The Plans We Make + The People We Keep

It has now become public knowledge that I recently left my job. But this blog is not about that.

This post is also not about the number of mornings or evenings I’ve spent crying in my kitchen floor this week, although I could probably release a few full length novels on the subject.

It’s more about sitting in a parking lot on a Friday afternoon and venting through a telephone line to my sister. I can’t even remember the question she asked me, but I remember the tears that stung my eyes and that every single fiber of my being rose to the occasion to answer it.

Nothing is constant.

I remember God telling me that when I lived in Georgia and was in the middle of panicking over something that would soon be just a blip in the rearview mirror. “Nothing in this world is constant, love. You’ve got me. I’m always here, but everything else changes.”

Part of me wanted to despair at His words. It seems like an awful¬†way to live, never being able to fully anticipate the future. But I felt a sort of freedom wash over me because it meant that few of my choices would be¬†set in stone. These things that get me so tied up in knots wouldn’t and couldn’t¬†ruin my life because they would never be a constant.

I never intended to take a job that I would quit in seven months.

I never intended to be left without a plan.

Believe me when I tell you I pretty much didn’t intend on anything that’s happened in the last week and a half.

And months later staring at a set of poorly trimmed hedges, I said something that I felt to be fiercely true: all we have are the people we choose to keep. Those words broke me when they came out of my mouth because they are the only thing that have been proven true in the instability of my life.

Plans change. Dreams change. Nothing (and I mean absolutely nothing) ever turns out the way you intend. Jobs don’t work out. You fail classes. People die. Families get faced with unimaginable battles. You find in the midst of a world that seems so cruel and full of disappointment that the only thing you really have control over is today and the people you want to stand next to.

I am convinced that this is one of the million reasons Jesus told his disciples not to worry about tomorrow. Because tomorrow is not what you think it is, tomorrow always changes. Your emotions will be different tomorrow, your plans, your circumstances, and you cannot live your life based on those things. They are forever going to change and you cannot anticipate what they will look like.  When you live trying to plan for them, you will lose out on today.

I’ve missed a lot of really good todays worrying about tomorrow.

Today there are things and people in front of you that are there for¬†today and that’s what you know. That will be consistent¬†as long as you have¬†today.¬†I’m convinced that the only way to make a decision is to realize the fragility and beauty in that.

My job has ended, but the relationships with the people are what I will choose to keep. Just like when I moved away from Georgia, from home, from other jobs and places.

Because during a bad diagnosis, a failed dream, a deep loss, or a huge success, what you’ll be sitting shoulder to shoulder with are not the plans you made, but the people you chose to keep.

Last night I got in my car and drove to my best friend’s house. I came inside and we¬†covered up with blankets and just let all of the pain and frustration from the week come out. In the moment of being my best and worst version all I could think about was that line from earlier in the afternoon:¬†all we have are the people we choose to keep.

Our friendship has been one of distance, miles, phone calls, meeting in the middle, but it has been one of the best decisions of our lives. When it all starts falling apart,¬†my job isn’t¬†the place that offers me a warm bed, a cup of coffee, and a place to clear my head. My failed or passed class doesn’t sit with me in my pain, anger, uncertainty, or lack of clarity. The poster of dreams I drew up five years ago won’t look me in the eye and remind me¬†that I’m going to be okay, and that I’m not going to get stuck, there’s just no way God would let that happen.¬†The friend¬†we chose to keep in the inconvenience of circumstances, uncertainty of plans, and instability of emotions is¬†the person who sat with us last night and reminded us that¬†no matter what plans we make or change, we’re not alone.

I woke up this morning to an e-mail from one of those now former co-workers and she offered me a sort of invitation that stopped me in my tracks. She simply invited me to be a person she can choose to keep.

Even though my job changed. The circumstances are different. The constants I had planned fell through. I heard that sweet reminder again: all we have is Jesus, the people we choose to keep, and the people who offer us an invitation to be the same.

 

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.)

You Don’t Have to Let Them Go

I’ve always been in love with the blue hour.

The blue hour is that little span of time before the sunrise and after the sunset¬†when the sun is sitting far below the horizon. It’s when the sky is trying to hold on to both morning and evening. It can’t¬†let go, but it knows it has no choice but to¬†change its position.

Our culture is obsessed with the idea of letting go.

My inbox is full of people begging me to tell them the secret of how to get over it and move on.

I found myself drowning in nostalgia today. I was choking on these memories of things that I wanted to change and thinking about people that I haven’t learned how to let go of.

“Everyone says I need to let go, but I can’t let go!”¬†These are the words I told God as I gasped for breath and wiped my face with a pile of napkins I’d shoved in my console.

“There are some people that you’re not called to let go of. You can hold on; I’m telling you to hold on.”

I felt blindsided by His words, by this idea that letting go wasn’t the victory podium¬†after heartbreak.

You have to change the way you hold them, but you don’t have to let them go.

You¬†can hold people differently. When they can’t be the thing for you that they used to be, it doesn’t mean¬†you have to let them go.

What we’ve been taught about heartbreak and broken relationships is that¬†you’re healed when you can walk away.

But there will always be people that life, geography, and God, just won’t¬†let you walk away from. Because the goal can’t always¬†be learning¬†to let go. Sometimes the goal has to be endurance and learning what it means to stay for the long haul, years after what you thought should happen¬†is out of the realm of possibility.

Sometimes¬†it’s okay to carry them–carry them in your prayers, in your laughter. Hang them on your refrigerator. Keep their notes and gifts tucked beneath your bed.

Maybe that person or group of people can’t be what you once wanted them to be, but maybe you can still both be something the other needs. Maybe the test of growth is when you can shove aside the selfishness that says:¬†I only want you on my terms. You have to fit perfectly in all the places I once carved out for you.¬†

Sometimes growth is rearranging the space in your heart and figuring out how to fit someone elsewhere. Because it would be sad to spend your days without their contagious laughter or strong words of advice just because they no longer fit on that old shelf. You may have to let go of what you needed or hoped they would be, but that should not always synonymous with letting them go.

C.S. Lewis once said, “It’s not the load that breaks you. It’s the way you carry it.”

I think he’d probably agree that¬†the load could be people.

And maybe it’s not always just the people that broke you, maybe¬†it was also the way you carried them.

Maybe all the expectations you stacked on them, the misunderstanding you layered them with, maybe that wore you down even more quickly.

But maybe they’re your God-given load, for better or worse, maybe they are your people and you’re going to have to carry them.¬†So, when that is the case, learn to carry them differently.

I’m figuring out that the¬†victory podium isn’t for the first one who figures out how to shove someone out of their life and heart. The real victory belongs to the ones who learn how to throw out the expectations, unforgiveness, demands and conditions¬†in order to¬†make room for the people who were always meant to be there.

 

You’re Not Going to Change

We settled into a booth in the back of the restaurant. We talked about work, God, love. We caught up on where old friends ended up–have you heard from her lately? How is she?

Then we talked about my move, about what life is going to look like a few weeks from now.

“Coming back home is hard” I said, taking a sip of water. “I become the worst version of myself. You think you’re a different person and then instantly you come home and you go right back to the person you used to be.”

Straightforward, confident, she looked at me in the eyes and said these words,

“People don’t change, they make different choices.”

I felt them in my gut. She’s right. At the end of the day, we are who we’ve always been. But we wait to wake up one day and be someone else, to feel different things.¬†We think that moving away and starting over is going to instantly make us become someone new.

It doesn’t. I’m realizing that in these few weeks of being back in my hometown. I was in Georgia for a year and a half,¬†I thought I became a different person. I thought I was better.¬†But then, I came home and old habits came barreling in and were sitting on my chest like they never left.

It wasn’t that I changed in Georgia, it was that I made different choices. I gave myself a chance–to be who I really am,¬†without all the baggage, without all the chapters of brokenness that were tattooed to me before I left.¬†

New places and blank slates don’t change us, but they are usually the only reason we give ourselves a real chance to be who we’ve always been.

We’re always trying to get to some¬†better version of ourselves, but what if the best version of us has always been there? What if we just covered it up with all the pain, judgement, and words from the years of living we’ve had so far?¬†

I kept thinking about the four of us. In that group of girls, there were four of us who were always drawn to sadness, to the brokenness. You could find us listening to melancholic music and weaving ourselves in and out of those lyrics. We called it our personalities, a part of us that had always been there. 

She and I talked about that. We talked about how easy it had always been for us to see pain and how that might be something that never changes.

 There are some advantages to being able to see and feel brokenness in all its magnitude.

But then we talked about how we had to turn away from that kind of sadness, because we knew that we would never change.

We wouldn’t just wake up one day and forget how to feel pain. We wouldn’t stop loving sad songs, movies with less than happily-ever-after¬†endings.¬†But we knew that we had to make different choices. We had to choose not to put them on our daily playlist. We had to often¬†pick a different genre of movie.

We had to choose not to focus on the hard things, even though the temptation would always be there.

We haven’t changed, but life is different. Life doesn’t look the way it did when we were sixteen. But we didn’t change, we just grew up and decided that¬†we had to make better choices.

The choices bring the change, not the other way around.

You’re not going to wake up tomorrow and love working out. You won’t wake up tomorrow and have no feelings toward the person that broke your heart. You won’t magically wake up tomorrow happier, healthier, stronger, more beautiful than you are today.

The change you want to see is in your choices–it’s not in a formula of moving away, and starting over.¬†You’ll be the same person tomorrow, even if you wake up in a different place.

I’m starting to think that there’s a part of me that will always be this girl. Some part of me knows that I’ll be the girl who gets impatient with the people of my hometown, who is drawn to days spent lying in bed and accomplishing nothing. That I’ll always be drawn to being the person who wants to throw away responsibility because I’m¬†an¬†all or nothing¬†kind of girl–if I can’t do it perfectly, I don’t¬†want to do it at all.

That’s not going to change. I won’t just open my eyes ten years from now and not be that girl.¬†But the change comes in choosing patience, getting out of bed, choosing responsibility, giving myself the grace of making mistakes a long the way and not throwing it all away when I do.

Sitting in that booth, she and I were the same girls we’ve always been. We still laugh at sarcasm, can read each other’s facial expressions, still love pizza. But life is different and that’s because of the choices we’ve made. Day by day, we chose different things, places, roads to take than we used to.

I’m starting think that Robert Frost guy was on to something.¬†It was the road that diverged in the wood, not the person.

It came down to choice–and in the end, that’s what made all the difference

What Have I Lost Along The Way?

I was up to my elbows in household cleaner and water when God said something that nearly sent me to the floor,

“It’s good to see you in sweatpants again.”

It sounds so ridiculous, but I knew exactly what He meant.

I practically ran out of the building. My chest started pounding, my eyes were about to spill over. I drug the hem of those sweatpants through the mud and got quickly into my car.

The next two hours were spent with me driving, crying, and my ears filling with all the things that I’ve forgotten about over the last eight years.

All because I asked him one simple question this morning, “What have I lost along the way?”

I never expected Him to answer me. I never thought He’d come that close again, sound that sweet, I never expected him to not condemn my sweatpants.

That was one of the things that had gotten lost along the way: the belief that He would always come, and that when He did He would have something good to say.

I’ve been waiting for that exact moment for the last three years.

I waited for that moment in the darkest nights, in places I never should have gone to, with people that I don’t even know anymore. I waited for Him, I waited for one little sentence that I could have never formed on my own.

I didn’t know it, but I wasn’t waiting for some earth shattering revelation. I wasn’t waiting for the right things to line up.¬†I wasn’t waiting for a person or a place.¬†All this time, I was waiting for Him to talk to me about my sweatpants.

Because a few years ago someone stood in front of me and told me that it was a terrible thing to see a human wear sweatpants. They said it was lazy, unattractive, they said it made a person look worthless.

Though they probably didn’t intend for it to, that idea dug itself inside of me. Not because I have a love obsession with sweatpants, but because the words the enemy made me hear were,¬†“it is¬†a terrible thing to be comfortable with yourself.”

This was said to the girl who lived most of her life in jeans, t-shirts, with her hair pulled back. For me, it had never really¬†been due to laziness. Honestly, I was just child-like for most of my life and I didn’t think there was anything wrong with me exactly as I was. I thought I looked just fine. I thought I was pretty cute (and I was).

Even though sometimes I cringe at my bad haircuts, high-water pants, or rolled socks, I was a darling little child. I was innocent, pure, and beautiful, as all children are. I was unashamed of a plain face, I was unashamed of the clothes that I chose. I liked them and that was really the only reason I needed to wear them.

I let the enemy¬†tell me that was a terrible thing, and that line grew until all the little demons whispered and said,¬†“oh you, you have no value for yourself.”¬†

So, I stopped wearing sweatpants until about six months ago.

You should have seen the first pair I chose to put on. They are the most atrocious pants that have ever existed. They are frumpy, oversized, covered in paint, and an awkward length.

My friends (as they should have) told me they were terrible and I should never ever wear them again.  I waited for pain, but the only thing that came out of my mouth was laughter. I told them that I was going to keep them forever and wear them shamelessly.

Because it wasn’t about the pants.¬†Even this morning, scrubbing that countertop,¬†it was never about the pants.

It was about picking back up all the things that I’ve given up, that I once so deeply loved. It was about the years I spent changing myself to please someone else.

It was about that moment that I let someone try to make me a whitewashed tomb. That I let someone tell me my outside was more important than the inside.

It then became about the times that people told me to shut up when I spoke the truth; when people told me to skip past the pages with the Jesus who turned over tables.

It became about all the times that I believed sweatpants made me ugly or that telling the truth made me cruel.

God never said or thought those things about me.

While that shouldn’t have surprised me, it did. Though it seems like basic Christianity to know better, I had never realized it¬†before.¬†God never hated my sweatpants and He loves when I tell the truth.¬†

This morning, God did the thing I’ve been waiting for. He did a¬†miracle, one He promised me years ago that He would do.

A bush did not catch on fire today. I did not walk on water. No lepers were healed.

But today, some things that were dead came back to life. Early this morning, a girl who’d been wrapped the grave clothing of expectations, condemnation, and words of hatred finally heard a loud¬†voice. And He called her forth and unwrapped from her all the things the darkness tried to make her wear.

They Say a Good Man is Hard to Find…

“I just can’t seem to pick my battles. It seems like I get upset about something every single week. I need to get my life together and handle things better. I’m so emotional.”

Knee deep in one of my final papers, I got that text. I closed my eyes and my heart went running 277 miles away to the girl who’s wondering if she’s the only one.

I’ve been there. It’s the life of many¬†women.

A¬†lot of the men in our lives, try as they might, they cannot seem to always understand where we’re coming from.

Thinking back to when they first met, it didn’t take long for me to see that they were a good match.¬†They fit, it makes sense, their relationship is wonderful in so many ways. He’s a good man.¬†But it isn’t perfect and it isn’t always easy.

It’s the age old story of a girl who has some¬†wounds and scars because she’s been down this road before. Once again, she’s given most of her heart, but if you look down deep, she’s holding back just a little. Because if he turns out to be like the rest, she can at least pride herself on not having lost it all.

That’s where the emotion and the fighting of battles comes in.

It’s the protection. It’s the need to defend ourselves. It’s the need to make sure that the person next to us has the right¬†grip on our hearts.¬†Don’t let it fall. Please, don’t let it fall.

Every battle we pick, even the smallest ones, are the ones where we’re taking our hands and trying to force others¬†to tighten or loosen their grip on our hearts.¬†We’re trying to tell them how to love us; and when they don’t hold it just right, we either fight or run.

It’s the plot of almost every movie sitting on my shelf. It’s the Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan specialty.¬†

I’ve built my expectations precisely through the years. I have drawn the perfect blueprint. With the help of Hallmark movies and Nicholas Sparks novels, I’ve figured out what this whole thing should look like. So, if you follow these directions, if you put the exact pieces where I expect, and say the right thing at the right moment, you’ll heal where the others have hurt.

But men are not God.

If there’s one thing I’d like to tattoo on the arms of girls everywhere it’s that truth.¬†They will not heal you. They are not your redemption.¬†

It took God shaking me hard and staring me down for me to get this.¬†People cannot be each other’s redemption.

Men are not God, they will disappoint you. They will say the wrong thing. They will forget the thing you told them to bring. They will make a bad joke. They will be late. They won’t send flowers every week. Men are not God, they will not read your mind or hear the cry of your heart.

Men are not God, they will not make right all the things that have gone wrong.

But we think they will. Somewhere in the heart of most women is this deep rooted belief that finding “the one” is going to make¬†it all okay. We will deny it, we will say that we know better and that we’ve learned to be content on our own. We will flaunt our independence and¬†tell God that we know He’s enough.

Then we crumble when someone disappoints us, or when we find “the one” and it doesn’t entirely fulfill us. Then we run to ice cream and Ryan Gosling. We cry and ask “why is it never my turn?” or¬†“why don’t things ever work out for me?” or “why am I not happy?”

Even when we have good men in our lives, we secretly ask,¬†“why can’t he be a little better?”

Even the best of men cannot make us content.

We pick our battles all based on the little expectations we’ve built up since we were little girls. And the little disappointments become the big ones because we were taught to believe that men worth waiting for wear always wear suits, always say the right things, show up at your door at 2 am, and write you secret love notes for 365 days.

So when the goofy, tired, messy-haired men in our lives don’t call or would rather watch football than talk¬†about their feelings,¬†we come unglued.

That doesn’t make you crazy. It doesn’t make you irrational.

It makes you one of the billions of people who was lied to about what love really looks like.

And so his laundry becomes a battle.
His light-hearted, but poorly considered joke becomes a battle.
Football games become a battle.
Him forgetting your Mom’s birthday becomes a battle.
His hair in the sink becomes a battle.
His night out with the guys becomes a battle.

His humanity becomes the battle. Because you’re longing for God and¬†he can never be that for you.

I waited a few minutes before I responded to her; more or less this is what I said,

He’s going to mess up and hurt your feelings, but know when it isn’t purposeful. That’s how you pick the battles. When you love someone, and he’s a good-hearted man, you can easily forgive his¬†actions when you’ve learned to trust his¬†intentions.

They say a good man is hard to find, maybe so, but the fictional ones are impossible. Tom Hanks, Richard Gere and Ryan Gosling are not who they portray on a screen. They are scripted and their wives would live disappointed (and may actually live that way) if they expected them to be the leading men we throw our affections towards.

We throw our affection at fictional men because they portray the qualities of a non-fictional God; someone that will go to impossible lengths, impossible depths, to show you the love that you were always born to know.

I think it’s time that we choose¬†to look at people’s hearts and not at their ability to meet our lists of demands.

I think it’s time to stop loading up the shoulders of the good men in our lives, or the ones we’ve yet to meet, with expectations that only God can¬†fulfill.

Sitting across from two complete strangers I started to yell…

I’ve been replaying this memory in my head.

A while back,¬†someone walked up to me weeks¬†after we’d met¬†and said “You may not remember me…”

I was stunned, absolutely speechless. I just kept quiet and went along with it. The whole time this person was talking and reminding me of that first introduction (one that was relatively significant), all that kept rolling through my mind was,¬†Do you… do you actually think you could be so easily forgotten?

Looking back, I wish I had grabbed¬†their shoulders, stared straight in their eyes and said, “You are better than multiple introductions given with a shaky voice, and thinking someone wouldn’t¬†remember your¬†golden smile.”

But those aren’t things we say to people, especially not on our second interaction. We smile politely and ask about their hometown, career, or where they went to college. We don’t drown them¬†in words of value from the first second. We just go through the motions and keep to ourselves all the things we immediately love about them.

We restrain ourselves. We’re always holding back. We’re always trying to do what’s¬†proper, because reservation has become synonymous with dignity. But when did hesitancy and suppression become virtues? Who decided that it was unbecoming to exuberantly and extravagantly tell someone how wonderful they are as soon as you meet them?

I met some amazing people over the weekend and it shook me.

It happened after I was¬†thrown into a room of middle-aged parents, people who are in entirely different stages of life than I am. And there I was, trying to hold myself together. I didn’t want to speak too loudly, express myself too extravagantly. I wanted to appear poised and collected.

And then suddenly, sitting across from two complete strangers I started to yell, “Where did you come from? You are my people! You’re amazing!¬†I love you!”

For a second, I felt exposed and childlike. I felt like I had just belched at a banquet table in The White House.

Until their faces spread into the widest grins. They laughed and both gave me strong, lengthy hugs and words of equal affirmation.

It was then that I realized that no other words could have been more valuable, more remarkable. I had in one swift outburst, burned the bridge of detachment that I had always been told was mature and professional upon meeting someone.

I immediately went back to that memory I’d been mulling over and whole-heartedly wished I had handled it in that same manner. I wished that I would have grabbed that person, the one who had put¬†on a¬†name-tag¬†that said Stranger. Oh, that I would¬†have¬†excitedly pulled them in and called them Known.

We keep letting people in our lives label themselves Stranger. We wait…sometimes months, sometimes years. After numerous surface-level interactions, we might then¬†graduate to a casual compliment or vocally acknowledge their value. We give nods and half smiles, feeling uncomfortable to go beyond that.¬†We don’t know them, after all. It would be weird to say something of actual consequence.

But how odd it is that we have to give ourselves pep-talks to interact with people we see daily, weekly, monthly. Isn’t it disheartening that¬†using terms of endearment for other humans takes years, when using them for pets is an instant reaction.

We generously use our most meaningful and affirming words on puppies or kittens, but hold them back for years from the people across the street or down the hall.

Our craving to¬†appear¬†impressive and¬†eloquent leads us to being neither. I’m learning that there’s nothing impressive about my holding back from others my pure and joyful adoration for them, the delight I feel when they are simply themselves. Even if I’ve only known them a few short moments.

The world has enough dignified people who paint inside the lines, fold their hands, and craft their words. What the world really needs are the finger-painters who might make a mess, but whose words are ones of love unrehearsed and love unreserved.