You already know what happens to those caterpillars.

I flew into Boston on Saturday.

The first thing I usually do in any airport is search for a landmark. I look for something to remind if I’ve been here before, if I like a restaurant beside one of the gates, if something happened to me in one of these airports that was pivotal. There’s a tequila bar in the Charlotte airport where I spent my Valentine’s Day alone heading up a solo Single Girls Anonymous meeting in 2015. There’s a diner in the Baltimore airport where I stop, nearly religiously, for the bison breakfast. I’m a writer who spends a lot of her time in airports so forgive me for trying to make the experience of to-go Friendly’s and baggage claim a little more poetic.

The first thing I saw when I touched down in Boston was this tiny Dunkin’ Donuts crammed into the corner beside the escalator that leads you to ground transportation. I’ve been to the Boston airport a dozen times before but I remember this little coffee joint. I remember, two years ago, stepping off the plane and seeing the familiar pink and orange signage. I remember starting to cry. I was five months into living in Atlanta at the time and I couldn’t remember anymore why I’d chosen to move there.

Continue reading “You already know what happens to those caterpillars.”

And that’s how you grow up.

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I’m growing up a lot these days. It’s painful, weird and kind of beautiful.

I used to think growing up was just a matter of paying your bills on time and figuring out how to properly clean a bathroom. These days, that’s just the tip of it. Within learning how to cook and clean, I’m slowly learning that growing up is the realization that other people hang in the balance of your own life. Growing up is the process of taking the world’s spotlight off of you. It’s the process of seeing people. It’s putting your selfishness on the back-burner to make sure someone else feels like they can conquer something today.

Continue reading “And that’s how you grow up.”

The rain you can’t control.

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Today is Sabbath and I am trying, with everything in my being, to walk it out.

I’m not a Sabbath type of girl. If I am not hustling then I really don’t know what to be doing. I spent the first 5 years of my career being allergic to the concept of rest. I first started to see this as a budding problem when I really didn’t have anything to talk about besides work. More than that, I started to see that work was a cover-up for me. A safety zone. Something I could hide behind to keep people from getting too close.

2015 has been a year where I have come at my ugly roots with a weed wacker. And, as a result, I’ve been learning to rest. And break. And figure out what makes me happy.

So today Sabbath looks like me wrapped in my favorite reliable flannel (though the thermometer is sweating at nearly 90 degrees), sipping tea on my countertop, and writing words without a word count to aim for. To me, this is space is not work. It’s life-giving.

I’ve always prayed to God about this little corner of the internet, “God, don’t make this space one where I need to perform. Let it be a place where you are louder, I am smaller, and, through this language, people realize they’re capable. More than capable… brave.” He has kept me at my word.

He has let me come here, day after day, and not worry about metrics or reader stats or ads. Just the practice of writing.

I get a lot of emails from people asking about my writing process. What it looks like. How long it lasts. How I know when I am finished with something. Mind you, you’re hearing from a girl who used to (and sometimes still does) apply rules to everything. Ask me these sorts of question three years ago and I would have only given you a polished answer. That’s all I gave people for a long time: really polished things.

Now my answer to the “writing process” questions can be summed up fast: write a ton of words. When you feel like it. When you don’t feel like it. ESPECIALLY when you don’t feel like it. When you are hormonal. When you are sad. When you are heartbroken. And after first dates. And always after the moments where you find yourself pausing and saying, “I really don’t want to forget this.” Write those moments down. You will forget.

Don’t just write a ton of words. Write a ton of crappy words. Write letters of closure to old boyfriends. Rewrite the Psalms in your own language. Do whatever you can to make the words come out.

I used to believe in Writer’s Block because it gave me a really good excuse to not be writing. You can tell anyone, anywhere, that you have Writer’s Block and they will understand. They will nod their head and agree with you.

There is no blockage, friend. The “block” that writers talk about does not exist. At the very least, the writing process is like learning how to drive a standard vehicle. There is a great deal of preparation before you even start moving. Once you do start moving, you are likely to stall out. A lot. But, with every stall, there is a chance to restart the engine and try again. Eventually you will get to first gear. And then second. And then third. You’ll be cruising.

I am willing to bet that not many stall out and then decide not to restart the engine until 6 weeks later when they feel inspired to try again. You restart the engine because there is a place to go. You stall out and you keep going.

The same practice of determination should be applied to writing: you stall out and you keep going. You stall out and you pick up the pen again because there is a place to go. The day you stop seeing your words are created to transport someone somewhere else, you might as well quit.

At the center of every writing day for me, there is an hour I spend walking. It’s arguably my most productive writing hour of the day and I write nothing down within it.

I leave my phone behind. I bring no distractions with me. I give myself a purpose in that one hour: drop off the mail at the Post Office. I could easily drive to the Post Office but something happens as I walk. I think. I write things in my head. My brain has a chance to breathe and detach from the empty space of a word document. The pressure to always know what comes next. 

The walk to the Post Office is 1.6 miles. I weave around the neighborhood after I drop off the mail. That’s an extra mile. And then I walk back. In total, I am walking at least 4 miles a day.

My route is usually always the same. I trot down Metropolitan. I snake up Eastside. I stop by to see my friends at Brother Moto. I greet the homeless on their benches along Glenwood. I visit my old house on Blake. I pass by Newton and shoot up Van Epps. 

Three days ago, I was walking and about to turn down the road that would get me home the quickest. Clouds were forming. I could tell it was going to rain. But something inside of me told me to keep walking. I felt it coming on strong, “Keep going.”

I thought to myself, I don’t know the way if I keep going. It’s not a route I am familiar with. But I listen– because I believe in hunches and gut feelings– and I keep going.

I bob down connecting streets for a while, really unsure of where I am. The clouds are still collecting and it begins to sprinkle. I keep walking because I have no other option. I don’t have a phone. I have to trust that I will figure it out. I will find my way.

Eventually, and pretty quickly, it is pouring. The rain is coming down hard, and harder, and harder. I am drenched. And it occurs to me that this is probably one of the first times I have involuntarily gotten caught in the rain. We talk about dancing in the rain all the damn time but every time I have danced in the rain, it was because I wanted to. Because I planned it way to feel the spontaneity in my lungs.

I’ve never been placed in this spot before where I must keep walking, and I must keep going through the rain, because I have no other choice. All that surrounds me is the houses of people I don’t know. The trees can’t shield from this kind of rain. This is the hard rain.

You and I both probably thought this would be a piece on writing and it turns out that the real superstar of the day is rain.

Rain. The rain you can’t control. Just one of the things you cannot control in a world where we love to be dictators to whatever our hands get to hold. In that moment, I felt the freedom of having no control. No direction. No GPS to bring me home, just the assurance in my gut that I would get home eventually.

I would be soaked. I would be muddy. But I would eventually get home because, after all, it was my gut that told me to keep going in the first place.

Keep going and moving and pushing into the places where you don’t know the way, it said.

If you always knew the way, if you always knew the words that would come out of you when the pen hit the page, then where would spontaneity and grace and failure and dependency get their runway? If you want spontaneity, you must give it a catwalk. If you want something new to happen, you must sacrifice the maps. If you want real direction, you must let go of the thing inside of you that knows it would take all the credit when you finally found your way. Pride isn’t a canteen meant to fuel you as you go, it’s a journey killer. Pride will dehydrate you. It will take you down.

When I finally get home, sopping wet but skin glowing, I take no credit. I feel lighter knowing that it wasn’t my control– my need for everything to be polished– that brought me back to my door. It’s never the control, it’s always the moment you surrender to something else mapping the way.

I stand at the door and I wonder why I worry so much. I always make it home eventually. Even with the rain.

Arguably, there’s never been a time where I got so lost but never found my way. I am always, somehow, found– regardless of how much or how little I try to control the journey leading up to that point.

I don’t remember when I turned left or when I turned right. The details fall away quickly.

I only remember that thing in my gut as I wash the rain my hair, that thing in my gut that pulled me when it said, “Keep going, even when you don’t know the way.”

photo cred.

My intern made me write a love letter. This is the result.

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When I was a little girl, I always wanted to be the hider.

Not the seeker. When the game got played I’d find the most obscure places. The tiniest places. The places no one ever wanted to even dare lurk around so I could never be found.

I would stay silent and curled in a ball for long after the game was over. Long after everyone else had been found and I knew it was safe to come out. There was something terrifying— downright breath-losing— about being found. I can’t explain it. Not beyond these terribly written sentences, I can’t tell you why I’ve never known how to be found.

It’s been 15 months and 13 months.

15 months and 13 months.

15 months since I bit down hard on my bottom lip, sitting by the window of a Starbucks by Yale University, the day after a break-up with a man I tried to fall in love with. That’s when I heard him. God, I mean. I heard him whisper, “Go.”

13 months since I actually listened to that whisper, packed up my Toyota with the tinted windows of a drug dealer, and moved my existence to Atlanta, Georgia.

15 months since I winced and whimpered, “Please just me let stay in a town that keeps me comfortable.” Comfort is delicious and contagious.

13 months since I broke my comfort zone. My comfort zone exploded into a million bedazzled pieces on the floor of a new house with too small of a bathroom and an endearing neighbor with no teeth named Little Bit who would acquire bicycles and new clothes and all sorts of things in the time I lived across the street from him.

That’s what Atlanta is to me: the shattering of my comfort zone.

It started at a coffee shop with white walls called Taproom. The shop opened its doors for the first time one week before I arrived in Atlanta. I took it as a sign that God had made the coffee shop for me. I was meant to sit inside those four walls and read too many books and meet too many strangers and draw too many doodles in the corners of my notebooks.

Mornings were flushed with pour-overs and people-watching.

It quickly became my neighborhood coffee shop where the baristas would pray for you when you needed a nudge and they’d brew you a second cup on the house when they noticed your head had been down for several hours. I liked all of them instantly because they were real. I mean, you can’t really train someone to ask “how are you, really?” and teach them to linger around long enough to actually hear your honest answer— that’s just a trait of good people, not baristas.

The people at Taproom Coffee make the meanest London Fog you will ever consume. It’s not listed on the menu but order it anyway. Turns out, happiness is in white cups and foamy drinks inspired by rainy days in England.

I’ll never forget sitting at Taproom one late night talking with the owner. I always felt like I could not escape him, as strange as that sounds. But there are just some people who make you feel like you can’t actually hide from— they see you. As much as you don’t want to be seen, they see you.

This was the city I could not escape from because everyone was adamant to see the cards of mine I never placed down on the table.

He looked at me and then turned away. He turned back.

“I wonder about you,” he said quietly. “I wonder who picks you up from the airport. That’s all.”

They always ask “if a tree falls in a forest and no one hears it, does it make a sound?” He could have never asked that question and it still would have somehow made a sound.

I am the girl who doesn’t know how to mumble, “I need you.”

“I need you so bad.”

Secretly, I am hoping I can return to this page in a few months from now and change that last sentence to past tense.

That’s just me: I don’t know how to need people. So when you buy my coffee or give me ballads to knock the air out of my lungs and you make me take bites to balance out the liquor, I cave. I cave into myself and I reach for the suitcase and the running shoes. 

I’d rather dazzle you with a false picture than make you endure the parts of me that still cry out with inconsistency and resentment.

It’s been 13 months and I am still here somehow. And I call Taproom Coffee my place and I sometimes cry when I drive home on backroads at night because I am no longer traveling home— every part of this city adopted me. And people are beginning to know my real middle name. And I feel seen and I am thankful for whoever created that word and wedged it into a dictionary for a hopeful girl like me. My god, I’ve wanted to be seen & uncovered & told I am okay for so long. It was the simplest thing in the world and I could have had it years ago.

I guess that’s growing up, right? Realizing you might only have one shot to get it right so you better keep this good thing going, even when it scares you half to death.

People always told me love was quick and instant.

The kind you have after blinking twice, too slowly. And that was how I always felt about New York City— like I loved her before she ever let me in.

My walls are higher and my stakes are more and love isn’t quick for me anymore. Unless it’s cheap coffee or a Christmas song, love isn’t quick for me anymore. It’s slow and quiet and a process I want to rest my whole body inside of because I think could be safe here.

Cities have never made me feel safe. Coffee shops have never made me feel wanted. People have never made me feel like I didn’t want to hide anymore.

Until now. Until this.

Welcome to the fight it takes to keep me here.

Mapless.

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We had everything.

Oxygen in our lungs. Wind in our hair. All that cliché stuff.

We had plans for the next morning. Brunch in our bellies. Boys who’d gotten into the habit of missing us back home. We had things we wanted– reasons to be hungry.

We didn’t know it then but we had everything. If we could have been given a moment to step back and survey the spots we were standing in then maybe one of us would have breathed in deep and whispered, “It’s all right here. We have everything.” 

 

That’s the thing though, we never learn that we have it all.

We don’t learn how much we really have– the things to be grateful and sappy over– until something feels like it’s been wrenched away. Maybe that thing is freedom. Maybe that thing is love. Whatever the thing, the thing that goes absent from the room, it makes us feel like we once used to know invincibility until life put on boxing gloves and hit us hard.

Isn’t that just how it happens though? It’s not even a massive crash sometimes. It’s a slow winding down of our bodies and our hearts until it’s harder to get out of bed. The tears come. They come hot. And you stop wanting what you wanted yesterday. Life feels harder. Breathing feels harder. You spend hours scrolling through Instagram photos from 26 weeks ago when you swore you were happier, smarter, braver.

“If I knew I had it that good, I would have never complained,” I whisper to her. I am 13 weeks back. She is 45 weeks back. Maybe our weeks will somehow meet in the middle and we’ll both land on a space in our own internet worlds where Happiness was like a third sister. When we were a trio.

I am wearing no makeup. She is wearing gym clothes and doesn’t care that her socks don’t match. We don’t care about the things we used to care about. We’re wondering who is going to show up in the next few hours, or the next few days, and offer us a map. I don’t know if it will happen but I think we are both so hopeful that someone is coming with a map, a map that will tell us where to go.

 

Honesty for this moment: I just want a map.

I want a freaking map. I want Siri to show up and tell me that I should not veer in this direction. I want anything, anything to say straight to me, “Go right. Skip that. Move past that. Up ahead, just watch for what is up ahead.”

But you want to know the scary thing? The cool thing? The thing I have not accepted up until this very moment? No map is coming. No coordinates are being planted. I am mapless. 

I am mapless and thank God for that. 

I am the one who knows that if you gave me a map, I’d somehow use the flimsy piece of paper to keep myself hiding. I’d take that map and spread it wide across my face and use it as another wall to keep people from getting to me. That’s what my actions really say half the time, “I am trying to build walls and place things around me that will keep you from coming in. If I know where I am going then I will not need you. I won’t need anyone at all as long as I know the way.” 

I am mapless and still I am digging my heels into the ground and looking for direction. I am asking for it. I am letting my knees hit the hardwood floor at night. I am cloaked in a bright golden blanket. I am wondering about going north or staying south. I am just trying, with all my decent strength, to build a life I actually want to live inside.

 

We are never going back there again.

It’s sad but it’s true– never again will we be able to hide in the skins of yesterday. Yesterday is like that old dress, the one you loved so much. That dress was so good to you. It made you feel unstoppable. And then it stopped fitting you. And you had to take it off and fold it up and figure out what to do with it. I know, it’s so hard to figure out what to with yesterday. Do you just forget it? Do you pass it along like a testimony? Like a song? Or do you try to do the easiest thing: wear yesterday one more time. 

I know that’s me. I am the girl who has tried to fit into the sleeves of yesterday. I want yesterday to still be good and sweet to me. I want to pretend like I could be the kind of human who does not need to grow or move or change or become someone different. That would be the sweetest thing right now, to be the kind of person who was fine enough to just stay this way forever.

 

We had everything.

That is what I thought at least.

There was no trembling. She didn’t cry at night. I didn’t wonder why the mornings were the hardest. And yet there was so much in those moments– in the moments where our biggest worry was what kind of inky symbols we’d want to place on our skin forever– that we didn’t know. There was so much we didn’t know about life. There’s still so much I don’t know.

We didn’t know what kinds of fighters we could be. We didn’t know that there was so much strength sitting on the inside of us. We didn’t know that I would be a light and she would be a lantern. We didn’t know that sometimes you have to battle, and wage war, and face demons. You have to do all these things if you want the kind of story that makes other people face themselves. We never even figured we’d be hungry for that kind of story– the kind that makes people want to clear out the darkness with a shovel and a snowplow.

We didn’t know that people actually need you to get down to the bottom of yourself sometimes. God needs that of you, too. It’s only there– at the bottom– where you ever have to tap into the courage it takes to sit up. And with sitting up comes standing. And with standing comes figuring out how to walk again. 

We didn’t know that walking would be just fine. After a time of no standing at all, walking at a slower place would be more than fine. It would teach us to be quieter. It would teach us to look around. It would grow into our bones this idea that there is no need to be fast and quick. We could slow down. We could take our time. The world would allow us to take our time and just suck in the moments deep.

And with each small step, the truth comes back with a vengeance that is clear as 20/20 vision: it’s all right here. We think we are pieces but the pieces are all right here. Nothing is missing. Nothing got lost. We don’t need a map to hide behind, we just need to breathe.

It’ll be okay, it’ll be okay. 

We still have everything.

Everything is still somehow here.

Everything just looks different than it used to but it’s all still here. 

When waiting.

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When I used to live in New York City, there would be days when I would meet up with my friend Libby in the middle of Grand Central Station at the end of our workday.

We would climb the stairs up to overlook the grand foyer, right where the Apple Store now sits, and we would not say much for a little while. We would just look down at all the people rushing to get home. We’d point out all the ones who were waiting for something. Specifically a someone.

“That one,” she’d point out to me. “Him.”

“He’s waiting on her,” I’d connect the dots, finding the girl in the red tights from across the way who would soon be running up to him to pull him in closer.

We’d point them out from a distance. One by one. A guy and a girl meeting up after a longer day.

I don’t know how many times we did that. How many times we sat and we talked about our days with one another while we watched other people waiting. Regardless, it is still one of my favorite things about Grand Central– it’s a reminder of how there is something terribly romantic and awful about waiting. And the two feelings seem to exist at the same time.

I didn’t date much while I lived there.

Not that year. I cried too often and figured therapy was a better option than dating ever could be. I kind of tortured myself thinking. “I’m too broken to be date-able.” And while I don’t think dating is the key to not being a train wreck (one must be willing to pull themselves out from a wreckage), I also think we are too hard on ourselves sometimes. Life is really short. We can be super dramatic. Perhaps sometimes we are supposed to wear the red lip stick, go out, and meet the cute boy.
So I signed up for a dating site. One of those free ones where people seem to sit on the Emoji button a little too much. And I went out with an extremely sweet bagpipe player who also played rugby (I still don’t know if there is a better combination than that). He had the kindest eyes and his texts made me feel seen. He didn’t ever know my heart was already broken and trying to put itself back together daily.

But I remember there were a few times when we would meet up after work in the middle of Grand Central. Him and I– by the big clock. I have to be honest– I haven’t really found the feeling that is better than the one that comes from knowing someone is waiting for you. Wanting you. Hoping you’ll show.

It’s a waiting game.

A lot of us are waiting. For answers. For people to love us. For someone to change. A lot of us are waiting on love. It’s like we grew up into a world that promised us one day we would get love- our missing piece of the puzzle. And I guess I still want to believe in that. I want to believe that hope isn’t just something that got me through high school, and got me through college, and pushed me to stay optimistic. And while I no longer believe that there is just one person in the world for us, I still want to believe he’s out there.  (Hey you– I still think you’re out there.)

So we get a lot of choices. And sometimes those choices look like waiting. Sometimes those choices look like being wild. Spontaneous. Deciding to step forward and into the woods– facing our fears and deciding not to talk of them any longer.
Life isn’t a waiting room and yet so many of us are waiting. We can’t help it.

And I guess we could either feel gutted or hopeful. Gutted or hopeful. There are the two options. We could either trace people in Grand Central that are getting what we want or we could see the truth: the ones who have that “one thing” are probably often waiting for something else. We won’t always know what that is. We are all waiting on secret things that we neglect to write in our diaries at night.

Maybe it’s for the fog to lift. Maybe it’s for someone to finally leave us. A lot of us are waiting on disaster. I am not certain why but too many of us are waiting for God to give up. Like he’s gonna turn around, see our crying face, and finally whisper, “Enough. I am through.”

But maybe, just maybe, the opposite could happen in our waiting. A miracle might come. A blessing might show up. Maybe God is gonna be the one who scoops us up–  as if he saw us helpless and doe-eyed in Grand Central that whole time– and finally tell us the words we need to hear, “Little one, the waiting is over. The waiting is over.

Come on, we’re moving. It’s gonna be so good.”

 

You know, even in those times where I knew no one was going to meet me by the clock, I had someone right beside me who asked me about my day. She would meet me in the middle of any day when everything felt like it was falling apart. When I stopped seeing myself and the good in who I was as a human being. She’d be there– whether I was crushed in spirit or ready for another round of resilience. And together we could pluck the people from the crowd who were waiting, just like us.

We wait. That’s certain. We wait for things.

But we never are waiting alone.