the language of tears

November 25, 2004

As they do, the tears came unexpectedly this afternoon. And as they also do, they came with a message–thankfully, today I was still enough to listen for, and hear, that message:

Remember–this is what it is all about. This is what matters. Don’t let busyness make you forget to pay attention to family, to people, and to the love that God has put you here to experience . . .

I sat there today soaking up the presence of family–of a great uncle still frail from his battle with cancer, of cousins I have not seen in 10 years now, of new cousins I had not yet had the chance to meet, and of young men I remember as little boys. And I was suddenly overcome, fighting back tears, as I held the 9 month old as he chewed my obviously tasty sweater and tested out his new climbing muscles. This cousin I had actually met, in fact, accidentally, as a preemie in the NICU.

Before grad school started this fall, I had spent a year training for and then working in the NICU as a “cuddler” in my spare time. One night I was making my first rounds, and peered into the bassinet of one of the newcomers, smiling at his sleeping face. Then I noticed his name tag and realized that he was related to me. Sure enough, he was the newborn of my cousin, who had proudly told me (upon another chance meeting) that he had just found out that he was going to be a daddy. My suspicion was confirmed when, slightly later in the shift, my cousin himself entered the pod for visiting hours. After 3 weeks of the NICU, he went home, and after 3 more weeks hooked up to an Apnea moniter, he began a normal infancy.

Now, at 9 months, he is beginning to crawl and will soon be walking. This afternoon my other little cousin–a 3-year-old livewire whom I had not met before today, was anxious to play, and he repeatedly ordered various adults to put him down and “make him crawl!”

Talking to my cousins about child development matters, I just could not shake my emotions. And, after a little bit of thought, I knew exactly why. I was feeling the ache that comes from experiencing something that this time of life just has not allowed the occasion for lately. My life is a good one, and a blessed one, that I am thankful for. But it is, for practical purposes, a relatively solitary and studious one. When I am around children again, I cannot help but feel the small pangs that come from so many years of my life spent as a teacher, tutor, camp counselor, babysitter, and then nanny. There have been chunks of my life in which my time has been relatively evenly divided between the babies I was nannying and my few close friends, or my boyfriend at the time.

As a result, it is odd to realize that I am now often around either a lot of people at the same time, at work or church, or alone, except for my cat, at home. I just do not take care of children any more, for the most part. It is probably healthy for me to have a few years like that, as I was in some sort of “mothering” role at a rather early age. Maybe that is part of the reason for my uncertainties when originally planning for marriage immediately after graduation from college. At the time, I had spent so much time focused on the relationship that I had never really taken the time to figure out what sort of career I was really interested in, or who I really was. That said, though, I do not really buy into the notion that a woman has to necessarily find herself and live for herself–at least not if that excludes the possibility of caring for others. I actually tend to believe that any “finding oneself” that is necessary can be accomplished just as well in the context of a relationship or while caring for a family as it can when alone. In my case, however, I had emotional insecurities and relational issues that I had not yet dealt with at the time. So, in God’s providence, my heart had to break in order for some real internal work to be done, and for the wounds to heal properly.

But, what I was going to say (“when truth broke in with all her matter of fact about the ice storm . . .”) is that this afternoon’s lesson for me was that I have let the busyness of a checklist of errands to be run, projects to be competed, and papers to be written, make me forget my purpose. When it comes down to it, all is ultimately for the sake of family. Because I do not have an immediate family to care for at the moment, it is a fine time to fill my schedule with work and classes. But, the end goal of this is not just to climb some sort of corporate ladder. All I am trying to do, as well as I can see with the dim vision of mortal sight, is to live in a way that is as prudent and future-oriented as possible. In practical terms, I just know that I don’t do so well with a job that demands all my time. I am very focused on the task at hand, but know that it is best for me to move a bit more slowly that a normal modern schedule allows for, to take the time to pursue passions like music and art, and to not neglect my friendships and family because I have too much work to do. So, I am getting a masters in order to have, ultimately, a bit more freedom and schedule flexibility. And, my specific goal (I think) is to be a children’s librarian. Of course, in the most practical terms, a graduate degree will allow me to be well-prepared for (Lord willing) raising a family.

So, thanks be to God, the giver of tears–tears that speak more loudly than any words possibly could.

make way for duckling

November 25, 2004

My cat has a new friend–I suppose I must resign myself to no longer being his sole companion. After much trial and error, we have happened upon the cat toy that is more than just a toy. This little catnip-filled stuffed duck is already losing the sparkle on his yellow fur, and some of his limbs are beginning to loosen. But Aslan, now he is one happy kitten.

It all began shortly after I brought Aslan home, at 4 months. He adjusted quickly to being an only child (after being raised by an expert cat-breeder, surrounded by his siblings), but I simply could not satisfy his need to play–a lap to sleep on could only keep him content part of the time (and the vacuum cleaner doesn’t help either, as he has not yet gotten over his deathly fear of it).

At any rate, I soon browsed the small cat section of the grocery store and found a 5-pack of those little furry catnip mice. My experience with all myriad of cats made me quite confident that this would appeal to him. Sure enough, he eagerly leapt upon the first one I tossed to him–and the next, and the next . . . and approximately 25 more. I found myself buying one package per week, every single mouse disappearing who knows where within the hour, it seemed. Still, for the life of me, I cannot figure out where he put them all, but they are most definitely gone.

Realizing that I had been spending about $4 on each pack, I figured I should perhaps put a bit more thought into his toys. Surely, I could find something that would amuse him sufficiently but that would not disappear into cat-toy never never land quite so rapidly. So, after reading an article about homemade dog toys, I decided to manipulate the strategy slightly, making my own braided-fabric toy for him. I had an excess of cloth napkins, so cut one into strips for the project, chuckling to myself about how it befitted my housekeeping neuroses for his cat toy to match my home decor.

Sadly, he was not quite so amused. Sure, he humored me, it seemed, batting at it congenially when I dangled it in front of him, but without that prompting my labored-after toy stayed rather dejectedly abandoned. It didn’t help either when a friend teased me incessantly, insisting to everyone who was here that it looked like it was made out of “panties.”

Then, last weekend, the 2-pack of stuffed animal styled toys caught my eye. They seemed rather fitting for Aslan, as he has a nature befitting his kingly name, and they were obviously durable. Sure enough, he immediately loved playing with the little duck, tearing from room to room with it. It was only this evening, however, that I realized just how much he liked it, and that it was his companion, not just something to play with. He had retrieved it from the other room and was bringing it in to the room where I was working at the moment, and I saw the wear and tear that it was getting. And then I laughed at the way he was trotting about with it, and remembered how attached he’d been acting towards it. Yesterday, I had shut my bedroom door when I left (I still am trying to get over my paranoia after a brief urine-everywhere episode we had when I mistakenly tried to switch cat litter one him . . .). When I got home from work and had managed to get in the door (he has this habit of lying on his back when I arrive, directly in front of the door, waiting for me to slide him along the carpet in order to squeeze in the door), I opened the bedroom door and saw him dash in the room, under the bed, and then triumphantly emerge again, his little yellow duck cradled lovingly in his jaws.

I wonder what sort of crisis we will have the day the duck dies??


November 23, 2004

tonight i give-thanks for:

  • Answer to prayer (see addendum to “wrestling the angel”
  • The little lion purring on my lap at the moment
  • Loving family members here, and all over the world
  • Quality music like Innocence Mission, that can make for happily contented term paper writing
  • Bosom buddy friends(JW) who do wonderfully crazy things like writing a Sonnet for me
  • Old college roomies who write me while galavanting about Italy to reminisce about our days making up dance routines to silly top 40 tunes
  • Fiercely loyal friends (HP) who leave lovably perplexing messages on my voice mail
  • A grandfather-ish professor who tells goofy jokes in class
  • A wild woman of a Mom who acts as tester for the handicap-accessible skiis at the resort where she works because she’ll zip down the hills faster than any of the “normal” skiers
  • Little brothers who, when they are in town, are patient with my clinginess when they visit and I want them to spend all their free time with their nerdy big sister
  • An almost-20-year old brother who has already taken the initiative to take a Mercy Ship mission to Sierra Leone, works as a snowboard instructor and a photographer, volunteers for Young Life, and is planning to be a Youth Leader–oh, and he’s in college in his spare time :-)
  • A 21-year-old brother who has his 10-year life plan in place for being a Math teacher, pioneered an Acappela mens choir at his college, volunteers at the nursing home, and is insanely devoted to his best friend/girl friend of 3 years now
  • My little sister who has always had her head squarely on her shoulders, and who was courageous enough to move to Germany to be with her boyfriend when she was done with school but he was still in his grad school program and so couldn’t move to the U.S. yet
  • Grandparents who don’t think twice about still holding hands
  • The legacy and memory of a Daddy who loved our God with all his heart, and who joked when he made his will that he couldn’t go anywhere anytime soon because, after all, he had “2 daughters to walk down the aisle someday.”

the need to create

November 19, 2004

I have never felt like a true artist, by any stretch; I have, however, always been deeply moved by art, in all its forms. I am enthralled by beauty, sometimes in its most unexpectedly simple forms. And, I am driven by a compulsion to create, to strive to create beauty around me–this, I believe, is God’s gift to humans–the natural need to create being a small hint of that image of God in which we were created. Often, I think, the Church does not fully take advantage of the wonderful gift that art is–there seems to be some sort of underlying suspicion that art is somehow too secular for Christians to embrace. This is truly a shame, as, if truly appreciated for what it is, art in all its forms is one of the truest ways to touch the deepest part of the soul and to point to the ultimate Creator, in all His radiance. This, I suspect, is why I am driven to continue making feeble attempts at creating art, using it in the most practical ways I can think of, like the notecards I use daily to commemorate birthdays and special occasions or to thank those who have blessed me somehow.


November 19, 2004

Church hunting is hard work. Church hunting alone is even harder. Two weeks away from my old Church has left me with a Rock Creek-shaped hole in my heart, aching for the presence of that family again. This probably has something to do with the fact that my own family is scattered around the world, but I think I have grown to rely rather heavily on my Church family. Never before have I been intimately connected to a group of such tightly-knit yet outwardly-lovingfamilies. These familial ties are so strong that they burst outward to those of us in need of a bit of encouragement to accept any unconditional love. For the year & a half that I’ve been a part of that family I have loved them all deeply–but benefited more I think from their love for me. At any rate, I find my good intentions of finding a Church home in the community of my new home leaving me, initially at least, wondering if I should just keep commuting after all . . .or maybe just at least for this next Sunday . . . How gracious is this God who plants within us such haunting longings that can only be whispers of an ultimate Home and the ultimate Family yet to come.

wrestling the angel

November 11, 2004

I’ve been drawn to the Orthodox faith lately–again. Ever since my friend Julia joined the Orthodox Church, back when I was just beginning college, I have periodically asked her about it when visiting her and going to church with her. I wondered if it was wrong of me–somehow wavering in my faith–to consider a change like that–but I really do not think it is.
Over the past week, however, as I have been studying Orthodoxy, I have been giving some serious thought to why it is that I am drawn to it. Looking at my life thus far, it seems like an odd leaning for one with such a staid protestant background as mine is. Then again, maybe it is not so solidly protestant after all . . . When my Father was a youth pastor, in Canada, it was in a German Baptist Church that his family had attended ever since immigrating from Germany. He and Mom had met at Columbia Bible College, a nondenominational, evangelical seminary. Mom was raised as a Presbyterian. In Africa, we were with a nondenominational mission, and the Church there was also nondenominational. These all had a distinctly protestant feel to them, though.
I, on the other hand, have never felt quite comfortable in my protestant skin. Now, I should clarify that never, in all my remembered life, have I considered any faith but the one that has been who I am since going to bed each night as a 7-year-old, repeating as my bedtime prayer, “And God, just in case you didn’t hear me last night, please come into my heart. And please, if I am not being sincere enough in wanting you to, please help me to be tomorrow night . . . when I ask you again.” Seriously, I have vivid memories of those nightly repeated prayers, and of, even at that young age, worrying that I somehow might not be asking Him well enough . . .so, I had better ask again the next night!
So, as long as I can remember, God has just been an ever-present reality in my life. I have worked through all manner of questions in my faith, continuously coming to God with all my pleas, me fears, my insecurities, and my joys. It is second-nature to me to be out on a run, or walking in the woods, having such an intense conversation with Him that I end up in tears–of sorrow, worry, or even joy.
All that to say, I am quite comfortable examining my faith without worrying that it is somehow in jeopardy–God has a hold of me, and He will not let me go, no matter what my fickle nature, prone to wander, as it is, may tempt me towards. Which brings me back to my question of what leads me to these examinations of Orthodoxy:
My first memory of a feeling of righteous indignation came early in high school, when a member of my group–who went on to become a Pastor, actually–commented on his interpretation of the passage we were studying. Unfortunately, I cannot remember what passage it was–the most I can remember is that it was one of Paul’s letters in the New Testament. At any rate, this friend of mine said that he thought it was clearly advocating an aspect of doctrine particularly held by our denomination, and that he could not see how other denominations could consider themselved saved if they thought differently. I was absolutely horrified, and immediately protested, as best as I could muster in my timid nature at the time (I am not quite so timid anymore). After that night, I spent the better part of the week dwelling on that, and feeling that there was something wrong if differences in opinion on small matters could lead one part of Christ’s body to question the salvation of another.
That was the first in a series of moments in my life when I have been caught off guard by the intensity of my feelings on that matter, and the need to fight for justice when I see denominational differences interfering with the work of the Church as a whole. I have no idea why I feel so strongly about this, but it has led to a willingness to be involved in many different denominations. Once we moved to the U.S., we attended a Presbyterian Church. During high school, though, I have vivid memories of the few times I was in other churches. A visit with relatives in England, at the Anglican Church where my uncle was a priest; attending midnight mass with close friends–these were experiences where the liturgy, choral music, and ceremonial nature inspired me with the way it created an indescribable sense of unity, and of being just a small speck in the midst of something great and wonderful that I could just be a part of.
At the same time, mind you, I have been just as moved by the social activism of the Lutheran Church I attended in Tacoma. I loved the way we were situated, intentionally, in the middle of the most infamously bad part of town, practically filling all the obvious needs there. We opened the Church up to families, as a homeless shelter, alternating as overnight hosts; we had weekly free meals, open to anyone who wanted to come in; we offered free tutoring services, paired up with one child that we would work with consistently throughout the school year. For the 5 years that I was a part of that Church, during college and beyond, I loved it with all my heart. Granted, I have never been a part of another Lutheran Church, so for all I know, this could have been a unique one. It was standard in practice, liturgy, and doctrine–but, our fabulously rowdy gospel choir may have been different, with our tendency to sing songs that inspired us to let loose with clapping, dancing, and swaying (helped, no doubt by our epitome-of-a-gospel-choir-director leader–she could inspire even the most timid-natured soul to let out her inner Tina Turner).
So, I will readily admit that I am by no means certain about any faith-decision, ot least as far as deciding on a Church to claim–or rather, that may claim me. That is always how it has been in the past: each time I have moved, God has placed the Church for that coming time of life glaringly in front of me. And this is another of those times of transition; this time, however, it is not as easy, and is requiring more reflection and decision-making.
I do know that tradition inspires me, in the sense of a faith steeped in history. I also know that I can easily think myself into an abyss of over-analyzation, leading to a need sometimes for someone to force me to just “be still and know that” He is God. Liturgy, hymns, and ceremony are some of the things that do that. At the same time, though, I have a need to know that I am filling a tangible need in God’s kingdom, ministering to practical needs–that helps me avoid dwelling too much on my own needs. Which I may very well be doing at the moment . . .
When it comes down to it, I guess I have to just be at peace with not knowing for now. The truth is, it is such a crazy time of juggling work and grad school that it is probably and unwise time to try to force a decision. I must trust that if I simply keep faithfully attending Godly churches each week, God will be faithful in providing assurance about where I should be . . . or perhaps just about where I am.
Postlude, take 2:
So the lure of my old Church home proves too strong to resist. And now, I have been “visiting” so much that I realized it is silly to fight any longer and try to find a new Church home . . . it is no use, it seems, and a time away has been beneficial and helpful, for sure–but not permanent. I’m fighting no longer, and just going home . . .

there were roses

November 8, 2004

i discovered roses this year. this did not really surprise me, as i have a tendency to make life discoveries periodically, becoming enthralled with things that may be quite commonplace to others. i also am obsessed with beauty, driven by a compulsion to create beauty around me, in whatever form that may take. sometimes it is a work of art that leaves me breathless, sometimes a face, sometimes a sunset. and then, at times it is the most unexpected of things–a simple intensity of color, the way fabric drapes, a curtain blown by a breeze . . .

there is a pattern to these discoveries, though, i have noticed. my most intense enthrallments come as a way of healing, in painful periods of life. the year my college roommate died, for instance, i discovered dahlias. my walking route to school passed a house where, during dahlia season, as it was at the time, the man would sell picked dahlias from his garden daily. passing them one day shortly after she died, i stopped in my tracks and gazed in a trance at the brilliant shades of orange and red. for the length of that long pacific northwest dahlia season, i bought dahlias daily. i surrounded myself with them, putting them in vases in the kitchen, by my bed, on my other roommates’ nightstands, and i could literally just do nothing but stare at those myriad of petals, marveling at so much pigment packed into such a small space.

coincidentally, or perhaps not so coincidentally, around the time the dahlias stopped to bloom, my grief was beginning to soften.

then, this past year, a relationship ended right before roses began to bloom. on a run, shortly after this, i passed a rose bush–it was love at first sight. i began by seeking out wild rose bushes on my run, hunting for hidden alleys that might hold that one undiscovered ownerless bush, waiting for me to take its blooms home with me. then, at the grocery store, i saw potted rose bushes on sale. i stood and stared for a while and then continued with my shopping, reminding myself that i knew nothing of gardening and had a hard enough time keeping houseplants alive. they drew me back, though–i just couldn’t help but long for a bush of my own . . . so, why not, i thought–i might as well give it a shot. i bought my rose bush–a rather pitiful-looking blueish hybrid, granted, but it was the best i could find at the time. with my small trowel and a good bit of wrestling with the soil, rocks, and roots, i managed to dig a deep enough hole for the bush and planted it as best i knew how.

the next day, at my grandparents’ house, i relayed my new undertaking to my grandmother. her eyes lit up as they do when she has a brilliant inspiration, and she said she had way too many bushes that the miracle bush my mom gave her had spawned–i should dig up and replant one of her bushes. my mom, you see, has a magic touch with plants; she has amazing gardens–flowers, trees, herbs, vegetables; she can make anything thrive, even if she only gives it, and is not able to plant it herself. so, this bush she had given my grandmother some 20 years ago had not only bloomed faithfully and beautifully; it had spawned numerous offshoot bushes, each if which was equally beautiful.

excited at the prospect of having such beautiful roses, i took my grandmother up on her offer and dug up this bush, bringing it up to its new mountain home. i was a bit concerned at the prospect of traumatizing the bush with relocation, and this time i was determined to do it right, so i did a bit of research on proper rose bush planting and care techniques. i wrote down a step by step procedure for myself accordingly, noting with excitement one detail: “layer the bottom 2 inches of the hole with fertilizer–preferably horse or cow dung . . .” cow dung, i thought–i can do that!

see, i happened to live in a small farmhouse with a backyard full of cows. they belonged to the landlord, but i certainly had enjoyed them thoroughly–they may not have enjoyed me quite so much, with my odd tendency to try to moo as authentically as possible with them. at any rate, during my time in the house, i had watched with excitement as one calf, then 2, then 3, appeared. and now, i could make use of their dung! by this time i had also found a shovel–50 cents at a yard sale (actually, i had gone to the yard sale specifically for a shovel. when i did not see one, i asked if they by any chance were selling any. now that you mention it, he had told me, come on back–i think i have a few i might be willing to part with . . .) the shovel made the digging process substantially easier.

now, hole dug, rose bush ready, i went out back armed only with a plastic bag. i climbed the fence and looked around for the most promising-looking piles. then, as the cows stood picturesquely in a row (in height order even, believe it or not), i proceeded to pilfer their dung, scooping it into my bag by the handfuls and looking up periodically to see them chewing their cuds with cocked heads and bemused expressions on their bovine faces. mission accomplished, i returned to my bush and finished planting it in my best imitation gardener fashion.

then, i was struck by the odd urge to pray that it would make it. what a silly thing to pray for, i thought, but then i rethought, and said well, why not pray for my rose bush. i mean, after all, i couldn’t think of anything i wanted more at that moment than to be able to keep my rose bush alive. so, i prayed.

over the next few weeks i eagerly watered and watched my new bushes, eyeing the new bulbs to see if they would bloom into prize-winning blooms. the end products proved to be less-than-impressive, but i kept my hopes up. there was still another week or so of blooming season, after all . . .

well, i’m afraid the remainder of the season did not do much to improve the state of my rose bushes. and i may never know how they far once next season rolls around, as i have since moved. but, there is a happy ending.

about the time i realized that i should probably not hope for much from my roses, i mowed further into a corner of the yard one day, back into the brush of dense field grass and tangled bushes where i had never before ventured. suddenly i noticed a splash of pale pink almost hidden by the overgrowth. i stopped the lawnmower and looked closer, and then gasped. pushing through the brush i discovered what was literally the most beautiful rose bush i had ever seen. it looked like it had leapt out of the pages of a fairy tale. somehow, it was a delicate rose bush that had spread its branches every which way to become a huge wild growth of a bush. and it was covered, absolutely covered, with delicate, blush-pink blooms.

i was teary-eyed with joy, and immediately began gleaning from the bush. here, all this time, i never knew that in my own yard i had access to roses that were more beautiful than any of the others i had been longing for. for the rest of that month, i picked roses daily. there were roses all over my house, i left roses on my neighbor’s doorsteps, i took armfuls to my friends, and i could never exhaust the incredible fertility of that one bush.

maybe i will never have success as a gardener, but i can’t help but wonder at the grace of One who would grant the gift of beauty in such a marvelously unexpected manner.


November 4, 2004

sometimes when i have too much time to think, i start brooding. i don’t mind this, though–the melancholy thoughts come and go,but even when i am in the midst of melancholy brooding it doesn’t bother me too much. i’d certainly much rather be sorrowful than to stop caring deeply about anything in life, as i think our culture promotes doing–stay busy, accumulate stuff, and you’ll be distracted enough to never care too much to get too upset about or hurt by anything . . .unfortunately, as much as i wish i weren’t, i’m as easily sucked into that mentality as the next person–unless i allow myself the time to slow down and think again. maybe that’s why i don’t mind a little bit of brooding; it keeps me from trying to be overly productive all the time :) i’m not sure why death has never bothered me, though, unless it’s because i was dealing with it as such an early and formative time of my life–who knows. i really cannot remember ever being able to sympathize with the normally verbalized fear of dying. now this is certainly not to say that i have wished to die–i simply don’t mind the thought of it . . .

claiming home

November 4, 2004

Not too long ago I decided to claim this town as my home. The last time I said this, I was greeted with raised eyebrows and some sort of comment indicating how odd of a thing it was to say. Perhaps this is because it is unusual to be able to decide on a home, but it could also sound like a cocky attitude. So, at the risk of sounding slightly presumptive, I really do feel like this has been a year of reclaiming my Southern-ness.

For someone who had such difficulty admitting to myself that I was Southern, it is significant to me to realize that I am proud of this “heritage,” as it were. I should probably explain my somewhat schizophrenic background before continuing this thought, as I belong to a category of “homeless” people. Anyone with a similar MK background is probably already nodding in a sort of sympathetic camaraderie.

The oldest of the four children of a German-Canadian father and a Southern-Cherokee mother, we were Canadians when I was younger, calling British Columbia home. But, my parents were missionaries, so we lived in Zambia, Africa, and I attended a British boarding school there. Though we intended to live there for good, my family had a car accident when I was 9, in which my father died and my mother was paralyzed.

At that point we moved here to Chattanooga, where my grandparents helped care for us while my mother was in physical therapy. I went through the rest of my schooling here in town, until I went to Washington State for college. All through high school, college, and beyond, I traveled all over the world on cultural exchange programs, mission trips, family visits, and time taken off school to live abroad.

While doing this, I always felt rather ashamed of my American citizenship, and especially of my Southern background. Part of this was a perception that this wasn’t a cultured enough experience, part of it was a prideful attitude about having such an “interesting” childhood (or so I was told—I of course do not know anything different!), but most was, I believe, some sort of desire to just not buckle down and belong anywhere.

I think this was really an immaturity on my part, as it was a way to avoid lingering responsibility in any position in life. I could just be a floater, wandering from place to place, and never staying anywhere long enough to really be needed by anyone. Now I have not really figured out the root of this tendency, but it is enough for now to be aware of it, and to want something different.

The truth is that life is the same wherever you go. This is not to say that there are not differences, but simply that people are the same and, more importantly, we are the same. I will not become a somehow better person depending on where I am living, and there is not some perfect position to fill. It is rather just a matter of being more fully alive in this place, by reaching out to others, being committed in my responsibilities, and accepting that sometimes it’s not a bad thing to have a peacefully settled life. So, here I am now, not looking ahead to a better place to be for once in my life. Who can say what the future holds, but what I can say right now is that I love this town and the people around me, and I am proud to be at home.

growing up

November 4, 2004

I recently realized that one of the main parts of the process of becoming an adult is one that I did not really expect: it is being humbled. I know it happened in my life, and looking around I think I am not the only one. It is too easy, as a teenager and college student, to look around at “society,” and just feel a bit above it all, wondering why people do the crazy things they do and live in the odd manners that they do. And this is a valid question, as people really do live in ways that are less conscientious, environmentally sound, politically astute, socially active . . . the list could go on . . . than they should. When it comes down to it, though, we all have the same penchant for all manner of inconsistencies, weaknesses, and addictions, and part of growing up is simply becoming more aware of our own.

Take, for instance, my idealism about living in a consistently environmentally conscious manner. When I first entered the work force, I took great pride in my simple lifestyle. I had broken down and bought my first car, but never used it. I recycled everything possible, carried around my cloth grocery bag so as not to waste plastic, and bought organic groceries, cooking vegetarian meals with and for my housemate. These were all good things, but the truth of the matter that it was less due to any “goodness” on my part than it was due to a series of blessings in my life: my workplace, church, and stores were all within an easy walk or bike ride from my apartment, good organic grocery stores were on almost every corner, my roommate was even more environmentally aware than I was, and she was a vegetarian who loved to cook

For the first year after I moved back to this area, I went through a bit of an identity crisis. I found myself living in my car, not recycling for a period of time, and being too rushed and overwhelmed by life responsibilities to try to buy organic groceries, never mind cook anymore. Now the truth is that I am much happier now that I took the time to figure out a way to recycle again, and I do love not having to drive somewhere if it’s not necessary. But, I have also learned to cut myself, and others, a little bit of slack.

Even though I have let go of some of the “simple” aspects of life at my old home, I recognize that there are things to be proud of from this past year as well (responsibilities taken on, activities taken part in, and accomplishments achieved). There are many things I am not proud of, and ways in which I wish I were a stronger, more conscientious citizen, but I am glad that I can see those things. They make me a little bit more patient with others and a lot more compassionate, as I continue to fail every day, in little ways and in big ones . . .

Perhaps what this life is about is more so recognizing our own and having compassion for other people’s failings than it is about coming to some sort of idealistic lifestyle nirvana. There is always something to strive for and some way to better ourselves, but I believe that we can do that without that all-too-common cynicism about society as it is and people as they are.