How Are You, Really?


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The older I get, the harder it feels to find genuine friends in this bustling world. People who want to sit down over cups of coffee and skip all the small talk to say, “I’m excited about this. I’m anxious about that. And how are you, though? How are you really?”

Life can be terribly lonely like that. Even in the middle of handshakes and cocktails, text messages and missed calls, it can feel like you’re standing outside it all and watching. It can feel like night after night of conversations about things that wash away like the weather.

It feels a bit like a dream sometimes. Like waking up after months and months of memories and catching your breath. You find yourself standing on the outside of all these beautiful lives—these amazing fresh starts and growth moments, these tight embraces and happy tears—and wonder what passcode to use when you knock on the door and ask to come in.

When I met my husband, one of favorite things about him was his joy for life. We dove right in to being our honest, silly selves. We fell in love because we never tried to be small talkers. We acted stupid together, went on adventures, shared our hearts, and continued to reciprocate that day in and day out.

Tonight, I drove nineteen miles on a mostly empty road and thought about how nice it is to sit inside a good conversation for a while. How it feels to exchange real stories and struggles and feel the weight shake itself off your shoulders with each step forward. How it feels to find common ground in a world filled with perfect Snapchat stories and Instagram filters.

I’m searching for more of that. More people who want to come right out and say, “I enjoyed this. I feel like I can breathe again. Let’s do it again soon.”

We all need somebody like that, who asks, “How are you, though? How are you really?”

Let’s begin. Let’s begin. Let’s begin.

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Next Sunday, I’ll be waking up next to my husband. We’ll rise out of bed before the sun, shimmy into shorts, toss on tees and slip on flip flops. We’ll haul our belongings over our shoulders, roll carry on suitcases across a quiet parking lot, and shuffle into the backseat of my mother’s car. We’ll get on a plane and slide into our row and fall asleep on each other’s shoulders.

I think about that moment. How friends and family and neighbors say, “You’re flying out the morning after your wedding at what time?” How they worry we’ll be tired. How they wonder why we wouldn’t want to fly later, in the afternoon, when the world starts to stir.

There’s a quote from When Harry Met Sally that goes a little something like this: “When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.”

That’s how I feel. I’m marrying my best friend. The person who makes me laugh every day. Who holds me when I’ve had a bad day. Who wipes away my tears and kisses my forehead. He’s the first person I want to see in the morning and the last person at night. He calms me, challenges me, and energizes me.

It doesn’t matter if we don’t sleep much. I have never been a sleeper.

In the last few weeks, I have stopped myself midway through filing and recycling papers in my office at midnight. Putting gifts into bags and twisting up tissue paper. Considering the hard water stains on my faucets, and how long it might take to wipe all the surfaces in the bathroom.

I know there isn’t much different about marriage when you’ve been living with the man already in a house you bought months ago. But it feels fresh. It feels new. It feels like a chance to stop and say, “Let me make sure I always listen to you and ask you questions and check in. Let me fold the laundry this time. Let me wash your car.”

It feels like a good reason to scrub every surface of my house, to sweep the floors, to beat the rugs against my wrought iron railings.

We don’t need cobwebs. We don’t need dust. We don’t need dirt. We need clarity—about our hopes, our dreams, our goals, our love, our daily wants and needs. We need to declutter externally before we can feel free and fresh inside.

So my floors are swept. My counters are clean. My heart is open.

Let’s begin. Let’s begin. Let’s begin.

The Next Day

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A few weeks ago, my tire all but blew out on I-95. Seventy-five miles per hour in the far left lane and the car started swerving left, right, left.

You pray for a miracle when that happens.

Please, God, find a space for me in the next lane, and the next lane, and the next lane. Please, God, just get me to the shoulder.

And then, you find yourself sitting two feet from a rumble strip, a thin patch of tar between you and the passing cars.

You pray for their attention. You pray for their carefulness. You pray for their sobriety.

Please, God, don’t let somebody clip us from behind. Please, God, don’t let us die because somebody, somewhere behind us, didn’t see the stopped car on the side of the road in the dead of the night with the wind and rain whipping around us.

We prayed hard that night.

We sat quiet in the space between one exit sign and the next, the flashers fizzling out behind us, those dimming red sparks holding on just long enough for the tow truck driver to pull in front of us and light up the road like a football stadium on a Saturday night.

It’s one of those moments where you think, “If I can just get through this, I’ll do whatever you want me to do. I’ll floss more. I’ll run more. I’ll take out the trash sooner. I’ll hold open more doors and read more library books and hug more strangers. Whatever it is, I’ll do it. Just let me get through this.”

I turned to my future mother-in-law that night, and I said the only helpless, true thing there is to say: “I’d really like to marry your son. I’d just really like to do that.”

Because when you sit in a car in the dark of night, two feet from trucks trekking down the road, you’re not sure anymore. You’re not sure you have control. You’re not sure you’ll get out. You’re not sure there’s anything you can do to feel better.

I imagine it’s a little less dramatic than the way the people felt on the Titanic. But it’s that utter hopelessness that keeps you from crying – you laugh, you sigh, you sit and wait. You shiver when you roll the window down. You sip iced tea. You cannot do any more anyway.

The true test comes the next day, and the next day, and the next day, when you’re not trapped two feet from trucks, and you still want to say those same words:

I’d really like to marry your son.

Some days, I stop and think about where I landed in this life. And I can’t help but acknowledge that my future is a miracle.

She sat on the side of her own metaphorical highway once – helpless, feeling utterly lost. She had lost her baby girl that night. But she decided to try again, to have a new baby, and that baby grew up to fall in love with the girl in the front seat of that shaking old car, the tire steaming and smoking and burning behind her. That baby grew up, against all odds, and made some girl really, really happy.

So that she could say, “I’d really like to marry your son.”

And she is. And she will.

Big Snow, Small Moments

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My future mother-in-law has been asking for a blog post for months.

Last month, I was snowed in for five days, and when I showed up on her doorstep with margarine and eggs, her road still enveloped in feet of snow, she asked again.

On the drive home, I thought about it. Dismissed it. Scratched it away.

Because the truth is, I don’t know what to write about these days. When I started this blog, 5 and a half years ago, I was terribly depressed. I was reeling from a bad breakup. An eating disorder. A tendency to count calories. Or looks from cute boys. Or self-esteem wins.

I was trying to walk out my door each morning and see goodness oozing out car windows and shining on street corners.

Twice a week, I got through simply by showing up to bat. By letting a small ember burn in my belly.

I am a quiet fighter, a determined woman, and I needed to reclaim my life. It was only a matter of time.

In January, I bought my first house. In less than six months, I’ll walk down the aisle to stand in front of a man I can only assume was a gift from God. He is that good. He is that kind. I’ll become indoctrinated into a new family then.

My life is good. My life is full. My life is merry. But after shoveling three feet of snow off my car, my sidewalk, my front steps, my deck, I cannot help but think life is an uphill battle.

People never stop asking you things. When are you getting married? When are you having a baby? Why aren’t you having a baby? When are you having another one, and another one, and another one? Will your baby go to private school or public school? Will you send your baby to an Ivy League university? Will your baby ever get married? Will you be a grandparent?

And you stop along the way, and you wonder when life became this competition. When did life become a series of check check checks?

It’s worth stopping to see the small moments: the cars cleared out front, four hours and three aspirin later, the sea of neighbors hauling snow bit by bit, their front lawns swelling with icy hills.

Your dog being swallowed by the mountains of white on either side as she searches for grass, any grass, to mark her own. Her paws sliding so fast across the slick wood floor that she can’t stop and crashes into the wall chasing after a toy.

The red cheeks of a baby boy, plopped in a tiny sled, bundled head to toe, waiting for a push down the hill.

Those are the moments I caught that weekend. Those are the moments I hope to always hold tight.

Because between each check mark, each finish line, are sweet sweet stories of hard work and laughter, triumph and sadness. And those are the moments we live for. Those are the moments we hold.