“If you have to ask me then you already know,” she told me over a Skype call. We'd been talking about relationships for the last few minutes. I'd asked for guy advice from a girl I barely even knew. That's just my style though-- I trust easily and thoroughly in the first five minutes and I get into the vehicles of stranger's far too much (do not follow my example) (please).
"I go by this rule of thumb," she continued, keeping her eyes locked on me through the screen. "If it is not a "hell yes" then it's a "hell no."
I never ceased to forget that. I've forgotten nearly everything else from our conversation a few years ago but I never forgot that statement.
If it's not a "hell yes" then it's a "hell no."
I pocketed that. I went out into the world looking for the “hell yes.” The certainty. The brave and bold and undeniable assurance. I believed in the “hell yes” for a really long. And for a really long time I shut myself off to people-- mainly guys-- because I was looking for that “hell yes” and it just wasn’t showing up for me.
I was looking for fireworks.
That's what I really wanted. Explosions. I wanted something to shift and shake my atmosphere and turn my world upside down and cause me to be unable to sleep at night because I was “feeling all the feels.” I was basically looking for a natural disaster of a human to prove to me that they were unlike the other ones.
Honestly though, why would God want that for my life? Why would he want someone to come into my life like a wrecking ball or a tornado? I forget too often that while he may be the God of burning bushes, he is also the God of little miracles & tiny things & slow, burning trust that takes days and weeks and months to uncover.
I can’t speak for everyone but I am ready to conclude this: a “hell yes” is impossibly hard to find when you live a life filled with Fear.
I’ve been talking a lot about Fear.
I think it is a bigger dictator than I ever wanted to admit. It has squeezed its way into every decision I've had to make. I think I have gotten so used to fear speaking in the background that I forget it was meant to be feeling- not a roadblock.
Fear is basically synonymous with Russell Crowe in Les Miserables-- he was always meant to be a character, sure, but someone let him sing too much.
And here's a last reality check on fear: if you are shrouded in fear-- absolutely basted in it-- then that’s not God. God isn’t fear. He’s quite the opposite. He’s love. And love, when you allow yourself to get close enough to it, will not resemble fear. Just like you gave fear the permission to grow, you have to give love that same chance to rock you too.
So how does a girl like me get to a “hell yes”? I’m not sure. But it starts with time. Everything begins with time and grace.
I have a friend named Jake who I wish every human could know. Really and truly, he is the male version of me. Put the two of us together and we will cry all the rivers and then somehow manage to drown in them. We are feelers. We are empaths. If you need a scale of how deep we can go then start looking at the bottom of the Atlantic because we are down there, straight chilling with the Titanic.
Even though I don’t know everything about Jake, as one of my closest friends I know this: he probably carries just as much fear as I do. He probably has just as hard of a time opening up as I do. And so every step he has taken in the last few months to heal from heartbreak and find love all over again makes me whisper beneath my breath, “I’m proud of you. I’m really proud of you.”
I texted him last night as I was writing. His is a safe message box to drop my fears and a smattering of emojis. I told him simply and plainly: I am terrified. I am terrified because some days I know what I want. And other days I don’t have a clue. I’m just so scared to let people in and let someone choose me.
“You don’t have to know,” he texts back immediately. Because that’s Jake: the one who texts back immediately when his friends need him.
“You’re choosing and that’s what you have to do,” he continues. “Just. Keep. Choosing.”
Instantly my mind gets pushed back to over a year ago.
I was standing beside a boy I wanted to love more than anything. I was angry, so angry with God, because those feelings weren’t coming. Nothing in my body was morphing into a “hell yes.”
I was living in Connecticut. I was resistant to the idea of Georgia even though I knew signs of me going there were getting planted before me on the regular. Atlanta would mean I would have to give me up my last shred of control. I was not cool with letting go of my last shred of control.
He’d asked me how I wanted the bookshelf to look. He was a builder and I was a girl who wanted a bookshelf.
"How do you want the bookshelf to look?" He asked it just like that.
It was a really easy question. How many shelves? How much room on each one? What kind of wood? I should have been able to spit it out right there, right there. But I didn’t know. So I trekked back and forth in the hallway that night asking myself, “What do I want? What do I want? What do I want?”
I got all clogged up and self-obsessed with my own indecision instead of just stopping, breathing, and making a choice.
I told myself that instead of "choices to be made" the story was really "you are a girl who doesn't know what she wants. So figure out what you want and stop at nothing until you get to it."
It was never about the bookshelf, friends. It had nothing to do with the bookshelf. It had to do with the fact that I stayed, and I waited, and the "hell yes" never came. It's okay to have a game-over. When you've stayed and stuck it out and tried your hardest, it's okay to have a game-over.
Up until today (this very moment), I believed I was a girl who knew exactly what she wanted and all my “hell yes” moments were going to stay in the distance until I uncovered them like buried treasure. That story could not be further from the truth so I am changing the script.
Beyond good people and a life that tests me, I don’t have a clue what I want. I care too much about the things I want rather than what I know I need. I care too much about what other people want for me. It’s not about knowing what you like and banking on the hope that that will never change. Things change too often to rest your whole life in their certainty.
It’s simpler than knowing what you want: it's getting brave enough to make a choice.
One choice. And then another choice. And then another choice.
You choose your “hell yes.” You choose it hourly. Daily. You choose it so much that you let it grow roots down inside of you.
A “hell yes” takes time. It gets stronger as you go. But just because you don’t feel it, right in this very second, doesn’t mean you should shut all the doors on all the people who might just be your “hell yes” in the end.
Take me back to October of last year and I know I could not write these words. I was a girl who loved the instantaneous things of this lifetime. I was far too easily pleased by getting things quickly. So if the feelings didn’t come in 2.5 seconds then I was splitting before midnight. That’s how I have known to abruptly and swiftly not stay in things that could actually be good for me.
And then life shifted and shook. I got my wrecking ball. I got my tornado. It didn’t come in the form of two legs and a beard-- it was just Life flipping tables and yelling into me, “PLEASE DON’T STAY THE SAME. LET YOUR LIFE BE WRECKED SO YOU CAN JUST BE HEALED.”
As I slowly reassembled everything in my life that used to be fine though not sturdy, I became the proud and hesitant mother of a garden bed. My own garden. I tilled the ground. I planted the seeds. I watered. I found patience. I surprised my friends- the ones who did not hold the faith that I could actually keep anything alive. And I didn't "let" things go. They simply grew. I gave things the time and capacity and space to just grow-- uninhibited by my expectations that are far too easily squashed and my fascist-like control sprees.
And yesterday I pulled the first of my cherry tomatoes from their vine, washed them good, and bit down hard. There was something sweet-- matchless-- about the waiting it took to get that harvest. The waiting, all in itself, was nectar.
I know I am learning to wait. I think I am learning to not hold expectations so close to my chest. God didn’t promise to honor my expectations. That would be such a sad, little life. He promised to prune me and love me just as I needed to be pruned and loved.
It’s okay if you don’t feel the “hell yes” right now. Take the expectations and the pressure off yourself. Rewrite the story and realize this: it’s not about knowing what you want, it’s about making slow and steady choices for the better of your character.
Dear Hell Yes,
You might be an instant thing or you might be a seed. I’m not so sure about you.
But sweet Hell Yes, if you are a seed then I am planting you today. I hope you grow. I so hope you grow to give me some of the shade I always needed.