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On Jealousy.

Hannah,

I wanted to write to ask your advice on jealousy. It’s such a silly part of our human nature, but how can we combat it.  I struggle with it so much and it is really taking away from me allowing myself to be fully happy for others in their achievements and joys. Don’t get me wrong, I do get excited for them and share in their happiness. But when I’m alone and in my own head, I let this little green monster creep in and tell me all these lies.

For example, one of my best single friends is now starting to see this guy. I am beyond excited for her and that she found such a great guy, but there is a little part of me that selfishly says ” why not me? When’s it going to be MY turn to share the fun first date story with all my friends who are eagerly waiting.”

I just want to find sincere and genuine happiness while not letting jealousy bog me down.

Thanks so much!

-T


T,

I’ve been learning a lot about my brain lately. I got tired of blanket statements about depression and anxiety and I decided to get some answers. A stop on my journey was sitting across from a dear friend of mine who is a cerebral neurologist.

He met me at Taproom a few weeks ago and he talked to me for two hours about the brain: how it works, how to manage it, how we seriously don’t give this noggin of ours enough credit. I will probably write six or seven blog posts about my cerebral neurologist friend because he literally blows my mind every time we sit down to talk (blatant pun intended).

So we were sitting there, T, and it was nearly impossible to stay focused on the conversation because the most unfairly beautiful playlist kept wafting through the speakers and I was instantly swept up in nostalgia and memories of senior prom and breakups in college. I was basically sitting there with Ryan Adams, Ben Rector, Ray LaMontagne, and a cerebral neurologist.

He paused talking somewhere in the middle of “She is Love” by Parachute and said to me, “We only have two kinds of emotions: love and fear. Everything stems off of those two.”

Process this with me for a second, T. We only have two emotions: love and fear. Every other emotion sits in one of those two family trees.  You’re experiencing jealousy. Jealousy is a bucktooth cousin of the Fear Family. He’s sitting there in that Fear family photo wearing a wool turtleneck and righteous comb over.

I could probably build upon this visual for the next 750 words but there are more important things to say. For instance, your jealousy is rooted in the fear that good stuff will happen for other people and not you. Your jealousy is rooted in this belief that every other human is going to find their soulmate and you won’t even become a cat lady because all the cats will find love before you do too. Your jealousy is rooted in the fear that God has good for other people but He has forgotten about you.

 

I feel you, child. I can’t say I know everything there is to know about jealousy but I can say this: jealousy knows no boundaries. I know a lot of people who also have no boundaries and the truth is that eventually you have to cut those people off or else they are destined to trample all over you.

Jealousy is territorial and it will take as much of you as it can get. We make the mistake of thinking that a little jealousy is understandable and that we can just shove it down and that means we won’t feel it anymore. Everything we shove down does, indeed, come back up again. It comes up again a million times more forceful, more powerful, and more overbearing.

That’s why beauty experts say it is not good to shave your eyebrows. Once you shave them, they grow back quicker than before. Shaving does not get to the root of the problem just like stuffing feelings down doesn’t mean you’ve dealt with them. You have to pluck, girl. You have to see the root before you think about shoving the feels off. That’s the only way fear stops winning-  when we all stop acting as if it isn’t real.

 

I want to tell you a story from a few years ago. I had an acquaintance going after the same dream as me. Her dream of publishing a book just happened sooner than me. When I first realized I was jealous it was just this little tinge in my heart, just this little voice that whispered, “Mine. I want that to be mine.”

It started off as an innocent feeling. You and I have those feelings daily and on the regular. My mistake was in not dealing with that feeling. I didn’t pray about it. I didn’t write it down. I didn’t tell anyone about the feeling and I should have. That’s one of the best ways I know how to combat jealousy and other nasty feelings: tell someone they exist. Be vulnerable. Admit it. Do not, I repeat, do not let those feelings fester in dark corners of your brain. Like mold, they will spread.

I did nothing what I just recommended to you. Instead, I let those feelings of jealousy grow stronger and stronger. They turned into bitterness. They turned into resentment. Before long, I felt like I was unable to talk to that person. Worse than that, I was unable to cheer that person on. I blocked her notifications. I took her number out of my phone.

I remember there was this one day where I went into the bookstore and there was this jealous pull inside of me to go and find the book. It’s that same sort of pull you experience when you know you don’t want to check a person’s social media to see how they are doing but you find yourself there on their page anyway and you proceed to wallow in their good stuff.

I was standing at the front of the bookstore and I felt this prompting in my heart that was like, “Yea, you are going to go find her book. And you know what else? When you find her book you are going to pray for it. You are going to pray it does well.”

It was the strangest feeling inside of me. Nothing inside of me wanted to go find the book and pray for it but that’s what I found myself doing. Any time that jealous feeling would creep into my heart, I would turn it into a simple prayer. Soon enough, my anger and my bitterness had subsided. I can’t say I became her best friend or that I ever really cultivated a friendship with her, but I can tell you that I no longer feel the pangs of jealousy when the thought of her comes up.

I still pray when I get jealous. I pray a lot when I get jealous. The jealousy can be so real and palpable sometimes but I turn my feelings into simple prayers. They don’t have to be long. They don’t need to be eloquent. Sometimes they are as simple as, “God, here’s what I am feeling. And I don’t want to feel this way. So help me not to feel this way.” Simple. So simple that it is almost dumb. But it works.

 

I think you need to do something, T. I think you need to go to the store, buy a cute card, and give it to your friend. Write her a message inside about how you are happy for her. Force yourself to do these things. Jealousy and all the blood-hungry feelings don’t stand a chance when we refuse to acknowledge and, instead, propel ourselves forward with action steps.

Celebrate your friend even if you don’t feel like it. Half the time (if not 3/4 of the time) your feelings are wrong. Don’t depend on them. If you want to keep your friend then choose to celebrate her. The key word in that last sentence is “choose.” You get to choose. You get to choose whether you are going to love your friend well or if you are going to walk away from her, talk behind her back, or secretly wish bad on her while she walks through a really exciting time in life. Would you want her to stand by you and celebrate you? If so, become active in loving her well. The more you love her, the more you will send a message to the jealousy telling it that it can no longer occupy the space you’ve given to it.

In the battle between love and fear, love always has the power to win. But must train your love. You must invest in love more than you give fear a pedestal. Love always has the power to win but you need to learn to train it for battle first.

tying you closer than most,

hb.

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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.

I would have conversations all the time with people about my move to Atlanta and my tone and demeanor was beginning to shift as they asked me questions like, “And how do you like it?” The honeymoon period in Atlanta had worn off. Things weren’t shiny or new anymore. The hole I’ve written about– the one that always felt like it was expanding in my chest with more nothingness– only got bigger. I started answering the questions people asked me differently with responses like, “It’s good here. But it’s not home. Home is New England and I am hoping I can go back there soon.”

I didn’t realize at the time that my response, as honest as it was towards people, was my way of crossing my arms across my body and saying, “Don’t come any closer to me. Don’t get to know me. I am leaving soon. I am always leaving soon.” It was a defense mechanism. It was my way to cover up the fear that I would never belong somewhere. Fear had written this story in my brain that I would always be running and chasing thing after thing. I didn’t know how to take off the running shoes and nail them to the door.

 

Two years ago, that airport in Boston was the first time I’d stepped onto familiar New England ground in several months. It should have been exciting. I should have been grateful for a chance to feel the fall air that I missed so much. Instead, I was so sad. I wheeled my suitcase to that Dunkin’ Donuts, ordered a small coffee, and ended up crying before I paid for it. I felt like Boston, and every other city in New England, was breaking up with me. I felt punished and weak. I wanted to just come home.

 

I went to my hotel, changed into my sneakers, and found a coffee shop nearby. I made the mistake of opening my laptop and writing a really pathetic blog post. I felt vulnerable and raw. I probably should have called my mom and cried into the phone but instead I chose to use the internet as my means to say, “Help me. I’m falling apart here.”

One of my readers would one day tell me at a speaking engagement how her therapist brought that specific blog post to her attention in a session and asked her, “Do you think she is depressed? I think Hannah is facing depression again.”

You know you’re close to your readers when their therapists are the ones diagnosing you with depression from behind their computer screens in Oregon.

I got a phone call from a guy I was talking to on a dating application after I closed my computer. I walked around the streets of Boston talking to him, hearing his voice for the first time. He was also not from Atlanta and I thought this would be a good match for the both of us. We could both be “not from Atlanta” together and then, eventually and appropriately, not end up in Atlanta. I wasn’t aware that my own disgruntlement had nothing to do with a place on the map. It had to do with the fact that I was resisting a painful yet necessary transformation.

 

 

 

People move to different places for a lot of different reasons. Some move for jobs. Some move to find themselves. Some people move for other people and it ends up being either really terrible or really beautiful. I moved to Atlanta partly because I wanted to and partly because I thought God told me to move to Atlanta.

I think we need to be really careful when we say “God told me to…” because, a lot of times, we equate the requests of God with our own feelings about a situation. Just because I feel something doesn’t mean God is confirming it. It’s a lifelong quest to decipher our feelings from the plans of God.

What I mean when I say “God told me to move to Atlanta” is that it kept being confirmed to me. It kept coming up in prayers. It came up in conversations with other people. It would not relent or leave my brain. It was an uncomfortable decision, and a brave decision, and I think that God lives inside of those kinds of decisions. Regardless of if God really wanted me in Atlanta or not, God went with me to Atlanta. He packed his bag too. He filled up the gas tank too. He didn’t wave me off at the site of my childhood home, saying, “Good luck, chica! You’re going to need it because I don’t honor your decision and I am not going with you.” That’s not the voice of God. That’s a lie from the pit of hell.

Here’s what I think God does though: he uses our decisions to teach us something, move us closer to Him, and do whatever He can to make us better versions of ourselves. That’s the mission that God has for our little lives: that we could become less selfish, less absorbed with our own thoughts, less critical, less negative, and ultimately happier because of all the “less.”God is not a god of self-improvement but He is a God who knows that if we could just get out of our own way– just stop thinking the world revolves around us– then we would be so much happier and the world would be so much better off.

You see, it doesn’t matter if you can’t figure out whether God wanted you to break to break up with him or not. If God wanted you in that city or not. We make decisions. We move forward. And God, because He is good, never leaves us in our decisions. He will allow painful things to happen for the sake of transformation, yes, but He will never leave you alone and holding the bill. He sees better for you and so He is constantly trying to get you somewhere better. Most of the time, I think that’s all life is: a chance to get somewhere better and a chance to pull out the better in other people and make it shine.

I used to hate when people would liken “going through a hard time” or “transforming” to the process of a caterpillar turning into a butterfly. I thought it was the stupidest, most overused metaphor out there. I read somewhere that caterpillars go through something called “diapause.” Diapause is this spot in the transformation process where some caterpillars try desperately to cling to their larval life. They don’t want to change. They try to resist it. I think that’s probably because they have no idea what is coming up ahead. They have no idea that there could actually be something better at the end of themselves. They hate the fact that darkness could be good for them.

It’s a state of clinging. A state of unrest. We go through it too. There is something inside of us that rises up and begs to hold onto what we know, what is most familiar to us. We try to resist change. We look for people to be our lifeboats. We hate the fact that darkness could be good for us.

I don’t have to tell you how the rest of the story goes. You already know what happens to those caterpillars. You know what happens when they just let go.

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Men in blue jumpsuits.

I’ve been trying to figure out God for the last eight years now. I’ve got too many journals stuffed inside of a mail crate I should have returned to the Post Office four years ago. Those journals are filled with questions like, “Are you good? Are you real? Do you like me? Do you want me?”

These are the questions I’ve asked God. To me, God was like this charismatic guy who swept onto the scene and charmed the daylights out of everyone I knew. They talked about Him like He was Fabio. They weren’t skeptics. They didn’t want to do a background check. They raised their arms up and flung their hearts at God without fear that He would break them. They acted like they’d found something, something a lot of people spend a whole life looking for.

I grew up watching other people give their whole lives to God without a second thought while I stood in the back of the room asking questions.

 

There was a tipping point for this blog nearly a year and a half ago. If you were reading then you saw it happen. I went from being a young woman who folded God into cautiously written sentences to posting boldly about my relationship with Him on the regular. God went from being this distant uncle who occasionally sent postcards from off the coast of Maine to someone knit into my most inner of circles. Today, God could show up at my front door with no place to sleep for the night and  I, without hesitation, would give him a bed.

I’m not afraid of God anymore like I used to be. I’m in awe of God in a way that makes me fearful but I am no longer afraid of what He would do to me.

I was afraid to write about God because I thought people would be turned off by it. I would spend this time in the morning communing with God– feeling like He was my best kept secret– and then try to boost people and lift the whole world with the strength of my emotions and feelings. I crashed hard when I could not keep the whole world spinning. I crashed hard and God crawled closer.

 

I walked out of the ring after a five-month fight with severe depression last year. Every day of that depression was more confusing than the one before it. I sat in waiting rooms and asked myself, “How did I get here? How did my life come down to this?” I was of the belief that if you did the right things– if you were good to people, kissed babies, and didn’t try to stir up drama too often–  then you would not have to face hard stuff. Things would naturally align and you’d be spared the depression, the heartbreak, the sickness, and the mess.

You meet God in the mess though. It is often in the mess that you find a man walking towards you with a name-tag that reads “God.” You shake hands because you’re desperate.

I think God stands there the whole time though, even before the crash. I think God, in those moments before the crash, is like Waldo. He’s always in the picture with His bright red cap and wiry glasses. He’s content to wait for the moment that you actually feel called to seek Him out.

I think we– as the eager, self-sufficient perfectionists that we are– ignore red flags and the nudging to slow down as long as we possibly can. We drink more coffee. We worship the hustle. We grow tired of waiting on a God who sometimes seems to be slower than dial-up internet. We say hasty things like, “You aren’t handling this mess fast enough so I am going to take it into my own two hands.”

More mess comes.

And still, God is not afraid to assume the role of custodian.

 

You know what’s funny? I wrote that last line and I thought to myself, “I cannot write that. There is no way that I could refer to God as a custodian.” The only image in my mind of a custodian is a man in a blue jumpsuit rolling trash cans out of the lunch room. The closest thing I’ve ever known to a custodian is my own father– a man who wore a blue jumpsuit, drove a garbage truck his whole career, and brought food to the table by hauling away the unwanted things of people I grew up with.

Custodian is just one of those words that makes me want to belittle the role because I grew up surrounded by people who taunted me when they found out my dad was their garbage guy. It’s taken me 28 years to realize that my father never worked with junk, he worked with stuff that used to be valuable– used to be chosen– until someone decided they didn’t want it anymore. He’d pull stuff out, he’d shine it up, and it would be new again.

I looked up the word “custodian.” The definition that comes up first shocks me a little bit: one that guards and protects or maintains. I love that definition. I love the idea of God as a protector rather than God as the tyrant people talk him up to be.

 

I wanted to write today. I wanted to write and this is the only thing that would come out of me. It looks different than what I set out to write but that’s what happens when you invite God into the writing room, you write the sort of stuff you’re afraid will serve no purpose and He uses it to reach some girl in Akron, Ohio who has just gotten her heart broken. She used to feel valued and chosen until someone decided they didn’t want her anymore. And then you and God fist bump later in the day because the girl from Akron, Ohio writes you an email and tells you the words meant something.

You’re thankful you sat down today. You’re thankful you wrote. You’re thankful those three letters– GOD– came out on the page and refused to leave until you clicked “publish.”

That’s God though. He’s not a best kept secret, He’s meant to be shared. He’s meant to be shared especially by someone who grew up fearful that He didn’t want her, didn’t love her, and didn’t see her. He uses someone like that to say to a large group of people, “I do see you. I see the mess. I see how you got here. I’m listening. I’m here.” He uses someone like that, someone who almost walked away from Him, to say, “It’s okay if you don’t have all your God questions answered. I don’t either. Welcome to the club.”

You say a prayer. You click publish. You go get ready for a date and you think about Akron while you’re curling your hair. You think about men in blue jumpsuits who guard and protect.

You’re thankful. You’re thankful for someone who sifts through a pile of the forgotten, pulls something out from the rubble, and says, “You’re not junk. You’re mine.”

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Say “yes” to Tinder dates: 8 online dating tips for singles who want to mingle.

I wrote a post in 2014 about how I’d only ever been on one Tinder date.

I remember writing that post and feeling really insecure about hitting the “publish” button. I was afraid to admit to the world that I didn’t want to be single, that I was taking matters into my own hands to try and meet someone. But the coolest thing happened after I made a heralding battle cry in defense of Tinder dates. More and more people began approaching me and asking me about online dating. That one blog post sparked dozens of conversations. I started getting all these emails from my readers detailing their Tinder date recaps from start to finish.

I soon realized that people want to talk about online dating and whether or not it works because people want to talk about meeting someone in general. It’s something most of us can agree upon: we would like to meet someone to text in the morning and watch Netflix with at night.

While dating is much more than texts and Dexter marathons, the scope of dating and how we date has changed in the last few years. It’s harder to meet someone. You don’t marry the neighbor across the street as frequently anymore. People move away for college. People move away for jobs. It’s much harder to walk into a coffee shop, sit down, and strike up a conversation with espresso man beside you. That, in my opinion, is why online dating helps.

A brief note: I’m talking about online dating here. Emphasis on the word “dating,” meaning “the people who use dating applications and websites to go on actual dates and forge their way through awkward conversation with strangers.” I am not talking about using dating apps for hook-ups.

Date for the right reasons.

First things first, do your best to date for the right reasons. This advice is coming from a girl who dated guys for a long time because she was trying to fill her life with substance. I wanted to feel wanted and beautiful. I thought multiple dates with multiple guys could fix that. I would be untruthful if I claimed I never had an unhealthy perception of online dating.

The thing about online dating, especially apps like Tinder and Bumble, is that you get a lot of options. You should determine before you start conversations with people what your goal is. Do you want to go on a lot of dates? Are you looking to break out of your comfort zone? Do you want to meet someone? Are you serious about that?

If you don’t have a goal or motive for dating online then it is possible you will fall in love with the options instead of the people behind the screen. Online dating can do its damage with making people feel wanted and seen. Approach online dating the way you would approach the grocery store: you’re going into it for a reason but you can’t take everything with you off the shelves.

You’ve got options.

There are a ton of dating applications out there. A million. And not a soul can tell you which one to choose. A few notes: don’t download every single application out there. Try out or two and see how you like the experience. I can’t account for every dating application out there but I can tell you about the following:

Match or eHarmony: these are the big men on campus. They’re like the class presidents of online dating. They started the online dating boom years ago. They’re good, traditional sites but you do have to pay for your profiles and user experience.

Coffee Meets Bagel: Everyday at noon, without fail, a bagel is delivered to you. This bagel is actually a human who you might end up making decisions and babies with if the sparks fly. You get one bagel a day. After you receive your human at noon, you must exercise patience as you wait a full 24 hours for another bagel to arrive. When delivered, you either take the bagel or you pass it on. If you pass it on to someone you know then you rack up “coffee beans” and coffee beans will get you more bagels. It’s basically a game where feelings, carbs, and people’s insecurities of never meeting someone are involved. I still don’t know where the coffee comes in to the equation. I only ever met bagels, no coffee.

Hinge: Lane and I met on this site. This app is great if you’re more comfortable meeting someone through friends. Bustle writes, “Your potential matches will only be friends of (Facebook) friends or third-degree connections.” Mind you, Lane and I’s mutual friend was a guy we don’t speak to. I debate daily on whether I should invite him to the wedding with a note that says, “We have you to thank for this marriage.”

Bumble: Girls run the show on this app. I believe it was created to help minimize the creepy messages sent to girls by guys who act like they’re in the 5th grade. They are the only ones who can initiate a conversation and they only have 24 hours to do so… The clock is ticking, ladies.

Sizzl: This is an app exclusively for bacon lovers. I’m not even kidding. This is a real thing. Some folks are very particular about whether or not the bacon comes out crispy or juicy.

Make a genuine move.

I’ve heard of people sending generic messages to individuals on the other side of the screen just to see what kinds of messages they get back. My best advice: be serious about your prospects and skip the generic messages. You don’t have to send a message to every match. You don’t even have to send any messages if you would rather the men/women come to you. It’s your call.

My personal experience with dating apps was that I would always wait for a guy to reach out to me. It felt chivalrous and right. But there was a common pattern that emerged from me waiting in the bleachers like a preteen at her middle school social: I never went after what I wanted. I only conversed with guys who took an interest in me and my own interest tended to fizzle out quickly.

When it came to Lane, I made the first move. I saw he was my match. I thought to myself, “this Macklemore-esque character is too impossibly cute.” I made the first move and reached out with a pretty tragic icebreaker: What is your biography in 5 emojis. Yes, friends, I said that. That’s how I seduced my husband-to-be. He’s marrying me now. If I can survive whipping out an icebreaker like that one then you can totally say “hi, how are you?” to a cute stranger.

Put your values out there.

There is no shame in the game of letting guys and girls know what you stand for. Faith is a huge element to me. I reached the point in my dating life where I no longer wanted to place that attribute on the back-burner. I wanted a guy who loved God more than me.

In past dating profiles I never made my love for God clear. I wouldn’t add any notes about it and fed on the hope that I would stumble into someone who valued God a ton too. That equation rarely ever worked for me. If you don’t value it enough to talk about it then you probably don’t value it as much as you think.

When I got on the app Hinge I made my profile pretty bold. My first line was, “God is everything.” I want to believe that isn’t too invasive and raw. It’s simple and straight-forward. There’s no threat to follow like, “God is everything and if you don’t think so then move along.” No thanks. I didn’t run around force-feeding anyone Isaiah before they could swipe right on my profile. You want to have a conversation with someone, not scare them.

Lead with your values if they matter that much to you. Be true to yourself. The goal is that the person behind the screen would eventually meet the real you, not an edited version you created so they would like you more. Dating isn’t built on faking it- it’s built on an honesty that needs to begin on day one.

Do not put up with children.

I’ll keep this one short. The internet has a lot of people roaming around in its corridors. Some of those people should go sit in holes with no technology before they be allowed to join a dating site (just my personal opinion). You have every right to block people who disrespect you. You have every right to ignore individuals who say crude things to you. Do not let the words of one person set the example for who you are going to meet by trying out online dating.

This is especially for the ladies out there: if the man cannot respect you when there is a screen placed between the two of you then I would caution the two of you meeting up. Respect is the biggest priority in dating. Don’t date children dressed like adults because they have cute profile pictures. Let them grow up and allow them to do that far, far away from you. Stay hopeful– there are good ones out there.

Try two dates.

I always tell people, “Say yes to the second date.” If the date isn’t a train wreck, you’ve managed to laugh a few times, and you have a few things in common then there is no reason not to say “yes” to a second date. People are lying when they tell you there MUST be fireworks blowing up in your heart after two hours with a person.

People are naturally awkward and not really themselves a first date setting. Give them grace and say “yes” to a second time if you think you could enjoy their company once more and it wouldn’t be the most painful thing in the world. However, if the date reminds you of the time you got your wisdom teeth pulled out of your head then maybe say “no” and move on with tact and poise.

Remember: It’s one date.

You shouldn’t cancel a date with someone because you’re nervous enough to blow chunks in the bathroom sink. Both guys and girls are guilty of this. We talk with someone. We like the conversation. We exchange numbers. We set a date and then someone decides to cancel because they’re too nervous. Everyone is nervous before a first date. It’s a little strange when you’re not nervous before a first date. Go with the nerves. The best stuff in life usually begins with the feeling of your heart falling into your stomach.

You don’t have to go out ever again if you don’t want to. You don’t have to give him babies. You can stay home forever if you so please. You can have dates come to you offering gifts of sushi and pizza (not sure if that would work but you can totally try it and let me know the results). Don’t stay home because something is out of your comfort zone. You might miss out on an opportunity, the greatest love of your life, or a new friend. You don’t know who will be waiting for you across the table until you say “yes.”

Enjoy yourself.

Dating is meant to be a fun thing. I get that sometimes dating feels like the most un-fun thing in the world. I felt that. I ended up taking a break from online dating when I realized I was using the apps to keep me from becoming lonely. I came back on the dating scene a year later with a much healthier attitude. My first and last online match with this new and improved attitude was Lane. It took one date and one pep talk to myself: girl, chill out and just enjoy yourself. It’s one date. You can do this. Laugh. Loosen up a little. 

Get out there and be yourself. Buy a new top for the occasion. Start slow, with a coffee date, if you are too nervous to eat your food in front of someone. Be real. No need to marry the person in your mind before the first date. Just go into it optimistic and ready for an adventure. Swipe right once in a while.

 

 

photo cred. 

 

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Last call for seats: Summer Writing Intensive

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My last writing intensive of 2016 is taking place on Saturday, July 30 from 3-6pm EST. Your chance to grab a seat ends on Tuesday at midnight!

The class will take place online. You don’t have to leave your bed. You can attend naked if you so please. You don’t even have to be available on the date of the class- you will still get the live recording just by signing up! You can expect to dig deep, take a ton of notes, find community, and face a bunch of those liars that try to keep you from writing consistently.

Here are the nitty gritty deets:

I designed this intensive to focus on the individual who wants to take their writing more seriously, get to that next level of discipline and sharing, or just start finding their voice in all the noise. This course will cover (but will not be limited to) the following: 

  • The elements of compelling storytelling
  • Breaking the fear
  • Developing voice
  • Connecting with readers
  • The art of Taylor Swifting
  • Consistency & discipline in writing
  • Vulnerability hangovers
  • Finding direction with a crowded writing world

It’s going to be 3 hours packed with teaching, tips, and all I’ve got regarding the writing process, storytelling and branding your voice within the online world. Right before the class (and for forever after it) you will be added to a FB group full of other movers and shakers who will help keep you accountable, set big goals, and really go after your writing passion with discipline and fire. This class is worth the community alone… trust me.

Get your seat here.

Seats are $100 & limited (first come, first filled). No need to be online & present on the day of the class– all who sign up for the class will also get the recording and presentation from the intensive!

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A letter to my reader.

Hey you,

You are my reader. I value you as my reader in a way that is distinctly unique and I never want you to forget that. I talk about you wherever I go. I hold you in the highest regard. I feel like I can sit down on days like this and write you a letter you’ll actually read because we’ve been somewhere together. You and I, we’ve sat in heartbreak together. We’ve sought after God together. We’ve gone through transitions together. We’ve tried out tinder dates together and graduated from college together.

You have seen the real me. Not the “internet” version of me. I honestly don’t believe we should be enabled to have “internet versions” of ourselves. Be who you say you are. Be exactly as you are on the screen as you are off of it. The world does not need another double standard. We don’t need to add to that pile, friend.

I want to tell you a little story. It’s short. I will never forget the day I bought the domain name “HannahBrencher.com.” It was such a small gesture following a phone conversation with a woman named Lindsey Pollak. My blog was called “Hannah Katy” at the time and she told me I needed to change my blog name.

“Go online and get the domain,” she recommended. “Own your name.”

Before “Hannah Katy” was “As Simple as That.” I thought I would forever live under the banner of “As Simple as That” until I realized that life really isn’t that simple. People are hurt unnecessarily. Heartbreak happens and it doesn’t make sense. People leave us. They don’t leave notes. We give our hearts out in tiny gulps and we endure the choking that comes from a love that doesn’t reciprocate. This is life. It is not simple.

It never felt so freeing— in my then three years of blogging— than the chance to no longer have to hide behind a blog name or an identity I’d grown out of. Something miraculous happened on the day I started writing from HannahBrencher.com. You and I became closer. We started to evolve together. We grew trust. You started emailing me about your first dates and your last goodbyes. I pocketed your stories. We both grew thicker skin.

I realized in those formative years of writing that a blog space is just as a home as it is a church. People crave to be invited in. We are all just wandering around, sipping coffee, hoping someone will remember our names and walk us home when the street lights come on.

There is a reason why I love a man named Lane Sheats so much. We got engaged two weeks ago. He filled the yard of my best friend with twinkle lights and familiar faces as he got on one knee and asked me about forever. I love him for so many reasons but I love him an extra layer deeper because he remembers you. Yes, you. He remembers to remind me daily that I exist for people. I exist for this blog space. I exist to demonstrate love, no matter how hard or tiresome that gets on some days.

Today he emailed me these exact words, “Think about all the responses you receive from your readers, friends, loved ones, event attendees, etc.. Follow your Monday morning emails

advice. Dig in, do the work, and see the results afterwards. You could imagine you’re writing your book to yourself, as if you asked yourself a question. I know you said yesterday it’s easier when someone emails you a question and you can unpack it and delve straight in.”

So that’s why I am writing to you so personally today. I sat at my computer, beside a stale cup of coffee, and I asked myself the question, “What would you need to know today?”

The answer was obvious: I need to know that I belong somewhere.

You belong somewhere. You do, you do, you do. You belong in places that know your name and places that don’t yet know you’re coming for them. 

I want you to know that you get prayed for daily. You are thought of daily. You are a priority in my life that people might not ever understand because the internet is scary to some people. All that separates you and I is a screen. And still, I’ve attended your weddings. I’ve visited your cities. I’ve played games at your bridal showers. I’ve attended your high school graduations. To me, the internet is where we fall in love, find God, pack suitcases and move to new cities. You are not a speck or a fleck in my story. You are pivotal. You are the game-changers that make my daily work worth it. I want you to know that even if you don’t know God, even if you question His nature, there is someone in this world who is thinking of you today. She is hoping you feel seen and loved by random people on the street, in the aisles of Target, and through your inbox. She is wanting you to know that you deserve goodness and hope. You deserve a love that is inexhaustible. You deserve rest for your tired bones and people for your journey.

I always, always want this corner of the internet to be a safe place for you. I want you to know that you are always welcomed in my corner. You are sought after here. We think about you in these parts of town.

tying you closer than most,

hb.

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When the leaves dance: thoughts on developing your voice.

Dear Hannah,

My English teacher told us yesterday to write in our own voice and not to write descriptively, saying “can I have some water” instead of “may I partake of that liquid refreshment?” This slightly goes against everything I’ve ever learned about formal writing. I love writing descriptively and making the leaves dance between the trees rather than just fall to the ground! Do you have any advice about a balance between voice and still wanting to paint a picture?

Thank you,

T


Sweet T,

I may have shared this story once or twice before but I will never forget the night I sent the first draft of my memoir to my editor. It was two days before the stated deadline. I pressed “send” on the email and the first thing I did was take a shower. I stood there for a really long time, no concern for the water bill, letting the stress and the angst of 14-hour book writing days fall off of my body. I didn’t know if I did a good thing or a bad thing in writing that first draft but I knew I had given it my everything.

I dried my hair. My boyfriend at the time picked me up. We rode to a burger joint and I laid in the parking lot pretending to kiss the gravel. I was being dramatic but I felt free and accomplished. I ate a burger the size of my head, went to sleep, and woke up at 4am the next morning to catch a flight to New Orleans. There was nothing climactic or big about that day.

A month later, my editor sent back her notes. I remember red slashes all over the pages and many phrases like “cut this” or “change this” or “explain this to me.” I felt defeated when it came to that first draft. I thought a good writer would have had less edits, less slash marks, less “cut this” remarks. My editor wrote in her note to me, “I could be very wrong about this but I wonder if you are hiding behind really pretty words when you could just come out and tell me how you really feel.”

In that moment— because of that one sentence— I became a better writer. Or maybe I finally became a writer.

I was 25 at the time. I treated life like I treated glass: very careful to never left anything break. I wrapped my words in descriptive and metaphorical wrapping paper. I had this thing where I wanted every word and every phrase to sound beautiful and romantic. I thought that’s what you had to do to be a good writer: write sentences people had to read three or four times before they grasped the depths of them.

You don’t have to be the girl who only uses pretty words. You don’t have to be the person who writes so complexly that no one understands them. There is a time and a space for beauty and description. There is a time and a space to just say what you need to say, void of filters and a thesaurus. There is a time to write about the leaves and how they bow and break off of their branches when Autumn comes and calls for them to die. There is a time to write about the collar of his shirt and how you never knew what home smelt like until the day he packed that collared shirt with the droopy stripes in a suitcase and never came back for you. There is also a time to simply write, “He left. It still hurts.” People will get you. People will understand you. People will stare at their palms, and look at the wall, and say, “He left me too. It still hurts too.”

That’s the beautiful thing about writing: it is one of the most rare and sacred ways to connect with other people and help them to feel. People want to feel things even when they are afraid of what those feelings will do to them. If you dress up your language so much that no one understands you— that no one can find you in the sea of adverbs and adjectives— you’ll never really be heard. Or you might look back and wish you’d been heard differently for who you really were.

T, I think your English teacher was simply trying to tell you to be yourself. You could absolutely write, “May I partake of that liquid refreshment” but would ever really say that to someone? Would you stand at a party and offer someone a fruity libation? Would you recite a poem to a person when they ask you not to go?

Language is simple and complex. That’s the beauty of it. I think your English teacher is smart to teach you how to find your voice. Your voice will be different than the person sitting next to you. That’s the cool thing about finding your voice in the writing process: you become different and set apart. We all crave that at the beginning and end of a day: the chance to be set apart and seen.

One last thing on voice: you must do the work, T. So many people create a blog or buy a notebook and just expect for their voice to show up. Like I wrote earlier, you’ve got to develop that voice through practice, discipline, and life. Even more people out there read the words of a writer they admire and then they begin writing just like them.

I once had to have a really tough conversation with a writer who was also a reader of my blog. I read her blog pretty consistently but I watched as more and more of my voice showed up in her writing. Several people reached out to me and told me they felt like she was using my voice. She started to borrow sentences and phrases. It came to a point where I had to email her and ask her to talk with me on the phone.

I felt a little crazy but I had to know, “Are you copying me? Are you using my voice?” I probably wasn’t expecting a straight answer but she didn’t cower in a corner, she was really honest with me. She told me yes, she was copying my writing. She was reading so closely that she was picking up phrases and sentence structure purposely and using it in her own corner of the internet.

What followed from that confession was this really redemptive conversation on voice. She and I were hundreds of miles away, talking over cell phones, but I felt like she was close to me. I still remember pacing the gravel of the sidewalk outside of church as I spoke to her for close to two hours. I still remember wearing a blue dress.

I told her it was a bigger issue when you opt for another person’s voice because it is easier or because it gains you applause. Two things happen when you pick someone else’s voice over your own. 1) You neglect your process. 2) You hijack their process.

For her to pick up my voice and use it was for her to claim she was a girl who used to sit in chapels hoping God would speak to her. A girl who spent her high school summer vacations listening to Delilah’s Love Songs at Night and calling into to request Mariah Carey songs be dedicated to SOS (Some One Special). A girl who once fell in love at the tail end of a semester, spun in circles by a guy who would read her Walt Whitman poetry late into the night and who would come back after a long summer and decide he didn’t want her. A girl who only became a writer because her grandmother told her to and she wanted her grandmother’s life to live longer than it had the chance to. My voice is a combination of sanctuaries, newspaper clippings, pages torn from books, love letters left by my mother, grace, and wisdom. To take that voice from me is to take the most precious thing I’ve ever been given the chance to develop. 

Developing your voice takes time. It takes writing a lot of words. It takes getting honest and getting real with yourself and your readers. Your voices develops in secret places where you scribble for hours on yellow notepads. Your voice develops when you pay attention to how your friends think and speak and act when they are nervous or in love. Your voice isn’t something you find, it’s something you birth. You spend hours in the darkroom, just in the way they used to develop film, and something is birthed out of you that the world gets to devour.

Your voice is a combination of thoughts, feelings and places you’ve gone. Your voice is a 1999 pop ballad and a 2008 heartbreak. Your voice is that beach house you spent every summer at up until you were 16. Your voice is the night you went, and said, and asked, and celebrated. That’s how you make your voice yours and only yours— you live and then you write it down. Go out there, live and then write it down.

If the leaves danced then tell me they danced. If you slow danced in the kitchen then tell me the song. Tell me the tiny, delicate details that make this story your own.

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