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.
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.”
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?
^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.
[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.
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:
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
this weekend has been full of calm little moments that just feel very “normal” if we’re being optimistic and “boring” if pessimistic. but neither adjective in any bad way. I think it’s just these consistent and dependable little building blocks of normal life that eventually construct you a solid little house — of a friendship, of a relationship, of a life.
dates around town, normal. catch-up meals involving Netflix and jjajangmyun, …normal. I guess. I kept walking away from these things, head cocked to the left because my normal mode of human interaction is intense and full of mind-wracking for sparky connections and out-loud hm-ing and huh-ing.
“we meet up infrequently for long, long conversations,” is how I describe it.
but in all my head-cocking wonderment, I realized that THIS kind of stuff is the stuff of those boring, precious Wednesdays. (see here for the full explanation; here for just the first couple paras if tldr.) I’m just building my house here; it’s a normal-boring Wednesday.
nothing to see here. but also…everything worth seeing is here.
normal-boring is having Binky for the weekend, a creature camping out in my bedroom on which I must look in from time to time and not be so selfish with my gallivanting plans.
normal-boring is googling “things to do in ___ this weekend” and filling in that blank with all the leetle neighborhoods around where ya live because, well, you’re basically, like, a local now.
normal-boring is handing a friend a MUCH belated birthday gift at church, in a quiet little handoff, feeling grateful that you get to see her at least once a week at least.
normal-boring is running the dishwasher and emptying it. for the umpteenth time.
small details, these, but they are the activities that keep our families happy, keep our relationships going, keep our apartments tidy and functioning as they should. they are the normal-boring, precious-bland bits and pieces of life that all add up to something worthy of a look-back-upon when you’re an old, old person, feeling lucky to get to be that old, probably.
and the Wednesday effect works wonders for your goals, too, as the long post explains. so every little Wednesday (but really every other day, too; you know what I mean), read your Bible and pray and be kind to the people in your life. these little bricks will have built you a solid and comforting old house someday.
say thank you for all those years to come, stretched out between the now-self and the old, old person self that you get to live now, this realization in mind. in pocket. okay, at least in this here blog post.
so without further ado: thank you, thank you for these Wednesdays.
There’s something about peering into the face of a person, up close and personal, as they say, and seeing a kind of beauty that just isn’t seen from further away.
And then, there must be a kind of beauty others see in me, too, when the face is peered into with care and unjudgment. Not cause I think I’m pretty (I think I am pretty, sometimes) but just by virtue of the first statement of this post applying equally to all humans, which is a category of things including me.
Like, there are sometimes when I catch a reflection of myself somewhere, under certain lighting or in a certain kind of mirror, and think: oh…yay!! And other times when the same situation happens, and my response, instead, is: …AW MAN. And I think that this peering closely and unjudgingly thing can have the tendency to elicit the first kind of response in people, of the people they’re observing.
Something very beautiful about that, right? Something like “Understanding leads to love.”
Not fully developed thought-connection that I think is related, but like I just disclaimed, not fully developed:
Per Pastor John Piper:
God is the only being in the universe whose display of his own glory is love. Display of one’s glory, done by anyone else, would not be love — that would be selfishness and pride and undue self-glorification. But God is unique in possessing this quality because the display and experience of God’s glory is the only sure source of full satisfaction of man’s soul (not to mention his chief end, right?) in this entire universe. So God must show himself as glorious and must require all his creation to sing out his glory. And in this, he shows LOVE.
Observing God, seeing and knowing his glory, leads to increased gain of love.
Looking closely at his humanly creations, peering close into moments of unguarded normalcy and undaunted peer-backs, leads to increased gain of love.
So maybe…by the law of the a = b, a –> b, b –> c, then a –> c ness of the logic of the law (dear math/philosophy majors, please forgive me)…maybe these peerings, up close and personal, as they say, are like…seeing moments of God in people.
Woah. Is that too bold? Either way, isn’t he beautiful, our God of love? Dah. I wish to peer more deeply more closely more intimately. More love-ingly.
small interactions that have changed my life for the better in the past 2ish days:
Friday, 10 July 2015, Duck Donuts lady #1 –> thank you for your cheerful attitude!
Saturday, 11 July 2015, Regal circledesk lady with the fly glasses –> thank you for your competence and efficiency!
Saturday, 11 July 2015, sbux via drivethru…yyyeah –> are you the man behind the screen? well. thank you all for making my day this much better!!
it doesn’t cost that much — the extra effort to give a smile, and return a thank you. in fact, it gives forward so much more than the effort of your smile muscles. so why not. stop a moment before reacting from the grumpy you and think about the marginal grumpreturn of your marginal grumpinteraction for that unrelated person in front of you, [often] innocent and undeserving of your lash-out.