Category Archives: Uncategorized

Welcome to the valley.

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“You’re in the valley,”

she says to me, grabbing my shoulders and keeping her eyes on me— they never once wander away from me and find another thing to fix on.

“You’re in the valley,” she says again. “Welcome to it.”

We were standing in the middle of a crowded church lobby. I was rambling on about a boy in a coffee shop who wasn’t choosing me and a plane ticket I wanted to burn and a city I wanted to give up on because nothing feels safe or comfortable or certain inside of the name “Atlanta.” I was home for a short visit. I’d been living in the city for six months— waiting for God to speak and tell me why I was there. I wanted answers from her. Because that’s what you want from a spiritual mentor— black-and-white answers.

I was rambling with the hope that, when I ceased, she would tell me I didn’t need to go back. I could just choose to stay in my comfort zone. I could get a refund for the plane ticket.

“You have had some big mountaintops in your life,” she told me. “God is teaching you how live to inside the valley, the everyday life.”

With a thud of resolution— not the quick answer I was hoping for— I heard her truth: You have to go back. You have to stand inside of this valley. You have to figure out what it looks like to stand still and wait, without ceasing, on God. Even when you swear He isn’t moving. Even when you think He’s forgotten to speak.

I’m learning, as of lately, that God doesn’t give me Hershey Kisses the way He used to.

I mean, He used to give me lots of those and they came foiled in the form of affirmations— you’re doing great. I’ve got you. You’re remarkable. Onto the next thing!

As God and I have grown, and as we’ve both planted roots in the ground and decided not to leave, He seems to deliver to me things I need to chew on and unpack. They aren’t sugary and sweet. They are changes to my character and who I will be in the long-run, not boosts to my exterior that will gain me worldly praise. And let’s be real— refining like this hurts like hell. And the hardest part about refinement? He needs you in one place to finish the work out. He needs you firmly planted, both feet in the ground, and asking no more questions of how long it will last.

But I just want the instant solutions. I want the clarity. I want God to pluck me out of this time of waiting, give me all the answers I am asking for, and then send me on my way to my next adventure.

And so I tell him, “Pluck me out of this time of waiting, give me all the answers I am asking for, and then send me on my way to my next adventure, God. Let’s do this thing!”

But no. He just leads me to Leviticus. Like He is sending me to my room, I get sent to the confines of Leviticus. And Leviticus is not the book of the bible you read when you want to be affirmed or told that you are a good little child of God who can do no wrong. So I stew with the Hebrews. And I grumble. And I don’t understand how, after leaving Israel, that whole nation camped out at the foot of Mt. Sinai for two years. Two years— and they spent those two years resting, teaching, building, and meeting with God face to face. And that just leaves me speaking upward to the ceiling, “No way. Absolutely no way would I spend two years just resting and hanging out. I need to be doing. I need to be going. I need chaos to add order to my life.”

We’d label those Hebrews as lazy in the world we live in today. We would say they were making little progress. And that’s because our culture is fixated on the hustle and the grind and how stinkin’ good you look standing on a mountaintop and getting all the glory. Our culture is slowly, so slowly, convinced and coaxed into the slower, harder things: rest. Community. Questions that cut deeper than “how are you” and “what do you want to accomplish.” Our culture is slower to ask questions we can’t answer (we like the questions we can answer): Where is God? And why can’t I play God? Why don’t things move when I want them to move? How can I escape the valley? I would like to be done with this valley now, so how do I leave? 

I don’t have the answer.

I lift my palms up to the ceiling because I don’t have the answer and I don’t have an exit strategy. I would much rather choose to leave. That’s always what I want to do when change is happening around me that I control: I want to flee. I want to push away. I want to make my own momentum and solve my own problems. But there is a whisper that is stronger than my will to leave, because the whisper knows what I know: you can leave, you can go, you can flee from the light find your answers— but you’ll still come back to the valley empty-handed and tired.

That whisper, it calms me and stills me and begs me to wait, saying, “Stay. Just stay. Something is happening in the valley. Something is stirring and building in your restless soul. Things are being repaired. There are things being released. 

You are not forgotten in all of this, you are becoming something new. Lay down your armor. Meet things face-to-face. Let the work be done. Let the slow and quiet work be done right. 

You are in the valley. Welcome to it.” 

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You can’t be all the things.

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I want to be all the things.

If I am given a space to simply breathe and be completely honest then that’s the truth I choose to share: I want to be all the things.

I want to be a friend. I want to be a good friend. I want to be a best friend to every little human I encounter. I want to be a sister. A daughter. A girlfriend. A wife.

I want to be the person who gets called at two in the morning. I want to be the one who shows up at the door with coffee and a heart that is just ready and amped for whatever truth you want to let sit square in the middle of the kitchen table. I want to take people as they are. I want to hold people as they come.

I want to be the mysterious one— the girl in the corner of the coffee shop with the bright red hat. I want to be the rebel. I want to be the one who doesn’t care about the rips in her tights. I want to be a writer.  I want to be a poem. I want to be the one you can’t stop thinking about. I want to be the one you never let go of, the girl who managed to maneuver herself away like a magic trick. A great Houdini act that left the whole world asking, “Where’d she go? Did anyone get her name?

I want to be the one who feeds the homeless. I want to dress the orphans. I want to remember to pray when I say I will pray for you. I want to be the reliable one. The simple one. The one who needs no excess in her life— she gets it and she knows what is really important. I want to be the secret keeper. The girl who you always know is going to cook the meanest, baddest appetizer for that dinner party. I want to be the one who dances at weddings. I want to be the life of the party. Yes, I want to be the life of the party.

I want to be the one who remembers to look up. I want to be the organized one— the one who has ridiculous control over the content of my inbox. I want to be the one with systems and rules. I want to be the adventurer. The wild one. The cool girl. I want to be the one who never lets a single soul down.

I want to be all the things.

“I can’t be all the things,” I said into the phone yesterday. 

I stopped in the middle of the road as I said it, surrounded by all these trees that are begging— straight begging— to keep holding tight to the pretty yellow leaves that are ready to fall right off their fingertips and leave them forever. The girl on the other side of the phone was driving to me. She’d packed a bag and she was driving to Georgia for a few days. She was stopping in Atlanta for dinner to see me.

But here’s the thing: we are no small talkers. If you get us on the phone to talk about an estimated time of arrival, we will end up picking apart the shreds of our existence and holding them up to the light for each other to see.

“You can’t be all the things,” she answered. “We all want to be all the things and we just cannot be.”

“But I am seeing something even bigger than that,” I told her. There was something at the root of wanting to be all the things. Something I didn’t see until now: When you make promises to yourself that you can be everything to everyone, you are really just announcing to everything outside your orbit, “I don’t need you. I am everything I need to be, and I am everything to everyone, so I don’t need you.”

I don’t need you to show up. I don’t need you to come here. I don’t need you to answer my prayers. I don’t need you to tell me that you miss me.

And let’s me be honest: not needing people, and not knowing how to need people, is the saddest thing in the world. It’s sad and it’s empty and it will leave you hollow and begging for the “more” you don’t know how to swallow your pride and ask for.

Not needing people is fueled by a lie, not by a truth: the lie that if you really needed people then they wouldn’t come. They would not show up. They would not knock at your door. No one wants to be abandoned and so we all just try to be the ones who jump ship first and swim off in the distance to save the rest of the world. We tell ourselves that feels less lonely. We tell ourselves that feels better than being left. Unchosen. 

I can’t be all the things.

I wear that truth like a sweater these days— a chunky maroon sweater that comforts me and makes me claustrophobic, all at the same time.

That’s the hardest and grittiest truth I’ve been forced to swallow since I turned 26. It’s like 26 showed up with a hammer and nails and got all gangster in my face, saying, “Girl, hop off. You can’t be all the things. Just hop off that reality you created for yourself.”

That’s where I am in this present moment: figuring out what it looks like to not be all the things— to not be everything to everyone. To just be something to a few. To remember to call that few. And cheer that few on. And finally resolve the debate in my mind that has always told me that, to be valuable, you must sink your teeth into quantity.

Quantity will make you known. Quantity will make you well-liked. But quantity has nothing over quality. They were right to burn that into our brains in the 5th grade. Quantity will leave you going wide, and wide, and wide, but Quality is a beggar that needs your whole being. Quality is the one who takes you into its arms and strokes your hair as it says, “This won’t be the easy route. It’s not gonna be easy to go deeper with just a few. But aren’t you ready for the layers to come off you? Aren’t you ready for someone to know you for who you really are? If you keep skimming the surface— if you keep a constant dance with Quantity happening— you are never going to feel known. And darling, feeling known is the best feeling in the world.”

When you are trying to be all the things, you are layered.

You are bundled. You are like one the wooden Russian nesting dolls that keeps itself hiding beneath all the other layers.  And there are a few extra layers that are heavier than the others— wanting to be there for everyone. Wanting to save everyone. Wanting to stack the world upon your bony shoulders and turn away anyone who tries to tell you they are here to help.

“I don’t need the help,” I want to say, holding up my hand. And really, if you chipped away at all the pride inside of me, you’d get down to the truth: It’s not that I don’t need the help, I just don’t know how to ask for help. I don’t know how to say— even in the smallest of small voices— please help me. Because I am too proud. And I am too fixed on saving things. And I am too busy thinking that I must be God— I must be God— to ever ask for the help of someone or something that is evidently bigger than me.

That’s a real way to slap God and people in the face—wham, wham— at the very same time: when you find a way to say with your actions and your words, “What you are trying to give me is not enough. I already think I can do better than you.”

She scouts out all the random and weird and delightful coffee shops hidden in the limbs of Atlanta and she is one of my best friends here. She gets me. She gets my love for classic literature. She gets my ache for a good cup of joe. And she and I can just sit at a table for hours and talk about Life like it is the third person sitting beside us and we are doing our best to analyze its stony personality and unpredictable ways.

Hodge Podge. This time her recommendation was Hodge Podge. It’s a half-mile from my house though I never ventured in that direction. I think I should probably explore.

“They have paleo brownies,” she told me. That sealed the deal. I was on a paleo kick at the time.

We sat in the middle of that coffee shop, inside of a room that is giant and filled with tables that look like they belong in an art classroom. I shimmied the brownie out of the cellophane. We picked at it as we talked.

“What do you need from me?” she asked.

I wasn’t expecting the question. She asked it again. Rephrasing it this time.

“As a friend, what is it that you actually need of me?”

I didn’t know. I really didn’t know.

And I don’t know if she and I have figured out what we actually need from one another yet. I still don’t even know if we know how to ask. But it started slow and simple and fixed and I want to think I’ve gotten better at asking her for the things I need:

Someone to talk to when the world feels like it is going haywire and  you all you want to do is rant or cry or shake your fists in the air because it is November and Atlanta is having a field day with the 70 degree weather.

Someone to venture out of the city with and try to pitch a tent and camp in the wilderness.

Someone who has a great laugh that seems to fuel you.

Someone who is just as wide-eyed and just as unsure but they are on a quest to find beauty, just like you. They are searching for something— maybe just about to scratch the surface— on something they haven’t quite touched yet, just like you.

Maybe that’s what we all need on any given day: a person who just stands besides us and nods their head when we finally get the breath to say, “I don’t understand. I just don’t understand. And I try. And I lose. And I win. And I had it really, really good this one time and I keep trying to fumble my way back to something that doesn’t exist anymore. It’s probably better than it was in that moment but I just don’t know how to see it right now.

And I am trying to pray. And I am trying to be an adult. And I am trying to pay bills. And I am trying to figure out the names I want to go by, the titles I want live inside of. I am trying to figure to figure out how to just be a good human being— and that is hard enough on any given day. 

This whole “I have you then I don’t have you,” “I need you but I don’t know how to keep you,” “I want you but you aren’t for me” thing is hard enough.

Please just stay. I guess I just need to not be left alone right now.”

so there’s a book coming out in March…

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This is just the night talking.

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I just want to be truthful with you.

On this quiet Tuesday night, I want nothing more than to just sit here— my fingers curled around a fresh cup of coffee (I am trying to adjust to this whole ‘getting dark early’ thang — and just lay down the truth, as if you and I were the type of people who had been doing this sort of thing for years.

If you ask me how I am doing in this moment, I have to say one word: “Blessed.” Not in some cheesy way. I am blessed. I don’t always feel it in my core but I also think I need to stop giving my feelings so much credit. I am blessed, even if I don’t always feel blessed. The things around me are good. I live in a beautiful city. I have a beautiful, little home. I get to come to my own office space every single day and create around other creatives. I am working on a second book. The holidays are just around the corner.

And I just need a space— a place to be honest— where I can say that I have grown so much in the last few months. Since starting and finishing my first memoir, since moving to a new place, my heart has grown and broken and reassembled itself and been made new. And so much of that is because of you.

I don’t say that to butter you up. I don’t say that to get more readers. I could honestly care less about readers coming back to a page. I don’t even want readers— I just want the kinds of people in my life who’d show up at a diner at 2am and eat pancakes with me if I needed them there. Are you one of those? Tell me, for real: blueberry or chocolate chip?

I have had the utmost pleasure for the last few years to get to know people all over the world.

It’s like a secret second life I don’t talk about that often but, if you get me going, I will never shut up about it. Ever since I wrote a blog post on October 10, 2010– saying I would write to anyone who needed a love letter– my life has never looked the same. My inbox stopped being an inbox and it became a place to find your stories & triumphs & heartbreaks & songs sitting and waiting for me every single day. I don’t say it often enough but that is my favorite part of this whole thing— getting to read you and know all about you. I seriously gush about you to all the people who circle in my circles. I can’t get enough of the things you tell me. I am strangely (and lamely) like a proud grandmother to all the little victories you drop into my inbox. You email me after first dates. You email me with successful (and terrifying) Tinder stories. You tell me about your broken hearts. I read every word because I know you are out there– you are out there. And even if I can’t see you or sit beside you, I have to be real: I’d give anything to see you if you needed to be seen. My god, I really hope someone sees you tonight.

You know, just to crack my heart open a little further, I got an email a couple of months ago from a girl who told me, flat-out, that she hated me. “I hate you sometimes,” she wrote. “And no, I am not going to choose prettier words the way you always manage to do. It’s my sheer, plain, simple truth: I hate you sometimes.” She hated my fonts. And she hated my references to coffee. More than anything, she hated that I wasn’t real. That she only could get virtual shred of me. She thought I was fake for that reason, that I claimed to see people even though I could not “see” them. There was just so much hatred spewing from her words.

I wrote back to her nearly immediately. I told her she was a really beautiful writer. She had fire inside of her. She should use those words for good because that’s our biggest problem today: we know words have the power to wreck people and we all want the power to be a wrecking ball to someone other than ourselves sometimes. 

I told her what I ache to tell you everyday, face-to-face: I do the best I can with what I’ve been given. And I do my best to show up for people. And I mean every single word that I write in a way that it actually makes me chest hurt because it feels like something is falling out of me. I can’t sit here and try to make you believe that but I would not be doing this if I didn’t feel the dull ache every single day. I feel it. And I know the emptiness. And I just want to do something that counts. And so I take the people God has given me, and I take the blog space I have, and I take the pages before me, and I try to make something beautiful every single day. And I fail myself sometimes. And I don’t feel like I’ve made the mark every single day. But I try.

But she was right, I wanted to tumble so hard into her life. But I couldn’t. I can’t. I want to be everything to everyone– but I can’t be. And if I always try to be, then I will miss the chance to be something to someone. I will miss the sacred chances to be “someone” to just a few. 

You might think it’s silly but I have read thousands of emails — thousands upon thousands.

They are all the proof in the world I need to just stand here in my corner office in Atlanta and tell you what I really think about you: I think you’re brave. I think you’re cooler than you give yourself credit for. I think you’ve been through a lot and you try to play it off like it’s not that big of a deal. It’s a big deal. And hey, it’s okay to cry. I cry about 16,000 times a day. I play this specific commercial to make myself cry. I have a whole folder on my desktop entitled “For when you need to weep, babycakes.” You don’t ever have to be ashamed of crying.

I think you carry around these broken pieces of yourself for too long sometimes. I mean, who doesn’t? And I think some of you are afraid to let someone really wonderful in. Someone who could shake up your entire existence and that scares the living snot out of you. Because changing seems scary. And love seems scary. But fear is not a driver. No, fear cannot sit in the driver seat when it comes to your life. That’s not fair to the parts of you that have always deserved joy & good things & that strange-somersaults-in-your-stomach feeling when you sit beside someone wonderful.

I think you’re a boss. And a baller. And all these other words that you’ll probably just laugh at but I wish you could see it as truth. One of you emailed me a few months ago and you told me he walked away last Tuesday and you feel like the strength came back on Sunday. And another person emailed just to follow up and say, “I beat it. I really beat it.” And cheers to you— you beat cancer. You’re amazing. You’re freaking amazing. I am just so honored to be beside you in these moments, even if it is miles and screens and years and life that keeps us from knocking knees beneath the table.

I think and I know and I believe and I see that some of you are stuck. You are stuck inside of this box that other people have constructed for you. You feel trapped. You feel alone. You wish you didn’t check your phone so much. You wish you were really living but life feels like a waiting room more than anything on most days. You don’t realize the power you hold. You don’t see how capable you are. This isn’t some fluffy, juju pep talk, this is just the honest truth:

You. Don’t. Get. To. Do. This. Again. Really and truly. We don’t get to plan things. We don’t get to say when the time is up. And we wait too long to get brave. We wait too long to gather up the threads of our lives and just call them all gold. Because that’s what you have in your hands right now. You are carrying gold. Your struggles. Your insecurities. Your hopes. Your ambitions. The fire that sits inside of you and burns so hot and you think that no one understands it. But I do. I do understand that feeling.

I know that feeling of being unable to sleep at 2am because everything you want to do is rattling inside of your brain and falling out of your chest because you just want to be seen and known and valued and told that you’re worth it. That you could do it if you tried. And I don’t know how to do much more than just cheer you on in that. Because I do believe in you. I believe in you even if we’ve never met. And my reasoning for that is simple:

Once upon a time, I desperately needed someone to look me in the eye and tell me I was golden. I needed them to tell me that I could go out there and I could do amazing things. It would have never mattered to me if it was a loved one or a stranger, I needed to hear it all the same.

So maybe this is for you (and please know that I write this with everything inside of me): I think you can do it. I am betting all of myself on the fact that you can do it. It will take discipline. It will take a devotion you haven’t tapped into just yet. It will take everything inside of you but I know you can do it. I know you can. And I will show up every minute of every day if it takes just that to push you from that same old spot you’ve been standing in for too long. That same spot, where you never move and you never breathe and you never go, is heartbreaking. Your heart is supposed to be broken like bread and passed all around, not left in pieces on the floor.

I met a girl named Sarah a few months ago at a youth conference I spoke at.

I came off the stage to find Sarah waiting for me. And before I could even catch my breath to say anything to her, she was rattling off every shortcoming she could name. “I’m not good at this… and I hate myself for this… and one time I did this… and it make me feel this way… And I cut last week… And sometimes I don’t think I even want to be here.”

There was this strange sense of awkward insecurity in the way she spoke to me, looking down a lot and fidgeting with her hands, as if she were waiting for me to turn in the other direction and walk away.

Instead, I grabbed her shoulders. I literally pulled her in for a bear hug, of sorts. I drew her in as close as I could. And I just whispered into her ear so that only she and I could hear it, “Sarah, you’re okay. Stop looking for a reason to not be okay. You got up today. You’re right here. You’re okay to me.”

It was this really quiet, grace-filled moment where I was surprised to find I reached out to grab onto her so tightly. And she just broke down into my arms. She was sobbing. And we just sort of rocked back and forth together for a short spell of time. I don’t really know how long we rocked for. I think all the words in the world stopped working for a little while.

And this is the strange part— the really strange part— where I wish, more than anything, that I could just force my arms through this screen and grab you tight. Seriously. I wish that more than anything— that I could just give you enough truth to carry you through this week:

You’re okay. Stop looking for a reason to not be okay. You need to make a step this week. That’s what I need of you— one step. One step that you’ve been afraid to make. One leap that you know is the thing that must come next. I need you to go out there this week and I need you to take that first step.

And then come back to this space and let me know what you did. I want the email. I want the report. I want you to know that someone is in your corner. And, at the very same time, I want you to know you were not made for the corner. It’s time you let that insecurity go.

You’re right here. You. Are. Right. Here. And yes, I know you fight up against the fact that it doesn’t matter, that it wouldn’t really matter if you were gone tomorrow. I think we all fight that sometimes. And I think it would matter. I do think you matter. I think you need to be here now.

hb.

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The book is ready for pre-order!

To my readers,

I’ve written and rewritten this post about a dozen times.

Every time I think I’ve nailed it I sit on the backspace button and start over. My heart is thudding. My lungs are full of breath that I don’t know how to release. I am more nervous than that time Andrew U. asked me to be his girlfriend in the 8th grade and I fumbled to change my relationship status in my AOL profile (yes, I was severely nervous about that one).

I’ve come to the conclusion that I could either dress this post up in really pretty words or I could just come out, bite down hard of my bottom lip, and just say it:

It’s here.

It’s finally, finally here. 

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I am excited to share that my first book If You Find This Letter  (March 10, 2015) is available for pre-order!

Like, today. Like, right now. At all the major outlets where books are sold:

Amazon    B&N   Indiebound   CBD.com   Books a MIllion 

You can order it as a hardcover or ebook.

I’ll be honest: I’ve been crying all week. If you’ve followed along on my book writing journey then you know the truth already: I put my everything into this book. Absolutely everything. And you’re getting all of me when you get this book. It was exhausting & wonderful & a once-in-a-lifetime process to produce this book and I am just now getting the confirmation I prayed for this whole time: It was all so incredibly worth it. Thank you for that. 

So here’s the nitty gritty:

Pre-order sales matter a ton. They show booksellers and publishers that there is interest in what you’ve written. It would mean the world to me if you would preorder a copy of my memoir so that I can keep writing books for all of you. As a thank-you for pre-ordering, I’ll be continuously picking people out of the pre-order pile every month leading up to the release date of the book (March 10, 2015) to meet for half-hour online coffee dates. We will talk life, love, big plans, business, whatever you please! Just you + me + lots of coffee + heart stuff.

You can be eligible for a sweet, little coffee date by sending proof of purchase (a receipt, a screenshot, a selfie with your morning coffee, whatever!) to preorder@hannahbrencher.

And here’s another sweet thang:

I know March is a ways away, but I’ve got another project– a fold-and-mail stationery pad for writing love letters– that hits stores on December 23, 2014. It’s full of fun & funky prompts and it is perfect for the folks who adore snail mail.

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You can snag a copy here.

Sappy little side-note that doesn’t seem to fit anywhere else in this post: 

Each of you has no idea how much I’ve been encouraged by your comments, your tweets, your emails, and letters. Thank you for inspiring me to keep writing and keep pushing. I feel so blessed to have you in this community and I don’t know if I say it nearly enough: thank you for taking me just as I am. You are the gold that makes this whole life good.

hb.

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Stop sleeping with liars.

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First things first, stop sleeping with liars.

Stop crawling into bed at night, pulling the covers over your body, and letting liars hiss inside your ear: you’re unworthy. You’re not good enough. You’re falling short. You’re a burden. You’re alone.  

These liars take up room. They snicker and grow when you give them credit. They hold tight to your ankles. They make you feel like less: less of a lover. Less of a mover. Less of a shaker. Less of a person.  Please– for the love of lovelier things– do not fling away your life and feed it to the liars in your head that tell you you don’t add up.

You need to stop holding yourself back. The pity party must cease and you must de-invite the little liars to your darkest parts. You need to stop thinking you have never deserved good things for your life. 

 

It’s a relentless grind to figure out the point of this life but life is not a puzzle.

It is not a race. It is not a mystery to be solved by human hands. Life is a dance. A hands-all-in, feet-all-in sort-of dance that we start living the second we stop pulling it apart for answers.

And sometimes life (mentioned above) is just too short to buy groceries. Or do the dishes.

We all have a life we didn’t live. It’s there. It exists. It grows with every choice we didn’t make. I want to say the golden spot in all of this is reaching the point where that life you didn’t live can be surveyed without regret.

Not everyone in life is going to care about you, your favorite breakfast foods, or your pet peeves. Don’t even try to make them. Just appreciate those who come into your life and do care.

Find the line– the one single line of poetry or prose or song lyric– you would tattoo to your face. No, really. If someone came up to you and was like, “Today you MUST get a face tattoo,” you should know what pretty little line would inked on your face for all of eternity. If you don’t know yet, go out there and figure it out.

Self-pity doesn’t have an expiration date. That should terrify you.

Keep a diary. A real diary. And write down silly little details like the way his jeans were ripped or how the air seemed to smell on the morning after you two broke. You’ll want the memories later. You’ll never regret that diary on the day you crack it open and get to say, “I wrote it all down. It’s all right here.”

 

We’re all trying.

Really, we are. We all want to matter. We all want to count. We all want to be seen. So there’s your purpose for the day: Want people. Count on people. See people.

Tweets that get stuck in draft form are a sign from God that you weren’t supposed to write them. Don’t send them.

You already know the truth. It sits inside of you like a rock. Give yourself more credit. Stop saying you don’t know. You know. You know. I repeat, You. Know.

Not everything will be okay. And you know what? That’s okay. Sometimes you’re gonna lose. You’ll be a loser. And you’ll join the loser club, just like all of us. And then you’ll win again. It will be great.

Don’t write fear a love song. Fear has never deserved your love songs. 

It’s hard to leave. It’s always going to be hard to leave. It’s like there’s something stitched in our DNA that makes it feel nearly unbearable to let people and places go. But, at the same time, hard stuff is important. And sometimes you know it is time to leave. Don’t deny your feet when they tell you it is time to walk away.

Either life will be an adventure or it will be a waiting room. You pick.

Stop waiting for someone to come along and tell you that you can do something. You can. It’s already within you. You’re getting lapped by the people who never waited on approval. Hustle. It’s a real thing. This is your tough love siren going off in the distance: if you want it, step up. Stop telling yourself weak stories and just step up.

They might not change. You have to be willing to see that. People don’t always change. Even though we want to. The takeaway from that is this: People aren’t projects. They’re just people. We don’t get to fix them. You can’t build a life around an idea of person. You have to build your life around real things. Real and good things.

Write poems. Without rhyming or worry about iambic pentameter. Without judging them. Just write poems because they are groovy. Write poems because life is poetry. We’re the poems.

Drink hot chocolate. Abandon chairs to sit on counter tops. Screw the calorie count every once in a while. Find an author whose words are like truffles for you. Sit on the countertop, drinking hot cocoa, screwing calories, and reading Neruda out loud.

 

Not everyone will be your cheerleader.

Not everyone will understand. Let people think you are crazy. Crazy is a good thing. Wild hearts are necessary.

Stop waiting for someone to come along and tell you’re brave and capable and ready and here. Don’t hitch your life and all your hopes on someone coming along and telling you you’re brave and capable and ready and here. Sometimes people will tell us those things. Sometimes they won’t. Proceed believing in them anyway. You’re brave. You’re capable. You’re ready. You’re here. Do something about it.

Also– you’re human. That’s it. You’re not super human. You’re not subhuman. You’re just plain human. You make mistakes. You don’t scale walls. You hurt people without ever intending to. You get your heart ripped out of your chest. Some days the only language you can endure is tears and you’re like, “I’M SO FLUENTTT IN TEARSSSS. WHATTT ISSSS WRONNGGG WITHHH MEEE???” Like I said, you’re human. Go with it.

There is a time to tell the truth. And then there is a time to do anything but tell someone the truth—you have be so careful over the things you’re willing to let someone carry for the rest of their life.

There is an underlying storyline to all of us. It’s common and it’s overlapping: we all want to belong somewhere. For that very reason—be kind. Be graceful. We are all just trying to make our way home to one another after time on a road that left us tired and wanting for someone to ask us to stay.

Stop waiting for someone to come along and tell you that you can do something. You can. It’s already within you. You’re getting lapped by the people who never waited on approval.

We all have a life we didn’t live. It’s there. It exists. It grows with every choice we didn’t make. I want to say the golden spot in all of this is reaching the point where that life you didn’t live can be surveyed without regret.

 

You’re a vault.

Don’t let anyone tell you different than that. You’re a vault. You’re deep. You’re an onion with all the layers intact. Give yourself that credit. Don’t let people belittle you into acting like you are less than worthy—you are equal to everyone else on this planet.

Suffering is a real thing. I wish I didn’t have to type those words. But it’s real and it is, a lot of times, secret. Be kind to people. You don’t know the secret suffering they take to bed with them every night.

When you reach a point in life where it is nearly midnight and your friend asks you to go on a boat ride– to see the lake at night– you’ll be tempted to weave towards your bed instead. You’ll make some comment about how old you are getting. Hold up. Rewind. Accept the offer. The night will kiss you with stars. You’re gonna feel so small and lovely.

Accepting yourself will prove to be one of the biggest journeys of this lifetime. Pack the bags. Bring the toothbrush. March for the door and go. That journey is worth taking.

We make choices every single day. That’s what we do. Life is just a stacking of yes and no questions. Yes, I want this. No, I don’t. Yes, this is worth it. No, it isn’t. And each choice takes us farther and farther from away from the person we did not end up becoming. You make the choices though. And you get to pick the person who will stand in the rear view mirror. You get to decide if you’ll miss that person you didn’t become or not.

We live in a world where it’s easy to associate being single with missing pieces. That’s a tangled little lie that doesn’t deserve the energy it takes to untie it from itself. Being single doesn’t mean you are missing pieces. Single serves a purpose that has nothing do with the hunt to find someone else. In your own singleness, you can kick some serious ass. Don’t miss the chance.

Be open to criticism. Let it come from the lungs of those who want to see you better and thriving. Guard yourself against haters. In the words of Taylor Swift, the haters gonna hate. It’s up to you to shake it off.

Ban Adele. Not forever. Not for always. But in times when you feel low & down & insecure, Adele doesn’t help the situation. She enlarges the wound with her haunting language of loss. She makes us want to gouge our eyes out with pencils because WE. FEEL. SO. MUCH. If you are fragile right now, pump the brakes on Ms. Angel Pipes for a little while. Find some rap music. Listen to jams that reek of baller-status.

The quest to believe in something is personal and sacred. It’s a battlefield and a pilgrimage, all in one breath. And people will believe in a lot of things: God, boyfriends, altars, plane tickets, the works. It might not be your job to dictate to a person where to go or how to open up their hands. Some people will want your roadmaps. And some people will only want to know that you’re the reliable kind, the kind to stand at the front door with the light on– promising to be there waiting when they find their way home.

 

Love is a severely underestimated word.

We don’t give it enough street cred. That word should have you crawling on your knees in a struggle to just get better with it. You should surround yourself with people who challenge you on that word. What better honor in this lifetime than to be surrounded by people who make you constantly think and say, “My god, I want to learn how to love you so well.”

Turn your whole life into a quest to be good to those people. Like, make your whole life into a quest to figure out how to show up for them. At airports. On birthdays. On days where you know there is a decision lurking around the corner and they’re scared and wondering. Those good people are your people—fight for them.

And again, it’s worth repeating: stop sleeping with liars. 

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My booklist brings all the boys to the yard.

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A lot of readers have asked for my book list. And it kind-of, sort-of existed but it had been a long while since I updated it. In creating this list, I realized something: my day is torn between continuing to build and build upon this list and actually getting work done. I could write about books forever. And I could keep making a list and never be satisfied with my own selections. So I have decided that I will continue to build upon this list as time goes on. I will add categories. I will add new selections. And you can chime in through the comments to help me build upon this list.

Happy reading season!

hb.

 

A little fiction never hurt nobody.

Little Bee: I told my mother I was coming up with a book list and she nearly fell into a fit of rage jumping up and down with fists clenched screaming, “LITTLEEEEE BEEEEEEEEE. RARRRRRRRRRRRRR.” But no, seriously, you need to go read this book and then decide which room in your house you want to redecorate with all the pages. Next week on the blog I will post a tutorial on how to turn Christopher Cleeve’s book pages into wallpaper so that you can drool over it while cooking pasta in the kitchen or brushing your teeth in the bathroom.

Hemingway’s Girl 

Beloved

I Know This Much is True

El Girasol: A restless young woman searching for more finds herself in the arms of a Channing Tatum-esque man who just so happens to own an orphanage in El Salvador. Nuff said.

Plain Truth: Jodi Picoult is the junk of fiction. She does it all right & in an effortless kind of way like, “Oh, I just made your heart fall out of your chest with my ridiculous plot lines. Want another?” So read Plain Truth and then go build a bunker in your local library and camp out with all the books she’s ever written. The Pact is another solid one. And when the security guards come to remove you, scream that you’ve caught the Jodi and you are absolutely incurable. They’ll be sympathetic. I’m sure.

Firefly Lane: This book is perfection for the ones of you that feel like sitting in a pile of your own snot and tears tonight. A great story about friendship that will surely curl close the memories with your own best friends but there is just one thing I recommend: Keep your phone preset to dial 911 for the exact moment that you fall from the couch to the floor and begin choking and hyperventilating over your tears.

The Help: You is kind. You is special. You is important. This book is designated for a day where rain is cluttering the window panes and all your body is screaming for is a hot cocoa with whipped cream on top. These are the kinds of characters you want to pile up in your minivan and drive around town with stopping at various Starbucks to show off what a groovy clan you’ve got. Minnie will want to sit in the front seat, or maybe even drive the minivan. Fair warning.

The messed up sides of you will like these selections.

Gone Girl

Room: Also known as “The book that won’t stir you until page 50 but don’t give up on it yet.” I’ll admit that I stumbled and stammered and almost put the book down but that everything changed when I reached the 50-page mark. You go from barely holding up the book to gripping it tightly, sucking the oxygen from the teeny tiny pages. Twisted plotline. Twisted perspective. So delightfully gripping.

The Virgin Suicides: It took me a while to get into the actual plot of this book… or to distinguish if a plot even existed. But the way the author puts words together is its own form of crack. Like, if we were crack dealers he would probably be the king of us (so many crack references…).

Looking for Alaska

The Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

 

Creative Nonfiction is my crack.

The Year of Magical Thinking: Do you know how ridiculously tough it is for me to even type out that title. I get choked up. I want to retreat far, far away from this computer space to curl up in a corner with Joan Didion’s book and just weep & pour over it. Joan Didion is the loomer or the loomstress or the seamstress (whatever you call it) to literature. She chooses her words carefully & wisely and spins you into a better person because of it.

Me Talk Pretty One Day

The Opposite of Loneliness: This girl is on fire. Period. End of story. Marina Keegan passed away suddenly in a tragic car accident just a few days after she graduated from Yale University. Her writings went wildly viral as a result. Her words are gonna grip you and pull you and rip you apart. And you’re gonna be addicted to what she left behind.

Reading Lolita in Tehran

The Diary of Helene Berr

On Writing: a memoir of the craft: Three words: “Kill your darlings.” For any writer, this is the stuff… The. Stuff.

 

Lady Friends to Travel With.

Wild: You knew I couldn’t make a list without mah girlzzzzz– Cheryl and Liz. This book made me want to pack a backpack (quickly), invest in hiking boots, and then haul on over to the Pacific Northwestern Trail. Get ready for a good journey, babycakes.

Tiny, Beautiful Things: This. Just this. I can’t say much more. This book is my designated “I give it to every single friend going into any sort of life transition” book. I can’t type much more than that… I swoon.

Bread & Wine

Never Have I Ever: This memoir is hilarious and unbelievably relatable. This is the kind of narrator you hope to have always– one who writes to you as though you both are sitting down to coffee, retelling every detail. Pick it up and laugh. Hard.

Eat, Pray, Love: This book is a classic in my book. My loyalties are pinned to it. I will never deviate. Liz Gilbert is my favorite writer, hands-down. And this book brought me through a number of monumental things– break-ups, starts of new semesters, transitions, and my own book-writing journey.

Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dress: I read this book when I was 14-years-old. It made me want to be a hysterical writer. Susan Jane Gillman is the kind of gal you want to go traveling with. She is honest. She is brave. She. Is. Brilliant.

 

Dat dude upstairs.

Blue Like Jazz: I am still quite certain that there will come a day when Don Miller and I are sipping sweet tea out at the front of a wraparound porch. The man is genius. I’ve never had a single tempting to get a tattoo but some of his sentences are just so sticky that I think I want to ink them on my body in a forever sort of way. All of Don’s stuff is pure goodness. A Million Miles in a Thousand Years is another one I highly recommend, especially if you are beginning to wonder the purpose within your little bones.

Traveling Mercies: If God were to grant me a small pocket of time to be Tyra Banks and judge this book as it strutted down the runway, I’d say something so Tyra-like, “Fierce. This book… all its pages and stories and plots within… all of it is FIERCE.”

Help, Thanks, Wow. 

One Thousand Gifts: If grace could grow pages and a spine, it. would. look. like. this. book. Beautiful language. And a beautiful thought process living on the page. There is no possible way that you will turn away from this book not being better or stronger in your walk with God.

The Hiding Place

When we were on fire. 

Speak.

Where the Heart Waits: Not to be confused with “Where the Heart Is” about the girl who gets pregnant and delivers a baby in Wal-Mart. I am a mega fan over any ink that Sue Monk Kidd places down on a page. This book is perfect for anyone going with a dark period with God.

Tables in the Wilderness: This book isn’t due out until October but I got to read an advanced copy and Preston Yancey delivers a moment that body slams you and your current state of spirituality. I love this boy something fierce and I know this is just one of what will be many, many books from him.

Radical: This book should be renamed. To something like, “Hi, My name is David Platt. And I am going to smack you in the face with truth. And it’s gonna be uncomfortable. And maybe you will move to Africa when you are done reading… TBD.”

 

Young Adults are Underestimated.

Hunger Games: I don’t care what a single individual says: These. Books. Are. Awesome. Sauce. And Rue’s whistle is my current ringtone. Read the first one and you’ll suddenly find yourself dropping off the face of the planet to read all three. They are addicting so please, only start these books on a week when you don’t have engagements to attend. And let me know if you want to put in an order for a t-shirt that reads, “Real Men Bake Cakes” from my one day, some day clothing line.

The Book Thief: If this book were actual crack then I would be a junkie in a heartbeat. I don’t know what more to say than this book needed to be read by you yesterday. Go, child. GO.

The Fault in our Stars

The Perks of Being a Wallflower: This ain’t because More Love Letters is sitting pretty at the back of the new book (wink) BUT the story in general is one that will yank you back to your high school shoes and all you ever felt about fitting in and wishing to be infinite for a little while. A real coming of age story that shakes and stirs at any age or angle.

 

Sometimes I wish Seth Godin was my daddy (and other things you’ll say after reading these business books).

Start Something That Matters: Blake, the founder of the TOMS movement, tells a compelling play by play of all the nuts & bolts behind a grassroots movement turned global. I reference this little ditty often with More Love Letters and it is perfect beyond perfect for anyone that wants to dig into business but is allergic to numbers and case studies.

Quitter: This book was a major player in helping me find the courage and the resources to quit my day job. Jon Acuff is smart and spewing with know-how when it comes to the topic of living out your passion in a remarkable way. I would recommend this book to anyone-a-n-y-o-n-e- who is looking to be humored and inspired and challenged, all at the same time.

The Firestarter Sessions: I worked with Danielle Laporte for six months, once upon a time. And everyday was as inspiring as this book. It’ll kick you in the pants. It will drive you to new levels. And it will touch on a topic you probably need to face: FEAR. Plus, it’s really, really pretty and bright orange so it’s a great addition to any bookshelf just for its aesthetic.

Tribes

GirlBoss

If You Have to Cry, Go Outside: One of my favorites. PR Master Kelly Cutrone spits truth about the hustle. Be warned– it’s brutally honest and candid but you’ll learn a lot. She’s kind of like a merciless big sister.

The War of Art 

Essentialism: I have been on this wicked crazy rampage as of lately… One where I want to cut all the excess out of my life and just start fresh. This book is basically that idea, but in business format. Get ready to cut, cut, cut the junk out of your life.

Manage Your Day-to-Day: I don’t know if this book is available as more than an e-book but I got my copy for $2.99 or some absurdly cheap price. Which is crazy, considering it helped me completely restructure my day and squeeze the maximum amount of productivity out of me.

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P.S. I miss you.

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To my readers,

I am learning a lot as of lately. For one, I am learning that I am not a octupus. And that’s a real shame. I want eight arms. More than that, I want to do everything. An extra six arms would do me a lot of good. I’d be able to write and dream and think and plan and create and cook and shop and do an excessive amount of “more things” with the extra capacity that would exist from six more arms. Sadly, I wake up every single morning being just one girl. One girl with two arms who wants to take on the world.

So this isn’t really a post, per say. And it’s not an apology letter, I promise. It’s just a quick note to some of my favorite folks scattered across the world to say: Hey. I miss you. And I am coming back to this space really soon. I have all these ideas tumbling around in my head for new content. I can’t wait to write about faith, and falling, and failing, and freeing yourself, and fumbling, and all these “f” type verbs that I didn’t realize all started with the letter “f” until now.

I went back and forth with my mother on the phone this morning about whether I’d write this post or not.I was trying to juggle my iced espresso, cellphone, bag, laptop case, and planner— all while thinking about you.

I’ve felt guilty for leaving this space unoccupied for nearly two weeks. You know that kind of guilt? You wake up with it. You go to bed with it. You listen to Taylor Swift’s new song and it falls off of you for ten minutes. And then it comes back, this evil little hissing: you should be writing. You should be writing.

I’ve been all over the country in the last two weeks and I kept saying to myself in Seattle and Tacoma and Portland and LA, “I am going to sit down and write. I am going to sit down and publish something.”

And I didn’t.

I guess sometimes you publish things. And sometimes you just live. You break all the little rules you’ve made for yourself and you just live.

So if this were a summer camp letter then I’d have a lot to say. For instance, I visited this massive gum wall in Seattle and got to leave a pretty sweet note (see above). I mean, it was a wall. Full of gum. And I thought it was awesome. I put my feet in the Pacific Ocean for the very first time and had a Britney Spears Crossroads moment (please, someone get my reference). I sat down in a coffee shop in Seattle with two readers that, I would say, are as diehard as they come. And one of them waited until I was sitting, until I’d taken the first sip of my latte, to start talking.

“Can I ask you something I’ve wanted to ask you for a long time?”

“Anything,” I answered. I’m an open book like that.

“What’s your dad like? You never write about your dad.”

So I got to sit there, with a pretty dang good latte pursed in my hands, and tell her about the sweetest man I know. I don’t write about him much here. He’s a soft-spoken sort of guy. You’d say my mother is the hurricane and he’s just always been that rock. I got to tell her that I hope to marry a man one day who is half of my father. Half of my father would be more than enough for me. By the way, his name is Bill. And you’d be lucky to know him if you knew him.

I got to sit at a countertop in the middle of Eugene, Oregon and finally catch up with a really good friend— you know the kind of catching up where all the pauses in the conversations get filled with “I’ve really missed you. I am so happy to be here.” I got to attend the Yellow Conference and meet so many of your beautiful faces. And I got to have one of those surreal “pinch me” moments when I realized that I’m not just a writer. Somehow, somehow, a community has formed here. In this space. And we’ve done life together. You and me, we’re connected in ways I could not even imagine. I get to cheer for you and that’s the coolest honor.

“I think I am just going to write a short post,” I told my mom this morning. “I just want to say that I miss them. Because I do.”

“Then say that,” my mom said back. “But don’t be sorry.” Now that my mother knows I’ve lived a past life as an apology note, she won’t let me go back there any longer.

So that’s just it, the actual reason I wrote this letter: I miss you. And I think about you a lot. And I just want to be the type of person who, when she misses someone, goes out of her way to tell that person they are missed.

So yea, I miss you. I feel really lucky. And I am coming back soon. 

hb.

P.S.

If you want to write back in the comments below and tell me about your summer, I will be reading. I’d love to hear from you.

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A “life is so fragile and quick” kind of letter.

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I used to think I would live a really short life.

I mean, I used to spend so much time wondering about funerals, and eulogies, and people slipping through my fingers when I was younger that I wondered if I’d die young. I couldn’t picture the white of my own wedding day. I never envisioned the texture of my children’s hair. I guess I wondered if that mean’t I would live a shorter life.  If some tragedy would happen to me. If I’d be here one day and gone the next.

I know that’s morbid. It’s not the way to start a letter but the news told me yesterday that life was fragile. And a funeral told me last week that time is kind of like scratch-off tickets: you win sometimes but most of the time you’re just gambling.

My mind winds back to you and I, sitting in the middle of a driveway and I couldn’t quite pin down the words to describe how my hands were shaking. August was the queen that night, her humidity hissed and tangled through my hair. We set down a blanket. Laid on top of it. Laughed under stars. You’d brought a boombox to sit between us, weaving the power cord all the way from the garage so you and I could hear love songs play on the radio. Delilah-style. Just like old times. Before we knew we were capable of changing and wanting different things.

Everything around me in that moment seemed to tell me, “You are getting older but you’re still so young.”  I’m sorry, I haven’t figured how to stand in the chasm of that space yet. 

You see, I want to go and do and be. I want to fill my life with action verbs. But I’m still human and I’m still fearful. I’m still the one who whispers to herself at night, “Don’t dream too big. Don’t fly too high.”  I’m scared of rejection. Of things I can’t see. Even though every quote on Twitter tells me to seize life like a lover in the airport, I am still fearful of a life where I fail. I’m still always wondering what it would be like to stand in the middle of a crowded room and be the one not chosen, the one no one ever asks to dance.

So that’s why I am writing this. Because even if I am fearful, there is much to say. And it’s selfish to let my insecurities speak louder than my love. I don’t care if my life is big or grand or short or long, I just want to make sure I told you everything when I had you. I don’t want fear to be the pilot, flying an airplane full of unsaid words. 

First thing I’d like to say: I tried. I tried so incredibly hard to be good. I know it’s always up for debate as to whether humans are “good” or not, but I know I never wasted a day without trying to be the best I could possibly be. It didn’t always work out that way. And a lot of times I was way harder on myself than I needed to be. But I tried. I tried to love you right.

I hope you know I always tried to look up at you. I tried to look away from the screen. I tried to smell the flowers and hear the rain. I tried to feel life, and feel feelings, and cry when life pushed it out of me. I tried to place myself in situations where my palms would still get sweaty, and life would still surprise me, and people would still break me. I mean, I didn’t want for people to break me but I’m learning that’s just half of our existence: being broken by people who tried to love us right and dancing in the redemption that comes with putting the pieces back together. 

I tried to stay hopeful. I tried to say the right things and not let anger speak first. I tried to believe in angels and forgiveness. I tried to believe in people: always, and constantly, and first.

I tried to constantly be this better version of myself even though I look back and think I should have just let myself “be” sometimes. I should have left my eyebrows intact in the 8th grade. I shouldn’t have given myself those bangs in the 5th grade. I didn’t always need to be a better version— sometimes I just needed to tolerate the person I woke up as that morning.

I mean, evolving is good. Learning is good. Becoming better is better. But there could have been the nights where I ate the ice cream, and took off my shoes to feel the sand, and just decided to speak or not speak. There should have been the days where I didn’t start the argument, where I didn’t need to be right, where I wasn’t so cold just because you hurt me and I thought “getting even” was a strategy. There should have been nights where I left you and nights where I didn’t leave you. I’m sorry if I never held your hand when you needed it more than whatever words I said to try to fix the things that only God could touch. 

People say “have no regrets.” To me, that’s just silly. I have regrets. I live inside those regrets sometimes. And if it weren’t for those regrets, I wouldn’t know how to make my whole life run smoother. And kiss people harder. And squelch my pride. And say things while I have people standing right in front of me. And not say things when I know words said selfishly have the power to keep two people standing in one place forever.

That’s the other thing I’ve learned as of lately: people aren’t things. You can’t keep them. You can’t control them. You can’t get mad at life when it takes away all your precious pawns. You can’t make a museum out of who a person is today, that never gives anyone the freedom to become someone different tomorrow.

I think back on that night when we were sitting on the bed, facing the white wall. The night with the beer bread. And I wish I found the way to whisper out the truth to you, “You could be a different person overnight if you wanted to be. I’m just so afraid you’ll let Plan B fit you.”

I’d like to go back and say that to you— you and all the “you”s I have in this world. Plan B doesn’t fit a single person I love. I won’t care any less or more if you choose that path but I just see so much potential for people that it breaks my heart. I see their possibility. I see their goodness. And maybe my friends tell me I am too hopeful but I’d rather see what you’re capable of then be the one who gives up on you when you just needed someone to stand beside you and help you claim the bright things for your life.

So this it. My end of the world my letter. My “God forbid” letter. My “this life is so fragile and quick” letter. And it’s just a lot of hopes I’d like to place in an envelope and tuck in your mailbox: Hope that you’ll say the hard things. That you’ll make the tough choices. That, when life tries to make a leader out of you, you won’t shy away.

Your heart is credible, so listen to it speak. Life is messy: choose to laugh at that instead of cry. Keep people’s feelings at the forefront of your mind but don’t always sacrifice what you want for making other people happy— sometimes you have to make yourself happy.

Don’t search so hard for this happiness thing. People will make you feel like it’s the sort of thing you uncover with a metal detector or a shovel or a magnifying glass. Happiness is tiny glimpses of “okay”ness slipped into the ordinary days. It is cool drinks. And bare feet. And sunburn that looks gracious and kind-of beautiful on your shoulders. Happiness is barely ever big or boisterous, the thing that comes traipsing into the room to make a big scene. Happiness is microscopic on most days, it flows in and out of your daily life. And, on the days when happiness isn’t there, don’t bully yourself so hard: remember we had so many grey days that one vacation with the yellow shovels… funny how I remember the grey days best.

You might never feel ready for the world. Or for other people. Or for someone who wants to hold your hand. Maybe ready isn’t the point. Maybe we get so consumed with the “finished products” and the “ready moments” of this lifetime that we forget real life was just quiet moments we never fully enjoyed. Instagram swept all the mystery away with a filter.

Just choose life. Just choose the people around the table instead of always choosing the ones who are miles away waiting on you to double tap their photos. They’ll be there when you turn back to the screen.

Choose who you have right here, right here. It’s precious. It’s urgent. When they ask you to go get margaritas after dinner, go without reserve. You can buy groceries the next day. Choose long drives. Choose screaming Taylor Swift at the top of your lungs. Choose saying “yes” to dates, even if you don’t know if they’re “the one.”  I guess I just want to beg you to let people in. Welcome them in. Just let people hold your hands and buy you dinner. Let them compliment your smile. Let yourself feel beautiful for five minutes.

Choose dishes left in the sink for nights beneath the stars. Choose random chats in Target with the cashier. Choose using people’s names more often than you don’t. Choose slow dancing in the kitchen.

Remember to give people the decent shot they deserve— you said it yourself, you’re always so hopeful people will take a chance on you.

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The devil, the fighter, and Jimmy with his roses.

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My Uncle Jimmy died on Saturday.

I found out about it on Sunday morning while roaming through a random Target in the middle of Greensboro, North Carolina. I was trying on shoes I didn’t need when the call came through. My mother told me they were taking the ferry to Long Island the next day. One shoe was on. One shoe was off. Looking like Cinderella in a maxi dress with combat boots, I found out he was gone.

That’s the weird thing about losing someone— you expect everyone around you to stop what they’re doing. You expect them to get it. You expect them to put down the shoeboxes and stop surveying the hairspray that give the most volume. You just expect everyone to be still for a few minutes. That’d be nice.

And it would also be nice to walk up to the cashier, the one with the bright red shirt, and say to her, “You get it, right?” It would be nice for her to nod her head and then you’d get to tell her that your favorite memory with Uncle Jimmy happened when you were a sophomore in college. Twenty years old. You were so taken at the time by a boy who read you Walt Whitman poetry as the rest of the world lay sleeping.

It was America’s birthday. You wore a bedazzled dollar store crown made out of tacky red, white & blue parts. You knew it looked stupid but you didn’t really care because your aunt wore one too. And Uncle Jimmy told you that when he saw his wife for the first time, he knew he would marry her. She probably would have begged to differ— she was younger than him by a few years and hardly even knew he existed. He showed up one day with a dozen yellow roses, anxious to hand them off to her. She looked at them for a second, said thank you, threw the roses on a nearby picnic table and ran off to be with her friends. Still, he knew it was her. She would be his girl one day.

That was your favorite story of Uncle Jimmy’s— how he knew it was time to fight for what he wanted. And it was the first story you ever told yourself on repeat when you needed a reminder that some things in life are worth fighting for.

I’ve wanted to write about fighting for things for a while now.

It’s been sitting restlessly on my to-do list just like that, “Write about fighting for things.” But I didn’t really know what to say. Honestly, I still don’t. Every time I go to type something there is this little whisper that hisses inside my head, saying, “Telling me people to go after what they want is selfish. What if they can’t? What if you are filling people with false hope?”

And so I’ve stayed quiet. And I’ve shut up. And I’ve realized, in the days that have drawn in all around me, that not talking about fighting for things is a lot easier than coming outright and telling someone: hey, there is something I’ve always wanted— a job, a different grace, a crazy dream. I want it so bad it keeps me up at night. Is that selfish of me? Is it okay with the world if I still want it, even if I’ve already told myself no?

That’s often the anchor that pulls me down. It isn’t always others. It isn’t always the circumstances. It’s mostly myself. And spoon-feeding myself with the idea that I am not worthy enough, I am not good enough, I am not smart enough. There is someone out there who always gonna be so much more “enough” than me. That person will be the one to get the things I want. 

Even in writing this, I’m afraid of the ways you might be sitting off somewhere thinking to yourself, “but you don’t know the way life has broken my heart.” You’re right. I don’t. And I can’t say that life won’t break your heart a million times more. It probably will. It’s heartbreaking to hear the words “you didn’t get it” and “I’m sorry” and “try again next year.” I get that. 

But then why is there still a whisper that speaks against my mess? Why do I still hear something saying, louder & deeper than my hesitations: You’re still standing here. So it isn’t over yet. What you want is worth fighting for. Please don’t miss out on one of the most worthwhile things of this lifetime: the fight. The struggle. The battle for what is most worth it to you. 

The first time I wrote about Uncle Jimmy and the yellow roses was in 2010.

Around Valentine’s Day over four years ago. It was about true love. It was terribly bad writing. I thought everything in life was simple and you could tie it all up in some pretty white bow. I sat in the parking lot of Target on Saturday morning and reread the words out loud of that post out loud. And I laughed because I was a completely different human. I probably would have never had the courage to say boldly enough back then: you’re worth fighting for. 

But I remember that Uncle Jimmy got a hold of that first piece of writing. And he kept it with him for a long time, a folded up piece of printer paper with my words on it. And he let people read it. And he let strangers and doctors and the cleaning lady know I was out there in the world trying to be a writer. His niece’s daughter— trying to be a writer.

I remember him being really proud of me. And I remember how that feeling— that feeling like someone wanted to claim you because they were just so proud of you— meant everything to me. It kept me fighting to become a writer- a real writer. And he didn’t know it, and I didn’t know it, but two years later I would quit my job for a dream. My safe, secure job. It would happen instantly after months of praying. One day I would be sitting across from a mentor in the industry and I would watch her mouth the words to me, “If you don’t go for this now, while the steam is here, I am afraid you will forget how to go for it at all.”

That would be enough. It would be enough to mobilize me to march into my supervisor’s office that next Monday and quit my job.

And, just as I was ready to announce my six weeks notice, all the power in the entire building would go out. And I would be standing there, wondering if it was a sign from the universe that I shouldn’t be quitting. Friends, I was so terrified. I mean, I was trembling and shaking and thinking all these ugly thoughts in my head: you can’t do this. You can’t possibly make this work. You want to be a writer? Cool. Funny. Awesome. Good luck.

As everyone around me proceeded to pack up their things and leave work for the day at 2pm– thrilled to know half of the tiny town in Connecticut was having an unexpected power outage– I stayed in the doorway of my boss. I told her I had to say something, even in the dark. I could not leave until I said something.

And when it was over, I got into my car and I cried big, thick, “I am so fearful” tears. I remember Florence & the Machine coming on the radio. Just this one line pumping through the speakers: And it’s hard to dance with a devil on your back. So shake it off.

In the 30 seconds it took to say out loud– I am leaving this job at the start of July— I did not become a different person. I didn’t become a fearless person. I was still me. I still cared too much. I still fell for strangers. I still misjudged the amount of mexican food I could handle. I still messed up (a lot) and failed (a lot) in the years to come. That was actually the first day of what would turn into a daily battle, a daily fight to live inside of a dream job I wanted for myself. And it would be tears. And sweat. And doubt. And judgement. And Yes. And No. And fighting in the face of maybe not getting what I wanted after all. And having to be okay with that. 

But my mind was made up. And I did give up the devil that day in the car. I did decide that I was going to build a life out of words, no matter how crazy that seemed to admit out loud. I had an Uncle Jimmy moment. And I think him and I could agree on this: fighting for what you want won’t always make you a new person. And it won’t guarantee some red carpet or some dream coming true. You won’t always get the job. You won’t get the girl. You might not get picked. But maybe you will. And maybe “winning” or “getting it” or “arriving” has never been the point. Maybe we just came down here to learn how to be relentless, little fighters & good keepers of one another. I don’t know much but I know this: so much of life is worth the fight. You are never wrong to want to fight for the things that make you come alive. 

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Field Notes: Vol. 3

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Digital to-do list. Best app I’ve seen.

Commissioned this gal for a painting & I cannot gush about her work enough. Big plus: She’s a gem-and-a-half.

For the people who wanna do something.

Fitness blogger in NYC. This girl dominates my heart.

Girl power.

On a keychain binge.

You need to read everything she’s ever written. Specifically this. She’s my new favorite person. Place. Thing. Blog. Whatever.

You asked where I got my sweet leopard kicks.

But really… the best ever.

Sharpen up, babycakes.

Are you “that” person who sends too many emails too late at night? Game changer.

Best friend found this yesterday. Easily watched it a dozen times. Just for giggles in the middle of your workday.

Here’s to many hopes your weekend will be filled with lots of waffles & late night banter & chick flicks. Fill me in on your beautiful weekend! Got any good plans? Any sweet parties I can crash?! 

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