Category Archives: broken friendships

Dear Google: The Other Side Of Sadness

I don’t need a wedding pinboard on Pinterest or a Taylor Swift playlist to scare away some perfectly suitable future boyfriend. I’m pretty sure this blog is enough to do the trick. It’s loaded down with enough heavy hearts to make flying feel pretty much impossible.

Last week, I learned that Google’s got me pinned as the go-to source for all things crying girls. Yes, that’s right. I rank pretty little number one (across the entire Internet?!) for “girl crying tumblr” and “girl crying tumblr” and page two for “broken girl.”

That’s led thousands of people to this blog post I wrote about my sister’s emotional breakdown in our kitchen last summer.

Which is just super sad, because my heart has always wanted to take hurt and toss it out the window. I want to be known not as a sad, sorry girl who never really figured out life until it was gone, but as a girl who learned life in a series of big, troubling moments that should’ve made her doubt this little thing called love, but didn’t.

life rarely gives us what we wanted, girl on beach, girl balloon

I’m just gonna say it right now: I’m a hopeful romantic.

(Jen Long, thank you for that phrase.)

And no amount of Google crawlers or SEO rankings will change that. Because there are always two sides to a story like the broken girl or the crying girl or the girl who slices onions when she’s upset just so nobody will know those are real tears dripping onto the cutting board.

The first is that she broke. For whatever reason, she just snapped in half with no expectation of ever gluing herself back together.

The second is that someone lent her a bottle of Elmer’s and said, “Have at it.” That’s my favorite part: when life hands you a tube of superglue, throws it’s head back to laugh and says, “Take that, tough times!”

(Few moments deserve exclamation marks. The overcoming, in the biggest and baddest sense of the word, is one such moment.)

I’d like to propose, to anyone who finds this blog in search of some sureness that their heartbreak is real and true, to hang around and search deep for the moments in which my life, and that of my nearest and dearest, held in it enough joy to light a Christmas tree.

Few years are packed with total joy or total suffering. In the last nine months, I have had days where shuffling a local reporter into my front door seemed like the best kind of anxiety and nights where I was sure I was God’s biggest failure in the state of Maryland.

I have cried for people who died 14 years ago. And wrestled with my family’s fallout post-9/11. I have learned that life so rarely lends you what you thought you needed, that you must sift and sort and sit down in front of your mirror and find yourself beneath all the rubble you’ve let get in the way between what you want most and where you are now.

And it is for all the pain that holds us together as human freaking beings that makes me sure there will always be a light to guide us home, no matter how dark the roads get, no matter how quickly the sun sets, no matter how far we stand from the people who love us most.

It is with that in mind that I’d like to propose Google get itself an algorithm that pairs pretty little hope-filled moments with those seekers who go searching the vast universe for reassurance of their pain.

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My Catalog Of Painful Conversations

This blog of mine, this “here’s how I think life should look,” is a little less likely to get a welcome mat for Christmas. More often than not, I am 93% sure my friends and family are unnerved by my Taylor Swift approach to understanding the world and I have spent two and a half years paying for it.

A few weeks after Rewriting Life became a regular part of my routine, I made the sort of decision that draws a big red line down my life: I chose to excuse myself from someone’s life. It wasn’t taken well offline, but even worse so when I blogged about it.

After all, at the time, Rewriting Life was named for my writing addiction, my “suck it up and edit that novel” mindset. It was for the second draft, only a little messier than the first but maybe better. Maybe better somehow.

It was for fearless cutting and shaping and carving out conversations that belonged in my stories whether they were easy or not.

Any writer will tell you that – there is pain in the hard conversations, the ones so true they choke your memories and wring them out over the blank page.

Somewhere in this jumbled collection of raw and honest diary-like entries, this blog turned into a different, more intentional kind of rewriting life: the kind that demands you see the world however you must.

Maybe, like me, you have punished yourself too long for happiness. Maybe, like me, you have misunderstood others who had found happiness when you couldn’t.

I was done with that. I was happy for the first time in twelve months and, if I were to ever climb out of the depths of depression, the world would have to see my glass as half full.

A big part of that came in acknowledging that there are few big moments in our lives. More often, there are small ones that whisper their intentions when we’re waiting at crosswalks and checking our iPhones, when we should be recognizing hope in the way humans embrace each other and wave from opposite sides of the street.

Those small moments house joy and comfort.

Like a game of Apples to Apples at a kitchen table. Standing around a bowl of your dad’s homemade salsa and a big bag of Lime Tostitos. The tap dancing in the children’s ward of the emergency room on a Friday night. The moments in which disaster waits for us to crumble and cave but we don’t.

We don’t.

We don’t see those moments differently. Or write them down. Or remark on them in text messages and Twitter feeds.

This blog has been my way of seeing and remarking and cataloging those moments. So I will not be quiet. I have spent my whole life pretending not to care about what I want for dinner or what movie I’d like to see or which candidate I’d endorse for public office because peace sometimes comes with a side of silence.

This has, and always will be, my voice. For better or worse. For honesty and growth.

I have said for years if you wonder why you should be blogging, I have an answer that sparkles much less than those who rake in cash and build million-dollar businesses by writing what they know. And my answer is this: You will learn how to learn. You will learn how to see through your own eyes. You will make progress by sorting through the small moments that come much closer together than the big ones.

Wearing Home Around My Neck

There’s a reason we will buy best friends forever necklaces for our eight-year-old daughters; and it has nothing to do with the way they sparkle and catch the lights as they swoosh back and forth on the jewelry display in Claire’s.

It doesn’t matter if she pulls on your t-shirt, begging you please please please we need to buy this for my best friend in the entire world because it’s her birthday next weekend do you want me to go to the party without an awesome present, Mom?

It’s because we knew, already then, that there would be an ending to the proximity. The closeness. The shared wooden slab in the corner of the sandbox just big enough for both of us to sit.

You could sit in that spot, legs scrunched up and head bent over, building an entire world without ever moving an inch, without ever losing the sound of your best friend’s heartbeat inches from yours.

Most of our lives are spent dishing out infrequent Hellos and bittersweet Goodbyes for the people we once shared a sandbox with. The people we once shared a sofa with. The people we once shared a sad, sad evening on the bathroom floor with.

And maybe, at eight, we already know that. Maybe our daughters will want those best friends forever necklaces, the jagged heart already broken, not because of the shine or the engraved curliques or the way it feels to hand someone something and say, “Promise you’re never going anywhere?”

Maybe they’ll know they’re handing over a piece of their heart. Maybe they’ll know that someday those once-owners of the other half of that two-for-one necklace will scoot on down the East coast on a sunny day in mid-August, only a few months after the principal hands her a high school diploma.

They will know the ache the minute that yellow truck shrinks to a speck on the road that connects their houses, the hollow feeling when all there is left to do is sit on a trampoline that isn’t even yours and wait for childhood to magically return.

Maybe they know that won’t happen, even if they forget it a decade later.

There are some best friends we count on never losing, so we pack up cardboard boxes with things we’ll never need again: our Skip It, Barbie’s corvette, slap braces and those shared and jagged silver heart necklaces.

But then your first best friend, the one who used to wake you up on Christmas morning and ruin the surprise for you, decides she’s got to leave.

You’ll want it back, then: the necklace and those ten years and the sound of her voice before she learned how to curse and drive stick shift and be old without you.

Your heart will scatter itself like dandelion seeds along the Eastern coastline until it feels so thin, so fragile, that you’ll sit up in the middle of the night and clutch your neck, wishing so badly for that necklace.

And the eight-year-old across the street will teeter by on her pink bicycle and you’ll wonder if forever can be wrapped up in a piece of jewelry you never leave home without, if home can live and breathe in that metal scrap around your neck, brushing right past your heart with each forward step.

She’ll whisper “Call Me Maybe.” But Never “You Better.” Never “I’ve Been Waiting For You Forever.”

She deserves your words.

I think you know which ones I mean. Those words you sometimes shove in between the wall and the crates beneath your bed.

I am sitting here playing Fairy Godmother because I am such a good liar.

And really, you can burst out laughing at that one because we both know my heart is stitched into my palms and my words are stained on my teeth and if people still went around dyeing their tea like lovely Mr. Heath Ledger in “The Patriot,” surely they would sop up some of my blog posts and let the ink turn hot water into black & bitter truths.

So let me be honest: she needs your words.

In dimly lit bars. Over bowls of potato soup. On the car ride home from a long night at work. Rushing through a maze of tables to deliver ketchup bottles to screaming toddlers. Inside the voicemail box on her phone that holds messages from six months ago, maybe.

Messages she cannot bear to delete. Messages she probably plays on repeat.

Because this silence is killing her.

You know it is. I do, too.

Instead she’s got me. Miss I Cannot Tell A Lie, She’s Forgetting About You. Miss I Wish It Wasn’t True. Miss It’s Not Supposed To Go Like That.

All while she sits on the other side of the computer screen and paints her toenails. Head ducked down. Shirt stained with more memories than the top of the Empire State Building has held engagements.

She deserves that, too. Your engagement, you know?

Your undivided attention. Your “Really Now” and “Exactly” and “How about we set aside a couple hours to sip wine and scour the Internet for the perfect pattern to sew ourselves to each others’ sides for another four years?”

Because she’s not ready for goodbye. For lonely. For the quiet saturating a solitary Saturday inside a house that once held fresh baked pie and the smell of lavender burning and Tahitian candles and his smooth voice whispering terms of endearment.

You know that’s a crime, right? Sitting in the same bedroom where your heart has broken over and over by that voice saying things you don’t understand?

She won’t tell you. She’ll whisper “Call Me Maybe” and pretend it’s just a song on the radio. Just a tune to crank while she cooks chicken on the stove. Just someone else’s words, but never hers.

Call Me Maybe. Maybe Not. But Never “You Better.” Never “I’m Waiting For The Phone To Ring.”

She needs you, you know. Before she moves on.

She’ll be in San Francisco or St. Louis or Southern Mississippi with a baby on her hip before you ever turn around and whisper I’m Sorry I Forgot To Care in her ear. Before you offer to hold the baby so she can have three seconds to breathe. Three seconds to remember how she felt back Now. Three seconds for her to pull the baby away and say No, No, I am not doing this.

She will be making new connections. Gathering new phone numbers.

I told her so.

If you are angry, darling, you best run to me and settle it.

In the meantime, I will be learning the art of slurping potato soup. Or something like that.

Things have changed since you cracked my spine and settled into your beanbag chair.

This life is a book I can’t put down.

But half my readers would rather skip the part that says, “God is good,” and head straight for “The Downfall.”

In fact, they’d probably shake my by my shoulders and say there simply isn’t enough controversy in these pages to warrant any sales. To warrant a life worth living.

And I would spin them around, nudge them toward Self Help & Addiction and Jodi Picoult’s moral dilemmas and tell them they’ve come to the wrong spot in the bookstore, baby.

Because we itch our stocking and the backs of our necks when someone starts throwing words like Newness and Next Chapter around like they are good. Like progress is a problem.

The only problem is I can’t please you all.

My life isn’t a bookstore. It’s just one book in the Coming of Age section.

I am just a girl learning how to sign up for a health care plan and stock her own pantry and live in an apartment alone for the first time since you cracked my spine and settled into your beanbag chair.

And must I remind you that was twenty-two years ago? That the books we loved then are not the same as now?

It’s true that we get giddy about new chapters, but we all have different expectations for them.

She wants me to stay rooted in the Somewhere Safe she knows well, would rather I stretch to a 600-pager. I am ready to wrap this chapter up and Epilogue that sucker.

Start a new book that begins, “And then she learned how to live alone…”

Because I will. And it will not be your story. Or your mother’s. Or your best friend’s. Or your hairdressers. It will be mine. Just for me.

Maybe that sounds selfish. Us writers, we scribble stories stuck inside our heads. We are gray-seers and world-dwellers. We are so ready to scramble into the back of someone else’s car and land out butts in Charleston, South Carolina because something told us we should Begin Again.

I’m not asking you to pick me up in the middle of Chapter 22 and fall in love.

I’m just asking that someone, somewhere, have faith that I know what I’m writing today and tomorrow but in ten years? No, no no. That is for ten years from now to worry about.

We envision endings and Life Happens and a couple people read on to find out if that picture stays the same, if we learn how to not burn our grilled cheese or overflow the toilet. If we stock clogging the vacuum and if we always look like a mess when it rains all day.

But we cannot please the world. And if we could, what kind of life would that be?