Love Yourself, Uncategorized

Take these sunken eyes and learn to see.

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I catapulted into the passenger seat of the car wearing the most convincing grin I could find before leaving the house.

I didn’t want to talk about it. I didn’t wanted her to accuse me. I didn’t want the argument. I wanted to ramble about the things I was sure of: the weather. My shoe size. My craving for the evening entree: Mexican. Definitely Mexican. 

“So, how…” she started to speak.

“We had a really great day,” I cut her off quickly. “We spent it hiking. And we didn’t fight at all. It was like we were starting all over again. It was great.”

We sat in silence for a tiny eternity before she pressed her hand to the gear and pushed it into reverse. “Hannah,” she whispered.

Don’t say it. Don’t say it. Don’t say it.

“One day does not change the last year of your life.” 

 

Hi, my name is Hannah Brencher and I am a retired member of the “I Tried to Fix You” Club. I’ve resigned from my position as secretary of the “Please, Just Change” Club. I’ve stopped knocking my gavel at the “Tomorrow Things Will Be Different” Club.

I’ve been there, floating on the dang door in the icy ocean, holding tight to someone who is dying right in front of me. I’ve been the one to say, “I’ll never let go.” And I’ve learned the pain that comes in loosening the grip simply because we don’t always stumble into the people who ask us to hold on. Some people have never wanted that of us.

Sometimes we stumble, crash, collide, and even fall in love with people that walk away. It happens. That’s life. Cue Frank Sinatra.

But that story of mine goes back to a bad year. A year full of fighting. A year full of tumult & tears. A year spent wondering what it would cost to walk away. How would things turn? How would they tumble? And could we stand on our own anymore? And where, oh, where was the guidebook– the handbook, the dictionary, the Wikipedia site– for all of us who got so tangled in Another Soul that we forgot who we were apart from another pair of hands. Another pair of arms. Two eyes that always saw us through?

 

I used to put my whole body into relationships.

I used to turn to a speck, a glitter, beside someone else.

I’d be sucked dry of self esteem and left hanging on the every word of boys who should have never needed to validate me like a Taylor Swift ballad. I cried at night after parties, my tiny body on the floor wondering how vodka brought so much honesty & heartbreak through my bloodstream, imagining the day in which I would take the concrete shoes off. The day I would walk away finally. The day I would finally face the mirror and ask, “And who are you, girl?” Who. Are. You?

I never wanted my fingerprints on that question. I never wanted to dance with the Ugly I found inside of me. I’d rather pour my energy into fixing someone. And healing someone else. And be a big ol’ bandage to anyone who ever came to me with their heart in their hands. And staying in relationships as flimsy as scotch tape houses if it meant I could focus on holding up anything other than me.

 

It was nearing 2am.

Her words kept rubbing against me as I crossed and uncrossed my legs on the floor.

“One day does not change the last year of your life.” 

“One day does not change the last year of your life.” 

I was alone now.

And I’d stayed up to plow through India and learn to love in Bali.

I was reaching the edge of “Eat, Pray, Love.” In a quiet house that held the snores of my parents somewhere within it, I was reaching the point in the journey where Elizabeth Gilbert would dot her last sentence. Leave me there. To start my own path towards fixing whatever was broken. Replacing whatever was lost.

I was alone now. The texts weren’t coming any longer. There were no goodnight kisses or someone to battle with over who loved who more. And I felt aloneness for the first time. It was the first sense of knowing that I was on my own. It would stay that way.

And it was strange but lovely to feel like, for the first time, it was time for my own repairs. The fog was clearing and it was just fine to learn the art of putting myself back together again. Without all the king’s horsemen. Or all the king’s men. 

I felt more worth it in that moment than ever before.

I sucked the last line in deep. I closed the book and folded my legs up around me. I whispered to the spaces that always hold God at night, “I don’t know what I was made for.”

I didn’t know what God was scratching his chin about on the day He decided that there’d be a little girl with freckled limbs & wild red hair. I didn’t know if He sang. If He danced. If He wrote a poem and sat in a cloud of a canopy for the rest of the afternoon.

But He had gone through the trouble & the tumble to make me. And I was a being who cried separately, who dreamed apart, who could walk away. It might take a few steps, a few falls, a few mistakes, but I could walk away. And stand alone. And learn to fix the wings so stitched for flight.

And, in that moment, knowing just that was enough.

It was enough to start over. It was enough to stay walking on the path towards Away.

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Love Letters, Love Yourself, Simply Living, Uncategorized

Learning to be the cool, vulnerable chick in the corner.

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I want to remember everything about this time.

The details. The silver linings. The gooey middles. The intricacies that hold in these once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. And how these once-in-a-lifetime opportunities seem to be happening pretty consistently in my day-to-day. And I want to remember that they should always, always humble me to my knees.

Last week I boarded a flight for Hollywood. I was there for a solid 24-hours. I stayed on the Boulevard. I brought wardrobe choices. I walked on a TV set. I had a dressing room with my name in the middle of the star. I sat down with a host I’d known for years by the glow of the screen. I wondered when I would wake up.

Life feels a bit surreal these days. It feels like it probably belongs to someone else. Or that it’s been lent to me by someone who’s coming back tomorrow, planning to ask me, “Was my little life good to you?”

And let’s be honest– I had no real intention of ever blogging about this. I planned to trot back from Holl-ay-wood and post my usual “Inspiring Post that Makes Others Think It Could Be About Them But Really It Is About Me… Maybe…” kind of post and stay off from all y’all. But someone sent me an email as I was boarding the plane, a single sentence email that read: “Please tell us about Hollywood.”

OOF. Wind rush. Me? Talk about my life? On my blog? Jeepers, now that is something I don’t like doing. I am going to be plain & honest & true with you… I have never felt comfortable talking about my life on this blog unless I muddy up the details with imagery & metaphors and leave your head spinning and wondering if the details of that last post ever even happened to me at all. And no one knows a thing about me besides the movement I started and the color of my hair. It might be a defense mechanism. I’ve done it for three years now. But something is pushing me out my comfort zone and I am ready to share more. And be honest more. And give you more of a glimpse of my everyday ordinary. (I am so swallowing hard right now, sweating profusely, wondering if I can actually do this.)

So my life… yea… and what I think it is these days.

I think it simmers down to this: Great faith. & great expectation. The two, braided together like horse hair, took me straight into a life I never planned for myself. A life I never thought my little hands would deserve.

When I quit my fulltime job back in July, God was calling. Trust me, it takes much bravery & courage on my part to admit that to strangers who only know me by the slang in my syllables. But the quitting my job was God’s plan, not my own.

My plan has always been big & illustrious. If I were an Indian child, they’d have named me Lover of Big Names & Fancy Resume Buzz Words. I wanted to work for huge nonprofits. I wanted connections with names that would hitch up my LinkedIn profile and make it shine brighter than the Hollywood Boulevard at night. I craved security. Enough money. I wanted the things that would symbolize a job well done. A kid making well for herself in a struggling economy. But the plan was never to quit the job.

Then More Love Letters came alone. And it was a squander between a role God gave me that hummed to the riffs of His very own soundtrack and a job God had given me to deliver me out of the Year of my Unraveling. The Year Depression Wore Rainboots & Tromped Out My Spirits. I wanted to honor both roles. I burnt out. I worked too many hours. I forgot friends. I kept praying.

In the middle of April, God whispered July. The month would be July. I knew something would heave. Turn. Shift. And, sure enough, a job was offered for July that would cut me down to a fourth of the money I’d been making. I left a salary, benefits, insurance. My pockets were heavy from student loans. I found a limb… and I walked out on it. I was fearful. But I had a feeling it would fan out into something beautiful.

I could suddenly work from anywhere, for someone who gave me one requirement: The time not spent working for me gets devoted to your dream.

I agreed. I stepped out. And I clung to God for security. For abundance. For a direction.

My life takes on a new kind of ordinary these days.

A new kind of normal that I am learning to embrace with both hands. I’m not used to TV studios. Nor am I used to heavy email inboxes. Or public speaking. Or book deals.

But it is all rolling forward and I am being stretched in the limbs to show up every morning and be the girl that God mapped out for me. If I didn’t want so much– if I didn’t already have the sweetest taste in my mouth for what God can do for those who trust Him fully– I’d be the girl I thought I always should be: quiet. Pent up inside a box. Insecure. Sorry for her own existence.

And I don’t want to stand here, with hands in pockets while looking down & kicking at the dust, trying to tell you that you can transform your life into something magical. Truthfully, I don’t think I could pull off a shred of magical on my own. But I looked up to the heavens and said, pretty honestly, “I don’t always trust you, I don’t always know what you want from me, but I am tired of this sadness. I want my life to be whimsical. I’ve got big dreams. I have so much I want to do. I want to write books. I want to speak to many. I want to do Your work, God, if only I knew what that work was…” And yea… God met me with a pretty outlandish but whimsical life. (Twas’ never my own doing and I don’t ever plan to take that credit.)

And so, no, I don’t want to be that other girl anymore. The tired one. The one who is not confident in her abilities & giftings.  & I must refuse to bring her along in this journey because the girl already mapped out for me is another thing altogether.

She is pretty wonderful. She is pretty cool. She gets to do amazing things. She gets to meet amazing people. She feels blessed almost always. She is learning the art of gratitude better every morning. That girl is learning, above everything else, that she needs to embrace what is coming her way like golden tidal waves, whether she ever felt she deserved it or not.

That is the girl I want all of you to meet. She is not perfect. She is not trying to be perfect anymore. She is just joyful. Content. Ready to share. Ready to find her own voice on this blog.

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Love Yourself, Perfectionism

Girl on “Wire”

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They said grace and let the soy sauce roll.

Rows of sushi stuffed with salmon and avocado lined the plates in delicate, little rows, ready to be prodded by the chopsticks of girls gone hungry for communion & conversation.

They settled in their chairs, relaxed into the rhythms of one another’s stories. They were old friends, all too familiar with the way that distance could rap on the door frame.

“My girl wire got the best of me… it definitely did this time.” 

She stared down at her plate and looked up for some kind of forgiveness from her friend.

The two turned to laughing. They cleared the air of apologies. It wasn’t too late. No, it was not too late. 

 

One of my best friends and I refer to it as the “girl wire.”

The girl wire is best defined as “the ability to lose one’s footing, balance, and sanity, in a frenzy of obsession over a guy.” It’s a common prince charming syndrome. It’s acting out of emotion, out of carnal “accept me” motives, rather than grounded soul & assurance in your own worth.

It’s the abandoning of all the confidence & assurance you’ve carved into yourself for the approval of another. It’s letting that approval dominate your thoughts. Your actions. Alter your beliefs. Making you go back on the person you said you wanted to be all along.

Together, we’ve learned the tightrope walk of balance between being completely smitten over the existence of another beautiful soul and what it means to pack up and move straight into the Valley of Gone, Baby, Gone. A Valley of Straight Up Losing Yourself to Another. Checking the phone incessantly. Finding value in his words. Sizing yourself up by the comments he makes and the breath he bothers to take to speak life into you.  

The feminist that sometimes stirs in me would say this desire to be accepted is engraved in our roots.

The feminist inside of me would banter about young women raised to be praised as “pretty little things.” Raised to be small. Raised to be weak. Raised to be waiting by the door for a savior. Or by the window for a prince. And, when that prince comes, we pour out ourselves like a basin. We swab the decks of that Yesterday Girl to be whatever another person wants out of our Tomorrow.

But the plain old girl inside of me, the one who still doesn’t know if she prefers tea or coffee on a rainy Tuesday, would just say that we are all looking to be loved & accepted, and we are willing to give up a lot of ourselves to get there. 

 

Now I ain’t saying love is a bad thing.

I ain’t saying that falling into the arms of a Somebody who devours your quirks like pancakes on Sunday is a sin. I’m just saying that we is human beings. We is fragile. We is broken. We is never prepared to handle all the parts of someone else; we were never designed to be such holders. 

And. yet. we. try. like. the. dickens.

It’s instinct to throw ourselves into another. It’s hope strung like Christmas lights around the barn that another person could be all the arms we ever needed, all the love we ever prayed for, all the acceptance we gave up on giving ourselves. It’s affirmation & confirmation & admiration & and all the other “ations” we crave to keep us from staring in the mirror and finding just what it might take to go weak-kneed over our own reflections and the life that surges from inside us.

Oh, if we stopped shoving off that power. Oh, if we realized that our hands are so very small for a reason; and that a guy can come along and hold our hands, and kiss our hands, but they cannot hold the whole of us in such little hands. Oh, if we only cut off the “girl wire” and just sank into the skins of a girl on fire. 

Know this: I’m not here to pour poetry out onto your soul. Watering your bones with almond milk syllables will never mean a damn thing if I don’t just simply say, in one single sentence, what I have learnt to be true in all these years: your completion does not rest in another. It’s not lock-and-keyed into the heart of another. Or a 6’3 stature. Or the glow of a screen. Or the sounding of a text.

It’s already stitched inside of you, as beautiful as the dust of a Creation Story that knit you in secret spaces out of spiderweb silk. It’s there, there in the deep of you already, no matter how much sludge & hollow & pain & abuse & resentment has covered it up in all these years.

It never goes away. It never buys the next train ticket out and decides to leave you standing on the platform alone.

You might forget it. You might lose the muscles it takes to believe in it. But everything you have ever needed is already inside of you. It’s sprawling like bucketfuls of wildflowers. It demands a watering can that’s only ever craved your fingers wrapped around its handle.

Your completion does not rest in another. If I know a single thing to be true in this crazy, whimsical life… it’s that. I don’t always believe in it but I know it is true. 

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Live with intention, Love Yourself

Let’s talk about lies. And how you still speak them more swiftly than Taylor Swift song lyrics.

It was the string pulled.

The string pulled to untangle years & years worth of lies that had been shoved & stockpiled in closets of the heart for nights just like this one. Waiting & waiting for nights just like this one; nights when the weatherman cried.

Sandy–her hurricane limbs and all the wickeder parts of her– hissed and moaned outside the window. The trees shook and shuddered. Leaves screamed for their mama branches.

I clicked through the document on my desktop anxiously, waiting for that triumphant gust of wind that would knock the power out and leave me by candlelight.

The screen would go black. I could walk away from the question. Sounded much like a plan.

“What is the biggest lie you have had to overcome?”

It stayed there on the screen.

The lights didn’t even flicker. Not flinch. Not a spark.

And all the hollowed crevices between the W and B and L within that question waited for me, whispered like witches in the glow of the moon, “Answer me. Answer me. Answer me.”

Let’s talk about lies. Like they were as fresh as pastry dishes. Globbed with apples. Glooped with cinnamon.

 Let’s talk about lies. And how you still speak them more swiftly than Taylor Swift song lyrics caught in the vocal chords of seventeen-year-old heartbreakers.

Of all the things I do, interviews are my favorite.

They open doors for reflection. For realignment. They are they like grace wearing shoulder pads for a girl who rarely knows how to cut herself off from a work load to just step back and marvel at what God can do with such a messy, messy life.  

I save the interviews for the nighttime. For the glow of the computer screen. For the third cup of tea with the foam of peppermint on the edges.

So it remains just me, clicking almost silently into the dozens of documents waiting to capture the story behind More Love Letters and lend it to their readers like dicey pocket change. Waiting to get beneath the skin of the girl who spends her days with her wrists sunk deep in piles of stationery learning to love wads of this earth by way of written word.

The questions are normally simple. True. Creative. Quirky. But never, no, never has a question stared me so hard in the face. Never so much as this one.

“What is the biggest lie you have had to overcome?”

Welcome to the Land of the Things We Never Really, Truly Talk About. This ain’t no bring-this-topic-up-at-brunch kind of question. No, I’ve never seen the clinking of mimosas and buttering of pumpkin pancakes as we swap stories of lies we’ve learned to tell the mirror and non-truths were grappling to just overcome.

Overcome. Overcome. Such a strong word that I still don’t fully understand. When my knees feel weak and my heart is gearing up for battle against the soldiers in my mind, I don’t think I fully grasp what it means to overcome.

And be triumphant. And have complete control over destinies in my life, like I deserve that or something. Really, really, I have struggled to believe that. And instead  I might be tempted to lead the army of the Girls Who Got Used to the Lies. So used to the lies that they laid down on the floor, put their hands above their heads and shuddered like Germany when the second war ended.

“What is the biggest lie you have had to overcome?”

She worded the question as if to say that the lies were made for that. For overcoming. For pushing past. For speaking truth. For clearing out from the corners of our lives like cobwebs & clutter & clothes that don’t fit us in the legs any longer.

And I realize that I want to be just this: one who overcomes the lies. One who does not let the lies bind me or break me or keep me from moving into the plans I know are placed ahead for me.

How long have you been handicapped? I asked myself. How long have you felt unworthy? How long has it been since you last admitted it instead of saving face and pretending like you’ve got every ounce of this world together in your palms?

Could you be a wreck in front of someone? Today? Tomorrow? Could you name the lies that are knocking at the door? Scraping at the kitchen floor like the hurricane wrestled and shuffled inside. Take your shoes off, Sandy. Don’t bring mud in the house.

The lies we let sink deep into the mud of our souls fester and stir like hurricanes in the heart.

We don’t admit them. We don’t talk about them. We don’t give air to them in interviews. We keep them locked & keyed. We vow to be stronger in the morning. We hate ourselves deeper when the strength doesn’t show but the lies still arrive to ransom our spirits.

& they ravage. They pummel. They knock us down and convince us that we are not worthy of the day, not worthy of the light, not worthy of the goodness that this world is so capable of giving.

And so we grow so comfortable with just accepting the lies, welcoming the lies in my like house guests who demand candles & blankets & hot food upon arrival. And I forget the second part of the story. And you forget the second part of the story– the part of the story where you & us & we, we learn to overcome.

And you decide that you are worth something more than lies that only made you feel one fourth of alive. Lies that never kept your fingers warm like the old English mama at the bus stop in February, pursing little hands in her own until the heated yellow school bus came to take your back pack-toting body away.

And you decide that “to overcome” means something different than you’ve ever known before.

Overcome. A verb. One that requires strength. A strength you never knew you had though it has been there all along.

Overcome: to not be washed away. Like seashells in the supermarket on the days the oceans flood.

Overcome: to not feed. The hungry lies. The impatient worries. The parts of us that have never felt loved.

Overcome: to resolve that we are lovely. Worthy of love. Time. Energy. Joy. And we are getting better at believing that all the time.

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Love Yourself

You really should stay thick with wanting to change the world. Because you’re golden that way.

Yesterday, two years ago, my life changed in a forever sort of way.  God dug a purpose deep in my heart. It took me a year to realize but it was two years on the Yesterday that the digging began.

Yesterday, two years ago, I left the girl I once was behind. A girl of my Yesterday. I haven’t written her since. This letter was overdue.

It’s been two years.

Two long, gaping, shifting years since the day I last looked you in the face and tried to strike a deal.

Don’t you remember how we always tried to strike a deal? Tomorrow we’d try happier. Our clothes would fit a little looser. We’d be more graceful and carry less awkward into the conversations we held. We’d be wittier. Yes, wittier. A little stronger. We wouldn’t wilt like yesterday. We’d try mostly, as hard as we could, to stop focusing on ourselves and shift onto others.

I took that last one the hardest. I became the girl who lived life out loud for others in the every, every day. And it was good & it was glorious. & most of all, it probably meant that I was never coming back to you. That I had left you in the dust. Left you in the house, beside old memories & softer stories, and you were running out of pasta, running out of crackers, running out of fuel and finally falling away.

but the old parts of us always come back

Oh, how the memories come back to roundhouse kick us in the face. BOOM. POW. Whatever sound a good, hard kick makes.

Like that first love of yours. You remember him. Flowers. Understanding. All the weavings of a Taylor Swift love song stuck in your hair. And all that pain you got stuck inside of you like peanut butter to the roof of your mouth.

And how you thought you’d shut the door. And pent up windows. And boarded back entry ways. In a “we are never, ever, ever getting back together” sort of way. And how you thought you’d hunkered down in a bunker that would never, ever let his name echo off the sides of it again.

Until, until that Brandon boy, or Brendan, or whatever Br- name of the boy at the party with the green rugby shirt. And how you left the party with him. And how you went to kiss him out of desperation mode. And how he pulled away more sudden that Daddy when his plastic little limbs yanked from the bed at the 26th hit of the Mattel alarm clock. Crank. Shoot.

“You seem like a really nice girl,” he said. “But there is a lot of hurt in your eyes. I don’t want to add onto that.”

And you wondered if boys actually said those kinds of things. Or if maybe someone should recruit him to sit beside the writers of future spin-off series of Dawson’s Creek because that line was just too good, There is a lot of hurt in your eyes. Bravo, boy with the Br- name, bravo.

But when he said that you turned, walked straight up the hill back to your apartment. You slammed the door (maybe twice). And you wrote that first love of yours a love letter that you never planned to send. Just to say that you were tired. That you never got to say goodbye. That you really needed to leave him behind this time. So that you could find a new door, a new window, a new piece of plywood with ceramic that would somehow love you better than him.

& you called it closure ever since that night. You slept more soundly than ever before. Remember?

Closure. I guess that’s what you & I need.

For me to tell you that you won’t stay this weak forever. That you actually grow up, in the two years ahead, into someone more beautiful than we both ever imagined. & eventually you stop apologizing for who you are. You are strange & curious & awkward & obscure, but you wear red lipstick and cowboy boots and people actually really adore you.

That you really should stay thick with wanting to change the world. Because you’re golden that way.

Stay curious. Stay thoughtful. Stay open to ideas that crawl beneath the sheets like old lovers after a long winter away.

& know this,

That if the world somehow spun soundly on perfect & peppermint,  I’d somehow stay beside you and hush you and hold you in a Jack & Rose breathing icicles into the air on the door that once hinged itself inside of the Great Unsinkable Ship kind of way. I’d be a steady holding spot for you. I would. But I know this now: that every girl out there who wants to grow Stronger & Better & Greater than yesterday must learn to leave the Girl of Her Yesterday behind.

And if, by chance, someone outside of the Girl of My Yesterday is reading this right now then this side note is for you: You have to leave. Walk out the door. Say goodbye, no matter how much it scares you. That person doesn’t fit you anymore. She doesn’t own you anymore. You are not shackled. You are not bound. There is nothing— n-o-t-h-i-n-g— to keep you tied to the person of your Yesterday.

It’s not that I will forget you. It’s not that at all. This space is full of you. My journals hold you. And forever I’ll tell a story where you are laced into the Beginning. Always & Always.

It’s just this: I’ve bought a ticket. I’m boarding the train. My bags are at the door. My hand is on the knob. And I cannot take you with me no more. No more tucking you into suitcases. No more slipping you the stub when the conductor turns his head. You’ve got to stay this time. We’ve got to learn what it looks like when I don’t carry the Old of You around in my spirit. What it looks like when I am just me– strong, wise, ready for the world & unburdened by the Girl I Once Was Yesterday.

No more rattling in my ear. No more telling me “no” when I really want “yes.” No more fear. No more sadness. No more sitting round & round the tea party table with you & all the insecurities we collected throughout the days when we were weaker & we chose doubt like roses.

I don’t know how the story ends. I don’t know where we go from here. I don’t mean to make you wither or crackle or hiss.

You’re beautiful, though you don’t see it.

Lovely, though you don’t know it.

Ready, though you can’t imagine it.

Stay thick with wanting to change the world. 

That will be your golden ticket one day.

 

 

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Love Yourself, The Tough Stuff, Uncategorized

There will be them days.

There will be them days when all that will seem reliable is a chunky cable knit sweater hanging in your closet that, to your own knowledge, has never let you down before.

On them days, pull the wool over your head, push up the cowl neck, and invest all your faith in stitching and a chunky sweater.

There will be them days when you wish you could pull sentences from the sky, make words out of treasures you’ve found while sifting through the Lost & Found bin, to tell a person how you really feel. But all that will come out are fragments.

Incomplete.

Sentences.

You.

Don’t.

Know.

How.

To.

Complete.

On them days, find a sweet rhythm in the stuttering and the stammering. Simply delight in the person who makes the simplest syllables–I miss you, I love you, I need you– the hardest to recite. Maybe even say this: You Make All the Letters In My Alphabet Shake. The Q’s Quiver. The R’s Rattle. (they’ll find you truly poetic then.)

There will be them days when the only adoration you get is from a John Mayer song that he recorded seven years ago about daughters. And you’ll think to yourself, Wouldn’t it be lovely to be the girl who puts the colors inside of the world? On them days, keep your earphones plugged in until the end of the song, until Mr. Mayer tells you straight, “boys would be gone without warmth from a woman’s good, good heart.”

There will be them days where the Missing gets thick.

Thicker than molasses. Thicker than the chocolate current that took Augustus Gloop down in Wonka’s headquarters. You’ll curse songs on the radio that bring the Boy You Thought to Miss back. Your bones will ache for conversations where his name sits beside more than just some past tensed verbs.

On them days, let the Missing keep you.  People will tell you not to look at old photographs or cry over love letters;  I say, get yo’ salty groove on but promise to let it go at the end of the night. For your own good. For the doors that need to close before God props open that window people always talk about. We are human beings… looking back undoubtedly gets laced somewhere in our DNA, even if seems to hold the nutritional value of chewing gum.

There will be them days when all you will wish for is someone who knows your name.

You’ll grow tired of being The Girl on the Train. The Young Woman in the Cafe. On them days, give people a good mystery. Find that man with the notepad and glasses. Sit down right on his lap, swipe a hand across his cheek and put a pencil between your teeth. And then get up. And walk off the train.

Give people a reason to write you into story lines and poems that gets recited in the underground coffee shops of Chicago. Make him wonder if your  name is Clare. Rita. Siobhan. Rachel. Anything but the letters your mother stacked alongside one another to call you home when the street lights came on.

There will be them days when you wish to be anything but.

Anything but here. Anything but the girl whose skin you woke up inside. And you’ll only dream of curling up in balls & corners, waiting for the night to take you back to bed again.

On them days, breathe. Recognize that you’re human. Handhold a latte that’s sweeter than your usual pick. Purse it between two hands and just feel. Whatever it is. However raw or painful or distracting it wants to be. Just let it wash over you. Don’t try to even push it out the way.

There will be them days when all you have the strength to do is sit–square in the middle of the kitchen table that still holds your initials from childhood– and pair spoonfuls of peanut butter with a carton of vanilla bean ice cream. One more bite, that’s it. Just one more bite.

On them days, go for creamy instead of chunky. Go until the gentle reminder pushes its way inward: Food won’t heal you. Food won’t fix you. Put the Big Spoon down, Little One. I love you too much to watch this pain.

There will be them days when you’ll scrape the polish right off of your fingers. Freckles of Gold and Blue falling to the floor of the car. And you’ll look down at your hands in discouragement. What do you want of me? The question will sit in your throat. What am I here for?

On them days, take out a piece of paper and write it down. All The Places Your Hands Have Been. The letters they’ve written. The wrists they’ve touched. The wounds they’ve bandaged. The children they’ve held. The stories they’ve grasped in their Tiny Palms.

And marvel… just marvel at the good Two Hands can bring to a world in need.

Then place those Hands of Yours upon your hips. Pull up the cowl of your chunky wool sweater once again. Go outside. And face the world.

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Love Yourself

If Loveliness writes chapter books then here she signs her name.

Chapter One.

That boy–though never he may know it–will forever be tethered in my memory beside the moment I rediscovered Loveliness knocking at the door.

Him & all the parts of him. The bright blue high top sneakers. The backpack wedged between his knees. The Red Bull poking out the netted side pocket and the straw jutted in where lips normally purse the sugared sweet. The curls of his black hair pulled back into a ponytail. The dark in his eyes. The ear buds in.

Sitting across from me on a Manhattan-bound 4 train, our Stranger status fell away with toes tapping & lips whispering the lyrics humming into each of our own hearts.

We smiled at each other once.

It was enough to tie him close.

Chapter Two.

A canceled coffee date on Friday morning left the grounds of my day planner barren for the morning hours. As if it had been the plan all week long, I swiped my metro card and headed for the Uptown 4 train, shuffled onto the subway and waited for the buildings & bricking of the Bronx to flood the windows.

I moved away from the Bronx a year-and-a-half ago–bellies of my suitcases packed tight with knits & wellies–feeling like a failure. Feeling like depression got the better of me, like she won.

I moved away thinking that one of the street vendors of the souvenir shops might think to mail me a t-shirt that read, “I Lost my Loveliness in New York City,” with a note that scribbled in chalkie Sharpie, “Don’t come back. You failed, girl.”

That’s how it felt. And so I didn’t go back. Not to visit. Not to say hello. Thinking stepping on that concrete once again would just remind me that I was never good enough to gain back the Loveliness. That the delicate word that I’d long stapled to tea parties & porcelain dolls could never again be applied to such a ramshackled mess as me. A girl tattered with tears & heartbreak & self hatred could never, ever know a thing of Loveliness. It would never be hers, it would never be hers.

Chapter Three.

Loveliness. I’ve struggled with it. Like sand that pours through the cracks in the fingers & hands sunk deep in the sandbox, she has escaped me time & time & time again. Just a word–and yet she means something true to me. That I could be worthy. That I could deserve to be standing here today. That me– my beauty, my voice, the thoughts in my head & the prayers in my folded fingers–might mean something.

That they be delicate. That they be the kind of things that make me matter in this world.

Loveliness. I thought I had lost her. That I’d never get her back. That she’d forever be the kind of word used in melodies & symphonies, sonnets & serenades. But never me.

And I’m learning a hard, swallow-your-spit kind of lesson these days: things don’t disappear into the air just because we don’t talk of them no longer. Memories don’t turn to dust. Old feelings don’t retire to rocking chairs in nursing homes in Alabama until their little limbs need oxygen and they turn blue in polka-dotted nightgowns.

Life has never thought to operate in that manner.

We’ve only just convinced ourselves that if we don’t talk about something, if we keep the matter bolted closed, if we just forget it for a little while longer– then it will be gone. Gone with the wind. Gone for good.

The memory always floods back. Be it a song, a conversation, a quote within a book, a feeling… The issue always unfolds again. We are always reminded eventually, somehow & someway, of the pockets full of pain we’ve carried and the tears we used to cry, hoping that they might be released and we might be relieved.

We always reach a point where it is time to drop down to both knees and somehow uncover the art of picking up pieces. The art of revisiting.

To finally relearn. & finally discover & rediscover & rerediscover all that we once were before the Hard Time swept in with a handsome grin and a nightmarish lullaby ready to sweep us off the stage like Clara in the Nutcracker.

Chapter Four.

I went back to the Bronx Friday morning.  Fear swelled & heart tender, I went back.

I saw familiar faces. We laughed in too tiny of rooms. I made jokes about my student loans and how I felt like each new one made me feel like a mother just finding out that she had another child in this world. They missed me. I saw it in their eyes. They asked me why it took so long. I said I had some weaving out of junk to do.

They smiled. Saw a new person in me.

I walked away feeling whole. Unshakeable. Like parts of the past weren’t hidden chapters any longer. Like I’d picked up pieces. Like I was strong enough for my memories.

Chapter Five.

“I feel lovely just the way that I am,” the song trickled up through my ear buds. “Yes, I, I feel lovely just the way that I am.”

The boy across from me beat his heel against the subway floor. He kept glancing upward.

I feel lovely, I thought to tell him. The boy across from me with the blue high tops and black hair pulled back into a ponytail. Just like this. Just like this. I feel lovely.

My past is perfect. The darkness is cleared. All the sadness that broke me & all the depression that swept me clean made me who I am. Stronger. Ready. Lovely– like the first one to ever know the word. Lovely–like it were a living room that we could lounge in for days & days, sipping lemonade & laughing from the belly & thinking to never leave. Lovely, just like that, I thought to tell him.

We never spoke. I formed no sentences. He heard every word.

We smiled at each other once.

It was enough to tie him close.

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