When Something is Over

“For me, when something is over, it’s over.”

She paused, taking a sip of her latte.  “I think we’re always looking for some kind of conversation that will tie everything up, but sometimes, you just have to make your own closure.

We just sat next to the window, staring at one another. Both of us instantly realized that those words were an earth shattering secret for growth.

You don’t always get the punctuation mark you want. Sometimes you don’t get the period (the final statement). You don’t always get the exclamation mark (the words that are worthy of everything you carried). Sometimes, you get the question mark. Or sometimes, it all stops mid sentence.

Still, you can flip the page, start something new and move forward.

And maybe you go back there one day. Maybe you finally get to pull that person, that time, that place back into your story. Or maybe it was always just a chapter to build you, grow you, teach you how to value yourself.

Her brown eyes looked dead at me and she said it so firmly, “You’ll know when you have to move forward.”

I threw up my hands and asked her a million questions. I wanted specifics, I wanted the location of the neon signs that would tell me when to let things go.

“You will know. If and when that day comes, let go and run for your life.”

She didn’t say it to scare me, but because her shoulders are well familiar with the consequences of carrying heavy things for far too long.

I started thinking about the last time I had to let go and move forward. What got me there? How did I finally empty my hands and pack my bags? I remembered it was a friend who handed me a permission slip by saying these words: it’s not on you anymore.

It’s not on you anymore.

I had done the thing—the hard thing. I had given until I was somewhere far past empty and well into starving and feeling gnawing hunger pains. But even so, I needed someone to look me in the eye and recognize that I couldn’t let go on my own. I’ve never been able to pull my aching fingers and white knuckles from things that I so desperately want to keep. I wanted to fix it, to leave things better that I found them.

So, when you’ve done all you can, grab hold of this permission slip I’m offering you: it’s not on you anymore and you can make your own closure. 

We try to make movies out of our heartache. We want the dialogue that cuts, closes, makes sense of the story we’ve been walking through. Don’t wait around for that. Don’t hold on and keep trying because it hurts too much for you to think that things could end this way. Don’t drag out any pitiful stories that become thieves of your joy.

I got a permission slip from God the other day. I was vacuuming the carpet when He reminded me of my blue rubber band. I first decided to wear it around my wrist for one specific purpose: to pull at my heart when I wanted to settle. Because I am known to do that. 

I am a chronic settler.

But I figured out that summer what I wanted. I realized what could be mine if I would hold on, work hard and wait for it. For months I wore it and on days when things felt impossible, when I wanted to settle for something less, that blue rubber band would dig its point deep into my heart. There’s still more. This isn’t all there is. Keep holding on.

God brought that back to me the other night when I asked him what He thought about the things I’ve been holding in my hands.

Make your own closure.

Three cups of coffee in and I knew that those would be words to change my life. You’ll know when it’s time to let go and when that times comes, don’t bleed yourself dry waiting for closing conversations, loose ends tied up nicely, apologies and best wishes. You should walk on toward better things, because tidy endings don’t always come.

Some Notes on Letting Go

It has been that kind of month.

The kind where your insurance gets randomly deactivated. The kind where you get a migraine so bad that your head is in the trash can. The kind where someone changes their mind faster than you can catch your breath.

The kind where you are stuck having conversations that you swore you’d never get close to having again.

Let it rain.

Put your palms out and throw your head back and stop trying to build makeshift umbrellas.

Welcome to the there’s-nowhere-else-to-run club. I am the ring leader and I’m here to tell you this: you are where you are and the faster you accept that, the easier you’ll start to breathe.

I was nine years old the year that Matthew Mcconaughey’s southern drawl became the nighttime lullaby for young girls everywhere. All my friends kept The Wedding Planner in their DVD player and let it play as they fell asleep.

And there was that part at the end where Mary starts throwing out all the colored M&Ms because Steve once pointed out that the brown ones had less artificial food coloring (because chocolate is already brown).

I think that line probably stayed with all of us. I’m convinced there’s a massive population of twenty-something females who think about that every time they tear open those little candy bags.

That scene has been on repeat in my head in the middle of the torrential downpour that is the month of June.

So, I’ve been taking inventory of the candy in my life—the things that seem to put color in my hands, but aren’t exactly the real thing.

You can’t always get away from that. I’m learning that sometimes, you’re forced to take a good long look at what it is that you’ve been holding onto and realize that you’re better off letting it go.

And in the middle of hugging that trash can, making toll-free phone calls, and sweeping old tile floors you will get soaked in the downpour of confusion, anger, hurt, misunderstanding. But, just slip off your shoes and sit down in the middle of it, realize that there’s nowhere you can hide from this storm.

But you know what? It’s actually a good thing, because the truth is, God knows there’s some dust you just can’t shake. Sometimes you need a thunderstorm to wash over you and to clean off the things that were never meant to cling to you.

So, let it rain. Decide that you’re done with whining, complaining and wishing for a change in the weather. Let it rain and look at the dark clouds knowing that they’re serving you far more good than harm. It might keep coming down, but it’s not going to sweep you away. You won’t drown, just know that.

So yeah, it’s raining over here in Georgia and artificial flavored things are flying all over the place. And there’s laughter and yelling and a whole lot of uncertainty, but I’m still standing. No umbrella, no rain jacket; just me watching the maker of the clouds rinse off the things that need to go.

I’m not here to tell you that I’ve mastered it—or found all the secrets of letting go. But I’m just here to welcome you, if you find yourself standing under these same kind of skies. Maybe you’ve been here before. Maybe you’re wondering how you found your way back. Well, you’re not alone, and we are not drowning. And God isn’t punishing us by sending this rain. We‘re here, exactly where we’re supposed to be, because it’s time for us to come clean. It’s time to be rid of the things we just couldn’t shake on our own.

So, welcome to the storm! Pull up a chair, I’m happy to loan you some notes of what I’m relearning about letting go.

If Given the Same Chance…

I feel as though I’ve lived that exact moment a hundred times.

This place I’ve been standing recently is one that tastes so familiar. If I went back to old journals, I think I’ve got hundreds of pages filled with maps of walking this pathway.

“Haven’t we been through this already?” I asked God, not expecting much of an answer. He knew I felt frustrated, thinking I would never learn whatever it is that He has apparently trying to drill through my thick head about this kind of pain.

“You know, it doesn’t mean you failed to learn the lesson last time. Sometimes, you come to the same circumstance in order for me to show you that you are not the same person you used to be.”

I took a deep breath and leaned my head back, tears forming in the corners of my eyes. Because you always hope, if given the same chance, you would make better choices than you did last time.

If I had known then what I know now, I would have done things differently.” 

If you’ve lived long at all, you’ve probably uttered those words. But can we ever really be sure of that?

It’s hard to be sure when our hearts get so tangled in the edges and curves of faces that figure out ways to paint themselves into the lines of our days.

But sometimes, you get a chance to find out.

All over again, you get the moment of reaction, the choice of how to carry it, and to tug from grace what it takes to nod and graciously walk away.

Sometimes, you get to see that you’re a far better person than you used to be. And maybe it was that gruesome mountain you walked up last time that gave you the strength to more easily scale the one in your present.

I smiled at God, “We’ve been through a lot worse, am I right?”

I felt him smile and then we went on talking about how I have horrible coordination when it comes to vacuuming.

I told Him last year that I was finished with picking up disappointment.

I’ve given her a ride too many times in the last twenty-three years. She is a demeaning back seat driver and she will eventually push herself behind the wheel. When she does, she will take you to a place that a simple GPS could never get you out of.

When I saw her the other day, thumb taunting me from the side of the highway of my heart, I locked the doors and let my foot press harder on the gas. There’s no room for you here, I thought. You’ve taken up far too much of my time and ruined way too many of what could have been beautiful miles.

So much of what we go through really has less to do with other people and more to do with us. It’s about who we decide to be and how we keep a balance of grace and principle. About learning to be steady in the places that used to rattle our bones.

Keeping disappointment out of the car takes realizing that the only control you have is over your own choices. You can’t change or anticipate what others will do, but you can commit to a better response, one that refuses to settle for going back to the person you used to be.

I’m not going to tell you that it’s easy, that you’ll enjoy looking at these same monsters in the eye.

But what I will tell you is that when you realize you can stare back at them without blinking, without shoving them back behind those closet doors, you will be grateful to be standing in places you prayed you’d never stand again.

Growth is the thing that keeps us moving and opens doors to bigger and better things.

It’s only by being confronted with all those fears and the battles that once bloodied your elbows and knees that you find out just how far it is you’ve really come.

And I hope each time we do, we find that we’ve actually come a lot further than we ever could have imagined.

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.

Sorry Shakespeare, No One Was Born Great

She said it so matter-of-factly, “I’ll never change it. I can’t change the world.”

For me, everything just stopped. She believed them, she really believed those words that just came flooding out of her mouth. Her eyes were glassy and her posture resolute; I could see that in regards to world changing, her heart was settled.

I didn’t know how to respond, mostly because that thought has never gone through my mind.

How did she know that greatness hadn’t chosen her? Could she really be so certain that she wasn’t woven with all the threads of a world changer?

Her words just sat with me for the rest of the day, but late that night, wrapped up in my covers and staring at the ceiling, I heard something thick with truth:

Greatness doesn’t choose you, you choose greatness.

You don’t make a difference all because fortune fell into your lap.

Shakespeare may be considered brilliant and many of us have heard these words: “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.”

Well, I think Willy and I disagree on that. Some are born distinguished, wealthy, seen as important, but that doesn’t make them great. Greatness is our choice and often it comes through the things thrust upon us.

You’re going to hit hard times and it’s what you do with them that makes you great. It’s your choice to keep laughing, to say hard things, to choose love when you want to choose bitterness, to step in when someone is in need, to be willing to be a megaphone for the things that really matter.

Greatness is walking with your head held high, knowing that the only thing that could ever make you inferior is the choice to play a minor role in the world you’ve been given.

I’ve never believed I can’t change the world. I know that I have the ability to work just as hard as anyone else. The people that have changed the world never had anything on me, even if they had extreme intelligence and wealth.

Hard work makes you great and enduring character sustains it. You were born with all the same threads as the people in history books. You can work just as hard, believe just as mightily, persevere just as long.

You can choose greatness, it’s always an option for you.

But know that greatness isn’t chosen for selfish reasons, for arrogance or conceit. True greatness is chosen when someone isn’t afraid to get their hands dirty, lose cool points or risk being rejected. People who make a choice for greatness do it because they believe people deserve bigger and better things than the world before them knew how to fight for.

If you’re convinced you aren’t enough, that you don’t have what it takes or that it was easier for people who came before you, you’ve got some things to learn.

World changers, fire starters, page turners never had it easy. They walked through fear, were knocked around by cold shoulders and stood front and center of the you’ll-never-amount-to-anything lineup.

Fear didn’t stop them, ridicule didn’t break them, courage and determination were the shoes they chose to wear every single morning.

So, whatever you’re afraid of, bitter about, indifferent to, whatever it is that makes you lazy or passive, those are the only things steering you away from the road that leads to the corner of Greatness and Change.

The Stranger In The Corner

“We’re ready for the check.” Hands folded gracefully, she smiled up at the waitress.

Picking up plates, our waitress grinned. “Someone already took care of it.”

Our eyes began to scan the room. We stared at one another wordlessly, realizing we hadn’t the slightest clue who would do such a thing.

Our waitress saw our expressions and leaned in, “It was the gentleman who was sitting behind you. He’s one of our regulars, he’s a really nice guy.”

I saw tears form in my sweet friend’s eyes and I felt the sting of them in my own.

We sat there, hands clutching our hearts, completely in awe. I had just spent the last hour venting about my frustration, ranting about all the reasons why I’m angry at a large portion of men in my life. I knew he heard every word and I wondered if it was this stranger’s way of pouring a little hope into my weary heart.

We grabbed our purses and slowly walked out of our favorite restaurant. We always go there, though it’s a luxury and above what my budget typically allows. We’ve never said it, but I think it’s a treat to ourselves and to each other. Going there is our way of saying, “You are worth extravagant things. You’re classy, legendary, exquisite, fierce and unstoppable. You should be celebrated.”

The truth is though, my friend can make anywhere classy. When you’re in a room with her, you feel like you’ve got the world on a string, everything you need in your pockets. When she’s around, you feel as though mirrors rejoice at the chance to catch all the loveliness you carry.

I think that’s who we were always meant to be.

I think we’re meant to light up rooms that way. I think people should feel like gold around us, they should feel celebrated, their heads should be held high and feeling like they’ve got the kind of greatness that stops people in their tracks.

I think the guy who picked up our tab understood that. I think he knew that sometimes you need to make someone feel special, give them something extravagant and not even stick around to see their smile. Do it for them, not for you. Give and shine and be the person who makes someone feel valuable, make them know that even in their difficult moments, they’re worth beautiful and selfless gestures.

I’m learning how to be that person, who isn’t afraid to go big for other people. I’m also figuring out how to go big for myself, to make strong decisions. It feels good to finally come to the place where you just square your shoulders and say, “Come hell or high water, I’m doing this thing. I’m in it and I’m going to shake the earth with the way I dig my heels in and change things.”

I think people need us to be able to do that. They need us to see value in ourselves and that will push and inspire them to believe and see their own. When we show them that we’re determined to make ourselves grow, to see ourselves go further than we were ever told we could go, it will be easier for them to see that they are born to do the same.

This is really all about how I’m realizing how valuable I am and how learning that makes it easier to see others that way. If I know what I’m worth, then I’ll see that nothing can lessen that and how showing others their worth makes us both richer.

I never expected the stranger in the corner to be the one to strengthen these knocking knees. I sometimes forget how simple acts lead to incredible change.

2014 is coming to a close and I can’t really say that I’m sad to see her go. There were difficulties, there were hard questions, harder answers and a grace to learn to live with both.  Changes are coming and I’m ready. Checks paid, faith restored, hope refilled and I’ve got a feeling this is just the beginning.

You’re Here, You’re Not Back There

I didn’t think I’d get here.

The place where it really doesn’t really matter anymore. The place where I can laugh at the things that once brought me the worst pain.

It sweetly wrapped itself around me today on a long car drive with my new housemate, this idea that I’m in a new place.

Not just physically, although that’s true. But that the things that once entangled me are no longer apart of my daily life, my morning routine, my to-do list.

I don’t wake up with them next to me or find them staring at me over my first cup of coffee. They don’t accompany me on my morning drive. I don’t bump in to them on the sidewalk on my lunch break. They’re not waiting for me on the porch when I come home.

All the things I never thought I’d let go of aren’t here and I’m still breathing.

I realized that I’m blessed to be in this new place, this crazy state they call Georgia. And when you go to a new place, there’s a few things you’ve got to do.

You’ve gotta make it your own.

This moment of your life, the friendships, these streets, this place.  You’ve got to decide that it needs your torch, your laughter, a little piece of your mind and a big part of your heart.

And until you decide that, you’ll never know what kind of greatness you’ve got to give. You’ll never know the mighty way you might change a little corner of this universe.

You’re here, you’re not back there. You’re not where you thought you’d end up; but you’re here and that’s a pretty glorious thing if you let it be. If you really accept that you weren’t meant to end up where you first expected, but that you’re on your way to something greater and something that just might be the very thing you always hoped to find.

It’s not easy; I can be the first one to say that. Deciding to make a change, leaving old things behind, starting a new chapter; all of that will threaten to break you, squash you, cage you in. But you’ve got to realize it’s an opportunity. If you let it, it can be a gift instead of a loss.

Somehow we’ve got to learn how to pilot this plane; how to land it, refuel it, and go on our way again. Never being unaffected by the places we’ve been, but also not letting them be what keeps us grounded and unable to fly to the next destination.

Some people will fly with you, others will stay on the ground and you’ve got to learn how to keep that from ruining the ride. Don’t forget to laugh, to sit with those who will bust out in horrible dance moves with you. To forgive those that chose not to come to the airport to see you off. To love them anyway and to not sit with that kind of weight as you travel. Keep your bags light, don’t pack all the things that might make you wish you had stayed. You couldn’t have ever convinced them to go with you, so don’t think that you should have put it off any longer.

And when you arrive, go running off that airplane and find yourself embracing this new place you call home. I think we have all gotten so attached to the idea of the best and most dramatic running scenes are in the departure section of the airport. That’s where we see the confessions of love, the moments of truth, the dream finally coming true.

I want my running scene to happen upon my arrivals. When I’m in a strange place with unfamiliar people who have not earned my open armed embrace. I want to greet them with all the love in my bones. I want to crash into them with a happy heart that says,” I’ve come for you and I want to show you just how incredible I think you are, just how wonderful we could be together.”

It takes choosing to leave that voice of doubt, accusation, insecurity and fear behind. Just decide that it got lost somewhere along the way and you refuse to let it follow. It didn’t have a plane ticket, doesn’t know your new address and will never have an invitation to where you now live. Open the door and walk in and choose to slam the door behind you with a certainty that you won’t open it to the past again.

You’re in a new place. (If you want to be). Whether you actually move or whether you stay where you are, you can decide to stop living in the departure portion of your airport. You can stop waiting there by the gate for your loose ends to be tied and grand gestures to be made.

You can get on the plane, change your point of view and arrive with a decision to greet whatever comes your way next. You can choose to be excited about where you end up. To let go of what you thought might be and instead shake hands with what’s waiting for you in a place you never knew you’d be, but might be the best place you could ever find.