on being.

4 Sep



“He told me to look at my hand, for a part of it came from a star that exploded too long ago to imagine. This part of me was formed from a tongue of fire that screamed through the heavens until there was our sun. and this part of me–this tiny part of me — was on the Sun when it itself exploded and whirled in a great storm until the planets came to be.

And this small part of me was then a whisper of the earth. When there was life, perhaps this part of me got lost in a fern that was crushed and covered until it was coal. And then it was a diamond millions of years later — it must have been a diamond as beautiful as the star from which it had first come.

Or perhaps this part of me became lost in a terrible beast, or became part of a huge bird that flew above the primeval swamps.

And he said this thing was so small — this part of me was so small it couldn’t be seen–but it was there from the beginning of the world.

And he called this bit of me an atom. And when he wrote the word, I fell in love with it.



What a beautiful word.”

(paul zindel, the effect of gamma rays on man-in-the-moon marigolds)


some infinities are bigger than other infinities. / (the fault in our stars, by john green)

27 Jul

You know how I’ve been feeling lost and worried and scared? About, what I’m going to become and what it all means and what I will leave.

This book was the answer.

Which, feels a bit silly, because, though the book is definitely “damn near genius” (Time Magazine), it also feels a bit silly and young-adult-novel-ish when I try to explain it to other people.

(Also, can I just say, the last person he thanked in his acknowledgements was John Darnielle, and I love him even more for that.)

Anyway, this is all I meant to post:

“Here’s the thing about Hazel: Almost everyone is obsessed with leaving a mark upon the world.  Bequeathing a legacy.  Outlasting death.  We all want to be remembered. I do, too.  That’s what bothers me most, is being another unremembered casualty in the ancient and inglorious war against disease.

But Van Houten: The marks humans leave are too often scars.  You build a hideous minimall or start a coup or try to become a rock star and you think, “They’ll remember me now,” but (a) they don’t remember you, and (b) all you leave behind are more scars.  Your coup becomes a dictatorship.  Your minimall becomes a lesion.

(Okay, maybe I’m not such a shitty writer.  But I can’t pull my ideas together, Van Houten.  My thoughts are stars I can’t fathom into constellations.)

We are like a bunch of dogs squirting on fire hydrants.  We poison the groundwater with our toxic piss, marking everything MINE in a ridiculous attempt to survive our deaths.  I can’t stop pissing on fire hydrants.  I know it’s silly and useless-epically useless in my current state-but I am an animal like any other.

Hazel is different.  She walks lightly, old man.  She walks lightly upon the earth.  Hazel knows the truth: We’re as likely to hurt the universe as we are to help it, and we’re not likely to do either.

People will say it’s sad that she leaves a lesser scar, that fewer remember her, that she was loved deeply but not widely.  But it’s not sad, Van Houten.  I’ts triumphant.  It’s heroic.  Isn’t that the real heroism?  Like the doctors say: First, do no harm.

The real heroes anyway aren’t the people doing things; the real heroes are people NOTICING things, paying attention.  The guy who invented the smallpox vaccine didn’t actually invent anything.  He just noticed that people with cowpox didn’t get smallpox.


What else?  She is so beautiful.  You don’t get tired of looking at her.  You never worry if she is smarter than you: You know she is. She is funny without ever being mean.  I love her.  I am so lucky to love her, Van Houten.  You don’t get to choose if you get hurt in this world, old man, but you do have some say in who hurts you. I like my choices.  I hope she likes hers.”

Friday, July 20th.

20 Jul

I started reading “The Fault in Our Stars” and it is really wonderful and also really sad, folks.
So much so that I started crying at work out of sheer fucking happiness while I was reading it.

Andy bought me the book yesterday, in a fit of spontaneity, just because I wanted it.

I love him so much that its hard to qualify.

Thinking about Marriage: On Having It All

19 Jul

Actually, scratch that — this post is going to be about bravery.

(I was originally going to write this as a manner of chiming in to the “Having It All” debates going on recently in The Atlantic. And that post is coming, just maybe not today.)

I spend a lot of time thinking that maybe, right now, I’m not a very good investment on A’s part. It sounds silly, but, it comes down to — I don’t know what to be when I grow up. And, what if I’m not good enough?

I’ve spent months and years and weeks churning it over and over, pacing back and forth, making decisions and second guessing them.

I think back on questions I was asked my senior year of college — “Where do you want to be in five years?”.

And my answer: “Happy.”

And you can’t go to grad school for that, and it’s not a career choice.

A has been so patient and supportive through all of it — I ask him about grad school: “What if I choose the wrong thing?”, and he says “You can’t choose the wrong thing. Whatever you go back for, you’ll just be learning more.”

I ask him again, “What should I be when I grow up?” and he says “Hannah, I think you just follow what you enjoy and you find yourself in a career and you keep following it.”

Because he is wise.

Only, I get terrified sometimes following such a long and dark path.

I struggle to define myself, in relation to other people.

But, I’m realizing, that the path really is the goal. I’ve heard that, and I thought I had taken it in, but I hadn’t. I had only heard it, and packed it away, ready to read once the path was over and I had arrived, so that I could read it with nostalgia.

I say things like, “I want to be beautiful, I want to be new, I want to create and contribute and find passion,” but then I get worried, and start planning how to achieve those things instead of just achieving them.

Follow your bliss, and the universe will open doors for you where there were only walls.

-Joseph Campbell


Let your life be a painting, let your life be a poem.

So its time to be brave.

I will push and sweat and rip things. I will define myself as Hannah, as beautiful, as grace. I am Hannah, I am beautiful, I am grace.

I am fierce and huge and ready. The beauty is in the becoming.


“Well, as you can tell, I’m 71.”

6 Jul

One time I met a woman who gave me a set of watercolors and instructed me to use it to paint planets without war.

When I met her, she had just moved to North Carolina after spending four years living in a Buddhist monastery, in New York.

She was short, with gray hair and red glasses, and was wearing a pink shirt that said: “IF ALL THE FENCES WERE FLOWERS THE WORLD WOULD BE FREED.”

She drove up to my office in a very old navy blue pickup truck with a door that she had to hold on to to keep closed; she was accompanied by an older man with a long white beard, also wearing a pink t-shirt and glasses.

She asked me about my name; I told her, weaving the story of my name together in with details about my mother.

“My mother named me,” I said, “while she was in seminary, after taking a Hebrew class.”

She was delighted.

“And has your mother’s faith changed, since then?” she asked.

When she drove away the first time, I felt a little sad to see her go.

She called my office about an hour later —

“Hannah, ” she whispered excitedly, “that man who was with me is the reincarnation of Walt Whitman. You just met WALT WHITMAN! Only, please keep it a secret. We don’t want word getting out.”

She hung up.


The next day, she was waiting by my office door when I drove up.

She was carrying a large bag; I peeked inside as I opened the door for her. It was filled with crumpled bits of paper and dried flowers.

I asked how she was this morning; she answered with an outpouring of detail.

“I played Spiritual Scrabble last night, with an alcoholic. I’ve never been around alcoholics…oh, but he’s not always an alcoholic. Only sometimes.”

We sat down at a table.

“I’m from the Andromeda Galaxy, Hannah, do you believe me?”

And then, quietly, she added:  “It is very far away….”

I pulled out the paperwork we needed to complete; she rummaged around in her bag.

She pulled out a picture of a smiling Tibetan monk, and propped him up against a vase sitting on the table.

“This is my guru,” she announced. “He will be watching over us.”

She got up and fixed a mug of tea. When she returned, she offered the tea to the picture of her guru first, and then set it down in front of her.

“Look at his hat, Hannah! That’s how I knew he was my teacher. He came to me in a dream, wearing that very hat, and said, ‘I am your teacher, aren’t I?'”

“I guess you’re wondering about the man yesterday, aren’t you? His name is Walter. We had an ethereal, metaphysical experience together when we were seven, and our lives have been linked ever since.”

“He can be very violent……I don’t know how to deal with very violent men, do you? That’s why my marriage only lasted seven and a half years, I didn’t know how to fight.”

Her face, which had slowly turned grey, suddenly lit up — “He has taught me how to reggae, did I tell you that?”


The next day — the last time I saw her — she came into my office again.

I told her I wouldn’t be able to help her, and she nodded.

“Its ok, Hannah, because it is truth. Quick — hand me a piece of paper, a black pen, and highlighter.”

I did; she wrote her name out in scrawling cursive across the page with the black pen and then, with the highlighter, wrote “T-R-U-T-H” over top of it.

“Keep this with you,” she advised.

“Did I ever tell you about the time I met Obi Wan Ken-obi?” she asked.

“Well, I did, can you believe it? He was standing outside my hostel in Portland, Oregon, and he offered to take me out to breakfast. He taught me how to make proper English breakfast tea!”

“Oh, Hannah, you should have seen us — he linked elbows with me, and waltzed me down the street.”


“And the people saw that every sort of beauty, every sort of love was from the gods, and they became free and bold, and they grew wings.”

27 Jun

An open letter to myself:

Dear Hannah,

I know, you feel a little stressed because you never knew it would be like this.

You never knew that your 20s would be so terrifying; that it would feel like you were becoming yourself and being ripped apart, all at once.

You thought there would be more answers by now, but, instead, sometimes you feel lost and adrift.

But, the thing is — at the same time, you have it more together now then you ever thought you would.

An amazing love story crept up on you while you were busy worrying. Falling in love with A was easy; it was like coming home. It is exciting and gentle; it is full of warm, yellow light and it is exploding with color.

While you were worried about being good enough for the world, A came along and loved you for everything you were, at that moment, and everything you will be, in all the moments to come.

You grew up in the middle of a summer thunderstorm. You grew up with love, and happiness, and adoration, but you also grew up with sickness, and anger, and abandonment. You grew up without thinking about finding love. You didn’t know about that side of you, about the side that felt passion and yearning and could explode in bursts of joy.

But, all along, love was waiting for you.

A love with chestnut hair, sparkling eyes, and handsome strong shoulders made perfectly for you to fit inside. He loves you in a way you wouldn’t believe, because he loves all of you, even the shadowy parts that make you feel ashamed, even the awkward teenage parts that make you feel unlovable. He loves you forever, even though sometimes you can’t believe it, because you can’t believe you are deserving of a love so encompassing.

You are incredibly lucky, and your life is going wonderfully. You are exactly where you should be; you are new and beautiful and good.

Thinking About Weddings.

23 Jun

I’ve been thinking about and planning my wedding for awhile now.

Not in a wedding-obsessed-omg-I-have-had-the-napkin-colors-picked-out-since-I-was-ten-! way, but in a more practical, easygoing way instead.

I’ve been in four weddings: my friend Sarah’s, my friend Korey’s, my mother’s, and my best friend Becky’s. I’ve had a lot of time to pick out the parts that I like, the parts I don’t care so much for; I’ve had time to think about the things that matter to me. I’ve thought a lot about the idea of marriage, the commitment of marriage, the joy and freedom and terror and love of marriage.

When I first started thinking more consciously about wedding planning, I ran into the website 2000 Dollar Wedding. I really love Sara and Matt’s attitude towards their wedding, their rejection of the “wedding essentials”  WIC has pounded into our heads, and the focus on building a marriage versus just building an aesthetically pleasing wedding. The “yes, thank you, finally!” bells went off in my head; it was the first time I ran into such intelligent discussions about wedding planning.

The purpose of a wedding is the joining together of two people, in partnership, forever. Its not the dress, the bridal portraits, the coordinated tablecloths and centerpieces. It should be, wholly and simply, — raw joy.

And, practically, it is really refreshing to hear people speak about weddings and support the idea that it doesn’t have to come with a hefty price tag.

And then I came across the super wonderful A Practical Wedding hosted by Meg.

See, the thing is: A and I will be getting married! And that is the best of all.

And I don’t have to buy All The Stuff. And I don’t need to feel too much worry for my guests. Yes, I want them to be comfortable. But they are choosing to come celebrate love with A and I! And that is more important than the food, or the flowers, or what time of day the wedding is.

I think I can best explain my current thoughts about weddings and marriages by going on a whirlwind tour of a few of the weddings that have been swirling around in my head.

(And, please click on these links and read these awesome posts in their original wonderful form! I just wanted to use this a place to jot down the most memorable quotes and moments that I need to remember)

1. Hannah and David, from A Practical Wedding.

From Meg’s intro: “Gorgeous pictures? Check. Day full of love? Check. Feeling of being emotionally raw and overwhelmed and Oh My God Is This Right Has Anyone Ever Felt This Way Before Am I Broken? Check, check check! So for me, this post is what no one ever told me about getting married. The thing is, the raw emotion is perfect, in it’s own way, but if it hits you, it’s nice to have a voice in the back of your head telling you, “Normal, this is normal.”

And from Hannah:

“Nothing anyone said prepared me for what it felt like to get married. I felt raw and shocked, my soul felt different and weird. I was scared. I went back to the B&B and cried myself to sleep because I felt wrenched. No one told me it was going to feel like that. I’ve seen a gazillion pictures of gorgeous glowing brides and no one told me that when your dad gave a speech and you cried it wasn’t a photo op, you were REALLY CRYING and a lot of people were looking at you crying and you were actually sad. I think it’s okay to feel raw and wretched. Marriage is a big deal. It is something to be taken seriously. I felt bad about feels scared and sad and raw and wrenched. I felt really guilty…”

…”I heard time and time again during wedding planning that the details don’t matter and for some couples maybe they don’t but my sister’s handwriting on my place card, my brother’s band playing, my nephew carrying the ring bowl my mother made, the bridesmaid assembled flowers everywhere, the tissue paper pom-poms hanging from the rafters, the flowered combs in my hair made by my friend who drank a box of Franzia and burnt the hell out of her fingers with a hot glue gun, these things mattered. I can’t even tell you how much they mattered. They felt like a gift and I felt wrapped in the sweetness and the love and the care that had gone into them. It was a gorgeous wedding and I felt the love. I felt the magical love we are supposed to feel but I also felt like I had been hit by a bus.”

…”I think getting married—the leaving one family and making another—is hard for everyone but I was twenty-three when I got married and so I can only speak to what being a young bride was like. I was a very young bride. Maybe not very. But definitely young. For me a huge part of the wedding, an unexpected part of the wedding was the looking back part, the end of an era part, the “you only get one wedding goddamn it and this is it” part”

“In the last two weeks leading up to the wedding I felt unbelievably guilty for feeling like this because clearly this was not an end but a beginning and honestly being twenty-three is being young, regardless of your marital status. But I cried when I turned ten because I felt my life slipping away really quickly and the wedding was a little like that. A milestone, come and gone. And I was scared. I was terrified, and I felt bad for being terrified, I was ashamed of my fear. Because I am brave, because I love David, because that is what we do. We educated women of the twenty-first century, we move, we grow, we change.” (emphasis added by me).

2.  Dana and Hunter, from A Practical Wedding

“When we were first engaged, we were hellza overwhelmed. There were so many options, checklist items, possibilities… we didn’t know where to start. So we sat down to hammer out what mattered most, and what we could let go. We quickly realized that, to us, the wedding wasn’t just ‘an event’ or ‘one day’ but a new beginning… and we wanted to kick it all off with that in mind.

Oh, and we wanted it to be a balls-out party. Can’t leave that out . And as we talked it over, our priorities revealed themselves: an authentic and personal outdoor ceremony, diverse cultural influences, making it interactive for the guests, hype music, free-flowing drinks, full and happy bellies, great photography, eco-mindfulness, and FUN fun times. We made these things our main focus, and tried to integrate them as creatively as possible. It made the process feel much more manageable, and much more “us”.”

…”So don’t worry that people will think you’re “cheap” if you DIY your own flowers, omit the favors, ipod your dancefloor, or whatever the corners you cut may be. Don’t fret about what they’ll think whether you want to be married by a pastor or a pagan queen. Its your day. Do it your way. Your guests are there to celebrate you and your love. Not to criticize your chair selection. And if they do, f*ck ’em.

And don’t worry about everything being perfect. What does that even mean, anyway? What’s really perfect, is getting married at your own wedding. So just focus on that, and you’ll be juuuuuuuust fine.The rest, as they say, is cake!

My best advice? Just have FUN.
Don’t get pressured by expectation or tradition if that’s not your thing. Don’t feel you have to be uber-original, if tradition suits your fancy as a couple. Don’t be pressured to have a million perfectly coordinated details. Don’t confuse “expensive” with “better”. And don’t let self-consciousness impede your enjoyment.
DO honor your partner’s wishes and include them in decision making. DO just be your wonderful selves, and let the day be a reflection of that. DO surrender to the joy, breathe in the bliss, and let go. DO say please and think you a lot. (Its simple, but so true). And again, have fun.”
3. I really love this post, also from A Practical Wedding, about marriage, and prioritizing the important things:
From Nancy: “But more, our marriage is about just two people: us. So, we have to prioritize our relationship and protect it from everyone and everything else. This means that we’ve made a pact not to disparage our spouse in front of others. That eliminates some of our easiest humor, but it makes sure that the other doesn’t feel bad. We try to put the other’s needs first and make them feel good. We try to make each other better too—to eat right and exercise, etc. …It’s cool, I think, that our wedding reflected this idea. That day was just ours. It was super-small and immediate-family-only, so we really just hung out with each other, and didn’t have to spend the whole time talking to relatives we never see or our parents’ friends. Also, we didn’t go into massive debt trying to throw a party for other people. That’s nice. If you’re engaged and thinking for ten seconds about a small wedding—I say do it. Down with the WICand everyone who makes you think that napkins and your special cocktail are more important than your future spouse, cause they aren’t.”
4. This post about finances, also from A Practical Wedding.

“I think we’re making a mistake. I brought this up with my mother, a staunch second wave feminist, who stayed home with us when we were small. I explained that people felt that to be a good feminist, you needed to keep your money separate in marriage, even if you earned less. There was a gasp and a long pause on the other end of the phone, and then she said, “I think your generation got the wrong idea. We’re all supposed to be caring for each other. That’s the point.” She’s right.”

Its ok to feel however you end up feeling on your wedding day; its ok if things don’t go perfectly; its ok not to try and please everyone, and its ok if you don’t have all the “shoulds”.
And its also ok to have a totally gorgeous, detailed wedding.
But the most important part — the most exciting, happy, joyful, meaningful part — is the marrying your best friend part.