Category Archives: Uncategorized

Field Notes: Vol. 2

large

You asked me where I got my planner. This is the promise land.

Get ready to die & go to script heaven. Kal be the real deal. Fo sheezy.

If you wanna fall in love with an Atlanta blogger… meet Folly.

This sermon. Ummm… hello.

Pucker up. This is the right sort of crack for your lips. I’ve pinned my loyalties.

Mostly, I wanted to thank him for insisting I could be happy.

Adorable products. Andddddd… you get to send sweet little munchkins to school.

This is the best print ever created.

This TED talk is hilarious. But it’s great for the singles.

I’ve been sneaking these into all my packages lately. Especially the yellow ones.

Here’s to many hopes your weekend will be filled with lots of pillows & hammocks & Frank Sinatra ballads & old classic novels. Pretty please, if you have good suggestions to be featured through “Field Notes” then send my way ((hannah@hannahbrencher.com)).

(( photo cred. ))

1 Comment

Filed under Field Notes, Uncategorized

Riding in lifeboats with ghosts.

2706756c533cb442f486976e619a4345

With permission, I have posted the email below.

Afternoon Hannah,

I’m moving to Athens, GA in three weeks. I know absolutely no one. I’m taking out a loan to start graduate school after I worked so hard to pay my way through undergrad to be debt free. And I’m going into a field I’m not 100% sold out on. And when I leave this Texas town that I’ve called home for the past four years I’m leaving behind my best friend. Only, he doesn’t realize it. He ended our relationship right after graduation in May because he doesn’t have his life figured out and cannot ask me to wait around. We were friends before we ever dated and have remained friends even after. But for whatever reason, the guy who shared my common desire to talk deep things and look beyond the surface level, he isn’t that person anymore…not with me anyways.

And that’s the thing. I woke up one morning in June and realized that I’m going to be okay. I’m ready to move on and let go. And I’m so excited to venture into the unknown. But like how a ticking clock ‘s tick becomes louder when you start to listen, this nagging in the back of my mind still remains. He was my friend…and still should be. The world awaits for me and I see him settling for mediocrity. Staying where it’s comfortable. And I’m torn. What if I’m the one person who can speak into him? Should I? People are happy that I’m ready to move on. Heck I feel pretty good about myself too. But I can’t watch him sink in the clear water of conventionalism while muddy challenges are meant to be seized. What do I do with someone who always asked me to hold them accountable, talks of appreciating those who are willing to say the hard things? Am I crossing the line? I’m supposed to be “letting go”. I don’t know if this is the right thing to do and I don’t know if anyone else would do it. I don’t even know if he would receive it.

But I have two-ish more weeks. I’ll see him at church and when we go visit the old lady we’ve been seeing every Friday night for the past two years. And then August 4th will come and he won’t see me again. And he doesn’t even realize what he’s losing (at least it appears that way).

Any words?

Future Georgia Newbie


Dearest J–

I have this friend from Atlanta who thinks we all have ghosts. That is exactly how he said it to me one night as we were driving through the mountains of north Georgia: “We all have ghosts.”

“Mine has green eyes,” I told him. I didn’t even flinch. I knew exactly what he meant. I knew I was guilty of my own ghost hosting— keeping someone around to haunt my memory. Finding threads of him in love songs. Dwelling on the “what if.” Letting the “what might have been” rock me to sleep at night. 

People notice when you have a ghost. Not always but usually. Some people see it quicker because they have their own ghosts.

And while I’m not an expert or a ghost buster, I think a ghost gets born out of a constant wish that maybe you and another person might have more to say to each other. Like maybe you never reached the point of finally saying everything. And maybe, just maybe, if you can manage to keep a person in your orbit or your memory a little while longer then you’ll never have to face the real truth: you can’t fix everything. You are a human. Not a fixer. Not a maker. Not a lifeboat with enough seats to save a slew of green-eyed boys if you needed to. 

I’ll write that again: You’re aren’t a lifeboat.

There is a savior mentality stitched into most of us. We want to save. We want to fix. Because thinking we can be saviors and lifeboats is so much easier than letting go of someone we learned how to love with our whole body.

And this guy probably doesn’t need saving. I could be wrong but I think I might be right. You just want different things and that’s hard to swallow. Maybe you two are the pretty, yellow parallel lines in the middle of the roadway— you’re both going somewhere but you might not touch again. 

And I only say all of this because I used to think I was a lifeboat and I used to (wrongly) think the whole world— my family, my town, my friends— were for my saving purposes. There was a harsh little wakeup call waiting for me around the corner of that prideful purpose I’d given myself: Not everyone wants what you want. And not everyone wants to save the world. Some people want air. Some people want a family. Some people want dreams they can’t even touch. Calling is different for everyone but the mistake is made when we start thinking the way we measure our own success defines what other people’s mediocrity looks like. 

You want something different for that guy of yours. You might be willing to fight for it, struggle for it, and claw for it. But, sadly, that doesn’t mean you’ll win out for him in the end. He has to want to win himself. And we don’t get to put our own definitions of “winning” onto someone else. 

It took me a long time to stand in this space of believing all of this for myself. I wasted a lot of time telling a love story that always ended the same— that green-eyed boy never went back to who he used to be. I really should correct that for all my years I said it wrong. While it’s true he never went back to who he used to be, I really should have been saying something different all those years, “He never became who I wanted him to be. And that’s the expectation I should have never put on him, this expectation that he was supposed to please me with his becoming.”

One random Saturday night in college I met a boy at a party.

I was two years into having a ghost with green eyes. This guy was tall. He was Irish. I think for five minutes I thought about how Irish our babies would be. I was just happy he wanted to talk to me. You know that feeling, it’s just really nice to feel like the center of someone’s universe within a sea of red solo cups. I liked the way he leaned his head against the door frame and watched me talk. We left the party holding hands. I remember there was this strange fog that seemed to sit in the air that night, as if there was some sort of shelf we couldn’t see holding that fog at eye level. We got to the spot where our paths split and he kissed me at the bus station. I wasn’t really used to kissing strangers but I liked the way his eyes looked when they were on me.

And then he pulled back and stared at me.

“Someone hurt you really badly in the past,” he said. “I can see it in your eyes. I’m sorry.”

He released me from his grip. “I don’t want to be that guy to you but, if we keep this going, I will be.” 

At that exact moment, Joey Potter and Dawson jumped out from the bushes and screamed, “YOU’VE BEEN PUNK’D!!!!!!” 

No, that didn’t really happen. Not the Dawson and Joey part. But yes, he said those words. And yes, you are right, I think he was probably hiding the fact from me that he wrote the scripts to Emmy award-winning dramas when not in biology class. I mean, those are Dawson’s Creek words. 

I winced when he said that because I already knew the ghost standing in my own eyes. And I wanted so badly for the ghost to release me. 

I turned to walk away from him. I trudged up the hill to my apartment with tears in my eyes. I pulled my laptop out off of my desk when I got back to my room and I started to type a letter to him— the ghost. I wish I could remember all the words but I know somewhere in there I said what needed to be said for the last few years: I had expectations for you. And you didn’t meet them.

It had always been his fault to me until, in that moment, it wasn’t any longer. It was no one’s fault: We loved one another once. And then life brought us in different directions. And we would both be okay. He just wasn’t mine. I just wasn’t his. And maybe a ghost gets born on the day you can’t accept the hardest fact: someone else will love them, someone else will love them in a way you know you can’t. 

And then it was over, J. Like that. It was over when I finally found the final words. I still thought of him, yes. I still found him in random songs, yes. But I let go when the truth tumbled out of me: you can’t always love someone how you hoped to after they choose to become someone other than who you thought they’d always be.

Some people call that forgiveness. Other people call that closure. Sometimes it’s just letting go. Letting someone off the hook you built for them. Final words shift the atmosphere though. 

If it’s going to kill you to not say something to him then say it.

Maybe write a letter. Send it or don’t send it. But try your hardest to find final words for this because your mind is already made up on certain truths that trump your hope to keep you both standing in one place: you’re going away. You’re starting something exciting and new. It’s gonna be good. You don’t love him the way you used to. You both have different callings. The past is a square tin box that looks smaller every time we go back to it. But no, it isn’t your job to try to fit yourself inside of it.

And as for that boy not seeing what he is losing? I guess we don’t know. But you should take the inventory when you walk away for good. You should know exactly what anyone in this world loses when you walk out of the room– not in a prideful way or a boastful way, just in a “you’re kind of awesome” sort-of way.

So here’s the inventory, the thing you get to pack when you head over to Georgia come August 4th: You’re whole. You’re doing this. You’re gonna be okay. You’re ready. That’s the big one: you’re ready. And after the “ready” comes the “set.” And after “set” comes “go.” So take the ready in your fists and make the set, J. And when you make the set, be sure to go. I guess that’s all that is left to say: You’re ready to go– without all the lifeboats and without all the ghosts.

hb.

I would appreciate if we could keep the conversation going for J. Please post a comment of blessing, a lesson, a mini love letter. Whatever you please. She is reading and I know she would appreciate it too.

58 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Make me come undone.

6b11f5d4dd100dd3acf87a4ec9d1f79e

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. ” 

 

16 Comments

Filed under The Tough Stuff, Uncategorized

Rebuilding.

bc8c65e8e4df4a8a26233e7264643e6c

I have an announcement to make: 

Atlanta does brunch.

I mean, it really does brunch. In a no-mess-around, we-do-this-thang-dirty sort of way. I learned this yesterday. I get to report it as truth, as if I am some “brunch expert” that gets paid to eat eggs and smoked salmon (I wish) on the regular.

“I’m a New Yorker,” I said into the menu when he & I first sat down. “And this is actually terribly intimidating.”

The heavy brick lettering bulged off the page with options of grits and biscuits and french toast. You see– we, New Yorkers, are prideful of our brunches. I can just admit that. Brunch is like a second religion in New York. We’re territorial over our bottomless mimosas and honey-glazed challah bread and I often have to go Hunger Games-style on anyone who tries to tell me they “brunch” in other cities. Call it a character flaw but there was literally this edging sense of competition within me while waiting for the food come out. I was ready to compare. I was ready to slam down over waffles.

Friends– it wasn’t until the bacon drizzled in brown sugar was gone off the plate and the cups that once held honey vanilla lattes were sucked dry and lounging empty on the table that I realized you can’t really compare the two cities when it comes to brunches. It’s like trying to compare classical music to jazz. One has a funk. The other has a familiar feel. Each is beautiful unto it’s own style. Sometimes you just have to just bite your bottom lip and admit: I can take both. There is room in my life for both.



All this to say, brunch is just one of the many things that I am finding a hard time drawing a comparison between here and where a map would claim my home was located one week ago.

I’m a week into the south. I am a week in and comparison is really doing me no good. It’s all just different. Really different. It’s different to be surrounded by people you don’t know. It’s different to have to use a GPS for everything and feel helpless at the hands of Siri (she doesn’t even have hands, I don’t think). It’s different to suddenly have all these quiet, hollow moments where nothing can distract you long enough before something inside of you starts panting, “What am I doing? What am I seriously doing here? I know I wanted to be here. I said I wanted to be here. But why? What is really here? There’s no comfort here. There’s no ease here. Why do I have to start over? Why must I rebuild?”

That’s what we never plan for. We plan for growth. We plan (and hope) for acceptance. We plan for abundance. We plan for friends. We plan for adventure. But we don’t sit down and plan to rebuild. There’s that human thing inside of us that shies away from even the existence of the word “rebuilding’ because it’s just a hard thing. Seriously, everything about rebuilding feels hard. And I guess the human thing to do when the topic comes up is just put up our hands and say out loud, “Enough hard things. I don’t need another one.”

But those whispers are creeping in more and more as I get settled into a new home and I start to slowly understand that the suitcases must stay unpacked. Why do I have to rebuild? Why do I have to rebuild? Why do I have to rebuild?

 

I was standing in the middle of a beautiful church just this Sunday.

Like, really beautiful. Like, if you could mash the feelings you get when you hear Mumford & Sons together with the visuals from an Anthropologie catalog and call it “church”– it was that kind of simple-beautiful. And I wanted to take everything in but I kept looking at the stage and wishing I was back in a place where I knew the people with the pretty voices and I could call them “friend.” I kept wishing I was back in a place where you’d naturally feel someone put their arm around you in the middle of the service and it just felt safe– like you were wanted in that place. And the whispers of my heart roared, “I don’t want to start over. Why are you asking me to? I don’t want to rebuild. Why am I back to feeling so small?”

The response to my questions was like a whiplash. I wasn’t even expecting an answer in that moment but it was like something made me snap to attention when out of nowhere I was smashed with an answer in the face. When something whispered back, “It’s because you are small. You’ve always been small. You are a fleck. You are a speck. But this is a different kind of small. The first time you felt small, it was out of the insignificance you used to make yourself wear. You felt small because you told yourself daily that you were small and unworthy and unlovable. This is a different kind of small. This is you, my dear, getting enveloped in something that’s bigger than you.”

I am small. I am a fleck. I am a speck. I kept saying to myself. That’s not to be misunderstood as insignificance. I carried the words out of the church with me: I used to be small because I made myself play small. Now I am small because all the best things are made up of something smaller. And I want to play my part. I came to a new place to play my part.


Speaking of small things, IKEA furniture is of the devil. 

And if you wonder how I made the correlation between small things and demon-fashioned furniture then you’ve clearly never sat at the mercy of 6,349 screws and nails and other small parts that are supposed to all (somehow) get used to make a desk. Or a dresser. Or a table.

This first week in Georgia, I legitimately sat surrounded by a pile of pieces of wood and cried and made offerings to the ceiling and cut my hand open and screamed, “WHERE IS GOD IN ALL OF THIS?!” I was waiting for him to deliver some stupid metaphor to me that life is just about as confusing as IKEA furniture. But he didn’t. And he didn’t assemble the furniture for me (bummer, that would have been a cool miracle to share). He just sort of waited until the moment I humbled myself and I asked other people for help. It was a simple thing to do but the parts inside of me that are a constant feminist-Beyonce anthem on repeat wanted to do it all by myself. And I guess I was afraid no one would help me. But I asked for help. And, surprisingly,  people helped. They helped. They showed up to my home. The girl brought me a bag of coffee beans and held it out to me, saying, “I heard coffee was your love language. Welcome home.”

And her husband rebuilt all the things I tried to build on my own while she and I just sat on the couch, pursing cups of tea, laughing and talking about mysteries like this one. 

And just as they left my little home, and I placed the bag of coffee beans on my newly-assembled desk, the whisper came on back: “You are small. You are a fleck. You are a speck. That doesn’t mean you’re not capable. 

Some things are just bigger than you. That’s why other people exist. It doesn’t matter “why” you have to rebuild. The real point is that you aren’t alone in a bit of it. You are not rebuilding alone.

You are small but you’re surrounded. Don’t worry so much It’s gonna be good.”

The following post was originally a part of the Monday Morning Secret Society Email Club Thang I send out every Monday. You should really get on the list. It received such an overwhelming response and seemed really pertinent to what a lot of people are going through as of lately so I made the decision to publish it here. Enjoy. 

14 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Meet me at the Yellow Conference (my first blog giveaway… EVER!)

Stocksy_txpfced4f35sa2000_Small_59202

I was the weird one.

Growing up, I was the weird one. The wild one. The one who wanted too much. The one who cared too much. The one who always felt strange for standing outside the lines. The one who tried, with all her earthly might, to shove herself inside of boxes that were always too small. For years and years, that was the game plan and the goal: play smaller. Don’t try to be different. Want normal things. Stop trying to change the world. Just be normal. Why can’t you just be normal? 

I thought I was too much of a dreamer. I wondered why people didn’t care about following a passion like me. I wanted to do something different but I was oh so fearful— beyond fearful— to do something that wasn’t the same as everyone else.

If you are reading this right now and nodding your head furiously then do me a big, ol’ favor: stop. Right now. Stop being sorry for it. Stop downplaying who you are. Stop thinking you need to be “normal.” The world needs your crazy heart. And guess what I learned when I submitted my own wild heart to the world? I learned that doing something that seems a little crazy can change your whole life. Stepping inside of who you truly are– and not being sorry for it– can change your whole life. Stepping outside of the boxes you built for yourself can change your whole life.

More than anything, I want to give you that same chance to change your life.

So this is my first giveaway in the history of… ever. It’s never happened before and who knows if it will ever happen again. I don’t normally deviate from creative nonfiction but when I had the opportunity to give away a ticket to one of the upcoming conferences I am speaking at in August, my heart was legitimately leaping out of my chest. The reason for that is simple: I’ve been blessed with experiences like the Yellow Conference before. And, if you are open to it, these sorts of things dare to change your entire life.

unnamed

So what’s the Yellow Conference, you ask?

The Yellow Conference is a gathering for creative women who desire to ignite passion and bring goodness to the world through everyday living. The Yellow Conference will be in El Segundo, (Los Angeles area) California on August 28 and 29, 2014. 

The winner of this giveaway will get a free ticket to attend the Yellow Conference. I’ll be waiting for you at the Yellow Conference, ready to swallow you up with open arms and get the chance to sit down and get to know you better! I’ll be ready to meet you for an in-person Brew Session during the conference. That’s mentorship + fear smashing + a coffee date all wrapped into one.

I’ll also be speaking during the two-day experience, along with several other MAJOR movers and shakers in the creative industry. We’re talking Sevenly, Darling Magazine, and other TED speakers. My talk will focus on igniting uncommon passion inside of you, learning to live a life of service towards others, and getting relentless for the dreams you’ve always wanted to after.

YOUR TICKET INCLUDES: 

+ Admittance to the 2-day conference filled with 10 world-changing speakers

+ Coffee, light breakfast and refreshments throughout both days.

+ Dinner, drinks and restaurant admittance at the Thursday night after party.

+ Goodie bags filled with awesomeness

+ A network of over 150 creative Yellow attendees.

+ Photo Booth and other fun interactive activities throughout both days

+ An inspired spirit and a wealth of knowledge on how to live our your dreams and make the world a better place!

unnamed

(( see the full list of speakers here ))

HOW TO ENTER

• Follow the Yellow Conference  on Instagram, ​Twitter or Facebook.
• Leave a comment here telling me why you would like to attend Yellow (be creative as you can be!).
• I’ll be reading throughout the week and choosing my favorite answer as the winner next Friday (May 23, 2014)!

This giveaway will expire on Friday, May 23, 2014.

113 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

You were known. You were seen. You were here.

large

“I think I’ve lost my life again,” I told her, twirling the stem of my wine glass as I talked. “That, or I don’t know how to be alone anymore. I used to actually be good at that.”

There it was, my chunk of honesty sitting square on the table between two heaping bowls of clams and pasta. I had to say it out loud. It was the kind of thing you say out loud or else you risk exploding from the inside out.

She just smiled. And said amen.

I wish we all had this kind of friend. The kind of friend where you can just word vomit everything you’ve been feeling and they don’t say much or tell you that you’re wrong to feel that way. They just show up with a mop. And they nod their head a lot. And you feel less alone, but like you’ve gotten something off your chest. You’ve finally told it to someone who holds these fragile secrets inside of you like fine china.

That might have been the only thing I needed to say all dinner. But I needed to say it out loud: I’m afraid of losing my life to things that don’t actually matter.

My best friend and I went on a short vacation this past week. We took two days to enjoy the sights of Raleigh, North Carolina, and then we attended a conference that serves as both a refresher and a restart button for small business owners.

Our trip had all the stitchings of the kind of things you know you’ll remember for years to come. A beautiful hotel right in the heart of Chapel Hill. Cookies when you check in. Long coffee dates with no email. Sitting on the hotel beds, surrounded by more pillows than what is really necessary for a single person, talking for hours about life. And dreams. And goals. And hopes. The chance to finally look around and notice things that seem too insignificant to really see when you’re slung in the muds of everyday life– the colors of mailboxes. The way the rain smells and steams off the pavement in Raleigh. The crooked grins of beautiful boys in blue polo shirts who park your car in straight lines.

The both of us wondered why it took so long. At that table with the clams, we wondered that. Why it always seems to take so long for us to just unplug and unclutter and look up to see that life wasn’t happening on a screen anyway. We get real good at convincing ourselves that life is everything that is happening in those screenshots and those retweets. But if you just look up for 5 minutes– if you catch the shade of blue in someone else’s eyes today– you’ll see that you were wrong to think that.

It’s hard to even imagine it but there used to be a time when moments were just moments. When you saw him from across a crowded room and he gave you a glance that only you could pocket and that one shot of a smile was yours, all yours. It wasn’t publlic. It wasn’t filtered. It was sacred. A connection.

I guess I don’t know what happened. I guess I don’t know how I lost my life to this– and how everything came undone and unbalanced. But I know it happened once before. Years ago, there was a time in the earlier stages of More Love Letters when I treated that company like she was everything. I was always connected. I was always scaling to-do lists. I was barely sleeping. I was living each day with a slew of wrecking ball habits and I was the one who crawled to the finish line of each midnight hour and wondered why I felt so empty. So drained. Unhappy.

And I wondered why– when it should have been so easy to just roll over and fall asleep– I’d keep the phone clutched in my hand and I would scroll and scroll and scroll through the thoughts and images of other people, absorbing their fragmented glimpses of daily life, like old hymns you read with the hope you’ll find yourself known inside of them.

I’d wake up and I wouldn’t even push the yellow, quilted blanket from around my legs before I was checking in and seeing where I’d been missed or mentioned the night before. Honestly, I don’t know how it happened but I guess that doesn’t matter if you know why it did. It isn’t that I wanted followers. It isn’t that I wanted numbers or another mention. I just didn’t want to have to be alone. I just didn’t want to have to sit by myself.

It’s like this vacant warehouse inside of me. I used to think it was a tiny hole and now I see that it is a warehouse. So much square footage. A hollow space inside of me that wants to be known. And seen. And valued. And I hate standing in the center of it alone.

So I look for things to fill that space. I look for the wrong things. Like social media. I let social media try to sooth the parts of me that whisper, “I want to be seen. I want to be known. I want to be more than just a face in the crowd. I want to be stunning. And lovely. I want to be validated for who I choose to be.” I try to let social media do that filling job for me. And then I wonder why I am surprised to find that warehouse inside of me feels more empty instead of full.

Because nothing about the life that gets lived on the screen is really real. Sure, from time to time it can be a blessing but it isn’t really quality. It’s just a lot of quantity. It’s just a lot of trying to fill the hunger on the inside with followers and emails that say, “please respond by tomorrow because we need this.” And so we do, because it’s nice to be needed. But it’s just a lot of empty measurements– a lot of empty measuring cups of false self-worth– that keep me spinning on my toes. And keep me singing out loud to the world, “This whole life revolves around me. It revolves around me. My life matters. Me, me, me.”

I think that’s what social media really does these days. More than it connects us. It claims to bring us together but I think we’re too distracted to see that it’s ripping us away from the one thing that really matters: each other. And how much we desperately need to show up for one another.

In the middle of the conference they had us all get up from our seats and find a space on the floor to lie down. Spread out our legs. Close our eyes. Don’t move. Don’t flinch. Don’t let our heads get cluttered with the “must-do”s for the evening. And they told us to imagine– to build a picture in our mind– of what we wanted life to be like in 5 years from now.

And normally I find these kinds of exercises to be cheesy. But I was exhausted. And laying on the floor of the hotel ballroom in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, I started to weep. And my chest was heaving. And they just kept telling us to dig deeper and see more details. What do you see? What do you see? Like a trigger pulled, I came undone.

Because I saw him. I saw us. Sitting side by side on a countertop, bare feet and legs swinging. There was no urgency in the moment. There was no other place to be. My head was on his shoulder. The only light in the room was the white lights of Christmas that we never bothered to take down off the windows. And my favorite song was floating all around us, it had come up randomly on a Pandora station. And I realized in that moment, he was exactly the kind of guy I always hoped I would fall in love with: the kind of guy who doesn’t say a word when your favorite song is on because he knows how much you like to try and live inside of every word.

It was just us. No phones. No notifications. No need to document that we were here because you’d only ever have to ask the other person in the room– ask them if it was real– for them to answer you with all the confidence in the world, “Yes, it was real.” You were known. You were seen. “You were definitely, definitely here.”

21 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

A call on 20-somethings.

large

My words are not a parachute.

They won’t soften the landing when that moment buckles your knees and breaks you down to the floor. My words, they’re not no cold bucket of water. They won’t extinguish the doubt that blazes heavy, heavy, like a fire catching to all the pretty things you touch. Nothing I write can prepare you for that moment.. maybe you already know the one.

It’s going to hit you at some point. It might meet you randomly. 2am. 4am. When you’re standing in the middle of a crowded campus or alone in your cubicle beside a cactus you keep forgetting to water. No matter where you are, it’ll hit you. And you’ll look up suddenly. And you’ll look around. And you’ll let these words slip out from your lips, “Why am I here?”

Why am I here? And what am I doing? And this? Well, this doesn’t look like anything I thought it would be. Why does my life matter? Why does my life matter? Why does my life matter?

The moment, it’ll feel hollow.

Like all the insides of you have been scraped out. And suddenly the followers won’t matter. And the filters won’t matter. And all the digital things we share and tweet won’t hold much value at all. Something inside of you will be hungry for more.

You might cry. There may be many a’ ugly tears on your horizon. You might clench your fists. You might bite down hard on your bottom lip. You might pour a glass of wine and vow to forget it all by morning. But no matter what you choose to do, beware. That moment is gonna tidal wave you with all sorts of unanswerable questions and there’s only one thing I can promise you when it comes to that moment: you don’t need to have all the answers. They’re never going to arrive in one bundle like the back pages of a SAT prep book. You’ll never get all the answers so you can’t let that be the thing that keeps you from pushing forward into what’s next.

Someone got it into our brains that we needed to have every little thing figured out.

That some fairytale was going to greet us at the gates of adulthood. That life would look just like a movie. It’s simply not true. And if this is what it looks like to have it “all figured out” then we are living in some sort of coloring book where only half the pictures ever got Tickle Me Pink scribbled within their lines. We’ve got loans up to our elbows. We’re messy when we fall in love. We’re still trekking for the dream job or learning how to create it from scratch. We’re doing the best we possibly can within a world that started saying, right after two planes crashed into two towers, that we needed to make the most of this life thing. It was too short. It was too quick. It was unexpected at best. We needed to make the most of it.

We still want to be something really special and that’s not because the newspapers say our generation is the type that needs trophies for everything. We still want to be something really special for the same reasons that anyone, at any age, wants to be something really special: because it’s nice to be noticed every once in a while, even if it’s just by someone who has always taken you as you are. And in a world where it’s nearly impossible to get someone to look you in the eye instead of at the screen, it’s nice to be someone’s kind of Special at the end of a long day.

And we walked into the world and we were loud when we said we wanted to do something. I’d argue that we still do. We want to help people. We want to make some sort of impact. And that goodness inside of us, it never went away. It might have been covered. It might have been dimmed a bit. But if you’re anything like me then you still wake up hoping that this will be the day you will be brave and you’ll do something that matters. That’s all I really want if I am being truthful: To be brave and to do something that truly matters.

But the scary truth in all of it is that nothing in this world– not the magazines, not the networks, not the hyperlinks– will get us there. We have to be the ones to push aside the small talk and just resolve to be present, and connected, and intentional with one another. We have to be the ones to show up to this life if we ever want to do something that matters.

I didn’t want to turn this thing into a list.

Because the answer isn’t sitting in a list on the internet that someone wrote to tell you all the things you should and should not do with this 20-something life. And I know all too well that a list of things you “should” and “should not” do is never going to help you. Not in your 20’s. Not your 30’s. Not your 50’s.

So this isn’t much of a list. Maybe just call it the evidence I’ve gathered so far: I, personally, need to breathe more. Just because I want to have things figured out doesn’t mean I always will, so I really just need to learn to let that one go. Sallie Mae is an awful home wrecker but there is a way to live peacefully with her (after all, I’m the one who decided to stack these loans upon my shoulders). People will always have a lot to say about what you “should” do. Don’t entertain them if their aim is to belittle you. “Should” is a word that should be abolished from the dictionary.

You have to get out there. You have to feel life on your own skin. On your own terms. By your own rules. And maybe that’s the very first thing you need to learn to do– burn the rulebook and screw the boxes that other people want to put you inside of. Your life has nothing to do with tiny, little boxes that help you play smaller than you truly are. The point is to grow, not to shrink. But if you’re any ounce of human then you’ll always try to shrink before you grow.

Adulthood is a real thing but it doesn’t make much noise when it arrives. Heartbreak hurts but it makes you more resilient. Commitment sounds like an old-fashioned word but it will never go out of style. And it will always be a slow thing– a slow, slow thing– no matter how fast the world moves all around us. So commit to things. And get your heart involved. Take that risk, even if it means that something could break along the way.

If you are any bit like me then it doesn’t matter how much older you get, you still want to keep every person you encounter safe in your possession. But no, it doesn’t work that way. And you have to learn how to not be bitter when it comes to letting people go. I have to learn to loosen the grip a bit.

It’s beautiful to be young and innovative in the world today. And I will always fight you if you try to tell me that I am too old for Ringpops and sitting on counter tops while Jason Mraz trickles through the kitchen and the kettle hisses from the stove.

Life slips away quickly and unexpectedly– and time is the one, rare thing we always wish we had more of– so there’s really no time to sit here and write anything further when it turns out that life is actually everything that happens off the screen- unedited, unfiltered, and shared with others. It all comes down to other people. Other people are the lottery tickets of this lifetime that win every single time.

You get choices.

Every single day. You don’t get all the answers. But you will get those choices. Some mammoth and massive. Others tiny and seemingly minute. Each one matters though. Every single choice– every task that does or does not meet the to-do list– will ultimately stack up and answer one big question: whether you standing here– with gifted oxygen in your lungs– actually meant something.

33 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

I can’t make you unpack your suitcase.

98a30a20a92ade844002f4d464785207

When I unzipped the belly of the little red suitcase the book was sitting there.

It was sitting right on top. It was waiting for me. Two years ago, I used to think that if ever I sat down and finally read that book, it would probably be my favorite book. Maybe one day. Instead, I grabbed a sweater and I closed the suitcase shut. I checked the bag. I would see it in New Orleans. There’s never enough room for your second carry-on bag when they lump you into Zone 3.

Half of my life plays out in airports. The people who spend too much time in airports know I’m not saying that to sound romantic. It can be a tad whimsical. On quiet mornings. And when you aren’t getting a connecting flight in Atlanta. And when you get to fly into cute, little airports with baggage claim areas the size of your bedroom. But otherwise, it’s a lot of waiting. And watching other people wait for other people. And those scenes you used to watch in love movies don’t play out by the terminals anymore because security is too high.

And me? 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 because (let’s face it) I haven’t plucked them from my bookshelf in over two years so a trip to St. Louis isn’t going to make the cover look any more sexy to me than it did yesterday. 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.

That’s baggage.

Baggage is anything that you still clutch onto too tightly with the hope that it will change or that you’ll change or that something will change. Baggage is anything you haven’t figured out just how to let fall off of you yet. Baggage is anything that does a poor, poor job of reflecting the person you were supposed to wake up and be today.

That’s baggage. And there’s too kinds. The easy and tangible: the lip gloss, the passport, the camera, the walletAnd then there is the real stuff: The sometimes clunky, often misshapen stuff I really don’t like admitting that I still carry with me. Like a shadow. Like a fanny pack around my waist. Like a second skin. No, no one likes saying out loud, “Oh, I should have let that go a long time ago and yet I never really did.”

I sat down to tea with a good friend last week. I could probably write an additional 1,500 words about the pretty pink porcelain and the Christmas lights still strung up around the shop that fool you into thinking every evening is the kind of holiday evening where a tree and mistletoe are waiting for you back home. We had three cups of tea (it sounds even more precise and romantic to type three).

And, as it always goes with old friendships, we poured tea and built bridges back into the lives of one another with all the stories that happened between November and now.

“So tell me it,” she said. “I’ve been waiting for this one.”

I sucked in deep. I went to speak. The story felt rehearsed by now. I recited it word for word.  And I made certain things sound more poetic than how they actually happened. And I stitched morals along the way. And the whole thing didn’t really end so much as in meandered into this weird grey area that left me thinking, when I said the last line of a story I’d already told too many people, “Man, I need to tell a better story than this. Otherwise, this is just pathetic. Sad. Too broken. Womp womp. Cue the world’s smallest violin.”

It was within that frumpy, sad little story (with very little ending) that I realized– baggage grows in these sorts of things. Baggage comes out of these sorts of things. It gets clingy in these grey, unresolved areas. It grows enormous and wraps tight to our ankles when we don’t give ourselves the triumphant, sweet endings we so deserve. That’s where baggage comes from– the exact moment when you think you are called to play small when life breaks your heart.

It’s like every single day we get to tell the coolest little stories that could make other people see themselves better and yet we are so hellbent on making ourselves sound broken instead. It’s like we’ve been given a million and one chances to be violins with our own lungs and we’d just rather rip out the strings and cry instead.

I’m just going to play metaphorical for a minute, baby: I can’t make you unpack your suitcase.

It’s not as easy as typing “DEAL WITH IT” and expecting that you ultimately will. If it were that easy? Jeepers, we’d never hurt one another again just because others hurt us in the past. Maybe the only advice I’ve got is really no advice at all so much as it is a movie quote I heard in a dark and empty theater this week, but I think it could tell you everything there is to know about about baggage: “The past is just stories we tell ourselves.”

That’s it. That’s all. Just stories we tell ourselves. Over and over again. And we decide if they chain us up or free us daily. Just stories you could somehow rewrite and let go of and turn into better memories when you start searching the seams of “what happened” for morals that actually make you grow instead of shrink.

You lost. You got rejected. He hurt you. You hurt her. It happened once. It happened twice. You didn’t see it coming at all. Your heart closed up. You got real good at pretending. There’s a bunch of reason, baby. And it would really interested to watch you get real– like SUPA REAL– with the man at the gate to A12, where all flights seemingly meet and merge, when he tells you to take everything out of your pockets and remove anything that might cause the alarm to go off. You see, if life were as literal as a Beyonce song, you’d get to take one of those clunky grey bins and dispense everything– all the old love songs, the words he used to say to you, the fights from old friendships, and all the little stories that are still missing their endings– into that bin. 

You’d get to walk through security, free from it all. And you’d get to keep walking. Away. Away. Away. Like a gangster. Like a baller. You’d get to leave the clunky grey bin behind– full of all that crap that only pushes you down with not-so-victorious endings– as you throw up your deuces and go. Go, baby go.

That’s the thing about baggage.

You either carry every clunky piece of it with you, like costume jewelry stacked around your neck, and you stay thinking one day you’ll find a better burial for those things then right here, or you pluck the lesson out from the thing and you resolve to let the thing go. Let the thing go, let the thing go.

Walk away. Make a decision for yourself that will make Aesop and all his little fables proud as you take the moral of the story and you leave the rest. As you pack the towels but you leave the mess.

Screen Shot 2014-02-11 at 10.50.40 AM
Screen Shot 2014-02-11 at 10.56.14 AM

Since some Mondays are worse than Sallie Mae, I created a little breakfast club/secret society to help kick Mondays off right. You are reading me right. Every Monday. Me. You. We roll out via email and your morning brew. I promise to meet you with only the good stuff. Highly recommended for movers, shakers, and original gangsters. No rules. You feeling me, boo?

click here to join the wait list for the Monday Morning Breakfast Club Email

Screen Shot 2014-02-11 at 10.50.40 AM

Screen Shot 2014-02-11 at 10.39.19 AM

facebook. twitter. instagram. email.

Screen Shot 2014-02-11 at 10.50.40 AM

87 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Joy, joy, joy & multiple forms of Hallelujah.

Screen Shot 2014-01-07 at 12.56.06 PM

Dear you,

I haven’t been around these parts of town much and this place feels sort of barren.

I’ve been in other places. In grocery lines. And homemade bunkers to shield myself from the New England snow. And shrouded in blankets. And running and dancing in Central Park. But I haven’t been here.

I thought I would come to you with handfuls of apologies but then I stopped, and I breathed, and I said to myself, “There is no reason to apologize. You’re growing up and you’re learning to be committed. And you can’t really apologize for growing up.”

I am committed to you. And I am committed to this blog. And I’ve wanted to write more throughout this season but I am doubly committed to a book that this blog made possible. I’m three weeks away from the deadline. I’ve been writing, writing, writing until my little fingers turn blue and I am just crazy about making these pages perfect for you. Maybe that sounds strange, but I think about you every time I sit down and try to lace another chapter through my bones. And keeping you in mind helps this whole process seem worth it. Gritty, but so worth it.

And this is what commitment looks like and I could have never imagined it would be this way 5 months ago when this whirlwind started. I didn’t know I would cry so much. Care so much. Learn so much. Heal so much. I didn’t know I would forget to eat. I’d forget to walk outside. I’d get so hung up on one single sentence that it was all I could say over and over again. I didn’t know this book would latch to my heart like a sloth, that it would grow me in the strange way that symbiosis works for other organisms. I didn’t know commitment looked this way. Void of fireworks. Void of pretty filters. Void of coffee always overflowing and laughter rolling upward to the ceilings. But joy, joy, joy and multiple forms of Hallelujah when you finally swing to the other side.

The skins of that word used to scare me.

On the surface, she seems fine. But commitment is the farthest thing from beautiful when you feel stuck in the mud, and the wheels ain’t turning, and you’ve got no choice but to keep going, and keep going, and keep going until you can make something move.

I guess I’m now starting to understand why commitment seems a little jacked up and flimsy in the world today. Because real commitment– hands all in with no hope of turning outward– is not always the picture-perfect, edited thing you’d thought it would be. A lot of times it’s tears. And it’s telling yourself you will get through something, even when you aren’t so sure that you will. And it’s lacing up your boots to get through these battlefields that seek to own you with doubt and insecurity and hopelessness.

And through all of this I’m learning that distractions are real. And distractions sounds like too helpless of a word that, at the root of it, means “an escape from what you are called to do”. The Facebook streams. The Twitter conversations. The filtered little things we peer through the lens of Instagram to find. The magazines. The Netflix. All of it could start as a simple distraction to you but grow bigger and bigger until you are stealthy in escaping through those channels everyday.

There’s thinking you will do something and then actually doing it. The two are completely, completely different and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. And when you start doing it– be it putting your whole heart into a relationship or all of your lungs into this lifetime– you will want to turn back. You will want to run, run, run away to a time when it was easier and it was comfortable and nothing made you fearful or made you feel like something was crawling beneath your skin.

Stay.

Please stay. Stay until the words come. Stay until you know what you feel. Stay until after you figure out what it is that you feel and you decide that that feeling scares you half to death. Stay when it’s hard. Stay when something inside of you thinks it might just be getting to the good part.

Don’t just stay when it’s blissful. Blissful ain’t never built a life in the way the bricks of struggle & challenge & strife build out a character inside of you.

You might want to leave but maybe that is all the more reason to stay.

Even when the world doesn’t get it and they shut out the lights and they all go home. Are you following them? Are you following them home?

Stay. And be committed.

Only then, only then, will the breakthrough come.

 

All this to say, I’ll be back soon. I’ll write soon. I’ll swing to the other side soon, soon, soon. Until then– I am waiting on joy, joy, joy and multiple forms of Hallelujah.

27 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

When 60 days could change your life.

View More: http://tiffanyfarley.pass.us/hannahbrencher

Dear you,

I don’t ever write about these things. If you’ve been a reader, you know. Someone will surely think my blog has been hijacked but I am over here, waving my hands in the air, and yelling, “No! It’s really me! It’s Hannah! I promise!”

This post is in lieu of the one I won’t be writing on December 26th when the trees get hauled out and the lights get packed up and everyone begins plotting what they are going to change for the year ahead.

I’ve never been a New Year’s fan. I get the point of it. I even have a tradition where one of my best friends and I pick a new coffee shop every New Year’s morning– one that is bustling with the sounds of plates clanking and kids laughing over pancakes sopping in butter– and we write letters to the person we hope will open them one year from that date. We set goals. We read the letters from the year before. We fold up the letters. We seal them. We hold them for one another until another 365 days passes through the fingertips and we kiss another year goodbye.

But something has always broken my heart a bit about New Year’s. How we celebrate so little because we’re just so fixated on starting over. The way we want to wake up in the morning and be someone different. And break all these old habits. And forget the person we were who messed up & failed their diet plan & made it to the gym until January 15th and then just gave up. And I don’t like the idea of waiting until a set moment– January 1, 2014– to change things. If there is something to be changed, shifted, or altered, then we should be starting right now. We should be starting right now.

Screen Shot 2013-11-30 at 11.38.24 PM

Yesterday morning I posted a list on Instagram. A 60 day challenge that I am setting for myself. I’ve set 6 goals. 60 is a relevant number for me because from December 1, 2014, I have 60 days until my first draft is due to my editor. I want to walk away from this process of book writing not feeling like I just survived something but that I actively made changes while in the writing process and I am walking out a different and better individual.

 

1. 60 minutes cardio + weights: Pretty self-explanatory. Hitting the weights hard. Getting back to a first love of working out and really working up a sweat.

2. 6 small meals a day: Paleo is back in the mix. I know the benefits of paleo and how it impacts my body but I am really curious to see how it unfolds in the amount of 60 days. I won’t be too strict but I definitely want to get into better habits when it comes to eating so that I am feeling energized by my food and not weighed down.

3. 60 minutes of email: This is only for a season of life but in the midst of book writing, I want to minimize my email time to 60 minutes a day. Email can be a bad habit for me. If I wanted to, I could live in my inbox. So the autoresponder is up and I will set a timer anytime that I dig in.

4. No social til 6pm: This is a big one. Social media is definitely a time-killer when it comes to trying to sit down and write. It’s an easy distraction. I am going to make it a point to touch any kind of social networking until 6pm on days where I am writing.

5. 60 minutes of quiet time: God. God. God. He probably should have the first one on this list but I know confidently that He kind of, sort of, governs this whole list. I want to be dedicated to quiet time. I want to stop focusing in on the mess in my head. I want to remember my place as a child of God. And I want to pray better prayers and believe for bigger things.

6. 6 glasses of water: Oof. I barely even consume two so this will definitely be a stretch for me. But hey, I have to start being better disciplined in this area sometime soon.

I want to be so clear with my intentions on posting this. I don’t tell people how to live. I don’t have any interest in trying to improve your life in 60 days. I just want to be very honest in saying that I, personally, am really hungry to get healthier and treat myself better. I am hungry for balance. I am hungry for a life that knows the distinction between work and friends. I want to figure out where my A-game is, not just in business or writing but in the everyday folds of this thang called life.  I want to feel like I’ve sunk my heels deep into a life I know I want. A life that fuels me inwardly & outwardly.

But… (there is always a but)… I am also super aware of the fact that when I try to go on journeys on my own, I often fail. And fumble. And give up. And I beat myself up when it was never supposed to be about that to begin with. This little journey of mine has nothing to do with measuring success. It has to do with trying to change something in 60 days, as I reach one of the most important deadlines of my young adult years, that will change my life for the rest of it. I can dig that. I can work for that. I can not be afraid to say I want that.

So you can be in or you can choose to be not in. You can set 6 goals or you can set 2. If you take on these goals, definitely consider custom catering them to you and your work/life. For me, social media won’t be on til 6pm. For others, it might be time to shut off at 6pm. You can make it look however you want. The goal is to celebrate change and progress instead of just thinking my life will magically change at the stroke of midnight in one month from now.

I am ecstatic about 2013. I am all sorts of over-the-moon for what progress was made. I want to spend this December being dang proud of what has gone down in the last year. I want change to be an exciting & momentous & powerhouse thing. I want to believe that I deserve this. I want to walk in 2014 already knowing I started the work it takes to be who you really have always wanted to be… inside & out.

I’ll be posting occasional updates on Instagram if you want to follow along. I’ll post things tagged as #60daystochangealife in case y’all want to set your own goals and post progress. I love a good team effort.

Ain’t nobody got time to wait for January 1. The gun just went off. I am going.

hb.

26 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized