It was all you had to give when you were asked to give it all.

“I poured my brain and heart into this, and maybe I’ll hate it in two years, because that’s the nature of being my age, but for now, it’s the most powerful thing I can give.”

Lorde.

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The ground didn’t shake.

The trees didn’t bend. No earthly element was pushed out of its place when the book was done. The whole week before, I’d been anticipating what would happen when I placed that last period down. Would I crawl up into a ball on the floor and cry? I mean, that wouldn’t be so different from the events of every other day after my writing hours were through. Would I finally feel a sense of peace? I’d been taking Doubt and Insecurity and Fear into the wrestling ring of my mind for the last few months and I wanted to be able to dole out a final punch of Victory that would wipe them all out. 

I had no real idea what would happen, outside of me or inside of me, when I finished my first book. The one I’ve been working on for seven months now. I just knew I had to keep typing, and keep going, and keep trying until I reached the point where I could whisper or scream, “It’s done. It’s over. It’s through.”

It was a Friday night when the first draft of the book was finally, finally finished. I remember it was dark outside already, since it was January. Earlier in the day I’d taken a walk. In the rain. Like a zombie, letting the little water pellets fall all over my skin and not really caring that maybe the neighbors thought I was crazy for walking in the rain in the thick of January. I remember praying to God, deeper prayers than usual— “Please, get this out of me. Please. Let me be finished.” 

That’s what no one ever talks about (or rarely talks about) when it comes to writing a book— it’s painful. So painful. In a way that I don’t actually know how to type but there are words waiting somewhere for me. And this is no disrespect to people who’ve felt other forms of pain, I am not trying to dishonor you. It is only to say that getting a book out of you– resolving a story that is still happening all around you– isn’t a fluffy feeling. It hurts like hell. And some days you don’t leave the room you’re writing inside of for ten hours. And other days you can’t do much more than cry. And then some days you are slamming the keys screaming, Yes, Yes, Yes! because you’ve reached a point of breakthrough— and everyone loves a breakthrough. 

And every so often I would scroll my mouse to click on the notifications for new emails. A mental break from my own words. And I would click the emails with ugly subject lines. And I would read the stories of people I’d never met who told me about loves lost and passions coming back. They left their heartbreak in my inbox like mints on pillows in the hotel room. I couldn’t respond to every single one so I’d just take a sticky note and I’d scribble down their name. I’d post it on my wall. I’d say a quick prayer. And I’d keep going. I’d keep writing with them in the forefront of my mind.

And I can only describe it all– all the hours in the writing room– as this: writing a book is like giving birth. There is the carrying of something inside of you. That something is a precious something. There are the slow and throbbing contractions. There is the heavy labor that leaves you ugly crying on the floor. There is the release— the solid release and assurance that the pushing is over. It is out of you. It is done. You can see it in your hands. You’ve somehow said all you needed to say. And it doesn’t matter if it is pretty, or right, or relevant, or following all the other writer rules— it is true. And it is yours. It is your truth sitting on the outside of you. And it is exactly all you had to give in the moment when you were asked to give it all you had. 

Most days in the book writing, I beat myself up the hardest not for the words but for the numbers.

The age that I was. I beat myself up for being young. For thinking I had anything worth saying at the age of 25. I mean, I’m 25. I’m 25. I’m 25. Can I write that again? I’m 25. And I understood why people would people look at me strange and say I was young to write a memoir. I agreed. And it probably could have been easier to just write a letter and pass it out instead of opening my mouth in agreement every time someone worried alongside me about my age:

Dear everyone, 

I am 25. Yes. 1988 was a great year. I loved being born into it. But I am starting to realize age— old or young— is an excuse. And I won’t be the kind of person who lets a number stand in the way of me knowing that life is fleeting and a lot of times we don’t get promised the things we thought we would be promised. And our loves go away. And our best friends die. And our skin shrivels. And we get sick. And it’s all scary and beautiful and reason enough to start something now. Right now. This second. Don’t even finish the letter, maybe. Go if you have to go. Life is waiting for you. 

Really, there is so much to prove my undeniable youth to the world— I still haven’t mastered the proper use of sunblock or a conventional oven. I still miss my friends from college. I still do some sort of wicked, daily dance with Sallie Mae. A boy in a random coffee shop is still capable of being the most important thing in my orbit. 

I can’t speak for marriage. I can’t speak for divorce. I can’t speak for having enough money to take myself around the world. I can’t speak for a courage I never had to hike a trail on the other side of a country or sell all my belongings and start a new life. I can only speak for the parts of me that ever wanted do something wonderful. I can only speak for how it sometimes feels like you are drowning in a world where everyone is superglued to their devices and their networks. I can only speak for how it feels to be so uneasy with sitting alone with yourself but how I wanted to gain enough confidence to finally be able to say, “I know exactly what sits at the root of me. And I’m not afraid of it any longer.”

I can only write this book from the perspective of a girl who wanted certain things when this story started— to find God, to fall in love, and to do something that mattered in the world. I can speak for that. 

— hb

Like I wrote earlier, the ground didn’t shake when I finished the book.

And nothing really felt different around me. I took a hot shower, ran my fingers through my hair as if the scrubbing motions could wash everything off of me now that it was over. I was finished. I dried my hair and put clothes on and I wore my favorite beanie and I went out to find a burger the size of my head and a glass of wine. It wasn’t what I thought it would be and yet it was all I really wanted. 

I guess I thought I would feel bigness all around me in a moment like that one— one where a first book gets finished and turned into an editor. A lot of times though— excluding weddings, or busy hospital rooms, or parties where we wear a new age— there’s no bigness to the moment that changes your life. There’s just you, in a quiet room, letting something go. There’s just you, in a bustle of a busy restaurant, finally feeling free. 

I didn’t even talk about the book that night. I kept it’s finality in my lips like a secret. I was tired of talking. For five minutes, I just wanted to be in love with a truth I’d been waiting to hold for so long: I did something I never thought I could do and it wasn’t the craziest thing in the world to believe in myself. I was actually right to believe in myself.

That’s who will you lead you in the book.

If you pick it up from a bookstore and hold it in your hands at the start of March, that’s who will wave at you from the very first page and ask you politely to take her hand— a girl who wanted to know that one day she might wake up and actually believe in herself to be something more than a mess in the world. She’ll write about letting go, and holding tighter, and waiting for things. She will write about grief and triumph and the things that have always been bigger than her but she wanted to understand them so badly anyway.  

She’ll be 22. She’ll be unreliable and yet so committed to the journey. She’ll be insecure and yet so eager to find confidence the way you find old socks beneath the bed.

She’ll be a girl who rarely knows what coffee to order, nevermind who to fall in love with. A girl who once thought being “chosen” by a guy was the end goal, the reason to show up and fight. A girl who, when she was 22-years-old, looked down and realized: the world is so incredibly big and my hands are so incredibly small. The two don’t seem to match up. But she was a girl who knew that the world never stopped needing people who were hungry for more, and she needed to not miss her casting call for that. 

A girl who, as cheesy as it seems, wished she could figure out why people sometimes call this whole life a “love letter.” Yes, she wanted those answers. And so she went out into the streets of New York City, and the subways, and the libraries, and the churches, and the coffee shops to answer that one question for herself— how do people ever get to the point of falling in love with their own life? 

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Filed under On Writing.

And one day I’d like another sky.

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In the 26 years, 1 month, and 7 days that I’ve been alive, the universe has afforded me one Tinder date. Just one. And that’s probably due to the amount of mental energy it takes to give yourself the sort of pep talk before a first date that looks like this: “Okay, he has sent me a selfie. I’ve heard his voice. There is a person who exists beyond the screen. I will not be Catfished. I will not be murdered. We will meet in a public place. And we can just lie to people and say we met in Aisle 7 if this all works out. Okay… we’re doing this. We’re really doing this.”

Alas, after that one date, the Gods of Tinder never showed their faces to me again. And I’ve retired from the game. And then un-retired. And then re-retired again.

As a sidenote to those who don’t know the mystery that is Tinder, it’s a dating application. It’s like Pandora for people— you get to swipe through a collection of faces and accept the people you are attracted to and decline the ones who don’t suit your fancy. And if you and the other person are in agreement with swiping “YES,” you’re brought into an exclusive conversation. Your own little chatroom. The world is your oyster after that, baby. 

So this all sounds really shallow when I type it out. I’m seeing that now. And while I used to think it was an ankle-deep app for people who only want to hook up at 3a.m. and need a mile radius to know how feasible the chances of that happening really is, it seems to have shifted into a more legitimate avenue to meet people. A lot of my friends are going on Tinder dates. We’ve had girls’ nights where Tinder stories seem to steer the conversation. Someone in my office is actually engaged because of the glorious power of swiping right (and she’s too awesome to sum up into words already and now she has a pretty awesome love story, all thanks to Tinder). 

And this is all really a bunch of breaking-the-ice word vomit just so I can reach a point where I am comfortable enough to just say it: I’m single. Yup. That’s me. I’m solo. I eat alone. And I’ve wondered why it’s so hard to talk about that. I wonder why I’m met with glares and uneven faces when the word “Tinder” gets said in a group.  I wonder why I often feel lame, as if admitting defeat, when I tell someone I am single— as if I am genuinely sorry to announce that I haven’t met someone yet. And I’m trying to be okay with admitting that I sometimes feel like I’m floundering in a culture that seems to associate “singleness” with missing pieces. 

I want to seem like a cool single girl.

If there is even such a thing, if people even find themselves saying things like, “She’s a cool single girl,” then I want to be that. 

And that’s just because I spent a long time doing this whole “single” thing wrong. Trust me, I used to have my days of acting like the President of the Single Girl Gauntlet. I’ve whined with the bunches of them. I’ve asked the same questions: Do guys even call anymore? Is chivalry dead? What happened to running into someone in an airport? Do I really have to go online? 

The questions— they got me nowhere. The whining— it got me ten steps in the opposite direction of the person I knew I was capable of being. I was just choosing daily to stay mad at a world that made me feel like I was missing pieces when I was the one saying it the loudest, “You are missing pieces. You aren’t enough.” 

The problem wasn’t guys. The problem wasn’t the digital age. The problem wasn’t the rose ceremonies being denied to me. It was me. I was the problem. I was the one hunting down completion through another person. I wanted someone to give me a world I could go only go out there and grab on my own. 

That seems to be the wicked spell I’ve seen get cast upon the ones of us who have fallen in love before: it becomes really hard to convince yourself that another person didn’t complete you.  You get comfortable with the phone calls. You get comfortable with the silly messages that only you get to read. You get comfortable with the passenger seat being full. And your hand being held. And your darker parts being known. And your thirst being quenched, even if only for a little while. And when it is gone— you think you need it all over again. And it’s easy to get bitter when you treat your want like a need. 

But what I really needed? I needed to see all the ways I was standing in my own way before I ever welcomed someone else into that equation, thinking they could solve it for me. 

The story of how I got to that exact point is for another day but I know I packed a full suitcase for the girl I used to be and I sent her off with a one-way ticket in her hand. But I can still imagine what it would be like to sit across the table from that girl I used to be— both of us pursing lattes, cradled by fingers baring too much chipped polish— and tell her what I know now: Time gets wasted when you’re not content. And you not seeing the blessings for this moment is a disservice to all the people who don’t get a free life like yours. And if you ever hope to convince someone else they are complete and whole and good as they are— if a shred of you has ever wanted to tell someone that— then you should really stop acting like you’re the puzzle with too many pieces of the sky gone missing. You should stop thinking anyone but yourself can change that insecure part of you. A guy won’t change it. A Tinder swipe won’t cure the wound. You looking for something to plug the hole won’t do it. Humans are just humans, they aren’t lifeboats. They aren’t bandaids. They aren’t completion. 

A mentor of mine who worked at my college met someone unexpectedly during the summer of my junior year and decided not to return to our small campus come the fall. She’d always been there everyday. And then she suddenly wasn’t.

She sent an email. She gave up her job. She deserved the world, really. I emailed her back and told her that.

She wrote back to tell me this: you’ll find that the most astounding love will meet you when you are complete. When you can stand before yourself— in a mirror, in the car, or wherever you do all that internal talking— and say, “I am okay alone. I am cool on my own. I am legitimate. They should write rap anthems about me. Or at least play “Ridin’ Solo” when I walk into a room. I’m single and that doesn’t mean I’m not complete.”

And she told me it would be an even better love when the person who chooses you is complete too. And sees your completeness. And you can both sit there with your hands in the spaces of one another and recognize: there is no completing this time around. There is adding on. There is complimenting one another. But there is no completing because you’re not any missing pieces. 

When I read those words of hers, it made me think back to a childhood packed full with Puzzle Nights. That was a thing (that’s why I capitalized it). A legitimate thing. And just to further complicate the lives of anyone who sat down at our kitchen table for the traditional night of puzzles and hot cocoa, my brothers and I would pour out the contents of two puzzles– similar in theme– onto the table. We were still babies with something to prove. Instead of 500 pieces, there’d suddenly be 1,000. And if you’ve ever tried to assemble two puzzles at once, you draw a lot of conclusions quickly: there’s a lot of sky. There’s a lot of clouds. There’s a lot of random inanimate objects that seem to stretch in to the abyss of infinity. 

But I think that’s what happens when you share a life with someone— you realize it’s two puzzles. No matter how “one” you become, there are still two puzzles scattered on the table. Two skies. Two sets of clouds. Two very different landscapes. 

If you’re single, I think it’s probably better to resolve and say: Okay, I have my own pieces right now. Only mine. And one day I’d like another sky. So I will do my best to figure out the pieces I am holding while there is still just one puzzle to solve. 

The post should have ended right with that last line.

It would have been really poetic and cool. But I can suspect several emails coming my way after I click publish on this piece, asking me the question I haven’t answered for you yet: 

How did that one Tinder date go? 

Well, in the history of dates I’ve gone on, it was a pretty good one. It scores pretty high. 

We met halfway in as small, unheard-of town at the only restaurant we could find in the hour of distance between us that didn’t look like KFC and the Olive Garden had a baby together. It was a small pizza joint. The conversation was good. We both admitted to being fearful that Nev from Catfish might show up for the date in the place of one another. He wore Vans. We drove around the other small towns that encased that one small town. We blasted “White Houses” by Vanessa Carlton. I used his glove compartment as a drum set.

He was moving away, and I was restless with my own location on a map, so we only had one date. But I was complete that night. And I like to think he was complete. And we asked for nothing more of one another than summer air and a conversation that left us saying, as we went in our separate directions: keep getting out there in the world and giving it everything you have. I don’t know you all that well but I have a hunch you’ll do just fine. 

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Filed under Girl meets Boy

Tiny Copper Teaspoons.

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It was the kind of car ride you find wedged into the chorus of a Taylor Swift song. There’s no better way to say it than that. 

We left the sun behind in Nashville. Dinner plates scraped clean of vegan tacos and mashed sweet potatoes— we left those too. Our car rolled through the hills of Chattanooga. The GPS on the dashboard told us 212 miles. There were 212 miles standing between us and home.

Earlier that morning, we’d held coffee in to-go cups and disappeared into Nashville for the day. We left emails unread and messages unsent. Tennessee is like a human fist. It grabs you tight and pulls you close.

We rolled the windows down on the highway on the way home. She turned the heat up— full blast, so that the hot air would push against our faces as our arms hung out the window. Ballads trickled through the speakers. It felt like Sara Bareilles was laying across the backseat with us, sipping a latte and making us brave. We rode that way for two hours, the windows down and screaming lyrics at the topic of our lungs. The night air whipped through our hair. I felt so young.

And if I scan back to the exact moment I pinned that car ride into my diary, I want to eventually be able to recite the words I wrote by heart:

Life, while crazy, demands breaks. And the countryside. And conversations that cut you into two but somehow make you closer as one. And little care for calorie counts. And the promise of stars.  

Life, while crazy, is enough just like this.

Enough.

There’s the word. Enough. 

Even in just the three pages I filled in my diary this morning, the word “enough” was scribbled down 14 times. A word that is written down 14 times in your journal is a common theme; it’s something to pay attention to. And so the word is Enough. And the word last night was Enough. And the word, as of lately, is Enough.

I’ve struggled with that word. For years upon years, I’ve morphed “enough” into a conditional aspect of my life that is dictated by my circumstances and the people who surround me. If he thinks I am enough then I am enough. If she tells me I am enough then I am enough. If they validate me. If he calls. If she smiles when she greets me. I’ve been guilty of living a life that hinges itself on a series of “enough” moments throughout a day. I am just waiting to be emptied out enough to realize “enough” is not the sort of thing you can place into the hands of other people.

And “enough” grew fangs on the day social media raised up its arms and announced to the world, “I ain’t so social anymore. Me? Well, you’ve turned me into a ruler and a measuring cup and a benchmark for your life. You’ve morphed me into a flickering slideshow of other people’s highest moments.” And so I crop my own value. And I filter my own adequacies. And I ask myself bottomless little questions: Am I worthy like that? Am I pretty like that? Am I strong like that? Am I lovely like that?

But I don’t want to fight to be good enough. I’m sorry, I just don’t. I want to fight to make a difference. I want to fight to make it count. I want to fight to find you if you need to get found. But I don’t want to fight to be enough.

 

I spent too many years just like that. Like all the feelings I just wrote about above— all those questions— were ramped up high volume and taking steroids. I was desperate to just be told over and over again, “I like you just as you are. Don’t ever change.” I was desperate to find my value in what other people told me I was. And that’s because who I was didn’t make the cut. Who I was was constantly changing and morphing for the next guy. Who I was could change in 5 minutes. If you told me to be someone different, I would have listened to you. I would have swallowed hard and listened to you. Even if you and I never held hands or kissed cheeks or knocked knees beneath glass tables, I still would have wanted to be enough for you. 

And don’t you know that scares me? Because if I am always trying to be enough for you and other people then I am always, always coming home empty to the those that I love. That’s like a strange WebMD side effect to searching for “enough” in other people: you start running on empty. You jump the unnecessary hurdles. You exhaust energies on people who you’ll never be enough for. Because the word “enough” is a myth of a concept when every morning starts with handing the world measuring cups and rulers and saying out loud to all the people you meet: measure me. Make me feel good enough. The world has never deserved your measuring cups. Keep them locked up and only give the tiny copper teaspoons to people who stand by you when life falls apart.

You want to be everything to everyone. Maybe I’m wrong but maybe I’m right about that. If you’re anything like me then you’ve traveled through the deserts of “I want to be everything to everyone.” Those deserts be barren. Those deserts be cold. But I’ve still tried to make the trip. I’ve still tried to go the stretch of distance to get to the other side of that hope. And I’m afraid to find I’ll miss the water— I’ll spend so much time in that desert that I’ll miss the water that kisses my feet when I get to the river of “I am one heck of a something to someone.” That water will feed you. That water will pour back into you. That water— the refreshment of being taken in by someone, just as you are— is a different sort of gift. I’d give my whole life to that. Because it’s lovely. And it’s worth it. And people write songs about it. And it fills you far more than the measuring cups of “enough.”

 

That moment— the one with the car and the music and the heat and the windows down on the highway— was the strongest sense of “enough” I’ve felt in a long time. There was no wrestling to be better. There were no tiny copper teaspoons. There was no need to wonder what you would have thought of me in that moment. It was just me and the road and my best friend and a break from reality.

It was just me being so content in that moment that I didn’t want to capture it and I didn’t want to filter it. I didn’t want to change a thing about myself. I just wanted to learn to live inside of it.

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Filed under Live with intention

Make me come undone.

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There was nothing so extraordinary about the diner itself.

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

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

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

 

You pack.

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

This journey belongs to no one else.

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Filed under The Tough Stuff, Uncategorized

Little thing.

With permission, I have posted the email below.

Hannah,

I’ve had a pretty rough semester, and it’s finally coming to a close in just a few weeks. I’m getting ready to graduate and move back to the West Coast, and I don’t have a job. I don’t even have all of the money that I need to get back yet. I’ve been going through physical health issues this semester, not to mention a pretty serious depression. All I want is to trust someone. And I feel like God has been asking me to let Him love me, and to trust him with what comes next, but I’m  struggling with that. I’ve struggled with that for years – I find it so hard to trust in general, and especially when I can’t see Him standing in front of me; can’t have a conversation with him at a coffee shop. I guess I just wanted to ask: how do you do it? How do you trust in God and let him love you? What am I missing?

Thanks for your help,

M

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M—

Sometimes I like to imagine the kind of conversation that would go down if God and I were actually able to meet up in that coffee shop you wrote about. I wonder about the things we’d say just after I wonder about what kind of foamy beverage God would order from the barista at the counter. It’s rainy over here in Atlanta today so maybe he’d go for something cozy— like an au lait.

I imagine that maybe we’d be the sort of two who never find a breath of silence between the both of us, like two people who meet up and suddenly become one another in an instant. And I can picture him twirling his cup around the table and being all like, “Girl, I feel so awkward every time I have to watch you go out on a date or open a present someone got for you. What is the deal?”

And then I’d be forced to awkwardly fumble through all the things he already knows about me: that I am not the best at receiving. Anything. At all. It’s a real struggle. Whether it’s a compliment or a gift, I’m the girl who often doubles back and is like… sorry that you think I am beautiful or sorry that you bought me something for my birthday… you didn’t have to say that. You didn’t have to get me anything. 

So I guess that’s where it all starts— There is an evident difference between saying thank you for a gift and feeling like you don’t deserve the time someone took to think of you. There is an evident difference between someone loving you and letting yourself actually accept that love in a way where you stop asking so many questions.

There are a lot of questions. I know because I have asked most of them. And I’ve been the one to quickly bottle my relationship up with God into something transactional. He gives, I take. I give, he likes me better and calls me a good worker. For a long time, people telling me that God loved me— that he actually gushed over me— was unfathomable and weird to me. For a long time, I honestly just wanted to say, “Can you just focus on hurricanes and wars and stuff? Can you really not pay any attention to me?”

 

At the start of 2013 I decided I would go on this grand quest to figure out how God loved me. Not “why” he loved me, but “how.” I think that is the root in a lot of our struggles— we just don’t understand how someone could love us. Or how they could leave. Or how they could stay. It’s not even a matter of “how much,” it is just a matter of “how.”

So I looked to figure out how. And I wish I could tell you it was some meaningful sort of Eat, Pray, Love journey but it wasn’t. Mainly I just remember sitting in my bed with my journal one morning writing this one line over and over again: How do you love a little thing like me? How to do you love a little thing like me? 

Not “how do you love a little one like me?”

Not “how do you love someone like me?”

Just “how do you love a little thing like me?”

 

A few hours later, I was sitting in the dark of a movie theater with a box of tissues tucked between my best friend and I as we saw Les Miserables for the 3rd time. And I think you can only see that movie in theaters maybe three times before you inflict some internal earlobe damage from hearing Russell Crowe sing that much.

Anyway, there is this one scene where Jean Valjean, the protagonist, rescues Cosette, Fantine’s daugher, and takes her home with him in his carriage. And he sings this really weepy song. In the moment, you’re positive you are more in love with Hugh Jackman more than you’ve ever been before and there’s this swift instance where you hope he’ll just come through the screen and sing you lullabies for the rest of your life.

I’d seen the scene a couple times before. But this time was different. It was like I could feel God’s fingertips pressing into that moment. There’s no better way to describe it than that. It was like I could audibly hear God saying, “That is how I love you,” motioning towards Jean Valjean stroking the little head of Cosette in his lap. “That is how I love you.” As if he we were whispering that he loved me enough to protect me, and keep me safe, and want no harm for me. That he actually wanted to be around me. And, if you are anything like me, then you already struggle enough to think you’re worthy of that.

 

The weirder part was when I left the movie theatre. Getting back to my desk, I did a “Google” search on Cosette. And then I searched for the symbolism behind that name. It’s of french origin. The root of the word is “cose” meaning “thing.” The name Cosette means “little thing.” 

Not “little one.”

Not “ little someone.”

But “little thing.”

Just as I had asked Him to show me hours earlier, “How do you love a little thing like me?” 

 

I should have prefaced all that by saying that it isn’t often that I hear God audibly. There are a lot of times where I don’t feel God anywhere and I am tempted to just say, “He’s not here. He left. He slipped out the screen door.” But then there are moments— outside of churches and prayers— where I feel God pulsing all around me. Like he constructed the atmosphere. And I have to remind myself not to run away from Him.

Sometimes that is the best prayer you can offer up to the ceilings: Show me. Show up and show me how you love me.

 

Loving someone is a process. Whether that’s God, or that’s another sticky human, it’s a process. The movies will say it’s something different but— no matter how instant that first draw to someone is— love is a building process. It’s doors unlocking. It’s windows breaking. It’s the discovery of new rooms inside of yourself. It’s the dark. And it’s the light. And it’s dark and light all scrambled into one. At the root of it, it’s a slow, trusting, building process that starts with letting someone in.

And that’s what it was, M— It was a matter of letting him in. And isn’t that the biggest obstacle that hides behind most relationships? One person wants to be let in. The other person struggles to just unlock the door. But there is a sprawling beauty that exists inside the relationships that resist the path of transactional. There is something you can’t see or touch that happens when you find the courage to mouth, “I’m all in.”

I think God is one of those relationships— especially if you feel like you’ve been trying to hitchhike away from him because you’re afraid of the things you don’t understand. Here’s the thing: We all are. We all are afraid of things we don’t understand— love. Letting go. Fighting harder. Forgiving. And maybe you’ll get hurt, but you should love anyway. Let go anyway. Fight harder anyway. Forgive anyway. For years, they’ve written countless books that have all said the same thing: these things are the only things that are worth it.

It all comes down to truth. And— if you’ve ever loved someone in a way where it seems as though the oxygen is falling out of the room when they walk in— then you know certain truths. Certain unchangeable truths about love: you want to give them everything in your world. And you want to give them everything outside of your orbit. And if they need the morning to come, you want to be that morning for them. And if they need the stars, you want be those fragments of light too. And you just want to sit by them. And you just want to know they’re doing well. And you just want to witness their greatness, the moment they’re finally shining out. You want to be right there next to them for that. And you want that honor to be in their life.

It’s crazy because you feel this way about other people who’ve left you or broken you down but you think it’s just too wild to believe in a God who might feel that same way, that very same way, about a little thing like you.

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The Fault in Myself.

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I used to host funerals for myself.

That’s about the most morbid, twisted, strange thing I will probably ever admit to you. That I, Hannah Brencher, used to host funerals for myself on the regular. They weren’t funerals where I died or anything. I didn’t recite a eulogy or lay down on the ground like a body with no soul left inside of it. I just would have these moments— these “I want to change everything about my life and the person that I am” moments— and I would remedy those feelings with a funeral.

I’d find a shoebox. I’d fill that shoebox with little trinkets, old indications of an old life, and then I’d duct tape the shoe box up and heave it into the trash. I’d wear black for the day. I called that little ritual a funeral— throwing away who I was to become someone new. Someone better. Someone more likeable. Someone you’d have a really hard time letting go of. 

No one ever knew about my funerals. No one ever knew that so much of my life growing up was just a matter of facing a mirror and asking, “Could you just be someone different today? Could you just do me that favor and start over?”

 

I had one of those weeks last week.

I am sure you know the kind— the kind of week where you get so hellbent on becoming someone new. Where you run down a checklist in your mind of all the things you need to say and do and do better to actually become the person you’ve hoped to be since the first day you realized you could change, if you wanted to.

And so started the quest to be a more efficient human being on a Friday afternoon.

 

I should mention that it was the Fault in Our Stars that stirred this need to be different inside of me. And some of you are nodding your head, biting your bottom lip, and whispering beneath your breath, “Yes, I know what you mean. I saw the movie. I ugly cried too.” 

Well, ugly cried would be the understatement to whatever slow, inconsolable sobbing got released from my lungs while watching that movie. I mourned. I maybe mourned for everything I hadn’t mourned for in the last seven years in the middle of a dark theater at midnight, surrounded by teenagers getting to hold their crush’s sweaty hand for the first time. I mourned deaths, and old flings, and paper cuts, and moments of insecurity, and friends lost, and moments slipped without me ever taking them for what they were. I mourned the death of old dogs, people I never said “I love you” to, yellow benches, bags of clothes once donated to Good Will, just about everything.

And when the mourning was over, my new friend and I sat in the still of an empty parking garage at 2am and we didn’t speak. And we didn’t stir. Just hours earlier, we’d been laughing with massive vats of extra-large sweet tea in our hands. Now we tried to start sentences for a long time. And my eyes were puffy and swollen. And she didn’t know, in that very moment, that I was sitting in the passenger seat of her car wishing I could be someone different— someone who carried the same thoughts and feelings about life as Hazel Grace. Some type of girl who let people in long enough to let them build some type of forever out of a series of counted days.

 

You see, I am more of the Augustus Waters type.

I am the one who, for so long, always wanted to do something wonderful— something that would make me be remembered by many. I know I’m not alone in that– in wanting to be the sort of girl who stays on your mind long after you’ve met her. But I sat in the car that night and I wondered if I needed to become someone different— the kind of someone who realizes what she has when she has it. The kind of someone who actually sees the people surrounding her. She’s actually there for the big moments. She wouldn’t miss them for the world. My mind trailed back to this one time where I was offered a free trip to Utah. All expenses paid. To just go out there and meet with some entrepreneurs. And I said no because there was a wedding shower. I’d already sent in my confirmation that I’d go. The woman on the phone said, “Let me know if you change your mind.” She assumed I’d change my mind. And I assumed I’d change my mind. But I didn’t, because I didn’t want be that person who forgets the people who are her covering. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t torn between wanting more and wanting what I have. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I wanted to strike a balance between the two more.

I want to be that more than anything though— the friend who doesn’t give up. The friend who says, “I’ll be there” and they always, always are. The friend who you can always call— be it for a book suggestion or the kind of conversations that start with, “Hey, can we get on the phone with a bottle of wine and just hang out for a little while? I need that sort of thing tonight.” 

 

So my quest to be a better human being on a Friday afternoon started on Facebook. Because I want to be the type of person who remembers birthdays better and Facebook has ruined me in that capacity. I’ve gotten so guilty with just occasionally looking over to the right side bar of the screen and planting a generic “happy birthday!” into the spaces— sort of like a Mad Libs— and sending my boring message of gratitude that someone got born on that day into the inter webs.

So like I said, I started on Facebook. I took out my planner, the one with the black stripes and gold edges, and I began scribbling down the birthdays of the people in my life. And then I had a panic attack because there were suddenly too many people in my life. And then I rattled through a list of self-constructed questions: Am I good person? Do I talk to them enough? Are they mad at me because I fail them when it comes to text messaging? I should call her more. I forgot her birthday. I never saw it on Facebook. Should I apologize?” 

I bullied myself so much that I didn’t get past the just seven days of birthday. I only wrote down seven days worth of birthdays and told myself, “Just start here. Just start with these next 5 birthdays…”

 

 

One of the five birthdays was this morning.

Libby. The girl who knows all the coffee shops throughout New York City destined to haunt you after you suck their mugs dry. She’s just one of those people I want everyone to know. You know, the kind of friend that makes you want to find random rooftops so you can bellow to the whole city, “Today, one of my favorite human beings was born! Let there be copious amounts of celebrations and spontaneous parades! Or just be extra nice to people today, she’d want that more than anything on this day.” She wears bright yellow sunglasses. She teaches me not to apologize.

I slipped outside of my office space early this morning to call her. I smiled as the phone rang. I could instantly flicker through all the times in my memory of watching my mother close her bible in the morning and then go to her address book, flip through the pages, and find the name of whoever it was she’d marked on her calendar. I remember hearing the dialing of the cordless phone. My mother would wait. And then the sound of a kazoo being played to the tune of happy birthday would be heard throughout the house. Any person my mother has ever loved could tell you the exact way a kazoo sounds when its left in a voicemail on your birthday.

I left a voicemail. I wished I had a kazoo. She called me ten minutes later and we talked. It didn’t last long but it was enough for the both of us— it was enough of a space of time to say I miss you and I’m proud of you and I’m cheering for you, no matter what.

It made the morning better. And I chose not to find the fault in myself— because I was trying. We’re all trying. And that looks different to some than it does to others. To me, and today, it looks like birthdays. Tomorrow I’ll plot some new way to be a better version of myself. Today it is birthdays though. And remembering to say “I love you.”

It looks like I’ll accomplish a lot of things today. I’m already on schedule for a productive day. But, for some reason, this birthday of hers will be the thing that matters more than the rest.

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Occupy new space.

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“Andy Jacobs,” I muttered beneath my breath as my hands curled up into fists at my sides.

I was standing in the center of what was once my living room, surrounded by black trash bags and packed boxes. I was wearing a bright yellow dress that made my mama tell me, “You’ve never looked more beautiful than this moment.” 

It was the only thing I could think to say when my roommate poked her head out from the refrigerator and asked me if I wanted to keep the kettle. Otherwise, she would throw it out. Just a few days earlier, this had been our apartment. It’d been home to us. Memories were taped up on the doors. The ceremony was over. I had ten minutes to gather the rest of my stuff. My mother told me my relatives were waiting to celebrate my graduation nearly 45-minutes away. I told her I needed more time for goodbyes. She told me I had ten minutes. I balled the cap and gown up into a brown Trader Joe’s bag. And all I could think to murmur in that moment was the name of my eighth grade boyfriend: Andy Jacobs.

 

The Great Romance of Andy Jacobs and I ended quickly with a swift and merciless breakup.

It was a sudden sting. I lied about that breakup for several years and told all my friends we both decided it was over. I was just that young and embarrassed by it. In actuality, I was over-the-moon during the days when I had a “someone.” The cool ones had a “someone.” And I was legitimately thrilled to check my AIM profile every hour or so to see my name sitting there in his status box. I checked that thang nearly every day just to see my name. And it was always there. Until one day it wasn’t. He’d made his status “Single and loving it” before he even broke up with me. He was eager to tell the world I was gone. When he called me on the phone to tell me it was over that night, my fingers tangled and shaking in the curly cords of the rotary phone, I whispered back, “I know.” Because I already knew. It was over. I proceeded to write super dramatic poetry in my diary. There would be no Hannah Jacobs. Ever.

But here I was again— surrounded by black trash bags and expired memories and the remnants of my college life packed up into cardboard boxes. College was breaking up with me. We were really over. The letting go was so quick, as if it was ready to release me all along. And I was surrounded by people who I knew probably understood but I still felt like no one understood. That’s what happens when you go through something that thousands upon millions of others have gone through before— you still find a way to convince yourself that you’re the only one.

 

People will tell you the first year after college is the hardest one.

It’s not the case for everyone but I’ve witnessed it to be a true statement for most. Makes sense, though. For the last few years, you’ve built up this solid sense of belonging. You’ve taken classes. You’ve invested in a campus. You’ve had those nights— you know the ones. And then life changes and shifts and the whole thing ends. It feels very unnatural.

And the weirder of the weird things— it goes on without you. Other people enter in as you push out. It’s like watching your ex fall in love with someone new. You knew you couldn’t stay there forever but it still stings to witness all that newness curl in around someone else for the very first time. You still see people enjoying what you once had and you start whispering things you know will never be true, “I could stay. I could really stay. I could live in the past of this thing. I could occupy this space forever.” 

Turns out, you can’t. Your life is not a Throwback Thursday. For lack of a prettier way to say this– It completely nonsensical to live in the space when things were better & brighter & sweeter than this. There is no backspace button. Very little of the time are we granted the redo. It was meant to be this way. We never got promised journeys with no turbulence. We never were told, “Well, you’ll always cry happy tears. And you’ll always feel like you belong. And you’ll always have the answers.” The tears will be ugly. The outcast feelings will be real. You’ll never have the answers. The answers are never the point. 

You’ll have a lot of downs. You’ll feel a bit like the shoes don’t fit on your feet anymore. You’ll ask all the bigger questions you never bothered to mouth when your friends were there, and the fridge was stocked with wine coolers, and the biggest thing on your brain was a term paper. When the moments are good, you never stop and ask: What is the point of my life? Where am I going? Where do I belong? How, oh, how do I do something that matters in this big world?

It’s like any breakup— you either live in the past of old sweaters and best nights and questions you can’t possibly answer or you refuse to be defined by a relationship you outgrew.

 

I met up with a new friend just the other night at a pretty little placed called Dr Bombay’s Underwater Tea Party.

She and I, we’d never met before. I’ve just come to accept that some of the best friendships— the kinds of friend who send you poetry in traffic jams— are usually an instant sort of thing. You both come into it with enough resolution to say, “This is where I’ve been. This is how I’ve felt. This is what I am looking for. I’ve got no interest in friendships that won’t be real to me.”

And we sat among stacks of books in a city I call “new,” pursing cups of tea between our hands and talking about the moment when you know it is time to go and breathe. The moment when you know, it’s time to leave.

“I had to leave,” she told me. “I had to leave and let go because it wasn’t my space anymore. Someone else would come in and they would do an even better job than me. And I would have to go and occupy new space.”

Occupy new space. That’s the sort of thing they should say when a diploma gets passed. When someone leaves a city they’ve loved with their whole body. Instead of good luck. Instead of, “it will never be this way again.” Someone should get up real close to you and say, “You must go out there and occupy new space. Whether you feel it or not, this ending is very much your ready-or-not moment. Choose ready.” 

 

Choose ready.

Occupy new space. Embrace the awkward momentum of something new. Get your feet wet. Don’t worry so much about looking like you have it all together— you’re more put together than you can probably see or notice. Be good to people. The real world is all about those real people. And no, there’s never a reason not to serve. Press into life with gusto and other Italian nouns. Commit to what is around you. Be grateful.

When people try to tell you that college will be the best four years of your life, politely decline that misconception. College should never be the best four years of your life— that’s a disservice to a future you’re called to make bright and purposeful. When people tell you that you can’t make a difference, politely tell them no. They’re wrong. Don’t listen. And here’s the moral behind every one of those conversations you have: 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. The world needs wild hearts. Stay thick with wanting to change the world, that will be your golden ticket one day.

Own it. Go all in. Lay it all on the line. In the end, there is no other option than this. You either occupy the space you’re in or you don’t. You either went out there and did it with all you had or you didn’t. Either way, the choice was yours the whole time.

You must go out there and occupy new space.

Whether you feel it or not, this ending is very much your ready-or-not moment.

Choose ready.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Rebuilding.

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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. 

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

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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.

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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!

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(( 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.

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How to say goodbye.

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Sometimes I write things with the clearest picture in my mind of who I am writing them for. It’s like I can see you. You, with the red lipstick that you just got confident enough to start wearing. You, the one who doesn’t really understand the unique thing that people see you to be. I can see you sitting there. Reading me. And I search the ground, sort of like an Easter egg hunt, for the things I think you’d want to read.

And then sometimes I write something just so that I can go back and read it. Maybe once. Maybe twice. I write the words for myself, pretending that someone else is writing them for me. I do this strategically. I do this so that I don’t have to feel like the one who is alone– her hands full of unanswered questions– in the middle of something I don’t fully understand.

 

Goodbye is one of those things.

One of those things I don’t fully understand yet. I’m no good at it. I’d rather not go there. I’d find it better to beeline the whole entire thing. I don’t want to miss people. I don’t want to know they are growing in my absence.

That’s the secret pain of goodbye: people still have the permission to grow into their own skin without you. And that feels very strange. And I’m tempted to just say, “No, you can’t. Please. Just don’t. Just stay as you are.” But that’s selfish. You don’t get to keep people, selfishly, just so you don’t have to be so fearful they’ll find a way to live without you.

The only thing I know for certain about this whole “goodbye” thing? You have to say it sometimes. You have to get real brave, and bite your bottom lip, and let people go sometimes. Fully, fully. Even when you don’t feel ready.

 

They always make the point of goodbye seem so romantic on the television.

Someone is always waiting by the terminal. Someone is always asking you to stay, hurdling suitcases so that they can clutch your face. I used watch Dawson’s Creek and imagine I’d get to have all the long, grueling departures one day, just like Joey Potter. I thought that would be the real golden duck of adulthood– when people found it terribly hard to release me.

It isn’t. And Joey Potter should have just been honest and told us all the truth, “Goodbyes suck. And there’s no eloquent way to say that. There is no poetic way to talk about ugly crying on someone’s nice shirt. There is nothing in the moment that makes walking away seem reasonable. It’s just hard.” And you awkwardly just sort of hope that someone will tell you not to go. Because maybe you would listen to them. Maybe a big white poster board with the letters “STAY” written in black Sharpie would convince you to do just that. Just stay. For little while longer.

Because goodbye is hard. Goodbye is the starting point you don’t see because the finish line is so piled high with tears and last words and fears that this– this thing you have right here– will never be the same. Don’t fear that. Don’t fear that because it’s already true. It won’t ever be the same. It could be over. It could be final. But it could be better than the two of you could ever predict. That could happen too.

And yes, it feels like something in the room is dead or dying or about to die. And the scary thing about that? That’s already true too.

Something is dying. We can’t even ignore it. It sounds so morbid but goodbye is really just admitting that something is dying. You two came together– for a month or for a year or for five of those years– and you built something. You breathed your whole little life into that thing. Your secrets. Your fears. Your laughter. All into that thing. That friendship thing, that “I’ve never really met someone like you” sort of thing. And then, out of nowhere, it feels like something comes along and lobs the whole thing into pieces. That’s what a goodbye will do.

Goodbye is the fear– temporary and real– that we’ve carried for years up until that one word– short & stout– made it all tip over and all pour out: I am afraid to leave. I am afraid to change. Can you just keep me here? Can we never move? I’m afraid you will forget me. I’m afraid I’ll be forgotten in a room full of people who always seem to be remembered.

When I stood at the door to say goodbye, I muddied up the whole thing.

I let the fear speak louder than the genuine thing inside of me that knew goodbye was the only road to take.

“I hate goodbyes,” I told her. “I’m sorry. I’m just so bad at them. I wish they didn’t exist. I want to be like an octupus who has 8 arms and can just hold onto everything always. I wish I could just go in the night.” It was all my fears and insecurities that I would never have it this good again, all mounted and stored up inside of that word.

She stopped me. “It’s goodbye,” she said. “And then you get over it.”

That’s all she said before she pulled me in for a hug. And then she let me go. And everything about her gesture of letting me go so quickly– nearly like a band-aid you rip off and pretend there is no sting– seemed to hum the truth:

You, I believe in you. That is why I am so quick to let you go. Trust me, trust me, the human thing inside of me wants to keep you right here. Right where I can see your eyes and I can hold your hand. But even if you can’t see it, I can see it and I can ignore it no longer: you are ready. It is time. If I held you back, I’d be the one doing a disservice to the parts of this world that so deserve the blessing of “you” for a little while.

So cry your tears. And say your last words. And when you are emptied out, let me go. Please let me go. Don’t live in your memories, making tents and tiny houses out of the way we used to be. Something really wonderful awaits you. I need you to step inside of it.  Say goodbye because something new is about to start right here.

And me? Well I’ll carry the thought of you doing just fine. I’ll carry the thought of you meeting new people, and holding new pairs of hands, and clutching people closer than you ever clutched me. I’ll remember that when you came to me it was a blessing. A temporary blessing that we’ll one day see if we can make permanent. But for now, it’s you and all the little lives you’ve got to go out there and touch.

You’re ready. That’s why I’m letting you go. And everyone else? Everyone else who gets you for this next little “I’ll see you everyday” sort of while? They win. I don’t feel like much of a winner in this moment, but them? They absolutely win.

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Filed under Letting Go