I received an email the other day from a reader currently in the middle of “Come Matter Here.” She asked a really great question, one I’ve wrestled with a great deal. She wrote to me, “I was wondering where you draw the line between planting your roots down to grow and “being where your feet are” and let’s just say, for instance, moving to the beach for a year. I love to travel and be spontaneous and I guess I was just wondering if it is bad to do that?”Read More
I mean, I wonder if the hands that made that sweatshirt ever juggled with the idea that an eighteen year old girl, probably countries away, would one day grip that sweatshirt like it was oxygen and her existence all mashed up in the cotton material.Read More
Change is not a trick-or-treater. Isn't that the scary part? Change knows exactly what it wants when it comes to your door. It’s you. Your whole body. Your whole being. The parts of yourself you said you didn’t want to release so soon.Read More
Goodbye is the fear-- temporary and real-- that we’ve carried for years up until that one word-- short & stout-- made it all tip over and all pour out: I am afraid to leave. I am afraid to change. Can you just keep me here? Can we never move? I’m afraid you will forget me. I’m afraid I’ll be forgotten in a room full of people who always seem to be remembered.Read More
I just discovered your blog like a week ago, I couldn't even tell you how it happened, but I definitely needed it. You probably get a million of these emails all the time, but I am writing you because I am just in the worst place right now. I feel like I have the world's hugest broken heart, and I'm constantly fighting it, day after day.Read More
I’ve started calling them the “fishing lines of loneliness.” The ways we bait one another into communication because we are all so afraid of what would really happen if the screen shut off and we had to face ourselves. Alone. Single. Separate from the wreckage of relationships we should have said goodbye to yesterday.Read More
When I graduated from college, there were people who said things that hurt me so.
They never intended to prick me. Their hope was never to harm me with their stacking of words. But me, I’ve always been too sensitive of a soul, skipping the heart-on-sleeve sewing to chuck my heart on the concrete for others like the throwing of candy at the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
So when they told me I would be the kind of girl who walked in and out of others’ lives I simply told them no. No, I would be rooted. No, I would stay. And when they told me I would be the kind of girl to never look back at them I told them no. No, I would be turning my head back more than they could count. No, I would be spinning round & round to find them.
They were right.
I have become the kind of girl who walks in and out of others’ lives. I am there for moments. I am standing upon a stage and I am delivering some sort of message, mixed and mingled with poetry my Mama raised me on, before I am leaving, unhooking the microphone and walking away. I am finished in twenty minutes. And I am boarding a flight. And I am heading home. And I am going to do it all again next week.
What they never told me—when they said I’d be the girl to swoop in & then out, in & then out—is that I would be the one to hear the door slam the loudest. Always. I would be the one left standing by the door.
I’m sitting in a café with a friend, scraping my eggs across a plate because I don’t feel much like eating. And I don’t feel much like talking.
This was the first time that I felt a little broken while my plane was on the runway. This is the first time I have come home feeling a little bit hollow from walking away.
She asks me, “What do you think is the toughest part of your job?” She’s expecting something different than the answer I will give her. She’s expecting me to say finances, or delegation, or knowing what to charge for this or knowing how to balance that. She’s waiting for the nitty gritty details to splurge from my lips.
I say, “The hardest part is leaving.” There is a pregnant pause as I place down my fork and find the place to curl my hands around the coffee mug for comfort. “The hardest part is leaving a place when you only want to stay for a little while longer.”
It’s the thing that people never notice about my job. It’s the thing they never see when the Instagram is filled with travels and the Twitter is stocked up with 140-charactered fragments that tell of a girl living out her dreams. And while I never take my life for granted, it’s the oddest thing in the world to be singled out and set apart for your story. It’s the craziest feeling to spark people and push people with your words and then walk away to do it over again in another space and another place.
I crave connection wherever I am but it hurts to get to know the faces because always, always, you are wondering, will I see this one again?
And if the answer is no, if I never see you past the lights shining down on me and the theatre closing in all around my echoing voice, will I know how to let you go? Will I know how to want the very best for you? Will I know how to release this sadness that trembles in my throat at the thought of saying goodbye before there ever was a decent stack of hellos?
There’s a grey I can’t quite understand for moments that don’t last longer than our fingernails. There’s a sadness that thickens when I walk away from a place, or from good people. There is a loneliness only I know that comes from sharing a story to a room packed to the balconies with faces and knowing that not a single one of them can follow where you go.
“You can bring home the souvenirs,” I tell her. “But never the people. I think that’s the toughest part.”
And as we sit in silence there is irony dancing in the air as Rihanna’s latest song crawls through the speakers like a slow and mangled lullaby. I feel like crying. I feel like pursing my lips together and curling my hands into fists. I feel raw and sad to be living inside a Tuesday that hasn’t thought to schedule coffee dates with the sunlight all afternoon.
She sings about staying. About wanting someone to stay for reasons she can’t understand. And for once, I feel like she is singing about something we all know. Her voice is slow. Her melody is lonely.
When she sings it, we all mean it, “I want you to stay.”
When you read this, just remember that you are hearing from a girl who believed in a Grey Kind of Love Story far longer than she believed in the exiled Sugarplum who trudged away from the ballet for a career in swapping teeth for silver under pillows near midnight.
This girl, she once prayed for Grey Love Stories the way a little boy prays to catch the soaring leather skin of a Yankee’s homerun hit. White-Knuckled Prayers for Grey Kinds of Love Stories.
She was a girl who thought that grey was a pretty, little color fitting for a love story. Someone could you love in shades of gray, she said to the No Ones of the night.
She? Well, she once talked for days just to keep from saying the two words that needed her tongue, needed the air outside of her mouth, needed the lobe of a boy who didn’t love her the way they Love One Another Hard in those vampire movies.
Them’s heavy words. Heavy like the bags assembled by the clumsy grocery store clerk who’s prone to packing the gallon of milk with the cans of corn and lentils.
Heavy enough to make you wonder if your tongue can take it.
If your lips might break it.
Knees shaking against the dashboard, she found the those words somewhere along the rows of houses all drawn on the same architect’s sketch pad.
Pull over, pull over, pull over.
Girl, you got to find the strength to grab the door handle. Girl, you got to stand beside the car and watch him pull away and realize you still got the dignity, the will, the Know How to Know Better. That you deserve that.
You Deserve Better.
Girl, I know the way you’ll find it hard to Pull Away. From Him. As he pulls you in and tells you, he always did like the smell of the lavender shampoo you used in your hair.
But Grey, if you cannot see her yet, she’s the Maybe’s, the Some Other Time’s, the I Can’t Make It’s, the Promise I’ll Make It Up To You’s.
All clustered into One Grand Excuse for why he never called and why you stood in those heels that gave you blisters far before you ever got to dancing and waited for the car that never came.
It's like a person who will tell you Every Day that they might think to love you One Day.
And there you’ll go, marching off to join the crows of girls who ache for the One Day. Perched up on the fence for that One Day, as if they were waiting for Elvis to appear from his dressing room.
But you are not a One Day Girl. You are not a Maybe Girl. You are an Every Day Girl and you need to know it so.
Girl, keep the grey for the dyed threads of your chunky sweaters. Keep the grey for the furs of the mouse that always grows restless beneath your refrigerator around 10pm. Keep the grey for the days that demand rain boots, but don’t let grey lend you a love story.
Grey just aint a color made for telling love stories. No girl wants to say, “And then the grey seeped in.”
And Girl, if you got to scream, Scream Loud. If you got to cry, Cry Buckets. If you got to run, Try Barefoot. And, if you got to find a way to wash him away, Then Wash. Hard.
You sit in the middle of your bathtub and pour out every squirt of lavender shampoo if you got to.
If you never want to find Another to tangle that scent of you in their fingers, fine. Leave that then. But leave all the same.
Leaving knowing One Day you’ll look up. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow. But One Day, you’ll look up and it’ll be Yellow. All Kinds of Terra Cotta Gold & Tie Dye. With no trace of grey.
You’ll have left that color for your sweaters. For the days that demand rain boots.
And your love stories, they'll be Salmon Pink. Candy Apple Red. All sorts of Deep Magenta tangled with hints of Navajo White.
“No man is ever gonna chase you through an airport,” my mother told me on my 25th birthday.
At the time, it was 25 years that I’d managed to live just fine without you.
“He might wish he could chase you through an airport, you are certainly pretty enough for that. But he won’t dare stand at Gate 16 and lose all his manhood for a girl who’d never stay.”
Little girls learn to suck and swallow their mothers’ words like throat lozenges. You should probably know now, I gritted my teeth into those very words nearly every night of knowing you, wondering in the dark when you’d turn to leave. Turn and slam the door and leave me breathing or maybe some kind of breathless on the other side, saying, “That door has never quite sounded this way before.” Never so hollow. Never so cold.
But my mother was right, because of who I am and what I won’t sacrifice, I’ll be the kind of girl who has to stand at Gate 16, staring down at her shoes, asking a part of her heart if it will still remain when the plane’s wheels kiss Beijing’s runway.
That part of her heart that’s sitting in a window seat right now. Ordering a glass of wine to take the edge off. Inserting ear plugs. Left. Then. Right. That part of her heart that is already learning that holding on was a foolish thought to begin with. That part of her heart that is reversing steps and spelling words backwards: oG reH teL reH TsuJ
I’m about 600 yards away from you right now.
A few gates.
Two security guards.
A couple of steps.
And a long aisle away from you.
It’s not really romantic. I didn’t expect to catch you at the last moment. You are so prompt, so timely, that you make these kinds of “don’t go, hurdling over suitcases in an effort to get to you before the gate closes” kind of scenes impossible.
But I am here, 600 yards away from you. Feeling like I’ve already placed a couple countries between us. Uruguays of Unsaid Words. Senegals of Stupid Fights. Mexicos of Mixed Emotions. Koreas & Chinas & Japans of Where the Heck Did I Go So Wrong?
And I am sorry. Like Africa. Sorry like Montreal. Sorry as the whole Indian Ocean, bloated after swallowing the Pacific for a midnight snack.
Sorry because I don’t need you. I really don’t. And the last thing I want to tell you is that I need you. And so I’ll tell you that I don’t. I. Don't. Need. You.
Stop, please stop.
Stop and decide to stop right there. Go back on me like a road map that one gave you a hidden turn. Read me one more time; find me in the lines one last time. Find that I don't mean it, under the apostrophe like rocks in the garden. Climb to the top of the “d” and jump down to the “y,” to see the strength it's taking me to Slip from my Pride like a Silk Dress and stand Needing before you.
I don't deserve it. I know. I shouldn't have you. I get it. I'm barely breathing here. It's scary. I'd like to walk away. "Like to" is a keyword. I'll let you down? Probably. You'll do the same? Surely. But I am better with you. I actually believe that. Better needing you.
And I am standing here. 600 yards away from you.
I didn't get to chase you through the airport. No hurdling the suitcases to grasp you. But I'd be willing... for the first time, I Am Willing. If you'll have me.
She let me go.
Turned up the volume of the stereo when she saw the first traces of salt begin scraping down my cheeks.
She asked no questions.
She already knew: Some Wednesdays are made for bowing down to the Waterworks. Welling up. Washing outward.
Some Wednesdays were made for all the “W” Words Welding together to Whisper in your ear the Very Verbs to obey that day: Whimper. Wail. Wallow. Welp.
Some Wednesdays were made for Washing Away like the stains in silk blouses the moment you hear Adele, her alto voice bellowing through the radio. She's practically Warning you with each strike of a chord, “The next chorus will get those eye sockets of yours good.”
I cried for a solid 3 minutes and 46 seconds yesterday. It may have been longer. May have been shorter. Led by Lyrics to a Desperate Point of needing to let it all out, screaming at the sadness, "You can't stay here no more."
The Whole time I stared directly ahead of me at the Windshield Wipers sloshing. Back & Forth. Back & Forth.
And I’ll be honest, I wasn’t thinking about the pain or the memories that will become of all this in the next few weeks, I was simply Wondering why something as small as a few Words can be so capable of pinning my spirit to the ground like the three-time Winner in the championship Wrestling match, collapsing me into a sobbing mess. Why, oh why, cant I just Hold It All Together? God, please. I need to be strong today.
I guess I wouldn't need a God if I knew how to be strong when the radio comes on and pain folds out into my lap like a Geisha's fan.
You and I, We wouldn’t need much of anything. No friends to Whisper full with our secrets. No mystery "Somebody" to explore over coffee dates and Walks in the Park. None of that. None of that “human stuff” if we could Live this Strange Thing on our own.
So I take the fact that I can fall & fold over a few lines of a song--"I'd go hungry, I'd go black and blue. I'd go crawling down the avenue"-- as a sign that I am Helpless. Hopeless. In need of a hero on a daily basis. Without that, I’ll make it about 5 steps out the door before I spill my coffee, forget my computer in the back seat of the car, take the wrong train or miss the shuttle. I’ll last fifteen minutes, one tragic turn of events, one bout of bad news before I admit it: I am nothing by myself. Nothing without conversation. Without prayer. Without knowing that when I cry, really bawl my eyes out, I am not alone.
So tell me that you ache too. I need to know you are searching. I have to, have to, have to believe that the second I fall and stumble and find difficulty in understanding this World and How She Operates that you’ll be coming around the corner, and you’ll be shuffling me to a place where we can turn our heads upward. And you’ll tell me in so many syllables, or no words at all, that you’ve been here before. And that Human Hands are Worthless if not knit by Something Bigger that sees us hurting and weakened by the shortness of this life.
And that there is no route but that it gets easier. Eventually. Eventually. And if it doesn’t get easier that the grip of your hand will only get tighter. Only Get Tighter When I Start to Slip.
I have to know that at the end of the day, in a Life that won’t ever promise you a Tomorrow like it gave you a Yesterday, that at least I won’t have to cry alone. That Windshield Wipers can Swing & Swing. The rain can fall down and blur the headlights. But that you’ll just sit beside me. Turn up the stereo. Ask no questions for that 3 minutes and 46 seconds. Just Let Me Wash It All Away.
Q1: Will the world stop turning?
A1: Absolutely not.
In fact, I think she might spin even quicker with one less name to weigh down a diary at night.
She’d command the Sun to rise up as always, leading & guiding us reckless children throughout the day, letting the Stars take a shift in teaching us how to dream at night.
There’d still be Places to Go and New Faces to Learn. Memorize Them until they fall into some kind of “Familiar” in the Accordion File Folders of the Soul.
No, no, the world would still find reason to turn, even without you.
Q2: Will you still have reason to live?
A2: Reason to live? Well no… Because, well, what is living anyway besides standing here with lungs that operate and a heart that beats so unreliably?
Living is for the boring creatures who think breathing is the kind of thing you scratch off the to-do list each day.
But I’d find reasons to wake up and place two feet down on the floor. If that’s what you are asking? Reason to walk outside and greet the people at the bakery, secretly imagining myself with all the pastry makers laughing, saying over breakfast croissants, “We found reason to get up today!”
I’d find the same old reasons to greet the doorman and say please when asking for the morning paper. I’d find reason to still stop and watch the street performers, wishing I could follow them when they close up their guitar cases at the end of a day. Watch them purchase pears & tobacco from the coins they get as gratitude for making angels come out the trees in Central Park. It takes a special kind of person to lure the angels out in Central Park. A special pair of lips, blessed to blow the heck out of a music note.
I can surely assure you, I’d still have reason to live, even without you.
Q3: Will you find another?
A3: Another? Another? An. Other? Oh absolutely. In no time. An. Other. On the street corner. An. Other. In the market.
Darling, you are not another to me.
If it were possible, I’d surely take the “O” and the “N” and the “E” from within that faceless word.
That is what I think when your name comes up in conversation and I am suddenly stumbling over envy because someone had the chance to bring you up first.
One. None like you. Singular. Like the plural ran away, as street children run from the cops, the second you scrawled my first piece of homework at the top of a blank composition notebook.
We had August.
That’s what I always think. August: a month where I didn’t memorize a single vocabulary word. Though my mother hired you for that. But I memorized the Grooves in your Grin. The Lull in your Walk. The Way your Eyes Stayed on Me, Hours After Parting. They stayed like sweet cherry stains on my fingertips.
Yes, yes, I’d uncover One Million Others… but never the One that was You from that very first day.
Will the world still turn?
Will I still find reason to live?
Will I find another?
You’ve asked me three good questions. I think I’ve answered them well. Now answer me my one before you slip to the door with your suitcase packed tight:
Did staying ever cross your mind?
I became a loser at the age of nineteen in a 1999 forest green CRV.
It's almost crazy to know that with just the slamming of a car door you could lose the one who knew all your pet peeves and favorite song lyrics. That was the last they’d ever know of you, just those moments before the slam.
For a moment I prayed the door might never slam. And then I prayed for the resolve to know the truth: there was no other way.
It was after I reversed down the steep driveway that I noticed the two yellow lines on the roadside for the first time and the fact they did not touch. Same direction but separate in their getting there.
I’ve never admitted it but I sat in the middle of the road that night and put my hand between the two yellow lines, as if to forge a bridge between them. As if I knew those two yellow lines needed a bridge.
So you lost, I’d say to the girl sitting in the roadside with her head hung in her lap and her tiny hand placed between painted yellow lines. You lost. You lost. You lost. You lost. You lost.
But you know what, the world is still turning and some might even argue that its spinning faster than ever before. And if you just turned the corners of your lips upward a nudge then you’d still have a brilliant smile to show for yourself. And I am willing to bet that if you just tilted your head a bit, that strand of hair would fall between your nose and your eye and give someone reason to call you beautiful from nearly two miles away.
This kind of Losing can happen when you give someone your Time & Stories & Deep Seated Fears. They suddenly become a Singular, the Plural scattering away like teenagers running from the cops. Like a pack of boys sweating through their dress shirts as they skirt to the outsides of the dance floor while you stand in the middle. Hair curled. Palms on a plum purple dress. All the symptoms of a Taylor Swift ballad running through body. Everyone else falls away for a boy in a grey tie and clean khaki pants.
And Singular is more dangerous than Plural, little girl. You have many more chances to lose a Single thing. You’ll miss a Single thing much more.
That’s the risk that sits at the table when Two Messy Souls learn to lean on one another and put love into action. After those first touches, losing will always be a haunter. A ghoulish, ghost. A sugar-induced child with a sheet over his head, two holes cut out for eyes, eventually ringing your doorbell to collect his candy.
So you are a loser, little girl. A loser. You might not know it now, but one day it will be lovely. Lovely because you’ll have learned how to find again.
You’re looking at me crazy as if I don’t know what the days ahead will be like.
Oh, I’ll warn you, there will be days where you’ll wake up, put on your shoes, and walk outside, fearing that the whole world can see a crater sitting in the middle of you. As if they are all just shaking their heads and thinking to themselves, something perfect used to fit right there.
And there might be days where you stay crumpled up in the sheets because you really just want to roll over and find a Familiar Head of Tossled Hair on the pillow beside you, not the foggy remains of a dream that you only want to share with that same Familiar Head of Tossled Hair.
I can promise it gets easier, the world eventually stops parading around you wearing memories of the Two of You like chunky costume jewelry.
I could tell you, though I know you would not agree, that you’ll thank the Good Lord one day for making you a loser. For bringing you to your knees and breaking your heart.
You know, I have to believe we were made to be losers. We were made to lose: friends, lovers, ourselves. Not always, but sometimes.
Because, like I said before, with Losing always comes the Finding. Finding that you couldn’t fix it. Finding that you tried. Finding the Goodness where you thought only Bitter lived. Finding you are better as the hours pass by.
Finding you won’t ever let it get this far again, finding you are happy to start over and uncover the passion and mystery waiting for you in the folds of your surroundings.
Finding that Hansel and Gretel, they were smart to leave breadcrumbs. To retrace the places they had been if only to get back to a place called home.
Finding that two yellow lines painted on a roadside don’t cross paths for a reason. Maybe we’ll never know the reason but does it really even matter? Though they never touch, the two lines always seem to be getting exactly where they need to be.
I expected to walk away from that day with Two Elbows caked in the sheer leftovers of salt water, Two Feet covered in a thick layer of sand, and Two Eyes quite ready to lock up their doors and close for the night. Instead, I walked away with a handful of rocks and what is surely the best lesson I have learned on "Holding On & Letting Go," taught to me by a four-year-old geologist in a frilly red Dora bikini.
She and I had been walking down the endless stretch of beach for hours. Long enough for a sunburn to begin teasing the backs of both our necks.
Her Tiny Hand found a suitable hiding spot within mine; her fingers stealthily hidden within the folds of the embrace.
“This one, this one,” she squealed, breaking away to pick up yet another Ordinary Rock. She placed it amongst a collection of similar Sand Stranded Siblings, now piled into the fold of her Beach Diva Satchel, newly converted from my grey tank top.
“Audrey….” I hesitated, the load starting to weigh me down. We now "owned" practically every rock on the beach.
“Wait, wait. I know,” she said, putting her hands out in front me. “Sit here.” She motioned to the grounding, sitting first, and then proceeded to instruct me in dumping out the pile of rocks onto the sand.
There we sat for fifteen minutes picking and choosing our rocks.
Bringing some home.
Leaving some behind.
This one but not that one.
That one but not this one.
A process intricate enough to compare with the patterns of Marc Jacob as he picks a final line-up for his runway shows during Fashion Week in Paris.
Remarkable. Scientific. Intentional.
It is when I watch a girl—one who has only played on this earth for a little more than a thousand days—bury rocks in the sand as if they she were tucking each of God’s children into bed that I realize that life is a delicate, delicate thing. That letting go is essential. That holding on is sometimes worse. That picking between the two is hard. And I choose to type “hard” instead of “arduous” or “troublesome” because it is only four letters. And four letters is simple. And keeping the adjective simple is a way to underskirt all the complications that really come with the acts of Letting Go & Holding On.
I would adore the chance to kid myself, to make myself believe that mastering the art of efficient emailing and text messaging will enable me to hold every single person I have ever met in the palm of my hand; a way to possibly hold onto a person forever just by dropping a line every once in a while. I'll make believe that I would rather attend ten thousand coffee dates instead of ever folding for the one who memorizes my order: Grande Skim Misto with a Shake of Cinnamon.
Satchel Every Human Being That Crosses My Path.
I could squeeze close friends into side flaps, lovers into secret compartments, strangers into the netted pockets made for water bottles.
But I tend to believe it would get Too Heavy. Too Full. Too Much. And I would then need to unload; find ways to spare my heart from splitting into 5,000 Too Tiny Pieces in order to give Big Chunks to the people who really deserve them.
Big Chunks (noun) (plural): stories; childhood memories; unflattering bad habits (i.e. snapping chewing gum); thoughts on food; dreams; life longings; quirky cravings, see: ‘peanut butter at midnight’ and ‘falafel on a Sunday morning’; ambitions; doubts; secrets; secrets intertwined with vulnerability; secrets intertwined with shame; best jokes; baggage; insecurities; etc.
Big Chunks. Jeepers. That’s absolutely petrifying.
But in a world where we a) wonder so much b) do so much c) cry so much d) talk so much e) live so much d) fear so much, it is only sane to allow a certain few to read us & hold us like paperback novels. Read all the parts of what often looks like a misshapen story.
And then take us in regardless...
After that long day. After that hard winter.
These are the people who value the ways in which we make room for them and they, in turn, scoop us up into their satchel and choose to never let us down. They are the ones who become our Rocks. Our Support. Our Reason to Wake Up, Stretch, Send a Prayer Upward for them and Then Walk Forward because of them.
Delicate, I say.
Beautiful, I believe.
Risky, of course.
Heart Breaking? In some ways.
But Only in the Best Way.