I am Dusty

I bought this incredible hat.

I think I’m a hat person, though I haven’t worn hats since I got a pixie cut because the whole look was too shocking. Sure, I could rock having a virtually no hair on the back of my head, but wearing a hat without hair seemed too overwhelming.

But now my hair has grown, and hats are coming back into my life. So I bought a one. It’s a Pepperdine hat. I don’t have many Pepperdine clothes. Half my wardrobe is made up of Indiana University plastered t-shirts, but I hardly have anything for poor Pepperdine. That’s weird because it feels like I actively invested in my Pepperdine life more than my IU one without anything to show for it. Well, until my hat.

I bought my hat at a garage sale for a $1. I did not buy the double-decker bus that would be perfect for a future baby’s nursery because it was $5, and that was out of my price range. (Especially since Jill got a coaster collection for 75 cents.) (It’s my opinion that coasters and dusty toy buses should be close in price.) (This is all very important information.)

That morning Jill and I went rollerblading. I dressed in my running spandex, strapped on my helmet, and flailed my arms. Jill wore her sundress and brought the agility of Apolo Ohno. The two of us went rollerblading until I fell enough that Jill said we should stop.

So then we went to a garage sale. Naturally. I wish they had had kneepads there, but instead they had the love of my life: my Pepperdine hat.

I bought the hat as a half joke. To be honest, I’m not on board with the flat bill look. I’m pretty sure I made fun of my brother for wearing his flat hat last month. Rhett, I am sorry.

But I bought the hat. And I wore the hat. And I love the hat. But today I realized something about the hat.

This morning I put on just enough clothing to leave the house. I don’t mean it wasn’t much in fabric, but it wasn’t much in quality. That’s how I’ve been dressing lately. I pick out a shirt that smells decent, bottoms in varying length depending on how recently I’ve shaved my legs, and the same sandals. I repeatedly paint my big toenails before I go out the door. (It feels like they’re all painted if those ones are). So I walked through the June gloom to my car feeling awesome in my hat and my baggy shirt and wet two toenails.

And then I saw my reflection in the car door. I recognized that person, but it wasn’t me. Goofy smile. Big hat. Straw hair poking out everywhere. Crazy shirt that’s too big. Who do I look like?

And then it hit me. And here’s what this blog post is really about.

I look like Dusty from Twister.

dustyfromtwistertwister-435x580Maybe on a different day, I would have been upset about this. After all, Dusty looks like a slob and is a man. But on this day, I shrugged and completely accepted that I do look like Dusty from Twister. There was no denying it. I turned up Led Zeppelin and hit my steering wheel with the beat.

Then, I realized I not only look like Dusty, I freaking am Dusty.

Where do I go from here? Do I need to wear hoodies over my hat? Am I supposed to be a storm chaser? Do I need an RV? I think I need an RV. Dusty would like that.

My first move has obviously been to repeat this line:

FOOOOOOOD.

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Am I insane? Not for thinking that I’m like Dusty, of course, because that’s just the truth. But Dusty seems a little off. Does this mean I’m a little off? I guess I am if I’m Dusty.

And here’s the thing. Being Dusty means just going for it. 100% being yourself even when that’s weird and even when it’s not. I love that. To think of the time I’ve wasted trying to be a Bill Paxton–reenacting his emotional “Me, Joe” speech–or fearing I was an Aunt Meg. All this time, I’ve been a Dusty: a sloppy oddball with the most fantastic, loved, cheap hat.

Dear Writing

Hey Writing,

I’m not going to apologize. I feel like I finally need to give up that tick.

I guess I’ll just start with this: I miss you. I miss you a lot.

We’ve been together for a while, with some good stretches and the bad ones. This was a bad stretch.

But here’s what I want, okay? I want to fall in love with you again.

Not in love with what you can do, not in love with how you are with others, not in love with what you were to me once.

I want to fall in love. With YOU. Again.

You and me. Because you’re always there, aren’t you? In the morning’s dark hours, I look at you with the dog still warming my feet. I whisper to you in the middle of work. I walk with you. I drive with you.

I’ve been pushing you out of those moments. Keeping you away. Telling myself that I don’t have time. Telling myself that life is really okay without you.

And life really is okay without you.

But I’m not okay without you.

Remember in the early days when it was easy? When you’d wake me up in the middle of the night? When you filled my head with dreams about where we could go together? When I was satisfied to call you an indulgence.

Things are different now. We know each other. You’re difficult. You won’t leave me alone, and when I do give you time, you’re stagnant.

I’m difficult too. I know. I don’t know what it is that makes me want to stir up strife between us, but if you’re good for me, that automatically means I don’t like you.

Right now I don’t have butterflies in my stomach when I think about you. Right now I’m groaning that we even have to talk. And I’m a little afraid. Afraid that we aren’t right for each other. Because what if we aren’t right for each other? What if I just let you go? Loosen the grasp and let you float away, total Jack-style. (Or would it be Rose-style?)

But then I remember. We’re tethered, you and I. We’re tied together, and I can either run and keep running or I can embrace that every morning you’ll be staring me in the face. I have that choice, and I could run.

But I love you. I love you, and we’ll get through this bad stretch, won’t we? I think we will.

My New Obsession

I’m in the thick of it. That’s what I realized last night as I stood at my computer.

I’m trying to do the standing desk thing because I work from home. I work from home now. Did I tell you? Well, I do. And sometimes I watch Netflix on my computer at my standup desk after work because I work at home. In case that wasn’t as confusing as possible, my standup desk is actually a normal desk with a pile of books and a cardboard box on top. No, really. Look.

diy stand up desk

That is a sad picture.

Anyway, I was standing at my makeshift, standup desk at my home, and it happened. I crumbled. Me crumbling looks a lot like me stomping my feet and throwing imaginary chairs and sobbing, “¡Noooo! ¿Por qué, Ana? ¡Estúpido Ana! ¡Estúpido Velvet!”

Why am I speaking Spanish? It’s because I think I know Spanish.

Why do I think I know Spanish, and why am I crumbling at my computer? It’s because I’m addicted to the tv show,Velvet, a Spanish drama.

Velvet is like Mad Men meets The Notebook meets The Paradise meets the total fulfillment of my heart.

At first I was just looking for a new show. I wanted to see what Netflix had to offer. I bypassed The West Wing again–it’s been in my queue since the “Playlist” was called a “Queue”–and there it was. My beauty. My Velvet.

Netflix told me I’d give it a full five stars, but I was skeptical. After all, Netflix thought I’d give My Father the Hero 3 1/2, and that movie is a solid 0-how-did-this-movie-get-made stars for me. And I’m the Katherine Heigl fan!

But I took a chance. The show started, and it’s full of Castilian Spanish. I’m not a subtitles person, so I was just about to hit Back to Browse.

And then Alberto entered.

And life will never be the same. Alberto and I had a connection immediately.

Each episode pulled me more into the tragic and gripping story of Ana and Alberto, two people who just want to be together without ruining everything and everyone in their way. Is that too much to ask? Come on, Madrid department store investors and the entire Marquez family!

I didn’t realize I cared so much. I mean, it’s just a show. Sure, after two episodes I was saying my prayers in Spanish. (They were very basic. Lots of “gracias por” action.) And sure, I was searching for more information online. (Spain, do you have fan sites or what? Are they like speakeasies?! DO I HAVE TO BE ON THE INTERNET IN SPAIN AND GIVE YOU A PASSWORD?! TELL ME WHERE I CAN FIND THE ANA/ALBERTO GIFS, NOW! Please.)

So yeah, I was being totally normal.

And then, halfway through Season One, when Alberto finally puts everything aside and decides to marry his love, Ana runs out of the church in her (gorgeous) lace wedding dress, and my world fell apart.

No, that’s not right.

My universe fell apart.

That’s accurate.

¡No, Ana! ¿Por qué, Ana? ¡Estúpido Ana! ¡Estúpido Velvet! ¿Por qué??????

It was kind of like the real life version of this awful high school video project I did.

It put me in a real funk, guys. I didn’t want to watch more of the show. I didn’t want to be a part of a world where Ana and Alberto didn’t end up together. Cristina, you’re nice, BUT YOU’RE NOT HIS SOULMATE, SO BACK OFF RIGHT NOW.

Deep breath.

As this blog post shows, I’m so over it now. I mean, her dress was not even that pretty, okay. And Rita certainly isn’t funny, and I don’t identify with her at all. And that little paper airplane thing that Ana and Alberto do for each other is like so noooot cute.

But actually it’s really cute.

Okay, I’m still there, in the thick of it, trying not to go insane. Trying to take a little space to remind myself that I have a life outside of the Velvet department store and that I don’t live in the 1950s and that Spanish is not my native language.

But then… Alberto.

I told my Italian Rachel that I think this is what I’m supposed to feel about a future spouse. Look, everyone has their own idea of what is most attractive. I love that there’s someone for everyone. My someone just happens to look like this:

miguel velvetAm I insane? Yes. Yes. Okay. Immature and insane. And I know this, and part of me never wants to post something like this because it feels awfully close to my fifth grade diary.

But you know what? This is real life sometimes. This is real life when I’m consumed by unreal life.

Don’t worry. I’m taking a breath. I’m not watching Velvet today. I will not let this turn into the six-month I Love Lucy hole. (Someday I’ll talk about that very dark, but very happy, time.)

I will not go into a hole this time. This time I will keep the crazy under slight control. I will take a break, and realize that there is a sun shining outside. Real life has its incredible moments (and its Alberto) too. I will know this truth… and then I will watch the rest of the season and see if Ana can possibly make this thing work because she HAS to for everyone’s sake. He’ll never be happy with Cristina, not in the same way. And what would Ana do? Be a seamstress forever? Never open her own store or live in Paris or be a designer? She can’t bear to leave him, so she’s just stuck watching him complain about being a tycoon while he makes a family with his investor’s daughter. Gah! ¡No, Ana! ¡No, Alberto!

Breathing. Breathing.

I don’t want to blow this out of proportion. I really don’t. I’m just casually putting it out there that if anyone sees an Ana/Alberto pillow on Etsy, don’t be afraid to send me the link… unless I’m the one making the pillow because that could be on the horizon.

velvet cast

24

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I celebrated my birthday last weekend.

Oh, birthdays. What fun they are. I love ’em. Whether it’s mine or someone else’s. When we celebrated Jill’s birthday, she talked about her word for this year. (Jill’s the bomb. Have I mentioned that? She is DA BOMB.)

As my birthday approached, I began to think more about what my word had been for the past year. And I have to say, FULL keeps creeping to the surface of my thought palace.

(My Italian Rachel used the term “thought palace” last weekend, and I can’t get it out of my THOUGHT PALACE.)

Every year, I have these goals of where I want to be at my next birthday. Sometimes they’re just that I want to be nicer to everyone and to myself. Other ones are more extensive.

I want to run 5 miles like it’s no big deal.

I want to sell a book.

I want to have skin that glows from my daily green smoothies.

I want to know the lyrics to every Beatles song.

And every year, no matter if I reach these goals or not, I feel like I’m not quite there.

Ah, the mystical land of There. The Hilary who lives in There has her act together. She’s super stylish and has managed to walk in heels like they’re flip flops. (She does something similar with wearing lipstick like it’s chapstick.) She finally has thin arms and well, thin everything, quite frankly. She gives Leslie Knope-level gifts and knits and has read all of Hemingway and knows how to use a straightener as a curling iron without scorching her hair, hands, or forehead.

Every year, I think, “This is the year when I turn into the Hilary of There.” She’s who I’m meant to be, after all. She’s who I saw myself growing up to become.

And yet, every year, I don’t quite make it, and I’m stuck scrambling together a few goals for the next big push into this adult me. “This is it,” I say. “I know you thought last year was the year for conquering the whole contoured cheek thing, but this is actually it. Pop open the blush and ruler.”

But this year was new.

23 was lovely. I decorated my first apartment when I was 23. (I had previously only just lived there.)

I had these super lazy days with my friends where we ate cookies and talked writing, and our preferred method of exercise was laughing hysterically.

Wolf, I gained weight from those cookies. (Laughing was not the calorie burner I had hoped it would be.)

I searched for a job. Found a job. Did a job. Quit a job. Got a dream job.

I learned how to work for 8 hours and still get up and do things after it’s over. (This took months of my life.)

I freaked out over student loans, and then freaked out over how God provides.

I watched my oldest niece lose her first tooth! I snuggled those girls like the treasures they are.

I played Pandemic with my family, and I never realized how alike we all are. We don’t like to lose. (Also, Thad is a cheater.)

I gained friends. These aren’t just numbers either; we’re talking 3 quality individuals who I’m so blessed to have in my life.

Jill and I ate ginormous slices of watermelon at the pool in the middle of a workday. (Hashtag unemployment.)

I graduated with my MFA. Hooray!

I grew out a pixie. Hooray!

I laughed so so so so so much. Hooray!

The night before I turned 24, I hung out with wonderful friends. Rob made the most fantastic breakfast (for dinner) of all time. We ate waffles and played board games and laughed and talked, and I found myself thinking that I didn’t want to be There anymore. I want to be here.

I think if a younger Hilary could meet me right now, she’d actually like me. I’m not perfect, and I have goals. But I prefer the Hilary I am right at this moment to the lipstick-wearing fantasy I have in my head. I do my best, I love people, and I feel so loved. I’m completely done with the obsession over There. I want Here to be the best it can be because it’s the real deal.

Here feels so full of people and color and love. Here makes me hungry for what 24 holds. (I think it’s going to be pretty fantastic.)

Love Story

Malibu Sunrise

I’d like to tell you a love story. I hope that’s okay.

(It is.)

I grew up in Church. (Yes, it’s going in that direction.)

My dad was saved as a teenager after listening to a Billy Graham sermon. I find this funny and lovely.

My mom grew up in the church where she eventually married my dad. It was the little white church where we borrowed animated Bible story VHS tapes. It’s across the street from where my grandparents, Mom, and I all went for high school and middle school. Small towns, man.

My earliest “Bridget Jones moment” happened here. When I was six years old we had a “hillbilly” day at church. This seems like a weird activity to me now, but at the time, I was totally in to it. I wore old jeans and a flannel shirt that Mom tied in the front. She pulled my hair in to pigtails and painted freckles on my already-freckled cheeks.  Apparently there was a contest for the best outfit, and I was pulled out of Sunday school because gosh! I was the winner. (Note: Sunday school mostly consisted of me watching the nursery leader apply Band-Aids in the most fascinating way; this is the only thing I remember about her.) (Will I ever figure out how she did it?)

I was escorted to the front of the sanctuary, in front of our 200(?)-person congregation. Our pastor said some grown-up words. I smiled. People chuckled. At first I just thought that it was my killer costume. I mean, I was winning a McDonalds certificate for $10. (Hello!)

But then I got the feeling I wasn’t in on the joke. The pastor felt it too. He looked down at me, and his bewildered smile dropped before his uncontrollable laughter spilled out. “Well, she looks the part,” he said into the microphone.

I looked down at myself, thinking maybe my shirt was askew, and there it was: a patch of white cloth, the size of my fist, in full, bright display. My fly was open–underwear and humiliation on display.

Anyway, back to the love story. You might be surprised to learn that church—even with experiences like the great undies show-off of 1997—wasn’t my favorite.

We moved churches when I was 7ish. At this point I hadn’t yet learned how to make friends instantly. By instantly, I mean anything less than spending four years seeing someone every day. I literally had zero friends grades K-3 because I didn’t say a word in school. Yeah.

Now, at home I said my prayers and didn’t eat until after grace, and not to brag, but I was kind of a complete rule-follower at home and in school. The name “teacher’s pet” rings a bell. (It rings a bell because that’s what they called me, in case that wasn’t clear.)

For me, my relationship with God was always about doing the right thing, about being good enough. I used to have this Precious Moments Bible with an illustration of a big-headed baby hiding under a blanket that said, “You can’t hide from God.” I think that’s how I felt really. I can’t hide doing a bad thing from God, so I better be perfect.

I got baptized when I was 16. That was an older age in the Miller family. At the time I didn’t get that my parents were letting me take the initiative. I thought it was something they orchestrated, like a birthday party. “Well, it’s about time you were baptized, Hilary. What do you want on your cake?” This conversation never popped up. Imagine that.

At this point, I read my Bible sporadically at best. I talked to God mechanically and irregularly. But most of all, I felt disconnected from God. I gave my life to Him like one buys a car. You sign the papers because it’s what you’re told, but you’re not reading the details.

There were moments, little glimpses of something more, but it was like a light I could never catch. It felt like I couldn’t quite feel God.

This is how I lived through my college years. I had faith, a small amount of faith. I did what was right, but there was a large emptiness to everything I did. Anytime I slowed down, I wondered what it was all for. I wondered if this is what God wanted me to be doing. When I asked God for direction, I showed no patience. It was like I was holding an ice cream cone on a hot day. I had to say my prayer and get an answer before any dripped down my hand.

Then I came to California. That direction was completely orchestrated by God. I’m 100% sure of that. It’s the first time I felt like God was specifically leading me.

I went to a new church. Here’s where it gets good.

But first, kind of bad.

I became anxious. You know how I talked about needing to be around people for four years before I make friends? Well, maybe for a kid whose best friends continue to be her three siblings, that’s an okay amount of time. But for a young adult living on her own in a new state, four years is too long. I felt tremendous pressure to make an impression on everyone I met. I wanted to be all of the Hilary that I could be. I wanted them to know that I was funny and (typically) smart and that my hair wasn’t usually that bad. I was still stuck on the being perfect thing.

It got a little bit better over the next two years. Please re-read the last sentence: two years. Two freaking years of doing it my way and it got “a little bit better.”

Last summer/spring, I was finishing school, and I was really digging in to church. And I was praying more and reading more and worshiping more, but there was still a bit of a disconnect.

This was also a bit of a depressing time; I was desperate for a job, trying to enjoy the time I had in California because I could end up back in Indiana, and calling my mom twice a day. I would cry on the phone with her and then call her back to say that I was actually okay and not that upset. (Though I obviously was.)

My performance, my striving to be good enough, had run out.

I was burned out.

I was bummed out.

I was tremendously guilty about being bummed out.

And then.

And then.

And then!

I can remember the afternoon it changed. Someone I knew had gotten an interview at what would be a dream job for him. After months of applying for every job ever to pop up on every job list, shady career site, and social network, it felt like I wasn’t good enough. That finally, doing things my way wasn’t working. Where was my dream interview? Where was my success and my my my my MY MY MY…

I literally fell to the floor and cried out. “Not my way, but Yours.” Over and over I prayed this prayer. I was so upset and bitter and angry and heavy and done with “a little bit better,” and suddenly—as in instantly—as in miraculously—I was overcome with God’s presence. I was filled with peace. I kept thinking of Jeremiah 29:11.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

It struck me that God has a plan for my life. It’s not that I didn’t know this before. It’s not that I didn’t have faith before. But in this moment, I was overcome by the fact that the creator of the universe had a personal, perfect-timed plan for MY life. It had NOTHING to do with how well I did anything. Not talking in school? Didn’t matter. Making friends? Didn’t matter. Making sure people know I’m not a dummy? Having an open fly? Nope.

That’s not what God cares about. (I mean, I do think that He wants me to have friends because friends are an important part of life.) God cares about my heart. He wants to be there, not to see how well I do, but to walk beside me in the fight. He wants to be my answer, my way when there seems to be no way, and my way when I could go my own way. And the whole getting “a little bit better” thing? I didn’t want to settle for that. God doesn’t want me to settle for that.

My point of view was broken apart. A new thing came. You know how in The Princess Bride when Buttercup realizes that Westley is actually saying, “I love you,” every time he says, “As you wish”? I realized that everything good in my life, that every single day, God was telling me how much He loved me, and His love is unlike anything I could have ever imagined.

I got a job, by the way. It wasn’t my favorite, but you know what? I spent most of my time listening to worship music and praying. What a gift.

What a life-changing gift. (I also got a new job, and it pretty much rocks.)

No longer am I disconnected. I feel so connected. Not only do I feel connected, but I’m an overcomer. Anxiety? It has no place here.

And that emptiness? Gone.

And the depression coupled with the guilt? No more.

I’m not saying I don’t contend with these feelings, but I am saying that I know they’re lies. I know that God LOVES me NO MATTER WHAT. It has nothing to do with my attitude or intelligence or eating habits or how well I share His message with a stranger. It has nothing to do with my character and everything to do with His.

God doesn’t just want me to strive and be okay and have an okay time. “As long as I don’t make a fool of myself, it’s fine.” God wants to be present in it all, and His presence isn’t just okay. It isn’t just anything. He wants to tear down everything I think I know about doing life and show me His own way. It’s the best, most satisfying, most beautiful way. It’s not that things are perfect. They’re not, but I’m choosing to believe in the breakthroughs that have and will come. I’m choosing to let God in on the real stuff. When I accidentally show off my underwear, I want to laugh with Him about it. (And cry with Him about it.) I want to choose His way.

How can I not fall for someone like this? Someone who loves me right where I am and sees me as more than I am and wants to be my constant, my love, my therapist, my best friend, my answer, my Father, and my Savior.

So if I look like I’m in love and seem stupidly happy, it’s because I am, okay. I so am.

HAIR

Today I got a free haircut.

If you know me, you know I like free things, but a free haircut is never a good sign.

It’s not that it’s a terrible haircut either. Really. It’s fine. It’s just nothing like we talked about before getting it cut. The hairstylist, let’s call her Ray, showed me a picture of something that would look “adorable” on me. It was all one length; a blunt bob. It was exactly what I wanted, and I wondered how she found a more perfect picture in five minutes than I had in several months.

You see, I had been hoping and waiting to get my haircut for the past 8 months.

I’ve grown out my pixie, but it should be really grown before I get it cut.

It’s longer, but I want there to be a little extra so there was something to trim.

There’s a little extra, but maybe I should wait until the front can be the longest.

And then, today, I decided it was time. After living off of self-trims for a year and a half, it was time to get things tidied up.

I wasn’t wearing my glasses, so I couldn’t tell what was happening above my smock until it was completely dry.

“Put on your glasses,” Ray said.

I slipped them on, and the layer above my ear was staring back at me, 3 (4?) inches shorter than it had been when I walked it. That stupid, stubborn spot is the worst to grow out. Anyone who’s grown out hair knows is the TOUGHEST. It takes the longest. You pull and yank and will it to grow, and mine did.

But now it’s sticking out, chopped off above my ear.

Like I said, it’s not an ugly haircut exactly. With time I might even like it, but in that chair, staring at something that I had waited for for over a year, I began to cry.

I tried to hold it in, and I did okay. But I couldn’t stop the guttural groan that left my throat.  Ray continued to flip it around as my hand slowly lifted up to feel. Yes, it was that short.

“It’s so short,” I said.

She assured me it wasn’t. “You didn’t lose any length off of the bottom.” She was right. The bottom layer stayed the same. Literally, the back of my hair–what I wanted cut–stayed the same.

I told her it didn’t look a thing like the picture. She got the picture out, assured me it did. I argued. She said it was her fault. I kept silent. She brought up the picture again and argued more. I kept silent.

I stayed silent as she hugged me. I stayed silent as she kissed me on the cheek, several times. This woman I had only known thirty minutes smooshed her cigarette mouth to my face over and over. “You’re gorgeous. You’re gorgeous!”

I think she did that because she knew. She knew not that it was not what I wanted (though that too). I think she did that because she knew that hair is so stupid for women.

The way we view hair is so stupid. It means so much. It means too much.

And that hit me on the way home. I was being ridiculous.

But you know what? It didn’t make me stop crying. I wish that thought had taught me something about how women shouldn’t use their looks for self worth. In this scenario, I’d wipe my tears, blast the music, and laugh about it over dinner. But just as I was on the verge of reaching for the radio dial, my short layer fell into my eyes and my little giggle at the ridiculousness of it all turned into a full-on sob…

which turned into full-on yelling in the car

which turned into laughing at how stupid I was being for getting this upset

which turned into crying at how stupid I was to go to a stylist I didn’t know

which turned into yelling again.

So it goes.

Is it completely inappropriate to pull out Vonnegut at a time like this? I think yes, but then I touch my hair and my soul screams no.

I cut my hair two years ago because I wanted a change, but I also wanted to not depend on it. I always had this long, thick hair that sort of overtook my look. And when I cut my hair, it was like I saw my face for the first time. I didn’t want my hair to be beautiful, I wanted to shine without it.

If you are lucky, there is a moment in your life when you have some say as to what your currency is going to be. I decided early on it was not going to be my looks. – Amy Poehler, Yes Please

In many ways, I was making a similar decision when I cut my hair. I learned that I was worth more than hair.

Flash forward, and I’m crying about a measly 3 (4?) inches.

And then I laugh at it, and I try to think good thoughts. I really, really try. I know caring this much about hair is stupid, and I’m letting it go.

Right now. Big breath. It’s only hair. Big breath. I’m more valuable than getting the exact haircut I want. And last big breath. I want to be the kind of beautiful that can pull off any hair or no hair at all.

I want to be pretty like this:

A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick-out teeth, but if you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely. -Roald Dahl, The Twits

I want to be lovely, not because of my hair, but because of my thoughts. I’m making them prettier one. big. breath. at. a. time.

And now I’m also thinking that this entire blog post is so emotional about hair, which sends me into a fit of laughter. That might be the best thing to do, actually. Laugh and laugh and laugh and choose which hat to wear. Luckily, I did do a fashion show the other day.

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The Bachelor Party

Is it such a crime?

I mean, in a world where I could spend my Monday night ironically checking out the newest Gastropub renovated from a movie theater complete with a bronze mural of the Tenenbaums that serves some sort of imitation meat pie by a bearded man without a beard net, is my choice so bad?

I don’t think so, and yet… I am embarrassed. If I had gone to something like that Gastropub (most likely named “The Sweaty-Toothed Madman”), I could feel free to brag right now. I could boast in my most recent foodie/hipster/unique conquest.

But this I keep to myself. I hide it within. I keep my mouth shut and my ears open. In the lunch room at work, my head shoots toward the whispers.

“Farmer Chris.”

“Rosebud.”

My hope is shot down when I realize they’re discussing a distant relative and also Citizen Kane. (For the record, I would actually not be that disappointed if this were the topics of discussion during lunch.)

I, like what seems to be very few self-respecting women, can’t help myself. I like The Bachelor and not in an ironic way.

In fact, one of the highlights of my week is The Bachelor Party hosted by Jill.

(Are they hosted by Jill? I mean, they’re at Jill and Rachelle’s place, but Rob’s the one cooking. Rachelle is the one baking. Jill’s the one telling Rob to make a dirty diet coke after I whisper in her ear. Really, they’re all the hosts, and I’m the ultimate consumer.)

I think, quite possibly, we have the best The Bachelor Party in the world.

I sit there, as we all do, sprawled out on the couches, cocooned in blankets, with homemade buffalo chicken dip an arm’s reach away. I sigh when Chris Harrison enters the room in his navy suit. The sigh says, “I wonder if life can get sweeter.”

When drama happens–basically the whole show!–the entire party gets restless.

Arms start flailing! The buffalo dip is forgotten! Voices rise! (One of these three is not true.)

“She’s insane! How can he not see?!”

But it’s not all tearing these women down. I promise. Sometimes we find ourselves getting too involved: pulled in 25 different directions.

“Poor thing. She’s the Anne Hathaway of the group.” “Yeah. Trying too hard.”

And then, when they go home, things get rough for us all.

“I hate this part. I want to be the person who’s there to hold them and tell them that this was not the love of their life.”

I don’t know. Maybe I am crazy to be this involved. Maybe I’m one of those silly girls I always never wanted to be.

But I don’t think so.  I mean, yes, I’m silly. I know this, but I like who I am: this silly, Bachelor-watching, fails-to-blog-regularly, talks-to-much, watches-old-60-minutes-episodes-and-also-tennis-matches-when-she-can’t-sleep girl. I know where I’ll be on my Monday night, surrounded by friends and food and watching a huge group of people search for love. I even hope two people find it. Maybe that makes me silly and the worst kind of viewer, but I also think it makes me silly and the best kind of viewer. Besides, I’d rather be there than at the Sweaty-Toothed Madman, choking down a home brew (obviously called “Barbaric Yawp”).

(I have to say, I kind of want to go to this restaurant. Excuse me: “eatery experience.”)

Anger & How I’m Done With It

Can I tell you something honest? I was really angry yesterday.

You know those days when your heart just feels heavy? It was like I was anxious without being crazy active. I felt tired and sluggish and bleh without actually being sleep-deprived or hungry or any of the easy fixes. I was just mad at the world, and to be honest, I think it’s been building up for a while.

You see, I was supposed to come out to California and immediately shoot up in the world of screenwriting. The whole reason I chose to go for an MFA in Screenwriting and not a JD (shivers), was because I’m supposed to be really good and very successful at this. I’m one of the ones who is supposed to make it.

Yesterday, I was mad that I haven’t shot up. I haven’t made it as a writer yet. Heck. I was just mad about not having any time for writing, let alone not writing that stellar thing that’s going to change it all yet. I was mad about finances and being homesick and my job and everything that doesn’t seem to be the way I want it to be. And then. And then! I got really mad. I was mad at myself for being mad about things like finances. I was mad at myself for not having an inner joy. The cycle!

So I tried to work through this on my way home, and I got a bit better. I sort of turned the volume down on my anger.

But it wasn’t until this morning that I told anger to leave me the f— alone. The thing is, whether it’s for one day or years, I don’t want to be mad. Anger is exhausting. Guilt is crippling. That exhausted, bleh, muddled person? She’s not who I am.

This morning, I did something a little silly. I took the dog walking just before sunrise (during that great time of day where everything’s blue), and I picked up a rock. I imagined that all of my anger pooled down my arm and into that rock. I filled it up with anxiety and hate and guilt, so much guilt. And when I felt like those things weren’t in me anymore, but were instead heavy in my hand, I threw it. Hard.

And I said a prayer. (Multiple prayers were involved in this whole thing.) I reminded myself of who God is. I reminded myself of who I am.

I am vibrant. I am full of energy (and usually have a knee-tapping problem because of it). I am determined and persistent. I am fun and joyful. I am confident.

Most of all, I’m right where I need to be. I’ll get to where I want to be. I’m not worried about that now. I’m done with being angry at myself, for creating a cage of impossibilities. I’m me. I’m a laugher and a writer and a bad dancer and a talker. It’s time for those things. Now. Not when I’ve sold a screenplay. Now. It’s time to live the life I want before I get it.

Mom, Mom, Mom, I Love You

“I stood up and got into my truck and drove away from a part of my mother. The part of her that had been my lover, my wife, my first love, my true love, the love of my life.” – Cheryl Strayed, “The Love Of My Life”

There are days when I feel this way about my mom: that she’s the love of my life. I talk to her daily, on average. Sure, there are stretches when we don’t speak. Last week it was two in a row, book-ended by two scandalously short check-ins. But there are also days when I call her on my way somewhere, again on my way home, and just before bed so I can tell her that I love her one more time.

She knows when I’m upset without me saying it. “I can tell you’re feeling homesick,” she says after I ask what’s going on in Indiana. “I’ll send you pictures of the trees… of the dog… of your dad… I’ll skip the cat.”

She listens to me tell her what I think was the funniest part of the day, and she laughs with me. Someone counting calories from a tea bag? She thinks that is as ridiculous as I do.

We speak the same language.

“Who’s the guy in that alien movie?”

“Tom Cruise or Will Smith?”

“Neither. He has those eyes.”

“Chris Pine.”

“Yes.”

And then there are other times when I’m wholly certain that this woman is not the love of my life. She doesn’t get me, and if my own mother doesn’t get me who ever will?! (These moments usually occur once a month.) (Hmm.) There are times when she seems completely unconcerned with the “problems” in my life. There are times when I want to tell her that she’s no longer allowed to make fun of herself. There are times when I’m staring at the gaps in my preparation for the world, and I take to blaming her fiercely.

I love her, but the love of my life? Hmm.

Then I take a breath and realize she’s unconcerned with my “problems” because she doesn’t see them as an issue. She’s certain I’ll succeed, certain that there’s a way through them and I’ll find it.

She makes fun of herself because she can, and that’s so much better than the alternative. We’re two Bridget Joneses, she and I, and if we don’t laugh at accidentally calling “adenoids” “gonads,” we’re in for a dull life.

As for the gaps, I’d be worried if she covered everything. There are times when I wish that she had pushed me into books more or hadn’t let me quit track after one day. But she let me discover books. She made me get outside. She prayed and hugged and taught and poured out love and truth. Those are the things that get me through the gaps. Those are the things that matter.

(And if I really wished she’d take one thing back, it would be making me go pick up my sports bra I dropped in the school parking lot on the way to the car.) (Everyone saw, or so it felt.) (I’m not bitter.)

Thad started a tradition in our family that we often use on our parents. It goes like this:

“Mom. Mom. Mom! Mom! MOM!”

“What?!”

“I love you.”

And that’s it. That’s all we say because we don’t know how to put into words what we feel about our mom. We don’t know what to say to this woman who gave us all the important stuff. I don’t know how to write her smell and how warm her skin is and how she’s the face I know best in the world. I don’t know how to describe her crooked thumb nail and golden cross necklace and fidgeting hands and beautiful hair and loving voice. I think “love of my life” is close, but maybe it’s better said with the hugs and the laughing and the hair rubbing and the crying and the talking and the living. Maybe it’s just “Mom, Mom, Mom, I love you” one more time before bed.

Journal of a Silly Girl

sleeping hilary

“Everyone knows diaries are just full of crap.” – Bridget Jones

Let’s take a journey down journal lane, shall we? (Warning: the following might make you lose all remaining respect for me as a writer and/or human.)

“We played football, in which I sprained my ankle… we also did play basketball. I jammed my finger; that is why I am not writing good. ” – age 11

“I wish I were a bird flying in the sky, soaring through the air. We, my family, went to see Santa Clause 2.” -age 11

“While in the meantime, I am thinking about Hayden Christensen and Orlando Bloom.” -age 11

“I have been trying not to mention what’s happening in the U.S. economy lately, but I think it’s time to tell my feelings.” – age 11

“It was then I saw what life is.” – age 11

“I am going to work on my scrapbook.” – age 12

“If you follow every problem in your life, it will lead to one conclusion: yourself.” – age 11

“I wonder if this diary will be famous someday, like Anne Frank’s. We’re reading Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl in class.” – age 12

“I wanted to tell you that I don’t think anyone will ever consider my story famous like Anne Frank’s.” – next day, age 12

“A heart-warming film always warms me up.” – age 12

“This turned out not as well as planned, but everything happens for a reason.” – age 12

“It was hot, and she was asking for my personal fan 24/7.” – age 12

“If I died before my husband, I’d want him to remarry… I hate biology.” – age 14

“Swimming and soccer are the only sports I’ve done competitively!!!” – age 15

“Prom. It’s all anyone talks about.” – age 16

“I’ve always liked David Beckham, but now that he’s in the U.S., well…” – age 16

“Today we went to see National Treasure II. I loved it!” – age 16

“I don’t like fried chicken.” – age 17

“I was supposed to have my water skills test at six, so I got to the school at 5:45 am, and no one was there. I took it at 6 pm.” – age 17

“I’m getting over crying right now, so excuse my handwriting.” – age 17

“I’m excited about lunch.” – age 17

One thing hasn’t changed. I’m still really excited about lunch.