Missing pieces.

It was 10pm on a Saturday night. We sat at a coffee table in a little lodge in the middle of the Olympic rainforest. The glow of the fire lit the room as we sipped on red wine and worked to fit a 1000 piece puzzle together.

It was a picture of a cottage in the middle of a field, surrounded by trees and wildflowers with mountains in the background. The ultimate Pacific Northwest puzzle. We began by building the outside frame (because everyone knows only amateurs start from the middle, duh). As she started putting pieces together, I sifted through the box with a furrowed brow. Before even half of the edges were done I said, “We’re missing pieces.” She kept building. I spent the next forty minutes going through the box, sifting piece by piece, convinced that there weren’t enough pieces to build the edges. Piece by piece, she kept building.

I don’t know if there were actually any pieces missing. We never ended up finishing the puzzle, but as I sat and watched her working to fit the pieces together, I realized something. I think the way that I approached that puzzle in the rainforest is a lot like the way I approach life sometimes. Instead of working with what I have and building piece by piece until I have created something big and whole and beautiful, I spend my time fighting and claiming that there are pieces missing. Important pieces. Pieces that are preventing me from being able to plant my happiness stake firm in the ground.

And I don’t think I’m the only one.

We are a generation of people who believe that we are missing pieces. We are a waiting generation. We are waiting for a spouse. For a dream job. For a better platform. For more followers. For graduation. For the next thing…the best thing. We have fallen into the trap of believing that what we have now isn’t enough.

The truth is, the idea of the “best” thing that we have constructed in our minds is a big fat lie. We don’t need to add something new to our lives in order to be happy. What we have is what we need. The best thing isn’t a thing, it’s a mindset.

I laid in the grass in the middle of a park with a friend the other day and listened as she told me about her plans to live life the way she wanted once she was done with school. She was going to travel and find a job she really loved and start making time for the experiences she really cared about. As I laid there, staring at the clouds above us, I felt sad for her. Sad that she believed she needed to wait two more years to start enjoying the world…as if being finished with school was some magic missing piece that was going to make her world of gray turn vibrant and colorful all of a sudden. My heart felt unsettled as she spoke. She didn’t need to wait to be happy. She wasn’t missing anything.

I’ll never forget what my most favorite human and wisest friend told me about a year ago when I was in the middle of a rut. I didn’t feel like I was growing creatively. I felt stuck and uninspired and caged in. I didn’t love my living arrangements or my major at school or the way I was spending my time. I was run down and exhausted all of the time. I remember calling her in tears, telling her about how much I didn’t like the life I was living. How I just wanted to be finished with school, working a big girl job, spending my time going out with friends and being a fun twenty-something.

“You know, you don’t have to be unhappy right now. You have power over your joy right now. You don’t need to be in the next stage of life to like your life. It’s about finding what you’re passionate about and pursuing that. Build a life you love and then live that life. Now.”

Live a life that you love. It’s simple, but I think that string of syllables is powerful and it holds an abundance of truth. We were created as individuals with unique passions and desires and gifts. Our only job in this life is to pursue those inherent gifts with passion and determination. And if we are doing that one job well, then there won’t be any missing pieces because we will be doing what we have been created to do. We overcomplicate it when we start to believe otherwise.

As cliché as it is, I think the whole “The grass is green where you water it” saying holds true. Water your damn grass and find joy in it. You don’t need anything other than what you have to start loving the life that you’re living.

I think Haley had it right when she kept working on that puzzle as I looked for missing pieces. Let’s not overcomplicate it. Joy is right here and now if we choose it. Contentedness is here. Satisfaction is now. Put your head down, follow your passion, and live a life that you love. There are no missing pieces.

 

The Case for Leaving the Swifting to Taylor

We listened to every single song on every single album. It was late and we were heading home from a day spent in the wind and rain at the coast. It was cold outside but we rolled the windows down anyway. We stopped to for ice cream before hopping on the freeway- lavender flavored for me & coffee for her. Our cones were our microphones as we sang each song with more passion than the last and talked about which green-eyed ghost from the past encompassed each one.

“They all have a song, don’t they?” I asked her. She laughed and nodded.

We spent the rest of the car ride in silence, listening to Taylor eternalize the ghosts of her past with smooth strings of stinging syllables. It was so effortless the way she twisted the love and the heartache into tragically beautiful ballads, every line filled to the brim with passionate emotion. Every line a brutally honest account of all of the trials and triumphs.

I could imagine the kinds of nights she spent writing those songs. The sleepless nights. The rainy ones. The Up Until 3am Because I Can’t Stop Thinking About Him But I Want To ones. Some of her words were so harsh. Clearly written from places of pain and anger. Written before she had given herself time to mature and use her experiences to learn and let her heart stretch and grow in grace.

I wondered how they must feel to hear her songs and know those words were meant for them. She left so little room for redemption in those lines. The spaces between each word weren’t big enough to fill the emptiness created by the heartbreak. They were true and honest accounts of her feelings, but they were hurtful.

I took a writing seminar from my favorite author over the winter and I distinctly remember her talking to us about the art of Taylor Swifting. The art of crafting stories out of our life lessons & ghosts of our past. She talked about the importance of pausing before publishing, especially when writing about other humans. Because words have the ability to eternalize. Words are significant. They hold weight. And although we are humans and we are allowed to have feelings and share those feelings with others, as writers, we have a responsibility to refine those words and intertwine them with love and grace.

Her exact words were, “I think the best kinds of writers, whether they see it or not, are the ones who give grace that expands on the page. The ones who understand that writing about the life of someone else—no matter how boldly they touched you or how much they hurt you—isn’t just the maniac workings of a Taylor Swift burn song.”

And I remember vowing never to Taylor Swift anyone. I even underlined it in my journal.

But five months passed by after that seminar and I was still in love with the same boy and I cared more than I wanted to and the months and months of highs and lows culminated in a post filled with exquisitely scathing syllables intended to bruise the source of hurt.

I Taylor Swifted him. In the same exact journal that I had bolded and underlined my vow not to Taylor Swift. And then I tried to defend it and claim that I hadn’t written the post out of sadness or pain. My friends told me it was beautifully written and I thought I had finally found some amount of peace with everything. But I hadn’t.

I had written out of an unhealthy place. One of sadness and bitterness. There was no “pause before publish” moment, just a burning desire to make my pain known to the rest of the world. My intentions weren’t rooted in a desire to cultivate and build up & I quickly realized that the seeds of bitterness I’d sown would only produce regret.

Later that week, one of my best friends told me that although my words were beautiful, they were clearly written from a place of pain and they were hurtful. In that moment, I felt shame.

I want to be a good writer, but more than that, I want to be a good person. I want to build, inspire, and cultivate. I want to use this space to breathe words of life. I want to be known for my desire to take the tough stuff and stretch it into something beautiful for the big picture. Words are important & even more so when they are published for the whole world to see. They aren’t meant to be eternalized based on temporary feelings. We have to remember that. We have to avoid carrying out actions with  eternal implications based on temporary feelings.

This world is filled with people who will become characters in our stories. Characters whose parts will be big and oh-so-life-changing or small and not so life-changing at all. But whenever we give someone permission to play any type of role in our lives, we are also giving them permission to step into our hearts in some capacity. Some stay and make a home and some only stay for a short while.

The boy I love was the big and oh-so-life changing kind of character and with that comes a lot of the “feel a lot of feels” kind of stuff. It’d be so easy to write a million and one Swift-like love ballads about him, but I think Taylor gets it wrong when she spends rainy nights sealing the fates of her past relationships with lyrics void of grace.

So this is my “I’m sorry for Taylor Swifting” post. I think I’ll leave the damning to the queen. As for me, I’m going to try to remember that we are only human. We make mistakes and touch each others lives in all sorts of ways and we need an abundance of grace- all the time- and we must always always leave room for redemption.