humans

are marvelous, are terrible, are suffering, are jubilant.

are complicated, are multifaceted, are difficult to please, are predictable.

I’m a whole tangled mess of feelings tonight about human beings. It’s been a weird and emotional few days — feeling exultant, grateful, terribly annoyed (and then terribly sorry), and so, so sad about so many different things.

There are complicated feelings about friendships and relationships and the troubles of mankind. And troubles of my friends, too. People are going through some real deep and sad things, and here I am sitting and wallowing in an incomprehensible self-pity. There’s grief over a lost romance; uncertainty about sacrificial decisions made for family; deep, inconsolable hurt from people who had been trusted. And then there’s me, crying about who knows what.

After a certain point, I can’t point my finger at any one thing as the cause or the beginning, and Mark just rubs my shoulder as my eyes leak tears cause of overflow.

There are a few things I am certain of:

  • Music has a weird magic about it that makes us feel complicated and wondrous things. I think it’s a tool (and a gift) that God’s given us. For our pleasure and development. And his glory.
  • Community is crucial and lifesaving (and lifegiving).
  • I am a rude, rough-around-the-edges kind of person who needs more of God’s grace in her life.
  • Cuddly kittens are therapeutic.
  • Humans are marvelous, are terrible, are suffering, are jubilant. Are complicated, are multifaceted, are difficult to please, are predictable.

I love and hate these feelings tonight.

 

love and timing

  • How much is a love experience shaped by the trappings of life at that moment? The life stage you’re in. The hard/sad/awesome stuff you’re going through. The level of maturity your heart and head are at. People talk about connections — soul, heart, mind, spirit?, humor! — but just how much of all of that is about…timing? Different lovers you meet don’t necessarily result in different kinds of connections because of who they are, but because of who they are at that moment. And who you are at that moment. And how ya got there.
  • Is this why there is such a magic/aura/myth about first love? Because, in its most glorified form, first love takes place early on in your formation as a human — teen years, early 20s, young adulthood — though each of those, obviously, is different and beautiful and anguished in its own way. But all in all, those are magical times, even as just a singleton. Add the explosive reactants of loving and of being loved, and the reactions are that much more formative. Is it, too, about the new pathways your brain is forging in that first relationship? Is each following iteration a follow-on glide down the already formed pathway? So the first glide — or cut, depending on your perspective — is the deepest. Could we almost call it the first learn?
  • What about, then, effort and time? Relationships — romantic and otherwise — need time to bloom and to breathe. They require you to stop rushing about and to give them some attention and love. (Much like a garden, a pet, a catch-up dinner in the WMA.) To plan an actual evening away from duties and responsibilities, even if that requires planning to travel an extra three hours back and forth that day (for. real.). Cause it’s worth it to you. Maybe that, too, is a matter of the timing of your life. Relationship-building requires you to be the type of person ready to put in that kind of effort, and a person with some breathing room in your calendar to devote to the growth of a relationship blossom.

Sometimes I get stuck in Feeling ruts, trip-falling hard on a crag that makes me plunge SPLAT into an emotion puddle. I look up and get up, shake off and keep on walking, but soaked, drenched, in allll the feels. It takes me a whole evening-night of bleary-eyed blogging to dry off sometimes.

One big puddle tonight. And I’m bleary eyed and stubbornly sad indeed, and wondering about these age-old questions again again again, again.

travelog update: bachelorette in the Shenandoah

An update!

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“Wait wait… Is everyone here? 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 yep!”

A weekend of rest and relaxation and selfies and goat-petting. And being impressively well organized and extremely well fed. And consequently, being pretty proud of ourselves for adulting so well. A bachelorette weekend, I guess, is a good time to feel like a put-together adult person. 🙂

Props to Meesh for the Excel-lent event organization and the crucial face masks, to Iz for bringing along all the food love from Mama Lee, to Clarisse for being our grillmaster and headlamp-ed firekeeper (and for the pervy reminders that we are at a bachelorette weekend, after all ;)), to Grace for butchering a hunk of meat nobody else wanted to touch, to Schoi for the scream-worthy spider discoveries, and to Rebs for everything else — killing said spiders, blowing up then destroying decorative balloons, driving us through the mountains (with two in trunk), and of course, for the selfie stick.

in sickness and in health: chronicles of injuries and caretaking

This surgery’s been a long time coming, though we didn’t know it.

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Mark hurt his (ring) finger about a month ago, playing frisbee. He dove for a catch (read: threw his body toward the unforgiving earth with too much confidence in his youth and flexibility) and dislocated and fractured his lil digit.

At first, we thought it was just a dislocated joint, especially because he had “popped it back in” right after the crash. It took an x-ray three weeks later to reveal that he had popped it back in…just not to the right place.

The joint (first one up from the base) was popped out about a finger’s width on top of the rest of the hand, and the bone connecting the two joints was chipped, too. The way the surgeon described it, it seemed like the three weeks’ delay had been like a desert storm on that lil chip, wearing away at it until it was no more. Here, questions abound: where did the fragment go? Does it get reabsorbed into the blood stream? Is there a lot of erosion going on in our bodies, normally? If so, what’s doing all that jostling in there? I didn’t know how to phrase these questions appropriately and quickly enough to ask.

So the surgeon reset Mark’s joint (as a “let’s just see if this works” measure) and scheduled the formal surgery (because we were pretty sure the measure wouldn’t work) for the following Thursday. And since the resetting, Mark was told to keep his hand elevated above his heart — it prevents undue swelling — and thus, the multitude of photos of the Markling in the perpetual worshipful-hand-raise pose.

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After that first manual resetting, Mark was in a lot of pain. A desperate, helpless, sleepless kind of pain that demands all your attention but only intensifies when you offer it. He texted me all through those first two nights, unable to sleep — midnight… 1 am… 3 am… 5 am… It was heartbreaking, and I was completely useless to help. We tried getting the surgery moved up, but no luck.

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Fear and Powerlessness
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But it wasn’t all pain and tears. We did some fun stuff this past month, too. @ Thomas Sweet.
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also, Pasta.

The surgery day finally came, and as it approached, Mark’s fear grew and grew. It was kind of astounding to me, because I have an almost unnaturally blase attitude toward medical procedures. Needles, blood-giving, surgery…it’s all NBD to me. All the opposite for Mark. He despises needles, hates the thought of steel objects penetrating his dermis, fears physical pain above all else. Don’t tell the terrorists, but he would last zero seconds under torture…

The fear was palpable and uncontrollable. I was even getting frustrated with him — the fear becoming bigger than a matter of the finger and the pain itself and triggering questions of character, of faith. Why is he so afraid/what is it that makes me not as afraid? At the core, I trust in the medical establishment and their ability to make me better. Does he not believe that? Is this a trust-of-establishment thing? Why does he always expect the worst? Is it a God thing? Does he not believe that God has this under control? Is he even praying? 

I tried, really, to be patient — though I broke down at the last minute and mini-yelled at him to “Stop meeping!” right as we were walking into the surgery center. Worst, ever. I know. He forgave me, gracious even amidst the fear.

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Behind this tight-lipped smile is fear and anxiety, don’t let him fool you and please pray for him.

We met with the surgeon and discussed what the procedure would be like. Mark was small and shivery in his flimsy hospital gown and high-fashion hair net. We tried to watch Food Network to distract him from the gloomy chill of the pre-op area, analyzing cupcake flavors and laughing at the made-up drama of food competition TV shows. It was hard, though, because the surgeon had just told us that it would not be a good idea for Mark to travel right after his surgery, as we had been planning to do. Mark’s brother was graduating the next day, so we had planned to head down to be there.

It makes so much sense, in hindsight, that we would have to stick around at home and let Mark rest over the weekend, but we just had no idea what it would be like. We are — luckily — both pretty inexperienced in hospital procedures and figured that as long as I did the driving, it would be no big deal for us to travel. Wrong-oh. The surgeon looked at us with the single eyebrow raise almost visible through his tight facial control, questioning our common sense, and advised that it would be best to take it easy all weekend, hang out on the couch, watch TV, and administer meds as necessary.

It was disappointing… But I came to be grateful for the dashed plans, because this meant that both our schedules were completely free for the time that we had expected to be away.

Those four-ish hours in the waiting room flew by… I was busy texting updates and emailing prayer requests, reaching out and asking to be touched. My fear bubble had grown, too, because fear is infectious — I was feeling grave and sad and sending out pings in hopes of receiving some back. And receive I did.

People came through. Events like these, I realized, clarify who makes up your community and family. People called, emailed, texted, visited (!), letting us know that they loved us and were praying for Mark. Mark’s family even came up on Saturday to see Mark after his surgery and to grab a meal with us. Afterwards, Mark smiled like a goon and said, “I love my family,” at which I cracked up cause, like, duh.

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Scott calls Mark to encourage and to love. “Be strong and courageous,” he said (Joshua 1:7). “WHAT A GOOD GUY,” we said.
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A snippet of the post-op email update sent out to the DC small group. Theme: “We are so grateful.”

The surgeon came out, showed me before and after x-rays, complete with new bits of bone and pins poking through. He said that the joint was able to bend all the way to normal range (110 degrees, for those of you counting), so we’re hoping that with physical therapy, Mark can reset the doc’s PR for best recovery.

And thus began our four-day weekend of resting and worrying and relaxing and an uncharacteristic amount of cooking on my part. Like seriously, I have never cooked so many things in the span of four days. Who even am I?

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Couch-sleeper, thanks to J&Q’s gracious generosity. After finding out that we weren’t going to be going to Mark’s parents’ place for the weekend, we had to figure out real quick where we’d set this guy up — I didn’t want him to be alone. In short, my housemates are the best.
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Mac and cheese cures all.
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Bananer bread, gone in three days. Go us.
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“This is my favorite thing that you’ve ever cooked for me.” How can I not make it again? It’s super easy — pad krapow gai by Chef John: http://foodwishes.blogspot.com/2017/04/spicy-thai-basil-chicken-my-pad-krapow.html

It was a weekend of fitful sleeping, for sure, what with the medicine schedule and the jingle-jangle of Rogue the dog’s midnight prowls through the living room. But we did things we’ve never. done. before as a couple: hang around the house for hours, cook multiple meals in a row, (re)watch seasons of TV shows old and new, sit on the couch until my back hurt, do zero things of productivity. Like, normal people weekend activities. I know we were caring for an invalid here, but it felt kind of luxurious to me, in some ways.

And I got a teensy little taste of what it means to serve selflessly — like, putting my needs and wants on a back burner somewhere and thinking first about somebody else. And I noticed that the caretaking got easier over the weekend as I got more used to it. My selfish sharp edges were dulled a little in the face of real need and a very polite customer. Mark was an easy patient, grateful and eager to get better.

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#adulting at the grocery store, where we went to take a walk and advantage of the deals.

He has his post-op appointment on Tuesday, the day after tomorrow. And as our super-weekend winds down this evening, the Sunday feels are real. We’re sitting here, both back in our respective productivity modes as I blog with a vengeance and he puts the finishing touches on the wedding website. But for the first time in a long, long time, I feel really refreshed from what was actually a pretty stressful weekend. Ironic, yep. Such great ups and downs we’ve traveled in the span of these past 48-or-60-or-whatever hours — counting in chunks of four-to-six as the prescription bottles dictate, constantly asking for the enumeration of pain levels (on a scale of 1 to 10, how do you feel?), cooking and eating real meals, laughing at the antics of Michael Scott (and falling asleep to an anime episode…), taking stock of one another and feeling grateful for the way things are and not how they could’ve been.

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Eating mac and cheese on the floor, enjoying a cold sodie pop and cider while we watch Netflix via the PS3. “I feel like a real American!”

Will have to keep you posted on how we fare through next week and the next; I’m sure the chronicles of physical therapy will bring more ups and downs. But as of this moment, I sit here, grateful for the weirdness, the normalcy, and all the cheezy blogposts in between.

resilience

noun re·sil·ience \ri-ˈzil-yən(t)s\
  1. :  the capability of a strained body to recover its size and shape after deformation caused especially by compressive stress

  2. :  an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change

Life is full of compressive stress, misfortune, change. All of which may or may not be deformation causing.

For quite a while now, I have been pathetically lacking in this kind of necessary life gumption that gets you through the day without slumping over at every poke. I am a strained body, incapable of recovering my size and shape after the pokes and prods of everyday life. It’s nobody’s fault — just the result of a lot of different stressful events, thoughts that have made me sad, questions that have gone unanswered. And questions that have not yet been answered — at least not to my satisfaction.

I’ve been doing a lot of bemoaning and emoting, sometimes productive, and at other times, really not. And yeah, it’s healthy to let yourself feel stuff through and to “be okay with not being okay,” which itself was a huge milestone of a realization when I came upon that gem.

But I think it’s time to snap out of the self-pity-parties and not be so slumpy anymore. I wanna be resilient. *snap snap* Am I resilient yet?

Hm. How does one build resilience? Just spit-balling here, so forgive the mess:

  • First, acknowledge the bad. You’ve got a trove of sadnesses indeed, and those have made you the person you are JUST as much as the happinesses have grown you. Give them time in your thoughts without letting them crease your face.
  • Remember the good. Remember how things have turned out, remember the nuggets that were gleaned as a result. Remember how faithful.
  • Noodle about how the sadness, the gladness, the redemption all fits into the picture of creation as God has made it. The limits of your imagination =/= the limits of actual human reason, let alone God’s purposes. Ask older, wiser people when stuck.
  • Read back on sappy stuff about MM, cause he’s loved you since such a long time ago, back when you din’t barely hardly know nothin’ about what love even is. Back when you were going around like a fool, asking everyone else’s opinion, trying to social scientist your way to an answer.

What really inspired this post was the simple thought that I have been a little bit like the squishy white exterior of a steamed bun — impressionable in a bad way, no spring-back if you poke me — and that I would like to quit it and stop being this way.

Pray more, obsess less. Love more, demand less. Do more, brood less. Seems simple enough, right?

I’ll have to keep you posted on how this goes.

what is grief

There’s a lot of grief going on in lives all around me. People are losing their parents, their spouses, their loved ones; people are grieving the loss of relationships, romantic and otherwise; people are sometimes just having a hard time getting to sleep enough for each new day. Expand out and out, and there’s only more, and more, and more grief. It’s endless and insurmountable. That’s the deal we’ve got in this life.

Binge-listening to TTFA hasn’t been helping with this revelation. But also, has been helping. It’s a podcast where Nora McInerny talks to people about real, really sad, sadly raw answers to the question, “How are you?”

People go through some TERRIBLE things — and they’re sharing their stories. About loss, about sickness, about infertility, about mental illness. Mundane and awe-inspiring all at once. And all of this makes me weep in the traffic, weep in my car, weep in my bed as I listen and listen and listen and scroll through pages and pages and pages of social media that I don’t even have log-ins for, just to read the back stories.

And I feel grateful again, for the first time in a long time, for all of this WONDER I’ve been unacknowledging in my life as of late. All the NORMAL, PERFECT, BANAL, WONDROUS-WONDERFUL things.

Also I feel hopeful again, cause humans are resilient and beautiful in their empathy for other humans in suffering.

All of this is strangely comforting — all these suffering stories remind me that my suffering needn’t feel so lonely. Sometimes, all you have to do is acknowledge the sadness and share about it. You might be surprised by how your community responds. And who your community is made of. And how many others have tasted your bitterness and can stand with you, show you the way out of the tunnel.

 

Grief may look different on each person’s face, but it affects everyone’s insides in similar kinds of ways. But I so easily forget that everyone is a person, like I am a person — especially when they infringe on my comfort or convenience. And it’s hard to empathize with a person whose humanity you are overlooking.

We were talking about elevators at work one day, and L shared a story about hitting the Close Door button just to avoid waiting for the far-away person walking toward the metal doors. About how she’s been finding herself doing that more and more often these days.

And then K responded that she’d actually been doing the opposite, because she’d read somewhere that small acts of kindness connect us to our community — in these tiny, imperceptible ways that build up in layers over time — and remind us of the humanity inside every other human. Causing you to become more compassionate, in turn. (Maybe even inspiring others to be so.)

[Okay full disclosure: that whole paragraph^ after “K responded that she’d actually been doing the opposite” was my abstraction-ing from her actual words. But are you feeling me!?]

Why are the most basic human lessons the easiest to forget? Why do they fall out of my head the fastest, the slippiest?

Today, in the bathroom, I took some extra time to ask LL about her cough. She’s had it for a while, I think, and I could tell that she wished to be home instead.

After we had both finished washing our hands, I still stuck around and listened, and finally told her that I hoped she would feel better soon. Such a simple, simple thing.

But she paused and spoke these words, straight to my heart:

“Thank you, that actually helps a lot. Compassion.”

*throat squeeze*

Everyone needs compassion. Whether it’s a big grief or a small one or medium-sized, there’s a little part in most everyone that could use compassion from someone else, at any given moment. So why not me?

Compassion.

Everyone needs it. You haz it.

Share it.

chronicles of a recurring thought

April 24 – May 2:

  • Monday, April 24: Met up with EnfJ at a Gainesville coffee place, rainy rainy afternoon. Talked about what’s been saddening and lacking and what my heart desires. Sadness. “Maybe we just haven’t evolved quickly enough for these suburbian lives!!”
  • Tuesday: Exhaustion and small group. Put on a brave face and talked a lot anyway.
  • Wednesday: Exhaustion and premarital counseling. Another good meeting, nevertheless.
  • Thursday: Exhaustion and worship team practice. Everyone seemed exhausted on this day, but the music was good.
  • Friday: Exhaustion and Netflix. A little less exhaustion, cause, Netflix. I worked extra hard this day because I wanted to forget about the exhaustion and sadness for a little while.
  • Saturday: HBC Ladies Tea Party. Ocha Tea with Sarah, (+Isaac, + Mark). Sadness, feeling too raw to share at the tea. Feeling too inarticulate to share with Sarah. Blab blab blah. “I, too, believe that God honors the desires of our hearts.” “God’s people are good.” “Maybe what you’re looking for is a best friend.” “It’s really not that far. I make the drive cause…it’s worth it to me, you know?”
  • Sunday: Post-church lunch with G&E. And…exhaustion. Asking questions, answering questions, making an effort. [Wait… Is this what MM feels like all the time?]
  • Monday: Work and a little bit of grace in the lifting of the sadness. Sarah celebrated with me. Wrote a thank you card and a Mother’s Day card, sat quietly and did some Bible study, caught up on life admin things. Recharged. “As randomly as it set in… It has lifted.” 
  • Tuesday: Small group and honesty. And vulnerability. And hope. Went in with a prayer for openness and totally got it. The sadness over the past week, seemingly random, wasn’t so random anymore but a little bit redeemed. “Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.” Eph. 4:25

P.S. It’s so interesting to look through the pictures that accompany these days. They are brighter and happier than I remember feeling. Is it the photos that are off, or my memory, or a lil bit of both?

 

poetry of propaganda

https://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/575/poetry-of-propaganda?act=1#play

Look, I only linked Act One of the whole episode so you don’t even have to listen to the entire thing. Though if you’d like, of course, you shore can.

This episode is all about propaganda. And how any good propaganda is actually quite poetic. It is beautiful. Moving. Emotionally sensitive.

There was a bit in there that said something like “emotion leads you to trust” — which made me wonder about MM and whether or not he trusted me more. Like if emotionalness is a function of trust in a relationship. Given a whole bunch of other factors, of course, [science-y jargon about controls, blah blah].

Just a thoughtling.

of time, of trees

Time is finite.

I am finite.

^Things I was re-reminded of, during a dinner with an acquaintance from high school, from college. Our paths didn’t cross much when back in those places, but she’s in town now for a new job and reached out to me…just cause.

Which is a nice thing, in and of itself, but I came out of the venture feeling older and tired-er. She’s the introvert between us two, but I was the one who trudged back to my car with my people battery drained rather than recharged from our dinner together.

The caveats, they are many:

  • It didn’t help that we had had to reschedule the thing more than twice, and that I was feeling put upon but not cared for (weird, self-pitying combo, I know).
  • Also didn’t help that she was LATE, after I had already had to kill time at work and at the mall. And that I get hangry, like a child.
  • Also also that I was cold cause I never check the weather and was inappropriately dressed for the day and the overly-air conditioned mall.
  • Yes; I, too, am seeing that this list is in decreasing order of her fault and increasing order of mine. So there are two sides here, obviously. And yet.

We sat down, facing each other across the cold plastic of the food court table and chatted about some things and nothings — just details about our lives, current and past. Remembering how we had known each other, reconnecting dusty pieces of puzzles we both had moved on from, rehashing what it is we are doing here in the nova area, all just for the sake of “catching up.”

But “catching up” implies a continuity that just isn’t there for us. (For me.) Especially after all my minutes of mall-wandering and grumble-grumble waiting, I just kept feeling like there wasn’t anything to build (or build upon) there between us.

And I think, at this point in life, I’m in need of some building-up of things. Bricks upon bricks to create real, useful, and hardy things, like a house or maybe like a condo. Or like, a garden, or a porch.

A table?

[Sidenote: I’ve been a little obsessed with thinking vaguely about bricks since a little while ago.]

Don’t get me wrong; she is doing everything admirably for her circumstance — being in a new place, making new connections, wanting to spend her time well. Planting lots of new seedlings, in expectation of green shoots everywhere and seeing how things grow. I know that feeling, and I value that desire. I recognized it because that was me, too, just a little while ago — endless seeker of newer and greener things.

It’s just that, in observation of this, I recognized a little shift in my heart, in the definition of what “time well spent” means, to me.

Right now, my heart desires to turn and tend to those things in my life that are already established and firm. A desire for maturity and solidity. For continuity. Pause the new ventures, please. Not cause new ventures are bad. Just cause, otherwise, I’m afraid that all I’ll end up with are a bunch of disjointed brick patches and table legs with no tops. Nothing to sit on, nothing to rest in. Just a bunch of windblown patches of blooms, here and there — no real harvest.

Time is finite, like I said. Time that I’ve got, even more so.

But I also sit in humble recognition of the fact that it took a cold, wind-blown, inwardly cranky dinner date with someone pursuing the opposite thing from me to see, and realize, all of that.

So yay for seedlings.

And yay for real, full-grown tables.

And for all the stages of tree in between.

adulting coupla steps ahead of me

I was feeling people-weary and in serious need of a nap after a few weeks of busyness. Even this meet-up had been delayed by weeks (weeks!) of missed schedulings and packed agendas, but Mary sought me out and even treated me to a dinner — work had run late and I was coming to 7 pm on an empty stomach.

The tiredness, combined with our shared — though light — history, made me especially honest and vulnerable with myself on this evening. I’ve known Mary for a long time now, though never closely. I munched and aired all the struggly thoughts I’d been (not) working through, and she was patient and gracious to listen.

About friendships. About disappointment. About feeling like I’m regressing socially, though society tells me I am progressing just fine (“wait, how do I make friends again?”).

About small talk and the dread of it on Sunday mornings.

About writing. And feeling like I was doing a lot, at the expense of thinking a lot. Cause it does feel like a zero-sum game. Time is limited; so am I. This is especially so for time belonging to me.

She responded with wisdom that made me think that even this lil sandwich-and-tea meeting — such a small little blip in the grand scheme of everyone, everywhere — had been preordained. Made me think that she’s been where I am and that she’s stepped forward into betterness. Made me think: “There’s hope for me, too, then!”

She heard my woes about friendships and affirmed, yes, that the conclusion shouldn’t be a deflated, disappointed one. There’s more to hope for there. We were made to live in community for a reason, and friendships are a huge part of that. Shifting, changing, sure, but not disappointing.

She agreed about the social regression and the small-talk dread and the limitedness of time and energy. And with her agreement, helped me feel not so alone, at least.

She said that she had asked herself all these questions, too. And interestingly, the progress was found in asking even more questions. Sneakily similar to the ones before, but really crucially different.

  • Instead of “what does it mean to be a good friend,” ask: “what can I do differently to be a better friend?”
  • Instead of “when will I finally feel comfortable and belong-y here,” ask: “how can I better serve the people of my community and love them first?”
  • Instead of “why must I make so much small talk in life,” remember: “small talk is the juice and the glue of the every-day Wednesdays.”

It’s all about slight shifts in perspective. I hadn’t been all that off track. The tiniest pivot will catch different glimpses of light, display different hues, make different shapes.

Thank you, Mary unni. Yeah, it feels right to call you “unni” at the end of this dinner and this post.

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