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.

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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.)

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.

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.

 

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.

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.

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:

“The Best Thing I Did” by Ron Padgett

The Best Thing I Did
by Ron Padgett

Listen Online

The best thing I did
for my mother
was to outlive her

for which I deserve
no credit

though it makes me glad
that she didn’t have
to see me die

Like most people
(I suppose)
I feel I should
have done more
for her

Like what?
I wasn’t such a bad son

I would have wanted
to have loved her as much
as she loved me
but I couldn’t
I had a life a son of my own

a wife and my youth that kept going on
maybe too long

And now I love her more
and more

so that perhaps
when I die
our love will be the same

though I seriously doubt
my heart can ever be
as big as hers
“The Best Thing I Did” by Ron Padgett from Collected Poems. © Coffee House Press, 2013.


Just thinking about mumsie lee.

getting schooled: generosity, replacing tires, fear of everything

life’s been throwing me around like a bully, these days. lessons left and right. punch and sucker punch.

in response, as expected, I have been singing those songs of self-pity like it’s my job.

and then, life schools me again. about singing those dang songs.

after all the drama of home-searching, I came right back to the first little square I started from and will be MOVING SOON and subsequently, have been purging the apartment and the closet of things I’ve been holding onto in hopes of filling a home in a next lease. or maybe the one after.

basically, holding onto things that don’t have a place in my current life or even the next immediate one, maybe. who KNOWS where I’ll even be living in another year from now? who KNOWS what kinds of things I’ll need? it’s funny because these are the very questions that once caused me to scrounge and hold onto things — and now they’re my reason for letting gooo ~ !

so I’ve been selling off some of my wares — the odd lamp here and there, a bathroom cabinet I have not needed in over a year and a half, wall hangings that haven’t seen the light of day in who knows how long, a book that I got as a gift but literally never read, cause it’s a coffeetable book and who has time to read the coffeetable books in their own home? no one.

one item from my closet was a winter jacket, a nice jacket, warm and low-key, just the way I like my winter jackets. but I decided that it had to go, because it was redundant in my closet. so went it did. go it went? goes it goed? I sold it.

with MUCH SELLER’S REMORSE! right after it had been claimed from my posting, I stewpidly began researching the brand + type of jacket and seeing how much MORE other people were selling for and feeling much, much regret for my belated research. why? WHY brain, why? I don’t know.

this is how devious I am: I even tried to think of ways I could TAKE BACK MY POST and somehow sell it for more! but good old conscience kicked in (whew) and saved me from my id.

fast-forward to the day of the trade — Christine came over to my apartment, braving a 45-minute drive through the evening traffic, and as she was handing me the measly bits of cash for my precious second-hand coat, she said,

“Thank you! This is a great coat. My church does a coat drive every winter, so I always try to buy some to donate.”

…SCHOOLED!

lesson no. 1: you are a much, much greedier human than you ever even imagined. try to have some space in your heart for other people and stop scrounging for dollar bills. be generous with your heart and your stuff.

 

in another experience that held up a mirror to my ugliness…

leading up to the weekend trip to RVA was a lot of drama (hm. a theme?) concerning me and my badness at being a good sister and all that guilty jazz. seestre was being sad that I hadn’t been making an effort to come see the art show she was putting on that weekend, and I was feeling bad for having that be pointed out to me.

a couple of productive rants later, Markling gently — ever so gently — reveals that I communicate just the same way my sister had been doing, to me.

it was one of those *drop everything, including jaw* moments. full admission: “you are so. right.”

schooled.

lesson no. 2: if you find yourself hating something a lot about someone else, go find yourself a character mirror because you might just be reacting to a trait in YOU. or, you may find that the other person has some valid reasons for the way they’re behaving — passes you give yourself all the time because you know your brain and your intentions, but no one else’s. pfft.

the third lesson is deeper and heavier and involves a deep and heavy conversation I had with Merk, about Children and Childrearing and Families and all the beauty and scariness of those things. the “beauty” contributed by Merk and the “fear” portion by me. ending with blubbery me crying about all the things that could go wrong with having a baby and trying to raise it to be an okay human being in this world. wow.

lesson no. 3: fear is a huge, but sneaky, driver of a lot of my life “decisions.” air quotes there because if fear is the motivator toward or away from something, are you even truly getting to decide? I’m not sure. 

and if these fears are so big and so overwhelming, to the point of refusing to let you dream some dreams and pursuing some pursuits… where’s your faith in God in all of this? do you really believe that He’s sovereign over your life and your comings and goings and even your elections? do you believe that He’s good? (and that’s even when things don’t go the way you think they should.) I dunno. I have to chew the cud on this one a bit more.

and most recently, and shallowly, lesson-wise:

after much consternation and lower-lip pouting, I took myself to a Costco to get that dang tire replaced. [don’t tell my dad; he doesn’t know yet] I nicked one of the tires on a mean old curb that was probably sticking out its leg, trying to trip me. and it was time to get that tire replaced, finally.

so I went. to Costco. because I figured it would be cheaper than going to the dealer!

…which it wasn’t.

+ I was stuck at Costco (which doesn’t sound too bad…)

+ for THREE HOURS (AGH)

and no one to rescue me, because it was a Monday afternoon when normal people are at work and otherwise far away.

I walked around slowly, which killed about one hour, then consoled myself with a Very Berry Sundae and stood in the book pile and read for another hour.

img_1118
said pity Sundae + book pile

hour 2: I decided to go ask the desk lady if my car was ready yet. she said no. and then said “oh wait, yeah” — indeed it had been ready for a whole half hour. no one had contacted me, tho.

grateful, still, I went out to my car…to find that the WRONG TIRE HAD BEEN REPLACED. I was a little miffed, but not at the point of feeling SCHOOLED just yet. but when I walked over to the garage and no one knew how to help me, and then when I walked over to the desk lady and she didn’t know how to help me, I just wanted to cry, actually.

so I did.

loud, sobby, snot-running tears, right in front of the manager, who was bewildered and worried looking, as he very well should have been. tears of frustration, sure, and helplessness, but also very much tears of “I am cold and tired and sad for having wasted so much of my time here today.”

not that they were intentionally manipulative, but they sure got him to jump to action and get my original tire back on my car and get rid of that nicked one right away, the right way.

lesson no. 4: sometimes you cry for a lot more layers of reasons than your audience will know. and that’s okay. even useful, sometimes. that day was hard because of having run so many miles in the morning and having spent so much money and time on what seemed like a never-ending problem.

also, that custard in that Costco sundae was not as tasty as you remembered. so remember that next time.

I think the layering of all these lessons on my heart have been hard on me. less resilient and more prone to tears because my membrane had been worn thin already. the lessons get shallower and shallower and my heart gets fuller and fuller — to the point of bursting into tears, if you prod just a lil.

it’s okay though — reminds me I’m human, reminds me that I need to take breaks from running (literally and metaphorically), to rest my body and my mind and my soul and that sensitivity membrane so I can take more of those sucker punches that come, sadly but surely, along with those precious life lessons.

la di da

a round of “bless you’s”: a study in sneezing and belonging

I’m not trying to sing a song of pity for myself or anything, really. but an interesting fact: when I sneeze, like, 85% of the time, no one blesses me. not in group settings, not on solo dates. ever since my induction into Western society and since learning that blessings are given out to sneezers to cover for their moment of vulnerability, I’ve just noticed that people around me just don’t respond to my achoos with that knee-jerk benediction.

superstitious? yeah. still kinda sweet? also yeah. but, like I said, like 85% of the time, I don’t get blessed for my sneezes.

not that I need it; I seem to be getting by okay without those explicit blessings to cover me. I’m not bitter about it or anything — wow, there’s a sentence I’ve never before said non-sarcastically — it’s really okay. it’s just interesting to think about WHY people seem so stingy with those blessings for my sneezes.

after literal years of pondering this, the only conclusion I’ve got is that my sneezes must not be that disruptive. they just don’t ripple through a social atmosphere and remind people loudly enough to bless me. it’s not like the blessing nazis are out to get me, and it’s not like certain people bless me more or bless me less — the most benevolent explanation is the most reasonable here.

all that to say: on Tuesday this week, I had a meeting at work where I sneezed in the middle of the meeting and the room and was greeted with a surprisingly full chorus of “bless you’s” from all round the room. it was nice. and surprising. and thought provoking.

cause it was probably a combination of all of the following: the fact that I was sitting squarely in the middle of the conference table. the fact that I had recently and majorly participated in the conversation. the fact that we were all Asian Americans, and I was seen and heard and recognized in a way that only really happens in that special overlapping sliver of Asian and American societies.

all of those things, in concert, rained down on me that smattering of blessings that showered and covered and fell all around me. a big deal, but also not.


edit: 10/27/16

I swear, it’s like everyone at work read this post. like 9 out of 10 sneezes today were blessed. what is going on? slash I am sneezing a lot. maybe it’s the changing of the seasons. blip bloop.