usual jubilant self

Things that happened unexpectedly over the course of this evening that were completely surprisingly life-giving:

  • Getting into catch-up text conversations with people who live in Fredericksburg because google rerouted us through there away from the unending terribleness that is I-95. Feeling like I wish I could catch up with all these faraway people rather than wanting to avoid social obligations (the latter being my usual m.o., as of late).
  • Eating bowls of takeaway jajangmyun around a mattress-bound JoQuy because my mom’s generosity rubbed off on me a little over this past weekend and because there have been so many little reminders to take advantage of difficulties, to fill out the hard corners of life with some extra grace. (re: Judith and her new baby. re: work exhaustion. re: noisy neighbors. etc. etc.)
  • Exploding a bottle of kombucha all over the kitchen and cleaning up all the surfaces with Mark’s t-shirt. All the while laugh-crying at the absurdity of it all, just like the emoji.
  • Admiring Mark’s resilience in the face of laundry and other post-weekend-away chores while I sat on the couch, overwhelmed and sucked down yet another Pinterest rabbit hole. Who says I’m the clean-freak-put-together one around here?

I dunno what it was about the magic combination of all these things this weekend and evening that made me feel a little more like my “usual jubilant self” (quote a la Mark) than the weakly, cranky old woman I’ve been feeling like I have become. Whatever it was, I’m grateful for the dose of resilience as our upstairs neighbors stomp around the bedroom above us and as yet another Monday looms nigh, all ~hello darkness my old friend~like.

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all or nothing

I was so indifferent about going out to watch the requisite fireworks for Fourth of July that I slipped on my uber-chill, uber-ratty pair of Adidas slides — the pair I reserve only for walking to and from the laundry room, inside our building — to trudge out to the end of our street where the little hill overlooking 395 is, apparently, a coveted viewing location around here.

As I tsked and tsked my way through the double- and triple-parked cars all the way to the hairpin curve of our tiny street, I explained to Mark that I’m “all or nothing, you know? Like, if I really wanted to watch fireworks, I would have gone INTO DC and been there right in the thick of it. It just doesn’t seem worth it to stand here, miles away, watching through shoulders and hats.”

But boy was I pleasantly surprised by this little microcosm of a celebration at the end of our street.

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Surrounded by our fellow non-DC-venturers, we had a little taste of everything on the (non)chalance spectrum, all huddled together at the top of that hill. A couple of wiseguy commentators offering their unending opinions on this and that particular sparkler, an overly enthused grandma not wanting her grandkid to miss a single burst and unable to help herself from offering her own play-by-play, the tired-and-obligatorily-there mama, and the KIDDOS… Oohing and ahhing honestly, exclaiming a lil more loudly for the more impressive lights among them, but overall just pleased as punch to be there. One kid yelling, “NO!! SLEEP!! TILL BROOKLYNNN!!” after a particularly impressive combination of sparky displays, much to the chuckles of the adults around him.

Despite my previously tsky attitude, I found myself more and more on my tippy toes as the crowd swayed and moved to the beat of the lights. Enjoying the fireworks. Enjoying that hot, hot night air. Enjoying being in the middle of that medium-ish group of stranger-neighbors who had parked so deplorably all over our street. Had brought their unwanted opinions and unnecessary commentaries to the evening’s festivities. Had hoisted their kiddos on their tired shoulders so the little ones could ooh and ahh like none of us adults could muster up the energy to do. Causing a certain Adidas slides–clad adult from down the street to suddenly feel very old and very circle-of-lifey, all at once.

the beautiful things of this world

My goodness, I thought. Poor fellow! You did not give this place a proper chance, but fled it recklessly, leaving behind forever the beautiful things of this world.

Forgoing eternally, sir, such things as, for example: two fresh-shorn lambs bleat in a new-mown field; four parallel blind-cast linear shadows creep across a sleeping tabby’s midday flank; down a bleached-slate roof and into a patch of wilting heather bounce nine gust-loosened acorns; up past a shaving fellow wafts the smell of a warming griddle (and early morning pot-clangs and kitchen-girl chatter); in a nearby harbor a mansion-sized schooner tilt to port, sent so by a flag-rippling, chime-inciting breeze that causes, in a port-side schoolyard, a chorus of childish squeals…

Lincoln in the Bardo, p. 140-141

…from kiddos and their adults running, playing, cheering in a sun-drenched field full of grass and soft breezes, soaking in a Saturday afternoon’s slice of perfect weather in the in-between spaces blurring spring and summertime.

practice

Christians, Christians assert, are inherently not fully Christian unless they live in community among other believers. It is the practice of being in community that leads us to fully be (and become) who we are (and who we’re meant to be). We’re part of a single body, with varied capacities but a unified purpose. So it makes sense that you belong with other members of that body. Hands, feet, etc.

Widen the scope and it still works: Humans, too, become ever more human by the practice of being in community with other humans. A human in isolation has little hope of fully developing — we need to talk to, look at, study, love, be loved by each other to learn more of ourselves, in turn. The others are our mirrors and windows, shifting at different angles; they show us bits and shadows and sometimes, full-on reflections of who we are, who we would like to be, what we would like to avoid becoming.

And despite all the aforementioned glass metaphoring, our greatest moments of revelation lie in collisions against other humans (and the stormy circumstances of life-in-general that brew said collisions) that sometimes slice right through and reveal the pinky soft flesh of what we’re really made of, just beneath the manicured lawn of all our pretty surfaces.

And if the being among others — at work, in traffic, at home, and in the church — is an essential part of practicing the art of humanness, each day holds that much more meaning, promise. Each day is another day for practice toward becoming more and more refined as a human person. One more opportunity to collect against your 10,000 hours toward master human-ship.

I’m gonna try my best to go to work tomorrow morning with this in mind. That I’m going out into the world to practice my being among people, and to try my darnedest to do good job at this being (a good) human thing. That I won’t fear colliding into people and things but rather embrace those opportunities to learn a lil about myself, to peer into my pinky dermis and below, see what I’m made of, and grow from there. That it’s a gift to be appreciated and used well, not just squandered waiting for another Friday.

trivia-l

It’s often the smallest things that feel like the biggest deal in the fickle world of my emotional life.

Just as the crush of work has eased a bit, I’ve started using the whiteboard at the entrance to our team’s little cubicle block to present passersby with trivia questions with multiple choice answers. Asking about the history of the English alphabet, the short-lived other name of Uranus, the tone in which most toilets flush… etc. So, anything, really, that struck my fancy from Buzzfeed’s list of fun lil factoids.

It was a bit of a struggle to get people to interact with the board at first — people feel weird about interacting with technically-other-people’s whiteboards, I guess. Or maybe it’s the finality of that dry erase marker — declaring yourself right or wrong, even though literally no one is keeping track of who picks which answer. In any case, because of the board-shyness, for the first couple questions, I’d catch anyone who paused at the question and implore them to PICK an answer right there!

But once it got going, the little conversations that would bubble up around that board made me the happiest little cube-dweller EVER. I’d turn right round and engage people in small talk, conjecturing togetherly about what the last letter added to the English alphabet might’ve been (it was J!!) — and how chatting about fascinating it would be if Uranus had been named LOUISE at one point (it wasn’t; GEORGE was the correct answer there). Just having an excuse to interact with the people who walk, eat, talk, work around me all the time on subjects not related to work was refreshing, even life-giving.

And the beautiful thing is that it costs zero dollars. Takes no more than a few seconds of everyone’s lives. But gives us so much intangible connectivity as coworkers and co-cube dwellers.

I’m notoriously intense as a coworker — that’s what my CFA team pointed out as my greatest strength and greatest weakness. It means I focus first and foremost on work, even at the detriment of the opportunities for connection-making with the people who make it all happen alongside me.

As I walked out of the office at the end of the day, that fateful day of the first trivia question, I realized how springy my step was, how positively whistle-while-you-work I was feeling. All cause of a trivia-l little addition to my ordinary workday. In this way, I remember how it’s in all the little moments that life is actually lived. The big, milestoney markers may be the way you tell the big-brushstroke story of your existence, but it’s all the little crumbs of daily life that make all the difference in your difference-making.

So we trivia on.

Of dictators and heros

We went over to the Cases today and watched Hero.

Fell into a big conversation about whether we would have followed through with killing the emperor or not.

At first, voted No because, Unification and Peace, yawl.

But then, realized that also goes hand in hand with #dictatorship.

So changed my mind, in favor of diversity and chaos. Mark had always voted Yes, but for (typically) different reasons.

He said, cause, family. Ten years. Promises. People who are relying on you.

I said, diversity. Freedom. Even though Chaos.

Big picture vs. individual story. It prevails again and threatens to divide our kingdom!!

Was riding on a veritable cloud nine until thoughts turned dark and I wondered if I enjoyed these conversations with the Cases so much just because they are right at that level of interesting—small enough to be graspable, big enough to scratch that brain itch. Maybe it’s all just an ego trip.

Or maybe it’s just a break from the humdrum, Mark said.

Big vs. small again, indeed.

the people we food with

The February photodump — cam to hard drive — has unearthed a lot of moments of food and people we love. And a glance back through the blog archives reveals that the one post from Feb 2017 is something of a “food and folks” post, too.

Guess February is the month of good food and good company.

We’re in a real groove of normalcy now — there are people we meet up with, month after month. People we make plans with at the end of each meet up, everyone scrounging through our phones for another weekend that’ll work, in a few weeks’ time. We make plans, commit to see each other soon, bring/find food, and eat together for the sake of catching up together.

I’m grateful for these grooves.

I always used to pride myself a lil bit on the fact that my closest friendships were based not on the frequency — or even the overall quantity — of time spent togetherly. “Quality over quantity,” I’d say, my metaphorical nose in the air.

But these days, I’m yearning for the regularity of an oft-seen face. Or two or three or five. Now my calendar is full of people I’ve seen “just a month ago,” which sometimes still doesn’t feel like enough. I want normal-life, humdrum conversations, about work and commutes and recipes we’ve tried — sprinkled in with vast contemplations about life, too, duh.

The important thing — and the thing that makes me a more grown up person now than when I was in college, with my nose in the air — is to recognize these seasons of life as such, and appreciate each for its own reasons.

College was a time of mad dashes through classes and clubs and homework AND friends. I was bombarded by life — in the best way, as college does — and thoughts and conversations and growth and friendships were happening all naturally (and also, somehow, so magically). In the wee hours in a dorm room. At the dining hall over breakfast. During afternoon nap/study sessions in the hush of the library. And those quarterly mad catch-up sessions with the besties were enough, because that’s all my life had room for.

And that was good for then.

But now, days and evenings clock in and out with a cozy regularity that I can sometimes confuse with monotony. And life these days is filled with dinners that need cooking, plants that need watering, sleeps that need getting. I dunno what exactly it is that’s changed, but my heart, it yearns for friends who are close and near. Heart-wise and commute-wise.

How foolish of me to have turned my snooty little nose up at the beauty of relationships built over time and shared everydays.

How grateful I am now, to scroll through photos of familiar faces, month after faithful month — sharing food, sharing our time, sharing stories of the little things that have mattered to us in the past few weeks.

How grateful for these grooves.

(And, ahem, the photos.)

man vs. nature

There’s something satisfying about nature stopping us in our tracks to do something of its own accord — no matter the plans of the humans.

Something deep in the way that a solar eclipse brings a bunch of different people from a bunch of different office spaces all outside — or at least toward the windows — to marvel at a thing that rotates above us every other day, too.

Something sweet about the way traffic stops for a baby squirrel in the middle of a road.

Something majestic about a winter snowstorm — that we try to wrangle with crazy monikers like SNOWPOCALYPSE or WINTERBOMB — that stops societies, businesses, even governments. 😉

Something humbling about the way a houseplant can make you feel — overjoyed and proud like a mama bear when they’re shiny and well, and then despairing the next moment, when they start dropping brown leaves.

All this to say, that

I’d love a snow day tomorrow.

running lightly with just a few cookies

Despite a disappointing show by my own aquafaba cookies, I braved the newly December-cold evening to join the Harvest ladies for a cookie exchange — partly because I wanted to check in with these lovely folks I’d been missing, partly because cookies, partly because a cookie exchange is a whiteppl (orrrr…americanppl?) tradition I’d never ever partaken of before and I was curious.

And the flat, crispy-chewy failure of choc chip meringues (half-batch, no less) felt somehow RIGHT and honest as a representation of my confidence in the kitchen anyhow.

It was FUN. We chit-chatted, oohed and ahhed over the mountains of other, successful batches of cookies, and just caught up on each others’ lives as ladies do. We prayed over Robin as she and Ben are looking toward their move to and new life in Texas.

After it all, we bundled back up and out into the cold(er) night air. I trailed Janelle down the steps and realized that we’d parked in the same row of visitor spots, but didn’t get to walk with her cause she was being carried away on the winds of her excitement to get home / desire to get out of the cold night air into that magic van of hers.

As I watched her skip, jog, run toward that car, I couldn’t help but laugh cause there was something so childlike about her skedaddle. I wanted to skip after her and race to our cars together, but was worried for the too many cookies in my cookie-haul bags. (Cause, what if the force of my gallops crushed the cookies against themselves? and the like.) I watched her dash faster and faster away and suddenly felt so old and weighed down, a bagful of cookies in each hand. Imagined her hands, free of cookie bags — or at least only holding one, lightly filled one, maybe — and grasping instead at the fresh night air.

I walked slowly back to my own car, waving Janelle off awkwardly with the coupla free fingers on my one hand with the smaller bag of cookies and laughing, still, at what a cute, kidlike run hers was. Sad for myself for being so weighed down by cookies, but conflicted about that, cause…like I said, cookies.

Unexpected notes to self re: cookie exchange: Don’t be so greedy with things that they keep you from running in the refreshing night air when you want to. Learn to live with less, to consume less, to enjoy lightness more.