inspired by sweatpants and coffee breath.

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My goal for 2018 was to write once per month for this little space. It didn’t have to be perfect, it didn’t have to mean anything, but I wanted to stay faithful to a thing on a consistent basis.

Did I make a plan to accomplish this? Absolutely not. Which is how I found myself at 9pm on May 31st scrolling through the Ghosts of Google Doc’s past looking for a semi-finished thought to quickly edit & share here. And — no surprise here — everything sucked.

Granted, I’ve been writing a lot for other projects which is just the best. But if I don’t create space to write for myself then it won’t happen. Because I romanticize the writing process: sitting in a coffee shop and stringing together pretty words as they come to me on a caffeine-induced whim pretending I’m Meg Ryan in her 90’s RomCom prime. It’s all based on the idea of being a “writer” than the struggle of sitting my butt down and writing so many crappy first drafts it makes me question why I like doing this in the first place.

The writing process looks less shiny and more like humbling yourself with your sweatpants and coffee breath, typing the goal of 500 words per day. You end up re-reading what you wrote and realize how much it sucks. This makes me remind myself that I actually have no talent whatsoever, so I might as well give up and make more coffee to soothe me then quit for the day by taking a nap and reading a book. The next day I wake up, re-read the previous day’s work, notice that it isn’t completely terrible, and wash, rinse, repeat.

So here’s what I learned tonight: goals are great. Creating habits to meet those goals is even better. I knew the day would come when I had to create a writing routine. I promise next month will be inspired by sweatpants, stale coffee, and my own self-loathing/doubting tendencies.

But for now, here’s the best I could come up…

A Lazy Listicle of Things That I Know to be Absolutely True

1. Boundaries are love.
2. Bangs are most likely not a good idea.*
3. Honesty is the best policy.
4. The Office truly is the greatest show of all time ever.
5. Your time is limited. It’s okay to guard it for the things that matter most to you.
6. It’s okay not to be everyone’s best friend, but you do have to be kind.
7. Dry shampoo changes the game.
8. Always remove your make up.
9. Say “thank you”. And stop saying “sorry” so much.
10. Do everything in your power to show up for your people.
11. Read non-fiction and fiction. Just read in general.
12. Life is hard, but it’s less hard when you can laugh easily.
13. Like what you like and don’t give a damn if that’s not cool.
14. Trust your gut feeling.
15. You are already more capable than you think.
16. Stay curious. Ask questions.
17. Put your phone away. At weddings, at dinner, at concerts… just put it away.
18. Always have ice cream in your freezer and a bottle of wine on hand.
19. When you stop trying to be seen, you end up being more fully known.
20. Drink water.
21. The best time to see a movie alone is at 1pm.
22. Make sure you move a little every day.
23. Call your mom.
24. Breathe prayer.
25. Follow the Photo Booth Rule.**
*I said MOST LIKELY. Shoutout to all of my fringe-rocking friends who are chic and way more hip than I’ll ever be.
**When you see a Photo Booth, you have to take a picture in it.
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my car insurance broke up with me.

a story about why what you call yourself matters

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My own mother likes to gently remind me that I am good at many things, so I need to hold close the things I am terrible at. This is so I will stay humble and actually have friends who want to spend time with me. Good moms do that. They slip in subtle criticism next to a reminder that they think you are the most special, amazing human being that ever existed ever in order to preserve your self-esteem and have their own contingency plan in place for the amount of issues you will likely bring up in counseling years later. I hope to be exactly like her one day.

It is with this advice in mind that I have become a great passenger. I know how to AUX-cord-DJ for the specific company in the car, I always bring snacks, I can talk about anything in order to stay awake with the brave driver on long road trips, all because I loathe driving. Lucky for me, driving dislikes me almost as much as I hate it.

For years I’ve been in denial, telling myself that I am a good driver but I just don’t like driving. Because I should love driving! It means freedom: it’s a major rite of passage to turn 16 and get your driver’s license. And I didn’t even fail the test my first time! Therefore I must be a great driver. And then one month ago this little narrative was shattered by a seemingly harmless piece of junk mail.

My car insurance sent me a Dear John letter effectively ending our nearly 10 year relationship. It started off sweet by thanking me for my years of commitment but it took a turn when I noticed the kind introduction was soon followed by a list of “incidents” that have occurred over the past three years. When you lay them all out, it really does look like a rap sheet straight out of Mario Kart’s Rainbow Road that all points to one truth: I am a terrible driver.

But I should be a good driver. I drive more often than most for my job, I’m a relatively safe driver (despite my extensive list of offenses, the majority were very minor) and, most importantly, I’ve told myself that I am a good driver for years. I wonder if I didn’t live in a society that says freedom is having a driver’s license and a car if I would even have discovered this part of me wasn’t true? Or what if I took public transportation my whole life, would being a bad driver even define me if I never experienced it?

That letter helped me piece together a little more of my identity: I am Emily, a really bad driver.


It has recently come to my attention that the way I refer to myself when I first met people is not actually the way I move through the world. In the past, I used terms like “awkward” or “embarrassing” or to self-describe personality quirks in social situations. Which everyone does. People can laugh and deal with awkward. It’s the selfishness, fear, and pride I want to distract them from noticing.

Maybe you can relate. If I can get ahead of the flaws, then it would keep the world from being disappointed in my other very real and very not-so-desirable character traits. People like us, we put all of our junk right out in the open so that when we inevitably mess up in front of others we can say, “See?! I told you when we met — I’m the worst. This shouldn’t surprise you. You can’t be disappointed because I already gave you the heads up that I’m imperfect and WILL let you down because this is who I am.”

This is two gross realities wrapped up in one broken-identity burrito: (1) these words are a self-fulfilling prophecy and (2) they just highlight how much of a fraud you’re making yourself. You do what you say you are, and if you aren’t what you’ve been telling people then you also have the difficult task of keeping up appearances or risk being exposed.

If you want to avoid accountability and rejection, you quickly learn how to operate based on the rules learned in middle school on the bus, at home, in church, on a team. For me, this looked like having the personality version of a classic 2000’s throwback playlist – a definite crowd pleaser in the churchy circles I ran in, but when you listened too closely the lyrics they never quite match up with what you believe. I experienced acceptance and success when I was told I should self-identify as the type-A, perpetually positive achiever to feel like I had a place in the communities I called home .

No matter how many times I told myself that being this kind of “leader” was a good thing, this wasn’t the identity that should define my life. It got tiring always having to pretend that I like being in front of people and making decisions. That’s normally the last thing I want to do. That stage held up by the label “leader” fueled my pride and being seen made me want to tell lies to make sure people liked me. Just because I should be a leader and that should be good doesn’t mean that it was what should define me.

It is a beautiful, hard, never-ending process of getting to know yourself apart from the experiences that have told you who you should be.

After my fraudulent identity was exposed last year, I learned how sorry these attempts to be accepted were. Belonging requires you to be yourself. Not some version I think will gain the most amount of admirers, not the version I tell myself I am because I get a front row seat into my own cynicism, but the realest of the real version of me. Uncut, live, on the couch watching Golden Girls, and likely going on my 4th day of unwashed hair.  The person who aims to please no one but her ever-present, unseen Jesus friend. The one whose name was whispered by an unseen, unfamiliar God way back in 2009 when I was still operating under the label of “nice, responsible girl” by day and “bitter, angsty, know-it-all” by night.

I love that this is the way God gets his kid’s attention. He called their names: Abraham, Jacob, Martha, myself. I love that God shares his name with us and that name is self-descriptive. Did you know that? What God calls himself is exactly who he is. He doesn’t bait and switch to get us to like him. He is unapologetically, totally God and I think that’s one of the biggest privileges of being in relationship with anyone – loving them exactly as who the were made to be. Might as well start with yourself.

I spent time trying on words like “follower” and “dreamer” and “good” and many more this year.

One of the different names I’ve tried on this year is “creative”. I’ve never seen myself as creative, which is wild considering this little blogosphere exists and I suppose that’s creative enough. But I do have a creative energy that needs air to make me feel more like me. The more time and energy I devote to making something – a meal, cutting a pair of thrift shop denim jeans to a length I like, writing copy for a marketing project – the more I can breathe easy. My sleep comes out of a day’s satisfaction instead of exhaustion. So I’m Emily, and I’m a creative.

What you call yourself matters because you become what you say you are. And the names that seemed forever like tattoos were just temporary. You belong. You were always invited into the party, but you have to be honest about what name is on the list.

I’m Emily.

five more minutes.

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Four kids are on the bounce house. Three are coloring at a table. Two buddies are building the World’s Tallest Block Tower in the corner and one tiny child is staring daggers at me with puffy eyes and tear-stained cheeks. The clip-on bow that once held back her bangs is stuck in the middle of her blonde tangles after her completion of a short tantrum routine on the ground. I was actually pretty impressed with her coordination and flexibility despite the fact that she was coughing and screaming the whole time.

I help out in my church’s Sunday School program every now and then. Me, a few other adults and a handful of 4-5 year olds kick it for an hour and a half. If you’ve met me in person, this is a hilarious image because I am not your go-to Sunday School gal. My humor is dry which doesn’t easily translate into “I’m trying to be funny to get you to like me” in kid language. I’m also constantly aware of the worst case scenario (fellow Enneagram 6’s get it), so usually I keep to myself around kids because I am preoccupied with the idea that one of them is going to inevitably break their leg under my watch and it’s on me to fashion a splint with Legos and my scarf to tide them over until we can page their parent and they’re safely returned to be held by their mothers until it’s all better. Welcome to my brain, dear readers.

But anxieties aside, I really love these kids! First of all they’re so cute. And they’re trying their hardest to figure out the world and be brave. Kind of like how I’m trying to do this too, except they haven’t failed as much yet so they’re a lot more fearless about it all.

Which brings us back to the little, tear-stained face staring at me from under a table. Homegirl was having a rough day. Okay.. rough is an understatement. She had 3 meltdowns in the course of 20 minutes, proving that kids can actually bounce back better than Big Sean.

After trying to coax her out of the table, she reached up and wanted me to hold her so I did. I wouldn’t say I’m a super comforting human but I’m not an animal. And I understand that sometimes you just need to be held. Having someone safe hold you is one of the Top 5 most underrated feelings right next to finding something you were missing.

We left the room to get a drink of water and afterwards she and I sat on the mats for a good 10 minutes. Her in my lap, me talking to her and us sharing a little moment of calm away from the beautiful, controlled chaos around us. I asked her if she was ready to go back inside the classroom when she looked up and wiped away the rest of her tears and asked, ‘How about 5 more minutes?”

Cue my heart swelling. Ok. Let’s sit here for 5 more minutes.


I shut off my computer, grabbed my jacket and rode the elevator down to the second floor of the building I work at. I paid for my Pumpkin Spiced Latte, because it is October and there isn’t another drink you purchase from cafes when the leaves are orange and there’s frost in the mornings, and I headed upstairs.

There’s this fancy furniture store that makes you feel like you pay for everything in rubies and gold bars when you walk in. It’s Tuesday morning at 10am and no one is shopping for throw pillows here at this time. and I was the only one in the store, or so I thought. My heart was set on a green velvet couch that I pass by every morning. It is equal parts boujee and beautiful and if I owned a multi-million dollar home you bet I would put this gorgeous, olive couch in my living room. I put my feet up on the gold encrusted coffee table, sunk back and let myself cry for a bit.

Right as I was mid-wallow a store employee popped up and asked if I needed anything. A young, 20-something who clearly can’t afford anything walks into your shop crying clutching a PSL in one hand and a napkin as a tissue in the other and sits on the couch that probably costs at least 6 months’ rent. What do you think I need? If I knew that answer, I wouldn’t be sitting here. I looked at him with my misty eyes and said, “I just need to sit here and drink this coffee for 5 minutes.”

To which he replied, “Great, let me know if you need anything. Also please take your feet off of the coffee table.”


Sometimes you just have those days.

Homegirl was too young to verbalize that she has big feelings and a lot of things going on at once makes her feel overwhelmed. So we got away from it all for a minute. And I had spent the last month doing my best to try to solve a problem and I still didn’t feel like it was enough. My tank was empty and I needed to get out. I needed to sit on a green velvet couch and let myself feel like it was going to be okay if I got away from all of the noise.

We weren’t made for a 24-hour news cycle. Years ago people read the newspaper in the morning and turned on the evening news at night for an hour. They chose when and how they wanted to engage with the world’s problems. Now we have to figure out how to immediately process Google alerts and Twitter feeds for everything that happens in the world before the next big tragedy comes along. I feel hard things deeply and I also easily forget the wins; 2017 is a hard year for feelers like me. We need 5 more minutes.

It’s an act of active patience to get away for even 5 minutes. To get a glass of water. To breathe. To kiss the ones we love and to remind ourselves that immediate is not always better, even if the notifications tell us it is.

The holidays are going to be here and gone before you know it. Remember to take 5 more minutes to be present where you are.

You can conquer the world when you get back.

maintenance required.

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This light keeps flashing on my dashboard when I start my car. Even though I know it’s going to be there, I feel my stomach flip each time “Maint Req’d” clicks on & off. It’s a little less alarming than when “Check Engine” indefinitely lights up and makes you rethink skipping that last oil change, lest you want to shell out $500 to a man named Steve who apparently found eight other things wrong with your vehicle. Warning signs are never a fun surprise.

I’ve turned the key and watched this light blink a few times before turning off again. I tell myself everything is fine. It comes and it goes away and the car keeps running and I keep moving along. I’ve done my due diligence of Googling “Maintenance Required light on a 2005 CRV” and it’s not detrimental. Maybe a mileage trigger took place or an engine code is making this little light blink. Everything is Okay and yet I know that eventually I’m going to have to take this car in, get it checked out and shell out some dollars to fix whatever is going on. Otherwise Steve might be getting a more serious visit.

Isn’t it funny how we see all the warning signs and reminders of a breakdown but we keep going until it’s necessary? Until life literally can’t go on without some greasy hands working to clean out and rewire what’s under our hood?

Nostalgia is one of my favorite feelings. I love looking back and reminiscing on good times. Buzzfeed articles about toys & bands from the 90’s/early 2000’s are food for my soul and I will never get tired of a good Throwback playlist, especially if it has “Shoop” on there. Whenever a major anniversary comes up I want to celebrate it with Memory Lane and rainbow sprinkles. Looking back shows us where we came from and it’s always been an encouragement to me to keep the hope that there’s even more to come.

But sometimes a year goes by and I want to fast forward to the good part.

My personal “Maintenance Required” light has been blinking for twelve months. It blinked once in July 2016. It blinked a few times the following September. It came back on for awhile in November & December and really started to stick around in February. I ignored it and kept going. I drove around yelling the lyrics to Taylor Swift’s 1989 album to drown out the light’s clicky reminder that my insides need to be checked out. And I thought I was doing a good job of faking Okay until this month when my “Check Engine” light signaled the Breakdown.

You know the Breakdown – your insides feel all spinny and for some reason you can’t quite point to what’s out of balance. You watch an episode of The Office and it makes you cry because you forgot how freaking EMOTIONAL this show is. You brave a new community alone for the 2nd month in a row and even though your brain rationalizes that all the good ones take time, your heart just wants to be known and it makes you a little sad. You try to keep your routine and find your footing but even all of the encouraging texts & love letters in the world can only point you to truth. They can’t force you to grab onto it.

For some reason I’ve felt more like a failure in almost every area of my life because of my choices throughout this year, especially in the areas that I hold closest like my faith and my relationships.

I don’t know where I got this measuring stick. I’m not failing – far from it – and according to a couple of my people I seem to be handling new pressures and challenges with grace. Maybe that’s because all of the midnight 1989 yell-sing sessions have lead me to perfect the art of Taylor Swifting it – appearing like you have it all together but secretly knowing that you’re probably unstable and a little psychotic due to your own self-destructive habits but it’s chill because at least I don’t sound insane (right?). Such is the life of an mid-20’s-year-old.

There’s a brand of Christianity who are pros at Swifting their way through life. Our sins stay on the surface and usually revolve around how prideful we are or how we could have done better by really being present with our camp cabin instead of sneaking away for a nap. They rarely circle around our love of sex or alcohol or anything that makes us feel a little less chaotic inside but still allow us to show up on Sunday with our collared shirts on & our hands held high. It’s a way to keep people at a distance so we don’t risk being found out: that we aren’t Okay, we constantly do what we know isn’t the best for us, and our favorite bands aren’t actually from Hillsong.

My prodigal heart is embarrassed to look my Jesus in the eye and say I tried and admit that I was given the world and I blew it on one too many shiny things that made me feel seen.  Honestly, my pride still doesn’t really want to do the long walk back home. I used to say I would never be “that person” because I suck and really just wanted to belong to some exclusive club where try-hards were rewarded for being the most liked and compared their holy merit badges. I want to point to great successes in the past and cover up the ways I messed up in the last year to justify my place at the table. But that person would just be a fictional character of who I am today. I’m invited to the party as long as I’m honest about which name is on the guest list.

Life with Jesus is more than a game of Simon Says to make you feel like you know what you’re doing. It’s not the feel of belonging in community, it doesn’t just happen on Sundays. It’s not choosing an occupation in ministry because having “pastor” in your title keeps you in check. It’s not raising your hands at the right times or tweeting out a bible verse or saying yes/no to things because you want to appear clean. It’s a Maintenance Required light reminding me that I’m in a constant process of breaking and being made whole again. Thank God, I’m still in process.

I’m still hopeful for what’s next. I’m still learning how much I need grace. I’m still thankful for the little community I have near and far who remind me who I am. I’m still standing and singing and I’m still so prone to wander. I feel it.

If you feel like you’re on the outside looking in, just know I’m there too. You’re not alone, but I think it’s time we come inside. Rumor has it there’s a party waiting for us and they even have rainbow sprinkles. Let’s go home.