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.

IMG_2080

solo travelin, good for the soul

Solo traveling is good for the soul. A little uncomfortable, a little scary, but ultimately, good for the soul. 

The displacement and discomfort are good for reminding you of what you value, what you enjoy, what you are like. Take away all the comforts of familiarity, and there you are, just you and some time and this new place, getting (re)acquainted with each other in the break from reality, mundanity. 

This elongated weekend in San Francisco has had me strolling unfamiliar streets, in unabashed admiration of the copycat-European architecture, walking quickly when I feel like it, walking slowly when I feel like that. Breathing deeply. 

I’ve memorized Google’s directions to ice cream places and famous landmarks — to be able to walk like a local, no smartphone glow lighting the way for me — taking my time to look into people’s faces and into stores where locals are bustling, to see what it’s all about.

I’ve been heartbroken by the people who sit in the pee-covered curbs finding privacy right there in the open, to sleep, to beg, to do drugs. 
Miles and miles of city blocks in all their upsy-downsy glory, two grapefruits bought at a Hispanic grocery store, one ride with “the best Uber conversation” ever. Which he confirmed. We high-fived on it.

I am reminded of me at my best self. My smiles-at-strangers self. My broad-comfort-zone self. My pondering-while-walking self. My asks-strangers-interesting-questions self. 

I’ve missed that self. 

Thank you, San Fran, for reminding me of her. Of me. 

after a bout of crying in the car

WHAT I KNOW NOW:

  • The coming together of two individuals in marriage is just one — crucial, but — relatively small facet of two families coming together.
  • Even when you’re just the catalyst for a storm, you can get caught up in the middle and get quite hurt, tossed to and fro in the fray.
  • When you’re feeling that distance from your people — impermeable, imperceptible — press in bravely and they just might surprise you with their reaching-out in kind. And remind you that you’re among family indeed.

THINGS I’M LEARNING, STILL:

  • The impulse to pull away and be cold toward the one I love most when I am hurting comes from a darker place that I’ve been willing to imagine. As God brings us togetherer, so Satan works to separate. Don’t let him win. (“Choose each other. Always choose each other,” she said.)
  • It doesn’t do any good to tell yourself the victim’s narrative over and over — in fact, it will only make you cry more, probably in public. That song of self-pity is a tempting one to hum sadly to oneself (though loudly enough for people to hear), but it’s not healthy or productive. Or fair.
  • Speaking of fair: Past hurts, built-up issues, personal sensitivities are not fair. They blow up at inopportune moments and burn innocent victims. If you’ve been hissed at, the only thing you can do is propagation prevention. Make sure the hurt doesn’t go forth and make more victims.

PRAYERS I AM PRAYING:

  • God, teach us how to be closer to each other through difficulties and hurts. Use these times to teach us what it means to “have each other’s backs” and to “be on the same team.”
  • God, let my heart be more like yours — in undeserved offenses, let me see the hurting heart. In unfair circumstances, remind me of the grace that you lavish on me. In those dark and stormy corners of my heart that I like to sit in sometimes, back to the world, humming that song of self-pity, show me hope and teach me peace.
  • God, help us to continue to press into this community you have us in. Let us not miss out on the present for fear or shyness or laziness; let us be open, and give us opportunities to learn from that openness. Keep teaching me about community, God, it’s a fascinating gift you’ve given us on this side of heaven.
  • Thank you for surprise interventions and people who love us through treats. Thank you for places that are private enough to cry in, public enough to hold hands in. Thank you for being greater, more merciful, more gracious — more light and hope and everything good — than all of my grievances and fears.

[dts] rememberthis: when feeling like a brat

Today began as a mess of feelings — cranky about Mark’s tardiness, confused about how to plan for the Future (capital F), feeling preemptively tired and a little lost in the sea of small talk I’d have to navigate at church today.

Added to the mess as the service unfolded — unsettled about the state of my heart + God, even more confused about how to plan for that Future, still tired and lost-feeling about the sea. Throw in a dash of guilt in there, too, for feeling all of the above.

 


 

Today ended as a mess of feelings — sorry for the undue crankiness, grateful for the pause-y conversations with company to call “family away from home,” awed to receive yet another lil celebration for a birthday already a week and a half old, joyful to have a slice of scratch-made cake to come home to.

How is it that I am so blessed?

How is it that I so often forget?

more than words

It is one of my life’s greatest [guilty] pleasures to go wayyyy back back back (scrolling up up up, I spose, if we’re being directionally accurate) in my phone’s text conversations with certain people and just read about what our relationships were like way back when. And poke around in what was going on in life then. And be reminded of what kinds of questions I was asking people then.

[Pleasure] because I genuinely enjoy this — especially late at night when I’ve run out of sheep to count and new people to text. Often, I end up screenshotting whole swaths of conversations to ping over to the other person, too, reminding of what we chitchatted and bantered and emoji-ed. To drag them down to frolic along reminiscence lane with me.

“hey…look what I said to you back in 2014…”

“and hey, look what you said back…”

[Guilty] because society calls me sappy for doing this, and honestly, it’s not the healthiest thing to lose sleep just to bathe myself in yellowy memories of texts sent and forgotten.

But overall, this is a useful exercise for me, Ladison the Forgetful. It’s good for me to be reminded of how my friendship with so-and-so used to be during that one period in our lives when such-and-such was happening. And to reflect on how funny/sad/interesting it is how relationships have grown and changed. Or haven’t. All with the benefit of hindsight’s perfect vision and added wisdom. It helps me make sense and draw patterns and learn something of myself and others.

And, like any guilty pleasure, it’s just FUN and ENJOYABLE. A net positive for sure.

Today at small group, L mentioned that she deletes out her text conversations once the business at hand is taken care of. This is how she makes sure to respond to people and their texts, she said.

This made — and continues to make — me g a w k, of course, because I’m wondering: BUT HOW EVER will she read through old conversations and be reminded of those relationships and times and questions?

The answer is that she doesn’t. And, extrapolating here, that she doesn’t care that she doesn’t.

And it just makes me realize, yet again, how DIFFERENT people are from people. How different L’s brain (and probably, heart!) must be from mine for her to be able to let go of all those old nooks and crannies and the relationship dust settled within — all that dust that I sometimes like to visit in the attic, dandelion-blow through, and sift around in — just to be reminded of the texture and detail of how things used to be. My brain is really efficient at tucking away short-term memories into the wayyyy back corner of the attic. Sometimes, much to the dismay of my sister, never to be found again among the piles and stacks of things and times. It needs a little sifting through from time to time.

Maybe she just has a stellar memory.

Maybe she just isn’t a sentimental wee sap such as I.

Maybe she is an alien!

It may or may not be a combination of any of those three, and probably, more. If there’s anything that’s certain in this world, it is that there’s always more to be learned about a person. What a fascinating and frustrating and wonderful thing.

Speaking of this particular guilty pleasure, it feels especially appropriate that on this Tuesday night, I am youtube-repeating:

“I Love You” by Billy Collins

I Love You
by Billy Collins

Listen Online

Early on, I noticed that you always say it
to each of your children
as you are getting off the phone with them
just as you never fail to say it
to me whenever we arrive at the end of a call.

It’s all new to this only child.
I never heard my parents say it,
at least not on such a regular basis,
nor did it ever occur to me to miss it.
To say I love you pretty much every day

would have seemed strangely obvious,
like saying I’m looking at you
when you are standing there looking at someone.
If my parents had started saying it
a lot, I would have started to worry about them.

Of course, I always like hearing it from you.
That is never a cause for concern.
The problem is I now find myself saying it back
if only because just saying good-bye
then hanging up would make me seem discourteous.

But like Bartleby, I would prefer not to
say it so often, would prefer instead to save it
for special occasions, like shouting it out as I leaped
into the red mouth of a volcano
with you standing helplessly on the smoking rim,

or while we are desperately clasping hands
before our plane plunges into the Gulf of Mexico,
which are only two of the examples I had in mind,
but enough, as it turns out, to make me
want to say it to you right now,

and what better place than in the final couplet
of a poem where, as every student knows, it really counts.
“I Love You” by Billy Collins from Aimless Love. © Random House, 2013.