I have stood on countless amounts of stages and delivered a talk called “Stay.”
The talk is broken up into three sections. Stay Hungry. Stay Small. Stay Here.
I never had an issue with being hungry. I have been hungry for my whole entire existence. I was always the girl who wanted to be used. The girl who wanted to be chosen. I wanted to serve God if it meant he would give me things to do. I remember wanting that before I even had a relationship with God. I remember high school parties. The room spinning. The drunkenness. Me in the corner, just thinking, “God, am I an accident for wanting to do so much and make such a difference when no one else seems to care?”
I never had an issue with being small. I have never puffed myself up to be big. I’ve honestly never believed in myself enough to do that. I’ve spent the latter half of my years not even believing in the worthiness of my own story. I probably need to learn to get a bit bigger. We’ll see.
It’s the staying part– the “staying here” part– that has always been my struggle.
I don’t want to be too hard on myself, I just want to say that staying is really, really, really hard. And I know this because I sat at my favorite coffee shop in Atlanta– the one where the baristas write you little love letters when they serve you drinks– with one of my good friends and we talked about love. And how loving someone and giving your heart to someone is really, really, really hard.
I don’t remember all the words we said but I do remember saying that loving someone is hard because staying is hard. The two correlate. They function within one another. And if you stay, you eventually have to let someone in. If you let someone in, you eventually have to drop the facade. You have to drop the act. You have to unpack your suitcases.
This probably goes deeper. I could probably write a whole book and just call it “Thank You for Staying.”
Thank you for staying.
That’s what I texted to one of my friends during one of the hardest seasons of my life. Thank you for staying. It was simple. It carried weight for me to say it.
And honestly? I used to look at that friend in church before I really knew her and I would think, “She has it all together. And her life is full. And she would not want to be my friend. And there must be no room for me.”
And while I don’t know which ones of those things are lies, I’ve learned that I have to be really careful with that last one: there must be no room for me.
That’s a damaging lie to staple to yourself: there must be no room for me.
What I am learning lately is that it’s not about the dishes.
It’s never really about the dishes.
I used to live in a community house in the Bronx, New York. I lived with 4 other girls. And “community” is a tough and gritty word that I still don’t really like because it feels too hard and it makes you face yourself pretty honestly (spoiler alert: you won’t always like what you see).
I remember them telling us during the orientation for the program that, at one point, someone would forget to do the dishes (or in my case: I would leave food on the dishes just because I am an inadequate cleaner who is too busy writing love stories in her head). And then someone would neglect to confront the dishes. And then another thing would happen. And then another thing would happen. And eventually, there would be an explosion. And all the little things would come crashing down on top of one another. And you will realize that it all started because of the dishes. Suddenly, it wasn’t about the dishes anymore.
You let it build and build and build, instead of just facing it when it was small.
I think that has a lot to do with the lies we tell ourselves. The fear we tolerate. The things we do or don’t do.
It starts small. And it grows and it grows and it overtakes us when we don’t confront it. It gets hungrier. And hungrier. Until there is a breaking point. Until you’ve convinced yourself that you’re the sum of your fears & the sum of your worries & the sum of your lies– as if each one was written upon your skin in Sharpie marker and people could see everything when they went to shake your hand.
I don’t know how to hash all the lies out just yet.
I am trying. I like to think I am getting better than ever before. But I know that it doesn’t come from moving away from it.
The easy solution in my head is always to move. To go somewhere else. To escape. To get away. And that’s never going to give you a full life– it is going to give you a life of running with a suitcase you can’t seem to put down.
That person I didn’t think would have enough room for me, she stayed.
She prayed. She became a warrior. She reminded me to laugh. She has a full, full life and yet she keeps the doors and windows opens for newcomers who show up tired & empty.
And me? I know I would give everything and the rest of the world to be just like her. To know how to open my windows and open my doors and ask people to come in, saying, “Hey, I know you’re tired. I know you’re stressed. And I want you to stay. I want you to stay and undo the latches on that suitcase and take out everything and put it away. Put the things away for good.
I am going to make some tea. We are going to talk. And you are finally, finally going to stay.
And you are going to fight. There is enough room for you.”