The holiday season is filled with plenty of busyness, gifting, joyful music, and emotions.
And those emotions can often feel like more than our hearts can handle.
I’ve been single for exactly every holiday that has ever existed, so I know a thing or two about getting through the month of December without a Clark to my Ellen. There’s just something about the Christmas season that helps to remind a single gal that she’s single—maybe it’s the endless songs mentioning mistletoe or the carriage rides with couples and families cuddled up under blankets together or the matching family pajamas on GIANT display at Target or the endless commercials with people in love giving each other Lexuses with big bows on them or the Hallmark movies with perfect endings or the chill in the air that feels colder when you’re alone or the—I could keep going, but I don’t want to.
I know that I’m not the only person who breathes who is single right now, so this isn’t a pity party, but I’ve come up with a short list of ways to get past the holiday blues that might creep up on you when you’re trying to be all holly and jolly and whatnot.
Take that carriage ride on your own, and enjoy every second of it — I actually had full intentions of doing this one year, but when I found out the price of how much it costs, that plan was shot. So, if you’re a cheapo like I am, you can do what I did and, instead, just drive super slowly in your own car with the windows down so that you can get a similar feel. Plus, you can blast your heat at the same time so that you’re really not that cold. And cruising in your car by yourself is super unromantic, so you won’t feel like you’re missing out like you would if you were in a carriage ride alone. (But the solo carriage ride thing is still cool, too.)
Watch Home Alone and Home Alone 2: Lost in New York — Unlike the Hallmark movies, there’s exactly zero romance involved in these classics. Plus, not only are they hilarious, but they are also about a young boy who kicks a$* on his own, so maybe they’ll provide you a little inspiration and encouragement at the same time.
Buy a Bath & Body Works Wallflower to make your home smell like Christmas cookies— You can also buy a candle, but I find that the Wallflowers are easier and last longer. Plus, they’re cheaper. Either way, the intoxicating scent is pretty much guaranteed to bring you a little extra peace.
Watch a Dallas Cowboys game — You’ll be so upset with how they play that you’ll forget all about being single during the holidays.
Remind yourself that being single means that you have one less gift to purchase — Hey, you might as well focus on a financial advantage of this situation.
Take a few minutes to watch this video in its entirety — You’re welcome.
Do all of the things you love to do, and spend time with your people — This is the most important one. You don’t have to be part of a pair to be part of a family. It might be tougher than you prefer, but you don’t have to let your lack of something take away from your joy of what you already have.
The holiday season can be a heart-wrenching time for some people for a variety of reasons, regardless of their relationship statuses. Hug your people a little extra—you don’t always know what’s going on in their hearts, and they may need those hugs more than you’ll ever know.
If you’re feeling more single than ever this year, know that YOU CAN DO HARD THINGS. You may not feel loved and adored by anyone trying to meet you under the mistletoe, but you are loved and adored by the One who is the reason we celebrate the Christmas holiday in the first place.
And that’s sure as heck a reason to be joyous in a potentially tough time of the year.
Some things claim to be permanent but actually aren’t—yes, even those trusted Sharpies can fail us.
But leave it to a Disney character to remind us of the one thing that will never falter.
A little more than a week ago, the radiator in my car decided to die, and there was a moment I thought I might actually die when smoke started coming out of the front of my car, and I was certain it was about to explode with me in it. The one good thing that came out of this was that I got to drive a BMW SUV for a while for the price of an economy car rental. I definitely like when things work out like that. I’m not really a fancy person, but you give me heated seats and all of these ridiculous and superfluous features (but especially the heated seats), and I’m hooked. I offered my RAV4 to the rental place to trade straight up, but no deal.
Later that evening, my friend Cali and I went to dinner and then decided to drive out to a fun bar/restaurant about 20 or 30 minutes away. I mean, we got to ride in heated seats the whole time and cruise in a car that neither of us can afford (#teachersalary), so why not? We sat down at a table for four, and it wasn’t long before a woman came our way and asked if she could take one of our extra chairs. A short time later, a man came over and asked the same thing for the other extra chair. We hadn’t been there that long—how did they know we didn’t have people coming to join us?
When you’re single, whether they intend to do so or not, people have a way of reminding you that you aren’t actually saving a chair for anyone.
Like probably many people, I love the holiday season. The smells are wonderful, and there’s this unseen but completely felt transition that takes place in society—people are generally more thankful, more giving, more thoughtful, and more available than during other times in the year. Maybe that’s why there’s that song “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” Go figure.
At the same time, though, it can also be a rather difficult time for some individuals. In a way, it’s a constant reminder for people who are single or alone. I love Target with my whole heart, but the GIANT DISPLAY of family matching pajamas is kind of a slap in the face when you have no one to match with you.
My sister and I went to see Frozen 2 the other night (highly recommend), and once again, that Olaf charmed his way even deeper into my heart. He has such a remarkably beautiful outlook on life. I won’t give away too much of the movie, but the sweet little snowman says something that has a way of ingraining itself in your mind and heart because it’s so genuine and so true: “Hey, Anna—I just thought of one thing that’s permanent: love.”
Olaf gets it.
The pumpkin spice latte and peppermint mochas will fade as the seasons change. The decorations will be taken down. The snow will melt (except for Olaf, obviously). The generosity, sadly, might become less generous. The family togetherness might lessen. The radio stations will go back to playing their standard tunes. The airlines will see a slight decline in mass travel for a while. The overall magical feeling that the holiday season brings will dwindle. So many more things will fade, but love will not.
Because love is permanent.
I know that I’ve never actually been in a relationship, but I do know what love is and what love does. I also know that it’s not reserved solely for romance. It’s not meant for one day or one month or one season or one year or one whatever—it’s forever and always.
When I look at my family, the truth of permanent love makes much more sense to me. We’re imperfect people who have been through quite a bit together, but we’ve never once thought about giving up on each other. When you truly love people, you don’t turn your back on them. You fight their fights with them, you let them cry their tears to you, you celebrate their victories with them, and you help them up and remind them of who they are when they feel like they simply can’t keep going. That’s what love does.
Because love is permanent.
I don’t need to get down about Target not making holiday PJs specifically for singles or about people taking chairs from my table when they make their own assumptions. I’ve got my people. Sure, I may hope for a permanent love with my own Ryan Reynolds-esque guy, but I’m going to let myself sit in the joy of knowing that a quirky little snowman has reminded me of something that I need to not only continue to remind myself every day but also continue to remind those around me by the way I live.
The goals we attain won’t last forever. Our looks and talents will fade. The struggles we face will eventually end. Money and awards and trophies won’t carry over into eternity. And so many other things we feel and endure and earn are fleeting. But love? That stuff’s permanent.
Just ask the snowman who is made of nothing but love and survives all of the elements.
I love when football teams go for two-point conversions.
Sure, you could get the easy extra point, but why not get two the hard way, instead?
I went to Chicago over the weekend, where it was much colder than what I define as freezing in Texas—and the locals tried to tell me that it was a good thing I came when it had warmed up. The high was 35, people. Where’s the warm in that?
When I went running Saturday morning, it was 30 degrees with some wet streets from the melted snow. Unfortunately, that meant that I had to pay a lot more attention to each step I took, because there were random patches of ice all over the place. I had come prepared with my ski mittens and warm clothes, so the run actually ended up being pretty nice.
As I was making my way back to my hotel, I ran past two bundled-up men walking to a bus stop, and one of them offered me a bit of encouragement: “Go for it, girl!” I really appreciate when people cheer each other on, whether it’s in sports or simply life in general, so I’m very grateful for that man.
And he reminded me how I want to continue to live.
I probably wouldn’t make a great head football coach. There’s a lot of strategy in the game that I would likely want to throw out the window when it came to fourth-down situations. I would want to go for it as often as possible, putting complete trust in my players to get the job done. (Although, according to this article, it looks like some coaches are embracing my beliefs.)
I’m not exactly sure why, but I’m fascinated by public transportation. Like, I freaking love it. I became a user of the “L” train (which I’ve wanted to ride ever since I saw this classic Oscar-worthy movie) while I was in Chicago, and I’m going to be perfectly honest with you: I felt pretty darn cool riding that thing. I felt so city. I can’t wait to go to New York City one day and spend some time on the subway.
I had downloaded an app that tracks the “L” and tells you when one of the trains will arrive at whatever station you specify. I was on my way to the station near my hotel and getting closer, but Google Maps said that I was six minutes away, while the train app was telling me that the next train would arrive in four minutes. No bueno. I had somewhere I needed to be and didn’t want to be late, but I felt a little defeated. But then I thought of the man I saw on my run.
Go for it, girl.
I started running, which was challenging in all of my layers and the boots I was wearing at the time. As you know, boots are made for walking, not running. I darted to a ticket kiosk as soon as I got to the station and quickly punched all of 14 thousand necessary buttons to charge my card. I grabbed the ticket and dashed through the gates toward the escalator, which just happened to be broken—OF COURSE IT WAS. I hustled up the stagnate metal steps, and just as I made it to the top, the trains doors were closing (it had arrived a minute early).
It was time for my movie moment.
I yelled “NOOOOOO, WAIT!!!!” as I ran toward the train, and I guess the driver must have seen me and felt a little gracious, because the doors suddenly opened as I made somewhat of a dramatic entrance and found an open seat. It was a nice moment that made me smile.
There are plenty of risks in life and too many setbacks and obstacles to count to go along with them, but there are often greater reasons to go after what you know in your heart you’re meant to go after.
It might be 4th and inches or 4th and long—sometimes you simple need to go for it. Submit the application. Send the text. Register for the race. Go talk to that cutie across the room. Book the trip. Sign up for the class. Address the issue. Audition for the production. Go on the date. Sing out loud. Say what’s on your heart. Dance. Ask the question. Tell your fears “no,” and do the thing you know you’re meant to do.
Go for it.
I spent far too many years being hesitant and thinking that I wasn’t good enough or pretty enough or whatever enough to take big risks. I can say with complete certainty that life is much more enjoyable when you’re confident enough to know that, even if things don’t pan out the way you hoped they would, at least you were brave enough to try.
Don’t let fear hold you back from anything. Look it straight in the face, and say “not today, not any day.” Then go for it, my friend. You’ll likely be glad you did.
And you just might find that you’re much more capable of doing the hard things than you ever imagined.
Let’s be perfectly honest—sometimes life is just plain rough, and it’s challenging to find reasons to be thankful. At times, it feels like you’re either sinking in quicksand or going through a never-ending storm that doesn’t appear to be letting up anytime soon. Your heart hurts, your brain hurts, and all of the emotions are making your body actually physically hurt.
You might often hear people talk about the different seasons of life—seasons of change, seasons of joy, seasons of pain, seasons of sorrow, seasons of financial troubles, seasons of success, seasons of being alone. So.many.seasons. But what about those perpetual seasons that don’t seem to want to change from one to the next?
I’m a pretty joyous person, and I try to help others to have fun in most situations, but I also know what it’s like to have a heavy heart and feel like no one truly understands the pain you’re going through. It’s sometimes difficult to focus on the reasons you have to be thankful because you’re consumed by the reasons you have to struggle. While I think it’s important to acknowledge the bad things in your life and to feel the emotions resulting from them (I’m actually still learning how to do this), I also think it’s healthy to find bits of gratitude, especially when you’re going through the darker points in life.
Years ago, I started wearing pink on Wednesdays. Sure, it was originally inspired by Mean Girls, but I later learned that pink is the color of gratitude, and now I treat that day as my weekly day of thanks. Three of my dear friends in California and I email our reasons to be grateful every Wednesday, and it’s a tradition I’ve come to love. No matter what messes we’re facing, we each find a list of things for which we’re thankful and share our bits of joy with one another.
Lately, just in my own life to myself, I’ve been trying to find those gratitude tidbits more and more on a daily basis. I’ve been in one of those tough seasons recently (or, more accurately, one that just hasn’t ever ended), and it’s easy to get caught in the trap of wanting to throw a pity party for and with only myself. But when I push those thoughts away and then, instead, focus them on the reasons I have to be grateful, my heart’s emotions shift, and the desire to feel sorry for myself disappears. Rather than thinking about what I wish were different, I think about what’s so wonderful as it is.
And joy takes over.
In the Bible, Paul reminds us to be thankful in all circumstances, not just the good ones. No matter what you believe, I think this is a wise way to live. It’s definitely not always easy, but it’s good. There are challenging situations that many of us haven’t ever been through, and it’s always easier to say something than actually to do it, but I truly believe that you can always find a reason to be grateful, no matter what you’re facing.
Last week, I absentmindedly left my classroom in a hurry during my conference period so that I could go to the bathroom and get back before the bell rang. In doing so, I wasn’t paying close enough attention to see my finger get caught in part of this strange rolling contraption thing on the door latch (a horrible description, obviously), but I sure felt it. For the first few seconds after it happened, I couldn’t look down—I was sure that the top part of my finger wasn’t there anymore. When I finally got the courage to let my eyes stray that way, I saw plenty of blood and a finger that was somehow still intact.
I have an extremely high pain tolerance—I once went almost an entire day with a 9-millimeter kidney stone (most of them are 3 or 4 millimeters) traveling through my body before I went to the ER. In this moment, though, I wanted to let myself cry. I didn’t, but I really wanted to. My whole hand was shaking, and I couldn’t focus on anything but the pain. As I’m writing this, it makes me sound pretty wimpy, but I feel like I could quote Monica in this case: “You can’t say that! You don’t know! I mean, I thought I was going to pass out from the pain.” I actually also thought that I was going to have to get my finger amputated (I’m clearly not one to dramatize a situation), but thankfully no one had to pee on me to get rid of the pain.
I wrapped a paper towel around my finger to try to stop the blood, but I’m not sure that I should have been squeezing something that had just been smashed as hard as it was. At that point, I only had like three minutes until the bell, so I just walked with my wrapped-up finger back to the classroom, purposely avoiding eye contact with the door that had just tried to kill a piece of me.
I had a bunch of students entering into my classroom who were relying on me to be there for them, and I didn’t have time to focus on the pain and the fact that I still haven’t learned to slow down in life. Instead, I decided I was going to be grateful that I still had my finger. And you know what? I put a Spiderman Band-Aid on that mess, and everything was fine. Sure, I didn’t sleep that night because my finger was throbbing, and the nurse told me the next day that I needed to go to the doctor to have them drill a small hole in my finger to drain the hematoma that had become my new worst enemy (I never made time to go—oops), but I was grateful, and I’m convinced that it helped to minimize the pain.
Yes, I realize that a finger that survived getting caught in a door contraption that I still can’t accurately describe well is rather minimal compared to many much more difficult situations that people face on a daily basis, but comparisons often minimize more than they should, including how we view ourselves. Regardless of how big or small our troubles are, though, I still believe that there are always bits of gratitude that we can find to help us make it through the rain (sing it, Mariah, my ultimate soul sista).
The broken hearts try to break every piece of us. The dark times try to steal every ounce of our joy. The setbacks try to keep us from rising back up. The illnesses try to tell us that there’s no hope. The losses try to convince us that there are no wins in sight. The mistakes try to keep us from believing in grace. And so many more tough situations try to stop us from being thankful.
The key word is try—we don’t have to let those things win.
We don’t all live in an episode of Full House in which all of our problems will be resolved in less than 30 minutes when the “this is a valuable life lesson” music starts to play. Our situations won’t always pan out as we hope, but even in the midst of the worst storm you’ve ever been in—even when the torrential rain gets more powerful and daunting by the second—your heart can still find reasons to smile.
When I was in the hospital for five days or whatever it was for one of my many stays (thanks, kidneys), I remember being hooked up to IVs and on so many hardcore pain meds that still didn’t get rid of all of my pain but probably made me send some questionable text messages to people and feeling absolutely miserable—not just physically but also emotionally. But then my sweet friend Jayna showed up with a box of Wheat Thins, a coloring book, and a pink phone charger, and my whole outlook on everything changed. In that moment, I was thankful for her genuine heart and the thoughtfulness of her gifts that only a true friend would know that I would appreciate dearly. Sitting there with hair that I hadn’t washed in about nine days, morphine and dilaudid pumping through my veins, and a body that couldn’t even move half of an inch without excruciating pain, I sat in thankfulness.
I hope that you’re able to find reasons for gratitude when it seems like you can’t. If nothing else, it might help you get through those difficult times, even if in a very small way.
And give you a new reason to wear pink on Wednesdays.
There’s a song that tells us that “life’s a dance you learn as you go,” and I’ve always known that it’s full of truth.
Yet I’m just now letting it all sink in—you know, more than 20 years later.
Two of my precious forever friends and I went to a park Saturday morning to catch up and also to take a picture on the Friends couch. When we arrived, we saw a handful of people dancing on the stage used for local performances and, as we later discovered, apparently Saturday morning yoga, as well.
I was immediately intrigued.
I started walking faster, excited for the possibility of dancing with some new friends (they weren’t aware of these upcoming friendships just yet), but I was slightly disappointed when I found out that it was an exclusive group. I spoke with a man who wasn’t dancing but looked like he was part of the in-crowd, and he told me that it was a professional dance group that travels around the country to teach dance to kids. The dancers were there this particular morning to shoot a promo video, and it wasn’t exactly open to the public (e.g., a feisty redhead who loves people and loves to dance).
I asked him if we could all dance together when they were finished recording, but he didn’t seem as enthusiastic about that idea as I had hoped. When the group had a small break a couple of minutes later, though, I asked all of the dancers if we could dance together just for a bit, and before I knew it, we were going at it free style.
And that’s the only way I know how to dance—with no rules or structure or expectations of any kind.
That moment of dancing with complete strangers who all have their own unique stories while my sweet friends watched and cheered me on was exactly what I needed that morning. I’ve had more on my plate lately than I likely should, and I’ve felt bogged down. I’ve also been dealing with some things in my heart that have been rather heavy on my emotions, as well. You know, life stuff. It’s tough sometimes. But being able to let go of everything for a few carefree moments felt like that moment when you’re swimming and have been holding your breath too long underwater and finally make it to the surface and breathe in fresh air that’s full of more life than you can explain.
I don’t do organized dancing well. I’m not a fan of knowing what move I’m going to do next or trying to think too hard about what steps I’m supposed to take. It’s too stressful, and it’s not me. I’d rather just go with my own flow and surprise myself. (However, not everyone supports that, and I once was kicked off of a dance floor at a very strict line dancing place in California because I wasn’t doing the line dance going on at the time.)
So why can’t more areas of my life be like my dancing—absolutely no idea what’s coming next but with no worries about not knowing?
Life is always going to throw unexpected things at us, and it’s OK not to know what’s on the next page of your story. I used to read the last page of a book first so that I knew how it ended. I hated surprises. But in the past few years, my life has been filled with more transitions than I ever thought possible, and I’ve come to (almost) love the element of surprise that each new day holds. Sure, sometimes it’s truly frightening, but it’s mostly intriguing and beautiful.
Are there some mysteries in my life right now for which I wish I could go and read the last pages to make sure that everything turns out OK? Absolutely. But I’m not supposed to know that yet.
I’m not Marty McFly, and I don’t roam around with a genius named Doc who has a DeLorean that can take me to the past or the future, so there’s really no way for me to know what’s going to happen next. And I’m finally OK with that. I don’t read the last page of a book first anymore, because it’s going to end the same way whether I know what’s going to happen or not. It’s more important to focus on the story that leads up to that ending—after all, it’s all of the stuff in between that helps make the story what it is.
Our stories are uniquely ours, and we don’t always need to know what’s going to happen next year or next month or next week or tomorrow or even within the next couple of minutes. It’s OK to live in the unknown and dance without any structure whatsoever, even if it means you get kicked off of a dance floor every now and then.
Because your story will often end up better than you ever could have planned it, anyway.
I consider myself a pretty intelligent gal, but there are certainly times when I don’t necessarily use my intellect to its full capacity.
Cue my everyday life the past few weeks.
I recently bought one of those wallflower things from Bath & Body Works—you plug it into the wall, and then you add this little bottle of scented goodness to the contraption, and it makes places smell fantastic. I probably described that slightly poorly, but it’s 2019, so here are links to the wallflower and to my most recent scent of choice.
I was rather excited for my plan of making my apartment smell like a pumpkin cupcake on the reg, so I plugged it in as soon as I got home and went about my hectic life. When I got home from work the next day, I couldn’t help but notice that it wasn’t as pungent as I’d hoped, and I looked and noticed that the bottle was completely empty.
Huh? That’s odd. Was there a strange odor in my place that sucked up all of the good-smelling stuff?
Obviously that’s a silly assumption, and my apartment doesn’t smell bad, so it didn’t make sense. Plus, I don’t even know if that’s how science works. It’s not my thing. But I just left it as it was and told myself that I’d buy another refill bottle the following weekend when I actually had a few minutes to go back to Bath & Body Works.
When I returned home from hanging out with my nieces the following Sunday with my beloved fragrance in tow, I repeated the same steps from the previous week of plugging it in. I got to work on a few things on my computer while watching football and then got up to get something from my kitchen. As I did, I glanced at the wallflower and saw that the bottle was empty again.
What in tarnation?!
And then it hit me: The bottle was upside down. The directions had specifically warned against that. Insert the palm-to-face emoji girl. That was me in that moment.
I was slightly frustrated at the fact that I had wasted two perfectly good bottles that would have filled my entire apartment with a scent that would tease you into thinking you were actually about to eat pumpkin cupcakes simply because I hadn’t followed instructions properly.
Isn’t this something I try to instill in my students on a daily basis?
I think one of the reasons I made the mistake—not once but twice—was because I wasn’t truly paying attention. I was too busy focusing on all of the other things I needed to do and also thought that I knew exactly what I was doing in setting up the wallflower. It’s honestly not an extravagant scientific process. You seriously just plug the thing into the wall and screw the small bottle full of heavenly aroma in there.
I also wasn’t paying much attention this past Sunday when I was at my parents’ house. I still get a lot of mail sent to their house (it’s all junk, so thankfully the mailers haven’t found out where I really live), and my dad won’t throw it away for me because he says it’s against the law. I gave you permission, man. But that doesn’t fly with him, so I had a huge stack of stuff to trash. I went through it, ripping all of it up and putting it in a trash bag that my mom had brought over by where I was sitting. (Yes, there was enough of it to warrant its own trash bag.) The Cowboys game was on, though, so I was paying much more attention to the television than what I was actually doing.
After I was finished going through the pile of what ended up being all trash, my dad took it out with the rest of the garbage and set it outside near their alley for pickup. When it was time for me to go over to my brother’s house for my weekly hangout time with my besties (my angel nieces), I couldn’t find my phone. I remembered that I had brought it in their house with me, so I knew that it wasn’t in my car. It wasn’t in my purse. It wasn’t in the chair where I had been sitting watching the game. My mom jokingly asked if I had accidentally thrown it away with all of the mail.
She didn’t think I was serious when I said I probably did, so she called my phone. We heard nothing. I searched around again, and she called it again. Still nothing. We laughed together as we walked to their driveway about to go dig through trash, and I made a comment about how I’ve had to dive into a dumpster once, so this wasn’t new to me. She’s also had to go into a dumpster before to retrieve something, so she said it must run in the family.
That’s something to be proud of, people.
When we got out there and started lifting up the multiple trash bags, she called my phone again. Sure enough, I heard Taylor Swift’s “Love Story” blaring through the stench of plastic and garbage that had been sitting in the Texas heat—much less soothing than a pumpkin cupcake. My dad had put the trash bag with all of the mail in it inside of another trash bag with food and whatnot, and that bag was beneath a bag of everything that was in their cat’s litter box.
This is my life, friends.
We finally got to the bag that had my phone in it, and I dug it out. I know people are going to ask me this, so the answer is yes, I did wash my hands. It’s like when people asked me if I showered after jumping into the dumpster. I know I don’t wash my hair very often, but I’m not a complete savage. And, once again, just like with the wallflower situation, when it came to getting rid of all of that mail, I was in such a rush and thought I knew exactly what I was doing and what the best plan was when I should have been paying more attention and remaining in the moment.
Oh. Hey, life.
There are many times when I think my plan is the best plan, and I end up being wrong. Those situations make it necessary for me to reference one of my favorite Key and Peele lines: “Whereas I was not incorrect, they did not mean what I thought they meant.” I was just talking with a friend the other day about how it’s always funny to look back at what we thought would be best for us at certain times in our lives, only later to realize that it truly was much better to leave every plan in God’s hands and let Him take care of the way everything works out.
I’m 34 years old and more single than Steve Urkel. That definitely wasn’t part of my plan years ago. I mean, I should have been in love and loved back for years at this point. But I also wouldn’t be the person I am today if that had happened. For some reason or another, I’ve been meant to be single for this long. Sure, I hope to have my lobster come into my life soon, but I also have to trust that, if that’s even meant to happen, it will happen when it’s supposed to and not simply when I think it should.
After all, I don’t want other areas of my life to end up like an upside down pumpkin cupcake wallflower that doesn’t serve the purpose that it should of making the world a much more pleasant place or a phone ringing the iconic “Love Story” from the bottom of a nasty trash bag.
The heart is the thing that keeps us alive—as long as it’s pumping, we’re good.
But it’s also the thing that can lead us and think for us.
It’s definitely not always easy to be vulnerable with people. In fact, it can straight up make you feel weak. When you offer the truthful thoughts in your heart to someone, you risk quite a few things: rejection, judgment, apathy, and insincerity, among others. But you also risk that person actually caring—genuinely caring.
What if we shared what’s in our hearts? What if we were completely honest and didn’t worry so much about what would happen if we shared true feelings? Would that really be such a bad thing?
When my oldest niece was a precious little newborn, I was going through a pretty tough time. I haven’t always been the best about sharing my feelings, but it was really easy with her. I would hold her in my arms and tell her everything going on in my life and my heart, and I knew there was zero judgment or possibility that she would hurt me. If she started wailing, I knew it would be because she was crying with me and for me. Sure, she was just a tiny baby and couldn’t use actual words to respond to me, but it didn’t matter—I trusted her with my whole heart. She’s 3 now, and we still have those deep heart conversations. She just gets me.
I realize that it’s likely not wise to share every feeling with every single person you meet, but I still don’t believe that it’s wrong to be honest when people ask you how you are, even if don’t know them. And I know that we are to guard our hearts, but I think there’s a difference between protecting it from evil and completely shielding it from letting anyone in or sharing its hopes and passions and truths.
So why do we spend so much of our lives living in fear of what will happen if we share the things that are in our hearts? Yeah, we might experience heartache, we might have our hearts shattered to a thousand tiny little pieces, we might get hurt, we might cry, we might experience emotions that we weren’t expecting, and people might make fun of us. But people might love us back. People might return the feelings. People might show how much they care. People might share their hearts, too.
Whether a bad or good outcome happens, isn’t it better to take a chance than to spend your life constantly wondering what if and if only?
I spent far too many years hiding my feelings and not taking risks that I probably should have taken. I can think of more than one instance when I had the opportunity in a perfect moment to share my heart with someone, and, instead, I shied away and kept my words hidden in the depths of my heart. I look forward to the day when I can stand before the man who captures my heart and tell him that I love him with a real love that’s forever and always. That’s something I’ll want him to know, and I’m not going to let myself chicken out to tell him. That fearful girl isn’t here anymore.
One of my favorite episodes of The Office is “Casino Night” because it’s the first time that Jim declares his love for Pam. No, it doesn’t work out for him in that moment, and he walks away with a shattered heart. Had he not told her in that beautiful scene in the parking lot, though, she likely never would have called off her wedding with Roy and later shared all of her feelings with Jim after she ran across the coal fire pit at the beach.
Yes, I realize that not everyone ends up like Jim and Pam, but at least they can give some of us hope.
I’ve learned that you have to stop caring what other people think if you want to be completely comfortable and confident being you. You’re not someone else’s opinion of you, so why even give another person the power to dictate your thoughts and actions?
Don’t be afraid to share what’s in your heart. You have the feelings you have for a reason, and you don’t have to keep them hidden away forever. It’s OK to be honest, and it’s OK to be brave. And it’s certainly OK to lead with the desires God places in your heart.
And that’s the most positive way that I can say it.
High school and college are so much different than adulthood. One of the main reasons is the forced interactions with people. Sure, you’re sometimes required to mix and mingle when you’re an adult, but it’s different.
When you’re still in school, you’re in classes and organizations and activities with other people, and it’s natural to make friends and sometimes even form romantic relationships with those individuals. Quite a few of my friends met their lobsters in high school and college, and that’s really good for them, especially since they don’t know the pains of the dating scene as it is today.
Because it is the worst.
I recently met a guy on a dating app who seemed pretty legit. We went out more than a few times and had great conversations. I had never gone out with a dating app guy more than once, so I figured that was a good sign, as well. This fella also texted me pretty regularly throughout the week and appeared to be interested in me. He asked me to go to a baseball game with him, and I did, and it seemed like we both had a good time. He even took a selfie of us at the game, so one might assume that things were going well.
I’ve been ghosted before, and it’s sadly a pretty common thing on these apps. I’m not completely sure why I believe that people are going to be honest with their feelings and say things like “hey, I’m just not interested in you, but I wish you the best.” Sure, ghosting is a heck of a lot easier, but easier isn’t always the way to go—especially when you’re dealing with people.
That guy and I clearly weren’t meant to be, and that’s fine. He’s not my lobster. Speaking of that, I bought a shirt at Target the other day that says “you’re my lobster,”and maybe one day I’ll actually be able to wear it in front of my forever love. But even if I’m single forever, it’s still a great shirt.
And speaking of being single forever, I’m finished with the dating apps. I gave them the old college try (more than once), and each time has reminded me that they’re just not for me. I’m happy that they work for some people, but I’m not one of them. I’m going back to believing that I’m going to meet my guy while I’m walking or running through a park, and he’s playing frisbee or football with some friends and accidentally hits me with the frisbee or football, and I fall, and he runs over to check on me, and then sparks fly.
No, I don’t watch too many romcoms.
I played bingo the other night, and I definitely didn’t win. I actually didn’t even come close. During each game, I had nine squares that I was trying to keep up with, which required a great deal of focus—after all, there was money on the line, and I’m also a highly competitive person. At one point, though, I took a moment to look around the room at all of the people emphatically dotting numbers called on their boards and listening intently as Theresa called the next letter-number combo. There didn’t appear to be many meaningful conversations going on in that crowded room. In that moment, it hit me that sometimes we truly do focus so much on the things we want or think we need that we don’t pay enough attention to the wonderful things that are already there.
I don’t need dating apps. I don’t need a boyfriend or a husband or a lobster. And I don’t need some ideal love story that Meg Ryan’s former characters would applaud. Sure, those things would be nice, but being able to shout out “bingo” and walk away with some cash would have been nice, too. And maybe they’ll still happen for me someday. Regardless, I’m going to make sure that I appreciate what I’ve been given instead of focusing on what I don’t have.
Sometimes our hopes that turn into expectations don’t quite live up to the hype we give them.
And that’s actually not always a bad thing.
I spent the holiday weekend in Northern California for a wedding and was able to explore San Francisco for a bit before I went up to Wine Country. While I lived in Orange County for more than a year and a half, I never made it up to the Bay Area during that time. I had always heard about how fascinating it is, so I was excited to experience it.
My sweet friend Tara had given me a few ideas of things to do, one of which was to visit Coit Tower, where you’re able to see the entire city in a 360-view from up top. I made the trek up there and was enjoying seeing all of the different people on the streets as my made my way to my destination. One thing I kept thinking was that people who live there must have really great quads—those hills are no joke.
When I finally made it to Coit Tower, I wasn’t exactly expecting there to be a line or a fee. Clearly I was living in some type of fantasy land—the line wrapped around three different corners, and I learned it was going to cost me $9 to step into the elevator. I decided to go ahead and pay and wait because I was really curious to see how amazing the views were. I kept thinking about this quote from the Hannah Montana movie: “Life’s a climb, but the view is great.”
I had been standing in line for a while and was probably still about 15 or 20 minutes away from being able to go on the elevator when an employee began walking down the line asking for a single rider. FINALLY, ANOTHER PERK OF BEING SINGLE! I quickly let him know I was riding solo, so he took me to the front of the line to squeeze on the elevator with a group of three people and a few other couples. The man controlling the elevator began telling us a little about Coit Tower and expectations for when we got to the top. If I ever need a hype man, he’ll be one of my top candidates. He made everything sound amazing.
When the elevator opened, I began climbing the last set of stairs to get to the top. My heart filled with anticipation that I can’t really explain—I think that there had been so much build up that I was expecting something more magnificent than I could even imagine. I took the last step to the top, and I tried not to let the disappointment take over.
This is it?
It was only $9 and time you’ll never get back, Nat. It’s fine. You’re fine. Everything’s fine.
Sure, the views were beautiful, but the whole experience wasn’t as glorious as I thought it would be. I walked around the tiny loop, snapped some pics, stared out into the water we were overlooking, and then moseyed back down the stairs to the elevator.
As I began the trek back to my car, I gave myself a pep talk to try to make sure that I didn’t spend my whole walk disappointed with what had just happened. I know that I have high expectations for many things in life, and it’s certainly a letdown when one of them doesn’t pan out as I originally hoped, but that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t worth the work to get there.
I thought about how much I had enjoyed the walk there—the sights, the people, the brief conversations I had with strangers, the artwork along the walls and sidewalks, the hills (it’s a love-hate thing), the weather, the ability to walk in the beautiful sunshine without sweating like a haus, the stories behind each unique door I passed. All of it.
No, not everything is going to be as we expect it to be, but that doesn’t mean that the journeys we take to get to those desires we have are wasted. I didn’t waste time in that line—I invested in conversations with other people and gave my mind and body some time to escape from all of the pressures and worries I’ve been dealing with lately (I have a lot on my plate right now). I didn’t waste money to ride an elevator and see a city from above—I invested in other people’s careers and in a city that provides a number of amenities for a countless amount of people every single day (I actually have no idea where the money goes, but that’s what I’m choosing to believe).
Even though I’ve been as single as a dollar bill for basically my entire life, I have high expectations for what I’m looking for in my lobster. And I truly believe that it won’t end up being like my Coit Tower experience. At the same time, I want to make sure that I’m appreciating this journey along the way. I don’t want to waste my singleness by wishing that I weren’t single. I mean, I got to cut in line in front of a bunch of people because they’re all in relationships or traveling with other people, and I’m not. That’s a pretty sweet deal.
We all walk different paths and are able to go through different experiences in life. They don’t happen by accident, and we are where we are on purpose and with purpose—I fully believe that. So why not try to enjoy the moments we’re given without constantly focusing on what’s ahead? It’s great to have hopes and expectations and to imagine what those fulfilled hopes will be like, but it’s even better to be fully present and to let yourself enjoy every breath that you’re given.
Sure, “life’s a climb, but the view is great,” but it’s that climb and all that you endure through it that help you become the person you were always meant to be.
When you genuinely care about someone, there’s an unspoken trust and assurance that you would do whatever is in your power to love and protect that person.
Especially when it comes to matters of the heart.
My two nieces are two of my best friends. I would do absolutely anything for those little gems, and I can’t even accurately describe the amount of joy that fills my heart each time I get to spend precious moments with them. I’ve talked before about how much Olivia changed my life when she was born three years ago, and both of them continue to impact me in more ways than I can explain.
I was recently at their house watching a fairy movie with them, and Olivia was sitting in my lap because she had hurt her foot. Sweet little Evie has taken up pinching as a new hobby and began pinching and slapping my legs. She’s too cute for me to get upset about it, and it didn’t actually hurt, but I also don’t want her pinching and hitting other people because her aunt let her do it, so I reminded her that it’s not nice to do so.
And then something happened that made me actually want to cry.
Olivia began defending me and putting her hands and arms and legs and everything she could between Evie’s tiny hands and my legs. (Precious Evie thought it was a game and began giggling and trying to get around Olivia.) When Evie slapped my knees, Olivia would kiss them to try to make them better. I put my hand to my heart to see if it was still functioning properly because I thought maybe it had actually melted. Once again, even though I’m the adult, that adorable little human took care of me.
There’s something about genuine love that changes people. That heals people. That gives hope to people. That removes doubt. That removes fear. That wipes away tears. That reminds the heart why it beats.
There are far too many ways that people in this world can feel neglected and unloved. While we may have people in our lives who will help shield us from pinching and slapping, there are times when we’ll feel much more exposed to people’s words and actions that hurt our hearts more than anything else. What’s important to remember in those moments, though, is that we aren’t other people’s opinions of us.
Which is something you might need to remind yourself of often if you use a dating app.
A month or so ago, I went out with a guy who said he wanted to go out again and then texted me the same thing later, and then I never heard from him again. But I’m not his opinion of me. I once had a guy find out that I don’t drink, and he said “hard pass” on me. But I’m not his opinion of me. I’ve been ghosted more than once. But I’m not their opinions of me. My friend was downright stood up and never heard from the guy who was supposed to me her. But she’s not his opinion of her.
Just like you aren’t anyone else’s opinion of you.
It feels nice when people show you that they care about you, which is another reason why I think it’s so essential that we show people that we care about them—so that they know without a doubt that they are valued, that they are loved, and that they matter. When I was talking to my students last week about respecting one another, I reminded them that it takes a lot less energy to be kind to someone than it does to be mean. I don’t even know if that’s scientifically accurate, but it makes sense to me, so that’s what I told them. Sure, sometimes showing you care takes effort, but like my mom told me, the more you do it, the more natural it becomes to you.
As I sat there the other day with Olivia on my lap, I realized that the way she defended me is the way Jesus defends me every day. He swoops in and heals my wounds and genuinely cares about and loves me. Does that mean that pain won’t ever happen and that broken hearts will mend as quickly as I want them to? As much as I wish that were the case, no. But it does mean that I can live with the certainty that He’s always fighting for me, and my identity is found in Him—not in other people or in what they think of me.