Choosing One Another

I had a conversation earlier that stuck with me.

We were talking about relationships and¬†getting things out in the open at the very beginning.¬†How it’s better just to lay the big things out right there at the start: the important things, the maybe-even-a-little-bit-crazy things, the dreams, the parts of you that you know just aren’t going to change.

There were a million thoughts running through my head. I thought about all the times I’ve tried to balance those early conversations–what you can say, what to hold back, what to wear, how to sit. It’s like a dance of trying to figure out how to be just enough, but not too much.

The idea that first impressions are everything is so engrained in us and sometimes we take it farther than we even realize.

Believing that first impressions are everything is often a way we unintentionally tell someone (or ourselves):¬†don’t fully be yourself. Because you, the real you, might just go and ruin this whole thing. Sometimes this sticks with us and we find ourselves becoming someone who is always¬†holding back. We end up telling ourselves¬†people wouldn’t stick around if they found out¬†the truth about who we really are.

Sometimes in our fear and desire we treat the deepest parts of ourselves like an arsenal that we’re trying to strategically figure out how and when to fire.

But the deepest parts of us, the things that make us who we are, shouldn’t feel like¬†weapons. Our deepest truths¬†shouldn’t feel like things that will one day inevitably lead to the death of¬†our¬†hearts or chances for a relationship.

Believe me when I tell you, we don‚Äôt want people to fall in the love with the first impression version of us. Because most of the time we don‚Äôt even like that person. That person is fearful and insecure. They hold back or they overcompensate. They often put their value in saying or doing¬†all¬†the right things. That person is a shell that carries your face and your name. Don’t keep giving that to someone, don’t ask someone to choose that.

You are worthy of someone choosing you, and everything that comes along with that, right from the start.

Sometimes we have to give ourselves permission slips to let our guard down.¬†Because you’re going to waste a lot of experiences,¬†a lot of interviews, a lot of dates, a lot of years if you are always so afraid to be yourself.

Here’s the thing: I¬†am not going to go on a date and eat pizza with a fork. I will fold that pizza in half and eat it fiercely because if the man across from me is looking for a woman¬†who eats like she’s at¬†cotillion, we do not need to proceed any further.

He needs to know right up front that I cry at movies, on occasion I like ugly sweatpants, I have more crazy stories than anyone would probably ever want to hear, and that I have no plans to diminish my southern accent (I’ve tried, it’s just not going anywhere). He needs to know that I love government and I’m going to yell about the national debt and want him to vote in elections. I’m also never¬†going to own a cat. This just needs to be said on day one: there will be no cats.

There have been guys¬†that have cringed and tried to pull these things out of me. They grew annoyed at my emotions, thought my sweatpants were unacceptable, didn’t like being with the girl who sometimes told her stories to a room full of strangers, rolled their eyes at the southern phrases that come barreling out¬†in my excitement. They’ve tried to tell me to¬†tone it down during election season. They hoped my passions and personality traits were a passing phase. I wish I¬†had figured these things out¬†sooner than I did.

I¬†don’t want to get my heart in something and hope or think¬†maybe they will change.¬†I also don’t want to find out that they’re thinking the same thing about me.

We all know how that movie ends.

I am also learning that I want to sit across from people and let them know it’s okay to say the thing that keeps them awake at night, the things they can’t seem to figure out, the dreams that make them constantly contemplate dropping everything and just going. I don’t want to be asked or forced to choose mannequin versions of people that seem to have all the right words or plans.

We are human and I think we need to realize that humans choosing one another is one of the most glorious, beautiful, but fragile things we get to experience in this life. Shells, mannequins, and masks choosing one another is something far less worthy of our time. But that is what happens when fear leads us to forfeiting who we really are because of who that first impression version of us tried to promise ourselves and someone else we could be.

Adulting: It’s Not a Thing (or a Verb)

Let’s be honest, we’ve all laughed at a good¬†adulting¬†meme¬†that so adequately describes the difficulties of trying to¬†be a grown up and do the responsible thing.

I will be the first one to admit that the majority of the first half of my twenties has¬†been a complete train wreck. I didn’t own a rain coat for most of it. A rain coat. Even small children own rain coats. I also literally did not understand the phrase¬†take it with a grain of salt until like two weeks ago. So you know, there’s a lot that I have yet to master about adulthood.

But I have become so incredibly annoyed with a generation of people who keep complaining and making t-shirts about how hard it is to¬†adult. Adult is not a verb. It is an adjective. It describes the stage of life that you¬†are in and will continue to be in. You don’t get a choice about that, my friend.¬†You are an adult. You will never be a child again and it is time that you just get past that fact and accept that this, in all its glory, is not a choice.

Your adulthood is just a fact.

When we treat adulthood like a choice we create a lifestyle of really horrible habits. We justify and make jokes about our¬†really poor choices because¬†adulting has become a thing we do or don’t do¬†today.

I love you enough to tell you this because I was the person doing it like eight and half seconds ago.¬†Eating doughnuts for breakfast every morning and watching Netflix until 2 PM in your bed when you’re in your twenties is not cute. It is not worthy of a “like” on Facebook or Instagram.

Being a¬†human is hard sometimes, but the hard parts about it are not your laundry, making your bed, or taking a shower. Difficulty is not¬†looking at your bank account and being sad that you can’t buy more Starbucks.

When we say it out loud, I think we can see how selfish it is: I’m feeding a culture that says life is hard because¬†I¬†want to be able to eat Oreos and not gain weight, or have the luxury of walking into Target¬†and spending $200 on pointless stuff.

We are a product of our choices, the things we do and the things we say. If I keep telling myself that the struggle is real at Target and everyone spends this kind of money because adulting is hard and budgets are hard when I wake up without any money for my future, at least I can laugh about it. I can post about it on Instagram and get a few hundred nods of approval.

Those things are not the hard part about adulthood and if you¬†actually believe that they are, you live in a very small world. You live in a bubble known as¬†entitlement and it’s a really dangerous place to stay. It’s a dangerous thing to joke about. It feeds bad habits. It’s a bubble that I’ve known well and it has caused more grief in my adulthood than maybe anything else.

You know what I love about my grandmothers’ generation? Those women got out of bed every morning, got dressed, took on the world, and sometimes never left their own home to do it. They’d wrangle seven kids looking like they just stepped out of a magazine. I never understood it and I actually thought it was incredibly pointless. But throughout the years of listening to¬†their stories I finally started to understand why.

They did it because getting out of bed, looking presentable, making breakfast, and¬†getting things in order is¬†good stewardship. It¬†is being thankful. It is loving themselves and others well. It is taking care of what God gave them. It is living a lifestyle of worship, of having a grateful heart. It is saying to God: I love and cherish this sweet life that you’ve given me and it is way way more than I deserve. I’m going to take care of it, I’m going to treat it like the gold that it is.

That’s not to say that some of them didn’t have careers. Both of my Grandmothers worked. They showed up for themselves, their kids, their husbands, and worked outside of their homes. They kicked butt (am I allowed to say that about my grandmothers?). They were moms, wives, business women, workers, church members, community members, and more. They were not¬†adulting,¬†they just accepted the fact that they were adults. Most of their generation accepted this a lot younger than¬†I did.

The point of all of this is not to say that we have to be perfect. I will have times of rest.¬†I will also still have some days where I wear sweatpants and watch a few hours of Netflix.¬†I will have times of eating pizza and wishing that it didn’t have so many calories. But that’s not an acceptable daily lifestyle and it’s not a culture that I want to encourage.

God handed me adulthood, sometimes it’s hard, but the fact remains that I don’t get a choice. But how I honor this gift of life¬†and how I choose to respond my¬†God-given responsibilities is entirely up to me.

 

 

Women: Making Change + Being Heard

The Women’s March¬†has me incredibly stirred.

I think protests are incredible. Give me old black and white photos of Martin Luther King Jr. marching and I am moved in deep and profound ways. Footage of him being arrested while praying is one of the most painful and powerful things to ever be captured on film. I do not dismiss the importance of peaceful protest, and by no means do I think that those women do not have every right to be walking those streets today.

Right now I sit in the quiet of my apartment listening to a celebrity tell why she hopes that the new President of the United States will fight for her equality, for her healthcare, for her future.

While it is incredibly likely that she and I would disagree on most things surrounding politics, religion, lifestyle choices, etc. I’m proud of her for peacefully standing up for what she truly believes is right.

Nevertheless, I am frustrated.

I am twenty-four years old. I attended public school in this country, and then was later homeschooled. I have not graduated college. Until the last five months, I have not had health insurance for seven years. I am a woman. I am not married.

By society’s standards I could have labeled myself a¬†young, single, uneducated, uninsured woman. To these women marching, I am someone they need to fight for.

But here are the facts: I live on my own. I pay my own rent. I pay a car payment. I buy my groceries. I pay for my Netflix. I buy coffee. I have a job (that was listed as requiring a college degree). Because of that job I now have health insurance. I have a savings account. I am working on my degree, but whether I finish or not, I have a future.

Marching down the street did not get me here.
The government did not get me here.
College did not get me here.
Healthcare and Planned Parenthood did not get me here.

Society told me I was less than¬†as a girl¬†very young in life. I was patronized, mocked, and dismissed as a girl all throughout my childhood. The little boys in my classes, men in the church, teachers, doctors, random people in the grocery store. I heard it all, just like every single woman¬†on the planet has. It was disgusting, outrageous, painful, uncalled for. And you better believe that I have been just as fiery and ticked off at every single tragic¬†thing our current President has ever said to demean a woman. It’s one of the reasons I chose not to vote for either candidate. I didn’t need him to¬†degrade¬†me, and I also didn’t need Clinton to pity me.

I have had disadvantages in society. I have been told I could and would accomplish less, but and the most incredibly naive thing I could have done was believe that the responsibility fell on anyone but me to prove that incredibly wrong.

The education and healthcare systems have done little to serve me in my life and it did not stop me from becoming a self-supporting, independent, health-insured female at the age of twenty-four.

The system was not in my favor.¬†I don’t have a degree. My parents were not wealthy. No one got me this job. I don’t even live in the town I grew up in. No man had to secure this life for me.¬†The government did not have to step on my behalf. My public school did not change my life. Planned Parenthood did not save me. I made smart choices. I did not make those smart choices¬†because someone walked down a street (though, like I said, I do applaud peaceful protest).

Do you know why I made those smart choices?

Because every single day of childhood I had a mother that showed up.

She woke up every single morning and told me I was smart and beautiful. She fought for me. She told me I could be anything I wanted to be, even President.

She taught me how to read at the age of four.

We would sit in the floor and I would learn Hooked-on-Phonics, there was rarely a spelling bee in my life that I did not win. She helped me with my homework every single night. I knew how to multiply before everyone else in my class because she sat with flash cards and ice cream and drilled me. She built my creativity by telling me the most absurd bedtime stories, by giving me paint sets and novels.

When I was eight, she gave me a microscope for Christmas. At nine, she taught me how to balance a checkbook. At bedtime, we would sit on the couch together and watch the news. She would tell me about the Presidential Cabinet and about foreign affairs.

One day¬†I came home from school and told her that a disabled child was being made fun of, she told me to stand up for her, no matter the consequences. When I had a teacher tell everyone that God didn’t create the world, she told me that I was allowed to stand up and say that¬†there were two sides to every story and I had a right to share that one.

My mother is a fierce woman to behold.

She will likely be one of the strongest, most brilliant and well-argued women of her generation. Podiums will probably never have her lean on them, she will likely never march on the streets of Washington D.C. but she has a daughter who sits in her own apartment, employed, with health insurance who is happy and safe.

My mother is making a change, her voice is being heard. She is heard every single day of my life, and the world will always hear her. Because my mother has a daughter who is overcoming every single lie that society throws at her. The world will continue to hear it in my daughters and in their little girls.

Because the kind of woman that makes a change in this world is the one who does the small and faithful things. It is the woman who spends her life sowing seeds of truth the girls in her home that will profoundly change the next generations. 

It was Mother Theresa, a great mother, and a great woman who said “Do not wait for leaders: do it alone, person to person.”

Today, if you march, march. But after that go home and raise your children faithfully and beautifully. Do not whine about the systems, the healthcare, the government. Do not stomp your feet and then watch your Netflix. Do not depend on a college education, a government funded organization, or a President to teach, raise, and love your daughters.

Go home and teach your girls to balance checkbooks, read novels, understand the branches of government and their powers.

Stop waiting for the system to serve you; go and serve your daughters.

 

 

 

Breaking Up + Building Home

I just got back from Georgia and it felt a lot like seeing an ex for the first time since a break-up.

It was all the nervous tension and trying to figure out how to act and how to feel.¬†At first it was this bittersweet mix of formality and familiarity.¬†We’re used to do everything together, but it’s been a while¬†and everything is different now.

I lived there for two years and made that place my home. It’s comfortable and easy. It’s laughter and inside jokes. It’s not having to tell the back-story or swim through¬†all the surface stuff.

I miss being known and knowing where I belong. I miss being pulled into a hug and held there. I miss someone just showing up at my door. I miss someone reading my thoughts from across the room. I miss the things that took so much time to build.

It’s hard coming back to that.

You’ve moved on, and you know it was the right thing to do. But when things ended on good terms, you can easily¬†fall back into those conversations and into finishing each others sentences. Then it just gets painful. Life, time and geography tell you that you can’t sit next to each other anymore.

And let me tell you, Georgia looked good. He looked real good. His build was strong and his hair was perfect. His green eyes were playful, he wore a well tailored suit, and brought a lot of sunshine and memories of some of my favorite times in my life. He was confident and steady.

As for me, I was a mess. I was not what you imagine or hope to be when you run into that former love. I was not a glamorous picture of success with perfect windblown hair and a five year plan. I was a sleep-deprived mess of a woman who had just lived out her own real life SNL skit involving a flat tire and three police officers.

For some reason, I came packed with the worst of my wardrobe. My skin was freaking out. I was stuffing my face with Skittles and Goldfish (which I guess could explain the skin issue). I was also trying to plan out speaking in front of people and how to finish assignments that felt like a foreign language.

Still, Georgia was inviting. He still knew how to make me laugh and took me to my favorite restaurants. He knew all the right things to say, all the right ways to pull at my heart. He reminded me of those former glory days, back when summer evenings were long and spent by the lake. He brought back winters with coffee on the couch and Josh Garrels on the record player in the living room.

It was hard to walk away.

I wanted to turn that car around and fling myself into the arms of that southern town¬†and say¬†“Please, take me back! I was a fool for ever leaving you behind!”

But it was a lie and I knew it. It was desperate and crazy. It was not the healthy, wise, or sane decision.

We know when it’s time to move on.

God, people, circumstances, and life let us know when our hearts need to move forward and I’m learning how to listen.

About halfway back home, a sad song came on my playlist and like a real break up,  I started spilling my guts to God. I kept mulling over all the reasons why my life right now looks so much less than what I had back then.

Because I mean, the most consistent person in my life right now is the man at the Chick-fil-A drive-thru window who serves me my yogurt and coffee every morning.

And believe me when I tell you, I think he is just as disturbed by his consistency in my life as I am.

Building a new life and new relationships take time and they require¬†giving your heart. It’s hard to give your heart away again when what you had before¬†was so good.¬†Especially when there was really no seemingly good reason to end things other than¬†it was just time to move on, things didn’t fit anymore.

Because what happens if I do this all over again and things just stop fitting?

What if I find something good again and then I have to move on and go start over with another blank apartment, another set of streets I can’t navigate, a table with empty seats? What if I have to even go find a whole other Chick-fil-A man who can’t learn to accept the fact that I’m just going to spend an ungodly amount of money¬†on breakfast food?

One of my bosses gave a sermon this week and said something that hit me hard:

‚ÄúWe say ‚ÄėI‚Äôve been hurt in a relationship, I‚Äôm never going to date again!‚Äô instead of saying ‚ÄėLord, show me the qualities that make for healthy relationships, so that I will know what is truly worth hurting over.‚ÄĚ

Things end. But Georgia was healthy and it was worth hurting over.

Maybe I won’t be here forever, but I’m here for now.¬†I want to build things that are worth hurting over.

Someday, if I ever move away from this place, I want to come back and have that momentary second of foolishness of wanting to jump into its arms again and ask it to have me back.¬†I won’t do it, but I want to have been so recklessly selfless with my love that I’ll want to.¬†I want to be shaken by the memory of what it felt like to wade through all the nervous first encounters, awkward conversations, DTR conversations, stupid fights, moments of wishing I could leave, stupid inside jokes,¬†nights around a bonfire.

I want to build something worth hurting over if I ever have to say goodbye to it.

When I moved away from home I cried when I left my mailman. Right now, I don’t even know my mailman, and it won’t really hurt if I have to say goodbye to my Chick-fil-A man. But I need it to.¬†I need to be teary for the day when he will no longer be¬†MY¬†Chick-fil-A man.

I want to build a life that’s steady and full of the kind of love that cries about my neighbors and the things that become a consistent part of my life.

Because I need to build a life that’s radically ordinary, beautiful, and full of health. I’m learning it will help prepare me for the someday permanent¬†people and places, for when the time and person comes and¬†I find myself making¬†promises and covenants¬†to stay.

(P.S. the Chick-fil-A man is old, married, and is not a romantic interest in my life.)

The New and Good Year

I think most of humanity is in agreement about one thing right now: saying goodbye to 2016 will not break our hearts. I’m pretty sure that the guy who started the¬†campaign to save Betty White is all of us right now. We all feel that nothing was off limits to the insanity of the year, and we’re all just ready to do whatever it takes to get to 2017 without taking another big hit.

That being said, 2016 was a year that I think I learned more than most of my other years combined. When I look back, I think I could fill an entire stadium with pages of¬†lessons I picked up along the way.¬†I’ll leave you with a little bit of what this year taught¬†me. Through the good, the bad, the really bad, the unimaginably tragic, the incredibly scary, the weirdly ironic, and the unbelievably shocking, 2016¬†left me with some things I needed.

  • There‚Äôs a moment to grow up. You‚Äôll know when that moment comes. You finally stop making decisions that are magical and start making decisions that are fruitful. You start realizing your decisions need to require you to think about other people, about investment. You learn that your feelings, your whims, your desires are not the most important things in the world. You can‚Äôt live for them or make your decisions by them because the consequences have never been and will never be worth it.
  • If living alone is possible in your single years, do it. It’s pretty wonderful to live in a house full of people laughing and splashing coffee all over the countertops, but there’s something invaluable about learning to grow into your own space.¬†There’s something about coming home to silence¬†and sitting with your thoughts. There are prayers you pray in that quiet that you’d never pray with other people running in and out of rooms. There are moments you can slide down and sit on the hardwood floor with tears in your eyes and without¬†fear that someone is going to come barreling through the door. There’s just a peace and safety to work through all the questions in a real and raw way. I think solitude is¬†one of God’s favorite medicines.
  • Your experiences are not always the truth. Your experiences are true because they happened, but what you believe about them and the stories you tell yourself may not necessarily be true. We fill in the gaps and the holes of our hearts with stories that make us feel better, and sometimes that’s the only way we know to survive. We tell ourselves the relationship ended because¬†we loved them too much and they just couldn’t handle our love. We tell ourselves that our parents left us because they hated us, because we were never enough for them. We fill in those things left unspoken with stories, and the emptiness we sit with starts to feel less daunting. If I can figure out the story, I can craft a solution or write a really good ending. But sometimes, you don’t know what that story really is. Learning to accept that and letting go of the need to answer those questions¬†brings a lot of freedom.
  • There is a fine line between conviction and stubbornness and one of them means standing alone.¬†A convicted person knows that they do not stand alone, that they are accompanied by God and by truth. A stubborn person fights everything and everyone (sometimes including God and the truth) to be proven right. Whenever you find yourself in an argument ask yourself if you’re being convicted or if you’re being stubborn. And if you’re being stubborn, you’ll most likely end up standing alone.

  • There is no substitute for time. My sister told me this years ago and I think I’ve learned it more in the past few months than ever before. You cannot rush the process, you cannot shortcut your way to growth.¬†There is no Miracle-Gro formula for your health. You can try all the juices, cleanses, whole30 diets, quick-fix fads, but the reality is that consistency will always be key. Time produces change, growth, and results. You can’t rush health and anything that pressures you to probably won’t work.
  • You become what you behold. God and I had a very serious conversation about this last night on the way to Target. I am a chronic fixer, and it is something we’ve been working on for quite a while now. I see pain in another person and bless my well-intentioned heart, I just cannot take my eyes off of it. I want to help them, to see them through that pain, to love them right on out of it. But what if I just started choosing to see the good in them, to call that out, to love on that part of them with such a fierceness that it grows and pushes out the pain? What if I really just believe that it’s light and Love that drives out the darkness, not my problem solving abilities? Because you know what I’ve learned? Focusing on the problems in other people just weighs me down with problems, but focusing on the good in and around them brings out the good in me. If we focus on pain, hate, differences, sin, heartbreak… that’s what we become. We become consumed with that very thing that we obsess over and it takes over our lives. But if we fiercely grow and water the good, it always overtakes the darkness. Love always wins. True, time-taking, good-loving, turning away and not focusing on condemnation love is always gonna win.

2017 is just around the corner. It’s going to have its problems, it is going to have its battles. There might even be moments when the Twitter and Facebook explode with some kind of disagreement that¬†makes 2016 look like the year of child’s play. But 2017 will become whatever you focus on. This year, I’m praying to focus on the good and I’m praying that I’ll learn what that word actually means. Today it meant a hug from a stranger, a really good salad, and a walk downtown in a city that I would have never¬†thought I’d end up in. There was good in 2016, and I hope for these last few days of the year those are the things I focus on.

Nevertheless, God protect Betty White.

 

 

 

When The Holidays Are Hard

Some days I am still in the kitchen looking for napkins at that Christmas party. I can hear the laughter coming from the back of the house, my heart swells with the hope as the background music fades to the next track.

I immediately smile as I hear the younger version of myself laugh. Nothing was untouched by the lights that year, anything and everything was possible. All our troubles seemed miles away.

What I didn’t know was that by the next Christmas all of that hope would feel long forgotten and¬†it would take years to get any of it back.

Fast forward to last week when I got a handwritten letter in the mail.

It was from a dear friend across the country and her words were full of that same kind of hope, risk, excitement, uncertainty. I found myself thinking about that Christmas party and about the year that followed.

I replayed¬†what it felt like to let my heart grab on to things that were never meant to be. I let myself be taken back to¬†those twinkle lights and the cold winter air. I let my heart stir in that hope that built me and broke me. While I can’t say I regret that time in my life, the memory of it sometimes still feels heavy whenever¬†the holidays roll around.

One of my favorite Christmas songs is Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. I get all warm and sappy whenever I hear it playing over the speakers in the mall, or when it greets me in the car on a dark winter morning.

I wish I could go back to the 40’s¬†and sip coffee with the writers, Hugh and Ralph. I would ask them to tell me about the day they pulled that crumpled melody out of the trashcan. I would ask about the stories that¬†caused them to write those¬†words and that¬†tune.

Let your heart be light…

Around this time of year, I have to remind myself not to¬†get weighed down. It seems so much easier to get¬†heavy when the days get shorter and the nights get longer. And there always seems to be so much pressure to get happier when the red ornaments come out and the¬†big mugs of hot cider start getting passed around. The thick obsession with holiday¬†cheer can weigh me down faster¬†than anything else. I don’t want to miss it. According to every one and every thing, these are supposed to be¬†my happiest months. I¬†often feel rushed to get myself¬†together before December slips away.

I’m figuring out that we need to learn to let our hearts be¬†light, but that we¬†don’t need to hurry it¬†or force it.

Some days it is okay to remember the Christmas party that broke your heart and to grieve the chairs those people no longer fill. But then you have to let go of that weight, sweep the floors and make new invitations. Keep throwing parties and keep filling up those chairs.

Let your heart be light. Allow it to let go, allow it to hope for better years. Go and see the lights, sniff the fresh pine, watch all the best and worst Hallmark movies, help your grandmother decorate her tree, make plans to find the perfect wrapping paper. Let your heart be hopeful and expectant, even if there are hard memories and prior years that still bring pain.

Sometimes I feel like Dickens really got his stories mixed up. He really should have started off the Christmas one with that whole bit about how it was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Because some days I’m still in that kitchen and I am heavy with the weight of what Christmas used to be, might have been, appears to be for everyone else. One minute, I am one pine-scented candle away from weeping in Target¬†and the next, I’m singing Holly Jolly Christmas and¬†flailing around in¬†snowman pajamas.

Most days this really is the most wonderful time of the year. Still, Ralph and Hugh knew that there would be those holiday days we would need a melancholic song that would help us mourn, while simultaneously giving us a swift-kick-in-the-rear with a challenge like let your heart be light. 

I’m not sure if those guys knew it, but a¬†different kind of Christmas light is the only thing that¬†can help us with the heavy weight.¬†That Light came in the middle of the night to a¬†bunch of people on the run, who were probably crying over old Christmas parties, and whose lives looked nothing like Hallmark movies.¬†He¬†saw¬†all the sadness, darkness, pain, loss, loneliness they were in and He came.

And when He took his first human breath, I think that was really the first time the world heard what are quickly becoming my favorite words of the season: let your heart be light.

 

 

Learning from Loneliness

I used to live in a house with some fierce women and we spent our evenings eating dinner in the kitchen floor while laughing, crying, yelling, or praying.

Now, I come home to a quiet apartment, to the hum of my refrigerator and the buzz of the light above my stove.

It’s cozy this time of year. I turn on my Christmas lights and wrap up in my chunky gray blanket. It’s quiet and peaceful; there is a lot of time to think pray. I do a lot of that these days, a lot of eating take-out food and talking out loud to the only one who can hear me.

There’s a lot of sitting with my own thoughts. I’ve learned more about myself in these months than maybe in my entire life. I’ve learned a lot about staying with myself, being patient, laughing at my quirky tendencies, forgiving my breakdowns, talking through my frustrations, trusting my gut.

It’s an interesting thing to see how you’ll react the first time you have to call someone from maintenance to repair something, or how you’ll respond if/when you accidentally forget to pay a bill. How hard you fight when everything starts pushing against you.¬†You will surprise yourself and suddenly find out the kind of adult that the childhood version of you grew up to be.

Some nights you will get texts from other friends or see pictures online of everyone eating meals together and you will feel the sting of not being there. There are responsibilities you carry now: work, school, freelance, bills, groceries, laundry.

It will hurt. You will learn to sit with yourself in the pain of working through loneliness and it will hurt. You will reflect on all the times in your life when you weren’t alone. You will regret all the times you¬†chose to be alone when you could have called on others.¬†Because now you don’t always have the choice.

You will think about the movie you went to see by yourself years ago, how you bragged that you were so independent. You will think about the person who told you, I would have gone with you” and you will hate your youthful pride. The pain of wishing they could say that to you now will settle deep into your bones.

You will put up your first very own Christmas tree and it will make you squeal with joy. You will be proud of it. But no one will will stand next to you to share that joy. You will sit alone and you will learn something beautiful about yourself in that moment. 

You love Christmas. You love trees. You love making things beautiful. Beauty can and should still be enjoyed alone, you’ll learn that a lot. You will instantly remember all the times in your youth when you acted like Christmas and decorating was an inconvenience. When you had other things you needed or wanted to do and you will realize that you never want to be that person again. You never want to be the person who thinks celebrating¬†comes too early and who hurries to get it over with.

Loneliness can be one of the best things and worst things to ever happen to you. I’ve found out that I am one of the funniest people I know. I am the worst grocery shopper on the planet. I hate laundry with a fierce passion. Washing¬†dishes calms me. I am the kind of person who has a junk drawer. It is necessary to have 7 shampoos in the¬†shower at once. Bonefish has really good Sunday brunch. I feel weirdly guilty when I use paper towels. I use a lot of paper towels. I like wearing tennis shoes. Every night¬†get really sentimental and teary when I’m turning off all the lights and getting ready for bed. I enjoy myself. I’m learning to stay with myself and to fight for the person that I’ve become and am hoping¬†I’ll turn out to be.

I’m sorry I didn’t ask you to come to that movie.
I really love Christmas.
I might be looking to hire someone to do my laundry.
You should all invest in stock in Bounty.
Sit with yourself, stay with yourself, fight to become the kind of person that sometimes only loneliness can teach you to be.