There’s Always Been a Rainbow Hangin’ Over Your Head.

Last week, we delved into biblical rationale defending homosexuality and the church. This week, it gets personal.

I never thought homosexuality was a sin, and because I was brought up in a climate that believed that very fervently, I bucked against the idea pretty hard. My theology was lazy. I didn’t do a good job formulating my arguments. Instead, I relied on the old classic, “God is love, God loves everybody. I think God has bigger fish to fry than worrying about who we’re sleeping with,” or some version of that. You can read more about my beliefs and my grown-up reasonings here. 

 A few weeks ago, the United Methodist Church got together at General Conference to decide whether or not it was going to double down on its stance about gay people and their dealings with the church, which you can read more about here. Ultimately, their decision was that the opinions they’d already held were the right ones. Not everyone felt this way, but enough people did. 

Apart from my biblical reasonings, I wanted to talk about this as someone who is both a person of faith who believes in the important of scripture AND a person who is very close friends with a lot of gay people.  

And y’all, I honestly don’t know where to start. There’s a lot on my heart. So here are a whole lot of things from all the corners of my brain. Which I guess I can do, since it’s my blog. A warning that you are going to get non-sequitur whiplash!

The first time I ever knowingly met a gay man was when I was 10 or 11 years old. My parents were close to a man and his partner and they invited us for dinner at their house. My younger brother Parker was 7 or 8, and as we sat around the table eating cheeseburgers, he put down his food, looked up, and  asked, “So, are you guys related, or what?” 

He was trying to make sense out of why two grown men lived together.  

The men looked at my parents, at each other, and then one of them answered, “No, but people do say we look alike!”  

That satisfied my brother completely and we all went back to eating. It wasn’t awkward at all - we just kept on trucking.  

Later that week, on our way home from school (we were without Parker, so I felt comfortable talking more candidly with my mom), I asked, “Are ______ and _______  gay?”  

She asked me why I thought that might be true. And I told her it just seemed like that might be the case since they lived together and neither one was married to a woman. So she told me that they were.  

I remember that my first reaction was to feel a little shame creep through my chest. It was totally involuntary, and was probably the result of growing up the Deep South where homosexuality was very taboo and certainly not accepted socially or in church. It almost felt like I knew something I shouldn’t know; like I had walked in on someone naked. That shame had nothing to do with the way I was brought up, which was in a house where, even in the South, all people and all lifestyles were treated and discussed equally and fairly. I don’t feel that shame now, but that experience showed me that even if you aren’t aware you’re carrying it, shame is a powerful thing.

Over the next ten years, I would become even more deeply involved in my church, First United Methodist in Decatur, Alabama. I was a regular part of the Council on Youth Ministry and attended Annual Conference as a delegate. I went to Camp Sumatanga every time the doors were open and to this day cite it as a cornerstone of my spiritual and social belief system. I was borderline constantly surrounded by gay men, whether it was younger friends at Camp, older friends in the CoYM, men from church, or kids at school who would eventually come out as gay. Gay men have been a part of who I am for as long as I can remember. 


For some of you reading, gay men and women may seem very foreign. What you know of them is what you’ve seen represented in movies and on TV, but you don’t know them personally, and because of that, all you can go by are the stereotypes you’ve been exposed to: gay men are promiscuous, girly, fashion-obsessed, over-the-top scream queens; lesbians are butch-y, masculine, and wear sensible shoes. 

But the real men and women who live their lives identifying as LGBTQIA are much more complex than those old tropes. These are individuals, no two stories alike. They’re academics, they’re coaches, politicians, doctors, teachers, librarians, choir directors, realtors, stay-at-home parents. They’re around you every day whether you see them or not. US Weekly could do a segment on them: “Gay people - They’re Just Like Us!” Maybe the key to de-mystifying the topic is to simply get to know the gay men and women in our lives.

There’s always room in our hearts to un-learn the things we thought we knew for certain.


When I worked for Teach For America in Memphis in 2014, our manager led weekly check-ins. There were 7 or 8 of us on our team, with diverse sexual orientations, races, and ages, from all different places in the United States. Our manager asked that for the first 15 minutes of our weekly meetings, we rotate around the group and allow each person to bring in what he called an “artifact,” or something that represented our lives.  

On the week I was supposed to share, I remember walking around my room in Memphis for a long time deciding what to choose. I ultimately went with a stole that used to be my dad’s when he was an associate pastor at the church where I grew up.  

When I put it on the table that Friday morning, I felt my heart pounding. I said something like this: 

“So this is my dad’s stole, with one color on each side for whatever time of year it was per the liturgical calendar. And to tell you the truth, I’m really nervous to share it with you because of all the things that people who aren’t from the South look at Christianity and think. I feel like you may have a negative association with Christianity based on how you’ve seen it represented on TV or what you’ve read. I feel like I need to qualify right away that I am not a bigot, I don’t hate gay people, I don’t....”  

 ...and on and on I went like that, telling them all the things it DIDN’T mean about me. 

After I felt I had done a decent job telling them what I wasn’t, I went on to say that the Methodist Church has been hugely influential in who I am. All the things I care most deeply about were formed and reinforced by my involvement at church. But I feared my co-workers didn’t know that part of the story. They only knew the scary Christians who frighten everybody to death. 

It was the first time that I had ever acknowledged out loud to them that I was a Christian, and it made me nervous as hell.

We don’t have a particularly good reputation in certain circles. 


Here’s the thing about gay people and the church. The line that’s often repeated to them is that the church “hates the sin,” but “loves the sinner.”

So many Christians who I’ve talked to over the years have compared homosexuality to lying, cheating, or lusting - also things that are identified as sinful, and usually things the person doing the comparing has been guilty of at one point or another. “Homosexuality is equal to all those sins,” it is said, “so I don’t have any judgment about it. I’m a sinner, too. God sees all sins as equal.”  

The trouble with that rationale, for me, is that it never really seems to be true. No one “identifies” as a liar, or chooses a life partner based on the fact that both people are cheaters. These smaller sins, the benign ones that we can admit we’ve been guilty of, don’t seem to equate to the way a person loves.  

I completely understand that using that logic is meant to be generous and open-hearted. It comes from a tender place. The reason this “hate the sin, love the sinner” thing was invented at all was to service a well-intended Christian sentiment, delivered in all sincerity: “I want to be clear that I do not approve. My faith tells me I must communicate my disapproval in order to be true to what I believe, but I will try my hardest to love you fully in spite of the fact that I believe this is wrong.” 

But for gay men and women, the idea that their gayness parallels telling a lie or cheating on an exam doesn’t track. To think that homosexuality is a tendency, one that could be a periodic mistake akin to telling a fib from time to time (as in, “Oops, I accidentally thought that man who I’ve chosen to spend my life with is attractive again!”) seems outlandish to the point of silliness. 

I’m a white woman, so this is the example I’ll use: it would be as if someone from my church approached me to tell me that while they don’t personally support that I’m white, and they never will, they will accept me anyway. That they hate my whiteness, but they can love me in spite of it.

LGBT men and women don’t see their homosexuality as something that can be corrected. It is intrinsic to the fabric of who they are. To “hate the sin” is to hate the person. 


The problem with Christianity is that if we really wanted to follow Jesus - and I mean really, really follow him - it would look so radical that we wouldn’t be able to live our lives “normally.” I am bad at this. I spend lots of time justifying my choices on the ways I’ve chosen not to radically love people on any given day. 

There are a few people I know who understand true Christian living, and their lives do not look like my life. They are constantly, constantly, thinking of and serving others. Their free time is spent tutoring or volunteering at low incomes schools. They recycle any and everything in order to be stewards of God’s creation. They take up donations or collect items for people they overheard in someone’s casual conversation who might be in need. They don’t care about what they’re wearing or who liked their Instagram post. Their eyes are the eyes of God and they see everyone the way God sees them: perfect, equal, precious, worthy.

Let’s say you believe homosexuality is a sin. Let’s say that you can’t get on board, no matter how it’s presented, with the case that it’s not sinful. Okay.

Wouldn’t the radically Christian thing to do be to love the gay person in your life exactly as you’d loved them before they told you they were gay? Because, you know, they were gay. There’s always been a rainbow hanging over their head (thank you, Kacey Musgraves). 

To radically love them (really opening your arms and heart, not polite or “tolerant” love) wouldn’t be a betrayal of your belief - it would be the embodiment of it. 

If a gay man has never looked you up and down and lovingly said, “Sweetie, no,” go back to the starting line and begin again.


There is room for doubt. I think saying, “I don’t know,” is one of the most important things we can do as Christians. No one is supposed to have all the answers. But we are called to be in constant pursuit of those answers, and to follow the Holy Spirit wherever it’s leading. And the Holy Spirit is TRICKY. Constantly up to something. Never still. Leading into places where we don’t want to go. Bending our rules and breaking our hearts. When we said, “Yes,” to Jesus, we might as well have set the roadmap on fire. This life of faith isn’t about having one opinion and one set of reasons for a lifetime, I don’t think - it’s about living into the truth that God shows up where we least expect it. Are we humble enough to say, “I don’t know.”? It’s hard for me.  


I was watching an episode of Queer Eye the other day. In it, the guys had a conversation with a young, black, lesbian woman who was finding her footing. They talked about how a person’s “chosen” family can end up being the most meaningful. This young woman’s parents had thrown her out of the house - literally told her never to come back - after she’d been outed as a lesbian by someone else, and the guys were trying to explain that she can build her own family made up of people who love and support her.

While I was watching this episode, my 15-month-old son, Mac, was playing in the floor with his race cars. His tiny hands were turning the cars over and over again, his fat little legs were carrying him from one end of the room to the other chasing after them. His laugh bounced off the walls as our dog tried, unsuccessfully, to escape from the car onslaught. This baby, who I carried in my body, who is beautiful and perfect in all the ways that matter. I imagined this young woman as a baby Mac’s age; the pride and wonder her parents must have felt when they looked at her. And how somewhere along the way, they pledged allegiance to a set of beliefs that had them reject, or at the very least, hold at arm’s length, their own precious baby.

Before long, big, hot tears were welling in my eyes. I imagined Mac coming to me years from now to tell me that he’s gay. I imagined the party I would throw in our tiny conversation; the leaps of joy from the deepest parts of my heart. If we’re destined for that talk, I thought as I watched him, then he’s gay right now. It makes absolutely no difference to me. My job as his mom is to love and support and celebrate. To guide and provide bumpers when I need to. To have him see my eyes light up every time he walks into a room, just like my mother did for me. Just like Maya Angelou said we’re supposed to as parents. He’s the family I was given and will always be the family that I choose.


Between the years of 2004 and 2018, five of my close male friends came out to me. 

The first time a friend came out to me in high school, I told him I’d always known. He knew I knew. We hugged and celebrated, and it was a beautiful moment.  

The second time a friend came out to me in high school, he sat on the couch in the upstairs of my parents’ house in Decatur. He was shaking with nerves and choked out the words. He told he he’d kissed a guy for the first time that weekend and was so racked with guilt and shame that he immediately threw up. I tried to make him laugh and squeezed him tight. 

I wish I could tell you I had perfect responses for these guys. I didn’t. I felt nervous and was trying so very hard to say the right thing, just in case my words were the only affirming ones they heard. 

Last year, I got a phone call from a very close friend of mine who I’d always thought might be gay. He confirmed what I’d long suspected. Even though we were states away from each other, I felt like I was hugging him through the phone. I full-throat sobbed with relief at the knowledge that my worst fears for him - that he’d never fully embrace this part of him and live a life that wasn’t authentic - were assuaged. He is now an even more perfect specimen than he was before, which is saying something. These days, when I hold his hand, I am totally electrified by him. It’s like standing near a firework and having a spark land on your skin. That’s how powerful it is to watch someone be who they are.   

Multicolored and beautiful.  


I hope, whoever and wherever you are, you have the chance to bask in the glow of just such a person. 

Because WOW.  

An essay on the power of empathy.

In writing this Valentine’s Day post, I liked imagining that I was standing in a circle with the fifty or so people I love most in the world. Those people span the spectrum of religious and political beliefs. They voted for lots of different candidates. They care about a range of issues.

But I’ve been troubled lately, and for a long time, really, by the way we’ve failed to talk to and love each other in a real and practical way, across our various lines of difference. The way we’re supposed to as good people and (certainly, if this is what you believe) as Christians.

Put simply, we have forgotten how to be empathetic.

Since you’re reading this, will you stand in the circle with me?

Let’s put the ugliness right in the center, addressing it head on. Everybody just stand here for a second, okay? No one leave. You can go to the bathroom later.

The problem is tribalism exacerbated by social media. Does everyone have a good view from their position in the circle?

First, let’s acknowledge that tribalism on its own isn’t necessarily insidious. It’s a biological human predisposition to crave identity and community, so it makes sense that over millions of years of evolution (insert dirty joke about homo erectus here!), we’ve honed ourselves into particularly social animals who surround themselves with like people. Some will try to argue that this affinity for similar peers in and of itself is an evil, and I’d disagree. I’d say that’s pretty much just biology at work. And sure, ancient man disagreed, came to blows, beat each other in the head with sticks (I’m assuming), but those people in a tribe all had something in common: they needed each other to survive. And so, despite their differences, they learned to live together. The human penscient for tribalism is old news - ancient, even.

What’s new, and what can cause tribalism to quickly become insidious, is our unique ability to connect. Through the magic of the Internet, we now have access to people all over the world. And, weirdly enough, as though we were all in some kind of giant Zuckerberg-ian social experiment, we have used this never-before-held power of connection to do the same damn thing we’ve always done: seek and reach out to people are like us. We can friend or follow whomever we choose. We have found “our people” - those who think like us, talk like us, and want the same things we want. We are comforted by their existence. We are energized by their like-mindedness. We feel validated, affirmed, and (maybe most dangerously) celebrated by the having our beliefs supported.

But the moment they post something we find unsavory, or politically problematic, it takes one click to “mute” that person forever. Never again will we be faced with the ugly reality that we know someone with whom we disagree. And in doing so, we have created as many echo chambers as there are Facebook/Twitter/Instagram users. It’s as though each of us has fallen down our own specifically curated well, deepening with every new think piece and article we consume. I daresay that mine is the most ideologically self-congratulatory generation of all (regardless of what the ideology actually is).

(All the millennials just closed the browser. STAY WITH ME, PEOPLE! I promise I’m getting to the point!)

So, okay. We see the problem.

Now what are its effects?

Put simply, it’s that we can no longer seem to communicate with people who don’t share our viewpoints. It’s like we’re all trying to have a conversation by opening our front doors, screaming our opinions, and then slamming the doors closed just after we’re finished talking, retreating into the familiar with slaps on the back and handshakes from all those who agree with us, telling us what a good point we just made. And if you’re inside the house and dissent? Please. You’re shoved out on the front stoop to fend for yourself like those poor bastards in Bird Box (which I give a solid B, because it stressed me out so much I cried blood).

Being reaffirmed by strangers makes us uniquely confident that our opinions simply must be the right ones. And, sincerely, who can blame us? Public affirmation breeds certainty in our assertions.

In fact, that is exactly what happens every day on Twitter. We publish our opinions (the snarkier, the better), blast our opponents, and then feel self-satisfied for having generated such a sick burn. The more entrenched you are in your camp, the better you fare. There is no room for moderation. There is no room for nuance. It’s black or white, this or that - fraternizing with the enemy is verboden. We live in a time where even our elected leadership hops on Twitter to sass it up, counting on the fact that we’ll love it because it’s novel that someone who’s supposed to be buttoned-up can hang with the cool kids on Twitter. And we do love it. That’s very troubling to me.


My humble submission is that we have to toss our phones into the center of the circle and LOOK AT EACH OTHER IN THE EYEBALLS.

How many stories do we know of people who had very strong anti-gay opinions until their son or daughter came out of the closet, opening their hearts to the reality that gay people are people, deserving of love and respect like anyone else? That’s because when we know someone - when we start to think of someone as a son or daughter or friend or someone’s mom or dad - it’s much more difficult to hate them, or mute them, or call them an ignorant racist or a baby-killing socialist.

In thinking about how to practically talk about empathy, a kind of amorphous concept, one concrete example came to mind.

I hope you’ll indulge me, because I promise that I am not a self-inflated ass who thinks she’s good at everything (for examples of my many flaws see: my weirdly long toes, math, confidence that I am right 100% of the time when arguing with my husband). Normally I’d share a story of someone else doing a good job because I think talking about other people’s strengths is a lot better than talking about my own. But I think it’s important to tell you that it was me, because I want to explain my in-the-moment thoughts and reactions in detail. So this is a good example of putting radical empathy into practice in a way that helped me and (I think) helped X, who you’ll meet in a sec.

In 2012, I was completing my second year of Teach For America in Huntsville, Alabama. Trayvon Martin’s case was all over the news, and George Zimmerman was on trial for murder. The hearing was televised as his verdict was handed down on this particular Friday night. I was visiting Birmingham, sitting in a bar in Homewood with a few friends of mine, one of whom was X. X is a white Republican male, my age, raised in a very conservative Christian denomination. X and I are about as different as it gets when it comes to politics or theology, and I, to be honest, was nervous to be sitting with him as the coverage rang through the bar. We knew what the other thought about this case and the tension was palpable.

My stomach did flips as the judge declared that Zimmerman, who’d murdered a young man that looked like the students I was teaching at the time, had been acquitted.

But I saw, in this moment, a gift sitting before me. X and I were on opposite sides in this moment and would be in many others to come. But I’m not good at ignoring the elephant, so I started asking (not peppering him, but genuinely asking him) why he felt the verdict was just.

His first, and understandably defensive, impulse was to joke around and toss out a couple of remarks that he knew would press my buttons. But I wanted to show him that I was genuinely interested in his opinion, not as some kind of self-righteous case study, but because I cared (and still care) about him as a person. Once the walls were down, he explained his rationale. We disagreed completely, but we still talked.

At the risk of making that story sound like I, a progressive-leaning moderate, descended on this “poor dumb Republican” and showed him the light, let me say plainly that he would not remember this conversation at all. It was a fleeting moment in his life. But in MINE, it was a revelation. It was a rare window into the heart of someone I love but deeply disagree with, and a chance to exercise the empathy muscle that would need to be strong for the rest of my life. I wasn’t trying to change X’s mind - I couldn’t, frankly, even if I’d been trying - I just wanted to understand where he was coming from. This single conversation laid the groundwork for many future conversations between X and me. Once, at a wedding reception, a few good ol’ boys were razzing me about having voted for Hillary Clinton. And even though I knew that X voted straight-ticket different-from-me, and agreed politically with the guys who were giving me a hard time, I was comforted by his presence there. Because of that one conversation in the bar years before, I knew that X knew that I wasn’t just a set of opinions. He knew my heart and my intentions and, most importantly, that I’m just a person, after all. And so is he.

Waiting to respond. Swallowing our maybe-hateful first impulse. Pushing ourselves to see deeper into someone. Asking a clarifying question. Saying when something has hurt our feelings, but being willing to move on and accept an apology. Extending grace. Asking for forgiveness. Assuming the best about other people until proven otherwise.

Really, empathy is about understanding. If anyone wants anything done in this country - if we want to actually MOVE THE BALL - we’re going to have to examine why we stop considering someone worthy of our time when we find out we disagree with them. I think it’s because it’s safer to do that. Less scary. Less risky. Really, though - what’s the worst that could happen?

At the very worst, our worst fears will be confirmed. Some people really are racist. Some conversations aren’t safe to have because of that very fact. And with those people, it is our job (or the jobs of our colleagues in this work - AKA allies rather than the subjects of the hate themselves) to continue trying. Not one single person ever changed their mind because someone else yelled at them about how stupid they were for a while.

At the very best, we discover that the person across from us at the bar whose opinions give us the hot-chests is a guy who is actually up for talking to us about a hot-button topic. And up for listening, too. And in that case, our job is to both talk and listen, to be honest, and to hang in there beyond the inevitable clash of beliefs.

Cultivating empathy is something very concrete and something very hard to do. It takes discipline to train your mind and heart not to balk at something someone says that turns your stomach. To move beyond ourselves. Accepting that we will probably be offended and also inadvertently do some offending throughout the course of a conversation, and deciding to stick with it anyway.

So, anyway. Thanks for standing here. Why don’t we stretch our legs? Like any good meeting, there are snacks, so grab one of those tiny bags of Oreos or Cheez-Its from the snack basket. Maybe pull a slip of paper from this hat of hot-button topics and dive in with whoever goes for the same snack you do.

What’s the worst that could happen?

This is thirty.

I am thirty today. Three zero. Thirrrrty. For many years, I have wondered what today would be like.

Like the Ice Bucket Challenge and many challenges before and after, there’s a new “challenge” circulating called the “Ten Year Challenge.” Its timing is curious, because I’ve already been reflecting on the last decade; for me, the Ten Year Challenge is from my 20th birthday to my 30th. 

So I dug around in my old LiveJournal (you bet your ass I had one of those and updated it religiously for about 5 straight years - a treasure trove of all my thoughts and words and feelings from age 15 to age 20 or so), wondering if there was anything there that would help encapsulate this stretch of time. 

Boy, was there ever. We’ll get there in a sec. 

The thing about 20 to 30 is that a lot of life happens. When I was 20, I was a sophomore at Birmingham-Southern College, dating my high school boyfriend, and celebrated my birthday while doing a Jan-term in Nashville, playing personal assistant to then-Broadway star Laura Bell Bundy. At 30, I’m living in Asheville, North Carolina with my husband of four-and-a-half years, my one-year-old son, and our nearly five-year-old dog, Tom Hanks. I am jobless, but still a writer.

When I was gearing up to write this post, I couldn’t decide on a direction for it. I still can’t. The “morals of the story” are bouncing around like fish in an aquarium. I need my thought fish to calm down so I can catch one. 

My son is sleeping and it’s sleeting outside because I live halfway up a mountain and it does that here. I never thought I’d live outside Alabama. And I do. Many times in my LiveJournal I lamented that there was no such person as the one I married: both attractive and kind; both caring and ambitious. And yet, I found one. I said to a friend recently, as we sat in my car at 4 in the morning (a rare and delightful night out for this young mom), “I’m thirty and I have no job that I love. Am I washed up? It’s over for me.” 

He said, “I’m thirty and I have no boyfriend. Look at your life. If it’s over for you, what does that mean for me?” What my friend meant was that everything is a trick of perspective, and that I needed to get a grip on mine, because life goes by in a blink, and he is JUST SO RIGHT. Mary Oliver died yesterday and I found myself unexpectedly weepy all morning. I didn’t know yet, but I’m certain that her energy leaving the planet was a wallop to the hearts of all feeling people. And I have all my grandparents still earth-side. And I am thirty. I think God knows that I’m just not finished being formed by them so here they all are with me, just as present living their lives in their houses right this moment as the trees outside my window.

And I don’t feel melancholy! Not at all, in fact. I feel so damn GRATEFUL. The phrase “incandescently happy” comes to mind (thanks, Jane Austen). I feel like I’ve lived a hundred lives in the last ten years. I was a student and then I was a teacher and then I was a teacher of teachers. I went to South Africa as a United Methodist Youth ambassador and I went to Alabama and America’s Junior Miss as a Decatur ambassador. I have dined in America’s Finest Restaurant (hello, Highlands!) many times, and am a regular at the Waffle House on Tunnel Road. I do not believe in leaving the house without earrings on but I also got a tattoo recently (if you made it this far, let’s not make a big deal of it - I’ll tell you about it when I see you). And yeah, sure, some of those things could be dumb lyrics written only because they’re dichotomies about the stupid Manic Pixie Dream Girl that that guy sings about in “Meet Virginia,” (She wears high heels when she exercises - Are you fucking serious? That’s a crazy thing to do!), but the real thing about it is that everyone has such a multifaceted and layered life. And that’s kind of the wonder, isn’t it? It’s that no one is just one thing. It’s just about paying attention. It’s like...human experience baklava. The layers are paper thin, and you really have to stare to see them all.

Anyway, back to the point: the old LiveJournal posts. 

When digging in the archives to find a birthday post from January 18, 2009, I found two that I thought were of interest. The first is about what I want to be when I grow up.

Purpose. 1/15/09

I'm feeling like I could do a million different things right now. Most people would say that's a great thing - that I have parents and mentors who've encouraged me to the point of possibility. And that's true. It is a great thing. 


I am overwhelmed with the "if." And the "how?" And the "where?" as well. The following things are on my list of dream lives to live. Can't we just have more than one? 

1. Get married early. Travel. Kids. Not work so much, but be an incredible mother (like mine) and do non-profit work later in life. 

2. Throw it all away and go to Broadway. Figure out how to expand my range and grow a chest voice and take over for Laura Bell Bundy or Idina Menzel or someone. Live in New York. Be glamorous. 

3. Go to law school and work for International Justice Mission. Become best friends with Gary Haugen. 

4. Go to seminary at Emory or Vandy, work closely with IJM and write for a Christian publication. 

5. Get a graduate degree in journalism and follow great stories all over the planet, ending up in some extremely beige house with a closet full of things Meg Ryan would wear in "You've Got Mail" and a husband who's aged like Harrison Ford. And some kind of prestigious award.

Of course, all these paths include a husband and kids. But I've got enough ambition and enough dreams to fill up at least 5 lifetimes. Why am I limited to only one? I'm converting to Buddhism tomorrow. 

Maybe the right chance will come along. Or maybe I'm supposed to go tackle it in the street. 

Here's what I do know. Double stuff Oreos? Fabulous.


So for now, young Mary Catherine, we’re here at Option 1. But there are a lot of possibilities here, sister. I mean, Option 2 is probably out. Sure. But Option 5, or something kind of like it? Yeah. I think we can make it work. 

And then there’s this, which makes me smile and cry and be reminded of all the versions of myself (and ourselves) that exist within me (and within you) at all times, just waiting to be called up: 


The fissure. 1/25/09

I turned twenty on Monday of last week, and I've been thinking a lot since then. There are these weird flashes that I've been getting of me as an eight, or eleven, or seventeen year old. I remember how it felt to think I knew it all back then. And then I think that my twenty six year old self will be remembering twenty and thinking how foolish the twenty year old was to be judging her seventeen year old self on all her mistakes. It just seems like it's going to be an endless cycle of learning and remembering, and I think the trick is not to beat yourself up about the things you didn't know while balancing the knowledge that you don't know it all. Make sense? Great.

Being single has allowed me, so far this year, to become extremely self-aware. That has always been something I'm good at, but recently I've realized just how much being in a relationship with someone else affects my relationship with myself. It's hard for me to articulate the different ways that I change when I'm single, but they are very real and very bold in my own mind.

Sometimes at night, or even in the day -- passing a cluster of stores, or a tree, or even a smell -- I will think of Oxford [England], and think of my home there [over the summer]. And some moments, like this one, make those movie reels inside my mind play memories extra slowly, so that somehow my body floats backwards and forwards simultaneously into what I was and what I will become. And in this fissure between space and time, it becomes easy to live without the worry of a twenty six year old blonde wrinkling her brow. 

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Mary Oliver asked me once, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” 


Here’s to thirty. And to embracing the twenty year old. And the eight year old. And to letting both those girls do the talking every once in a while - because damn, twenty year old me was doing okay in the writing department! Here’s to more writing, more living, less apologizing, continued focus on skincare. To less time on the lightbox in my pocket and more time with my dog. Here’s to all the boys I loved in my twenties and the one I never thought walked the earth who put a ring on my finger. Here’s to my son. Here’s to no such thing as one version, to the endless possibilities, to throwing myself a bone, to lapping up my life. To what I don’t know. To learning and remembering. To tackling it in the street. To the next ten years.