You get to lay down your armor too.


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At the time, the idea seemed flawless.

It couldn’t fail. Putting my phone number on the internet, I decided, was going to be the best decision of my life.

This sounds crazy when I type it all out and I feel like I should preface all of this by saying: at the time of this brilliant decision of publishing my seven digits for the world to see and call, I was reading a book by Bob Goff. The book is called “Love Does.” It’s a good one. Bob put a phone number at the back of his New York Times Bestselling book and asked people to call him. Like, he really wanted people to call him. And though I have never gotten the courage myself to give Bob a ring, I’ve heard from countless amounts of people that he actually picks up the phone. He talks. He listens. All that jazz.

I became enamored with the idea of being that accessible to people. This image was floating around in my head of me getting all wrapped up curly telephone cord and talking for hours with strangers. I could picture myself sitting on the granite countertop, bare feet dangling over the sink, as I got to hear the stories of someone else on the other side of the phone. I’d understand the cracks in their stories. I would get to be there for people. Whenever they needed me. Whenever they called. No questions asked.

That didn’t happen. First off, a human being who is already evidently awful at picking up the phone (or even keeping her cellphone charged) is not going to magically “get better” at it by publishing her phone number on the internet. Also, the only people who called me were men. I felt like I was on one of those hotlines where lonely men call in just to “talk.” And I’m like too nice to hang up the phone.

My “deep, life-shifting conversations” consisted of one man who called just to have some company while he was walking to the convenience store to get Tylenol at 11:30 at night. I didn’t pick up for the four other men who called. They all left voice mails. And while I don’t have too much advice for men, I am confident enough to make this public service announcement: Men out there– men of this wide world– do not (I repeat, do not) leave a voicemail for a girl you don’t know including any of the following lines:

I need to hear your voice.

I just want to hold you like you hold your letters. I just want to hold you like paper.

I want to be the words on your page.

That is not the way to a girl’s heart. It is the way to a prison cell.

All this to say: my phone number sat on my blog for a mere 24 hours before I was forced to take it down. And I got pushed back to the drawing board.

Here’s the thing: I like to help people.

I like to serve people. I’ve never really known how to just take up a hobby. I am ultimately the worst person (ever) to engage with in a challenge because I will be absolutely relentless to murder the competition once you get me going. I don’t like losing. And I don’t like not being the best at things.

Yes, these are the fatal flaws. I am admitting them just because I know, daily, that I am wrestling each one down to the ground and making them lose their power. That’s what you do with your fatal flaws— you make them lose their power. You refuse to stay just as you are.

So back to that phone number on the blog: I thought that was the next step. It couldn’t just be a simple thing like sending a birthday card in the mail. It had to be global. It had be to be earth-shattering. I wanted to be there for strangers. No, I just wanted to be there for everyone.

And while some might think that is noble, I have to come see it for the truth that it is to me in my own life: It’s easier to stay at a distance. It’s easier to be there for everyone if it keeps you too preoccupied to take on the hard work of being there for just a few “someone”s who will fail you and let you down and you’ll have to forgive them anyway.

It’s easier to touch a lot of lives instead of laying your hands upon a few and refusing to let go. That’s been my life for the last year and a half: you get on a plane. You stay in a hotel. You wonder what to do when they finally you drop you off with your suitcase and you have a random few hours to kill in a city you don’t know very well. You’re an introvert. And you just want to find a diner with two eggs, stale coffee, and good people watching.

You get on a stage. You talk to college students, mostly. You sit with them in tinier circles after the talk is over. You hear their stories. Their breakups. Their big dreams. You take selfies. You go back to your hotel. You leave in the morning. 

You love every second of it. Really, you do. But you never get to “do life” with those people. And that’s a hardship I still have not found my way around.

There’s a grey I can’t quite understand for moments with people that don’t last longer than our fingernails.  It’s like traveling is just two steps on repeat: fall in love. And get on a plane. Fall in love. And get on a plane.

And when the plane is ready to take off again, get you up to about 10,000 feet, your mind always wanders back to the place it hates to stand inside of: what would it take for you to stay?

That’s the scary stuff that no one ever talks about: staying.

And what staying looks like. And why the heck “staying” is like the monster that hides in the closet once you hit adulthood. You lose the fangs. You lose the strange things beneath your bed. The idea of just letting someone stay, of just staying where you are and loving the one you’re with, becomes a whole new monster to taunt you at night.

We don’t talk about that for some reason. Maybe it hurts. Maybe it’s vulnerable. But it’s like no one ever undresses how absolutely terrifying it can be to let others get close to you. Close enough to see the junk. Close enough to let in the ones who won’t judge you when you come to them, weary and wrecked by the day, and just say, “You know, this day didn’t feel worth it. I could have stayed in bed. That’s just what I want some days: to stay in bed so that the rest of the world can’t touch me.”

And that would be okay. That would be okay to say out loud.

I guess you can give your phone number to the world.

You could. And you’d probably get a lot of good stories out of it. You’d learn a lot of different types of laughter and there’d be nothing wrong with that. But I guess the bigger question for me was this: Is this what you need? Do you need to go wider— touch more and more lives— or do you need to go deeper with just few? 

You can go wide, and wide, and wide but it will never feel the way it feels to go deep. To force yourself into people’s lives like a hurricane. To let them actually walk into your life and get the chance to say to you, “Hey, you don’t have it all together. You’re not the best at everything. And you get to fail too. You get to lay down your armor too. Please don’t be afraid of the ones who want to get close and closer and closest to you.”

You can go wide, and wide, and wide but it might never feel the way it feels to lay beside your best friend in bed. It’s a queen-sized so you both fit. Only the skin of your arms touch. And that’s just always been your thing— laying in bed for hours, laughing over boys who became ghosts and a God who feels a little too big and mighty on most days that end with “y.” But today, she’s not moving. You’re not moving. And it makes you want to crawl out of your skin because you don’t have the words to fix her. You always thought words could fix things, until they couldn’t.

But you stay. And you let the silence go on humming like a dial tone. You let the silence get louder and louder. You do nothing to fill the silence up to the brim with words. And that makes you feel helpless and free, all at the same time.

You just stay. And you don’t try to fix a damn thing. And it’s harder than a phone call with a stranger who can’t touch your burdens in return. And maybe you just stay in bed that whole day. You pretend like the rest of the world can’t touch you. At one point you whisper the only thing you can say without trying to fix the unfixable sadness that sits between the two of you. 

“You’re okay.”

Maybe that’s all she needs to hear. Maybe that’s all you need to tell yourself.

“You’re okay.”

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31 thoughts on “You get to lay down your armor too.

  1. my first tears of the day. thank you. these tears are something beyond happy or sad, something more than emotion, tears that fall when making contact with pure loving truth.

  2. i’m the biggest runner- it tend to run from anything good ironically because i’m scared that it won’t last forever, but i’ve been working on learning how to stay and it’s the best and hardest thing i’ve had to do.
    thank you for this!

  3. As a fellow helper of others I made a discovery around age 50- a truth in my life that has caused my journey to be anchored deeper than I ever though possible. Some of the time, energy, and love I so freely gave away to others needed to be spent on living my own life well. Not only did I stop seeking out to help strangers so often, I stopped “meddling” in many lives of acquaintances and started breathing deeper and wondering what it meant to Truly LIVE MY OWN LIFE REALLY WELL. Searching the answer to, “How do I become as graceful to myself as I was to my friends, acquaintances, and even strangers?” This inward journey has lead me to speak kinder words to myself when I mess up. Yes, I can put my armor down too! I can be as kinf=d to my own humanity as I am to other people’s humanity. It’s been a peace-N-joy giving discovery.
    So very much Joy to you, HB. Continue to #Bloomyellow
    It was so nice to me you in El Segundo. I will never be a groupie but if I had to pick someone to follow you’d be in the running for sure.
    love SP

  4. I’m going through the exact same thing right now.. The laying in bed thing. And I can’t move. And I can’t breathe in between the tears. And honestly, I am just waiting for my best friend to say “you’re ok.”

    … But she won’t ever, because she left without saying goodbye.

  5. Really love how you showed your heart for others here. I understand how it’s easy sometimes to put yourself out there a little far, because you’re focused on a goal that’s noble. Thanks for your posts.

  6. i absolutely loved this post. It’s like you know me. I think that’s what we all want.. to get deeper with the ones that are closest to us rather than searching wide to connect with others. but you’re right.. it’s scary.

  7. This is pretty awesome. Both the crazy stories of those men (I formally apologize for the entire gender ha) but also your takeaway. Thanks

  8. “It’s easier to touch a lot of lives instead of laying your hands upon a few and refusing to let go.” Huh. That is a good line. Being an introvert, and a monogamist, and a hopeless romantic, the very opposite is true for me. But that might explain why it’s so hard for others to refuse to let me go.

  9. Hannah, this is so lovely, and so resonantly true. Thank you for your honesty – as a fellow (recovering) perfectionist, I gain so much from your posts.

    This story helped reaffirm a recent decision I wrestled with: whether to keep a volunteer commitment or attend a close friend’s birthday party. Your statement – “It’s easier to touch a lot of lives instead of laying your hands upon a few and refusing to let go” – helped me to trust that it was OK for me to say yes to the party. xo

  10. This resonated deeply with me on a personal level:

    On August 26th, I very suddenly lost my father to a shocking (for more reasons than the obvious) drowning accident. As a person who equally lives and breathes service to others in every area of my life, I had to lay down my own armor to ALLOW other people the reciprocation of being of service to ME. Givers often cannot take with any ease, as I’m sure you know.

    Excruciating as the vulnerability and selfishness of the rare-for-me leaning into the loving strength and support of others felt, I was able to truly know respite on a soul level. For once, “taking” carried me, and in many ways saved me. Even simply accepting the thoughtful donations of hot full-course meals and other foodstuffs brought nourishment not only to my body, but directly to my starved spirit. It actually felt like devouring LOVE in the most fist-cramming way. That is no small statement when one is reduced to basic automatic function simply to get through the initial emotional whirlwind, while feeling desperately alone despite the surrounding throngs.

    I’ve since taken my armor back up, but it is now forever chinked with spaces for such precious grace to directly reach me again, whenever offered. The battle scars are reminder to me that taking as good as you give is victory, not defeat. I am better for that hard lesson.

  11. Hannah,

    I get you. When I was a bit younger I had similar thoughts to yours and wanted to share them with the world in hopes that maybe my words would touch someone, or help someone, or allow me to expel the passion I had within me. Nevertheless, this type of platform (internet/posts/twitter/blogs) did not exist. I am not even certain I would have thought to use it in the way you do if it was around then. I even tried to regurgitate some of those innocent dreamy thoughts that I once ached to share with the world, alas they are gone, that innocent dreamer crushed by the reality of the harshness of life.

    Despite it all, I still feel the need to save the world. I still want to fix everything. I told my father that my life would be content if my job was to solve problems. Maybe i want this because I am at a loss when it comes to fixing my own.

    So I want to turn to you. I have struggled for a while now and realize that I feel most at ease after reading your thoughts.

    Here goes, I have been in a relationship for a little over a year now. I love the man and I know that he loves me. When he met me he asked me if I felt the same way he did…like it was different, like love at first sight, like true love. English is not his first language and he is from a different culture so I never thought in a million years this was a line to get me, it turns out that the truth is that it was. He did not feel that way in the beginning, I was simply “another girl”, I proved to be more than that as he got to know me. Then I discovered that he betrayed me, but I forgave him. It hurt more than I could have ever imagined. I trust him, I believe he learned and realized how important I am, how much I really meant to him and most importantly I think he learned who he was and what he really wanted in his life. He was lost and found himself in me (or with me?).

    My struggles now evolve around the philosophy of this: If my feelings developed because of those little words like “destiny” or ‘love at first sight’…then how real can this be? I believe he is different now. But I struggle. Did I really feel that way too, or was it that had been waiting my whole life to hear those words? That is this man found those words to say to me (with English being his third language)…I had actually given up on the hopes of ever hearing those words. Then we meet and he says it to me with such urgency and utter confusion because he seemed to not even understand what he was feeling. I still remember the look in his eyes when he said it. How they seemed to delve deep inside of me. I searched those eyes because I could not believe what I was hearing. I was scared and could hardly breath. I believed again. The little dreamer in me resurfaced, gasping for air. I jumped, opening my heart like I never thought I would. I exposed myself and allowed myself to be vulnerable again. I was not looking for love when I met him, I was looking for a friend. I was looking for someone that I could trust and spend time with. But he deceived me and manipulated me. It wasn’t real at the time.

    What if he had never fed me those lines? There were times in the beginning when I wanted to walk, but I held onto those words. Those words that, in the end, turned out to be meaningless. Do I fight the ‘what if’ thoughts. and accept that i was duped or try to somehow allow the little dreamer girl in me to believe that it is a part of my ‘destiny’? That we were meant to be together and that was the only way he was going to have a chance?

    After he hurt me, I did not know what to do. I had invested so much in this and I needed to fix it…I am a fixer. Well I think I fixed it, We moved on, are living together, are happy together, never fight, we laugh and dance and sing together. But I am still broken. I go for a run to clear my mind and after my 5 mile mind-clearing journey I feel silent tears rolling down my cheeks. I collapse on the field, I stare at the sky, I am lost. It happens less and less frequently as time has passed, but it still happens. They say it is harder to stay than to run. I want him and I want to stop my pain. It has been months and months and months that I have fought this battle, alone. Some days I am mad, some days i hurt and other days I am fighting myself to not think, and some days are absolutely amazing.

    I know you cannot give me an answer of what to do or how to feel or how to change any of this. I do not want to hear those silly clichés like ‘time heals’ or a pep talk to the effect of ‘be strong’ nor do I want to be acknowledged for being a forgiving person when most people would not . A part of me simply wants to talk to someone that I think has a heart that is as fragile and explosive as mine. I simply want to know what thoughts go through your mind as you read this. I want to know if you have any words for me.

    Please forgive the lack of cohesiveness, my fingers are just floating across the keyboard trying their best to keep up with the thoughts that are tumbling around in my head. I just need to get them out.

    Thank you for listening.

    R-

    1. I agree – this post brought me to tears. I have so much to say, and I wish *I* could pick up the phone and call you, but I will just leave a note of incredible gratitude here. You touched me today and brought about feelings I knew were inside that I didn’t quite know how to acknowledge, and it was hard. But they’ve been brewing for a while, and now I know exactly why. I don’t feel a resolution, though, but an acceptance and an acknowledgement, and a huge chunk of understanding has helped immensely. ❤

  12. I cried because you write so wonderfully and describe so many of the feelings that I have. I was first introduced to your blog by a friend who told me that your writing made her think of me. Thank you so sharing your thoughts and writing for the world to read. You inspire me so much!

  13. Hannah, As a road warrior for 14 years, teaching about resilience and healing from trauma, I was so struck by this particular post. The level of intimacy (particularly with me being an introvert too) with strangers is so hope filled and moving. Your words touched me and you clarified what the jumble of thoughts and emotions have been for me. I have been resurrected during times of exhaustion with meeting and working with people in some of the ways you describe, a different city every day and wonder why I can’t find that same level of passion and energy on days in my hometown.

    Thank you for what you do. I look forward to your writings and have so many clients who read it too.

    Have a good week. Missy

    Missy Bradley-Ball, MS, NCC, BCETS, FAAETS http://www.theomnibuscenter.org

    Alternative email: Heroicjourney@me.com

  14. “That is not the way to a girl’s heart. It is the way to a prison cell”

    I know this post wasn’t supposed to be humorous, but I definitely just burst out giggling in the midst of Starbucks.
    Good one.

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