50 Shades of Honesty.


I wonder what I will tell them.

I mean, my kids. I wonder what I will tell my kids one day about the world I grew up in. I wonder how their world will look different than my own. I wonder how connected or disconnected this world will be when their hair is long and their knees are scraped and they’ve been standing here long enough to learn that life is both a symphony and a tragic, little poem.

I hope I will have the courage to reach them from beyond the screen. I hope they will see by my own life that I didn’t hide and I didn’t avoid the hard stuff. I wonder if I will have to swallow hard and tell them, “It’s really easy to pretend.”

Because that’s the truth: It really is easy to pretend. It’s easier to hide behind a good story. It’s easier to crop things and filter things and pretend you are holding the world together all on your own. It’s easier to get validation from “likes” instead of hard conversations. We live in a world where slipping out the back door, quietly and unnoticeably, is easier than it used to be. We have more stuff to hide behind than ever before. More password-protected caves to store our identities inside of.

I guess I am afraid that I could just put up a flimsy little status and you’ll always, always think that I am doing okay.

One time I got an email from a woman who told me I wasn’t as lovely of a human being as I pretended to be. She sent it anonymously. She said in the email that she had watched me and she didn’t think I was lovely.

And honestly? Her email broke my heart. I remember what coffee shop I was sitting inside of. I remember the drink I was pursing in my hands. I remember feeling like I had let a total and complete stranger down and I wondered where she’d seen me, how she’d known me. I wondered what her agenda was in sending me that email. Her words were mean and graceless and steaming off the page.

I remember how much that email stung me. How defeated it made me feel. How much I wanted to just say through the screen, “I’m sorry if I let you down but I am trying. I can promise you that I am trying.”

That’s all I can do these days: I can show up and I can try my hardest. I can try to let you in. I can try to hold on tighter. I can try to stay in the mess of myself and finally look at the root of the pain instead of projecting it on people and places outside of me.

And more than anything? I can be honest. I can tell you that my mother once said to me, “You think you are really vulnerable and you’re not. You’re really actually guarded.”

I can tell you I have been so incredibly guarded for so long. I don’t know where the walls come from. I can tell you that I am not a cuddly human being and one night at a happy hour, a few months ago, so many people hugged me in one period that I actually started to cry. Pathetically. I cried because it felt so good to be held after a long day.

I can tell you that when I was in middle school we used to vote people out of the lunch table on a daily basis— survivor-style. I had a stint of time as a mean girl and I still cannot get over the way it is so easy to reject other people with actions. That hard truth stays on my skin like permanent marker. I still cringe over the things I did just for people to see me and want me at their table.

I can tell you that I used to have a tongue as sharp as a razor and I could use it to lash out on the people who hurt me. I could tell you that my words are my greatest strength and my greatest weakness, all in one. They can build a person up effortlessly. They can be used to tear myself down completely. I can tell you that I am really good at extending grace to other people but I struggle to even let myself have a tablespoon of that same grace. I invite other people to sit at the table now but I still struggle to even let myself have a seat.

I can tell you that I’ve always known how to hide behind letters. It’s the best way for me to say what I need to say. I can tell you I have a stack of letters I’ve never gotten the courage to send. A lot of those letters are addressed to “Timmy.” Timmy is my brother. I love him though I don’t know how to tell him that and I chose to write all the sentences about him in my book in the past tense with the hope that things might look different for us in the future.

I can tell you that I’ve always dated boys with close sibling connections. I don’t know if that makes me envious or if that makes me hopeful.

I can tell you that one time a speaking engagement in Seattle got cancelled and I still boarded the plane anyway. The three kindest souls picked me up from the airport. We played “Shake it Off” too many times to count. They bought me sunflowers and I felt like Meg Ryan over and over again on that day. And when we got to a coffee shop, and finally had steaming brews between our hands, one of the girls looked me in the eye and spoke out, “Can I ask you something I’ve wanted to ask you for a really long time?”

I obliged. I told her I am an open book.

“What is your dad like? You never write about him,” she said. Almost immediately.

I remember thinking it was the best question in the world. She was right, I never do write about my father. And I proceeded to tell those three kind souls about the greatest man I have ever had the privilege of knowing. How my father is the hardest worker I know. He worked the longest hours all throughout my childhood so that I never had to know what “wanting” felt like. I told them I got the “dirt beneath my fingernails” work ethic from him and I’ve only ever wanted to make that man proud. Turns out, he doesn’t care about if I succeed he wants me to be happy. I remember him dropping me off at the airport a few months ago and just saying as he pulled my bag from the car, “Don’t take things so seriously, Hannah.”

I remember wanting to answer back, “Can we just erase all the times I never said what I needed to say to you? Can we just spend the next few years loving each other right?”

I think that’s all it boils down to loving each other right.

It all boils down to love and honesty and humility. It doesn’t always have to come in that order. Love to fill in the spaces. Honesty to sew up the gaps. Humility to keep us coming back to one another, more human than yesterday and more flawed than tomorrow will allow.

I can tell you that I am terribly, terribly afraid of making a mistake and loving people wrong and losing people. But I am so damn tired of being so afraid.These days I am willing to be a loser if it means I at least tried to love other people right. 

I can tell you that I am trying to be a lovely human being. I am really, really trying. And it has nothing to do with screens or a character count or a good website or a brand. It just begins with admitting I’ve been wrong before.

I’ve been wrong so many times before and there’s something really lovely about that.

There’s something really lovely about finally being flawed, and seen, and hopeful.

39 thoughts on “50 Shades of Honesty.

  1. Hannah! You are a blessing. You encourage with humility. You inspire with your bravery. You help me believe, despite my flaws, imperfections + failures that I can become something better, for me and for those around me. Tears pour out from my eyes as I type. I can’t tell you how much your words today have touched my soul. Thank you. Thank you so much for sharing your life. The pretty and the hidden parts too. It has always been the loveliest thing I see.

  2. I’m sorry but anyone who takes time out of their day to tell you you aren’t lovely deserves to be thoroughly smacked. And her opinion deserves to be thoroughly discounted (and honestly ripped to bits and set on fire). Sheesh.

  3. Can we be really honest to strangers over the World Wide Web? I know we can get the facts right, but can we be honest, warm blooded, vulnerable and heart lifting friends in this wide open anonymous space? Can the electronic likes ever bring forth a satisfying and meaningful relationship? Don’t we have to sit, share, cry and laugh often in each other’s kitchens with dirty dishes in the sink, sticky spots on the floors and piled up laundry on the couch for relationships to become deep, authentic, grace-filled and heart warming? Maybe the anonymous e-mailer hoped to get something out of your words that can only come from a real warm blooded friend. Maybe if she had said, “Hey, HB, can I join you for coffee?” she would have found an imperfect yet still a real heart warming friendship. I love your words; they bless. But I can ‘t seek friendship in them. I must find my friendships in the real people in my life. I hope your anonymous e-mailer has found listening ears and warm hands to hold during her difficult moments of life. A welcoming community is needed by most and the WWW is not any good at that. Words, music, paintings -all forms of art can show us we are not alone but the work of finding personal connections I believe must come from the courage to connect to real people. You are a lovely person, HB, I have read it in your words over and over. Keep encouraging people to connect to others.

  4. I firmly believe the reason certain people take the time out of their day to be horrible online is due to them feeling like failures. They are bitter. They are angry. You likely exude an energy of confidence, and you get stuff done. They are not living that life, and need to take you down into the depths of despair with them. Don’t let them do that. We are are different and placed here to offer our creative mind to the world. If someone else can’t see that and do it for themselves, they need to be pitied. I only hope that person can find peace. That was a beautiful blog post. Keep being yourself. You don’t always have to lay things on the line for the strangers of the internet to see. But whatever morsel you can bring to the table, only helps us live life the best way we can. Thank you.

  5. While meditating this morning it once again occurred to me that those who hurt us or rub us the wrong way are our greatest teachers. I was also shown that it is in those moments “if we are willing”-real love can shine forth. I’m thankful this woman wrote to you. Though it hurt your feelings this wonderful blog post was created. It’s all about love or a call to love in my book, so she was needing a call to love. She wasn’t being mean or bitchy. Just like you in middle school at the lunch tables…even back then: love or a call for love.

    Thank you for sharing about your father. I too have wondered about him. I enjoy all of your blogs Hannah. Something that rang out for me was you saying “love right”…I think when it’s love it’s love-there’s no need for duality of right and wrong when it’s love. Thanks again for sharing your perfect-nothing beeds to be fixed or loved “right” ness with us. (10 days until your book! Woot!)

    1. I really like your “love or a call for love” bit. It offers an alternative perspective towards those who hurt us. Thanks for sharing. Cultivating empathy towards those who hurt us can soften the blow.

      Yes, “when it’s love, it’s love…” Nicely put. There’s no right or wrong way to love. Even if we love a person, we may still wrong them. Love isn’t wrong. Even if the actions were. We all make mistakes in love and don’t always treat people the best. No one is perfect. No one is perfect in love. We may learn and try to be better next time. This is great. People do deserve good things from one another. We all also deserve to not be labeled according to our every mistake. We’re allowed to make mistakes. It’s okay. It’s expected. We’re messy and flawed humans, so we’re bound to be messy and flawed lovers. Yes, there’s no right way. We’re all too different and there are too many different relationships. Just love and do your best to treat those you love with the kindness and respect that we all deserve. Though if you hurt someone, they don’t owe it to you to allow you to continue to be a part of their life. We may be forgiven without being given a place in that heart again. You aren’t bad. Just sometimes some lives aren’t the best match. Sometimes too much damage has been done, too much trust broken. Sometime it’s just too much or unhealthy to continue to be a person’s friend or significant other. People have to do what’s best for their own happiness. I think that’s important to note.

      p.s. I’m a fellow meditater. *high five* It’s such a great habit to practice! Way to go! 🙂

  6. I can’t believe this is the first time I am visiting your blog. I will be back. Thank you for this very real post, hitting me right where I’ve been living for… awhile.

  7. Found this and I think it’s relevant.

    “No relationship can truly grow if you go on holding back. If you remain clever and go on safeguarding and protecting yourself, only personalities meet, and the essential centers remain alone. Then only your mask is related, not you. Whenever such a thing happens, there are four persons in the relationship, not two. Two false persons go on meeting, and the two real persons remain worlds apart.”
    — Osho, Intimacy: Trusting Oneself and the Other

  8. Just remember you don’t have to try to be lovely for that mean lady’s sake. Or for anyone else’s who think they’ve the authority to deem you unlovely. You ARE lovely. You don’t have to try to be. Not for her or anyone else. And if you’re trying for anything, try to remember that. Try to live life fully and love it and people and let them in. Don’t try to be lovely for other people’s sake. Save your trying efforts for more worthy causes, because you’re already lovely and anonymous people who hide behind computer screens, they’re cowards. Maybe you’ve hid behind words, and I’ve done the same. But you’re not hiding now. And I’d say you’re the courageous one. And you’ve inspired me yet again to be brave on the blogging front and the real life front, even if it means telling people I lost my job because of my health. And as a 26-year-old, I have to go on disability. And that’s humiliating and humbling and could possibly be the best thing that happens to me right now, even if it’s the hardest. Thanks, lovely. ❤

    1. Tamara-seeing your comment lifted my spirits because I am also in my early 20s, struggling to be honest about my health, and facing going on disability in the near future. It helps to know there are others out there in a similar situation. Wishing you strength and light.

  9. “I can tell you that I am terribly, terribly afraid of making a mistake and loving people wrong and losing people. But I am so damn tired of being so afraid.These days I am willing to be a loser if it means I at least tried to love other people right.”

    lovely words from you Hannah!! waaahhh, i want to hug you right now. ❤

  10. pretending and hiding is easy..I’ve been there for so long…but there is always that moment when you don’t have the strength to pretend anymore…I’ve said that before but will say again…thanks for putting my thoughts into words 🙂

  11. I love you, Hannah—For all the truth that extends to me through your words… for the sheer honesty of how you say things… for the tears that cascade down my face as I absorb your words…for being real in the world of facades…for making yourself vulnerable to touch my heart. My screen saver reminds me daily that “everything you want in on the other side of fear.”. And you take that fear and show it to be the weakling that it is. You inspire my soul to be more by drowning that fear with life. Thank you!

  12. you will always be as lovely as your writings to be, hannah. each and every single thing you post touches a little bit of my soul.. so effortlessly.

  13. I heard these same words today from a friend, “you care so much about others, but you don’t let others care about you. You don’t let yourself be vulnerable.” Thank you so much for your brave, lovely words. They gave me the courage to text him back.

  14. I want to write like you when I’m a grown up writer…I also want to be like you when I’m a grown up person! In all seriousness, I don’t know how to thank you for having the right words in your stories to describe the things that are relevant in MY life. It’s really uncanny. I come unglued a little every time I read one of your posts…in a good way!

  15. I read this and looked you up on Twitter to follow you. Your TED talk showed up. I watched it and was surprised. You were different than what I expected. I expected you to seem “perfect” because of your fame. But you didn’t seem “perfect” or unapproachable – you were real. Thank you.

  16. Most of us haven’t treated every person we’ve ever met (be it virtually or IRL) as perfectly as they deserved to be treated. Most of us haven’t always been nice or haven’t been there for someone, at some point, who needed it.

    Life is hard. It’s sticky. It’s full of learning – lessons. You learn things you didn’t realize or know before the lesson or experience. We all meet people before they have learned something they needed to learn. We all meet people at less than wonderful stages in their lives. And people have met us there too. And most of us get distracted and stumble down gnarly paths, from time to time. Life isn’t perfect and neither are we.

    And we ought to apologize when we do something not so nice that hurts someone. But we don’t have to apologize forever. And there are plenty of things that we don’t need to apologize for. Sometimes, some of us, apologize too much.

    We don’t have to keep beating ourselves up and feeling guilty. We don’t have to feel like we’re some crappy form of human and all of the other self-hating thoughts that get strung along. The guilt eats away at you and you can end up doing everything you can to cover it up or fight it. Good can come from this struggle but so can deeds that don’t feel as good as they ought to because they weren’t done for the best reasons. Let go of the the things that bring you bouquets of guilt and pin them to your chest. No one is wonderful and perfect all of the time. No one. And no one should feel guilty about that or like they owe everyone a “better” version of themselves. You don’t. You owe yourself the real you.

    You are your number one fan. You don’t have to please everyone. Please you. You are your number one reader. Put you first – so long as you do no harm. Keep trying to be better, absolutely. But not for reasons inspired by guilt or people pleasing. You don’t deserve to feel guilty. You don’t. Hannah, don’t feel guilty. You are wonderfully imperfect, just like all of us – and that makes you lovely – wonderfully, wonderfully lovely and absolutely loveable. Just like all of us.
    I’m a fan of yours. And not because I think you are perfect and wonderful to everyone all the time. But because you have a good heart and are hungry to grow and learn and be better. And you are real and want to squeeze as much as you can out of this life thing and you’re just like the rest of us in so many ways. That’s why I like you and your writing. You could tell me that you did something you aren’t proud of and I’d give you a big ol’ hug and like ya just as much as before. Sometimes people build up expectations for others to live up to. That’s on them. It’s not our lesson. I’m sure we’ve all done it but that’s on us to work though.

    Anyway, you keep doing you, girl. You won’t be liked by everyone but you like you and plenty of other people do too. And, you know what, that’s okay. If we’re true to ourselves we won’t win everyone over. There’s too many people out there and we’re all so different. We all have people we don’t care for and people we adore. And we’re bound to be those people to others. But none of that matters.

    What matters is that you gotta be your number one star player. You gotta treat your number one star player right.
    (To quote Katt Williams: http://youtu.be/3EjcwIVL3s8) ~ a must watch 😎

    Treat yourself to something that helps you feel good, today. Because you deserve it.

    ~ Peace out. Rock on. “Don’t stop believin’.” 👊

  17. Woo hoo, just saw you on the Meredith Show and WOW-you are going to be famous now. I have always followed your blog but we moved about three months ago so I have not kept up with my computer blogs. Congratulations and you had everyone in tears. Keep up the good work

  18. After just watching, “You’ve got mail!” for about the 20th time, I can think of no better time then to come across this post! 🙂 I absolutely love your writing style! And I love how nobody really even has the same style. Anyway sorry got a bit off track.. In this time in my life I can completely relate with this post, I didn’t realize I had any walls up until God asked that we take them down, and boy has it been one interesting journey! But I’m so glad I came across your blog! I needed the reminder for sure, so thank you!

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