Old Wine & New Skins


I’ve put off writing this fine piece. You might have noticed that it’s coming out late, and I really don’t have an excuse other than I’ve been muddling, processing, and attempting to make sense of a strange encounter I recently had. I’m going to do my best to tell this true, honest, and well, but I won’t lie the idea already makes me quake.

Because last week I basically had someone hold up a mirror to my insides and tell me to take a good hard look. She saw through me over and over and over. In the course of two hours I had a perfect stranger lay my shit bare. I suppose you could call this a unique experience. Especially, when this is person is a writer you have fawned over and followed since they first started publishing words to a page. And god. It was good, and hard, and I cried a lot. And I’m not the crier in my groups. You know the one I’m talking about. The one who cries at commercials, and puppies, and lifetime movies. I’m not that girl.

But when a stranger is filling up your computer screen and you’re supposed to be talking writing and strategy, and instead you find her gently ripping off every band-aid on your heart, only to reveal gaping holes you thought no one could find – well, you cry. And wonder what is even happening because you’re pretty sure this wasn’t what you signed up for. And before what now feels like a therapy session even ends you feel yourself rapidly replacing the tiny little blocks she had just broken down because you don’t have the faintest clue how to process what just happened.

Let me back track.

The writer in question is Hannah Brencher (HB). If you follow her words, then you know HB has worked tirelessly to grow in authenticity and candor in her writing. What appears like effortless authenticity and vulnerability is repeated bravery put down on paper.

HB skimmed my most recent post, failure is not a four letter word, started to smile a few paragraphs in, and tapped her fingers against her face as she spoke, “I see what you’re doing.” Her words told me something I already knew. I have never known how to be the open one, but I am damn good at appearing like I do. I write to capture what it is to be human, but refuse to give you all anything of mine. I hold my fists tightly on the details of my own experience, and say it’s because I want you to be able to picture yourself in my words. I could scroll back through these pages and probably find not even one time I genuinely shared myself.

I never told you that I can write about heartbreak because I fell for a blue eyed sharp mouthed boy who was every kind of wrong for me and I for him. Or that I can sit over a steaming cup of coffee and talk about grief because I’ve lived in the dark place they call depression and anxiety. Or the gaping holes I mentioned earlier? Most of those come from deconstructing the conservative fundamental Christian worldview I grew up into and which then spiraled me into that dark place. That I’m just now admitting that even though I’ve come so far I need to open those wounds back up. I didn’t even tell you last week, when I was hurrahing on and on about failure that I was drowning in stress and controlling coping methods because I didn’t get a graduate assistantship I was counting on, and now I have no idea how I’m paying for graduate school. Or how about that I’m now in a better relationship than I ever imagined I could receive.

I hide away because all of this was mine to know, not yours. And even now. There are a thousand stories inside these tiny words I’ve just handed to you.

HB somehow saw and found all of these tender spots I just splashed out on this page. We talked about things I haven’t talked to anyone about because I’d prefer to act like they aren’t a part of me, or how I got to where I am. But she helped me to know something I’ve been purposely avoiding for awhile.

I need to put myself back into my writing. All of me. And that isn’t easy, but it’s real.

And so, I will be taking baby step after baby step toward allowing my own voice and experience to scribe these words. As someone who loves words, it is by far easier to hide behind them than to use them to put myself on the line, but that’s the new goal.


7 thoughts on “Old Wine & New Skins

  1. Friend, you’re fantastic. I just wanted to say that. Life is built upon ups and downs, and what counts is how we patch ourselves up. You’re so much stronger than you realize. You’re doing GREAT.

  2. I hope you know that you truly inspire and encourage with your vulnerability. As someone who struggles laying my heart out to people too, it’s really encouraging reading this post and your words that prove knocking down walls is painful but it’s beautiful and most of all, possible. I truly, truly mean it, keep pushing forward because you make a difference!

    • I read this a few times over – thank you so much for sharing with me. Hearing words like yours make feel like it’s worth the process, so thank you, Brianna, for taking the time to tell me! Go on and knock down your own walls, I know you can too 🙂

  3. Pingback: Stripped down. | Borrowed time

  4. (I’m finally catching up on all the posts I’ve missed in the last month that I detached myself from the internet because I was studying for my licensing exam) But, my goodness Hannah really knows how to peel your layers. I met her the day her book came out and it was enlightening. She’s such a beautiful soul.

    I’d like to think that you and I are connected in so many ways. I feel we know that we have a gift both with our words and with our heart. We’re dedicating our lives and careers to using our hearts and shaping the lives of others. I think people who are prone to having several layers that they don’t let others see are typically those who enter this field that we’re working in. Instead of putting our broken pieces on the table, we stitch together everyone else’s. And it’s ironic, really. Sometimes, when I am sitting in session with a client who’s being vulnerable and letting me into their world, I envy them. I envy their ability to let a complete stranger in. And I often think that by writing, I’m doing that. I’m letting people in. But much like you, there’s only so much I allow to seep through my words. After reading this, I also want to dig deeper and put more of my heart on the line. So thank you so much for this. I really needed it.

    xo Jackie

    PS: With grad school loans, there’s income based repayment and loan forgiveness after a certain amount of time if you are working in a non-profit. I just applied for the income based. There’s loopholes and help everywhere. You’ll be able to do it!

  5. Hannah sooo knows how to peel those layers! And I’m completely jealous you got to meet her in person!! Eeps!

    I feel the same way friend 🙂 I always look forward to your own words and thoughts because we’re such kindred spirits for lack of a better term hah!

    “I think people who are prone to having several layers that they don’t let others see are typically those who enter this field that we’re working in.” This is so accurate. We open our hands and ears to others, but tend to keep our own packed away until it’s just too much to hold. I feel like writing is also my best attempt at vulnerability, but it’s so hard. In the aftermath of writing this I keep catching myself continually taking myself out of my writing. It’s kind of hilarious actually now that I’m aware of it.

    P.S. I have heard of that before! I’m sure I’ll be doing something similar 🙂 We’ll dig our way out!

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