Category Archives: Uncategorized

Kiss The Curb You’ve Fallen On

For most of my life, I have kept the peace by not knowing. I did not know how to choose a presidential candidate or narrow my job search prospects to a particular geographic area. I did not know the proper way to break a boy’s heart. I did not know when a boy became a man, when I was in fact breaking a man’s heart. I did not know how to get an auto insurance quote or change the oil in my car or buy an EZ Pass transponder.

Above all, I did not know that not knowing wasn’t doing me any good. That there wasn’t always peace sitting inside stillness. There wasn’t always a road map just beyond the uncertainty.

I am so young. Let me just pin that piece of truth to the bulletin board of my life and know it for a couple thousand more days. I am so young and don’t know much of anything. But I know this.

You’re not doing yourself a blessed good thing by wishing to unknow the pain or drama or anxiety or pure adrenaline.

There will be mornings when you expect rain without checking the weather because it couldn’t possibly be sunny on a Monday in December when your black dress is spread across your bed and you’ve only held the title teenager long enough to want to return it to Target’s customer service desk.

There will be afternoons when you’ll have to double-check the phone lines still work because you have been in this house too long without another human breathing in the same air. And you will wonder if loneliness is literal and actual or just a train station stop.

There will be nights when you will wonder how soon you can curl up in bed even when the neighborhood is chanting over games of beer pong outside and you are supposed to be out there. Supposed to be living. Supposed to be wild and reckless and gosh, what a failure you’ll feel like.

And it won’t be easy, knowing funerals before you know double digits or wishing for normal when all God ever wanted from you was a little fight, a little heart, a little push toward newness.

He had His plan and it didn’t include not knowing. It didn’t include quiet uncertainty or second-guessing. It didn’t include always taking the perfect path, the one people want from you, the one that doesn’t make your mother skittish.

He had His plan and it was all about knowing how to slip into what feels right, in the midst of crisis or chaos or control issues, and reassess later.

We don’t always hear that. We focus on the mornings and afternoons and evenings that tell us there will never be a right answer, that making a decision to feel good or bad is just a recipe for disaster, that if we can just numb ourselves into believing we don’t know anything, there will be less pain.

There won’t be.

There never has been.

But in knowing our choices and choosing them bravely, we step farther from the holes. We splash around the puddles. We kiss the curbs we’ve fallen on and stand up, brush the dirt from our knees, and remember that dirt as we trudge onward.

Know this. The way it feels to make a massive mistake and right yourself.

Know this. The way it sounds to hear that voice on the phone say you did good.

Know this.

Make choices. Take chances. Know them. Own them. And let Him lead you, chance after chance.

Please, oh please, don’t let yourself be paralyzed by wanting to unknow the world. It was meant to be known a thousand times over, all in different ways.

On Braving Sandy Alone

My grandma called at 5:33 on Sunday evening. I was already perched on my couch, had been all day, squinting out the kitchen window as if I didn’t trust the tranquil trees to tell the truth.

“How are you, Kal? How is the hurricane?”

I’m fine. It’s fine. It’s not even raining yet. Just a little breezy.

I wanted to say that disaster is never real until it is too real. That there is nothing more unnerving than calmness before calamity sets in. That I have not slept well in three days because I imagine that sequence in Twister where the little girl watches her dad leave the cellar forever.

When the Twin Towers fell, I sat in history class huddled around a PC reading headlines. When Osama bin Laden was killed, I ran downstairs to tell my roommate in the living room. When last year’s earthquake struck, I sat in the newsroom laying out pages with my co-editor.

I have never held disaster in my hands without someone sitting next to me, ready to relieve me from the burden.

I have done what I can, what the three-page document affixed to my front door has recommended: I have gone to Wegmans, carted a bottled water case up two flights of stairs, navigated Wal-Mart for the last flashlight in the sporting goods section.

I have no cooler, no ice, no plan for how to keep in contact with the people I love. Tell them that I am safe, sitting in the dark but safe, wind batting against my bedroom windows but safe, huddled in the closet safe.

When my grandma called, I wanted to tell her to leave—go anywhere but back to her family room with the Cherished Teddies in the windowsill, the stained glass lamps on the end tables, the big maple tree in the front yard.

I wanted to tell her to find someplace else for a while, someplace not sitting in the eye of this storm, but I didn’t want to scare her.

My life is in pieces, dotting the Eastern shoreline. And I know that in the stretch of time ahead, I will lose contact with some or all of those dots. And that’s scary.

Disaster is the ultimate loss of control. It’s the reason I’ve been on my couch all day, watching the scrolling text telling me who to call, when to be worried, T-minus how many hours until it’s all upon us.

I hope I never have to wonder whether we’re all OK. I hope days don’t pass without some small message of hope.

Four maracas, three girls, one song and a feathered comforter.

Before there were boyfriends and broken hearts and buddies that moved away, there were just three girls, a song, wooden bedposts, and a feathered comforter.

Our hands wrapped around the wooden spheres we’d wrestled from bedposts, makeshift maracas we alternated shaking above our heads and stuffing down our tank tops to make us look like Real Life Barbie Dolls.

The music played in our heads as we belted out renditions of a song we knew so well and not at all. A song fit inside us to make us feel like rebel girls all the while holding us in suburbia.

We knew the words, but we didn’t understand them. Heard the regret, but didn’t feel it.

We chose, instead, to bounce on a bed draped in a feathered duvet comforter. Our tiny toes trampled all that was Light & Airy & Floating Along Fine Just Fine.

“He was a skater boy. She said, ‘See ya later boy.’ He wasn’t good enough for her.”

I look for it now—those words, that verse, the moment when everything shifted from Peace Out, Sucker to Wait Wait Wait, Come Back To Me.

But it’s gone.

The song didn’t make it into my iTunes library when I shifted from Windows to Mac. The words didn’t wait for me to find them, relish in their bittersweet regret, and tuck them deep into my pocket for safekeeping.

“Now he’s a superstar. Jamming on his guitar. Does your pretty face see what he’s worth?”

I wonder how many moments it takes for us to figure out we won’t get it back. If it’s possible, at twelve years old, to be hyperaware of that while you bounce on your parents’ bed with your two best friends and a pair of makeshift maracas.

Back then we could end songs when we wanted to. Forgetting, sometimes, that it stopped well before we restarted the first verse after the last chorus. Forgetting we had the ability to hit Repeat six million times but it wouldn’t slow Tomorrow down.

Forgetting that we couldn’t stay in that spot where we were three girls in a bedroom with two pairs of wooden bedposts in our fists and a beige feather duvet comforter softening our falls.

The song ends. The day ends. The girls stop bouncing on the creaking bed. The stereo remote gets kicked beneath the bed and lost. The girl moves. The bed gets shipped to another state.

And then the three girls start to wonder if that moment was even real.

They’re still pinging you with new Friend Requests and People You May Know long after you’ve defriended them.

I am de-friending Failure on Facebook, blocking her (because I am sure she looks like Regina George from Mean Girls) from my News Feed, and untagging her from all my photos.

The thing about de-friending someone on Facebook is that they don’t actually disappear. They’re still sitting in the back of your mind at your weakest moments. They’re still pinging you with new Friend Requests and Mutual Friends and the People You May Know tab long after you’ve kicked them to the curb.

But for some wicked and unexplainable reason, that’s comforting.

I can’t get rid of the moment Failure and I became best friends. We were in fourth grade and she leaned across the lunch table, snapped my sports bra against my bony shoulder.

“You have nothing,” she told me.

Translation: you are nothing.

She could’ve push me up against a wall and every single part of my body would’ve touched it. No curves—just a few feet of Failure rolled into my tiny torso.

Later she shoved me up against a locker and told me to stop being mental. Stop worrying about cracking my head open when I jumped backward and begged my arms to hold my weight. Stop punishing myself for being the oldest—and least competent—girl on the gymnastics team.

Failure punched me in the gut when my coach died and I thought I’d lost my only supporter.

It grinded me into the dusty playground asphalt when I didn’t make it into the gifted program in middle school.

It smacked me across the cheek when I quit gymnastics and opted to run circles through the woods.

It wrapped its meaty arms around me and choked me when I didn’t make it to the track championships for the 100-meter hurdlers. Every race after that when I tripped and fell flat on the rubber lane, it branded me with miniscule imprints around my eyes and cheekbones and forearms.

But regardless of the stories Failure tells you growing up, it’s the reason you’re able to turn someone else’s Failure down. It’s the reason you’ll never be far from the broken hearts and aching souls and twisted tragedies lining your email inbox and your phone lines and your text messages.

It’s the reason Failure always seems like a looming threat and a distant memory—at the same time. You can’t be strong unless you were weaker. You can’t reach out a hand unless you’ve once grasped someone else’s with all the helplessness in the world.

And it’s the reason every time someone else needs the courage to push the un-friend button on Facebook, I will be right there, cheering them on.

The Misunderstood Girl’s Story

The girl in the red velvet chair in a room filled with thousands of strangers in a dark theatre in midtown Manhattan in the middle of her last year of Sureness found herself straining to read the next line to Someone Else’s Story.

Eyes squinting. Head spinning. Throat tightening.

She was unsure of the end, trying to guess plot points. Hoping to infer from the diction in the song lyrics. The singing characters italicized to the right hand side.

She thought she might learn something about her own life. Thought she saw a similar soul singing atop that stage. The Misunderstood Girl.

The first curtain closed and the little girl two rows away in an obsidian plush dress danced for the bathroom stall doors, leaving the girl in the red velvet chair with too much to think about for ten minutes time.

She stood in front of her seat. Made a long distance phone call to Obligations, debating whether she deserved this. This? Oh no. Not this.

No girl deserves the feeling that surfaces when she realizes she has too few hands and only a finite number of hours to pack a punch into yesterday’s doubt and tomorrow’s pre-anxiety.

She doesn’t like sitting and waiting. Contemplating whether the Misunderstood Girl will get herself a happy ending downtown at Macy’s. Whether she will scrounge up enough quarters to keep plopping purchases on the countertop for Conviction and Consideration.

Something wonderful happens the minute she realizes this life of hers has just begun. That there will be another semi-annual sale in six months on something entirely uncreated as of today. That some happy ending will shift itself to align with the steps she’s taking along this Yellow Brick Road built beneath the two golden lines traveling the Interstate from one Home to Another.

She is only a quarter of the way through the performance. Dancing between the beginning and the intermission. Every future plot point still plausible. Every future false step still a lingering threat. Every future turnaround beckoning her when she forgets which road she’s on. Which of the two yellow lines on the Interstate to follow. Which Home to hold close.

For now, she doesn’t have to know. She can stop squinting at the playbill in the dark, stop studying the girl onstage, wishing she didn’t know the ending already, that Tarantino’s backwards storytelling techniques hadn’t been trending like Twitter hash tags.

The girl in the red velvet chair in the theatre in the city that held her heart before she was old enough to use two hands to tell her age can sit back and sigh a relief because she won’t know the answer to her own story.

Even if she knows the answer to today’s, she won’t know tomorrow.