Slow to know your role: a note on comparison.

I've learned that comparing yourself to other people just sucks the joy out of your own path. To live in constant comparison mode is to live imprisoned to a false target. It has nothing to do with those other people. Your aim was never to arrive at someone else's destination so why bother focusing on it? 

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Digging for gold in the valley.

I'm a frequent pray-er of the "take it away" prayer even though I know it rarely works. When I walked through depression in 2014, I was clogging up God's voicemail with "take it away" prayers. At some point, I wised up to what God was doing. I could almost hear him saying, "Can you please stand up for five seconds? Just five seconds. I want to release you but you have to get up and walk through it with me." The valley does not mean you're on lockdown, it means your growth is precious to God. 

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29 life rules.

I found this magazine article yesterday and it really inspired me. Life rules. It's a pretty powerful statement to set rules for yourself to live by. I used to create rules for myself all the time but they were rigid and boring. They were rules I placed on myself because I thought maybe I needed to be contained or kept in line. Rulebooks that don't give you any room for growth or mistakes are dumb. I like these rules much better.

Today I am turning 29. It's a year I have honestly waited my whole life to get to and I am not sure why. I've just always loved the idea of being 29 and so I decided today would be the perfect day to write a new rulebook, create some new life rules. 

  1. The leftover fear of "what if" should always be bigger than the fear of failure. Go out there and try new things even if it scares you half to death.
  2. Celebrate other people as they go after what makes them feel alive. No room for jealousy at this point, champion people and help them win.
  3. Never say no to taco dates. Tacos and friends are always most important than whatever is on your to-do list.
  4. Boundaries are important. People have told you that for years and you've rarely believed them. But now you see it. Spend this next year establishing better boundaries, preserving your heart, and knowing when you need to step away.
  5. Prayer. Lots of it. In every situation. Don't ever belittle that thing and don't ever misuse the concept by telling someone you are praying when you aren't. Get down on the carpet and keep getting down into the posture of prayer, even when you feel like nothing is moving.
  6. Remain teachable. The older you get, the less you actually know. Allow someone to teach you instead of being a know-it-all. Stay humble in learning.
  7. Keep your spaces clean. Chaos squashes your creativity. To keep your brain calm, keep your room clean.
  8. People are flawed and they will mess up. Find more grace in the pockets of your heart. Consume grace regularly, as if it were a vitamin.
  9. Rule borrowed from Anna Quindlen: "You can embrace a life that feels like it belongs to you, not one made up of tiny fragments of the expectations of a society that, frankly, in most of its expectations, is not worthy of you."
  10. Let it breathe. When you feel something, don't keep it bottled up inside of you. Talk to someone you trust. Air it out. Don't let your feelings eat you from the inside out.
  11. About that rule #10: Note the "someone." Avoid the itch to tell anyone and everyone your struggles, problems, hang-ups. Create your people circle and lean hard into them. Less is more, babe.
  12. Wear the romper.
  13. Try your best to send birthday cards in the mail. Writing on someone's Facebook wall is nice but if you know the person, and you have their address, then scoot your butt to the post office and mail them a card. They will be so thankful.
  14. A lesson you learned in your 28th year that will still prove to be valid as you turn 29: if you want to see results you've never seen, be willing to do things you've never done.
  15. Your expectations of people are not reality. Not always. Don't be consumed by how a person does or does not treat you.
  16. Rule borrowed from Lane Sheats: Find joy apart from the need for others' approval. Joy wrapped up in the validation of others isn't really joy at all. It won't last. It won't stand firm when life knocks you down.
  17. Prioritize simplicity and strive for it. Experiences > Stuff.
  18. Keep your 5am hours as much as you possibly can. Cool stuff happens when you are awake and alert before the rest of the world has their morning coffee.
  19. Don't go to Target when you're emotional or feeling bad about your life.
  20. Keep weekly dates with the people you're investing in. Consistency is a surprising rarity in the world today. Seize it with both hands.
  21. Weed your garden at least every month if not twice a month. When I say "weed your garden," I really mean: take time to write out the lies that are currently holding you captive and pull them out from the root. Replace them with little seedlings of truth.
  22. Rule borrowed from Ellen Degeneres: Never follow anyone else’s path, unless you’re in the woods and you’re lost and you see a path and by all means, you should follow that.
  23. Don't worry about the things that haven't happened. Wait for each moment to have it's own birthday and deal with it then. No use in crying over things that aren't even real.
  24. Give. Be a giver. When you give, there is always more.
  25. Replace gossip with prayer.
  26. Forgive the version of you who didn't know better. Forgive that girl and love her, she was doing the best she could.
  27. Be slow, like snail-pace slow, to judge a pair of shoes you've never tried to walk in.
  28. Put on the damn bikini and go out to the pool, girl. Get yourself a tan.
  29. Hannah- remember, remember, remember: the fullest moments of your life will never be documented or captured for the world to clap at or approve of them. Make room for the full moments that only happen when you are shut off, tucked away, found in a quiet space by God.

Notes from an investor: people, projects, plans.

large Recently I started investing. My money. My loot. My greens. My Benjamins. My clams. My dough. My wad. My lettuce. Okay, I'm done.

It makes me feel like a serious adult to say that I'm saving money. I wiped out all my student loan debt this past December and I figured that was the next adult-ish thing to do: begin investing.

When you first start investing, the whole process seems a little intimidating. The website I use ultimately tells me how much I need to save up if I want to retire at age 67 (they picked the age, not me). There are pros and cons to looking "Big Picture" at your life like this. Pros: you see what you're working with. Cons: you figure out what you're working with and you realize you're not working so well with it. 

The app I invest with gives you a list of options as to where you can invest your money: a home, a retirement fund, your children's college funds.

There are too many options and I find myself thinking I need to invest in every single one right this very moment. 

I'm not writing a post about investing money right now.  I may have married a financial analyst but I'm not ready to come at you with my money savvy just yet. As I've learned the ins and outs of investing, I am starting to see that investing translates into all areas of my life.

We get the chance to invest in a lot of different people, places and plans. Some of us are naturally good at spreading ourselves out evenly. Others flounder under the pressure to be "all the things" to everyone they encounter.

You can't be all the things to all the people. I learned that lesson 2 years ago and I honestly gain more freedom daily by remembering it. I am not a perfect human. I cannot possibly please every single person in my email inbox. I will let friends down even if I am not trying to. I will forget someone's birthday and I will live with the rock in my stomach called regret for too long because of it.

You may be investing in a lot of things you don't even want without being aware of it. You may be so invested in the life of someone else that you are spending all your time comparing, contrasting, and trying to change yourself to be like them.

You may be the person who has a ton of time but never seems to be able to nail it down in one place and make something beautiful happen.

I am finding that to know where I want to invest my life, I must know what I have. I need to be willing to take inventory and then get serious with it. I'm a big believer that God wants us to steward things wisely. Time. Relationships. Money. Work. Sometimes I know God is looking at me like, "What are you doing with your life right now? You have so many things to take care of so why are you asking me for more?" So many of us have a number of these things but we are investing all our energy into only one area and neglecting the rest. On the adverse, if I am investing in too many things (and not enough things whole-heartedly) then my investments will be smaller than Future Me will need them to be.

I took the morning to break my life into three categories I think are worth investing in and jot down some thoughts on each area. Mind you, I am preaching to myself always and often. No perfect people are allowed on this blog. This is a perfectly safe haven for jacked-up and jankety humans who fail a dozen times before breakfast (just me?). 

Invest in People: because yes, they are always worth it.

  • I made a list of the 10 people I want to be investing in consistently. Ten looks like a large number but I don't know how to narrow the list just yet. These people are a combination of friends living near me and friends far away. They are friends I've had for years and people I'm looking to start investing in deliberately starting just this month. Ways I plan to invest: workout dates, trips to the farmer's market, meal-prep tutorials, unofficial book clubs and study sessions. I could always meet up for coffee with people but I think it's really beautiful and underrated to invite someone into the folds of your life and say, "participate with me."
  • If you are going to try to invest in everyone you've ever met then prepare yourself to see disappointment showing up at your door a lot. A lot of you said the last post on heartbreak resonated with you because it wasn't romantic relationships you were struggling with, it was friendships with people you'd invested in for years. I know that feeling. It's not pretty and it's not something you really want to highlight for the world to see. People come in and out of our lives all the time. Some stay for good. Some leave sooner than we planned. I don't have all the answers for that but I can say this: letting someone go so you can protect your heart and find some space to breathe is not the same thing as giving up on them.
  • In these crazy political times, it might be tempting to want to spend all your energy making people agree with you. Somehow our social media platforms became a tool for dividing rather than connecting in the last few months. We can't make everyone agree with us. No matter what is happening in the government, people in your life still need you like they needed you yesterday. Maybe even more. As people are scared, hurting, and unsure right now, the only way to love them through it is by putting down the devices.
  • Investigating someone's life is not the same thing as investing in someone's life. I cannot just "like" my friend's status and think it makes up for an in-person conversation. If likes, retweets and stats have ever made you feel empty inside then consider that you might not be the only one to ever feel that way. Investing in someone's life is rough and tumble but durability through the storms beats loneliness any day.

Invest in Projects: because work matters.

  • I want to be a good steward with any work that goes out into the world. Believe me, there are definitely days where I don't want to invest in the project at hand. It may be an unruly client, a problem I can't seem to fix or monotonous and thankless work. When I finally get over my pity party then it's time to get back to work. I can't be a quitter just because I don't like what is on the menu today.
  • It's easy to neglect the work you've been given to do because it isn't glamorous enough or Instagram-able for the moment. Somehow we got this idea stuck in our brain that if the work wasn't pretty then it was meant for someone else. That's definitely not the mantra our grandparents held. I know we are growing up in a different world where this idea of "doing what you love" has been thrust upon us but I also think there is a time to do what you love and a time to do what is necessary. Life will hold a lot of necessary work that won't seem pretty. If you do the work though, you'll grow. You'll be stronger. You'll gain thicker skin.
  • One more thought on that: I was reading in John 15 the other day. It's the passage about us being the plant and God being the gardener. He says he prunes off all the vines that aren't bearing fruit. Translation: all the excess stuff that doesn't help us become humans who don't lie all the time, cuss people out on the highway, or don't know how to love instead of hate. I dug deeper to find that the goal of pruning the branches (where fruit grows) is so that the branches will not become long and stringy. They will become thick and short. It seems like a pretty insignificant detail until you realize that you can grow fruit on long and stringy branches anytime but it is only a matter of time before those branches snap, break, and become useless because they can't support the fruit they're trying to hold up. Just like us: we become better humans by allowing the pruning process to happen. When we release our pride, our ego, that thing that tells us "this isn't cool enough work," then we can finally get over ourselves and do good work. We can handle more fruit.

Invest in Plans: because plans imply action.

  • I like the word "plans" more than "passions." I can talk a lot about my passions but it won't mean anything if I never plan to make time for them. Plans are action steps. They are things you are going to do rather than things you always talk about but never do. I've said it so much lately but I am terrified to get to the end of my life and realize I was just a spectator, a spectator in a life that demanded all the attention I could never give it. You will lose so much of your life if you only ever watch other people live theirs.
  • I chose "plans" over "things" because I always want to value experiences over new Nike sneakers or the latest phone to come out. Going places > buying more stuff.
  • Plans were my favorite part of this mapping process because I've recently fallen in love with the pockets of time in my calendar that aren't working hours. I plan to read books, take longer walks, drink more water and cook more ambitious dishes. I plan to finish this memoir on Savannah before Lane and I visit again in April. I plan to map out the birthdays of all the people who matter in my life to get back in the habit of sending cards. Anticipation is a really sweet thing and a really good feeling to share with other people.
  • Every couple of months, I pluck this book off my bookshelf. I don't think anyone should go all of 2017 without buying this book and then highlighting the snot out of it. In his chapter on recapturing time, MacDonald writes, "One needs to ask, what are my nonnegotiables? I have discovered that most of us who complain we are disorganized simply do not know the answer to this question. As a result, the important functions that will make the supreme difference in our effectiveness miss getting into the calendar until it is too late. Disorganization and frustration; the non-essentials crowd into the date book before the necessities do." If we don't map out our own plans deliberately, months will fly by on the calendar and there will be nothing to show for it.

Curious today: What are some of the plans, projects and people you want to invest in this February? Comment below and I will be reading! 

Drop the mic & go find Sarah.

My fear is we're distracted. We are all just scrolling idly through the streams, hungering and searching for the Missing Pieces. We all miss chances when we are digging ourselves into the trenches of self-pity just because we think we should have found someone by now, lived somewhere different, accomplished more.

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An open letter to Joe.

I’m never going to be able to go to God at the end of this and give him an inventory of my faith that consists of a cross, and a bible, and a pew. I am going to say the inventory of my faith was a lot of uncertainty, a few bad Tinder dates, a good mother, the feeling of grace, a yellow room, the play Les Miserables, a slew of coffee shops, and you.

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I am not the point.

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It was Maya Angelou who wrote how you can learn a lot about a person by examining the way they handle these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.

Rainy days have always been my jam and lost luggage is just a sign to be patient with the imperfect gods of Delta and circumstances in life beyond your control. But it’s those Christmas lights that have me tripping— straight-up, worried sick.

You see, I lack patience. I try not to and I am constantly needing Big Mac portion sizes of grace in this area. I hold a secret wrath for the slow walkers of this earth and the tasks that take a person 4 hours to execute when I know I could have handled it by myself in 15 minutes. I was the intern supervisor back in the day who wanted to do all the work for the interns just so it would be finished and done well. I had to take my sticky fingers off so many situations, breathe, and just say, “Girl, let someone have a breakthrough and a moment of celebration on their own. You once celebrated over your small and slow victories too.”

In the words of Michelangelo, “Ancora Imparo” (Still, I am Learning).

So when it comes to Christmas lights and other cords I’d rather not untangle them. I tell myself life is too short to sit on the floor and untangle cords. I mean that. The evidence would be the fact that my hair straightener and curling iron have been tethered to one another for nearly seven months now. The cords are so tangled that you have to stand close to the outlet in order to use them. You have to get your head basically next to the outlet if you want to use the straightener. This is the definition of someone’s worst nightmare but I somehow let the tangled cords make my life more difficult daily instead of just stopping, unplugging the devices from the wall, and taking the twenty minutes necessary the detach the two for good.

Embarrassing to admit but I actually raised my needy palms up to the ceiling yesterday and asked God, “What does this say about me? What does this honestly say about me?”

I’m the silly girl who finds life revelations in tangled product cords but that’s just because I’ve only ever known how to view every inch of life as a series of small encounters meant to improve your character. Really. Truly. I can analyze the snot out of how people maneuver holding glasses of wine and cheese plates at weddings. There is a science to how people order things off Amazon or tackle the grocery list and how both tactics might improve their state of humanity. As you can imagine, I’m instantly the life to any party.

Truth told: I’d choose not to untangle things.

If this was my show, which it used to be, then I would choose to not face things or untangle them and just let life be ruled by more difficulty. Things like “loves lost” I’m cool to untangle because I like to be poetic about the past and cry over things lost. Something like “singleness” I’d prefer not to untangle or even look at. I hate admitting that I’m single. I hate knowing there isn’t a person for me yet. And then when it comes to a thing like “fear,” I’ve been left with no choice but to try and untangle it— little by little— every single day.

I am learning the truth: if you untangle your own mess then you give other people the permission to try and maneuver through their own. We all want some kind of permission to look at our messes without fear of what we will find when we sink our hands in deep to them.

“You are not the Christmas star,” he whispered.

Clearly. He said it. “You are not the Christmas star.”

I was sitting cross-legged on my bed. Christmas had just rolled to the back of the calendar. I was stuck in a headlock of anxiety and fear for most of that December and crying out every morning for God to just speak to me. “Just tell me,” I would pray. “What are we fighting for? What do you want to take out of me? Just take it, God. Take it.”

His answer was audible that one morning: You are not the Christmas star. A chill rushed down my spine. I ran downstairs to my mother, standing by the countertop fixing drip coffee.

“He told me I am not the Christmas star,” I announced to her.

“Who told you?”

“God told me.” You see, in the relationship between my mother and I— God is a third person. He’s an everyday contributor to conversations. He’s like the third homie. The third member of the Hanson band— probably the wise one, Isaac. If my mother is Kelly and I am Michelle then God is the third member of Destiny’s Child— Yonce. If I am Lisa Left Eye Lopes, and my mama is Chili, then God is definitely T-Boz of the TLC group. Let’s be real: T-Boz was the ultimate boss.

“Are you sure God says those sorts of things? That’s a stretch.”

“He definitely said it,” I retorted. “Because I know exactly what he meant.”

He meant to say, in a gentle and nudging way, “You are the not center of the universe, sweet girl.”

I’m not. I’m not every person’s favorite person. I’m so far from perfect that it hurts. I was not made to be front and center. It’s exactly like that bible verse that I’m simultaneously finding shelter and a roundhouse kick of reality to the face inside of these days: John 1:8. “He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.” That’s about John the Baptist. It could very well be about you too.

I think that’s God’s way of saying, “Maybe you are gonna shine but I never called you to be your own power plant and gobble up all the credit. You don’t need street cred, little one. You need a smaller purpose.”

“I want to start a movement.”

I cannot count the amount of times I’ve heard those exact words blurted out before me at a speaking engagement or networking event. I want to start a movement. I want to create something big. It has to be big. I want to change the world.

Trust me, that was me 5 years ago. I was 21 and obsessed with making an impact somehow and someway. I could barely see the people around me because my worth and value were tangled up in what I could offer the world. I wanted the big titles. I needed the big names. Baby steps would never serve me. I was always, always that girl.

And wanting to do something bigger than myself was always the driver until I realized that baby steps are queen and God sets the course. He sets the course.

Since the start, he set the story. My mother leaving me love letters. My ache for people I didn’t know. My fascination with New York City. My love for the internet and how it binds us all. He put all those pieces together and it wasn’t until I was stepping and stepping and stepping that I could look up and realize, “I’m not the star. I’m just the vessel. I’m just the instrument.” I’m not the star. I’m not the point.

I have to remind myself of this daily, hourly, when I want to get too handsy with gifts in my life and control every aspect of them. I get way too proud. Way too proud when I think I was born for big assignments— Christmas star missions that just allow me to stand there and shine bright.

There’s a certain and unquenchable beauty in untangling the Christmas lights. It’s humbling. There’s something desirable and lasting when you take your position as the tiny little bulb on the string of lights, instead of the centerpiece who sheds light to the whole tree. When you are a tiny bulb, you become an intricate part of the untangling process and you learn the coolest truth about humanity: when we untangle things, like the lights, we allow more of those little bulbs to stand apart and shine. When he squash our pride for small work and just help others out, we teach others to be lights. And with more little lights, we illuminate more space and territory in a darkened, hollowed place. 

I am trying to untangle the things I am afraid of.

It’s the only thing worth giving my life to anymore these days. I could continue with a prideful saunter and talk loudly about the things I already know but that story is tired, it’s rehearsed, it’s heard. So, instead, I listen to the whisper that tells the truth I am afraid to face, “Little one, you’ve built so much of your life out fear. It’s time to build with love instead.” It’s time to build with love instead. And the first step of love is exactly what you're shaken over: untangling the mess and realizing you’re okay.

You're okay. 

Build with love. Untangle your fear. Be a small light.

Build with love. Untangle your doubt. Be a bright light.

Baby steps, baby. Baby steps.

Thank you for staying. (Probably Part 1)

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I have stood on countless amounts of stages and delivered a talk called “Stay.”

The talk is broken up into three sections. Stay Hungry. Stay Small. Stay Here.

I never had an issue with being hungry. I have been hungry for my whole entire existence. I was always the girl who wanted to be used. The girl who wanted to be chosen. I wanted to serve God if it meant he would give me things to do. I remember wanting that before I even had a relationship with God. I remember high school parties. The room spinning. The drunkenness. Me in the corner, just thinking, “God, am I an accident for wanting to do so much and make such a difference when no one else seems to care?”

I never had an issue with being small. I have never puffed myself up to be big. I’ve honestly never believed in myself enough to do that. I’ve spent the latter half of my years not even believing in the worthiness of my own story. I probably need to learn to get a bit bigger. We'll see.

It’s the staying part-- the “staying here” part-- that has always been my struggle.

I don’t want to be too hard on myself, I just want to say that staying is really, really, really hard. And I know this because I sat at my favorite coffee shop in Atlanta-- the one where the baristas write you little love letters when they serve you drinks-- with one of my good friends and we talked about love. And how loving someone and giving your heart to someone is really, really, really hard.

I don’t remember all the words we said but I do remember saying that loving someone is hard because staying is hard. The two correlate. They function within one another. And if you stay, you eventually have to let someone in. If you let someone in, you eventually have to drop the facade. You have to drop the act. You have to unpack your suitcases.

This probably goes deeper. I could probably write a whole book and just call it “Thank You for Staying.”

Thank you for staying.

That’s what I texted to one of my friends during one of the hardest seasons of my life. Thank you for staying. It was simple. It carried weight for me to say it.

And honestly? I used to look at that friend in church before I really knew her and I would  think, “She has it all together. And her life is full. And she would not want to be my friend. And there must be no room for me.”

And while I don’t know which ones of those things are lies, I’ve learned that I have to be really careful with that last one: there must be no room for me.

That’s a damaging lie to staple to yourself: there must be no room for me.

What I am learning lately is that it’s not about the dishes.

It’s never really about the dishes.

I used to live in a community house in the Bronx, New York. I lived with 4 other girls. And "community" is a tough and gritty word that I still don’t really like because it feels too hard and it makes you face yourself pretty honestly (spoiler alert: you won’t always like what you see).

I remember them telling us during the orientation for the program that, at one point, someone would forget to do the dishes (or in my case: I would leave food on the dishes just because I am an inadequate cleaner who is too busy writing love stories in her head). And then someone would neglect to confront the dishes. And then another thing would happen. And then another thing would happen. And eventually, there would be an explosion. And all the little things would come crashing down on top of one another. And you will realize that it all started because of the dishes. Suddenly, it wasn’t about the dishes anymore.

You let it build and build and build, instead of just facing it when it was small.

I think that has a lot to do with the lies we tell ourselves. The fear we tolerate. The things we do or don’t do.

It starts small. And it grows and it grows and it overtakes us when we don’t confront it. It gets hungrier. And hungrier. Until there is a breaking point. Until you’ve convinced yourself that you’re the sum of your fears & the sum of your worries & the sum of your lies-- as if each one was written upon your skin in Sharpie marker and people could see everything when they went to shake your hand.

I don’t know how to hash all the lies out just yet.

I am trying. I like to think I am getting better than ever before. But I know that it doesn’t come from moving away from it.

The easy solution in my head is always to move. To go somewhere else. To escape. To get away. And that’s never going to give you a full life-- it is going to give you a life of running with a suitcase you can’t seem to put down.

That person I didn’t think would have enough room for me, she stayed.

She prayed. She became a warrior. She reminded me to laugh. She has a full, full life and yet she keeps the doors and windows opens for newcomers who show up tired & empty.

And me? I know I would give everything and the rest of the world to be just like her. To know how to open my windows and open my doors and ask people to come in, saying, “Hey, I know you’re tired. I know you’re stressed. And I want you to stay. I want you to stay and undo the latches on that suitcase and take out everything and put it away. Put the things away for good.

I am going to make some tea. We are going to talk. And you are finally, finally going to stay.

And you are going to fight. There is enough room for you.”

We are called to be Salt. Shakers in this World.

Back in college, I was the girl with plans to change the world.

I shoved up my peace sign and pummeled my friends with bits and pieces of the UN's Convention on the Rights of the Child before trotting off to some 180-page report on sustainability in Malaysia that needed my reading eyes before bed.

And so, it only seemed appropriate when a girl like me, on fire and ready to rattle the cages of Injustice, trotted off to start my new job at the United Nations.

I basked in that first day, the flashing of my bright blue, holographic pass, and marveled at the building where Change Happened and Things Got Done.

No turning back.

The United Nations was my cake. And I was so darn hungry. So I gobbled, gobbled, gobbled: trafficking for breakfast & girls' edu for lunch & microfinance for dinner. And then got sick. To my stomach. From eating too much. And not knowing. Just. How. To. Digest.... that change was a slow thing and not always an overnight slumber party buddy.

"This place only works for the ones who can be o.k. with baby steps," a woman told me one morning. And she left to be angry, wringing my fists over orphans who needed me and an Unchangeable World.

And so, slowly & so sneakily, Doubt pulled out a stool and ordered a coffee in the cafe of my soul. And then another. And another.

But let's be truthful. It was really Mark Zuckerberg who kissed me on the forehead and sealed my silence.

Yes, six girls. And my own Facebook status that shut me up for good:

"If I have only one quality for the rest of my life I hope that it is foolish... Foolish enough to think that I can make a difference in this world and then go out and do the things that others say cannot be done.."

They mocked it one by one. Skittering from page to page to laugh & "like" & make fun of me before defriending me. One. By One. By One.

And I decided then that Silence was better. Indifference was easier. And if you said nothing at all then no one would expect anything of you. And if you just shut up then the world would never know that your skin once thought it was made for World Changing.

I'd forgotten all of this until tonight. Until the preacher on the stage. Until his message on Salt. Of all things, salt. Leaving my mouth watered with a severe ache for french fries, he spoke of the Bible Days when Salt was more valued than petroleum. Where salt was so very good and people never took it for granted. To have salt in one's home was a Very Big Deal.

His hands rose up as he spoke of how we, as Little Pencils in a Far Grander Love Letter, are called to be salt. Shakers in this world. Hungry for justice. Hungry for a difference. Hungry to Change the World.

And I licked my lips and thought: Yes, I am hungry. For girls with arms full of textbooks. For boys who put down their guns and run back to the schoolyard. For college students who emerge out into the world with an ache to change it and then get ambushed by the Doubt in the cafe. And the Doubt in the cubicle. And the Doubt in the media. And so they listen to statistics and they do a job they never grew a passion for, and ten years or twenty years later, they're still thinking, "I would have really liked to change the world."

And sincerely, I've grown tired:  of not talking about it enough. Of not filling more notebooks with the hope of it all. Of not wanting to call it "World-Changing" because the very word has felt narcissistic & self-absorbed & impossible since the day I placed it into a Facebook status and then ached to wash it away with a swift backspace.

But no more, cause we're talking. No more, cause we're seeing and we're saying that this world is very broken. Her legs are mangled. Her mind is messed. And Once Upon a Time, we wanted to be doctors so let's just pull out the plastic stethoscope, get real close to hear Beating, Bleeding Heart, and listen for a while.

And no more, cause we're meeting. Gathering in tea shops & brunch on Amsterdam Avenue. In pools of social networking sites where we've all convinced once another that the Waters of World Shaking feel just fine so you better dive in. Doggy paddle if you got to, but Just. Jump. In.

And no more, cause I'm ready. To be a girl who doesn't look back. And a girl who leaves her salt all over this whole place. And her breadcrumbs. And her Whole Entire Being if it means that someone Gonna Find the Light. Gonna Go to School. Gonna Break the Chains. Gonna Do their Part.

Baby, baby, I'll pull up a stool. I'll sit right beside you and I'll ask you out loud, "Do you want to change the world?" And if you answer yes, I'll finally find the words to say it.

"Yes... Me Too."

That last line was inspired by my BOMB.com, space cadet of a friend who isn't really a space cadet but rather a poet who has stood by side in learning the art of butt kicking. Her name is Azure Antoinette. #Cupcake. She was just signed into a contract with ABC Family yesterday. I am more proud than a mother watching her triplets graduate from Law School. And Azure, this post is for you. I'm not tired anymore.

 

 

Kaleidoscope Lifetimes: 9/11. We Remember.

I spent precisely 73 minutes, curled up on the tile floor of the New York Library-Bronx Branch, crying yesterday. Book Propped In Front Of Me. Knees Folded. Pages Playing Tear Catchers.

I half expected a librarian to approach me, befuddled by my sinking the library with Titanic-like tears. Ok, maybe not Titanical Tears. But certainly rowboat tears.

"Excuse me, are you alright?" She would've asked. Clearly feeling awkward upon the sight of me.

"Oh, yes... Don't worry," I would've replied. "I do this all the time, no need to be alarmed. I always plant myself in the nonfiction section when I am having a bad day."

I wish I were kidding but we all have quirky ways to remedy our bad days. I am just more open to admitting mine. Something about the nonfiction section of a library holds me at hard times. The Shelves Quake as I envelope myself in stories that are not my own. Stories that remind me the word "Alone" can disintegrate with two steps in nearly any direction. We are not alone. We are not the only ones having tough days. We are striving so hard to be Individuals that we lose track of Sameness. Sameness Matters. Oh yes, it does.

I cried for a silent waltz between Individuality and Sameness bound up together in a hardcover. 1,901 portraits.1,901 Individuals Who Lost their Lives in September 11, 2001.

Mothers. Husbands. Teachers. Students. Fathers. Brokers. Aunts. Business Men. Fiances. Waiters.

All Different Lives. One Common Ending.

A day when Two planes Took To the air. Took down Two Towers. Took Too many.

If our lives look more like a waiting room than a kaleidoscope today then we are doing something wrong. If we are hoping life will begin someday soon then we are wasting time. If we are allowing words inflated with Doubt, Negativity, Hatred and Defeat take the reins in our vocabulary then we need a new dictionary.

Because 2,996 lives never found tomorrow after September 11, 2001. Over 200,000 lives lost the chance for a better life when the Earth Quaked in Haiti this past year. More than 4,000 soldiers gave up any form of a future to fight a war in Iraq. Why? So that we could have the future. Planted in our Hands.

We need only stare at a cover of the New York Times to slap our own wrists with reality: We have been given a gift. Gifts are never required. Nor guaranteed.

A volume full of single stories, each one begging to burst from beneath their byline, reminds me of the great nobility of everyday existence. In riding the 4 Train to work daily, where Doug Jason Irgang met his future bride-to-be after seeing her daily on the commute to work, reading her paper. They were set to be married in December 2001. In the pots of rice and beans cooked by Jorge Velazquez every Saturday for the homeless and hungry of Manhattan. In the spaces between the breaths of Janet Alonso as she called her husband to tell him That The Office Was Filling With Smoke. That She Could Not Breathe. That She Loved Him.

And then the Buildings Broke.

I am reminded on an every day basis that it will never matter which titles we held or the amount of money that our bank accounts digested. The fibers of our existence are counted then accounted for in the hands that we hold. The well intentions we wish. The prayers we send Upward. The compassion we sent Outward. The love we welcome Inward.

I hold a thousand secrets and I cannot share them all. But here's one. Lean in closer. Open your ears: The only promising promise exists in this very moment and what we make of it. Ready. Set. Go.

 

There will be them days

There will be them days when all that will seem reliable is a sapphire blue dress hanging in your closet that, to your knowledge, has never let you down before.

On them days, pull the blue over your head, tie the sash on the side and invest faith in stitching and cool cotton on a summer day.

There will be them days when you wish you could pull sentences from the sky, make words out of treasures you've found while sifting through the Lost & Found bin, to tell a person how you really feel. But all that will come out are fragments.

Incomplete.

Sentences.

You.

Don't.

Know.

How.

To.

Complete.

On them days, find a sweet rhythm in the stuttering and the stammering. Delight in the person who makes the simplest syllables--I miss you, I love you, I need you-- the hardest to recite. Maybe even say this: You Make All the Letters In My Alphabet Shake. The Q's Quiver. The R's Rattle.

There will be them days when the only adoration you get is from a John Mayer song that he recorded seven years ago about daughters. And you'll think to yourself, Wouldn't it be lovely to be the girl who puts the colors inside of the world? On them days, keep your earphones plugged in until the end of the song, until Mr. Mayer tells you straight, "boys would be gone without warmth from a woman's good, good heart."

There will be them days where the Missing gets thick.

Thicker than molasses. Thicker than the chocolate current that took Augustus Gloop down. You'll curse songs on the radio that bring him back. Your bones will ache for conversations where his name sits beside more than just some past tensed verbs.

On them days, let the Missing keep you.  People will tell you not to look at old photographs or cry over love letters;  I say, get your salty groove on but promise to let it go at the end of the night. For your own good. For the doors that need to close before God props open that window people always talk about. We are human beings... looking back is laced somewhere in our DNA, even if sometimes it holds the nutritional value of chewing gum.

There will be them days when all you will wish for is someone who knows your name.

You'll grow tired of being The Girl on the Train. The Young Woman in the Cafe. On them days, give people a good mystery. Find that man with the notepad and glasses. Sit down right on his lap, swipe a hand across his cheek and put a pencil between your teeth. And then get up. And walk off the train.

Give people a reason to write you into story lines and poems that gets recited in the underground coffee shops of Chicago. Make him wonder if your  name is Clare. Rita. Siobhan. Rachel. Anything but the letters your mother stacked alongside one another to call you home when the street lights came on.

There will be them days when all you have the strength to do is sit--square in the middle of the kitchen table that still holds your initials from childhood-- and pair spoonfuls of peanut butter with a carton of vanilla bean ice cream. One more bite, that's it. Just one more bite.

On them days, go for creamy until the gentle reminder pushes inward: Food won't heal you. Food won't fix you. Put the Big Spoon down, Little One. I love you too much to watch this pain.

There will be them days when you'll scrape the polish right off of your fingers. Freckles of Gold and Blue falling to the floor of the car. And you'll look down at your hands in discouragement. What do you want of me? The question will sit in your throat. What am I here for?

On them days, take out a piece of paper and write it down. All The Places Your Hands Have Been. The letters they've written. The wrists they've touched. The wounds they've bandaged. The children they've held. The stories they've grasped in their Tiny Palms.

And marvel... just marvel at the good Two Hands can bring to a world in need.

Then place those Hands of Yours upon your hips. Straighten out the creases in your sapphire blue dress. Go outside. And face the world.

Wronging Wolves with Weighted Words

I toted a serious Little Girl Crush for the Big Bad Wolf.

Something about all that huffing and puffing as a seven-year-old must have riled me up to the point where I slid Elvis Presley and Arthur the Aardvark over to make ample heart space for my “bad boy crush,” or should I say wolf?

The day I learned to love the Wolf was the day my fellow second graders and I sat down on our magical carpet and opened our ears up to our librarian as she told us the Other Side of the Story.

The side of the story where those three wretched swine were really the nasty ones, not allowing their neighbor wolf to borrow any cups of sugar. And poor, poor Wolfy had an awful case of allergies; the guy couldn’t help knocking down all those houses with such uncontrollable sneezing.

Sweet Mother of Holy Cows, I cannot tell you the guilt that sickened my stomach the day I realized I had gotten the Big Bad Wolf all wrong. Guilt that glopped up in my stomach like cheap icing from dollar store cookies.

I don’t think I knew the word “repent” at the time, but goodness, if I were Catholic I would have spent a couple days cooped up in a confessional feeling sorry for the ways in which I wronged the Wolf.

And that’s the point I want to go with today. So we really don’t need to delve further into the countless number of times I checked that storybook out of the library just to take Mr. Wolf away from the mean, mean dictators of Storybook Land who sneaked and slithered among the bookshelves and plastered him with unkind stereotypes, from his sharp teeth down to his hairy toes.

It’s how we wrong one another, no matter if that Other is a wolf or a classmate. A friend or a coworker. It’s how we get careless with Words (Words are quite powerful, don’t you think they should just make them a proper noun and get on with it?) and we use them in a way that forces others around us into teeny, tiny boxes. (And I want to talk about those miniscule boxes one day soon!)

I am firm believer that it took a brave, brave man to pile up all the Words of the world and slop them into a dictionary. So that, forever and ever, people could Use Them and Know Them and Learn from Them. But, on the adverse, Use Them Against One Another. Use Them to Cut and Kill and Cripple.

Yikes, we just got far deeper than my love affair for the Darling Wolf.

Alcoholic. Predator. Homo. Spinster. Anorexic. Homeless. Deadbeat. Dyke. Freak. Cracker. Addict. Pervert.

Jeepers, these were NOT the Words I wanted to plaster all over this post but we use these Words, and other crude combinations, to break a person’s back. To Make Them Less with Our Own Few Syllables.

I can admit it now: I’ve used the words all bunched up in my cheeks to staple someone to the ground before. Someone that I love very deeply even though I’ve often dropped the word “Addict” to force him below me. Under me. Put him right beside Dirt & Scum & gave him a Lower Life than he ever, ever deserved.

I called him an Addict out loud. And proclaimed it to people over and over again, as if to hand them the rope and ask them to help me tie the awful title to his back.

And you know what? It never propelled me any higher. It never made me any kind of Better than him. And it certainly didn’t deliver Goodness. It just built a wall higher, as these Words often do, that hindered me from loving him beyond the label.

When what I really should have done is used the time & space to tell others about my love for him. My prayers for him. The ways in which I know he can dribble and shoot better than the crowd. His passion for crime shows. The immense capacity I think he holds to get it all together and kick some ass one day soon.

Those are the kind of Words we need today. Not more hate. Not more discrimination. Not another Stupid Sentence Said to Ruin Someone Else’s Day or Week or Confidence or Ambition. Who am I to think I got planted on this earth to add more Ugliness to that pile that grows higher and higher. Over the internet. Twitter. Classrooms. Chat rooms. Lunch Tables. Highways.

I’d rather have Good Words for Ammo. Kind Words that Strike. Strong Words that lift & push & pull a person higher.

About the same time I learned about the Big Bad Wolf I must have learned the phrase: If you haven’t anything nice to say, then say nothing at all. That’s a lesson we all could learn over and over again. Don’t bring those Words around here. You take those Words outside and leave them there, leave them like a houses made poorly by Little Pigs… Walk Away and Let that Wolf Blow Them Down.

“Look,” she told my mother. “It’s me and Fred dancing.”

I wonder how we’ll dance. All of the time. I wonder if we’ll fox trot or side step. Shimmy or Waltz. If the music will come endlessly. If the record player will turn.

I picture a pearly floored ballroom. Mozart revived and stunning on the piano. God showing off his hidden talents with the strings of a cello. Mr. Blue Eyes Sinatra himself, captivating all of heaven’s dance floor with his debonair swagger and the alto roar of his voice.

But, if I want to talk about Heaven and the epic chance to finally toast my glass with Billie Holiday, I need to rest my fingers on this keyboard and tap out what comes first, the very thing that we may never come to understand for as long as we sink our feet into earthy ground.

Death.

I’ve thought a great deal about death lately, as he seems to be coming up in conversation more than I would like. Linking arms selfishly with people I believe still needed more time.  I don’t even like typing the word "death" because it seems to come weighted down with all sorts of tragic connotations. As if Sadness & Stuffiness & Discomfort are all sitting down on my keyboard, refusing to get up.

It is always when I see someone pass away, someone who seems too young or too needed in this world,  that I find myself attempting to slip into God’s shoes. Try as I might, my feet don’t even take up an inch of space in his massive Converse sneakers. I cannot even pretend to clunk around for a mile in his shoes as if I were back to the days of being Little and Girlish, playing dress up with Grandma’s night gowns and chalky, burlesque lipstick.

But, ironically, it is also always when a beautiful soul takes her leave on this earth to swoop across clouds up to Those Gates that I feel God coming up behind me-- clomp, clomp, clomp--in his converse sneakers, to whisper in my ear. “I made you for many things, child. Understanding the way my world operates was never one of them.

And once again I fall back under His Unmistakable Power. Knowing little. Understanding less. But still wishing I could explain why several Grandmas get pulled back up to the clouds before lunchtime.

I'll never know why God plants the best grilled cheese makers and advice givers all over the planet. I don’t know why he sews us into daughters and sisters, lovers and friends. Why he pulls us off this earth when our work is done. It’s a glorious thing, but it leaves holes in the human hearts, of those who loved us all the days of our lives; the ones who seem to need us here on earth, sitting beside them, holding our hands. Seeking our shoulders.

A dear member of our church passed away this week. Sitting in pews on Sunday morning, a thick layer of sadness rose up to the rafters and rolled down the aisles. Suddenly there was no denying that the world gets heavier with one less mother, one less grandma, one less distinct laugh to fill the space that calls us all to worship.

My mother visited her in the hospital a few days before her passing . She showed off her favorite photograph.  A picture of she and her husband diving and dipping across a dance floor. “Look,” she told my mother. “It’s me and Fred dancing.”

She passed two days later. Some believe she was a victim to a broken heart, her husband passing away ten months prior, but everyone knew for certain that she was ready to dance with Fred again.

Ready to dance. Beyond this world. Because standing here in heels that hurt my feet by the end of the day,  I have no choice but to believe that we were made for something more beautiful, beyond this. That, up there, somewhere over those Rainbows and all that Judy Garland once sang about, exists a place for us to dance. And jig. And wear the best red shoes. And take the hands of ones we loved and lost to finally be found over & over again. For all of eternity.

And perhaps this is the reason, poking up like sunlight from the cracks of tragedy, for being here. Maybe God shuffled us down here so we could do our best, and learn the etching of our own footprints in the sand. So we could stumble and fall and lean on him when we lose all stability. And search this life all over like blind men on the boardwalk, looking for dance partners to know our steps. Know our shuffle. Our hop. Our skip.

To practice dancing on the ground. To learn the hands and eyes that we'll go searching for long after we've parted on this earth when we get to that pearly dance floor. The piano cuts. The crowd clears. And finally, the word “forever” will exist like we have never known it before, as we are reunited with those familiar hands. They'll clasp our cheeks and pull our faces close to theirs and dip us down to touch the ground, whispering softly, "I told you darling, we'd be dancing again."

One hour before the world is destined to end, a girl will find the courage to call a boy after six years.

Some fiction to flesh out the stories that are often true.

“Hey... it's me. I hope you still know who 'me' is. I think you do, but its been a while. Almost six years."

Five Years. Nine Months. Fourteen Days. But who's counting, really?

"And normally I wouldn't call you, because we haven't talked... and you'll think I am crazy for even trying. But the world just might end in an hour and I thought this might be the best time, or the only time, to catch up. You know... Before it all ends.

And nothing that I am saying right now is making much sense at all but I just called to ask how you are doing. It's funny, I've been waiting to ask you that for nearly six years and it takes an 89-year-old preacher predicting that the world is going to end in an hour for me to actually find some kind of spine to call you up and just ask you." I play over what I will say in my head.

I am getting ready.

I am going to call you at 5p.m. today. 

May 21, 2011. 5:00p.m.

One hour before the world is destined to end a girl will find the courage to call a boy after six years. Before earthquakes tumble through hometowns and destroy playgrounds from childhood and take  down old oak trees that still play home to abandoned tree houses crooked up in their branches.

And I am going to ask, “How are you?”

How. Are. You. Three anvils coming off the tongue.

"I feel kind of silly, just blubbering to your voicemail. But I have been telling myself for the last three months that the world would end today because, well, if I didn't then I would probably never call. I wouldn't search for a reason. And I think one of us has really needed to call the other. I could be wrong. But...but..."

For the first time in 22 years, my mouth will fail me when I finally call. Completely fail me. For I know I'll want to say Ten Thousand Things all at once but I am already stuck with the task of saying them One by One.

"I don't listen to the Beatles on Sunday anymore; that was kind of your thing. And my hair color has changed three times since I last saw you but maybe you saw it on Facebook. Most people still keep in touch on Facebook. That's how I find out about all our friends' engagements and baby showers at least. Crazy; thought that might be us.

And I haven't forgotten your birthday. I know I haven't called or said anything but I never forgot it. To be honest, I still get these nervous rashes sometimes when someone even brings up your name.... I finally learned how to kayak."

I watch the numbers on the clock skip forward. Past five. Half Hour until the World Ends.

"I hope you are doing well. Really. I have only ever want the best for you but I think that wish got lost somewhere in the last few years. I hope you'll know it now. I saw your Aunt Marge last month. She might have told you that though. I really should have called years ago; that fact is not lost on me."

But a boy can cast a crazy spell on a girl's fingers when it comes time to gather up bravery by the arm load and make those fingers crawl toward the keypad and tap out his number. An area code is suddenly heavy. The number itself is nearly impossible to dial.

"I haven't decided if I want you to call me back when you get this. There will probably only be a few minutes left. So don't bother. Or maybe bother. If you feel like it. But promise me, promise me, that you won't say you miss me. Don't find a way to plop that sentence into one of my seven inboxes either. Because suddenly you'll be filling all my spaces again. And it won't last ten seconds before you pull away and begin apologizing for the mess."

This Muddy Mess called You & Me. Sometimes Us. Rarely We. Lately, these days, They & Them. Two People wandering far, far away from You & Me.

The minutes sprint towards 6:00p.m. I close my eyes. I wait.

"And please don't call me back asking to know what happened to Us ten minutes before the world goes ending."

6:00, 6:01, 6:02,

"I can tell you how it all began: We were young. We knew nothing at the time but everything in the moment. We tried. We fought. We stumbled. We didn't know better. We wanted it to work. We wanted it so bad."

6:03, 6:04, 6:05,

"Life got harder. Time taught us lessons. Pain. Jealousy. Foolishness. Resentment. Don't you remember? They all showed up to throw a Bon Voyage party for the two of us.

You chose south. I needed north. You were moving. I was shaking."

6:06, 6:07, 6:08,

"We really shouldn't spend the last ten minutes before the world ends tying all the reasons behind our own ending to red balloons. Letting them go. Watching them float up to the Solar System. We'd be left with only one reason."

6:09, 6:10.

"We both needed exits. And they needed to be graceful. I would not cry this time. You would not call. We'd grow bigger someday. But we had to learn to do it on our own."

Silence. Nothing. No ground shaking. No world crumbling. I was going to call you at 5p.m. today. An hour before the world ended and I was going to call you. 

I was going to ask, "How are you?"

I am sorry I never called. I am still wondering how you are.

This will give us enough of a good feeling, a right feeling, to go on knowing nothing at all.

My best friend smells of leather ballet slippers and lavender hand soap. 

The scent mingles with the highlights in her hair as I hug her, taking me back to the nights spent sharing secrets on hardwood dance floors while nursing the blisters that came from uptight tap shoes.

And though I file away people I have met, placing their name beside a concordance of eye colors within my head, smelling my best friend became a new addition to daily routines only after I met Maggie.

Maggie was the queen bee of the nursing home I was forced to visit during a day of service in college. Truth told, I didn't want to be spending my Saturday morning playing gin with old folks sharing stacks of Aces and Spades with the dentures sitting on both sides of me.

I made the Macho Mistake of checking my phone beneath the table while waiting for Maggie to make her move.

"I don't understand all you young people," Maggie spoke, directing her comment right at me without a tinge of hesitation. "You are always talking to one another on a screen. My grand-daughter talks to all her best friends on a screen. That is not a best friend! You need to be able to see your best friend, touch your best friend, smellllll your best friend."

Maggie will forever be the reason why, when my first child asks me for a cell phone, I will retreat to a cedar chest settled beside my bed and pull out a chalkboard like the ones the pilgrims used to practice their ABCs upon.

"Here," I will say, stringing the small board up with a bright red cord and saddling that little sucker right around my child's neck. "This is even better than text messaging. You just write that message down and pass it your friend."

Presto, handwriting practice and social interaction all in one swift swipe.

And then I will pull six more chalkboards from that cedar chest and plop them onto the table beside my child. "Here's more, in case you need to send out mass messages."

Yup, this conversation will take place right after I buy my girl her first petty coat and teach my son all the Right Ways to walk along the Yellow Brick Roads that Pave the Hearts of Young Girls: Tell her she is beautiful. Always.  Never tell her she looks big in those jeans. Buy her flowers even if there is no occasion. Admire her and do not fear being in awe of her; there is nothing more radiant to watch than a young woman who knows her way. 

But, in all seriousness, I am already fearfully watching from the car window as my children scurry onto the school bus; already pleading endlessly with the gods of socializing that they will sit beside Someone. And that they will like the bus ride adventure beside that Someone so much that they decide to share lunch with that Someone.

Their feet will grow bigger. Their hands will grow bigger.

But still, they will itch to sit with people and find Someones. And call before texting. And just show up even before calling. And know how to use those ten fingers of theirs.

Lesson Number One, my little kiddies: Your hands will never feel so full and so well used as when they find themselves enveloped and interlocked with those of another soul in need. 

Another Restless, Itchy Soul who needs Love. Well, don't we all need love? We might not know much of what we want in this life, nevermind what we actually need, but we know enough to distinguish how it feels to rest our heads on Certain Shoulders or to be wrapped up tight into Certain Arms. And let's face it, no one told us we had to know everything so I think that sticking to knowing Shoulders & Arms & Ten Fingers and the power behind them is plenty.

Because that will give us enough of a good feeling, a right feeling, to go on knowing nothing at all.

No, I don't want my children to miss out on that. To miss out on Certain Shoulders and Life Changing Conversations because their noses are super glued to Kindles or their minds are surfing the Internet ten thousand miles away from the dinner table they are sitting at. Their Faces Illuminated by the Glow of the Screen from Beneath Them. 

I want them to know certain things that will never be unearthed from a pile of mobile devices, certain things that I believe will define their lives and leave them without worry as to what this life is actually for: the way it feels to say sorry in person instead of cowering behind an email address. The way it feels to gush over another human being without fear of being cut off after 140-characters. The way it feels to sit beside someone with Palms Sweating and Heart Racing; feeling so awkward, so uncomfortable, so anxious but so incredibly alive. 

Lord knows one day I will be sitting in the same spot as Maggie, preaching to a restless youngin' of the days when we still received letters in the mail and we trotted over to the neighbors to borrow a cupcake tin.

Cupcake tins, neighbors, and handwritten letters may all be extinct by the time I play gin with young college students.

But perhaps they will learn from me what Maggie so graciously taught in her preaching of smelling best friends: we have precious time upon us; spend it with friends. There is laughing to be heard, names to be learned, manners to be used and friends to be pulled in after a long spell of "Missing," transporting you right back to the days of lavender soap and sitting on dance room floors.

I’d string the trees in Central Park with Yellow Bows for you.

She was fidgeting with the elevator buttons when the tears for you rolled through.

I knew upon the first slow trickle, down blush-applied pink cheeks,

that the herds of salty soldiers marching from my eyelids

were all for you today.

Untamable tears. Terribly Untamable, Mysterious Tears.

They might be my only offering to this world.

They might be just the start.

I let the tears scamper for a moment,

like restless children tumbling to see the first gleam of spring.

Propelling down over humps that were once

the bane of a chubby cheek existence.

Searching in my mind for ways to turn

Each Drop of Salt into Characters that sit Metallic in Blank Word Documents.

Because crying doesn’t solve anything,

(my mother taught me that one)

but words can do some good.

You held up a piece of cardboard two days ago and I knew it then.

Homeless. Veteran. Iraq.

These three words would call me to my knees one day soon.

Black Tights on Tile Flooring Praying for Men with Foreign Soil Beneath Their Boots.

My mind left stirring over a cup of coffee we never had.

Envisioning you taking me from start to finish.

Tell me the story of how a young man,

waking only to lie down for his country,

encounters that same sleepy-eyed country when its time to cradle him home.

When he fights well. Does Good.

Shouldn't "thank you" be a phrase that

Drops Endlessly Off Our Tongues?

Thank. You. You. You.

I’m no politician. No picketer. No rebel.

My combat boots are all for show. Fashion, really.

No agenda. No protests. No Crude Words for Magazines.

I cannot talk Libya or Japan when I just want to talk humanity.

I cannot banter over military industrial complexes

when I simply want to know, adding sugar as you speak:

How did the air feel in your hair over there?

Whose arms folded you inward during tented dreams at night?

Whose laughter are you longing for? I know it’s not mine.

When did you start missing it?

Tell me the pitch.

Verbalize the tone.

You'd speak and I'd categorize your eye color into the

running concordance in my mind. Maybe the Blue Files.

Perhaps the Ambiguous Hazels.

Scripting you deep into the front line in the notepad memory

of a Syllable Seamstress with Untamable Tears.

It’s not much but sometimes we need that:

for someone else to remember our eye color.

Remember something about us.

And let their minds return back to it after longer days.

I’m going back today.

If I see you, I will ask you out to coffee.

Knees sunk into the floor of a 43rd street office space.

Turning tears into syllables for you. Asking words to be

brave enough to speak for a hero like you.

Wishing those Words Would Unravel into

Miles Upon Miles of Yellow Ribbon.

I’d string the trees in Central Park with Yellow Bows for you.

Fresh Yellow Bows. To remind the World that a Foot Soldier Came Home.

That a Foot Soldier with Blue Eyes Came Home.

And so who will fetch the water to clean the mud from his tired boots?