You smell like airports and all things safe. 

Back in November, my mom’s anxiety had flared up again. A lot of late nights, learning patience, skipping class to pick my sister up from school because my parents were in the hospital. 

When the storm cleared, and the skies went back to a calm grey, my mom and I did a lot of researching and talking about what anxiety is and everyday ways to fight it– I’d screenshot anti-anxiety exercises on Instagram and she’d send me thought provoking quotes or blogs. 
One of the techniques we found was this concept of actively looking for good, tangible things in the space around us, focusing on them, and counting. 

Well, I don’t look or count– I close my eyes: I’m shifting my weight from hip to hip, riding an escalator. It smells like conference rooms and missed connections, breath mints and window cleaner, heavy hospital air and freshly cleaned pillow cases straight out of their plastic wrapping, people running and people trying to get back. My feet are trying to fit on the same step as my luggage. When the teethy steps in front of me get swallowed up back into the escalators rotation cycle to pick up new travelers, I look up– searching strangers’ faces to try and find you. Shuffling through my coat pockets, I’m trying to find my phone to call you. I turn the corner, and there you are staring at my name on your phone. I hang up, you look up, and I’m running for you. Your arms spread wide open as you push off the column you were leaning against. You’re smiling ear to ear, and I throw myself into you. 

And this is what’s tangible, this is what I focus on, this is what my mind reaches for; when I can’t make sense of things, when it hurts like hell, when I convince myself into living in lies, when my knees shake, when I can’t sleep, when I sit in my car for too long and it’s hard to breathe– this is what keeps me grounded. 

So when I read something I don’t want to read or something doesn’t turn out the way I planned and my palms get sweaty and I feel my heart beating in my chest— I’m right back there, at that airport, in that moment.

You’re where my mind goes running when it’s flooded and drowned by the murk. 

I smile, breathe, remember, open my eyes, and keep going. 

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I’d rather speak truth over the things that haunt us.

  I find myself listening to girls who say they sum themselves up by the mistakes they’ve made; I listen to girls who tell me that they’ll never be wanted because they’ll never be seen as anything but dirty and wasted; I listen to girls who lower their standards because they’ve convinced themselves that they’ll never be good enough to be loved by a man who loves God.
And I’ve listened to those same words inside of my own head.

I’ve sat in church buildings and read words printed up on a screen for everyone to see–words that the preacher man says are what the God of the universe has to say about us–and I always seem to find a way to pin my own list of words that I use for myself up against them, championing lies I’ve believed over promises I’ve been told.

This is for the heart that tells itself its own list of so-called-truths about itself and what it deserves;
this is for the heart that is too afraid to tell the truth because confession and pats on the back rarely every go hand-in-hand;
this is for the heart that sets its aim low, convinced that it deserves heart ache and everything short of true-love with a man who loves Jesus because it can’t be entirely whole for him;
this is for the heart that can’t sleep at night because it’s too busy calling itself a liar and a coward and unforgiven and undesirable and dirty;
this is for the heart that has dubbed itself “unworthy” when it comes to having a light-filled future–

You are not alone.
And that’s how I know that we are living in and believing in lies. 

Lies keep us up at night.
Lies hold us back.
Lies put us in a box and say, “You can’t because you did this.”

We are not meant for the kind of life spent easily living in mistakes and struggling to live in promises.

We are meant to read the words God says about us, and that bring us to our knees in gratefulness rather than have our fists flying saying, “No, you’re wrong about me.”

Because He isn’t wrong about you.

And that’s what we should be telling ourselves every night.

You deserve good things.

Even if you have to remind yourself of that truth, daily. 

I don’t want more moments, I want late night talks and knowing that you’ll be there in the morning.

He took me to the bottom of a mountain just to tell me he didn’t want me.

After announcing for the first time that he had wanted me to begin with.

Both were news to me.

We sat there in his front seat, me staring at the mountain in front of us, him saying something about hands and how much he loves them.

Watching the trees, the dogs and their owners that walked by, the children sitting in back carriers while their parents started their hike, he didn’t have my attention again until he caught me staring at a couple and said, “It’s always been hard for me to share my life with someone.” I stared at him. He went on, saying, “I mean, it’s easy for me to talk to younger kids, to talk to parents… but spending my life with someone? Never has come easy for me.”

But that’s always been the easy part for me– talking about forever. It’s been the keeping part that has never come easy.


 

I’ve met a boy who told me he believed in me, a boy who knew how to hold me when I swore I didn’t need to be held, a boy who brought me on picnics and whispered sweet promises to me while I slept; a boy who’s life was so twisted up in my past that I demanded answers from God when I lost him to a different future.

I’ve met a boy who took me to Waffle House whenever I asked him to, a boy who could kiss me until I was dizzy, a boy who never wanted to hold me too long but always asked me to stay; a boy who liked to walk with his arm around me in Walmart and have me pick out the cologne he wears; a boy who would stand up at bars and yell “That’s my girl,” when I played the Stones; a boy that could never keep the promises he made while he walked into church holding another’s hand and hiding behind his hood; a boy who’s footsteps I’d memorized when his feet hit the bottom step of his stairs.

I’ve met a boy who got lost with me somewhere where the North Georgia mountains meet South Carolina; a boy who sat with me in the rain and watched the fireworks on the fourth of July at a baseball game; a boy who had the same ink marks on his body as me; a boy who fell in love with the adventures I put in place for him just to leave me stranded and crying in the lawn outside of a movie theater.

I’ve met a boy who wanted to show me his whole life in a night, a boy who payed attention and took me to all of my favorite places and stayed out with me until the early morning hours just because he didn’t want the night to end; a boy who taught me about magic tricks and reminded me about how much I don’t like them.

I’ve met a boy who played his music for me in his white walled attic while I closed my eyes and swayed to the sound; a boy who held my hand and sang into a fat Sharpie marker while we drove down the road; a boy who bought me ice cream and cigars and took me to an old book store while we pretended to fall in love between the bookshelves.

I’ve met a boy who met me in my driveway at midnight; a boy that pulled up, no headlights on, like a Taylor Swift song, just to drive me around and tell me about the things he’s afraid of, the things he wants to be and do and say– a boy who looked me dead in the eye after kissing me at two o’clock in the morning just to tell me that he doesn’t think we were made for this town; a boy who had half the county police out looking for him while I’m fast asleep in his hoodie, begging God to break his heart and give me the guts to be more than just a girl who knows how to tell a good story.

But I don’t want to tell just another good story. 

I could tell you all about the way it feels to sit in a boy’s kitchen talking to his mother, his dog at my side, listening to him come home and lock himself in his room because we hadn’t spoken in months.

I could tell you all about the way it feels to walk up the hill to a boy’s house, knowing all of the right things to say to push him away and knowing all the words are sitting in the back of my mouth.

I could tell you all about the way it feels to cry with a boy on the phone, begging him to throw cocaine away while he asks you to come pick him up because he doesn’t feel good and you have to tell him you can’t because last time you went to pick him up at three in the morning, he never came out.

Yes, I could tell you all about what it feels like to live hanging in these moments.

But I couldn’t tell you about what it feels like to know that someone will choose me back, choose me first, choose to stay no matter what. I couldn’t tell you what security feels like. I couldn’t tell you what consistency feels like. I couldn’t tell you what it feels like to just get dinner and a movie.

I couldn’t tell you what it feels like when these moments pass and we walk inside to curl up on the couch to a movie and popcorn; no, I couldn’t tell you what it feels like when the moments pass and they are back again the next day. 

My little sister, she hears my “good” stories, and she talks about how she just wants to hold a boy’s hand. 

What she doesn’t know is how lonely it can be sitting on rooftops, walking down city streets, singing in cars at the top of your lungs– she doesn’t know how lonely it can be when all you get is pretty words from breathless moments and wondering why someone doesn’t stay, why you weren’t good enough to keep them, wild enough to make them want to stay. 

I’ve lived a lot of good moments that make a lot of good stories to tell. 

And I love telling stories.

I love all the little breathless moments. 

But sometimes I want to breathe easy.

Sometimes, I want to know what it feels like when the moment is over and someone still chooses to stay.