Bravery is pretty much the scariest thing ever

I've talked about scuba diving here before. About how scuba diving is really scary and that depression can feel like the scariest part of scuba diving (at least for me). That part where you're in the water, and you're deep enough that you can't see the surface. You can't see the bottom. There is no end to the water around you. You're just there. In the nothing. And you don't know what's coming, or where it's coming from, and all you can hear is the sound of your own breathing and it's so loud and you're in the nothing and breathing and nothing and loud and claustrophobia and finally... just panic.

I've talked about that, right?

Did I tell you that in a million years I was never going to get certified to scuba dive? Because sharks are everywhere. And piranha. And also, dead bodies (I watched too many scary movies and read too many Stephen King books as a kid).

But I love the water. And I'm so obsessed with sea creatures and coral reefs.

I read this thing about this aquarium in Georgia where you can swim with whale sharks, and I was like "THAT...would be the coolest thing ever." And then I read the part where, for the best experience, you should be scuba certified. And I was like," I'm not gonna do that."

But the more I thought about, the more I wanted to do it. And I KNEW my husband would love it. And it was a total surprise to me, but you can actually get certified to scuba dive right here in the midwest.

So we signed up for the course.

I'm going to skip over all of the learning stuff and the exercises and just tell you that the first time I submerged completely in all of the scuba gear...IN A SWIMMING POOL...I freaked out.

I came right out of the water and was all sorts of  Nope. No. Nuh uh. No. Absolutely not.

It took a good ten minutes to calm down enough to go back under.. But - once I was under, it was actually really cool.

Swimming pools have clear water. And walls. And aren't terribly deep. You can see the end. You can see the beginning. You can see what's coming.

Swimming pools are NOT the nothing.

But quarries are! And that's where we went for the next part of our class. Our group went to the quarry and we all swam out to the middle, where there was a bright orange buoy. And we all grabbed this rope and lowered ourselves down...about 12 this underwater platform where we started the next part of our training.

I had a panic attack.

And the thing about scuba diving is, when you're in the water, you can't just shoot up out of the water. You have to rise slowly. So I'm freaking out and just trying to get to the surface but also trying to remember all of the rules so that I don't die but also freaking out and everyone is looking at me because I'm screwing up the class for everyone else and I'm pretty much the worst and DEAR GOD JUST GET ME TO THE SURFACE.

My husband doesn't miss many opportunities to tease me...but he's also really awesome. He loved everything about learning to scuba dive so much and I know I was totally messing up his good time, but he was completely patient with me.

Eventually, I went below the surface again.

And finally, despite multiple freak outs, I got scuba certified.

The thing is - I was scared the whole time. And I'm still scared. I'm quite sure that the next time we go into the water, I'm going to have a really hard time. At least...until we get to the part where I'm face to face with a school of fish. And they're swimming around and some of them come right up and look you in the eye because you're a curious looking creature in their space...and then they swim off and so you swim off as well and it's so peaceful and amazing and it's kind of like flying and...the fear is worth it. 

I was thinking about scuba diving this week because I posted two things that really freaked me out. I posted about the worst thing that I had ever done. And I posted a video of myself, where I was super raw and emotional.

And both times I posted, I had a running tally in my head of the people who I knew, should they see either of these things, would mock them. And this isn't even an imaginary fear. Because of everything that happened last year, I'm only too aware that people like to say bad things about me. And while I would love to say I don't care...I can't. I'm better at handling it, but of course I don't want to have people sitting around and making fun of me. I mean...gross.

So I was terrified to post those things. It's not easy for me to write about some of the things I write about. Or post a video where I just cry and my nose is running and I'm sure my teeth are just too big and the whole time I'm thinking "don't look like a horse, don't look like a horse, don't look like a horse."

I have a really hard time sharing some of this stuff, for a variety of reasons.

But it's SO much easier than going out into the world after I post those things, knowing that people have seen them. Knowing that they have read about the worst parts about me and seen my insecurities and my pain and my too big teeth and ...sometimes I can't even leave the house for a couple of days after I post something. 

And then, because you are amazing, you tell me that I'm brave.

And I'm You guys...I am so freaked out right now. I can't even leave my house. Like - I'm still in my pajamas. I won't even put on real clothes.

And you guys are like..."thank you for being brave."

And I'm so thrown off by that, because I don't feel brave. 

And then you tell me again...thank you for being brave. You tell me, "I saw this and I finally called a therapist." Or "I finally talked to someone about their depression." Or "I feel less alone." Or "me too." 

And I'm like...oh. Wow. Because that matters. And so I keep going. And I'm freaked out every time. And I always feel scared. And I wanted you to know that if what I do is brave, then you shouldn't discount your own bravery just because it might not feel like bravery. Or at least what we think bravery should feel like. If this is brave, then I think bravery feels like fear. And it can be really uncomfortable. 

Sometimes, getting out of bed and putting on real clothes is brave. Or waving at a stranger. Or asking someone if they're feeling suicidal. Or telling someone that they hurt you. Or strongly disagreeing with someone you love. Or quitting your job. Or leaving a relationship. Or saying no. Or making waves. Or being honest about who you are. Or being a parent (how do you guys even DO that?)

And we don't call it bravery because it feels like fear.

So I want you to know that if I'm brave, you're brave, too. And I hope that you can recognize it in yourself and appreciate all of the hard things that you do every single day. All of the things that you don't want to do but that you keep doing, because you know that beyond the fear and exhaustion and doubt lies something that's far more important.

I posted this video the other day because I think that sharing this story should be bigger than my fear. And I want you to know that I hate that it's out there. And that I hate the way that I look. And I'm scared of strangers on the internet judging me. And everything about it feels gross gross gross. 

Until someone sees it and it prompts them to open up. To seek help. To talk about it. To feel less alone.

And then it feels like scuba diving.  Like floating in a school of fish, in this amazing world that you didn't know that you could be a part of, surrounded by the peacefulness of water, knowing that the fear was worth it. Bravery is fear, you guys. And we're all so much braver than we ever think we are.

The business of feelings


This week I've been knee deep....waist deep? Neck deep in building a business. I've built businesses before and I've been successful. But it's always been with very little money and not much knowledge. I had to work a lot and I had to study a lot. I had to fail a lot. And this all feels a lot like starting from scratch, and failing every single day, because the world has changed so much since I last did this.

Hey Lola is a business.

I know that it is, but I hate saying it. Mainly because of this blog.  Because this blog is where I pour my heart out and you guys come here and so often you pour your hearts out back to me and it feels so amazing to be here in this space and just KNOW that I'm not the only awkward kid in the room. We're all awkward and amazing here together and it's really been a beautiful experience.


Hey Lola is a business. Ugh. I mean...I started this blog in 2009 specifically to drive business to my Etsy store. But back then it didn't feel weird because honestly - I wrote about dogs, cake, Kevin Bacon and jewelry. Actually, for a really long time I just wrote stories about my husband and made pictures like this:

And none of that felt weird. I just needed a place to put an ad for my store and I figured my own blog was as good as any. But feels weird. It feels a lot like I'm saying, "Hey you guys, check out all of these feelings and also, give me a dollar." 

So this week, as I'm taking webinars and creating spreadsheets and studying algorithms on social media and just posting all over the place just to try and figure out the right formula, it feels a little gross. You know? A little inauthentic.

The blog was never designed to be a business. The jewelry company was. But when the bottom fell out of everything and I started writing about it and then I decided to make jewelry that was specific to healing and spirituality and recovery and the Penny Project, it all became intertwined. Right now, they exist together. 

I had to turn the Hey Lola facebook page from "blog/website" to "public figure" in an attempt for facebook to verify me so that I can protect the name "Hey Lola."  That felt gross.

I learned how to hide hashtags on my instagram posts and that I should use as many as possible. Feels gross.

I had to make an editorial calendar for the blog to make sure I'm posting regularly which do I post regularly about feelings when I don't even know when I'm going to feel them or if I'm even going to want to talk that day or get out of bed? And the internet was like, "Oh - just blog ahead of time and schedule your post." 

Right. A feelings schedule. Super gross.

I took a webinar on pinterest, so I'm designing pins that are "clickable" for the blog. Feels so gross.

Everything that I've learned has pointed to "you have to be the face of your brand." Like - a literal picture of me has to be identifiable with Hey Lola. So I took a picture and then I pasted it all over the internet, including the jewelry website. THIS FEELS REALLY GROSS.

I am in battle with myself over the dream of the tourbus and the hugs and the pop-up shops and eating dinner vs. feeling gross about feelings as a business.

I try to remind myself that some of my favorite authors write about feelings and that that's how they make a living. Glennon Doyle Melton. Brene Brown. Rob Bell. Reba Riley. Lacey Sturm. I love the crap out of them. I paid money to feel feelings about the feelings that they wrote about. Because feelings.

I have to remind myself that I deserve to eat, too and having a goal is awesome and I truly love writing and creating and hopefully someday I can just pay somebody to do the gross stuff...

It just feels weird right now. Like...


That's it. I don't have anything profound to say. I'm just struggling with staying really focused on the dream while feeling uncomfortable about some of the steps necessary to get there. Oh! I guess the profound bit is - I'm still in the game. I'm still working on the dream... even when it feels like this:

Or this...

or this...

(images via photographer Kaija Straumanis. Her "stuff that hit me in the head" series made my whole day.)

When Your Dreams Are Too Big.

When I was in junior high, our school was putting on a production of "Once Upon a Mattress." I was really excited about it and had been working up the nerve to audition. I nervously told my parents about it and my stepdad laughed at me and said,"Seriously? You're going to sing? Who do you think you are?"

Wha...what? I was going to...I just thought...I mean...No? I shouldn't?

That's the first time I really remember feeling like my dreams were too big. And that I wasn't good enough. And I really wasn't good enough for my too big dreams. Which...a role in the school play isn't even that big of a dream. No way was I going to shoot for anything bigger than that.

I spent a really good chunk of my life keeping my dreams small. My dream is to have a paycheck. My dream is to not get fired. My dream is for my hair to look good today. My dream is to make enough money to get by.

And then, when I was 33, my dream became, "I don't want to work in clubs anymore where people point guns at me and try to grab my ass all night."  Real things that happened, real "dream." I was managing a strip club and had this sudden realization that this was my life. Hoping I didn't get shot. Trying not to get felt up. Going home to my husband and trying to just be normal and not stressed out. And not feel worthless.

I didn't have any education. I was a high school drop-out with a GED and GEDs were really easy to come by when I got mine. I didn't know how to do anything except work in bars. So I decided to go back to school. I didn't even know what I wanted to study, I just knew that school would help me achieve the dream of "I don't want to work here anymore." I thought about it for a really long time and settled on...something smart. I'm going to study something that smart people study, because I'm dumb.

I really thought that. I thought that my entire life. I'm a high school drop-out, I'm dumb, and the whole world is smarter than me. So my education needed to be "something smart." I picked biology. After all, science is for smart people, right?

My placement tests were a joke. My composition skills were great, my math skills were non-existent. I would have to take a year of math before I could even get into college level courses.

Biology degrees require physics, calculus, and organic chemistry. Needless to say, people tried to dissuade me from biology. But...I was really, really tired of feeling dumb. So I chose biology anyway, and I just dove into math with everything I had.

I was terrible at it. Like - REALLY bad.

So I bugged my teachers every single day. I was in the math lab every single day. I didn't leave campus until I had finished my math homework and more. If we were assigned the even numbered problems, I did all of the problems.

I was not going to spend my life getting my ass grabbed and having guns pointed at me because I couldn't figure out how to solve for X.

So I got my associate's degree and because I had worked SO hard, I got a bunch of scholarships and I got accepted into a 4 year university. And I'm actually really, really good at math. And I got a job doing something that I loved and decided to take a hiatus from school for a bit.  And for a while, that was awesome. When I left that job, it was to open our bar Blue, and that was also awesome. I learned how to be an event coordinator in that time, as well, and I loved it.

Something as simple as being able to "solve for X" gave me the confidence to realize that I can figure out just about anything, if I set my mind to it.

But then my dreams got "too big" again...

When we closed the bar this past February, I said I wanted to work from home. The anxiety and depression meant my dream was just to not have to leave the house, ever again. And then, as I got better and more focused, my dream was to actually contribute to our household expenses. And then, as I got even better, I decided that my dream was to take Hey Lola on the road, in an RV or tour bus, with a traveling studio, and do pop up shops across the country and hug people and cry and tell them that they are worth SO MUCH and that they are loved and not alone and it's ok if you don't want to go to the party and your voice shakes when you speak because ME TOO! We're in this together! And maybe I could write a book or something and...

And then me was like, "Girl. That is so stupid. That's going to cost you like a trillion dollars and how is that even going to work? Reign it in. Why don't you just dream about paying your mortgage and buying groceries?"

But...but ..I could...

And me said, "Sister, you are delusional. Do you have any idea how much stuff you would have to sell every single week to do that? You can't even get out of bed half of the time! And you can't go on tour! You cry ALL.OF.THE.TIME. Who wants to talk to the crying girl?"

And I was like...Oh. Yeah. You're right. That's pretty dumb.

And me said, "Also, you're not going to write a book. You have a blog, not a book. You're not a writer. It's not the same thing. These are like...hobbies, not jobs. You should probably get ready to start waiting tables again."

And for a couple of days, I let that version of me drive the conversation and pretty much piss all over my big, beautiful tour bus dream.

And then, in this moment of clarity, I realized....never in a million years would I say that to someone if they came to me and told me that that was their dream. I would NEVER talk to anyone the way that I had talked to myself. If it was anyone else, I would have asked, "Do you have a plan? Do you have multiple goals before the big goal? Is it realistic? How committed are you? How can I help?" And I would have helped them formulate a plan because dreams are awesome and worth pursuing and who on earth tells someone with a dream that their dreams are TOO BIG?

Not me, you guys. I can solve for X. So I made a plan. And I set a series of goals that would need to be fulfilled in order to achieve the big goal. And in 3 years, I'm getting a tour bus and taking this show and my whole family on the road. That's the big goal. And if the big goal takes a little longer, that's ok. Because I know for sure it will NEVER happen if I give up on it or if I don't put together a plan that at least makes every attempt to reach it. Faced with "this is a possibility" vs. "never," I choose the possibility.

Don't ever let anyone tell you that your dreams are too big. You have the power to accomplish really amazing things. I believe in you. You should believe in you, too.

(OH! And I auditioned for "Once Upon a Mattress" anyway. And I was cast in a lead role, where I sang a song all by myself, in front of everyone. And I was good.)

When You're the One Who's Terrible

I have gone back and forth on this blog post. I have to be really honest - I'm absolutely terrified of posting this. It's a really, really hard thing for me to talk about. But I also think it's important, especially given everything else I've written about. But I hate it. And I'm really uncomfortable.

I wrote recently about my journey through life being populated by people who are just not that nice.

It's important to tell you that at certain times, one of those people was me. It's not fair or true or authentic or brave to only tell you about being hurt, and leave out the part about being the one doing the hurting.

It's hard to talk about the version of yourself that you once were, who was capable of inflicting real damage. It's more than's... I'm ashamed of that person.

I am not ashamed of who I am today, or the woman that I've become. I'm proud of who I am today - every anxious, depressed, weird bit of me. But without a doubt, I am ashamed of the girl I used to be, in those moments where I could not be bothered to care or didn't know how to care. I don't like her at all.

And because I so often share stories about overcoming hardship and what that process entails, I think it's really important to also tell you about the worst thing that the really not nice version of me did, and how I overcame this giant obstacle in my life... that was me.

I once had this really great friend. She was smart and funny and kind and she had a life that was really different (better?) than mine, but she never passed judgement on me. I mean - she had her shit together. I did not, in any way, shape, or form, have my shit together. But she wanted to be my friend, (despite all of my baggage), and I wanted to be her friend and so, we were friends.

We hung out a lot. And we had a lot of fun.

And then one night, I went out with some other friends.

My friend's boyfriend was also out that night. And you can probably guess what happened and this was a really long time ago but it doesn't take away the sting of the terrible thing that I did and I'm not going to not say it just to make it easier on myself...

I slept with her boyfriend.

I don't think I even thought twice about it. And another one of my really good friends tried to stop me and I didn't care. I just did it.

I woke up the next day and I didn't want to face anyone. I wanted to take it back. I wanted to be someone else. I couldn't even believe the person that I was.

I had done an awful thing and I was an awful person. There wasn't any pretending anything different.

And for 3 weeks, my friend did not know that this happened. For 3 weeks, I avoided her calls.

Until she left me this heartbroken message about how she missed me and that she didn't know what she had done wrong but she would fix it and would I please just call her back?

And of course, that's the moment that you can't run away from. Because I could try to pretend like I hadn't done what I had done, but I couldn't let her think that somehow I was staying away from her because of something that she had done.

And so I called her. And I told her. And in that moment, I knew I was the worst person in the world. I knew it. 100%. Without a doubt.

But she didn't think that.

She was hurt and she cried and she asked if she could come over because she just needed a friend and... I was appalled that she thought that I was her friend. Not because I didn't want to be her friend, but because I wasn't good enough to be her friend. I really did want her as a friend but I was a really, really bad person and she deserved friends who were far better than me.

She asked me why I did it and I couldn't tell her. I didn't know. My own marriage had fallen apart because of my ex-husband's infidelity. I knew exactly how terrible that was. How devastating. I could not understand or even begin to explain how I could turn around and do such a terrible thing to someone else, much less someone that I called a friend.

But... my friend forgave me. (To this day I don't really understand the heart of a person who can be confronted with that sort of betrayal and still offer almost immediate forgiveness...To see through all of the mess and recognize something besides the horrible person that I knew that I was. I don't know where that comes from, but I know that I want to be like that. I try really, really hard to be like that.)

Even though she forgave me, I didn't talk to her for a really long time. I was weighed down with the shame of what I had done. I still couldn't face her. And I wouldn't. And for a long time we didn't have a friendship.

I think a year passed. And I missed her and I still felt the weight of my actions. All of the time.

I reached out to her again to tell her how very, very sorry that I was. That she deserved better than a friend like me. That I didn't think that I liked myself very much at that point, and that at that time, I didn't think that I was capable of being a very good friend.

Looking back now, I know that I felt worthless. Any worth that I ever thought that I had, had always been tied up in my sexuality. I was recently divorced, I was drinking way too much, and sex made me feel worth something, so...I slept around. Without regard for myself or anyone else. I was selfish and destructive and I hurt people.

I hated what I had done SO MUCH. I carried that guilt with me all of the time. I could never even truly express how so very sorry I was for the hurt that I had caused my friend. And I felt guilty for bringing it up again, because maybe I was making it worse by not just letting it go...I had no idea what to do with all of this shame and guilt and sorrow. I just wanted my friend to know that I knew how bad it was. I knew that I was terrible and I knew that she had deserved better.

And she reminded me that she had already forgiven me. And that she meant it.

This time, I believed her. She forgave me long before I was able to forgive myself. (Remember I keep telling you how the lights keep coming? Even when I'm the reason for the darkness, here come the lights.)

There are still moments where I think of that time and I'm filled with a deep sense of shame. I have to remind myself that I'm forgiven. By my friend and by myself.

And by God.

I have to remind myself that I have not been that person in a very long time and that broken people do really fucked up things, and that those things don't have to define them for the rest of their lives.

We don't have to define other people by their brokenness.

I've spent a lot of time talking about a lot of hurt that was thrown my way in the past year. And sometimes I still get angry. I saw someone the other day who I hadn't seen in ages. Someone who had really hurt me and I remember angrily thinking that he owed me an apology. And then reminding myself...

...he doesn't. I'm not owed an apology. I'm not owed anything. Sometimes, people have to forgive themselves before they can accept forgiveness from you. And that might take a little more time than you're comfortable with. Sometimes they don't even know they hurt you and sometimes, even though it really sucks...they don't care. And we have to learn to be ok with that. We can still forgive them.

Today, I try my best to be decent to people, decent to myself, decent and kind to the world in general. But I have this history and I am broken and unraveled and stitched back together and tied in knots and patched up in weird ways and there have been moments in my life where this mess has been beautiful and there have been moments where it has been really ugly. Moments that meant that I was the one who was terrible. I was the one that someone had to recover from. I was the one that caused the tears and the heartache and the trust issues. I might be a good person today, but I have most certainly stumbled on my way here. Hard.

That moment in my life keeps me humble. This happened over 15 years ago and for me, it is still the defining moment of forgiveness. My friend is the example of forgiveness that I want to live up to.

I had to tell her that I was writing this. I wanted her to know, in case she stumbled on it by accident. I wanted to make sure she was ok with me putting it out there. Which...was hard. And she was just as gracious and kind as ever. We're still friends. It never fails to surprise me that in the face of such a horrible thing, she forgave me and she still accepts me as her friend. It's amazing. She is an amazing person.

I still wish more than anything that it hadn't happened. I would take it back in a heartbeat if I could. But I can't. It's a part of who I am.  I have to accept that. And I think it's important to own these moments in my own life so that I can accept them in other people. So that I don't hate. So that I can be a little more compassionate. A little more forgiving. A little kinder when I'm in the path of someone who stumbles, because we have all stumbled. And we are all capable of getting back up and doing the right thing. We can change our course.

And we can be forgiven.

A Letter to You

When I was 15, I was not living at home. I was not in school, and I was living in a car with my 16 year old friend Christine and her 2 year old daughter. Christine and I both waited tables at the same truck stop, illegally working third shift and getting paid under the table. Men would sit in my section and look me up and down before saying, "15 minutes with a 15 year old will get you 15 years in jail!" and then they would laugh...and I would laugh, too, because I really needed that job...and if you thought it was funny, I also thought it was funny.

I need this job.

One day, a guy named Al came in, and sat in Christine's section. They talked for a while, and shortly after, she came over and said that he had an extra room, and that we could stay there if we wanted.

If you and another girl and her 2 year old daughter are living in a car, where the radio doesn't work, but there's a cassette of the Eagle's Greatest Hits, and all you do is listen to "Hotel California" over and over again, while you're trying to get comfortable enough to sleep and praying your hardest that the cops don't show'll take that offer. Even if the guy is 35 and a drug dealer and missing most of his teeth and looks kind of scary and you don't really know him or what his motives might be.

I can't sleep in that car one more night. And I really hate "Hotel California."

So we moved into Al's double wide trailer, in the very worst trailer park in town. The trailer wasn't even put together properly - you had to step over the seam that ran through the middle - you could see the ground beneath and it was wide enough that you could catch your feet and break your ankle. The trailer park itself was just a big patch of dirt, with trailers just kind of thrown here and there (years later they condemned the entire trailer park and tore it down).

Al was really nice. He never tried anything, we stayed out of his way, he stayed out of ours.

A few months after Christine and I moved in with Al, my mother found out where I was. She showed up and offered to take me to family counseling - some place up by Chicago, where we could "really work everything out."

I went willingly...

...and she had me committed to a mental hospital.

I was there for 6 weeks and everything about it was wrong and unethical and terrible and they actually ended up shutting that hospital down a few years later, but right now, that doesn't matter. What matters is this:

When they released me, they advised against me going back to live with my mother. It was clear to everyone that that situation was ...not ok. They told my mother that she shouldn't have me. They weren't sure where I should go. I didn't know what to do so I called Al, and Al had gotten engaged to a woman with 3 daughters, and Christine had moved out and I was pretty sure I had nowhere to go.

But on the day that I was released, Al showed up. He drove the three hours to the hospital, his fiance came with him, and they were dressed in the very best clothes they had.  Al's fiance wore a sparkly black cocktail dress... because it was her nicest dress... and she wanted to make sure she looked her best for me and for the people deciding my fate.

They showed up for me, and they said they would take me home.

This man didn't owe me anything.  I was not his, he easily could have walked away...

...but he showed up. With his fiance. His fiance, who had never even met me and already had 3 kids of her own. They showed up...and they took me home.

And my entire life, as jagged as the path has been, as populated as it has been with people who are just really not that nice, my entire life has also always been filled with people who have shown up for me, when I very least expected it. And many times they have been the people who don't have the right clothes, the right jobs, the right house, the right connections, enough money, the right religion, etc. etc. forever and ever amen...

Al was a drug dealer...he showed up for me.
I was a stripper for years...and to this day, the women I worked with still show up for me.
I live by a man who battles his heroin addiction every day...but he shows up for me.
My friend Eugene doesn't even have a home, but he shows up for me.
My husband, the people I've met at church, my in-laws, my niece, ex-employees...people keep showing up for me.
In the moments where my own demons and the world around me was so painful that I could barely show up for myself, people kept showing up for me.

I still sometimes have a hard time believing that people love me, or want to let down my guard enough to let them love me, but they keep showing up...and you's working. I feel like I'm making progress. It was a year ago that I thought I would never be able to love people again, and look how far I've come! I love the crap out of everybody, all of the time!

It's just letting them love me back that's kind of hard. But I'm getting there.

(The other day someone came in to hug me and I very loudly said "Oh shit!" as they came in. And then...we had a hug. Because I really am getting there.)

And you are my heart. I say it a lot, but I mean it so much. SO MUCH. You heal me every day with your presence and your hearts and your courage and just who you are. I have come so very far because of the people that keep showing up. You keep showing up.

Sometimes you show up and you say "I love you" and sometimes you show up and all you can say is, "I hurt, too." and in that moment my heart loves you SO much because you said it. You said it out loud and you were vulnerable and that is beautiful and amazing and that's how we connect. Because we're in it together, now. We're not alone. We're not faking anything for anybody.

When I considered writing about the mental hospital (and I had to consider it for a while) I thought about telling you all of the gory details and about all of the emotional trauma that comes with that experience but instead...I thought...

I want to write about Al.

I want to write about how, in this really awful situation, how amazing it was that the last person anyone would ever expect to do something so kind and generous and amazing, came through for me like a superhero.

And how that keeps happening. And how I see you and I see you showing up. And that when you share with me, sometimes that's what propels me to get out of the house that day. Because I'm reminded that I'm not alone. We're in it together. We can be honest with each other. We don't have to fake anything for anybody.

And how I can't say anymore, ever, that there's not something bigger at work here. That there's not a meaning to the madness. I see God in the people who show up. I see God in the people I show up for. I see that we all have this brokenness but we also all have this ability to heal each other. And that feels really big. Really, REALLY big.

Like God is with us.

I will never be the person that's going to pretend that life doesn't just suck sometimes. I won't ever pretend that things are awesome when things actually feel terrible. But I'm glad that I can also look back at the awful and see the beauty that came out of it.

Does that make it worth it?

I think it does. I think sometimes you need a little bit of awful so you can see the beauty that you might have otherwise missed.

(I'd never been here before until my therapist prescribed nature for my depression. Depression is horrid. This place is beautiful. And depression brought me here.)

The lights are coming

You know how facebook has that feature where they greet you in the morning with a memory from last year?
Last year at this time was when the real hard stuff happened. I remember very well but if I thought about forgetting, facebook reminds me.

"Hey girl...remember when everything really sucked? No? Well let me show you!"
This time last year was the turning point. The breaking point. When everything fell apart. When I woke up everyday and wondered why this was happening. Why it wouldn't stop. Why I didn't just kill myself.
This memory is a big one:

Our business took part in First Friday celebrations throughout town. We always had a visiting artist that we promoted and as part of my healing process and a way for me to be at work without really having to engage (social anxiety all over the place), I would spend First Fridays working on murals on our walls.

I posted this after our April 2015 First Friday. 

Have I told you about the elephants? That in a time when people were being so cruel that I was in awe of the way elephants took care of each other. That my heart was so broken and I wanted to be anyone but me. That if I had to keep living...if I had to be in the world...that I desperately wanted to wear a mask. I wanted to hide. I wanted to be cared for and loved. But people were so cruel. My heart was just broken. And so I began painting these elephant people.

Right before this, another rumor had been started about me. A bunch of people had been told that I did something terrible, they decided that it must be true...but they didn't ask me about it. They didn't talk to me.

Instead, they shared that post up there. And they ripped it apart. When I logged into our business page and saw that people had shared the post, I was flattered...until I saw what they were saying. And I realized why they had shared it.

And so I was really sorry that I had put my heart up on that wall. And I cried. A lot. And I just thought...this will never end.  This is my life now. A life where I don't talk to anyone, I don't do anything, I don't have any friends, but people still keep coming for me...and no matter what I do, I can't stop it.

And then there was Lizz Barnes.

 I met Lizz once, about ten years ago, and then I never really saw her again. I didn't really know her. She has a business in town and she also participates in First Friday celebrations. She had heard the same rumor that everyone else had, that I had done something terrible which would hurt her business. But Lizz, who didn't know me, asked me about it. She asked me why I had done it, because she had heard that I absolutely had. But I hadn't. And Lizz was the only person who asked me. And when I explained that it was a rumor...another rumor... and that they were devastating to me...

Lizz asked how she could help.

You guys.

That's what you do. That's the kind of person I want to be. You can't possibly know how much that gesture meant to me but even now, a year later as I write this, I'm just bawling because holy shit...

There was kindness. There was a reason to believe that people were good. In my darkest moment, here was this woman - a stranger - reaching a hand out to me...

And so it has been a year. And I no longer have my own place to host First Fridays. Instead, this past First Friday, I had an art show at Lizz's business. I put all of those elephants up on the wall...I put my heart up on those walls...and my tribe showed up. The people who have been holding me up all year came out and  celebrated with me and they got it and they were kind and compassionate and amazing and they showed up.

And Lizz made that possible. Because she heard a rumor and she looked for the truth.

And the next week I bought some jewelry supplies from her, because she sells the very best supplies and when I went to pick up my order, she handed it to me and then,..

She showed me how to do everything better and easier. She gave me tools. She gave me advice. She offered assistance.

Because of a rumor, for a year now this woman has been my friend and just keeps saying, "How can I help?"

She's a light. She's the reason I stamp 'Be A Light" on pennies. Because that's the kind of person I want to be.

In that year, when I lost faith in everyone...I mean, the world was really, really dark...I had very little to hold on to...but I kept holding on because I thought please God let this end soon let me get hit by a truck or make it stop but please don't keep me here I can't keep being here but I'm going to keep fighting and I'm fighting so hard and...

And the lights came. 

I couldn't be a light for anyone last year. I tried, but I couldn't. I was just trying to survive my own darkness. And that's ok. You can't always be the light. But if you can't and you're in that darkness right now, hold on. The lights are coming. I swear. And they might come from the most unexpected places.

Lizz? I don't even know her.

A light.

Church? I hate church.

But look at all of these lights.

New friends? I'm scared of people.

But look at their light.

Please hold on, love. The lights are coming. I promise.