I Finally Stopped Running. Then My Car Got Towed.

When I first showed up to that little town, I had handfuls of fear and a back-pocket plan of escape.

I had stubbornly decided to never hang another picture on the wall. I was terrified of ever planting my feet, of ever letting my heart get rooted again.

For those few years, the walls stayed bare. I slept on a borrowed bed. I tried to avoid anything that looked steady, shut my heart off to anything that looked stable or strong.

I remember when a set of brown eyes showed up in my driveway that summer morning, I walked outside barefoot and waited for the words that I knew were coming. I never cried. My heart didn’t break. I wondered why it didn’t hurt more when I threw away the sentimental things. I mourned nothing more than the realization I’d said a lot of things I didn’t really mean.

Honestly, I think he knew that everything in my life was temporary. When he walked away with his head hanging, he knew that I was on the run. That I was just looking for a nice guy to drive my getaway car.

“I never know where you are.”

 That’s become a sentence that hundreds of people across hundreds of miles have said to me. Mostly in a joking, but also in a curious way because the geographical location of my residence has changed so much in my twenties.

But if he could have, I think that brown-eyed guy would have used that to sum up everything and then called it a day. Because what would become geographically true was already internally true. He never knew. I never knew. No one ever knew.

As a writer, I’ve spent most of my life speaking in metaphors.

I started doing it as a teenager, in person, and in letters, and I never quite figured out how to stop. I mastered the art of never really saying what I wanted because I could spin it and hide behind an eloquent turn of phrase. And I didn’t even realize how desperately trapped in it I felt until a few weeks ago.

I stood on the sidewalk as I watched a stranger hook his tow truck to my little silver car and pull it out of the mess I’d got myself into. I don’t think I will ever be able to fully explain the feeling that overwhelmed me as I watched it come out of the place where I’d gotten it stuck.

I stifled the cry I could feel welling up in the deepest part of me. It wasn’t about the car (because again, everything is a metaphor). It was about being in my sister’s college town, the girl I’ve become over the last ten years, the past few weeks, being stuck and finally getting free.

I drove to a nearby diner and held back ten years of tears as I remembered the last time I’d been there. I remembered being sixteen years old, lying in my sister’s dorm room, pitch black, skirting around the things in my heart. We spoke in metaphor, ironically using cars. She humored me because she knew I was terrified to say what I actually wanted to say.

I realized I’d been using getaway cars in one-way or another my entire life. And when that brown-eyed guy walked away, it didn’t hurt because I’d built the whole thing out of pretty metaphors and things that sounded really nice. But there was nothing on the walls. I’d never said or done anything of substance because deep down, I knew I was never going to stay.

A few weeks ago I bought a picture to hang on the wall. I did it without hesitation.

I turned around to realize there were some other good and steady things that I once ran away from. I ran straight toward them.

I stopped solely speaking in metaphors. I no longer wonder if I’m saying things I really mean.

God knows where we are.

That’s the thing I’m figuring out. Across all the miles and after all the running. He’s always been in the getaway car, trying to let me know that I haven’t gotten all that far.

Someday I hope you get tired of waking up to blank walls. I hope that fear and pain are no longer drawing your maps. I hope you find good and steady things that make you fight the urge to run away.

That you laugh when you find out God put the GPS on His idea of home and you’ve just been going in circles all along. That He doesn’t let us get too far. That He doesn’t get mad, but He sometimes lets us run out of gas (or get towed).

That the brown-eyed guy did you a favor when he handed you back the keys.

That someday someone asks you a question that terrifies every bone in your body. But that, for a minute, you lay the metaphors down and say the least eloquent things you can possibly say.

I hope someday you rip up your best plans for escape.

 

 

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Challenge Accepted

Last week my housemates gave me a challenge.

It was to sit face to face with a friend and stare at them for 4 minutes. Don’t talk. Don’t look away. Just look at them straight in the eyes.

There were a lot of moments when we shifted uncomfortably or had to hold our breaths to keep from laughing. It wasn’t as easy as it sounded.

From the first second, there was just one thought that kept repeating in my mind over and over again:

This shouldn’t be so difficult.

It shouldn’t be uncomfortable to look into the face of another human being, to admire the good in them, to take note of the way their eyes crinkle or their head tilts when they feel uneasy. These are the things that should be the simple, uncomplicated, normal.

I want to be able to see people, to actually see them and not harbor the wish to turn away.

Last week, I met a lot of strangers. I was given a room with some chairs and the chance to tell them one by one that they’re loved, they’re enough, they have what it takes.

Sometimes we laughed, other times we cried. There were moments when silence just hung thick in the air like the fog that rested outside. I could see their minds turning and asking the questions: Is it really true? Do I really have what it takes? Am I really worthy of words like these?

I think those are the things that make us wring our hands and pace hallways. They keep us up at night, stare at us in the face over breakfast, curl up next to us on sick days spent at home. Am I worthy of being seen? Worth being told I’m incredible? Am I good enough for someone show up for me in the moments when I’m not at my best?

You deserve for someone to look you in the eye and never flinch.

You are not just another person in a room, face in a crowd, notch on a belt. You are incredibly wonderful and if you were here right now, I’d look you in the eyes and say those things. Because you are worth holding the gaze of other human beings. The fact that someone couldn’t look you in the eyes and say good and lovely things indicates far more about them than it ever could about you.

You should also feel comfortable to be gazed at. In those 4 minutes of being stared at, I had many reminders of all my imperfections. Quickly, I realized that it is almost as difficult to be seen as it is to fully allow yourself see another person.

But you should know that you have no good reason to be insecure, shy, uncertain, or fearful. When you’re being 100% yourself it is one of the most incredible sights on this earth and it’s a crying shame and a disservice to humanity when you hold it back, cover it up or try to push it down. Don’t for a second let yourself feel afraid to be seen.

Last week I got the chance to love complete strangers, to really take a long look at good friends and to have them really look at me. I came to realize that all any of us ever really want is to be seen and afterwards still be insanely loved.

So, as for that challenge, I’d like to extend it much further. I’d like to hold that position, stay locked in that gaze as long as possible.

Sign me up. Count me in. Challenge accepted.

The Things That Matter

I sat down and made a list of things I know.

I made a list of things I know right in this moment, to see if they were enough to keep me moving forward.

There were nineteen bullet points on that list. I had to ask myself if that was that enough to make me move forward in things that feel pretty risky.

If I’m being honest, I feel like I need at least fifty things on the list of certainties before I can take a risk. Let’s be real, nineteen isn’t really in the ballpark of fifty.

I sat there, tears on my face as I realized that sandwiched there in the middle were three of the most important things I could ever write. These certainties, these things I know to be true, are all that it should take for me to take a leap.

Figure out what matters.

That’s my advice to you. In whatever situations you’re sitting with, in whatever battle you’re fighting, figure out what matters and let that make your choice.

There are always going to be questions. You’ll always have little doubts trying to weasel their way into your ear drums, trying to settle in there and make their voice a permanent part of your story. You will always be fighting uncertainty in one way or another. You can have fifty-one things on your list of reasons why you should or shouldn’t, but if you don’t have the most important things covered, it was never even worth picking up the pencil.

Figure out what it is you’re really looking for, who you’re trying to be, where you’re trying to go. Get those things covered and if what you are considering lines up, stop looking for more confirmation. Stop waiting for all fifty spots to be filled in. If you’re staring at number eleven, twelve, and thirteen and they make you cry and say to yourself, that’s the heart of it, that’s what I’ve really been in search of, then you’d be crazy not to take that chance.

You would be crazy to back away in fear when your heart has a chance to see the miracles you’ve waited for.

We make things too complicated. We want all the answers when we’re too afraid to even ask the questions.

Did you ever play the foot game when you were little? The one where everyone would make their feet into a circle and someone would sing a silly song and rule everyone out and the last foot in won the game?

Your chances were better always better when both feet were in.

You’ve got to jump into this thing with both feet, kid. You’ve got to stop keeping one of your feet out of the circle. You’re doing it because it protects you, because it’s easier to only have one foot rejected than both. You’ve got to decide here and now if you’re in or out. 

Are you committed to this thing?

God once asked me that about a circumstance I was dancing around. Are you going to be involved or are you going to be committed?

I chose commitment.

It was one of the hardest, but most amazing things I’ve ever done. The next thing I knew, I was up to my knees in a mess that seemed impossible to stand in. But I learned, I learned things that only commitment can teach you. 

You’ve got to decide, you know. Decide if you’re involved, if you’re committed, or if you’re bowing out.

Figure out what’s important. Figure out who you are, what you’re called to. If this is what you have really been looking for, stop waiting for flashing arrows and someone to give you that fiftieth reason why you should say “yes”. If it’s just not quite right, crumple the paper and go in search of the important things.

We’re always going to want to play it safe, and we’re going to always want a perfect plan. Sometimes, what you really need is the moment of clarity that comes when you’re staring straight at the few, but mighty things that actually matter. 

 


 

[photo cred]