Lovely Letters: When Hate Walks In

Of all the e-mails I’ve ever received, I haven’t had one hit me quite the way this one did. I’m grateful to be able to receive words like these and to have an open invitation to share my thoughts about them on this blog. Thanks to all my readers who are being so open and vulnerable. Your words change me in ways I can’t explain.

Somehow, it took a turn for the worst and he was yelling things at me that no one should hear. “You aren’t worth my time / I’m so stupid for being here / You aren’t worth anything / Just stop talking”   I had never felt so unsafe and violated as I did that night…. I ended the relationship and friendship all in one. It’s never easy walking away from someone you’ve known for a long time, but I had to do it.

 -Ann

Darling Ann,

Your words took me back to a day in my parents’ living room. Scrolling through e-mails, I opened one that I had been anxiously waiting for. And there, in Times New Roman font, sat three words that I never thought anyone (especially not someone who had been so close to me) would ever say.

…go to hell…

As plain as day, in black and white… those words just sat there sandwiched between a few other words and sentences that were equally as blunt and painful. Granted, people have said worse, but when words like that come out of a clear blue sky, it’s quite a kick to the gut.

The truth is, I don’t know much about what you believe about God or about His voice, but I heard Him speak clearly to me in that moment. Despite what you may think, I think the words I heard Him say are just as much for you as they were for me.

“It’s not your fault.”

Let that sink in. It’s not your fault. Nothing you said, or did, or didn’t do, could ever merit someone saying those words to you. I don’t care how much blame they can stack on your shoulders, it will never justify being told that you have no worth.

Darling Ann, I’m sorry he was that coldI know how that in that moment you didn’t recognize his face and that his voice must have sounded like a stranger. I know that feeling all to well, and I know that the way it leaves you limping.

You might need a crutch for a few weeks or months. You may need some shoulders to lean on. But don’t lay down in it, love; don’t you dare lay down in those words. Because you are made to lean into words like “you’ve always been enough / you are worth my affection / i’ll always come running / time with you is never wasted” 

You did exactly what you should have: you walked away. I did the same thing, once upon a time, on a rainy night at Starbucks. It started with some yelling, it ended with my eyes closed and the words “it’s okay and I forgive you” tumbling out of my mouth.

Truly, I did forgive him. And somehow, after that, I knew I’d never again carry the weight of those words he tried to paint me with. Since that day, I haven’t been angry or bitter. I haven’t carted around loads of underlying rageHonestly, I haven’t thought of him much at all. Since that day, we haven’t spoken and most likely, we never will. Because he is just a person I used to know, who said some things that, for about five minutes, actually mattered. If I saw him at the grocery store tomorrow, I’d smile at him (like I do every passing stranger) and I would keep looking at the cereals or yogurt and that would be that.

Don’t get me wrong, we had some good times. We had some fun car rides, laughter that would make your belly hurt. He wasn’t always so cruel, we had some golden days. But I let all of that go, soon after I read those three words in that e-mail. Not because I didn’t value the good times we had, but because they became only stories when he brought hate to the party.

And I’m not willing to sit next to hate for a few good stories and some sweeter e-mails I saved in their own little folder.

Love and I just kindly smiled to one another and decided to get our groove on elsewhere.  I think that’s what you’re needing too. It’s okay to decide to leave the party and head back home. Have a few nights spent wrapped in a big comfy sweater, buy yourself some yellow tulips, sit down with a mug of Tazo Zen tea (that’s the best kind), and soak in some peace and quiet. It’s okay to take some time for yourself. Take some time, Darling Ann, because you’ve just been through a battle. You’re coming out swinging, and you my dear, are looking mighty fine with your arms raised in victory. But even so, I want you to sit and take a breath. Steep in the truth of who you are and who you’ll always be.

You’ll always be the girl who is worth good words, and the love of a steady man who doesn’t kick you after backing you into a corner.

I’m proud of you for knowing that you had to walk away, for being strong enough to actually do it, and not just sitting around wishing you could. You, precious girl, are the envy of many women who have walked in your shoes. There have been countless women who have prayed for the strength to get up off the ground, slam the door and start over again.

You’re doing it, you are plowing new fields, finding new skies, and I’m so proud of you that I could burstYou make that eighteen-year old version of me cheer loudly because me and you, we are a force and we are fierce and we are not going to be made small. 

You remind me, even years later, that a girl has got to fight for her right to leave the dang party.

You and I, we left the party when hate came in the room and that’s more than most people ever dream of doing. While they sit quietly, afraid to make a move (afraid of what they’ll do next if they lose something or someone) we are dancing, jiving, moonwalking out that door and it’s a beautiful sight.

The ones who know when it’s time to go home and to get the heck out of here… they are the ones who keep the light in their eyes.

So while you’re dancing home tonight, know that you’re shining brighter than the street lights hanging above you. You are absolutely stunning, Darling Ann, with the way that you’re twirling in that dress and waltzing with the moon.

I’m proud of you. Not just for the way you walked away, but for knowing that you’re better because of it. You are my brand of brave, you’re pure gold, you are a girl after my own heart. You never even needed any of these words to know that you’re going to be just fine, but nonetheless they are yours.

Here’s to you, and to me, and to my absolute certainty that the girls like us will always keep dancing in the street!

Love, Ashlin

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I WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!

Lovely Letters is a series that happens every Wednesday! I’ve gotten such an amazing e-mail response from many of my readers and I try to respond to as many as I can directly; and some of them have inspired me to share thoughts and ideas on my blog. You guys seriously inspire me and what you’re going through is universal and I think other people need to hear that they’re not alone.

So… if you’re interested in inspiring the next Lovely Letters post, send me an e-mail and let me know what’s going on in your life. I absolutely love hearing from all of you!

E-mail:  ashlinkayh@gmail.com

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Lovely Letters: You Can Draw Lines

Let’s do this! Round of 2 of Lovely Letters is here!

The balance between wanting to completely shut down and let it all in is really really hard. How do I “guard” my heart without shutting it off completely?

                                                                         -A

Dear A,

It’s funny, just the other day I was talking about the very same thing in a little diner near my hometown. My best friend and I were about three hours deep in a long conversation and were sipping our coffee, trying to answer that very question.

Somewhere in between sips and the last few bites of omelette, I just shrugged. “Draw a line, don’t build a wall.”

I saw something in her eyes light up and I immediately knew that she understood exactly what I meant.

Don’t let your life be something that others cannot see, don’t make yourself closed off and untouchable. Put away the bricks and mortar, take a breath.

Take a look down at your feet, all around them there is sand. The reality is, this life is sand. Our moments here in this beautiful, crazy, messy world are sitting on those shifting grains. The things you’re surrounded by now will eventually wash out to shore and you’ll have to re-evaluate the world all over again. Nothing on this earth is solid, stable, certain. It all shifts…over and over again. 

The reality is, you can’t build walls on sand. They won’t stand on that kind of foundation. And unfortunately, when you build walls around yourself on sand, they always coming crashing down and usually it’s on you, not whoever you’re trying to keep yourself safe from.

But you can draw lines. You can draw them as close or as far away from yourself as you need to. And the beautiful thing about lines in the sand is that they can be erased and redrawn. There’s room for growth, change, mistakes when you draw lines in the sand. You can decide that you need a little more space and draw it a little further out, you can decide that there’s someone you’re willing to let closer and you can bring them further in.

They’re yours to draw, A. You can draw them wherever your heart needs to. Don’t be the girl who uses her pain to lock herself away, don’t become cold and unapproachable. Don’t let love leave your limbs and ligaments, hold on to every bit of affection and enchantment you have inside of you. Don’t let anything or anybody steal that from you.

You let someone too close; trust me, I’ve been there. Forget lines or walls, I made everything in my life free admission for a select group of people, and they left some serious garbage and stains, they broke a lot of what they touched. But I learned to let go of the pain and anger because the fact was, I gave them access. 

And I chose not to regret it, not to call myself a fool; because the reality is that I did it because I knew love was worth the risk. Even in my deepest hurt, I still believe it was always worth it. But I’m not saying I would do it all over again, A.  I’m saying that now I know about lines in the sand, and I’ll know how to wait, watch, wage whether or not I really should move that line to let someone have full access.  I’ve learned to be careful with this fragile, but stunning thing that beats inside my chest.

You can’t hide behind lines. People will still see you, so there’s no opportunity for you to lie about who you are or what you’re going through. Lines aren’t for people who choose to be fake. But you, Sweet Thing, are not made for being fake and that is one of your greatest qualities. You wear your heart on your sleeve, your hurts on your face… you’ll be good at drawing lines. You can let them know you’re hurt, you can cry if you need to. A, if you need to sit down at their feet and sob on the floor; don’t you for one second be ashamed of that. You are human, imperfect, breakable… but you are also fierce and powerful. Tears and pain do not make you weak. 

But what makes you relentless, strong, and a force to be reckoned with is the fact that you’re able to get up, wipe your face and even in your pain, you can draw a line. They will see your struggles, your pain, your heartbreak; but what they have to say or think about it can’t cross your linesYour line is for you; not for them. Draw that line, but not to keep yourself from loving others, rather to guard what you let in.

Don’t shut yourself off from people, A. You’re far too exquisite to be locked away somewhere; the world needs to see all that you bring. The people that have tried to break you, they need to see you too. They need to see what it looks like for someone to draw their line on the opposite side of  what they threw their way.. Draw a line where their mistakes, jabs, lies, and problems no longer affect you. What they think about you, say to you, try to take from you can only go as far as you let it. 

You’re going to be okay, A. I don’t know if anyone has said that to you yet, but you’re going to be okay. You are going to be a pro at drawing lines and breaking down walls. Today might be difficult, you might draw a few lines in the wrong places, erase and start again. But as hard as this life surrounded by sand is, there’s always room for change.

If you’ll go back and read, you’ll see that I said you’re surrounded by sand. But you, darling, are made for standing on a rock. You can’t control the fact that everything around you is sand, but you can choose what you yourself stand on. The things around you are always going to be changing, you’re always going to have to draw lines and choose not to build walls. But who you are, what you know, what you believe… those things are made for standing on the rock. Don’t let them be something that moves and shifts with the sand.

Stand firm and steady, A. People that truly love you, they’ll wait patiently for you to erase the lines you draw. When you finally do let them come close, they’ll come stand on The Rock next to you, they’ll know about standing on things like love, honor, grace, humility. Keep holding on… and know that even though it feels like it sometimes, you’re not standing here on your own.

Standing with you,

Ashlin

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I WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!

Lovely Letters is a new series I’m starting that will happen every Wednesday! I’ve gotten such an amazing e-mail response from many of my readers and I try to respond to as many as I can directly; and some of them have inspired me to share thoughts and ideas on my blog. You guys seriously inspire me and what you’re going through is universal and I think other people need to hear that they’re not alone.

So… if you’re interested in inspiring the next Lovely Letters post, send me an e-mail and let me know what’s going on in your life. I absolutely love hearing from all of you!

E-mail:  ashlinkayh@gmail.com

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Men Are Not Made For Cages

Remember that “Plan B” blog post that I wrote like a year ago? Yeah, well there’s a reverse side to it as well. So, here’s what we’ve all been waiting for… the follow up article has finally arrived! 


The reality is, you’re convenient.

I wish you could really see that, and I wish you could see the injustice it is. For someone to have made you a convenience, a decoration, a luxury for their selfishness. That simply is a crying shame.

You deserve far more than just being her coat rack, the thing she keeps in the corner to hold her stuff until she’s ready to take it all back. Don’t stand around and let that happen.

Because if you’re not enough now, you never will be. And even if she changes her mind, you’ll always know. You’ll always remember that there was a point when she just wasn’t sure she could love you.

And you deserve far more than someone who sits on the fence about you.

You know exactly the kind of girl I’m talking about. You know it because it only takes five seconds for her gaze to be off of you in a room full of others. She uses phrases like “You SHOULD be doing this” or “I want..”  “I need.” I.. I.. I.

There’s always an “I” and never an “us” or a “we” and there is absolutely, positively, never a “you.”

And you deserve for someone to care about you. To want more for you than they ever could want for themselves. You’re the kind of guy who should hear that he’s a good man, that he’s got a good head on his shoulders, that he’s made for more than just a 9 to 5 and bringing home the bacon.

I used to be her. I used to sit with arms folded, nose in the air, demanding slavery instead of desiring chivalry. I somewhere got caught up in the idea that not only should Prince Charming put the shoe on my foot, but he should first have it dipped in pure gold and give me a foot massage before making sure it fit.

I didn’t ever consider the process that it is to search Cinderella out, how exhausting it can get. How misled, or how taken advantage of he may have been in the past. There may have been hundreds of disappointing situations before He met me. I can’t fault him for weighing things out, for walking a little close to the side of caution. But instead, I’ve always just rolled my eyes and said “He just needs to man up!”

Oh, and then for the ones that do “man up”, who we’ve thrown in the friend zone. We never actually let you know that you’re in the friend zone, because we like the attention. We like that we can lean on you, pull from your affection and wrap it around us when we’re lonely. But we never intend to let things go beyond that friend zone. But you are not a refrigerator. You are not made for all of your inner contents to be taken and enjoyed, as the rest of you sits empty in the corner. Despite the title, that’s not even the friend zone, that’s the trash pile. If a girl uses you for affirmation, comfort, an ego boost and then just leaves you empty, she’s definitely not even your friend.

We deserve to be pursued and protected, but you deserve to be honored and given some credit. You are not every man, you do not deserve our “trust issues” to be dumped in your lap. You do not deserve to be categorized by our insecurity, fear, impatience, or past experiences. You should not always be taking a test to “prove yourself” or to “earn our respect”.

You’re strong, a fighter, made for honor.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t have weaknesses, that you won’t mess up, that you also shouldn’t be fought for.

It isn’t all on you. You don’t have to carry the weight of our world on your shoulders.

I’m sorry for all the girls who slammed you for not staying with your face on the ground, kissing every trail she trots on. You’re not the carrier of her chariot. You’ve got things inside of you that are meant to create greatness, change the world, climb mountains, win battles. And while she should be considered and pursued, adored, that doesn’t mean she should always be calling all the shots. She’s not your captain, chief or your commandment maker.

Don’t make her your back-up plan, your second place and don’t keep looking for excuses to not commit. But don’t decide to choose her because you think that’s the fate of all men: to strap on that ball and chain, give up their freedom, because that’s what will make a woman happy.

I’m guessing she’s beautiful. She’s probably endearing, and it probably makes you feel good every single time you make her laughBut that doesn’t mean that you come in with head down, let her strap on a collar and hand her a leash. She shouldn’t try to tame, break, bridle or brand you. 

You are a man and you are not made for a cage.

She should make you feel alive, not train you for treats. You are worthy of dignity and respect. You are powerful and impressive. You are influential and distinguished. 

And it’s not always your fault.

If she’s got Daddy issues or failed relationships. You shouldn’t be blamed or take the brunt. You’re good at loving, at protecting, at making decisions. You are not a punching bag or dart board. You are not a failure at affection, compassion or communication.

You are far too extraordinary to ever settle. The world needs more men like you, men who want to get their hands dirty, who are made entirely for guts and glory. You are not made of stone, so don’t think we expect that and don’t let her make you become that.

You are incredible and I really mean that. You deserve to have someone who doesn’t seek to change one thing about you. She will see your imperfections, but she’s not too prissy or pretentious to trust you in the midst of them. Knowing that it doesn’t make you unreliable, immature or underdeveloped.

You are worthy of someone who trusts you to overcome the struggles, who knows you won’t settle for failure. That though you may fall, you will always rise; that you are strong and enduring. You deserve someone who won’t retreat as soon as you cross the front lines. You’re a forerunner and you need someone who doesn’t doubt your victory.

You’re a man, you’re not made for a cage. So let yourself fly free while the door still swings open.

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.