You Won’t Forget: Thoughts on Letting Go.

It happened again the other day.

One of the last times I remember it happening was when I was sitting in the hospital. I was on a different continent entirely and I kept going back and wondering if I would always feel this way.

That sinking feeling and those same thoughts always come in waves.

This story should be different. I shouldn’t have to tell it this way. I should be somewhere else. I wasn’t supposed to feel like this.


Back to the night that my phone read 1 New Voicemail.

I’m standing outside of that restaurant, the neon sign above my head. The voice on the other end was angry. I was afraid. I knew that nothing was ever going to be the same.

It took years before I deleted that message. But when I finally did, I was hoping that somehow it would erase that night entirely. Fix it or fix me. That I would somehow come to terms with the truth about all the words that we said, the ones that little device held, words that never really told what we needed to say.

So, what about now?

I often ask that question as the blinker of my car flashes and ticks its familiar rhythm; as I weave through the lines of the highway.

What about now? Because I can’t go back. We cannot go back.

I have a secret that I’ve been trying to keep from God. One that I think if I shove it far enough inside, we’ll both forget about it and He might let time heal these things.

Letting go, it seems to be the thing people most often ask me about.

I’m no expert. I can’t say that I figured it out when I finally pressed that button. I can’t tell you that it’s that easy, that there’s a simple formula for moving on or a way to rewind and get back the time.

But what I can tell you is that you’re not going to wake up one day and have the quick fix, it doesn’t happen. You won’t suddenly open your eyes and feel changed, whole, free. Pain, like I’m talking about, doesn’t just fade. I wanted to believe it did. God knows that I hoped after I hit erase my memory could do it too, my heart could do it too.

But we are not creatures who forget. I’ve spent days and nights clawing at the insides of my mind and begging God to give me a mind that forgets. But we’ve got memories and reflexes, we are tied to old times. Thank God. Thank God that He doesn’t answer the prayer for me to let go in the ways I want to let go. I don’t get to let go by means of forgetting, of pushing it into the dark.

We let go by means of forgiveness. By remembering but choosing to lay it down. I have to lay it down—put it in a different place, stop holding it in these hands. I can’t keep gripping it, I have to unfurl these clenched hands, sometimes finger by finger, day by day. I have to know that white knuckling this thing won’t get it back. It hasn’t gotten it back.

This story will be different. I don’t have to tell it this way. I can be somewhere else. It doesn’t have to feel like this.

Stop going back to the night where my phone read 1 New Voicemail.

Stop going back, that’s what I can tell you. It doesn’t mean you’re going to forget, because you are not going to forget. We are not creatures who forget.

Lay it down. Keep laying it down. Stop holding it in your hands. Stop telling the story the way you do. You don’t have to tell it this way. You can be somewhere else. You don’t have to keep going back there.

You don’t have to learn how to live inside of that story without flinching. You just have to learn how to lay that chapter down and say, “Okay, I can’t re-write that part. I can’t keep re-reading that same chapter and hoping the characters do something else. I can’t keep flipping back and wishing that it went another way. I have to keep reading. I have to see where this thing goes and who we become. It’s going somewhere, but I can’t keep being disappointed with what happened back there. The rest is still worth reading. One sentence can make all the difference.”

It can, you know. One sentence you aren’t expecting might make all the difference.

But if you keep re-reading all the same ones you’ve read, looking for something back there to change, you’re just going to come up disappointed. The past is set in print, so let it go. The rest of what’s about to happen is absolutely worth reading.

Lay it down. Let it go. Stop telling and reading the same part of the story. You can read somewhere else. You don’t have to stay there.

We don’t have to stay there. You are not meant to live inside of one chapter, no matter how good or hard the words, promises, or sets of eyes. You don’t have to try and figure out where the plot line went wrong. You don’t have to keep pouring over those pages in regret and wondering if you could have changed that last sentence. You don’t have to dread the next chapter.

Just start with the next line on the next page.

One sentence can make all the difference and it might be just a few words away.





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:

“We say ‘I’ve been hurt in a relationship, I’m never going to date again!’ instead of saying ‘Lord, show me the qualities that make for healthy relationships, so that I will know what is truly worth hurting over.”

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.)

We Break and We Build

I specifically remember the day we stopped fitting into each other’s lives.

We never got that back. Its been years now, and sometimes I think, from now on we will always be strangers. We will always find ourselves unfamiliar with the shelves and cupboards of one another. I won’t know if you still like peanuts and you won’t know that I don’t own that floral shirt anymore.

I guess that’s how this whole thing works, sometimes people stop fitting in your life. One day you realize that you can’t find spaces for them to slip back into.

I never said “thank you”, but I’m saying it now.

I was angry. I was hurt. I firmly believed you were out for blood–that you were punishing me the only way you knew how.

Maybe you were. Maybe pushing me out of your life wasn’t supposed to be a favor, maybe you never intended for me to see it as a good thing.

But then one day when I was sitting in your shoes; I suddenly felt grateful that you taught me when to let go and how not to walk away.

When it was my turn, my first reaction was to do exactly what you did. I wanted to just disappear and I had good reasons for that. But in that moment, I remembered how it felt to be on the other end. You gave me the fortitude to properly say goodbye when you refused to do that for me.

I’ve learned that a lot of people treat others the way they’ve been treated. If their parents were mean, they’re mean to their kids. If they were bullied in school, they lash out later in life. If someone leaves them, they leave others. Too often we become the people that hurt us most and in our pain we justify it. 

But in that moment, when I wanted to do the wrong thing…I remembered all those years ago and even in my anger, I couldn’t wish that hurt on someone else.

I’m learning that’s what determines our character–what we make of our pain.

When it comes to our past, we can either be broken by it or built by it. It can either be the reason why we learn to love people or an excuse to hate them.

Running, disappearing, leaving people to wonder where things went wrong–I think people with integrity would call that cowardice. I’ve never heard them listed as attributes next to the name of someone who’s brave.

Sometimes we have to walk away, draw lines, set boundaries, move forward & move on. I’m learning that. I’m learning that not every relationship can be healthy, that there are some times when you just have to shake hands and part ways. But I’m learning that it doesn’t look like folded arms and slamming doors.

There are two types of people in our lives: those that we thank for teaching us the right way, and those (if we choose to be forgiving), we can grow from them showing us the wrong way.

The thing about that is, we also get to choose what kind of person we will be for the people around us.

We’re all going to eventually have to say hard things, we all have to make choices that might hurt others. But we get to decide what we say, if we say it, how we say it and if whether or not we help break or build them.


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.