How to Move to Lebanon in 4 Days

1. Pack your life into a suitcase. Technically you could bring two suitcases, though I recommend a suitcase and then a duffle for your books and shoes. Less to carry. I know packing is hard enough when you’re going to be gone for a week, but packing to start a new life is totally different. Try starting with the items you know you can’t live with out. And bring enough underwear to make it through the apocalypse. Play eenie meenie miney moe with your shoes. Apologize profusely to all the of the sentimental clothing items you have to leave behind. If you’re going to bring heavy things, bring books not a hair dryer. If you have extra weight in your suitcase, bring more books. If you have even a tiny bit of space in your carry-on, squeeze in another book. Bring photographs of all the people you love. Build a time machine, go back in time and take more pictures of the people you love, and even a few of the people you don’t (because who knows, you might end up missing them later). Realize there will be things you will forget and wish you had. Take a deep breath and remove half of the items you’ve packed (except for the books). Now remove another half. Now a third. Squeeze in your favorite sunflower picture frame with that photo of you and your sister. Add another book. Ok your out of time, too late for anything else.

2. Say goodbye. Well first you should announce that you’re leaving. Then say goodbye shortly after that. Give everyone your time. Yes, there are a lot of things you need to get done. You’re stressed out, and you want a moment to process, but forget about that and give yourself time for goodbyes. Expect it to be hard because your life is good, your friends are amazing, your family is wonderful. Accept that you won’t have as much time as you want. Understand that you’ll never be able to leave quietly without anyone noticing. Realize that it’s better to feel unsettled about all the doors left open than to feel closure but find yourself locked in an empty room. Be ok with things left unsaid. Let everyone hug you as much as they want. Let them cry. Let yourself cry. As hard as it is, let yourself feel the emotions of the people around you. Feel the goodbyes from the top of your head to the tips of your toes. Let the ache remind you of how good life can be.

3. Breathe for a moment. When your cuddled up on the couch with your ex-roommate, and your friends are doing yet another Harry Potter character quiz, sit back for a moment and breathe. When your driving down your street towards your house, look at every tree and breathe. Stop for a moment to play your favorite song on the ukulele while your friend eats a grapefruit and breathe. Take an extra minute to run your hands over the dusty surfaces of your room. As you breathe memorize the details of every shelf and window pane. Take time in the morning to squeeze into bed with your little sister. When spending your last night at a pub with your friends, sit back for a moment. Listen to them talk and laugh. Breathe in that moment. Feel their happiness. Inhale and realize the fullness of your life and lungs. And when you spend your last morning exhaling the city and trying to find the right words to say remember what it feels like to be there. Freeze those moments. Collect them in your mind and reenter them whenever you feel lonely. Let every breath be a door to unfinished moments. When you’re flying away on the airplane and you’re so full of everything, run away to the bathroom and let yourself breathe and cry and not know why your crying. Realize that sometimes your breaths spill out of your eyes for no reason at all. Breathe as you leave, and also breathe as you arrive.

4. Say hello. Newness has arrived. It’s what you’ve been searching for. There will be a part of you that doesn’t want to leave the airport, but remember that this is everything you’ve always said you wanted. So want it. Say hello to your dream, and understand that dreams never look exactly the same in the daylight as they did at night. The smells will be eager to meet you and so will all the new sounds so stick out your hand and introduce yourself. Say hello to the sunrise that looks different than any other you’ve seen. Say hello to all the new dust specks floating around in the rays of sun. Say hello to the moon again and let him know of your new home so he can send his moon beams to the right place. Say hello to all the beautiful eyes that are wanting to help and let them help. Say hello to this scary, beautiful new place, and choose to let it be a home. Let it say hello back. Let it overwhelm you and shock you. Let it comfort and amaze you. Say hello and wait with expectation for this brand new adventure to say hello back.

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I want I want I want

I’ve rewritten this post about 8 times now, because I keep saying everything the wrong way. Let’s try again. I’ll keep it short.

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This season has been new, because I haven’t felt like running away.

This is where I am literally, figuratively, emotionally, whatever. I am here. And I want to have the freedom to feel the things I feel. I want to be brave enough for the normal things. I don’t want to be intimidated by hipster coffee shops. I want to at least have the confidence to wear leggings as pants if I so desire. I want to be a hugger.  I want to speak up in class. I want to be ok with being wrong. I don’t want to break eye contact first. I want closeness and adventure. I want dancing and mountain climbing and kissing and writing and running simply for the freedom of it. I want so much courage. I want to believe all the things that I write. I want to mean something. I want this to mean something.

I might only have a few weeks left in this place, or I might have a few years. But I want what I want from the depths of my heart and with a sincerity that I didn’t know I had. I want these things because they are good and pure and full of God. I want to be full of God. I don’t want to be afraid of myself or of you or of anything else. I want to feel freedom from the top of my head to the tips of my toes. I want light bursting from my fingertips and leaving puddles of loveliness at the places on the table where my fingers have been tapping. I want you to feel it when I touch you, and I don’t want to be afraid of the consequences of that. I want to live freely. I want and I want and I want, but I’m not sure I know how to do anything else.

It won’t be long now, I can feel it. The words will burst from my veins, tired of being hoarded. I’ll open my mouth and speak to your eyes and everything I say will sound like, “courage, dear heart.” That’s the only way any of this will mean something.

“Step into it. Come closer.”

The Freest Bird

So here it finally is: my short story. 99% factual. Hope you like it!

“Air Canada flight 194 with service to London, Heathrow, now boarding all seats, all zones.” I slap my laptop shut and shove it quickly into my canvas backpack. Ticket. Passport. Check. Check. I get in line behind a large talkative German man. “Please don’t let him be sitting next to me,” I pray silently. My flight from Atlanta to Toronto was perfect, because the seat next to me was empty. I know I won’t get that lucky this time around.

My ticket is scanned and I walk down the long tunnel and onto the plane. I walk through business class, world traveler plus, economy plus, and into economy. There’s my seat, 28A. I put my extra things into the overhead bin and then sit and wait to see who I’m going to have to spend the next eight hours with. My cheek rests against the small round window. It’s raining in Toronto just like it was in Atlanta, and I suspect it will be in London. There are men in bright orange vests bustling around outside with suitcases. A mother behind me is desperately trying to stop her child from crying. A Muslim family occupies the 5-seat row across the aisle from me. A flight attendant in a blue uniform and high heals is busy helping an Asian man trying to stuff his oversized suitcase into the overhead compartment. There is no way that it will fit. I poke my head up over the seats and look behind me. I spot the German man three rows back, talking the ears off some young blonde girl. I feel bad for her, but I’m glad it’s not me.

Suddenly, without warning my fate arrives with a “Hi ya!” It’s a boy. He sits down and smoothes out his grey trousers. “I nearly missed the flight,” he says in a perfect British accent. I smile at him, but I can’t find a thing to say because my brain has just melted, and any logical thought has oozed out my ears. The boy has a mop of wavy brown hair, green eyes and a crooked smile with a dimple in his left cheek. He can’t be much older than me. I look down at my hands and begin picking off the pale pink nail polish and silently reprimanding myself for being so awkward. My mind plays out a scenario of the next eight hours. I spill all my dinner on my lap. I accidentally fall asleep on his shoulder and drool on him. I die of embarrassment. That sounds pretty accurate. Pulling myself back to reality, I remind myself to be normal. It’s just eight hours, but what if these eight hours determine the fate of the rest of my life? What if this nameless British boy is the ever-allusive “one”? I suddenly see myself wearing a white dress, gliding down an aisle in a big church with stained glass windows.

I pull my iPod out of my pocket in an attempt to hide my awkwardness. I immerse myself in shooting little birds at green pigs. I just need to keep looking down. I know if I look at him, he will instantly know every thought that just went through my head. I wind my long brown hair around my fingers as the plane begins to move. The flight attendants start explaining what to do in the event of a crash landing. Why do they never give relevant information, like what to do in the event of being seated next to a cute boy? That would be helpful. I cannot believe myself. I’ve only been away from home for six hours, and I’m already in over my head. It was just a few days ago that I told Ben that I needed to be on my own right now, that I was leaving for England and didn’t have time for a relationship. Now here I was, envisioning my marriage to a total stranger. It’s not surprising though. I’m constantly on the look out for a new ear to talk into. When I find one, I’m convinced that this ear will be the one that will listen forever. Two months later it’s always gone. It’s almost become a hobby of mine, this ear collecting.

The British boy takes out a book and starts reading. I glance at the cover. I don’t recognize the title. He sees me looking and uses the opportunity.

“So what are you going to England for?” He asks as he shuts his book and stuffs it in the seat back in front of him.

“To study,” I say, louder than I mean to.

“Really? What are you studying?”

“Theology. I’m going to a Bible School.” I make sure to correctly pronounce the word Bible. It’s the one word I say that lets everyone know that I’m from Georgia.

Suddenly the captain overhead, “Flight attendants prepare for take-off.”

I glance out the window and silently say goodbye to North America. My heart flutters. I’m not scared to go. I am ready. Day after day working at a children’s clothing store gets old, and so does weekend after weekend smoking cigars on my friend’s back porch. As the plane starts ascending into the grey sky, I make up my mind to stop smoking and to end the marathon of meaningless relationships. My next relationship will last, I do solemnly swear. Raindrops accumulate on the window as we pass through cloud after sad, grey cloud. The plane shakes as we go higher. The clouds get thinner and whiter, and finally, the airplane breaks through, and it’s like everything pauses. It feels like the plane is resting on the top of the clouds. Orange and yellow and red sunlight streams through the windows turning all the people in the airplane into shadows on the walls and floor. I watch the sunlight through closed eyes. It looks fuzzy and red. It feels warm in the cold airplane. With a sigh I pull myself away from the peace of a perfectly clear sky. I look down at my right arm and notice that it’s about one centimeter from the British boy’s arm.

“So Bible School?” He says, now that the plane has quieted a bit.

“Yes. Bible School. I’m very excited.” The more I say it, the more it becomes true.

“That sounds lovely,” He says. I can feel myself melting into a puddle.

A flight attendant walks by and gives me a coy, knowing smile. It’s the kind of smile my mother would give me if she were here right now. That knowing look that is fully aware that with every accented word this boy says, the more trouble I am in.

“Have you been to London before?” He asks.

“Just once, when I was fifteen. This is my first time here on my own.”

“Well you have to make sure you go to Notting Hill and the Camden markets…”

His eyes become bright and animated as he tells me of the lesser-known places around London. He talks about parks he used to play in as a child. He tells me about a little second hand shop just off of Portobello road that no one but the locals ever goes to. There is a café by his aunt’s home in Chelsea that has the best cupcakes in the entire world. We bond over our mutual affection for the Chelsea team. He is surprised that an American girl knows anything at all about club soccer. Then right on cue the flight attendant pulls the dinner cart up to our row of seats. He takes chicken. I take pasta, and ginger ale, always ginger ale. I say a silent prayer thanking God for the airplane food and for sitting me next to this boy, and will He please, oh please, let me get his number? Amen.

I take a careful bite of lasagna as the boy starts talking about the work he does in an orphanage in Seattle. I proceed to do my best of impressing him with my long list of church activities, mission trips, volunteer work. I tell him how I tutor refugee children in my spare time. I go into long detail about the work I did in Africa last summer teaching English to street kids. He seems impressed. The last time I tried to impress a boy it was Ben. I told him I liked motorcycles, which I don’t. Luckily the conversation was over text message so when he asked me what my favorite type was, I was able to quickly look something up. At least the things I’m telling this boy are true. For the next four hours I learn everything about the boy. He tells me about his mother who died when he was young. He tells me about his time in college, the girls he’s dated, and his plans for the future. I insert a few of my own comments on my college experience and my family, reciting these facts about myself like someone would recite lines of play. I’m so afraid of saying the wrong thing. I notice how slowly time seems to pass. It’s like I can feel each heavy second, being added to my age, little by little, bit by bit.

“Time always seems to freeze when you’re on a long over night flight, doesn’t it?” I ask, surprising myself by detouring from the script.

“How do you mean?”

“Well, when you’re in the air, you lose a sense of time. My body is telling me that it’s 1:45 in the morning, because that’s what time it is back at home; but it’s 5:45 in the morning in the place I am going to land. But up here in the air it’s not really either of those times. There is no real time. Each second feels longer and more important, but at the same time each second doesn’t really matter at all.”

I hear myself rambling and wish to take the words back. I never have been good at expressing the way I feel. The boy smiles at me and studies my face for what seems like an hour, but was probably no more than five seconds.

“My name is Charlie, by the way,” he says, sticking out his hand, but still watching my face.

My mouth twitches into a smile. “Nice to meet you Charlie. I’m Elizabeth.” I fit my small hand into his larger one and match his gaze. His handshake is firm. My hand probably feels cold and clammy to him. As he lets go, a chill runs through me, and I hug my sweater tighter. I yawn and rest my head against the cold plastic window again. He leans his seat back, reading my mind.

“Goodnight Elizabeth.”

It feels good to close my eyes. The next thing I know there is sunlight piercing through my eyelids, and a flight attendant is coming up the aisle with a coffee cart. I look over and Charlie is still asleep. The captain comes on overhead to tell us that there are thirty minutes till we land. I stuff any stray belongings into my backpack. When the flight attendant comes, I get coffee, two creams, and one sugar. I go through the mental checklist of what I will need when I land: immigration card and passport. I need to get the directions to the hostel out of my suitcase. Home feels like a lifetime ago. I look out of the window and notice the soggy, grey clouds enveloping the airplane, as we get closer to the ground. The turbulence from the descent wakes Charlie up. He leans towards me, staring out at the empty grey. For a moment we are united in silent anticipation. The landing gear activates with a grinding and a grumble. Green fields and groves of trees start to appear through breaks in the clouds. We are about to touch down. I count in my head: 3…2…1… Right on time. We pull up to the gate and everyone shoots to their feet. Charlie follows behind me in silence as we walk out of the plane, through the long tunnel, and into the airport. Weary eyed and groggy, we wander with about two hundred other people into customs. I turn to Charlie to comment on the length of the lines, but he’s been replaced by the large German man. I look around and spot him in the line for British citizens. He is scanning the crowd, but doesn’t see me. Perhaps I will see him in baggage claim. However, after forty minutes in customs I find my bag, but Charlie is gone.

I drag my big suitcase out of the airport and onto a train. Rain pelts the windows. Buildings whirl by. Hyde Park corner is my stop. I drag my suitcase down Oxford street and finally up the steps of Caledonian Backpackers Lodge. The receptionist has a nose ring and long tangled dread locks. She helps me store my luggage and gives me my room key. Once I’m settled, I sling my tan bag over my shoulder and head out into the cold air. Pulling my hood over my head to block the slight drizzle, I walk towards Hyde Park. I wander through the trees, past the Peter Pan statue, and along the edge of the lake. I find a secluded grove of trees and collapse my tired body onto the grass. My purse acts as a make shift pillow. As I lie beneath the trees I wonder where in the city Charlie is. I wonder what he is doing. I let my arms stretch out across the grass like two bird wings. I pretend I’m flying over London. I can see the London Eye, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, and the Thames River. I fly through this city where no one knows me. I’m just a nameless face among thousands of others. Here on the ground in the grass, I’m the freest bird there ever was. I won’t waste a second, I do solemnly swear.

Sailing

This is another poem I had to write for my English class. We had to read this book called The Sweet In Between by Sheri Reynolds and write a poem based on it. I think this poem can make sense even if you haven’t read the book. I hope you enjoy it! Oh and if you don’t already Follow me on Twitter and Follow Me on Pinterest

Sailing

I exist as a tiny figure on a rickety boat with one sail
Floating in a vast ocean.
A big green–blue wave rocks my boat and turns it east,
So alone I go.
My only friends are the fish, scaly and wet,
Swimming along side.

Once as I was sailing there was another boat.
In it was an old man with a rotting smile.
His rusty fishing pole caught a pretty fish.
He gutted her, skinned her, and ate her.
He threw her left over pieces in the ocean.
One day I thought I saw her eyeball floating, staring at me.

A grayish frothing wave strikes my worn vessel and pushes me south.
Ocean water, salty as tears, splashes into my mouth,
Reminding me how thirsty I always am.
The seagulls come. They eat my food. They try to peck my eyes.
They perch on the edge of my boat and call out in their vulgar language.

My ship springs a leak so I bandage it quick,
So that it will be strong and ready if there is an attack.
There was a pirate attack once,
Back when my blonde hair was long and my ship sailed north.
They took my mother, stripped her bare, and made her walk the plank.
My father, he became one of them.
I haven’t seen him since.

The wind balloons my sail, and I go south.
Sometimes I think about sailing to Europe.
I’d go to France. I’d take pictures,
But I don’t have the slightest idea how to get there.
I wish I were a gust of wind. I would go where I wanted,
Through people’s hair, up into the clouds, wherever.

A giant wave comes squashing me.
I’m tossed into the water, drowning.
As I’m plunged into the icy depths I can imagine my mother’s voice, crooning,
And my father’s arms suffocating me in a hug.
The waves pass and I find myself lying on my back,
On the floor of my boat, with the sunlight drying my face.

My dampened sail balloons up
I’m heading west.