Tag Archives: choices

The Heartbreak Healer. The Boyfriend Bully. The Future Finder.

I want to shake her shoulders and tell her to stop pining for the boy who has his fingers running through another girl’s hair.

Stop standing on his front walkway, waiting for him to hand his heart to her. Stop slow dancing to the sound of his heartbeat against her head on our living room couch.

“You want to be with someone who thinks you are the greatest thing ever,” I tell her.

Her cheeks blush and her eyes glaze over.

“I know you don’t want to hear that,” I continue. “But it’s true.”

I watch her hold a stopwatch while he runs laps around her. She’s hoping he comes back tomorrow. Every day, I think, she wakes up sure this is The Day.

I want to tell her to fall in love with a boy who loved her first. Who loved her more. Who loved her best.

I’ll leave out the part that boys like that are hard to find.

I want to tell her to stop taking her anger out on the bottles of Lucky Duck lining the windowsill above the sink. Stop stacking them atop the kitchen cabinets like trophies for the girl who never finds First Place in His Heart anymore.

But those words stay silent. Those secrets stay sealed.

I’m trained to stand in the hallway and wait for sobs. To listen for the cracks in her voice when she says his name. To push the conversation forward when she doesn’t have the strength.

I am the heartbreak healer. The boyfriend bully. The future finder.

I am supposed to carve out a path for her, complete with a white dress and a country ballad and a tall boy with brown hair and a big heart beating just for her.

I can’t. I can’t find it.

This is me, the girl who doesn’t have a Pinterest board for that Big Day, the girl who gave some boy her heart and broke it twice, the girl who still isn’t sure if she’ll ever hum a slow ballad barefoot on a dance floor, telling her to hang on.

But not for him. Not for the boy running laps without stopping to see her. Not the boy with his fingers in another girl’s hair.

Not him, my darling. There are billions of other hims to choose from. I have a feeling, someday, you’ll find the right one.


Twenty one is just another barrier standing between her and the rest of the world.

Someone was looking out for me when they threw the hypochondriac four rooms down from the girl for whom “personal pharmacy” was a serious understatement.

the hangover hospital

via weheartit.com

It’s no wonder I want to take the Red Cross emblem from outside the Emergicare Center next to Hardee’s and tack it above her bedroom door.

I wish I could say there’s some other image I picture when I think of her, something sweet and welcoming like a smile or a handshake, but no.

No, it’s the hospital, the rescues, the always-here-when-you-need-me-and-even-if-you-think-you-don’t moments that stick with me for four years and threaten to pull me back to reality if ever my feet lift too far off the ground.

She found us on Facebook. And no, I did not change my name to Girl With An Endless Sea of Problems. She walked right into that door, my friend.

Walked right into our open oak bedroom door, too. Inserted herself into our lives, demanding those four years of us in just four seconds.

I have never, well not since kindergarten, met someone with such boldness when it comes to making friends. Few of us are daring enough to plunge into icy water and break back through the surface, refreshed and almost comfortable already, even though we know it’s going to be OK.

Brooke did that. And I needed that sort of reckless confidence lying around. I needed someone to waltz into my life, promising to stick by me when the going got rough.

And oh, how rough it got. How many times she had to talk me down from cliffs when I was sure I was dying. Sure death was lurking just around the next corner, ready to grab me with its greedy little hands and pull a bed sheet over my head.

The only time I’ve ended up in the ER since my freshman year, she was fortunate enough to escape the phone call that came when I woke up disoriented and wondering how, when someone takes you in an ambulance, you get back home.

Do you walk? Do you crawl? Do you sit down on the cold concrete outside the waiting room drop-out pull-through overhang of that empty, brand-spanking-new parking lot and pray someone channels your inner being to find you?

No. You call your roommate and when she asks where you are, when she asks where the hospital is, you tell her the truth: All you remember is seeing a Sheetz somewhere out the back window of a moving vehicle. And then nothing. Nothing except that absolute terror when you come to and realize someone is wheeling you in on a gurney. Like you really are on the brink of dying.

I am so glad I never put her through that, so thankful because I know she will travel – has traveled – leaps and bounds to help me when I’ve fallen.

I know all about those people, the ones for whom a phone call or a text message is not enough. Oh no, she has to trudge across campus in the middle of a hot afternoon when she has no time, really, to stop what she’s doing. She has to find the girl in the middle of a breakdown, any breakdown, and calm her down.

She is the youngest, if we’re going by birth dates. Turned the big 21 yesterday.

But something tells me that 21 is just another number, just another barrier standing between her and the rest of the world. And she’s conquered it already, moved on to something more urgent.

We have become experts in grabbing onto someone else to pull ourselves up higher.

The first time I ran three miles, I almost cried when I saw the 7-Eleven up ahead. My lungs ached; my legs felt like a ton of bricks; my heartbeat thumped loud in my ears and mocked the sound of sneakers on concrete. I was acutely aware of every movement, every step forward to the invisible finish line.

It wasn’t a race.

But us slow pokes in the back have trouble remembering that. We round the next corner and spot a street sign up ahead.

“Make it to that crosswalk and then, maybe, you can take a quick break.”

And then we pass the crosswalk and refocus on a new landmark. That’s the way life should be handled: as a series of stops we should conquer one at a time. Don’t look too far ahead, kid. You’ll freak yourself out.

Someone should have told us that. Someone should have written us a letter when we were just old enough to read and said that life is a marathon—not a sprint.

Instead, we had to wait until we could grasp the metaphorical concept sung about on the radio and written about in books and challenged in movies. We had to figure it out slowly over time, after we already pressed hard harder hardest toward the end.

To take the 30 seconds to stop and look at where we’re at, who we’re with, what we’re doing, that’s crazy, right?

My senior year of high school, I finally figured out the whole running thing. I’m high strung by nature, but the day I ran my best, the clouds covered the sun and the light breeze cooled my back as I started from the back of the pack and picked the girls off, one by one, like flowers on tree branches as I eased by them. I wasn’t aggressive or laid back; I found a rhythm and I trusted myself.

That’s the way to go through life.

Instead, we’ve turned to vices. A quick cigarette here to ease the nervous jitters. A shot of tequila to make that guy in the corner by the jukebox look worthy enough to take home. And then the invisible ones:

Surveying a room full of strangers and knocking each of them down three rungs on some beauty ladder by tearing apart their bad hair dye job or their orange skin tone or their extra little flab around the waist.

We have become experts in grabbing onto someone else and using them to pull ourselves up higher. In life, in love, in the workplace.

We’ve taught ourselves that the only way out is through. Through holes in hearts and cracks in consistency and the pieces of us that break off when we shed pounds in preparation for bikini season the way dogs shed fur.

Have we forgotten to believe in helpfulness? In buying the box of girl scout cookies from the 7-year-olds dancing and skipping and begging us to pay attention please, oh please, just this once, it’s for a good cause?

All of it’s become extra weight we don’t need to carry around.

We’ve forgotten about connections.

About linking hands and hearts and creating an army of good to battle the bad in our past, present, future. We’re warriors fighting against each other when really, we should band together against the disease and terror and heartbreak that threatens to kill us each and every day.

Have we forgotten to sweep our neighbor’s sidewalk when the leaves fall or the snow piles up? To take in their delivered package on the porch when it’s raining and they’re on vacation?

We forgot about Gandhi. About being the change we wish to see in the world. Instead, we see the face in the mirror transform into the change we should’ve avoided.

The good news is that it’s never too late to get it back. What will you do today to turn it around?

Things My Father Taught Me: Self-Sacrifice

my sister's grad party

When I think of my father, it’s always a series of images. On his cell phone driving home from Boston. Bending down for a bear hug from my sister and I, both of us in oversized t-shirts and bare feet. Head ducked over a cookbook at the kitchen counter. Busy hands on a cutting board.

He’s like a Polaroid: the meaning develops slowly but surely until, at the end, it seems like it should’ve been obvious all along.

Ten years before I was born, someone took a snapshot of him. What they saw, I can only imagine. From what I’m told, he was a man riding the train each day at South Amboy to commute to school and work. Just a few crumpled bills in his pocket.

Back then, maybe he was already imagining a family. Maybe he was already gearing up to provide for two little girls and the woman he fell in love with in tenth grade.

I used to tell the kids with divorced parents that they didn’t understand. Semantics didn’t matter; they saw their fathers more than me.

He spent Monday through Friday at an apartment in Connecticut every week for years. We visited once. It didn’t feel much like home.

There was a full bed and you could literally do your laundry and wash dishes in the same room. He had a mini world up there, but it wasn’t home. Everything was the same shade of tan, like God had dumped a bucket of sand on top of it and hadn’t bothered to clean up the mess.

And yet it was spotless. Not even lived in, really. At the time, I’d expected there to be more. More decorations. More colors. More life. I think I was relieved there wasn’t, that he didn’t have this whole new life waiting for him.

That’s the first time I understood: this apartment, it wasn’t important. It was like a holding tank for the man who had to work four hours from home to support his family. He didn’t live there because he wanted to; he did it because he had to.

When Connecticut became Boston, and four hours became six, he started living in a hotel. If I close my eyes, I can still imagine him sitting at the empty bar on a Tuesday night, watching a post-season MLB game and nursing a glass bowl of mixed nuts. He told us he became friends with the bartender and the concierge and I wondered what it must feel like to befriend hotel staff; to make a life inside a place others were always passing through on the route to somewhere better.

Lots of fathers commute. Of that, I am sure. But there is a world of difference between the hour-long commute and the six-hour commute.

I wouldn’t say my dad is a man of few words; he certainly speaks his mind when necessary. But even without saying it, I know what kept him pushing through the fatigue at 3 a.m. on a desolate highway every Monday morning for years:

His three girls, sleeping in their beds at home as he backed quietly down the driveway and sped toward to main road.

I cannot be sure if the tenth grader knew he’d do that. He almost certainly didn’t. But he fell in love and never looked back. He took a simple task, one that many people find a way to fail—providing for a family—and dedicated his life to it.

I can only hope to someday have the same strength.

Note: John Mackey, Chairman and CEO of Whole Foods, shared a similar feeling today on LifeByMe.com. He believes that everything he does should be rooted in love–consciously or otherwise.

If Jesus had a car thousands of years ago, you think he would’ve passed that up in favor of walking across the desert for 40 days?

My mom never told me not to talk to strangers on the Internet. If she had, my life would’ve turned out drastically different.

my own road trip through virginia

My dad wouldn’t have driven me—on his 40th birthday—to a golf course down the road from our house where I would, presumably, meet a boy I’d never met face-to-face. Running on pure faith that he wasn’t a child molester.
Well, maybe not that much faith. He turned out fine.

I don’t remember how it started six years ago. The beginning doesn’t matter.

What matters is that my parents have, for as long as I can remember, trusted me to befriend the right people. Whether they live 20 minutes or 20 hours away. Doesn’t much matter.

The fact is, I’ve met so many wonderful people through this crazy Internet thing. And a lot of them are doing absolutely awesome things with their lives.

But I have a little story about two of them for you—Lauren and Max—who know a bit more about blind faith than my 16-year-old self did, standing in a golf course parking lot on a hot August afternoon.

More than two months ago, Max decided to travel the country. Counting on the kindness of strangers to carry him from one end of America to the other. And about a month ago, he stopped in the middle of Ohio to pick up Lauren—a girl he fell in love with through the Internet—for the ride. The two of them are devout Christians with a love so intense it puts a lot of people to shame. A lot of people.

And as they drive through the country on a wild road trip that many openly disapprove of, I am giving them major credit. Because even though I have never met these two wonderful individuals, they taught me one of the most valuable lessons:

That Christianity does not demand perfection. That to sin is to be human.

I’ve lost my way, steering toward all the other directions in life that are screaming out with flashy lights and bright colors for me to come toward them. They’re more exciting, more real, more right-here-and-now-oh-yeah. I have trouble sitting still, reading a book that wasn’t published within the last ten or fifteen years, and going on blind faith that in order to be a good Christian, you don’t have to be perfect.

For some reason, it doesn’t matter that making mistakes is in our nature, or that I’ve heard people write that and tell me that hundreds of times. Even Miley Cyrus. Or should I say Hannah Montana?

For the girl who makes her share of mistakes on a daily basis – yes, daily – but has a boatload of trouble accepting herself for them, this is a big deal. World changing thinking. My shins will thank you for stopping me from kicking them (figuratively speaking, of course).

Nobody who wanders the world on the generosity of others has everything perfectly tied up. And neither does someone who jumps in the car to follow, ready and willing to leave her city behind. But that’s good. That’s what’s real.

They don’t devote every single moment of their lives to other people. They devote a lot, but not all of it. They’ve both stumbled through moments in their pasts and they’re both trying to figure out what they want in this world, but they know they’ve got God in the backseat, making sure everything is safe.

They have houses to crash at, friends to depend on, and love to hold onto and spread out. And you know what? If Jesus had a car thousands of years ago, you think he would’ve passed that up in favor of walking across the desert for 40 days? Yeah, didn’t think so.