The Fight You’ll Never Win

I wish someone had told me back then that love is not a competition.

I wish someone had come to me and said: “If there ever comes a time when you’re thrown into the ring and told to fight is to prove yourself, to prove your value; if you feel the need to make people think you’re something different than you are, that’s the time to throw your hands up and bow out.

Maybe then I would have known I was throwing and taking punches in a fight that never crowns a final winner.

Growing up, I was too skinny. My curly hair was out of control. My thick, but beautifully arched eyebrows were called unruly. These days, those attributes are coveted. Everyone wants to be skin and bones, every woman I know owns a curling wand. The new trend is for girls draw in thicker, more full eyebrows than what they already have.

The rules are always changing. That’s something I wish I had known.

Just when you’ve finally saved enough for the right pair of jeans, or have hit your “target weight” or have perfected your beachy waves hairstyle: all the rules change.

Decide now, just to be a rule breaker. Because your jokes are funny. Your hair is perfectly fine the way it is. The size of your jeans won’t make the world stop spinning.

Know that there will always be people who slide on their gloves and taunt you to get in the ring.

There will be people who will kick you with insults that are wrapped beneath a sticky sweet condescending smile. They will steal your jokes, your witty one liners and sign their name at the end. They will be better than you at volleyball, dancing or baking, and they’ll make sure you and everybody else knows it.

But they can’t take anything from you. No one on earth can put their feet in your shoes and go the exact distance and route you’ve gone. No one could ever be better at being you.

So, stop apologizing for the things that make you weird, or the things that nobody has ever complimented. Stop trying to be a competitor in a contest that seeks to make us all look and act the same.

I spent years trying to throw those defining words away.

Like those leftover mashed sweet potatoes that stayed in my fridge for far too long, like the junk mail you never remember subscribing to, like the tree limbs that fell in last week’s ice storm.

I. Wanted. To. Be. Done.

I wanted to be done with syllables, sentences, paragraphs, that had been tossed toward me like I was dog begging for scraps. Words that someone else used to tell me who I’m supposed to be.

And if I’m not careful, I’ll start carrying them around again. 

Back then, I learned how brace myself like I was a balloon in the hand of someone whose other hand held a needle; he made me think that he held the power to drain me of all my worth. Be the best. Speak softer. Have less opinions. Look prettier. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll be the pick-of-the-day.

But I never saw how he carried his own disappointments like a wildfire, until they nearly burned me to the ground.

Breeding defeat and disappointment were his specialties and I ordered them every single time.

Believe me when I say that I paid for it, over and over again. It took months on top of months until I maxed out and finally heard PAYMENT DECLINED. That day, I fell to my knees and prayed for the next person who would someday get in over their head in his kind of debt.

Someone should tell you that love does not require repayment. It doesn’t send out itemized statements, rules, or lists of demands.

The envelopes that hold those bills are the personalized stationary of Misery and Selfishness. You need to consider an address change the first day they stamp and mail something your way.

You don’t have to compete for love. Your fight isn’t one to prove you’re enough. You don’t have to be anyone or anything other than yourself. And people who take swings at you, or try to measure your worth: know that those people are burning in their own disappointment. Chances are they’ve had their share of people use harsh words to tell them who they’re supposed to be.

Figure out your own standards. Don’t let others become your measuring stick, the thing that says whether or not you’re enough.

Know who you are and stop apologizing for it. Learn to love all the parts of you, even if each one of them breaks all the rules.

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Where You’re Supposed to Be

Every weekend you could find us there.

We would be sitting in one of those wooden booths sharing pizza, we’d be laughing, crying, screaming, wondering if the days would ever change.

We were always asking those questions about where we would be in a year. When the glow of Christmas lights started to wrap around our worlds again, where would we be sitting?

As they go up this year, we sit on opposite sides of the country.

The girl with dark curls taught me how to laugh and I taught her how to cry. We were perfect partners for the see-saw of that season. When one went crashing toward the ground, the other could pick her feet up and fly toward the sky. It was a beautiful balance and worth late nights and the coffee addictions we developed to stay awake at work and school. Those nights were ours, to live and to learn about growing up.

I did it. I did the thing I used to wonder if I’d ever be able to do again. I used to ask her when we would curl up on her couch and watch the hours pass by: Will I ever feel again? Will I ever be able to open my heart? Will I let go of this and be happy?

It happened…slowly and all at once. The process of letting go of pain was long and grueling, but the realization of its absence was a sudden kick to my entire frame. I woke up and found that I was finally free.

Miles separated us on the day that God made my shoulders light again, and I knew she was proud. I knew she was cheering and saying this is it, this is what we waited for and prayed about while we emptied countless mugs of coffee and cried on the front porch.

When I drove around my little Georgia town with the phone pressed to my ear retracing conversations and painting out all the details, I knew that she loved hearing my laughter as much as she loves having her own.

That’s what friends do. Your victories are theirs, no matter where they find themselves on a map when the breakthrough finally comes.

I know because I feel that when she tells me that she’s learning to live fully again. I feel my own heart settle with peace when she says, “I’m glad to be in this new place…we couldn’t have stayed where we were.”

The sadness that comes with distance is thick in our voices, but we’re happy and we’re growing.

I went home for Thanksgiving.

Went home. It’s an odd thing to say because I didn’t ever really believe I’d leave home. This year, for the holidays, I get to go home.

Days into December, that curly haired girl and I will both go back home. We will giggle ’til late hours that fade into early morning, we will walk along the sidewalk in the cold winter air to wait for a table at that pizza restaurant. We’ll drink in every second it takes to catch up, to make new memories, to soak in how we’ve changed through these months.

Then after the holidays are over, she’ll board a plane and I’ll pack up my car. We’ll wipe some tears as we go back to the rooms that have our beds, the closets that hold our clothes, the towns we’ve claimed for the current season of our lives.

I already know that we’ll question everything.

Should we have stayed? Should we have ever left at all? Will we ever feel home anywhere other than those little neighboring North Carolina towns? Is it worth leaving behind these people who have such a special place in us?

There’s a pain in choosing to do something different, in leaving what you know for a life that will never be what you had.

But it’s worth it. Because we’re living and we’re changing. I’m learning to laugh again, to let people in, to love people who haven’t known me my entire life.

I’m learning to believe that it’s not a mistake, wherever it is that you end up. You were always meant to end up there. In some form or fashion, the world was always ready for you to stumble into the place you’re now standing. God knew, he always knew and he’s been planning things out and none of it was a mistake.

This is really just a blog about my friend, about how life changes, about how things work out… they really do work out.

So, wherever you’re sitting right now, stop questioning if you’re where you need to be. You’re exactly where you’re supposed to be. The second that stops being true, you’ll find yourself somewhere else, I can promise you that. Stop worrying about how you’re going to get there or what decisions you’ll have to make, you’ll get there.

We got here. We made it to different days under different skies and I can’t even really tell you how it happened. So, for now, I’ll look forward to those Christmastime nights and stop worrying about the weeks that follow. We’re exactly where we’re supposed to be and sometimes we don’t need to know anything beyond that.

[photo cred.]

Mondays & The Truth About You

Monday ain’t got nothing on you. She can’t dull something that shines as brightly as you.

You are gold.

That’s what all these struggles are, they’re just MondaysThey seem daunting, they threaten to take you down before you even get going. But these hard things are really just a chance to start fresh, to be better than you ever thought you could be.

You’ve got to stop selling yourself short. People need you, they need your laugh and to see you dancing in the kitchen. They need you to be yourself. I promise you that it will change things.

It will change your mailman, the girl behind the counter at the grocery store, the person across the table. I promise you, just simply being yourself will cause cracks in the concrete, because those feet of yours are heavy with purpose and with passion. Be that person. This is your invitation and your permission slip to be you and to stop apologizing for it.

And you know what? My Mama always told me to pick the very best… and you’re it. You’re the best for this, this thing called love. The thing that changes everything, it’s the thing that makes you fight for people with your knees in the carpet. It’s the thing that keeps you awake and writing down truth for people who only know a life of slow dancing with lies.

Keep sticking around, people will notice. Keep your head up, things will change.

You are gold, exactly as you are. I’m not talking about the you that you will be after a year at the gym. Not the cleaned up, pressed shirt, best foot forward version. I’m staring straight at the the imperfect, giggling, mess of hair, human that is you. You’re enough and you need to pump the brakes if you’re on a road that’s taking you to a place that would cause you to believe otherwise.

It’s time that you forgive yourself for all the times you’ve been your own greatest disappointment. You’re loved right where you are, but too much for me to let you stay there. So, come home and kick your feet up and hear me when I say that there ain’t nothing gonna make me love you less, but you’re made for more than where you’ve been sitting.

You’re it, you’re the best one and I’m picking you. I’m calling you out, calling you to this ring because you’re a fighter. So, put ’em up, because there are hands waiting and dinner tables set with an extra spot;  it’s time you find those places you belong. So fight for that, fight to sit in spots that will pull that golden light right out of you.

So these things holding you back, they’re just silly little Mondays. They attempt to haunt you, hang over your head, and always seem to come back around. But they’re really just chances for you to wake up, get in the ring and come out gripping the gold.

A Letter to The Ledge

“I refuse to be another stepping stone.”

I believed her.

“Why am I the last step before someone finds their greatest adventure? Here I am, just a stone to be stepped on.”

It was easy for me to stay quiet. To sip my latte and just listen because I know that ache. I’ve felt that kind of frustration coil itself around my muscles. Time passes and it just ties and tightens those knots of disappointment.

I didn’t have words that would wrap her wounds with the kind of healing they were begging for.

But I think I have some things to say now. I think I’ve got a letter to write to the ones out there just like her.

Darling, You are not simply a step. You are a ledge.

Oh, and when they step off your steady ground, they are left free falling and it seems like the time of their lives. Breath rushing to their lungs, the world full of possibility. Everything feels so free.

But they always come crashing–down, down, down. Just know they will hit the water every single time.

After that, it’s nothing but work. Swimming and holding their breath. Strokes of effort over and over again trying to find the dry land they once knew. It doesn’t take them long to remember you. Steady ground’s beauty starts flooding their memory as they choke on the waves of the unreliable waters they left you for.

You are a steady, strong, awe-inspiring ledge. You are exciting. You bring a sense of adventure, but you’re solid and dependable and you are where people climb great and far distances to stand.

But there are going to be few who climb to your great heights.

From where I’m standing, reaching a peak like you is a long way to travel. Only the brave and strong will go that far. But there are going to be those who make it and who still leave you for the sake of plummeting into the waters below. Because the dive seems like the climax of their journey.

But just know, they missed it all if they missed you. The dive may have lasted for a minute, but the view they had from standing with you will burn itself into the deepest parts of who they are. 

Oh, they’ll be carrying you around for years to come.

Even if they’re far too proud to admit it.

But baby, they’re probably not going to climb all the way back to you. Because very few can take the kind of journey it takes to win a heart like yours twice. But, that’s okay. Other climbers are coming and one of them just won’t be able to leave that horizon that they see from the firm earth below their feet.

You were never a stepping stone. You were a ledge that led to the free fall of the ones who were never meant to hold your heart.

But you are a thing of beauty to the brave ones. You are a glorious destination to the traveler who knows the value of the view versus the temporary excitement of the jump.

You’re a firm ledge, darling. You’re a perfectly lovely piece of this breathtaking earth. And you are worth the climb and worth the one who builds a home where you are.

You will never be just another stepping stone.