo Cookies are a fairly easy cookie to get a hold of.

It takes little next to nothing to locate an Oreo. We don’t think much of it really.

It takes little next to nothing for someone to get inside of my heart. And Take A Giant Bite. And with all the easy access, what stops someone from taking advantage of it, without a second thought?

It begins with, “O.k, now you are the only one I want to tell about this…” and, before long, the one person expands into seven.

Before long our numbers are multiplying faster than a Duggar and Gosselin family playdate. By the end of the week half of our “social network” now knows that our heart was in need of a band-aid on Monday.

I think at times we need to be choosy with our hearts and who we allow to come into them to explore the insides. For Our Own Good. Some Doors Should Be Left Locked. Some Places Should Only Have One Key. Others need an alarm system. There is a grave difference between vulnerability and carelessness. There is a bold line between wearing a heart on a sleeve and carrying around a staple gun to fasten our hearts to the sleeves of others. We can give away pieces.. but we should also be taking inventory.

I need to give my heart a stern “talking to” before it gets me into trouble. Trouble deeper than the milk that I dip the cookie into (O.K, no more food metaphors. Or just one more?) Someone is bound to come and misuse it if they realize they can grasp it so effortlessly. It is a sad, sad day but I am realizing that not everyone who asks for storytime is really trying to be my best friend.

If my heart be DVD then I need bonus features.

If my heart be an album then I need unreleased tracks.

If my heart be a dessert then I am deciding upon a cupcake from Billy’s Bakery.

Allow me to indulge your senses: Billy’s Bakery, in New York City, carries a staple cupcake that will make any mouth, at any age, absolutely drool. It holds a certain satisfaction within the frosting that only Billy’s can offer. The best part: You cannot retrieve this Heavenly cupcake from just any corner or bakery. But when you have it, oh, you are happy. Oh, elation sits by your side.

That should be my heart! Rare & Beautiful. Treasured & Savored. That should be my heart!

Our hearts are truly rare and delectable desserts, shouldn’t we treat them as such?

After all, who is really going to fight for a heart when the line is 20 long and everyone gets in? Who is really going to find it an honor to sit in secrets and stories if they know they are one of 40 who can read that heart out loud. I don’t long for too much exclusivity or top notch security, but I want whoever steps inside and gets to know the real me to not see a sight comparable to traffic court on a Monday morning.

I want someone to come to me, when tears stain my cheeks and my spirits are tranquilized, and although they will listen, I will be able to grant them a better promise. The promise, that they are not the eleventh person to respond to the crisis. Rather, they are the first.

Any other fellow or recovering heart sleeve sewers out there?

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Filed under Insert Heart Here, Life Lessons, Reality

Operation Fall in Love in a Coffee Shop

My friends are sending me to New York City to fall in love in a coffee shop.

Of all the jokes that have run through the bloodstreams of our friendships, this is the one that withstands all time and circumstances.

I began talking about my dreams of falling love in a coffee shop, over a skim latte and a book recklessly abandoned for the sake of conversation, quite a few years ago.

It’s always an early Saturday morning. It’s always an autumn day where possibility seems to rise up off the ground like steam on gravel after a fresh fallen rain. It’s always in New York City.  Perhaps the unintentional ambiance that the city conjures up or maybe the fact that a coffee shop awaits at every single corner so Love is bound to sit inside of one.

Post a sign that reads “Hopeless Romantic” across my back, but I have often wondered what it would be like to live a life skipping from Saturday to Saturday. To be so content to just sit in the presence of someone else as they sip their cappuccino and read their New York Times, someone that literally does not even know you exist. What It Might Be Like To Never Exchange A Word. However, these wordless encounters somehow come packed with enough passion and mystery to crawl you through the next seven days. All the days, Sunday through Friday, are spent thinking of that person who sits in the coffee shop. Wondering about their thoughts, dreams and how they fill their days.

I wonder what it would be like to be one of the millions who have not the courage to reach out a hand to the one they love and introduce themselves.

I guess I am a horrendous story teller because that is where my plot ends. Quite the lack of thickening, if you consult with me. I have never thought of what would come after the first handshake- of “our” thoughts together and “our” dreams and how “we” would fill our days.

I only have the coffee shop and the moments planned out pre-handshake. And that is like sending a pretty girl out into a big wide city but giving her no map to get anywhere.

We spend a lot of time building up dreams in our heads. We convince ourselves that happiness exists in a certain place with certain people. That our dream job does not exist outside of our dream city. That we were destined for a coffee shop, a freshly brewed Chai and a warm smile. And we stop there.

But don’t we pigeon hole ourselves when we plan so furiously? We should be so careful not to dream too specifically that we wipe away all other options. That we don’t grow to be so arrogant as we hold the soft hand of our dreams that we deem the others- outside of the coffee shop, jobs outside of our dream city and opportunities apart from our thought process- to be less than worthy. Perhaps, perhaps our dreams are good… but our futures are even better.

What if I could make all of our dreams come true in a matter of 172 days. That might be nice, right? We would stroll around in less than a year (24 weeks and five days) with spouses we have dreamed of, jobs we have wanted for a long time, white picket fences and all that good stuff. But what might we do for the 172 days? Sit and wait?

A lot of life can pass us by when we are waiting on one option. When We Forcefully Close Other Doors Because We Are Convinced That a Specific One Will Open.

This silly little “reach for the tissues” cinematic dream of mine is teaching me very much as of late. Oh How To Make Things Not So Silly. Not So Little. Not Just Dreams. I would love to claim to be the best director of my life but I have learned through experience that the best in this lifetime comes when we least expect it. When we are hoping for one smile and we gain another. When we are waiting for one opportunity and we stumble across something even brighter and more brilliant. We need to be careful not waste time sitting in our heads and precariously planning out dreams that lack a certain “plan of execution.”

If we want great things, well, we must work. If we want happiness, well, we must be open-minded.

Open-Minded: o·pen-mind·ed. adj. To not designate the corners where our happiness must wait for us, nor the coffee shops that our true loves sit in. To entertain curiosity, new faces and life when it throws us for a loop.

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Filed under Big City, Big Dreams, Happiness, Life Lessons, Live with intention, Love Is..., Reality, Simply Living