Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Dear Hilary, Love Hilary: Fling Your Heart Open

This is a year for advice, and for finding the voice that sounds inside me. I'm writing letters to unmask the truth, over at Joy's life, unmasked series. This week I'm answering a letter I received from another writer, about being scared and having hope. 

Dear Hilary,

I write because I’m scared. I’m scared of the coming and leaving, the hellos and goodbyes, the falling in love with people and places and experiences and then having to put it all away, like they’re only memories and nothing more. I’m scared of the “next steps” - the new relationships and the new places I’m about to embark upon as I graduate because I know I’m going to going to fall in love and get my heart broken. I already have — haven’t we all? So I’m asking if it’s worth it to give ourselves completely to the people and the places and the relationships, knowing we’re going to weep and be heartbroken? Is it worth it to invest myself in the things that I do, even though I know I’ll be disappointed and hurt? I guess the question really is... is it worth it to live fully?


Dear Scared, 

I am a crier. Good movies, happy news, knowledge that horses and dogs and cats die, transitions, a really good piece of cake… you name it, I can tear up over it. And when I cry, it is not the elegant single tear trailing down my cheek. I wail. My face scrunches up, my body folds in on itself, my hands spread out towards the ceiling and I feel this question ink its way through my veins: why did I even bother?

It could be about anything – why did I say that? Why am I always such an idiot? Why did I borrow her earrings without asking, knowing it would hurt her? Why did I write that letter, let my heart out of its birdcage, apply to that program, become friends with them?

Doubt wants to eat us, Scared. It wants to live like cancer in our bodies and in our hearts. When we’re in raw pain, when we’re naked with ourselves, there are openings in our pores, in our very skin, for second-guessing. The lies and the half-truths, the voices that sing out – “You sure screwed that up!” don’t wait for our invitation.

I have been rereading your letter, Scared, and it sounds like you are in some raw pain yourself. Maybe there haven’t been big fights or noticeable confrontations; raw pain doesn’t always come with obvious moments that show our pain to the world. Sometimes raw pain comes from carrying heavy questions in your heart, invisible to everyone except yourself. Sometimes raw pain comes from looking at the people you love and feeling for the first time how much you love them, and what that means.

The thing you must remember is not to run from raw pain. You do not know what it's worth, that ache, those broken bones. You do not know how utterly, completely essential it could be in the story that comes next. I’ve called it the beast inside you. And it is. It is a beast inside you. Doubt will find its way into you only if you try to distance yourself from your raw pain. The lie of why did I even bother? is born from trying to run away from the beast inside us, trying to outguess our own stories. 

So. You can’t run away from it, because the doubts and fears and second-guessing-games come from running away. So, the next normal question is, what do you do? What do you do with the love you have for the friends you’ll be leaving so soon? What do you do with the unfulfilled hopes you have for relationships, jobs, this stage of your life? What do you DO with leaving?

I will tell you what, Scared. You live the hell out of it. You take the raw pain for a walk around the pond. You drink a few too many Starbucks lattes with those people you love, the ones who've broken your heart (especially those people), the ones who have loved you well (especially those people too). You put on high heels and go out for dinner with your girlfriends. You laugh too hard, and too often, until you fall out of your chair. You sit with a journal and a pen in the early morning light and you wail over those questions and you get naked with yourself. You hold it up to the light.

The morning is cold and new, and you’re new in it: and it is always worth it, the brief, tormented, difficult things. I think sometimes those are the most worth it. We have such a short time to love, Scared. 

The most we can ever do is fling our hearts open.



  1. I love when we write gentle letters to ourselves.  What a way to honor your soul.

  2. Thank you, Sarah. I'm so glad you stopped by.

  3. Sarah! This last line is just fabulous: "The most we can ever do is
    fling our hearts open." Now that is a life well-lived.

  4. Isn't it? It is hard work, but such good work. It makes me so glad to share it with you. Thank you for visiting.

  5. Thanks for the inspiration! We all need to hear the truth like that to know we're not alone. That the pain and doubt and insecurity mean we are supposed to be writing and sharing, even when it hurts like nothing else. Blessings!

  6. Thank you, Laura. I am glad we can encourage each other in writing and sharing, even when it is difficult. Thank you for stopping by!

  7. which words do i love the most? so many...
    live the hell out of life
    we have such a short time to love

    such truth hilary. thank you times a million.  

  8. thanks friend for such a nice post .. 
    i was really looking for that ..


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