Give up the ghosts.

Give up the ghosts.

We’ve got ghosts in our midst. This much I know. I’ve read the emails from you. I’ve listened to the horror stories. I’m familiar with the present-day "ghosting" we’ve got going on. 

There are no white bed sheets with holes poked out for eyes but there are blue-eyed boys who don’t text back and girls who act as if you never existed as they delete their presence from your life after a second date. 

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Single for the season.

I spent the last hour googling "single during the holiday season" and clicking in and out of articles. The stories were pretty much all the same. How to survive the holiday season. Things to do when you're single. The articles start the same way, with cheesy puns about adding extra fa-la-la-la into your season. The slew of articles is really pretty pathetic for how weighty this feeling of "singleness" can be when December rolls around.

So you're here. And you're reading this. And maybe you're the single one.

Valentine's Day is one day on the calendar but, for some reason, the holiday season feels like two long months of social awareness for the single people in the room.

And maybe Hallmark Movies don't make it any better because all these fiercely handsome men and seemingly perfect women keep colliding into one another in the old haunts of their hometowns while you're just shoving more cookies into your mouth and ordering pizza from UberEats.

Scoot over on the couch, pass me a cookie, and let's do this thing. 

 

...

First things first, you're fine. If I had a quarter for every person who tried to tell me to be jolly about my singleness then I wouldn't be writing anymore. I would likely be retiring and celebrating my newfound wealth on a beach in Mexico.

Reminder #1: Don't cut the person who tells you this. 

Reminder #2: you don't have to be jolly. It doesn't have to be a thing.

People mean well when they say this sort of stuff. But if the awkwardness were to be stripped from every "single at the holidays" conversation then I would just come out and tell you this: Hey, it's absolutely okay if you're hurting. You can be disappointed. You are allowed to want to shove couples frolicking together at the mall. Your rage is welcome here.

It's okay to think it should be your turn by now. No one is going to hate you if you turn off the notifications this Christmas Eve. If seeing pictures of rings at Christmas is going to make you go ballistic then let's take a step back and go from there.

You are allowed to grieve for what you don't yet have. Singleness sometimes looks like mini skirts and cocktails. Sometimes singleness feels like grief and longing we haven't learned to manage yet. We need to have better conversations about singleness. It's okay to be single and yet waiting to not be. Just because you're waiting doesn't mean life hits the pause button. There's a difference.

 

...

Your singleness is not a scorecard. It doesn't have the permission to rate you or degrade you. You are not defined by a ring-less left hand. I'm married now so maybe you think I don't get to say these things anymore but I've been taking notes. I took notes throughout my singleness and now I am taking notes throughout the marriage and I can tell you one thing that never changes, no matter how your marital status may shift: a person never fills the holes only God, himself, was made to occupy.

In some ways, I believe God made the holes on purpose. Chiseled them deep. Dug them wide. Gave us a spirit to want, so badly, to fill those holes with something of value and worth. When we see the holes, we realize we are in need of something. We are in need of something better than this mediocre world. I think we were created with a need to taste heaven, even in the smallest doses.

 

...

There was a time when I thought a guy would change that. I thought the right combination of blue eyes and 5'8 stature would fix me. I found myself craving all the attention I could get. I found myself wanting to be wanted. I thrived off of desire. It didn't matter to me if I wasn't planning longterm with the man, I just wanted someone to see me, call me beautiful, and hold the door open.

Wanting isn't wrong. Where I went wrong was picking any man, any guy off Tinder, to make me feel valuable. I could never stand in front of an imperfect man and ask him to give me worth. Your value, dear, will never come from someone sitting across the table from you. A person can accentuate your value. A person can call you to a higher confidence in yourself. A person can call out your greatness and make you feel beautiful. But a person cannot hand you all the validation you so desperately want.

I would learn eventually-- after a series of bad dates-- that another person could never complete me. We were made to complement but not complete someone else. That's too big of a role and our backs would break trying.

 

...

I'm not going to jettison a list of 5 activities you can do while being single this season because, honestly, reading a list like that when I was single would have depressed me. I was single out enough already. I didn't want to be singled out by stigmas too.

So here's all I'll say: wallow if you want. Cry if you need to. No one is going to stop you. The greatest freedom I ever claimed from the most wonderful time of the year was the ability to say, "It's okay if I don't feel wonderful. I'm still here and that's what matters."

Your purpose isn't on pause just because you're single this year. You could be single your whole life, and still, this world would need something from you. It would tap its worldly foot and look at its worldly watch and wonder, "Is that person still waiting for the relationship to come? There was so much we could have done in the meantime."

The world still needs you to pick up the phone and do your thing. Not an inch of your passion need be drained away based on a relationship status. There are still cards to write out and people to encourage. There are still shelters in need of extra volunteers and people who feel so heartbroken they aren't sure if they will be able to handle the season this year.

Whether you see it or not, you're like this tiny gold thread that's bobbing and weaving through the stories of other people. You might not be in every story but, if you keep your eyes wide open this year, then you won't miss the ones that need your touch. Your golden thread.

 

...

Eyes wide open. No matter what. Whether you are single or married, dating or engaged, we all need a reminder to have eyes wide open this time of year. The season will go by fast. I'm probably the 12th person to say that to you this year. But I think back to the reason why I celebrate Christmas. I tell myself, don't miss the point. Don't miss the point of this.

I've lived too long at this point-- seen too many things-- to believe in coincidences and accidents. I know there is purpose here. I know God is at work. But I also know that every conversation I avoided could have taught me something and every event I go to has the power to change me. That's what happens when you step out into the world and you look around-- you start to change. You morph. You become someone new. And maybe, just maybe, that "someone new" is the person you were meant to be when you meet the "someone new" who ends of wanting to partner with you. You never know. I know it took a lot of fights, battles, friendships, and moves to get me to the place where I met Lane and felt ready to love him with all the selfish and unselfish parts of me. I had to let the world change me before I could change the way I loved someone else.

We get this one chance. It's this one, rare chance to be living, breathing creatures for a little while on this planet. And as we go, we get this chance to love people until it breaks our hearts and we go mad for one another. We get to scour the planet for treasure. We get to make bucket lists. We get the chance to commune. We get to define the purpose and make plans. There is a massive list of "get to"s that we get to do and we waste so much of that time on feeling like we are incomplete. Feeling inadequate. Feeling underqualified.

This is it for me. This is it for you. We might not get this season again so we should try to shake the fear off our shoulders and get busy with love. Fear wants to keep us isolated. Love wants to keep us busy.

Tis' the season of joy. And maybe you won't feel it the whole way through. Maybe it will only come in quick spurts. But calm your little, worried heart and keep on the lookout for peace and light. Repeat this truth beneath your breath as you go:

you're not missing any piece of you. 

you're not missing any piece of you. 

you're not missing any piece of you. 

 

Why it doesn't matter if you met (or meet) online.

Lane and I met on a dating application.

The name of the application is called Hinge. My friend from New York City recommended it to me at the start of 2015.

"I've been on a couple of good dates," she said. "They have jobs. Real jobs."

It's sad to think that a 'real job' is a thing you find yourself looking for in a partner these days.

 

I downloaded the application on the floor of her living room on January 1. We'd just come back from a diner where we mapped out our year and I was feeling lucky and ambitious. I set my search settings to Atlanta and I started to scroll.

Mind you, I was in the middle of thick depression when I downloaded that dating app. My feelings and emotions were a jumble of really high and rock-bottom low that winter. Me being on a dating application was probably not the healthiest choice and I soon realized that a couple of days later. I deleted the application.

It's not that I didn't want to meet someone. I just knew in my gut that the words I needed to repeat to myself were, "not now." Not now. Get healthy. Get happy. Get sane. Get better. Get "anything" before you start believing a guy with a full set of teeth and a real job is going to fix you.

I ignored the idea of that dating application for another nine months.

 

My first year out of college, I wanted to be in love. I thought I would be one of those people who got married young. I'm happy God didn't have the same plan for me because my husband would have starved to death in wrinkled clothing during our second month of marriage.

I don't want to say I wasn't in touch with reality back then but I really wasn't. I saw everything through the eyes of a dreamer. I believed I would meet someone in a romantic clash of serendipity. I wrote this really whimsical blog post about how I didn't support online dating because I believed I would meet someone in a more unexpected fashion. Somewhere like aisle seven of the grocery store where we would bump carts and then exchange awkward words before he asked me to dinner.

I remember getting a blog comment from a reader who was offended by my piece. She told me she and her husband had met through online dating and there was nothing less magical about their story than the idea of two people meeting in the oatmeal aisle.

 

I sat down to write this today because I know there is a stigma floating in the air about meeting online. I don't know why the stigma exists but I think it's because we don't watch people in the movies meet online and fall in love. Rarely. We consume the unexpected crossings. We consume the scenes where two people end up in the same place at the same time and everything changes.

I wrote this because your love story is great and important, even if it hasn't happened yet. You aren't wrong to want to try out a dating application or make a profile on Match.com. That's not crazy. You can do it. But I wouldn't be a good friend to you if I didn't ask you a more important question: is this what you need right now? Are you healthy and are you ready?

Relationships change things. Hearts are fragile. Humans are no different when you fall in love with them-- no matter if we meet in a grocery store or in a chatroom. Make sure you are ready enough to bring your heart into the relationship before you swipe right.

 

Love stories happen everywhere. It's important to note that. If we have a scale of what's more magical and what's more deserving of our applause then we are missing the point of love. The most beautiful thing that happens in a love story is two people choosing one another. I don't think we should care how that happens, or where that happens, so much as we should be expectant and praying that it happens for the people we love. We should be more invested in people's daily fights to keep one another, not the "how we met" story.

We become entitled. We get jealous and it's hard to want good things for people when we haven't yet seen them for ourselves. I think we miss the point we start to believe life is a story all about our expectations being met.

 

 

I remember one of the former contestants on the Bachelor telling a story about how she met her last boyfriend on a plane. It was such a serendipitous moment. For years, as they dated, she kept waiting to fully fall in love. She wanted things to click. She said she finally left.

"I was always waiting for my feelings to catch up to story of how we met," she said.

Maybe it's more dangerous that we ask the question so often, "How did you two meet?" Maybe it's not important that you meet on a train or a bus or a coffee shop. Maybe the better question we could ask people is, "How do you stay in the fight for one another? How do you keep your love fresh? How do you sacrifice?"

 

Lane and I met on a dating application and I think the most important detail of the story is that my heart was ready to meet someone. My heart was ready to treat someone not like a crutch or a savior, but an equal. I knew what I wanted.

Fireworks never exploded in the sky to spell out LANE in big letters. He didn't march up to my door with a bouquet of sharpened pencils. I made the first move. We talked for a week on the application before Lane asked for my number. I remember the messages were the best part of my day. In a week of traveling to three cities and watching my brother get married, this stranger on the other side of the screen was the best part of my day. He asked questions. He sent back paragraphs. We'd wait until 8 or 9 at night and then write back to one another until we fell asleep at night.

We found out, in piecing together our histories, there were a dozen or so places where we should have met already. We attended the same parties. We knew the same people. We lived 8 minutes apart. We were in the same places at the same time and I am still convinced I served that boy a corn dog and a coke at one of the parties. I just didn't notice him.

"You wouldn't have liked the girl you met if you met me any sooner," I am confident enough to say to Lane. I needed to change before I was ready for a love story. I needed to become someone different and I am proud to say I did the hard work required of me.

 

It doesn't matter where we meet. We are silly and insane if we get caught up in the "how we met" story that we forget the rest of the details. What will matter in 5 years from now is how we thought to build one another. How we thought to lay our hearts on the line. How we showed up. How we emboldened each other. How we met? That's just the first part of the story. If you ask me, it hasn't even gotten good yet.

Things fit: a note to those "flying solo"

Lane texted me last week from a shoe store in Utah. The store sold primarily Nike products. A picture popped up on my screen of an awesome pair of grey Nike sneakers.

"7.5 please," I texted back, not actually thinking he would buy the shoes for me.

A few minutes went by before he responded, "The smallest size they have is a size 8!"

It wasn't until recently that I figured out my natural shoe size is a 7.5 and not a 8 but I've been wearing shoes in size 8 for years so I knew I could wear these too. However, if Lane had texted me with the news that they only had a size 6 or a size 7, I would have been out of luck. The shoes wouldn't have fit me.

 

I think when it comes to relationships, we want things to fit as seamlessly as shoes. We date with the anticipation that things will work out. We work hard to make things fit with the person across the table. And sadly, not because it's anyone's fault, sometimes things just don't fit. Two people don't click. One person has more work to do. You both don't see the same future. It's okay to be different. It's okay to realize you two want different things.

The wicked step sisters in the story of Cinderella were notable for trying to wedge their too-big feet into the tiny glass slipper. The original fairy tale actually illustrates the step-sisters cutting off portions of their feet so they could fit into the shoe. Bloodied up, they still didn't get the happy ending they wanted. It simply wasn't their story to live. This wasn't their person.

Throughout my dating years, I knew myself to be guilty of trying to wedge myself into a box just so a guy would choose me. I thought that was the most important thing, to be chosen by someone. Being chosen is beautiful but making a choice because you know it's the right one is an even better feeling. If dating leads to marriage and marriage leads to the long haul, you'll want to be sure of the investment your making. You will want to be sure of that person's character, ambitions, capacity and how they respect you.

 

People have asked me to write about marriage and I honestly don't have words yet. I think I should wait another 20 or 30 years before I ever try to claim I have wisdom on this topic. However, I know one thing to be true: Lane and I entered under the contract of marriage because we knew we were a fit. We asked the tough questions. We investigated any red flags. We held the relationship loosely, knowing if things were meant to crumble before marriage became an option then things would definitely crumble.

We wanted to the relationship-- our unique partnership-- to be more important than our own personal needs to be chosen for an ego boost. I can confidently say that if Lane or I knew things weren't fitting then we would have walked away. It would have broken our hearts but we vowed to never wedge ourselves into a space where a love story wasn't meant to happen.

 

If you're impatient, it's okay. I wish people would stop saying "when you learn to be content with your singleness, then the right person will come along." That's garbage. I honestly don't think half of the people who say that even mean to phrase it that way-- that's just how we've packaged it in the last few years.

I hope what people are trying to say is that it's okay if you don't like being single. You don't have to like it but you have to be careful not to hinge your life, your joy, or your completion to a relationship status. You were fine yesterday. You are fine today. You will be fine tomorrow.

Waiting for the day when you enjoy singleness actually may never happen. I can't honestly say I ever looked at my singleness and thought, "I am absolutely loving this right now. Bring on more nights where the only spooning I do involves the one I am shoving into this huge vat of ice cream by myself."

I never once became okay with being single. I learned to be independent, yes, but I never liked the solo life. I remember crying to my mom through the phone after a breakup two summers ago. This was the guy I dated before I met Lane.

"I'm not even upset about the person so much as I don't want to have to go back into the game," I cried. "I don't want to have to play the dating game anymore." I didn't want to resign myself to a chair again and wait for more glass slippers to come along.

 

Lane came along shortly after and I remember being so impressed with how easy we were with one another. It wasn't forced. I wasn't trying to wedge myself into a place where I didn't fit. When it's the right person, there won't be all this grey area, fog or confusion. That doesn't mean it will always be easy or you two will never fight. Fighting-- healthy fighting where the two of you learn how to communicate-- is vital to a relationship. A relationship is two people who've lived a separate life coming together to build new territory together. That's a heavy and light mission. When you find the right person, they'll carry your heavy and you'll handle their light.

 

I've been writing about fear so much lately because I am realizing just how much I allowed it to narrate my stories for me. If you allow fear to narrate your "flying solo" story, it will try to convince you your person isn't out there. This isn't a forever sentence. I can't tell you when it will end or when that person will walk in. I can't tell you how you'll meet or what it will feel like for the first time. But I pray you'll give someone a decent chance to create a new story with you.

Don't try to wedge someone into an old story. Don't be constantly checking to see if they measure up to stories you've lived before. This is something new. Something golden and new. Treat it like its sacred (because it is).

All of this happening right now-- the lonely nights and the days you cry for no reason except for the fact that you thought you should have met that person by now-- is all part of the story. It won't be discounted when you two meet. It will only help you treasure the person more.

Stop thinking you're in the wrong place. Stop thinking you're getting off the wrong exit. Stop thinking they're in another city or at a different coffee shop. Just stop and live the life you want to live. Be the person you imagined you would be before fear gave you other agendas. That person is going to love you when they find you in your element.

They will love you. You'll breathe out relief. You won't be striving or pushing. The two of you will just fit. Don't worry, things fit.

A no-nonsense guide to getting over a breakup.

075e3ecd8a78aa61404933acf3b5f3a8 Last summer, I went through a breakup that left me staring at my hands and wanting to loop the Wendy's drive-thru over and over again until they restrained me from buying french fries. I sat on my couch with my nuggets in my lap and I called any person willing to listen to my ugly sobs.

I yelled. I screamed. I was bitter. Real bitter. In the deep of me, I was sick of heartbreak. I was sick of feeling like I was a loser when it came to love.

What people don't tell you in the thick of heartbreak is that heartbreak is all about choices. It's basically a Choose Your Own Adventure with more tears and Rachel Platten ballads. You make choices everyday until the pain is either gone or it becomes you. Either stalk him on Facebook or get a hobby. Either wallow in your bed watching Grey's Anatomy or get up and go for a walk. Either declare perpetual singleness and become a bird lady (way more underrated than a cat lady) or get back in the dating game. Choices. We all get them.

I can confidently say that in 2015 I experienced the healthiest breakup of my life. I made some of the healthiest choices I've ever made in my life. Period. Game forever changed.

Was I perfect? No. Was I mad at God? Heck yes. Was I brooding for a while? Duh.

But here's the biggest thing I learned through the high and low of getting over a person: you must do the things that will get your heart back into alignment. You're not lost, you're just camping out in a swamp for a few days. Pack up your bags. It's time to go.

SCREW THE SHRINE

One of the reasons why letting go is hard? We feel the need to hold onto every last thing we ever had of that person. Sweatshirts. Coasters. Love notes. Etc. Etc. Burn it. Throw it away. Donate it. Just get it out of your sight, no matter how painful the release may be. You will never be over it if you are always holding on relentlessly to tangible memories.

His sweatshirt, sleeping in your bed every night, is not going to bring him back. That's the sad truth I hate saying but I wouldn't be a good friend if I didn't say it.

EMBRACE MILE ONE

Meaning, it's okay if you are at the beginning of this breakup hangover and you feel miserable and pitiful. Think about running. Everyone is always miserable at mile 1 of a jog when they haven't run in a long time. Embrace it. Embrace it and don't give up because of how icky it feels.

It's okay if you cry y0urself to sleep at night. It's okay if you don't feel like getting out of bed. These are natural symptoms of a breakup. The beginning is always the hardest. The middle will take a lot of work. The finish line will be sweet though.

MAYBE CHANGE YOUR PASSWORDS

Or find good friends who will change your passwords for you and then be merciless when you ask for them back. I took a month-long break off of social media last summer after a breakup. Truth told, it hurt too much to be online. It was too much temptation to want to look him up and see how he was doing. His progress, though I am thankful it was happening, was no longer my business. Something inside of me wanted to be mad or bitter if he did make progress and that wasn't my heart or my agenda.

Social media rarely helps our wounds. If you don't have the power to block him or her, block yourself. Get a few friends to build a wall around you. Pick up the hobby of reading instead of stalking.

SEND THANK-YOU NOTES

When is the last time you did that? I mean it. We send thank-you notes after a party, a shower, or after someone donates. Thank-you notes should be a regular occurrence. I find they are one of the biggest ways for me to get outside of my own thoughts and think about other people. That's what is going to save you from heartbreak: remembering others.

PRAYER HANDS

Prayer doesn't need to be eloquent. It doesn't need to be fancy. No need to put white gloves on to get on your knees and pray. You don't even have to get on your knees. God likes you casual and God doesn't preference a posture. I love how Anne Lamott says it, "My belief is that when you're telling the truth, you're close to God. If you say to God, "I am exhausted and depressed beyond words, and I don't like You at all right now, and I recoil from most people who believe in You," that might be the most honest thing you've ever said. If you told me you had said to God, "It is all hopeless, and I don't have a clue if You exist, but I could use a hand," it would almost bring tears to my eyes, tears of pride in you, for the courage it takes to get real-really real. It would make me want to sit next to you at the dinner table."

Your prayers are allowed to be imperfect, short, sporadic, violent, and jumbled. That's the beauty of prayer. He hears all the mess.

STAY HONEST

Find people who will allow you to have your honesty hour. An honesty hour is a chance to say whatever you feel. It's good for you. It's cathartic. An honesty hour is not to be confused with a pity party. Because I love you, I am officially granting you permission to partake in one pity party. Just one. Pull out your party hat, dance to sad Ben Rector songs, and then prepare to move the heck on. You are allowed to be honest without being pitiful. Even better than venting on Facebook, get a journal! House your honesty hours there regularly.

CALL IT WHAT IT IS

I remember going through a breakup several years ago and I wanted to act so damn strong. I didn't want to cry about it. I didn't want to feel hurt. But I was hurt. I was hurt because I felt like maybe he was my last chance, maybe that was my last shot at love. Sometimes you don't even want to keep the person, you just want to keep the feeling of being loved and chosen at the end of a day.

It's okay to be hurt, broken, tired, cranky, etc. Call a feeling what it is. Accept it. Own it. Owning your feelings doesn't mean you have to stay stuck in them.

OFFER YOUR SERVICES

Think about what you could do for other people during this time when it is more tempting to sing the "me, me, me" song all day. I offered my babysitting services to friends for free. I figured if a baby in a giraffe bikini couldn't make me smile then I was pretty doomed. I tried to cook for people (emphasis on "tried"). I met people for coffee. I became more active in my church.

You've got stuff to give to the world. Your neighbors and friends are in need of you even if you don't think so. Be a participant in your friend group, not just someone who attends things. You could be the person who sits behind a screen all day hoping someone will notice you or you could be the person who sees and knows people when they don't think anyone in the world is paying attention to them. It's all about perspective.

FORGET FEELINGS

Feelings are dead wrong. I just have to say it. Feelings are basically like the weatherman- he predicts things but is wrong 70% of the time.  If you are always guided by your feelings then you can get used to a rollercoaster of unreliable twists and loops. Your feelings fluctuate on a daily basis. Texts alter them. Conversations alter them. Food even alters them. Truth is something you dig for. Wisdom is something you learn slowly and with time.

Most of this advice you're reading is going to wear off in the next 24 hours and your feelings will tell you to give up and go back to mile one. Don't listen to the thing inside of you that accepts defeat like a marching order. Stop giving your feelings the keys to your car if you don't want them to drive you deeper into the woods.

KICK OUT THE LIARS

Those liars in your brain need eviction notices. Stat. It's really tempting to roll out sleeping bags for the lies and allow them to set up camp in your brain. Lies are convincing. Lies mimic your own voice. Lies will start forest fires if you give them space. Whatever you allow to live in your brain, feeding off your thoughts, will multiply.

YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT

Meaning, don't feed the lies. The lies are going to tell you, in this very moment, that you will never find love again. The lies will say something like, "That was it for you. Too bad, babe. You had your shot. And that person is going to fall in love and get married and it won't be you." You will get fat on those lies if you keep them in your cabinets. Those lies will never help or heal you. The only way to combat them? Get yourself a thicker skin and a stronger voice. You can't buy those things in a store but you can train yourself to respond to lies and self-inflicted criticism.

YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT (Pt. 2)

Here's what I don't get... Read any article on heartbreak and it will always, always make some reference to pulling out the tub of Ben & Jerry's ice cream and crying your snots into the carton. Eating your feelings won't lessen your feelings. If anything, eating your pain away will only make you feel sluggish and more sad. Food, and how we consume it, has a direct effect on our moods.

Sign up for a yoga class. Learn to cook kale. Try boxing so you can kick the crap out of things and unleash your anger. Endorphins are your friend during this time.

You'll feel a million times better getting off the couch, putting down the wine bottle, and hitting the outdoors with a hike or stopping by the gym for a few lunges.

IMMERSE YOURSELF IN SOMETHING... ANYTHING

After the Epic Breakup of 2015 (it wasn't really epic but I don't know what to call it), I met regularly with a goals coach. Being self-employed, she has consistently helped me to create goals and benchmarks to challenge myself with. She told me I needed a hobby that I could not turn into a full-time job. I told her I secretly love lifting weights and missed how I used to train people in college.

The result? One week later I created a work-out group for girls in my neighborhood looking to lift weights. We met every Monday, Wednesday, Friday to lift together. I planned the workouts in advance and we'd got down dog with yoga mats and Childish Gambino at 7am. I'm still training two of those girls!

Immersing yourself in something other than heartbreak will lessen the blow. People involved? Even better.

GIVE UP THE GHOST

Don't call. Don't text. Don't find some excuse to reach out and say, "Hey, I forgot to tell you this but...."

I texted a guy once a few weeks after we broke up with small talk as a way to say "this is too hard." He texted back and said, "We don't need to talk like this anymore." I translate his text as: Girl, you don't need to be texting me. Pull yourself together and stop it. You don't need a ghost story and I don't need one either. Go on. Let go. I'm not your great love. Leave room in your heart. He's coming soon.

INDEPENDENT, YEA

That's the best thing that ever emerged from a breakup for me. By sitting with my own emptiness, and not filling the holes with another guy, I learned where I placed my trust. It wasn't in God. It was in guys. I found my worth in guys. I found my hope in guys. All my emotions hinged on whether someone found me good enough to keep forever. I claimed I wanted to be this kick-butt independent lady but I was missing the most important thing: independence begins by allowing yourself to be on your own and not become afraid of it. 

GET BACK OUT THERE

Sometimes you go through heartbreak and you need time to grieve. That's so understandable and I encourage it for those who need it. However, you don't need to declare a year of singleness if you're just afraid of rejection all over again. Get back out there. Get your dress on. Get your party shoes on. Be bold enough to try again.

I took a month off from the dating scene in September 2015. I said a lot of prayers. I worked my butt off in the gym. I created my first online class. I put myself out there. I met with people and discussed my feelings. I saw a therapist regularly. I ate the kale.  I said "no" to my feelings and ate more kale. I took that month for myself and I will never regret it because I made it about empowerment instead of defeat.

I grew stronger. I chopped off my hair. I dug deeper into the bible and said more prayers. And then, one month later, I downloaded a dating app.

The date was October 1. My demeanor was different. I wasn't downloading the app to hinge my entire self-worth to a man. I wanted to go to on a date because I felt cute and sassy. There was nothing deep about it.

On October 2, I noticed a cute guy named Lane was my match. I thought to myself, "Heck no if I am letting some other girl get this one... Off limits, chickies!" I put on my big girl pants. I sent the first message.

On Jealousy.

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Hannah, I wanted to write to ask your advice on jealousy. It's such a silly part of our human nature, but how can we combat it.  I struggle with it so much and it is really taking away from me allowing myself to be fully happy for others in their achievements and joys. Don't get me wrong, I do get excited for them and share in their happiness. But when I'm alone and in my own head, I let this little green monster creep in and tell me all these lies.

For example, one of my best single friends is now starting to see this guy. I am beyond excited for her and that she found such a great guy, but there is a little part of me that selfishly says " why not me? When's it going to be MY turn to share the fun first date story with all my friends who are eagerly waiting."

I just want to find sincere and genuine happiness while not letting jealousy bog me down.

Thanks so much!

-T


T,

I've been learning a lot about my brain lately. I got tired of blanket statements about depression and anxiety and I decided to get some answers. A stop on my journey was sitting across from a dear friend of mine who is a cerebral neurologist.

He met me at Taproom a few weeks ago and he talked to me for two hours about the brain: how it works, how to manage it, how we seriously don't give this noggin of ours enough credit. I will probably write six or seven blog posts about my cerebral neurologist friend because he literally blows my mind every time we sit down to talk (blatant pun intended).

So we were sitting there, T, and it was nearly impossible to stay focused on the conversation because the most unfairly beautiful playlist kept wafting through the speakers and I was instantly swept up in nostalgia and memories of senior prom and breakups in college. I was basically sitting there with Ryan Adams, Ben Rector, Ray LaMontagne, and a cerebral neurologist.

He paused talking somewhere in the middle of "She is Love" by Parachute and said to me, "We only have two kinds of emotions: love and fear. Everything stems off of those two."

Process this with me for a second, T. We only have two emotions: love and fear. Every other emotion sits in one of those two family trees.  You're experiencing jealousy. Jealousy is a bucktooth cousin of the Fear Family. He's sitting there in that Fear family photo wearing a wool turtleneck and righteous comb over.

I could probably build upon this visual for the next 750 words but there are more important things to say. For instance, your jealousy is rooted in the fear that good stuff will happen for other people and not you. Your jealousy is rooted in this belief that every other human is going to find their soulmate and you won't even become a cat lady because all the cats will find love before you do too. Your jealousy is rooted in the fear that God has good for other people but He has forgotten about you.

 

...

I feel you, child. I can't say I know everything there is to know about jealousy but I can say this: jealousy knows no boundaries. I know a lot of people who also have no boundaries and the truth is that eventually you have to cut those people off or else they are destined to trample all over you.

Jealousy is territorial and it will take as much of you as it can get. We make the mistake of thinking that a little jealousy is understandable and that we can just shove it down and that means we won't feel it anymore. Everything we shove down does, indeed, come back up again. It comes up again a million times more forceful, more powerful, and more overbearing.

That's why beauty experts say it is not good to shave your eyebrows. Once you shave them, they grow back quicker than before. Shaving does not get to the root of the problem just like stuffing feelings down doesn't mean you've dealt with them. You have to pluck, girl. You have to see the root before you think about shoving the feels off. That's the only way fear stops winning-  when we all stop acting as if it isn't real.

 

...

I want to tell you a story from a few years ago. I had an acquaintance going after the same dream as me. Her dream of publishing a book just happened sooner than me. When I first realized I was jealous it was just this little tinge in my heart, just this little voice that whispered, "Mine. I want that to be mine."

It started off as an innocent feeling. You and I have those feelings daily and on the regular. My mistake was in not dealing with that feeling. I didn't pray about it. I didn't write it down. I didn't tell anyone about the feeling and I should have. That's one of the best ways I know how to combat jealousy and other nasty feelings: tell someone they exist. Be vulnerable. Admit it. Do not, I repeat, do not let those feelings fester in dark corners of your brain. Like mold, they will spread.

I did nothing what I just recommended to you. Instead, I let those feelings of jealousy grow stronger and stronger. They turned into bitterness. They turned into resentment. Before long, I felt like I was unable to talk to that person. Worse than that, I was unable to cheer that person on. I blocked her notifications. I took her number out of my phone.

I remember there was this one day where I went into the bookstore and there was this jealous pull inside of me to go and find the book. It's that same sort of pull you experience when you know you don't want to check a person's social media to see how they are doing but you find yourself there on their page anyway and you proceed to wallow in their good stuff.

I was standing at the front of the bookstore and I felt this prompting in my heart that was like, "Yea, you are going to go find her book. And you know what else? When you find her book you are going to pray for it. You are going to pray it does well."

It was the strangest feeling inside of me. Nothing inside of me wanted to go find the book and pray for it but that's what I found myself doing. Any time that jealous feeling would creep into my heart, I would turn it into a simple prayer. Soon enough, my anger and my bitterness had subsided. I can't say I became her best friend or that I ever really cultivated a friendship with her, but I can tell you that I no longer feel the pangs of jealousy when the thought of her comes up.

I still pray when I get jealous. I pray a lot when I get jealous. The jealousy can be so real and palpable sometimes but I turn my feelings into simple prayers. They don't have to be long. They don't need to be eloquent. Sometimes they are as simple as, "God, here's what I am feeling. And I don't want to feel this way. So help me not to feel this way." Simple. So simple that it is almost dumb. But it works.

 

...

I think you need to do something, T. I think you need to go to the store, buy a cute card, and give it to your friend. Write her a message inside about how you are happy for her. Force yourself to do these things. Jealousy and all the blood-hungry feelings don't stand a chance when we refuse to acknowledge and, instead, propel ourselves forward with action steps.

Celebrate your friend even if you don't feel like it. Half the time (if not 3/4 of the time) your feelings are wrong. Don't depend on them. If you want to keep your friend then choose to celebrate her. The key word in that last sentence is "choose." You get to choose. You get to choose whether you are going to love your friend well or if you are going to walk away from her, talk behind her back, or secretly wish bad on her while she walks through a really exciting time in life. Would you want her to stand by you and celebrate you? If so, become active in loving her well. The more you love her, the more you will send a message to the jealousy telling it that it can no longer occupy the space you've given to it.

In the battle between love and fear, love always has the power to win. But must train your love. You must invest in love more than you give fear a pedestal. Love always has the power to win but you need to learn to train it for battle first.

tying you closer than most,

hb.

Say "yes" to Tinder dates: 8 online dating tips for singles who want to mingle.

Say "yes" to Tinder dates: 8 online dating tips for singles who want to mingle.

While dating is much more than texts and binge watching Dexter, the scope of dating has changed in the last few years. It's harder to meet someone. You don't marry the neighbor across the street as much anymore. People move away for college. People move away for jobs. It's much harder to walk into a coffee shop, sit down, and strike up a conversation with espresso man beside you. That, in my opinion, is why online dating helps.

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What "Single Ladies" never told me.

Screen Shot 2016-02-11 at 1.31.03 PM It seems like every time I write about my singleness the floodgates open up. People call me. People text me. They leave an absurd amount of comments on Instagram. For a long time I felt like God was poking me, pushing me to write about the topic, but I always refused. I’ve been fine to write about anything else but I’ve never written more than a few lines on my own singleness.

The thing is, I’m not single. Not anymore. For a while I thought God was going to keep me single until I finally wrote about it. I thought he was waiting to use me to be some single girl vessel to the masses and then, when I finally broke the silence about my lack of plus ones at weddings, he would bless me with some handsomely rugged man.

That’s a problem for a lot of us: we think God is some cruel scientist who has hid our cheese at the end of a maze. We think God is withholding until we learn “x” amount of lessons. We think he will eventually have good for us when we finally get our stuff together.

I am 4 four months into a relationship. It’s Valentine’s Day this weekend. I think I’ve only told Lane once how much I hate this holiday because I told my last boyfriend so many times that he took to an anti-Valentine’s Day screamo concert featuring angry feminists singing Alanis Morrisette. We broke up the following day.

I don’t actually hate Valentine’s Day. I just didn’t like a holiday that seemed reserved for couples, no matter how much you emphasize the “love is for everyone” juju feelings. I know how hard that holiday can be for people. This post is for the single people. It’s all the words I should have said months ago and just wasn’t brave enough to do so.

Here it goes. Love is not a club. Entering a relationship isn’t the same as wristbands showing up at your doorstep the week before you head to Disney World. Finding a person who fits you and refines you, all at the same time, isn’t a race. You are forever a process. Thank God, you are forever a process. And, whether you like it or not, your singleness is a part of that process.

Don’t believe the lie that a person will complete you. A person can never complete you. They will add onto you. They will show you reality. They will push you out of your comfort zone but they will never complete you. If you are looking for completion in the form of two blue eyes, it isn’t waiting for you there. Go look elsewhere.

Someone-- no matter how good-looking they will be when they finally come along-- is not going to step out and live your life for you. Your singleness ending won’t mean the improvement process will cease too. No, it will only get harder.

So if you want a damn adventure then you must pack the bag and go. Buy your own coffee. Make your own playlists. Plan your own road trips. See the things you want to see just for the simple fact that they matter enough to you. A match on Tinder will not live your dreams for you. Your singleness is not an accident. Your singleness is not God’s blindspot.

Before you can be sure of another person you must be sure of yourself. I cannot say this enough. You must be willing to bet on yourself. This does not mean you have to be perfect or anywhere near it. But it does mean this: a partnership with someone else is not going to fix all the cravings inside of you to be better. You’ll still want to be better. You can always be better, but are you enough? There’s a difference between being better and being enough.

You are allowed to be bitter. You are allowed to be sad. You are allowed to be all of these things but it does not necessarily mean that they’re the best feelings for you to harbor. Bitterness is an ugly thing. It makes time to root itself and even more time to pull up those roots. Even when someone walks into your life, that bitterness won’t completely go away. It will simply get placed somewhere else.

You’ll meet someone one day. You might meet several of them. You might fall in love and break up and fall in love and leave. It might be a few good tries before you find someone who makes you want to stay in the mess of your unity. That’s okay. Don’t let your heart freeze up. Don’t let your jadedness be the thing that makes you believe there are no good ones out there. Don’t give God every shred of you and neglect to give him this. Give him your hurt and give him your worry. You don’t need to sugarcoat the truth. He’s God, he can handle the moments when you feel like your life is the ongoing, never-ending sequel to 27 Dresses.

Just stay honest. Stay open to a love that might not be what you expected. Stay real with your people. Find new people if your people don’t let you be real.

Say yes to awkward first dates when they come along, even if you don’t know for certain if they’re “the one.” I don’t think “the one” is a feeling that tramples over you like a Pitbull. The one is just a person, like you. They will be imperfect and salty. They will let you down and forget important dates. They will burn the toast and they will sing out of tune sometimes. The one is just a person in your life who gets your extra portions of grace. The one is just a person who gets the majority of your texts, tears, and prayers. They pick you. You pick them. It’s like picking your kickball team every morning when you wake up: you pick them, even when they have a bum ankle.

Love is not a club, it’s a choice. Love is not running for presidency just because you have a need to win. Love isn’t getting every vote. Love is being a candidate. It is a long stretch of victories and defeats. You keep running hard. You keep running fast. And one day you crash into someone who sees you and they see your issues like you always hoped your issues would be seen: as their own.

Death of a game player.

There was something inside of me that craved attention far more than real love. I craved something instant instead of something long, and winding, and sprawling. I craved curbing the loneliness more than I actually wanted a person to get to know. I don’t know why. I think I figured if I could always be the detached one then I would never need to hurt or lose when the other person turned to walk away from me; I'd have been expecting it the whole time.

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Love is not a piece of cake.

Show me love that is bigger than my brain, my bullies, my ballads and my bruises. I want a love so rich and so foreign that when it comes in my direction I think that I must give it a new name to make up for all the years I never knew what to call it.

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Step One: You tell her.

A smart girl will know that a friendship doesn’t work when one of the two is willing to give up worlds & go extra miles & endure sleepless nights for the other. That’s not friendship. That’s blaring, stupid love and it is completely & utterly worth it when two walk towards it with open hands.

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There will be no rose ceremony tonight.

I might be the ogre of singledom. I might be the girl who owns the #foreveralone hash tag and gets it screen printed on tees to sell in the heart of New York City. I might never get the rose from another guy for as long as it takes for you to get here. I. Don’t. Care. Because if and when I find you, that is it.

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And cardboard cut-outs melt in the rain.

Because we were never looking for perfect. And cardboard cut-outs melt in the rain. But they'll wrap us up in blankets, our legs slung over their lap, and they'll tell us they need a partner, a halfway, a commitment. A Thick & Thin Kind of Deal.

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Coming home to your shoes.

Your shoes are by the door and I know I’ve done it again.

Only a lone pair of sneakers this time, it can’t be so bad. The last time this happened I unlocked the door and pushed it in to find hiking boots, dress shoes, sandals and a pair of slippers. All Size 11. Craterly & Mammoth to my Size 7 feet.

“I’m sorry,” I yell into the dark apartment. “I know why you’re here.”

“Do you really? And are you really sorry? I guess those are the questions on my mind,” you respond from the kitchen—a small space of pots & pans tucked tight and out of sight to the left of the apartment.

“I didn’t mean to bring you up…”

“But you did.” I wait for you to come into view. Wait to see your tousled hair. Your black ankle socks. Your casual, boyish attire.  “I’m worried because you did.” You don’t show.

“But…”

“Go ahead, explain it to me.”

“Alex was having a hard time. I brought you up. I told her about us. Our story.”

“Babe, how many times do I have to tell you that…”

“ I know, I know. We don’t have a story… or at least not one that I need to keep telling over & over & over again.” I walk past the kitchen, throwing my coat on the sofa and heading for the bathroom.

I play with the sink knobs. The water gushes out quickly. Soon enough, the hear pours out, collapsing and cloaking my tired hands.

“I only say it for your good. You know that, right?” Stop whispering, please stop whispering to me.

The tears stay pent inside the crooks of my eyelids where the gold shimmer faded nearly two hours ago. Not looking up. Not letting my eyes drift back to the sneakers at the door of the apartment.

“I only ever say it for your good because you and I both know that...”

“That I’ve got to move on. That I’m wasting time. That every time I bring your name into a coffee date then I am only hurting myself,” I steady my hands. I try to keep them from shaking.

You stay talking. On & On & On. As if you were the damn genius who invented conversation. And it does no good because I cannot see you and I cannot feel you the way I used to.

I abandon the towel and the light switch. I stay in the dark and crawl my way to the floor where the sofa’s legs kiss carpet and crook me into cushioned safety.

“You don’t get it… it’s not this hard for you,” I say into the darkness. “You are the not the one who has to live without me. I am the one who does that, every single day. In the best and only way that I know how.

And don’t you know that you are everywhere? You are in the trees. In the leftover slices of pizza that you should’ve ate in the middle of the night. In the side of the bed that makes me want to stay filthy forever if it means I’ll never have to lose your scent on the sheets. You don’t have to go through any of that…I do. I do. And I know, I know that every time I bring you up in conversation that I am going to come home to your shoes & nothing else, just the memory of you that doesn’t hold me right.”

I don’t hear you anymore. Nothing but the clicking of the clock all the way in the bedroom.

My hands are wet and down on the floor beside me. Clawing in the darkness at what I know is a shade of maroon that you picked out back when Carpet mattered & Salad mattered & Sunday Football mattered.

I put my head down on the floor and imagined what you’d do next. I know if you were here right now you’d pull me into your lap and you’d change my mind. You always did that. And not because I always seemed to melt into a pile of bones when I your arms wrapped me in, but because you were just one of those people who could explain the world for me. You plugged in lamps where I could not find light. You strung Christmas lights in the darkest of places throughout your whole fight. And so you say I’ve got to be stronger because you refused to leave me sitting in the dark. But it feels like dark. It feels like dark without you.

“Sometimes I hate you,” I whisper through clenched teeth. You know I am lying, right? “I hate that you left me here to do this without you. I hate that I couldn’t fix you. I hate that I’ve become some town tragedy where people treat me like a fogged up window that they can look through, apologize for the loss, watch me sway back & forth a bit and then head back to their own lit home. That I feel pathetic without you. That so much of this doesn’t matter without you.

I hate that I couldn’t go with you. That you left me standing here with all these secrets & things we told one another when the rest of the world fell asleep, things I was supposed to whisper back on a day when I wore white just for you. And now I’ve got to let it all go… I don’t want to let you go…. I don’t know how… I don’t want to learn.

I cry. For your arms. For a blanket you’d place over me. For the hairs on my head I know you’d stroke. For the tears you’d wipe. The things you’d say. For the thought of you, up in the clouds, hanging your head over an image of me rendered Helpless & Heartbroken.

“Come home… Just come home again…I cant feel you anymore…” Your shoes are already by the door. I can leave the light on. “I’m sorry… I’m sorry… I’ll try again tomorrow.”

Things That Change.

"Clothes," I say.

"Plans," he rattles back.

"Sheets."

"Lady Gaga's hairdos."

"And you know that how?" I laugh.

"MTV... They showed a documentary on her. It was actually good."

"Surreee.... Ok. The weather."

"Your father... when he is trying to figure out where he wants to get his coffee in the morning."

"How did you know that one?"

"I pay attention. I remember more than you think."

I push off what he's getting at. We're not touching it today. I'm not the kind of girl who can sit beside a boy who remembers her favorite color and the way her hands shake when she's trying to button her coat. I'd rather he turn and say semi-politely, I'm sorry, what did you say again?  That was the last one. The Boy Who Forgot Birthdays & Flowers & all the things a girl will claim she doesn't want nor need until the day he forgets. Those kinds of boys are easier to walk away from.

"Directions."

"That's deep," he pauses. "Real deep."

"I meant north and south kind of things... Keep going."

 

We go back and forth, ricocheting off one another with only the roaring of the washer and patches of unclaimed air between us.

 

"Fine. Batteries."

"College majors."

"Shoes."

"Shoes fall under clothes. I win."

"Not true," he rebuts. "Changing your shoes is completely different than changing your clothes. Next..."

"Profile pictures."

"Good one," he says, pulling me in with a smile that took us to this battle from the beginning. This playful banter that would keep us going for days, as long as we never approached Us. And how often we fit into the category at hand: Things that Change.

 

We were changing.

Even in that very moment.

Dancing around the growing bonfire lit with the Woods of the Things We Didn't Want to Talk About, shrouding the conversations with trivialities that wouldn't hold. Term Papers. Things on the To-Do List. All the things you never force into the Talk of Two when there is still so much to say about the Eyes of One Another and How They Swear They'd Been Searching for Years.

 

"Seasons," I double back into the game.

"Kind of like the weather but I'll give it to you," he softens.  "Your coffee order. Will it be a skim latte today or will you go for pumpkin?"

"Life," I cut him off.

The room goes quiet. Just the washer. Just the air. Just the curtains hushing the window panes. Just the end tables clamping shut the mouths of the wood floors. Just the clock. Ticking.. Ticking..

"You win," he whispers, sliding his hand over mine. He doesn't turn his head- he knows he'll find the tears burning on my cheeks. Knowing I'd be gone tomorrow, with a suitcase in my hand. My life in its tender suede belly, zipped full.

"I should have said that one first," I swallow.

He squeezes, harder than I hope for. "There would have never been a game then."

Tales of a God Who Knit Her So That She’d Never Need to Knit a Cape.

“You aren’t a superhero,” he said, and lingered in the doorframe for a moment just to see what she would do.

To see if she might find the courage, within a chest pumped full with pride, to admit she knew it too.

For she really was no superhero and her heart did far more breaking than her arms ever did holding. She scaled the sides of conversations that never invited her in but she could not scale a building.

She, well, she was a girl who got all tied up in the saving—tightly wound like the cop that meets the robber in the old cartoon shows—too tied up to remember she was really just a human being.

A human being. How peculiar. So small. So fragile.

No Superman. No Batman. No Wonder Woman, just a Woman prone to Wander.

Just a girl left to find out, after all the wreckage had fallen from her shoulders, that even heroes need something far more super than them. Something greater to hitch prayers to at night. Someone far greater than a silly man in lycra pants to handle the swinging and swaying of the Milky Way, as it has no choice but to rock the world’s sorrow to and fro. Back & forth.

And the hurt was in her hair that day. All up in her hair like yarn strung into braids. The hurt was on her face. It lived in her toes. It paid rent to her elbows and made roommates with her kneecaps.

The boy could trace the hurt in every crook of longitude and latitude of the girl he’d known since the days when chocolate milk and grape Pop Rocks could heal her.

He turned—foot to foot—and found solace in a space where the girl wouldn’t find him. He closed the door and uncovered his knees. His prayerful knees that were made to kiss the floors on days where girls take off their Heavy Superhero Capes.

“Papa, Papa,” he cried to the sky. To a God who thought that ceilings that concealed Him were nonsense. “Help her to discover her hands. Her terrible, unreliable hands. The ones that want to hold so bad, even when they know they must be held for a time.”

Hold & Be Held.

Hold & Be Held.

“One requires more surrender than the other, Papa.”

Hold & Be Held.

One asks Control to curtsie at the door.

“Let her hands Be Held so that she might Behold someone as wonderful as You, someone who stretches far beyond the reach of her Tiny Little Hands.”

The boy believed in a God who kissed frostbitten fingertips. Who whispered in the morning while his children still pulled sleep in with both arms. A God who wept to see his children struggle and ached to say, “That world on your shoulders does not fit you. Let me take it. Here, let me take it.”

The boy believed in a God who hated to see His children in capes. For children in capes forget the ones who made the capes for them, the ones who knit them before the cape and packed a heart tight so carefully with all the ways they would learn to soar one day.

One day. One day.

The girl knew the boy. Though not all the longitude and latitude of him. She never knew the way he crept into closets and found ways to place her at the front of his prayers. Because she was worth it. She had always been worth it. 

The girl did not know the God who kissed the frostbitten fingertips, who took worlds off of shoulders and hated to see His children in capes. But she wanted to. She wanted to.

And so how does the story begin? How then, oh, how does the story begin?

The girl waited for the boy who had known since the ways when chocolate milk and grape Pop Rocks could heal her. She found him lingering in the doorway. She patted the ground beside her and motioned him to join.

He did, for he loved her so. He loved her so.

And together they began—with trembling fingers—to unknot the cape tied so tightly round her neck. And let the heaviness fall down. Let the heaviness fall down all around them.

And all the while, through every knot and tremble, the boy whispered tales into the ear of the girl. Tales of a God Who Knit Her so that She’d Never Need to Knit a Cape.