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.

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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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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:

fruit in the gray areas

What does it mean to “bear the fruit of the spirit”?

Love, joy, peace, patience…alluh them fruits.

These little nuggets can feel so frustratingly and unsatisfyingly un-nuggety in the context of a real life. So intangible, unspecific. Yeah, we’re supposed to “love like Jesus does,” have “joy like a fountain,” embody “peace like a river” — so many attempts at corporealizing these inherently disembodied whisps — but what does that look and smell and feel like? What flavors do they come in? Are they chewy? Are they soft? Will they be a lil off because I didn’t measure out 3/4 of the egg but instead used a whole one?! [Currently baking a rare batch of cookies; clearly obsessing.]

A discussion bit during the DC small group on this Tuesday night, though, gave me a glimpse into what it might actually factually mean to “bear” these “fruits” in our actual-factual lives, here on planet Earth.

That maybe fruits are borne as we delineate between the Right and the Wrong in those pesky little areas of life that are unruly and gray and subjective. Those situations where you keep asking God, “What really is the right decision?? Can you just show me with a shiny light? A metaphor secret just between us two? The proverbial neon sign?” because either path is just a humdrum Italian blend of pro-con lists, parsley and dried basil, and it really feels like it’s up to you to make a choice and then take charge and responsibility for the results. (#adulting, gross.)

That these fruits are seen when you find yourself in moments of true, ambivalent uncertainty and must forge your own boundaries because the Bible doesn’t have any explicit advice for you re: dating. re: your diet restrictions. re: self-confidence, sorry. All those areas of actual-factual life with their actual-factual particularities that aren’t covered in any rulebook of the universe; where one answer might be Right for you in a sitch but totally Wrong for another in the same. Where answers may vary depending on the season and the temperature and the holder of the thermometer, if you catch my drift.

Those ones you’re supposed to figure out despite the silence of the voices of old — by application of previous wisdoms.

That, in this way, the bearing of fruits parallels the figuring-out process of the specifics of living that makes my life different from yours and different, yet, from his over there. That the fruits and their bearing, like those areas of specific gray, are what make each life unique and very interesting. Full of flavor and texture, if I may, and chewy with a lil crust of crunch around the browned edges — and often, too, quite forgiving of the extra quarter egg tossed in there despite the recipe’s specificity.

[insert photo of 5.5 giant oatmeal choc chip cookies here, more picturesque than real life but perfectly chewy, just like she wanted.]

normalcy, aka all those little Wednesday bricks

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.

and, too,

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.

like,

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what does it even mean to be in love,

what does it even mean to “choose,”

and what does it even mean to decide that you will love one person for the rest of your life, and to be married to them, and to be committed to a kind of forever that no other decision in life thus far has carried with it.

like,

how is it that so many people are married and engaged and not having identity crises in numbers proportionate to those relationships,

how it is that people “choose” each other and “fall” in love at the same time cause, technically, those two things are opposite,

and how is it that love is the most ubiquitous topic of choice, of songs, of movies, of our favorite collective stories, yet nobody can answer with confidence my question of the moment: “what is your definition of love.”

like,

do people stay the same or do they grow and mature or do they do both, somehow,

do birds of a feather flock together or do the opposites do the attracting, rather,

and do we fall in lust first in order to choose to love and do people ever happen to do it the other way around.

so many pairs I notice around me now are couples of stark differences. count them on your fingers, one by one, and each is a union of two very different characteristics, personalities, interests, and desires. from parents to the couple you see once a week at church, people known deeply and shallowly. one is an extrovert while the other would rather stay home from the party. another is drinks tea and the other, coffee. one dreams of beach vacations with toes in the sand and the other is grabbing a backpack for a trek through Europe. it’s hard to truly tell, of course, because who knows what people are like within the intimacy of their living room slow dances and speaking the language of their private gazes, beneath the surface that they let other people see — not even in their identity as a couple but even in their portrayals of their public selves, as individuals.

when I imagine a couple truly “gelling” together — couples who are so comfortable in the skin of their couplehood, couples that make you comfortable in the observation of their coupleness because they’re so “meant to be” whatever that means, couples who are so together it’s electrifying, wait, not to be so dramatic but I mean like a synapse, like a brain-firing between two, distinct ends connecting as one in one bright blaze of the brain, forming a new idea or remembering an old memory, electrifying — what comes to mind is an artist couple so in sync with one another’s artist-ness it’s unbearable. he’s scribbling out a masterpiece onto bits of toilet paper and coffee-stained napkins while she edits, direct and red pen ink dribbling cause apparently they’re using a fountain pen in my imagination. she comes home from a long day at the office where she’s been interviewing obscure-famous people in the arts world because oh, her office is NPR and he starts a conversation over dinner that makes her wonder how could I have forgotten to ask that question to that person today during our interview. he paints a picture of a bird and she is the only one who calls his bs — that’s really a reimagining of his childhood longing for freedom in the wilderness of his backyard, not really a bird, silly.

but “unbearable” is a key word in that description up there. cannot be beared. borne. bore-ed. my conception of those meant-to-be, gel-hood couples is only complete with: explosive, emotional fights; crying and tearing of hairs over seemingly stupid and mundane details of life but actually full of meaning and secret feelings; multiple ruptures in the plot line of their romances, but always, magnet-like, pulled irresistibly back together until one drinks himself to death or the other walks out of a 14th-floor window, chasing butterflies from her absinthe hallucination.

my very scientific and exact system of logic commonly known as [Gut Feelings] tells me that, (un)fortunately, probably something like 90% of real-life couples do not do this kind of gelling I’m thinking of. that these extreme scenarios simply jump to the front of my mind-brain when wondering about such lofty ideas as Love aaaaaand Marriage, too, because extremes and strong impressions from the media are what the imagination deals in. honestly, it’s all kinda mixed up in there with movie scenes of people running down unrealistic airport places as well as secondhand stories of daily-moment, small-time romance — the kind made of poopy diapers and devoted husbands who clean up after them — really only small in scale, not depth.

so, for those 90% of the population, the 90% of us, what is love?

like,

why is it so complicated for me,

why was I under such an impression that it wouldn’t be,

and why am I so full of questions and qwaveries, still.

I keep coming back to the fact that there are non-negotiables and then there are the negotiables. the non-negotiables you can try to negotiate, but ultimately, your girlfriends will set you straight about them, if you’ve cultivated good girlfriend relationships in your life. and the negotiables, you must…well, negotiate. and isn’t it perfect that the ultimate answer is so plain and tall, so deep and shallow at the same time that you’d see right through it to the bottom of the well, clear and crystal. this is madison in yonderland — where time flexes itself and clarities zoom in and out of focus every other day. certainty seizes you by the moment, and the next week, leaves you choking and breathless for its betrayal. crying tears and stuff.

yep, this is the land of pro:con lists and incessant justifications that aren’t only full of excuses, but actual and VALID reasonings of possibilities previously unimagined. cause what you need may not be what you want. or what you even knew you wanted, or needed, or unimagined. questioning things, deeper things,

like,

is he challenging you to become a better person, and are you, him?

does the combination of her and you make the world a better place?

will there be fulfillment, emotional, physical, spiritual, etc?

and then, even deeper deeper things,

such as,

how do you feel about winter sports and frisbee?

when you text, does it make you cheese-smile at your phone, you-know-what-I-mean? and does the answer to that question make you want to cry a little??

can you let go of everything you feel like you’ve achieved and desired for your future til now, and lay a symbolic hand upon your literal left breast, and say: God, I trust you with the rest.

?

well, can you? stop snickering at the “literal left breast” up there just a moment and think about it.

the complicated yet utterly simple thing is that the answer to all these questions is like yes, and like, no, and maybe, all at the same time. yes, love is a choice, but no, you can’t discount the falling into it part cause that’s how you get started, or middled, or end up — seriously. yes, you will GROW and GROW but no! you cannot set that as an expectation of the other.  yes, no, maybe St. Patrick’s Day was a good, terrible, results-yet-unknown idea. yeah.

your story will be a beautiful one of lots of growth and lessons learned — you’re just not in the hindsight portion of it yet where you see it, yet. but already, so many have touched your life, carrying you from one significant realization to the next: “you two are really different; it’s cause of the s and the n” to “manage yo expectations” to “I think you can have both.”

all to the refrain of “no matter what happens, this has been a worthy pursuit.”

let it be honest. let it not become a platitude.