Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Dear Hilary, Love, Hilary (Some Tough Love)

I tried this experiment in the month of May, when I wrote an advice column to myself. I asked the question (about dreaming) and tried to give an answer (it was incomplete). Today I'm wondering another question, and I wanted to share it with you. And of course, I'm inspired, constantly, it seems, by Dear Sugar's words of beauty and truth, truth that enters the room and sits there. And she inspires me, with the possibility of learning to listen to the quiet place and learning to live from it. 

Dear Hilary, 

I'm having trouble believing. I don't know exactly in what. Maybe in God. Maybe in goodness. Maybe in the idea that good things are going to happen to me and I'm going to find a job, build a life, find love. I sit down for a moment, and try to write or think or sing or breathe and I just can't. I can't feel the hope fluttering against my heart. I'm sick of hearing the same old, "trust and obey, trust and obey." I don't know how to do either and no one will tell me how and isn't it unfair that the things I want aren't the things I get and I don't know how to want what's in front of me? And everyone will say, "just trust, trust, trust trust trust" until I can't take it anymore! What do I do?



Dear Confused,

I've got some tough things to say to you today, lovely. You aren't going to like them. You will rage against them like you're so clearly raging against the fences around your life. You will think that I'm crazy, and who-am-I-anyway-to-tell-you-anything. But the truth won't compromise. It stands and does not shake, even if you roar. Even if you break your heart roaring.

So. You're mad. You're mad that you don't get what you want. Say it out loud. Say the real thing out loud. Stop telling yourself it's outside you - that you try to believe, but you just "can't," that you're really doing everything you can but it's not working, that the world is pitted against you in some kind of cosmic wrestling match where the rules change every five minutes and the universe has an unfair advantage. This is the heart of the story: you want something that isn't yours. You want something that doesn't belong to you. You're mad (maybe sad, and confused, and disappointed) that you don't have this thing-that-other-people-have-that-you-don't.

Okay, did you repeat that, Confused? That's what it sounds like you're saying. You choose not to believe the people who tell you that you're going to find a job, and a life, and love, because you're mad that you don't have it all right now exactly the way you want it. You choose to harbor the frustration and the wounded disappointment. Maybe it makes you feel like a martyr. Maybe it makes you feel like a silent suffering servant. Maybe you're holding out to see how many people you can refute when they tell you to trust.

But the cold quiet truth is that you're grasping at something that isn't yours. Maybe it's an acceptance letter or a job offer or a sweet apartment in the heart of DC. Maybe it's knowledge - a certainty about your future or about your life, knowledge of what someone's thinking or what they're going to do. Maybe it's simply control: walking through your day as a self-sufficient and perfectly capable person, who isn't worried or troubled or unsure or confused.

For a multitude of mysterious reasons I won't begin to try and explain, Confused, you don't have it. The only reason that matters is that it hasn't been given to you. And I promise with all my heart that you won't find it by sitting in the corner and writing this letter to me and telling me how hard it all is. I bet it is, sweetheart. I bet it's unimaginably hard to stand at a hundred crossroads with no map and nothing (not even wind) to guide you. But it's not going to get easier, and wishing that it would is wasted time.

It's not going to get easier but you can become stronger. The world won't bend to accomodate you; you have to learn to walk through it, through the hard things, learn to push on, learn to sing while you do it. The hope doesn't flutter against your heart; it is your heartbeat. We don't tell you how to trust and obey because when you long for the answer you will find that you are already in the midst of it. 

I'm not sorry that you don't have what you want, Confused, because it means your heart has room to ask a bigger, more beautiful question. I promise you'll find your way towards an answer.



  1. Dear Confused, Sitting and drinking coffee in one of "our" mugs and an uncontrollable smile of joy and pride just spread across my face as I read this post. Hilary has some very wise words that come from a deep and quiet place.

  2. "It's not going to get easier but you can become stronger." It's an honor and an inspiration to see this strengthening taking place in you.

  3. if more of us had these conversations with ourselves, we would save ourselves many a heartache. i love that you combat the questions with the good, hard truth, hilary. no sugar-coating for you, no! and each time you tell yourself the truth of the matter, your faith is sharpened, made stronger. this exercise. . . it is a beautiful way to make stronger that which you already know to be true. i love that. absolutely love that. when i think about it, that is why i'm training my kids in truth--so when the doubts and hard times come, they can speak back that truth to themselves, and be encouraged. . . even when the FEELINGS of the moment may try to tell them otherwise.
    hang tight, precious one.


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