Giving and Taking

So, I’m reading this book right now. It’s called A Little Life [affiliate] by Hanya Yanagihara. Ever since I saw it for the first time at the book store I felt drawn to it. I don’t know why. It’s really, really long. And as I’ve mentioned in the past, I am a very slow reader. So I try not to get drawn to books that are 720 pages. But here we are. One day I just couldn’t take it anymore and I drove to the store just to buy this book to read while I was at the laundromat. I’ve been reading it for hours at a time since Friday and I’m almost 1/4 of the way through.

So I’m going to write to you about how I’m feeling about this book knowing full well that my thoughts and feelings about certain characters absolutely will change as time goes on.

There’s this one character named Jude. And I hate that I relate to him more than anyone else. Or maybe everyone relates to him the most? I kind of doubt it but there’s a lot of him that echoes so much about how I feel a lot of the time. I really don’t like it, either, because Jude’s character is kind of the foil of his roommate, Willem. Willem is tall and blonde and beautiful and open and kind and generous. Jude is… a physical wreck. He’s an emotional brick wall. He’s filled with secrets and silence and nevertheless everyone loves him so much.

The thing about Jude is that he has a secret. I don’t know what it is yet. There have been allusions to what it might be but nevertheless, one of Jude’s most defining characteristics–at least at this point, is that he never divulges any personal information about himself. He doesn’t want anyone–not even his deepest most loving friends, to know what happened to him when he was a kid. He’s very aware of how much he takes from other people and is forever keeping track of what he owes to them. And he is forever in awe of the way that other people will hand over so much information about themselves so freely to one another.

Now, on the surface, there’s not a lot that Jude and I have in common. But the chapters that focus on him, for some reason, feel like they’re about me. I don’t know why I hold tightly to him except that we have similar defense mechanisms. Jude and I–we want to know our people intimately. We’re afraid to speak up. We’re afraid to ask about things we don’t know about. We both work so hard to appear to be fine that we miss out on true, full experiences.

There’s this one habit that I have–something leftover from childhood that still creeps up. No, it doesn’t creep up. It lives at the front of my mind and I have to actively battle it. Every day, when I remember to. It’s this part of me that is so afraid of getting things wrong or being seen as someone who doesn’t understand something. I’ve been doing this since I was a 5th grader in math class when my exasperated tutor would show me flash cards and I would roll my eyes and pretend like this particular math problem was too easy to even consider answering. I have never passed a math class on my own merit–even after I was in college and was trying my absolute best. I skated by on the kindness of befuddled teachers who couldn’t bear the thought of keeping me from graduation on account of the fact that I couldn’t grasp Algebra 1.

This hits me in relationships, too. I feel like there have been times where I’m just easing by on limited amount of information–forgetting how much people love to be asked about themselves. I do this thing where I assume that someone is going to give me as much information as they’re comfortable with and asking follow up questions is prying, nosy and insensitive. But that’s just not how it always goes. I feel like I’m too old to be learning basic aspects of friendship but here we are. I’m grateful to be learning them at some point.

Some of my closest friends are here because we’ve lived so much life together. But my newer friends, ones I’ve known for a year or two, it only hit me recently how little I know about them. I know how they see things politically. I know how they parent. I know that they are generous with their love and time. I know that we’re similar enough to get along and take care of one another and maybe I just figure that these friendships will live themselves into intimate knowledge of one another. And they will–of course they will. But the way I guard myself and expect others to want to do the same isn’t going to foster any sort of intimacy. I don’t want to be like Jude. I want to know and be known. I can’t wait to get back home and read more–I hope he gets to know this part of life.

So, I’m working hard at not letting fear get in the way of letting me life a full, intimate life. I’m divulging more information than I’m wont to do even though I feel so self conscious and self-absorbed when I feel like I’m talking too much. I’m asking people more about themselves. I am reminding myself that people want to know me as much as I want to know them. Digging deeper is okay–it’s important. It’s not an imposition–and if it is, my friend will tell me. Because friends.

This feels like basic stuff. Kind of embarrassing to even put out there. But these are the lessons I’m learning lately and if I’m living open and honest so that you can, too. It’s part of it.

What are you learning, lately?



This is how I know we’ll be okay.

You know how I know we’re going to be okay? It’s because you’re so good at giving me space to be myself. You’re excited to see who I turn into. No one’s ever been on my team the way that you are for as long as you have been. Even when it feels like things are a little bit too big. Even when it feels like we might burst and all these years that we’ve devoted to one another will get washed away–even then. You tell me what you’re afraid of and what I’m afraid of too. You say, “I don’t want that to happen.” And we both hold on a little tighter.
Part of the thing about a long term friendship, though, is that “holding on tighter” actually means to loosen your grip. We stay together because we stay elastic, flexible, and able to move without losing our own shape. We are that perfect pair of jeans infused with just enough spandex to keep your ass looking great but not so tight that we’re uncomfortable.
This is how I know we’ll be okay.

There are things in this world that, no matter how much I love the person who is saying them to me, the my instinct is just that flat mouth, wide-eyed emoji. And when a person is laying their heart out for me like that, I can’t just allow myself to respond that way. My care for them is what drives me to dig just a little bit deeper. To move past my initial instincts and reach down, in that moment, and practice being the kind of woman that I want to be. Do I want to be reactive or do I want to be the kind of person who invites the wholeness of the other person into the conversation? Because discomfort is a part of life and it’s easy to overcome. Just takes a little shift.
A lot of my life was spent working on the appearance of things it’s the soil where I was rooted. Everything was great so long as we had happy smiles and clean counter tops and we said polite things to one another. But under the surface, there were ants and anger problems that we dealt with in toxic ways–aerosol sprays and avoidance. Wipe it away. Pretend it was never here.

My favorite people to be around, these days, are the ones who are able to accept the contradictions of life. We can have clean counters and we can get ants in the summer–that’s a thing that happens all the time. That’s a thing that has no bearing on us as a people. We can smile and feel angry, too. One doesn’t counteract the other. You can hold both. You have two hands. And even more than that.
The past few years have been the most achingly happy of my entire life but they’ve not come without unimaginable pain.
I used to keep my soul so under wraps. It was private, a thing just for those closest to me. Just for those who had earned access to my heart.

Except–it grows when you give it away. Rip a piece off, hand it to someone, it’ll grow back. Really–it does. Try it. It’s worth it. That person might not know what to do with it, sure. But someone else might find a way to hold it with their own. Smoosh it together and create something new–just the two of you. Until someone else comes along.
The universal They is always telling you to guard your heart but I’m not there. That’s why I’m ripping open for you, here. I don’t know everyone reading this. I do know some people who are reading this–some of those are people that I am angry at or people that I would avoid eye contact with if we were in the grocery store. But that’s the practice, isn’t it? Right now, that’s my practice. Here, hold a piece of me. There are enough careful and grateful hands that I can spare a little extra.


So when someone tells me a thing about themselves that causes me to react, I want to take a step back. Sometimes that means responding in a way that isn’t coming that naturally to me, so that I can practice being the kind of person that I want to be. Sometimes in the moment, that’s the right thing to do.
And then go home and think.
I don’t want to think about the ways that my reaction was right. I don’t want to think about the ways that the other person is wrong. I don’t want to hold judgement.
I want to know myself. I want to know where that feeling came from. Where did my guard come from and why did it try to block me so hard? What’s keeping me from reaching out to my friend and holding this piece of her heart that she was so brave to hand to me?
And then I want to grab it. And I want to smoosh it into mine and let it live there, something brand new. And I want to go forward and keep handing it out to the other people that I love. And in time maybe we’ll all have a piece of one another.
This is how I know we’ll be okay.


How Often Do We Fail

I was in Kansas City twice this month. Both for very quick, but nourishing, trips. I feel blessed to have several friends who still live there and welcome us with the most open arms. Kansas City is the most incredible city I’ve ever known. And maybe it’s because I’ve lived there and maybe it’s because it’s probably the city with which I am most familiar but I think that it really is just because Kansas City is phenomenal. Kansas City loves itself and holds itself as dearly as I do.

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On Friendship and Being a Grown Up

Something about waltzing into adulthood makes it feel completely impossible to connect with the people that you hold dearest. Thirteen years ago, we were all right next to one another, packed into dorm rooms and studio apartments like sardines. Happy to fit six to a couch. The connection was inevitable when we lived too close to one another.

“No friendship is an accident.” O. Henry

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I Wrote You An Email

My dear–how have you been? Are the kids okay? I know that thing at work has been really getting to you—has it lightened up at all? I love seeing your pets on Instagram—please never stop. All our friends are having babies right now! Isn’t that great? If you’re wondering what to get all of them, this. I hope you’re finding some peace within your days. The days are getting chillier and with all the soup, boots, and pumpkin spice also come darker days so I hope you’re being proactive about preparing your mind for that. Please take care of yourself. Make a plan. Do you like this song?


I know I haven’t written in a while but it’s not because I don’t have anything to say. I have a lot of things I want to say and I’ve been working on finding language. I’ve been thinking about a lot of unrelated things.
Continue reading “I Wrote You An Email”