Category Archives: The Tough Stuff

Make me come undone.

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There was nothing so extraordinary about the diner itself.

The walls were white. The food was decent. We ordered breakfast. We caught the diner barren during one of those strange hours that sit between brunch and dinner on a Sunday. There was nothing so peculiar about the diner itself or the red-seated booths but I’m just the type of girl who likes to describe the details of the days that change her life.

We swooped from conversation to conversation as we scraped our toast around the plate. We talked about the things we wanted. The lives we hoped to lead. The wildness of letting people go, of giving them permission to walk away. And maybe I’m just in a pocket of letting go upon letting go but the only thing I’m holding tighter to these days is God. And there’s something wild and strange and okay to me about that. I never would have been comfortable telling you that before.

We talked fast. About wanting to go places. And wanting to live the types of lives that demand explanation. And for about an hour or so, we built a metaphor with our bones: the life you want to step inside of is like a road trip. And one thing must happen before any trip begins: you pack. 

 

You pack.

You plan. You clear out. You let go. You pick things to take. You leave things behind. And, like I’ve written before, I’m always the girl who packs too much. I still can’t figure out how to pack lightly. It’s like a disease. I pack books I’ll never read. I pack love letters for no apparent reason. I bring too many shoes. I convince myself I need a stuffed animal though I don’t and probably never will. And all the baggage I tuck and fold probably serves no purpose at all and yet I bring it with me because maybe it makes me think I can still be a person I let go of yesterday.

My mother would say it first— you got it from your father. You got that packing gene of yours from the man who bought a car to take on a month-long roadtrip across the states and managed to fill the whole thing up before the adventure even began. He filled the whole thing up, as if to say, “The road won’t give me more.” Oh, but the road will always give you more.

And that’s the hardest mindset— the hardest space— to live inside of: you are not full. You are whole, but you are not full. There is a difference. Wholeness is the art of missing no parts. Fullness is like running in the rain— one time won’t ever be enough. You have to let the water wash you every once in a while as a reminder to yourself of the truth: still, you are alive. Wild and alive. 

 

I thought the journey to get here would stop at 16 hours.

Maybe you knew this or maybe you didn’t— I moved to Atlanta a month ago. I kissed goodbye New England and the GPS told me the whole of the trip would take me 16 hours. Sixteen hours and I’d be done. One car-ride, a playlist created by someone who knows me well, a few stops along the way and I’d be home. And I’d fumble over that word— “home”— for a good bit but it wouldn’t take me any further from the truth: I am home. I am home and unfamiliar with the stitching of it. Because wherever my feet are, that is home. 

The journey didn’t stop at 16 hours though. And maybe that’s the pinnacle and the pricking point to any transition: we want to be the ones who get to cry out “enough” when we’ve reached our tipping point of breaking, and bending, and learning, and growing. But even when we say “enough,” life still reminds us that we don’t have that much control. Life is just a series of mapless moments. And there still is much to learn.

It’s like I am waiting for the map though. Still, I am waiting for the direction. It’s like I’m waiting on Siri’s sweet robotic voice to whisper through the speakers of my car: This is not a matter of left or right. You don’t need to reach a destination, you need to reach a breaking point inside of yourself. You need to reach the spot in which you face the things that had the luxury of being buried when you stayed in the comfort zone of other people and familiar places: You are afraid of yourself. You are afraid of what it takes to sit with yourself. You are afraid of the stories you’ve told yourself about yourself. You are afraid to find out that if you stopped fighting yourself, you’d actually win. 

 

This journey belongs to no one else.

I’m the traveler. I’m the one with the backpack on my shoulders. And even if I pack this or choose not to take that, I must always travel with myself. She— the girl inside of me— is always with me on this journey. And that’s the hardest part. Because part of being human is wanting to abandon yourself sometimes. Even if no one will give up on you, you want to be the one to give up on yourself. And that doesn’t work when you’re the lone traveler, when you’re the one who must pave the road. When you’re the one who whispers words to the trees and the stars and the points on the maps, “I will go. Wherever I am led, I will go.” 

 

“You will never leave yourself,” I whispered into the dark of a new bedroom last night.

My hands were pressed into my notebook. I was sitting indian-style on the bed. My eyes were closed, as if the whole thing were a prayer to me. The room felt holy and cloaked in the kind of light only Christmas lights in June can give you. You will never leave yourself.

Even if you want to leave yourself, you never will. 

I’ve wanted to pretend that with enough miles and enough distance and enough distractions, I’d never have to face the girl inside of me who is weaker than I’d prefer she’d be. I thought I had fully abandoned that girl in the process of book-writing. I thought I’d said goodbye and meant it. But it’s like she showed up at my door, after a few months of being gone, and she knocked until I came to let her in.

And it’s like she stood before me, in the doorway of my new home, looking like a hungry traveler and waiting for me to pay attention long enough to hear her say, “One-way tickets don’t always work. You can’t just send me away. You have to learn to live with me and you have to learn to understand me. And if you could just understand me then you could very easily undo me. And that’s the only way to let me go for good— make me come undone. Undo me and unravel me and get to the root of me. Face me fully and I’ll lose all my power. Face me fully and I’ll turn and not look back for you. ” 

 

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Filed under The Tough Stuff, Uncategorized

If we were an alphabet then thre’d be mssing ltters by now.

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“Life’s gotten so crazy.”

That’s what we say to one another. When it comes to passing by. When we haven’t seen each other in a while. When the text messages have piled. When we collide in aisle 7 and we think to search the shelves of canned food for all the time we’ve lost.

“Life’s gotten so crazy, we really need to catch up soon.”

That’s the stake we drive into the ground, like the building of a white, picket fence that separates You from Me and Us from feelings that fit like sun dresses just yesterday when we weren’t so afraid of what Forever could feel like on the fingertips.

It’s an excuse. It’s a white flag on a battle field full of To Do Lists that never stop firing their cannons and calendars overflowing with the things we vow to be important for the moment. I’ll just be the honest one: It’s been far too long since I’ve seen your name circled beside a cup of tea I’ve doodled in the box reserved for Sunday afternoons. Those Sunday afternoons used to belong to you, my dear.

“Life’s gotten so crazy. I’ve missed you so much. We really should talk more soon. We really need to catch up soon.”

That’s what I told you yesterday as I clutched my foaming latte and headed for the door. That’s what I told you instead of the truth. The truth that I am beginning to misplace the pitch in your voice. The truth that if we were an alphabet then there’d be letters missing by now. Rnning amuck, with less than prfect syllbles, I’d stll try to tll you I’ve mssed you. That I am terribly terrified of the day when I wake up to find I’ve misplaced your laughter and all the sweet things you used to say to me when either life wasn’t so crazy or we simply didn’t care to notice.

It was yesterday, as I walked away from your table to get to a meeting I thought needed me more than you, that I stopped at a red light and let the thought of your face flood my memory. I thought sweet tea. A bowl of peanuts by our side. Kittens dancing in the yard. You and I when the air was ripe enough for secrets and honesty.  And I clutched my breath and told myself, when was the last time I told you that I loved you? And I meant it more than just a hurried, frazzled 3-word statement? When was the last time I told you that you’ve made this whole thing better? That I keep you safe in memory and I think of you more than my calendar will permit me to admit.

We’re living in a God Forbid world, my dear.

God forbid, God forbid, something should happen. In a park. In a movie theater. In a school. At a race. And I wouldn’t see you any longer. And you’d never pluck my face out of a crowd again. And one of us would spend some kind of eternity wishing we’d said more, did more, tried more to hold all the pieces together even when life got so crazy.

I don’t want to wait for my Twitter feed to coax me to turn on the news and see all the people crying over yet another tragedy. I don’t want to let it get that far– to fill my bones with fear that someone has hurt you, or wronged you, or taken you away from me– to call you on the phone and crawl into your voice mail with the whispers I’ve carried with me since yesterday:

Hey you.

I hope you’ll get this message. I hope you’ll pick up soon and tell me straight that it was some kind of mistake. That you are doing just fine. That I’ve nothing to fear.

Call me back and pull me in with your laughter. I can’t go a lifetime thinking the world might rob me of that sound forever. Call me back and say anything.

Just call me back. Please call me back.

I’ll stay here. I’ll stay here just clutching my phone. I’ll wait for you, don’t worry. I’ve not go nowhere to go. Really. Just waiting for you to arrive at my door and tell me it was confusion. Confusion, yes. Chaos, yes. A tragedy, yes. But that you got out so safely. And you thought of me… and your mother… and your brother… and your friends the whole way through.

That when the cell service went down you were searching for ways to let me know that it was all a mistake. And that you loved me too. And that we were going to forget about life tomorrow and just lay in bed all day.

Come back, please. Come back to me and I promise to lay with my head against your chest and ask you no questions.

I’m sorry. I’m sorry. Does it even make sense to say that now? I’ll try calling you back. Again & again & again. I’ll get good at pretending that I ain’t just calling to hear your voice tell me that you aren’t here right now, that you’ll call back soon, as soon as you get this message.

I’m waiting. I’m waiting. Get the message. Did you get the message?

Call me back and say anything.

Just call me back.

Please call me back.

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Filed under The Tough Stuff, Tragedy

I can leave the light on.

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Your shoes are by the door and I know I’ve done it again.

There’s only a lone pair of sneakers this time. It can’t possibly be so bad. The last time this happened I unlocked the door and pushed it open to find hiking boots, dress shoes, sandals and a pair of slippers. All Size 11. Craterly & Mammoth beside my Size 7 feet.

“I’m sorry,” I yell into the dark apartment. “I know why you’re here.”

“Do you really? And are you really sorry? I guess those are just the questions on my mind,”I hear you respond from the kitchen—a small space of pots & pans tucked tight and out of sight at the left of the apartment.

“I didn’t mean to bring you up…”

“But you did.” I wait for you to come into view. Wait to see your tousled hair. Your black ankle socks. Your casual, boyish attire.  “I’m worried because you did.”

“But…”

“Go ahead, explain it to me,” you go on. But you don’t show. You don’t show.

“Alex was having a hard time. I brought you up. I told her about us. Our story.”

“Babe, how many times do I have to tell you that…”

“ I know, I know. I get it, we don’t have a story… or at least not one that I need to keep telling over & over & over again.” I walk past the kitchen, throwing my coat on the sofa and heading for the bathroom. I play with the sink knobs. The water gushes out quickly. Soon enough, the heat pours out, collapsing and cloaking my tired hands.

“I only say it for your good. You know that, right?” He waits. For me. To answer.

Stop whispering, please stop whispering to me, I want to say.

The tears stay pent inside the crooks of my eyelids where the gold shimmer faded off nearly two hours ago. Not looking up. Not letting my eyes drift back to the sneakers at the door of the apartment.

Stop talking, just stop whispering. I don’t want to feel you so much anymore. Not in this way.

He goes on, “I only ever say it for your good because you and I both know that…”

“That I’ve got to move on. That I’m wasting time. That every time I bring your name into a coffee date, I am only hurting myself,” I steady my hands. I try to keep them from shaking. You stay talking. On & On & On. As if you were the damn genius who invented conversation. And it does no good because I cannot see you and I cannot feel you the way I used to.

 

I abandon the towel and the light switch.

I stay in the dark and crawl my way to the floor where the sofa’s legs kiss carpet. There I stay, curled up and trying to steady myself.

“You don’t get it… it’s not this hard for you,” I say into the darkness. “You are the not the one who has to live without me. I am the one who does that, every single day. In the best and only way that I know how. I am the one who gets up everyday and brace myself to lie any tell everyone I’m fine without you.

And don’t you know that you are everywhere? You are in the trees. In the leftover slices of pizza that you should’ve ate in the middle of the night. In the side of the bed that makes me want to stay filthy forever if it means I’ll never have to lose your scent on the sheets. You don’t have to go through any of that… But I do. I do. And I know, I know that every time I bring you up in conversation that I am going to come home to your shoes & nothing else, just the memory of you that doesn’t hold me right.”

I don’t hear you anymore. Nothing but the clicking of the clock all the way in the bedroom. My hands are wet and down on the floor beside me. Clawing in the darkness at what I know is a shade of maroon that you picked out back when Carpet mattered & Salad mattered & Sunday Football mattered.

I put my head down on the floor and imagined what you’d do next. I know if you were here you’d pull me into your lap and you’d change my mind. You always did that. And not because I always seemed to melt into a pile of bones when your arms wrapped me in, but because you were just one of those people who could explain the world for me. You plugged in lamps where I could not find light. You strung Christmas lights in the darkest of places throughout your whole fight. And so you say I’ve got to be stronger because you refused to leave me sitting in the dark. But it feels like dark. It feels like dark without you, dear. & maybe, maybe I wasn’t strong enough for this.

 

“Sometimes I hate you,” I whisper through clenched teeth.

“I hate that you left me here to do this without you. I hate that I couldn’t fix you. I hate that I’ve become some town tragedy where people treat me like a fogged up window that they can look through, apologize for the loss, watch me sway back & forth a bit and then head back to their own lit home. That I feel pathetic without you. That so much of this doesn’t matter without you.

I hate that I couldn’t go with you. That you left me standing here with all these secrets & things we told one another when the rest of the world fell asleep, things I was supposed to whisper back on a day when I wore white just for you. And now I’ve got to let it all go… I don’t want to let you go…. I don’t know how… I don’t want to learn.

I cry. For your arms. For a blanket you’d place over me. For the hairs on my head I know you’d stroke. For the tears you’d wipe. The things you’d say. For the thought of you, up in the clouds, hanging your head over an image of me rendered Helpless & Heartbroken.

“Come home… Just come home again…I cant feel you anymore…” Your shoes are already by the door. I can leave the light on. “I’m sorry… I’m sorry… I’ll try again tomorrow. Just come home tonight? Please come home tonight.”

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There will be them days.

There will be them days when all that will seem reliable is a chunky cable knit sweater hanging in your closet that, to your own knowledge, has never let you down before.

On them days, pull the wool over your head, push up the cowl neck, and invest all your faith in stitching and a chunky sweater.

There will be them days when you wish you could pull sentences from the sky, make words out of treasures you’ve found while sifting through the Lost & Found bin, to tell a person how you really feel. But all that will come out are fragments.

Incomplete.

Sentences.

You.

Don’t.

Know.

How.

To.

Complete.

On them days, find a sweet rhythm in the stuttering and the stammering. Simply delight in the person who makes the simplest syllables–I miss you, I love you, I need you– the hardest to recite. Maybe even say this: You Make All the Letters In My Alphabet Shake. The Q’s Quiver. The R’s Rattle. (they’ll find you truly poetic then.)

There will be them days when the only adoration you get is from a John Mayer song that he recorded seven years ago about daughters. And you’ll think to yourself, Wouldn’t it be lovely to be the girl who puts the colors inside of the world? On them days, keep your earphones plugged in until the end of the song, until Mr. Mayer tells you straight, “boys would be gone without warmth from a woman’s good, good heart.”

There will be them days where the Missing gets thick.

Thicker than molasses. Thicker than the chocolate current that took Augustus Gloop down in Wonka’s headquarters. You’ll curse songs on the radio that bring the Boy You Thought to Miss back. Your bones will ache for conversations where his name sits beside more than just some past tensed verbs.

On them days, let the Missing keep you.  People will tell you not to look at old photographs or cry over love letters;  I say, get yo’ salty groove on but promise to let it go at the end of the night. For your own good. For the doors that need to close before God props open that window people always talk about. We are human beings… looking back undoubtedly gets laced somewhere in our DNA, even if seems to hold the nutritional value of chewing gum.

There will be them days when all you will wish for is someone who knows your name.

You’ll grow tired of being The Girl on the Train. The Young Woman in the Cafe. On them days, give people a good mystery. Find that man with the notepad and glasses. Sit down right on his lap, swipe a hand across his cheek and put a pencil between your teeth. And then get up. And walk off the train.

Give people a reason to write you into story lines and poems that gets recited in the underground coffee shops of Chicago. Make him wonder if your  name is Clare. Rita. Siobhan. Rachel. Anything but the letters your mother stacked alongside one another to call you home when the street lights came on.

There will be them days when you wish to be anything but.

Anything but here. Anything but the girl whose skin you woke up inside. And you’ll only dream of curling up in balls & corners, waiting for the night to take you back to bed again.

On them days, breathe. Recognize that you’re human. Handhold a latte that’s sweeter than your usual pick. Purse it between two hands and just feel. Whatever it is. However raw or painful or distracting it wants to be. Just let it wash over you. Don’t try to even push it out the way.

There will be them days when all you have the strength to do is sit–square in the middle of the kitchen table that still holds your initials from childhood– and pair spoonfuls of peanut butter with a carton of vanilla bean ice cream. One more bite, that’s it. Just one more bite.

On them days, go for creamy instead of chunky. Go until the gentle reminder pushes its way inward: Food won’t heal you. Food won’t fix you. Put the Big Spoon down, Little One. I love you too much to watch this pain.

There will be them days when you’ll scrape the polish right off of your fingers. Freckles of Gold and Blue falling to the floor of the car. And you’ll look down at your hands in discouragement. What do you want of me? The question will sit in your throat. What am I here for?

On them days, take out a piece of paper and write it down. All The Places Your Hands Have Been. The letters they’ve written. The wrists they’ve touched. The wounds they’ve bandaged. The children they’ve held. The stories they’ve grasped in their Tiny Palms.

And marvel… just marvel at the good Two Hands can bring to a world in need.

Then place those Hands of Yours upon your hips. Pull up the cowl of your chunky wool sweater once again. Go outside. And face the world.

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Filed under Love Yourself, The Tough Stuff, Uncategorized

There’s been a break up.

The feeling rolls over you.

Flattens you to the ground like a steamroller meeting a rolling pin at the senior prom.

Suddenly you’re breathless. Wondering how you took for granted just yesterday that the breath was flowing in and out. In & out. You took for granted the effortless of it all.

You search your pockets. You scrounge for keys. Somewhere deep, deep in these pockets there must be something that you can hold on to. But you know what you have lost already. The very Somebody that was never a thing but the Every, Every, Every Thing.

“It’s over.” “It’s done.” “I’m sorry.” “Just go.” Did he say it? Did you say it? Did words even get said?

And you wonder why they call it a break up.

When nothing seems to be up at all.

You don’t feel like looking up. You don’t feel like getting up. The floor seems nice, you can vow to just sit there for a while.

But, oh, you feel the breaking.

The slow, steady breaking that gets so intrusive with the threads of a thing you used to call a heart just yesterday. When it sang. When it echoed. But it wasn’t broken though.

I want the words to make things better. The words to tell you it will be ok, you’re gonna breath again soon.

You’re gonna breath again, baby. You’re gonna love again.

And you could tuck these words in your back pocket though you probably won’t think to use them much today. No, probably not today.

 

So designate the days,

Designate the days.

Tonight might be for wallowing and tomorrow for sitting up. The third day for stumbling. The fourth for One Foot in Front of the Other. One foot in front of the other.

But if you don’t claim those days, like a Mama fiercely calling for Child when the tornado hits her Kansas plains, they’ll flip. Morph. Be claimed by the Sorrow. Claimed by the Sadness. Claimed into days you won’t never get back. And yes, you’ve got the heartbreak, but how much of a heart would be broken just to give those days to someone who will use them right? Someone that would use them to feel the sunlight on their face.

You’re alive, baby, and he never made you.

He. Never. Made. You.

Sure, there was a laughter you’re missing now. A sweeping off the feet. Stories you’d like to tell for decades more but he never made you. He was never the thing to keep you breathing. Never the thing to keep you dancing. & you made the mistake when you started to think that he was.

You’ve already got that thing inside of you and it’s jumbled & it’s golden. It’s yours and it’s sacred & it’s sweeter than you treated it.

You say he took something precious. You say he was the Precious Thing. But that Precious Thing has never left you, only learnt to shroud itself in cobwebs from all the waiting… waiting for you to realize that it never planned to go away.

The Precious Thing.  

The will to dream. The will to be. The will to live. The will to remember what it looked like yesterday before a hand slipped into yours so effortlessly. Yes, there were days before that hand.

I’m not asking you to shrivel. I’m not asking you to slow. I’m standing here begging that you’ll just get up. Because I believe in you that way and I know you to be strong. More capable than your sitting on the floor. And you’re missing what it is happening, what has always happened when a heart gets broken: A broken heart is the perfect starting point for rearranging the furniture, hanging lights on the wall. The chance to move and break free of your yesterday and stare down at the power of your own two hands after placing too much steadiness within a hand that held yours, and kissed yours, and slipped corsages upon yours.

There’s been a break up.

There’s been a break up.

So shake & shimmy the broken bits off.

There’ll be falling in love again. There’ll be first dances again. Sweet, sticky laughter. Again.

Life is an elegant and crippled thing. We were foolish to think we’d never break one another in the dancing.

Find the thing unbroken inside of you.

It’s there. It’s always been there.

He never took it. He never gave it.

He never made you. He never made you. 

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Filed under Break ups, The Tough Stuff

Coming home to your shoes.

Your shoes are by the door and I know I’ve done it again.

Only a lone pair of sneakers this time, it can’t be so bad. The last time this happened I unlocked the door and pushed it in to find hiking boots, dress shoes, sandals and a pair of slippers. All Size 11. Craterly & Mammoth to my Size 7 feet.

“I’m sorry,” I yell into the dark apartment. “I know why you’re here.”

“Do you really? And are you really sorry? I guess those are the questions on my mind,” you respond from the kitchen—a small space of pots & pans tucked tight and out of sight to the left of the apartment.

“I didn’t mean to bring you up…”

“But you did.” I wait for you to come into view. Wait to see your tousled hair. Your black ankle socks. Your casual, boyish attire.  “I’m worried because you did.” You don’t show.

“But…”

“Go ahead, explain it to me.”

“Alex was having a hard time. I brought you up. I told her about us. Our story.”

“Babe, how many times do I have to tell you that…”

“ I know, I know. We don’t have a story… or at least not one that I need to keep telling over & over & over again.” I walk past the kitchen, throwing my coat on the sofa and heading for the bathroom.

I play with the sink knobs. The water gushes out quickly. Soon enough, the hear pours out, collapsing and cloaking my tired hands.

“I only say it for your good. You know that, right?” Stop whispering, please stop whispering to me.

The tears stay pent inside the crooks of my eyelids where the gold shimmer faded nearly two hours ago. Not looking up. Not letting my eyes drift back to the sneakers at the door of the apartment.

“I only ever say it for your good because you and I both know that…”

“That I’ve got to move on. That I’m wasting time. That every time I bring your name into a coffee date then I am only hurting myself,” I steady my hands. I try to keep them from shaking.

You stay talking. On & On & On. As if you were the damn genius who invented conversation. And it does no good because I cannot see you and I cannot feel you the way I used to.

I abandon the towel and the light switch. I stay in the dark and crawl my way to the floor where the sofa’s legs kiss carpet and crook me into cushioned safety.

“You don’t get it… it’s not this hard for you,” I say into the darkness. “You are the not the one who has to live without me. I am the one who does that, every single day. In the best and only way that I know how.

And don’t you know that you are everywhere? You are in the trees. In the leftover slices of pizza that you should’ve ate in the middle of the night. In the side of the bed that makes me want to stay filthy forever if it means I’ll never have to lose your scent on the sheets. You don’t have to go through any of that…I do. I do. And I know, I know that every time I bring you up in conversation that I am going to come home to your shoes & nothing else, just the memory of you that doesn’t hold me right.”

I don’t hear you anymore. Nothing but the clicking of the clock all the way in the bedroom.

My hands are wet and down on the floor beside me. Clawing in the darkness at what I know is a shade of maroon that you picked out back when Carpet mattered & Salad mattered & Sunday Football mattered.

I put my head down on the floor and imagined what you’d do next. I know if you were here right now you’d pull me into your lap and you’d change my mind. You always did that. And not because I always seemed to melt into a pile of bones when I your arms wrapped me in, but because you were just one of those people who could explain the world for me. You plugged in lamps where I could not find light. You strung Christmas lights in the darkest of places throughout your whole fight. And so you say I’ve got to be stronger because you refused to leave me sitting in the dark. But it feels like dark. It feels like dark without you.

“Sometimes I hate you,” I whisper through clenched teeth. You know I am lying, right? “I hate that you left me here to do this without you. I hate that I couldn’t fix you. I hate that I’ve become some town tragedy where people treat me like a fogged up window that they can look through, apologize for the loss, watch me sway back & forth a bit and then head back to their own lit home. That I feel pathetic without you. That so much of this doesn’t matter without you.

I hate that I couldn’t go with you. That you left me standing here with all these secrets & things we told one another when the rest of the world fell asleep, things I was supposed to whisper back on a day when I wore white just for you. And now I’ve got to let it all go… I don’t want to let you go…. I don’t know how… I don’t want to learn.

I cry. For your arms. For a blanket you’d place over me. For the hairs on my head I know you’d stroke. For the tears you’d wipe. The things you’d say. For the thought of you, up in the clouds, hanging your head over an image of me rendered Helpless & Heartbroken.

“Come home… Just come home again…I cant feel you anymore…” Your shoes are already by the door. I can leave the light on. “I’m sorry… I’m sorry… I’ll try again tomorrow.”

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Filed under Girl meets Boy, The Tough Stuff, Tragedy

Strangers Spinning & Harder Things

“This won’t be the hardest thing you’ve ever had to do,” he yells to a room full of shaking knees and fast-beating hearts.

To a room full of pumpers. Sitters. Standers. Pedaling, Pedaling to cross the finish line we’ve traced out in our heads.

“And if this is the hardest thing you’ve ever had to do– well then, good for you. But I can promise that there is going to be plenty harder in life.”

We’re revving. Breathing heavy. Wanting to scream. Sweating. High on adrenaline. Junkies.

“Much harder than this moment.”

Pushing. Pouring. Thighs collapsing. One pedal swing away from bursting free. Whatever free means to each of us. Strangers spinning. Spinning strangers.

“So take it and give it everything.”

It’s that moment. That moment of pure, real, truth: I want to quit this. I want to quit this so bad. I don’t want to pedal.  I don’t want to move. It hurts. It hurts. It hurts.

And suddenly you are remembering those Harder Things in life. The Hardest Things We’ve Ever Had To Do. And you cannot help shift your hazels from seat to seat–wondering, wondering, “What did it look like for you?”

When that Hardest Thing came… did you crawl? Did you cry? Did you curl into a ball?

Did you stumble? Did you shake? And tell me, did you ache?

You don’t know a single person in that spin class. You’ve never laughed together. Nor shared a drink. And maybe because it is always about the going.

Moving. Hurling into the gym. Throwing down a water bottle as a place holder. Changing. Quickly. Wiping the lipstick off your face. Pulling your hair into a bun. Quickly, quickly. Before saddling onto the bike and spinning. Faster. Faster. Going somewhere but you don’t know where. Away. Away. Where no one can ask you, “Have you had the exit strategy planned all along?”

Panting. Panting. As he tells you to get up & up & down then up. It burns. Your legs tremble as if they are the forefathers of Overload.

And yet your mind keeps racing back to chocolate cake.

And the Hardest Things that we’ve crawled out from all around the room.

Raspberry filling.

Maybe there is more in common with the Spinning Strangers than you think.

The way your mother ordered it from the big glass holder of desserts. She knew your heart was broken. She knew it was one of the Harder Days. The Harder Nights. The Harder Things.

You keep thinking back to the Hardest Things. Pedal, pedal. The Hardest Things You’ve Had to Do. Sprint, sprint. The Car Doors You’ve Had to Slam. Up. Down. Up. Down. The Last Words You’ve Had to Speak.

And you mean to say, to tell me, that others have felt it too? Others strapped tight into pedals with neon spandex peeking out from beneath track shorts. They’ve had their Harder Things too?

And all this… well, all of this time you thought you’d made a mistake. To break the heart. To shut the door. To fall apart. Those mistakes sat in piles like the old subscriptions of Vogue that flopped over one another on the floor by the bed.

“Twas’ you, twas’ you,” the Hardest Thing tried to convince you. “Twas’ all your fault for the broken heart.”

When really… really… perhaps the biggest mistake was thinking you were alone when all of it crumbled. When the Hardest Thing Came to Stay Beneath your Chunky Sweater. Came to Try To Tell You, “Sister, You Aint Strong Enough.” And a HA HA HA. The Hardest Thing trying to spit laugh in your face.

Maybe that was the mistake. The Aloneness You Thought Existed. That was the mistake.

It was never the breaking of the heart, the shutting of the door, nor the falling apart, so much as it was the foolish small thinking you carried when you thought you were Alone in all of it.

Darling, there were mothers. Sisters. Friends. Girls waiting with car keys in hands to rush you to a coffee shop. Ready to wash away your pain with sweet laughter and Michael Buble.

And didn’t they pull you back together? Didn’t you learn it would all be ok?

Harder things, yes, I’ll assure you right now that there’s bound to be Harder Things than this. Bigger Climbs. More Miley Cyrus jargon about mountains and uphill battles.

But don’t forget to look around. When you’ve got that Quitting Feeling all up in your chest. Look all around you. Be it strangers spinning or best friends with car keys already outstretched, you are not so alone as you think you are.

In the speeding, the going, the getting, the moving, the pulsing, the paining like the window panes of car doors you once clutched all your courage just to shut, there.. are.. others.. who have been there before.

Others… who refuse to let you do it alone. Others… who will stand by the finish lines you’ve marked in your head. Others… who are ready to say straight into the faces of the Hardest Things, “Do your worst. But I’m not leaving her side.”

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Year of the RELENTLESS

Nate-

We both were never fans of the New Year, we’ve had that in common all along. Nothing worse than a row of taken treadmills on January 1 when no one bothered to use them the day before. Last year, I stopped making resolutions and decided to stick with one word. One word to carry into each New Year. A word to live by. Last year, the word was serendipity. It fit. It worked. I had to search for it though. This year, I didn’t need to search. You sang the word into my heart and you sang it so loud: RELENTLESS.

Here’s to you & 2012, year of the RELENTLESS. We miss you.

-Hannah

I should have called you the first time I ever saw the word typed— RELENTLESS—the caps of the letters sitting bolder than any of the other print on the page.

I should have called you and told you how very silly it was for you to place a period beside that word. At the end of that story. As if you were ending a sentence. As if you were unaware that we all found beginnings the day you found that word and pushed it into the light for each of us.

You know, I grew up with the belief that the most worthwhile of people don’t spend time making legacies for themselves. They simply speak intentional sentences, let their actions tidal wave over those same intentional sentences and then walk away, leaving a crowd of people to whisper in their absence.

We whispered.

The first time you ever wrote the word RELENTLESS, we whispered, “It fits. It fits.”

It fit you. At the time I thought it fit only you. Only him.

Like a leather jacket off the coat rack of someone who had let the wind of the open road crash into it for years, the word fit you in all the right places. It hung perfectly in the shoulders. The sleeves were just right. It zippered you in a way that if words carried roadmaps and flashlights, compasses and a GPS just to find us then RELENTLESS looked for you all along.

RELENTLESS passed by a thousand other travelers to find the boy with the selfless spirit and a look of fire in his eyes.

The boy with the selfless spirit and a look of fire in his eyes gathered up all his strength to show the Ones Who Prayed that He Might Stay how to push a word into life. Into a New Day. A New Year. A New Moment Where the Sun Hits Our Eyes and Reminds Us We Are All Fighters.

The boy with the selfless spirit and the look of fire in his eyes suited up to the show the world his word.

RELENTLESS.  

To Rally

to Help the Weaker.

To Extend

One’s Self Beyond Measure.

To Learn

from a Life that Aches to Be Our Classroom.

To Expect

Great Things, Out of Our Selves and Others.

To Never

Accept Failure, what a weak little way of life that’d be.

To Tirelessly Travel

Towards the Change We Wish to See, keeping our eyes hungry for it, our mouths thirsting for it.

To Love

beyond all else, to Love like the oxygen is falling out of the room.

To Eliminate Fear

When He Shows Up at the Window.

To Stretch

to Breaking Points and laugh when we see how our bones have grown.

To Search

For the Most Selfless Place Where Our Deepest Hunger Meets a Deep Need, a place that the world often forgets to talk about enough.

I should have called you the day you placed a period beside that story of yours. And it would have been nice to hear your laughter when you told me that this was really my job.

My job to add the comma, my job to add the dash.

And the job of your father. The job of your best friend. The job of the ones who sat with wads of Big Chew in their mouths beside you in the heat stroke of July at the fields by the middle school.

That it was all of our jobs to be find a way to be RELENTLESS within in a world that holds your legacy while we remember what it was to have your hands for a little while.

And that same world, her with a broken heart swelled so bad it pushes waves into the Pacific, she needs the fighters. The RELENTLESS ones who won’t perch up in the mirror and say, “Me. Me. Me.” She needs the ones who are willing to break the mirror to find what the boy with the selfless spirit and the fire in his eyes knew all along.

What he left behind on the day when October learned to twist its torso and mourn.

That if we wish to be worthwhile we must like the feeling of being in pieces. We must be ready to split & split & split, to be picked up and carried by the ones who need the hope, by the ones who are doubting their very own being.

By the ones who need a story of a hero.

The Story of a Boy with a Selfless Spirit and a Fire in His Eyes.

A RELENTLESS Story.

And that’s the kind of story you want us all to have, not at the stroke of midnight tomorrow but right here. Right now.

And I can hear you laughing from your spot in the trees, you already trust us not to place the period down.

After all, who places a period at the end of a story that’s only just beginning?

“Thousand Moments:
I still remember the day the world took you back & there was never time to thank you for the thousand scattered moments you left behind to watch us while we slept.”
― Brian Andreas

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The Never I’ve Never Really Known

“It’s that right there.”

I looked up to see a man pointing at the coffee mug before me. A Trickle of Agave Nectar Slipping from the Ceramic.

“Excuse me?” I responded.

He went on. “I’m still relearning how I take my coffee after 28 years of not needing to remember it.”

It was then that I realized: he was tying into the book cupped between my hands. Thoughts on Grief. A wadded 400-pages of excavated sadness. You know, just casual morning reading that leaves me light-hearted and ready to banter with interns all day.

If you want to know the truth: I’m sitting in too tiny Westport cafes these days, wearing black tights and black sweaters (because you can’t read tragic books when wearing yellow sundresses and polka-dotted wellies) while swallowing spoons full of sugar and realizing that nothing, nothing, makes grief go down easier. It don’t slide down yo’ throat like medicine, so back off Mary Poppins.

I’m writing a book. My character needs to know grief. Not because she wants to know grief but because in her 25th year she really has no choice. Grief pummels her in the way that Sallie Mae pummels all undergraduates. I wince having to put her through it and so I am learning all that I can about grief before 9am so I can heal her when I get back to my computer at 9pm.

But back to the man who stood before me… Here, I’ll rewind and tell you his words again because I think we may have lost the moment.

“.ti rebmemer ot gnideen ton fo sraey 82 retfa eeffoc ym ekat I woh gninraeler llits m’I”

“I’m still relearning how I take my coffee after 28 years of not needing to remember it.”

You can swallow words and paragraphs all day, especially when they are about paperwork and marketing, but a sentence like that should probably leave you as road kill. Just the mere picture of that man standing at his kitchen counter, relearning the steps of making coffee, is enough. Saying upward, “Marilyn, did I like it with milk or cream? Was I a two-sugar kind of guy?”

You pick the sound effect that followed in after his reply, as his words came to tear me down like the barbarians of biblical times. Was it: a) SLAM b)WHOOSH c) BOOM d) CRUSSHHHH.

None of the above.  None Of The Above.

His words fell down on me in a calm way. Like the first snow that waits in the wings for the streetlights to come on. In a way that made me realize, I can find someone in this lifetime who will let me help them make their coffee. What a beautiful blessing that might be, to have the intricacies of yourself get lost in details that another keeps. To have a partner in this life who carries your love for agave nectar and half & half deep in their suit pockets and brown leather bags.

In a way that made me wonder, what would it be like to have that ripped away?

I pictured him standing there by the kitchen counter, waiting for her car to roll into the driveway. Waiting for the day he’d get all tangled up in Christmas lights for her again because she wanted them on the roof the day after Thanksgiving. Waiting for the day when Never became real. And it hit him with a thud, “you’ve got to carry this word, buddy.”

Learn to carry Never as if it were a watering jug. Like the first time your momma showed you how to carry a baby and the Blaring Fragility of It All.

Sucked dry as juice from crazy straws and left holding this word Never. In place of a voice he adored hearing. In place of name he loved seeing on the caller ID.

And it makes you wonder if one day soon he’ll start screaming at the very word, “Please, Never! Please! Let me lob off the N from your EVER and place a FOR there instead. Let me unscrew the N from your EVER and latch YDAY onto the end of you.” Because I need some kind FOREVER today. I need some kind of EVERYDAY with her. More than I ever needed a Never.”

But then maybe he’d sit, and cry a bit… get silent. Real Silent. Saying to the Little Word, furled up in a ball at his feet, “Never, you are such a pretty little word. Makes me wish you stood for something else. That your name meant flower. Or your name meant, “specks of fallen gold on window panes” instead of “yes, that’s right, I won’t see her any longer.”

Sitting, petting Never as it curled up around his ankles.

That man, he walked away from with all the Never in his arms and left me  there, in a too tiny Westport café, holding a scrap from his paper snowflake, one he had been cutting ever since the day he lost her.

I watched him get into his car and pull away. I’m wondering now when Never will stop howling and crying in the night. When he’ll roll over and not see Never sitting next to him in bed. When Never won’t share a space on the couch or the passenger seat of his SUV.

I might Never know when Never will leave his arms. Sometimes we can Never know those kinds of things.

Never, you are such a pretty little word. Too bad you can’t mean something else, like “specks of fallen gold on window panes.”

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Goldilocks, Gretel & Goliath: Thoughts on Grief and Turtlenecks

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

These days I’m finding my way around grief.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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