Soul(mate) Searching

I’m twenty-five, out of school and joining the “real world”—whatever that means. To the shock and disappointment of my proper, southern family, neighbors and friends I did not graduate with a MRS degree. There was no dainty diamond ring adorning my finger by spring. I did not spend my last spring semester in college planning my wedding as some of my girlfriends did. I was always told that in college I would find my Mr. Right, but it just didn’t happen for me. Sure, I dated a few guys, had my heart broken and I even thought at one point that I might have found the man I would spend the rest of my life with. However, I was not ready to pledge anyone my faith till death do us part. Now, as a busy, working gal I have been warned that finding a good marrying-type man in the “real world” will be a challenge. So, where does a twenty or thirty something woman find a decent man?

First a disclaimer on my behalf: I am happily single for the moment, but being happily single doesn’t mean that I can’t have my eyes and heart looking for the man of my dreams. No harm in being on the watch and preparing myself to be someone’s wedded wife; however finding my husband does not preoccupy the center of my daily life, though one day I would like to get married. And since college I’ve met people at bars, running, on public transportation and through friends of friends, but nothing has ever seemed to work out quite right. Something seemed to always be missing. Don’t get me wrong; I met some handsome, intelligent, fetching young men, but there was always something that didn’t fully click between the two of us. Then I found myself going to church looking around for eligible bachelors. Is it wrong to scan the church-going men for a potential mate? I don’t think so; actually I think it is a great place for women and men to meet as long as church isn’t merely used as a free version of eHarmony. The primary purpose of church is to worship God and fellowship and nurture the community of God, but is it wrong to meet other singles at church who are passionate about God too? After all isn’t God supposed to be at the center of a couple’s life?

I don’t know why this didn’t occur to me sooner. There is always a grandmother or mother who wants to set me up with a grandson or son every time I go back home to my mom’s small country church in South Carolina. Church has always been the center of worship as well as community. It is where I met some of my closest friends in high school and college. It’s where I met my first boyfriend in the 10th grade. If that childhood song is true and church is more than a building and church is a people, then I want to find another church person to be with me, also a church person. So, single ladies and gentlemen don’t feel bad if you go to church gussied up in Sunday dress and find yourself scanning the congregation for that special somebody. You never know who may sit in the pew next to you.

*I wrote this for UMC Young Adult Network http://www.yanetwork.org. I highly encourage you to check out the website!

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Big Sister, Wedding, Family and Thoughts on Growing Up

This is a long overdue blog. I started writing it in July before Lael’s wedding but only now am I returning to finish it…so here is my toast to my big sister during her first year of life with Andy.

At first I titled this post “The Big Sister,” but I thought that an article before big would make it sound like the physical size of my older sister, rather than a mark of our birth order. Lael is infact THE big sister. She is the eldest sister who has served as my mother’s second-in-command, driving us to and from various activities, making dinner, cheering us on, helping with homework, laughing with us in times of joy and comforting us when we were down. And last August Lael was married to Andy Park. It is still weird for me to think about. It is no longer Lael, but always Lael and Andy. And I have come to expect that anything I tell my sister will be told to her husband—which is fine, but it just takes some getting used to. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I do love Andy, but for 26 years it was Lael, single, unattached Lael. Sure she had her line up of boyfriends, but this is marriage! It’s a till-death-do-us-part coupling, so I expect Andy to be around longer than the toads she had to kiss to finally find Andy. So, it might just take me another 26 years to get used to the Lael-Andy duo.

It seems like it was just yesterday we were in Colleville, Texas playing house. And I have no doubt that Lael has every capability to run all the little details that go into making a real, adult-life, loving, organized home because let me tell you, she certainly used to put me in my place for pretend house–or really any type of make-believe play. Lael ordered what role I was supposed to play. And I complied for the most part, always adding my own imaginary spin to whatever we were playing. She always assigned me the male parts whether it was making a music video, putting on a play or playing house. I remember once we were in a community play and we didn’t have enough males to play all the roles, so Lael thought I should volunteer to play the husband part in the play who’s wife was played by  my brother’s girlfriend at the time. A little bit twisted, but I had so much practice playing the lead male roles that the part came very natural. Thanks, sis!

Lael is the first sibling to be married. Just as I cannot believe Jaclyn is almost through her first year of college, or Macie is graduating undergrad or I am graduating with my Masters, I cannot believe we are old enough to be married, but there Lael is in Texas–married, house, two dogs, a cat and a husband. Some days I expect to wake up in our bedroom on Oak Knoll Court where my three sisters and I shared one big bedroom. Lael on the top bunk, Macie and Jaclyn sharing the trundle and me stuck in the middle per usual. But then I wake up to my own room in Boston, knowing Lael is tucked in bed next to her husband in Fort Worth; Macie is sleeping in Columbia, and Jaclyn is in her dorm room in Rock Hill. We live and sleep worlds away from one another now, growing up into young women who in many ways only remain connected by blood and old memories of years far far away. It has been seven years since I have lived in the same place as my sisters, yet when we all get together we easily slip into our childhood selves, forgetting that we are 27, 25, 22 and 18 and enjoying time laughing, reminiscing and hugging. Sometimes there is fighting, crying and silence as we reintegrate ourselves into one another’s lives, but the deep love that binds us as sisters always overcomes the differences that might make all of us seem like an unlikely group of friends.

We are friends just as much as we are sisters, and we do love one another very deeply and this sisterly intimacy can be overwhelming to outsiders. Actually I think our family can be overwhelming. It would not be fair to leave out daddy, mommy and our brother because we are a close family—not a perfect family because we are dysfunctional in many, many ways, but beneath our individual and family flaws is a deeply rooted, intimate love for each other that always leads us to forgiveness, understanding and acceptance of the adults we have become.

When we were kids and imagined future spouses we always nicely played like they perfectly fit into the family. That may be easier played than lived. Perhaps that is harsh honesty that should not be voiced, but I believe it to be true and somewhat relieving to speak the elephant that sometimes enters the room. Everything in the world changes and evolves, and we grow into adults, meeting people we want to start our own families with, and still when we all get together it’s easy to go back to the old days when all we had as we moved from place to place was each other–daddy, mommy, brother and sisters. For years it was just the seven of us who loved and knew each other better than we sometimes knew ourselves. That life is still a part of our present selves, and it makes for kind of an uncomfortable, gradual transition as we ourselves change and welcome new members into our close-nit family.

My original title “The Big Sister” was simply to be a tribute to my eldest sister, Lael, on her wedding day, but as I write I have realized that I cannot write about her without writing about our family, without writing about her relationship to me, my sisters, my brother or my parents.  Perhaps in a way this is my way of mourning the childhood we shared together as we all move towards major life transitions into adulthood; writing this is a bridge to help me move on and accept the inevitability of adulthood that seems so real and unavoidable as I watched my big sister say “I do” to our new brother-in-law, Andy. Lael’s wedding was the first event of a big year for our family. Since that day on August 2nd Jaclyn started her freshman year of college, Macie graduated undergrad and I graduated with my Masters. An important year of major changes in our individual lives, but changes we feel as a family. It seems appropriate that Lael would usher in this meaningful year of changes. She is the big sister and as I and my two other sisters have done since our births we follow her into the newness of life that awaits us, a future unknown but full of expectations, promises and perhaps even disappointments and heartbreak. I may look back in a nostalgia for our childhood days where we played and imagined without a single care or worry, but there is a lot to look forward to in our unknown futures, and Lael has shown this to us as she begins her new life with Andy.

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Appropriateness

There is a fine line between appropriate and inappropriate. A lot of gray and not such a hard black and white distinction. In my opinion anyways. For example, a recent conversation with some friends brought to question the appropriateness of leggings worn as pants. Most people sided on the inappropriate side; me, I emphatically sided with appropriate. But of course there were those who fell in the gray area of the circumstantial—it depends on who is wearing the leggings as pants to determine whether or not they are appropriate or inappropriate. I agree; there should be some kind of legging discretion and perhaps some friendly fashion policing because bodies were not designed for any one particular cookie-cutter fashion. So, unfortunately not every “in” thing should be worn by every single body. I believe all bodies are beautiful if adorned appropriately, but that is a different tangent that I will run with some other day. For now I just want to attend to appropriate versus inappropriate. So, using the example of the leggings for further illustration of the complexity of appropriateness, appropriateness shifts with one’s life experiences, namely age. In 10 years I will perhaps view the legging issue differently; and perhaps I will deem it inappropriate for me to wear leggings at 35 years old. Though this is highly doubtful because before leggings were “in” I wore them with everything. I didn’t really like jeans. I like the freedom, comfort and flexibility of leggings. In my opinion spandex is one of humanity’s greatest inventions. Jeans are too stiff for my taste though I started to wear them a bit in high school because my siblings gave me such a hard time about the legging fashion. But to their credit I did wear ridiculous patterned leggings with entirely non-matching patterned tops, so it was all just a big mess. So, I don’t think they were so much against the leggings as much as the unmatching look. I will have to post some pictures sometime. But for now moving on… Appropriateness is shaped by one’s place in life. For another example, men might find women wearing leggings entirely appropriate because they accentuate the female form (which my belly dancing teacher told me is the most beautiful figure in the whole universe) and cling to the curves of a woman’s body which some perceive as seducing men (or women to be fair and all inclusive). So, then in that case while some might like legging fashion for how it silhouettes the female figure, others might for that very same reason see it as inappropriate. To apply this to my personal life: in my future job as a preacher I might have to give some serious consideration of this legging tension. Perhaps leggings could be used in my sex appeal evangelism methodology (more on that later) to entice people to church, but then it might not bode well for the more conservative, modest church goer who would see leggings extremely inappropriate for the minister to be wearing. So, does that mean I must give up my love for leggings?! Is my wardrobe subject to the standards of inappropriate/appropriate of my church culture? Because while I, at 25 years of age, do not see anything inappropriate about my wearing leggings, my congregants perhaps might not think it so appropriate of a pastor to wear leggings. But is it any more appropriate for a young woman of 25 to be forced to shop and wear shapeless, old women clothes? Is it appropriate for the church to preach against the body–to not appreciate God’s handiwork of the human body? The body is beautiful, and a body can look classy and appropriately beautiful in leggings. But I return to the body, and I don’t want to keep the conversation of appropriateness isolated to the physical body. Everyday there are appropriate and inappropriate decisions to make and conclusions to come to, and what is and is not appropriate is subjective to the individual, but there are some status quos of appropriateness that seem to shape our collective, societal consciousness, making what appropriateness very complex.

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Lessons Learned

Lesson learned from getting hit by a car while riding my bike and making a late night visit to the ER to make sure my internal organs weren’t damaged: I am invincible. Yes, invincible, indestructible, a force to be reckoned with–call to mind that movie with Bruce Willis in it. Bring it on world.

Just kidding. I will proceed in the world with selective caution–that is caution when needed. If I learned anything it is the truth of the fragility of my body, but even greater truths revealed themselves since that moment I was hit. But to get to that light bulb moment let me first tell you the story of my run-in with a the blue Honda Civic.

One rainy day about three days ago I was peddling along Comm Ave per my usual routine, trying to hurry home so I could go  for a run. It was pouring rain, and I was loaded down with the typical camel hump of a student who has just dedicated a full day in the library—laptop, ipod, books, papers, notebooks, coffee mug, water bottle, gum, and the emergency stash of feminine products for those unexpected surprises. Little did I know that I was in for a different kind of surprise of which tampons or pads cannot fix. Cautiously and helmet securely fastened to my head I biked in the rain down Comm Ave, past the BU bridge intersection and started to go down that tiny hill where the bike lane suddenly ends. Before I had time to think or yell any exploitative as I usually do with close encounters on the jungle asphalt of cars, trucks, bikes, mopeds, and people called Commonwealth Avenue, I was made one with a blue Honda civic driven by a student who I later learned is named Brian. Hello Honda civic trunk; hello wet asphalt.

Fortunately Brian and his male posse got out of the car to check on me. There I sat on the ground shocked, utterly in disbelief trying to collect my thoughts on what just happened, and realizing that I need to get up and collect my backpack full of my very destructible-when-wet student necessities and my bike which was curiously no where in sight. The boys gathered around repetitiously asking if I was ok. I sat there silent still in disbelief. So, I stuck my index finger in the air, closed my eyes and told them to give me a minute. I needed to think. I thought, and then I got up to the horror of the driver and his crew as all insisted we needed to call 911. No. I insisted that I felt fine. It was a mere bump and I just needed to get to home and then to the track so I could run. They reminded me over and over that I had just been hit by a car, but that didn’t really mean anything to my mind or body. I could stand up and move and therefore being hit by a car didn’t seem so bad. I had survived with very minor injuries–some pain in my hips and ribs, a few cuts on my hands and elbows and two black and puffy fingers. Hardly anything really. So, at my request they finally agreed to let me go. They made me check my brakes on my bike, and then I rode off  as one of the guys said, “Who are you? Ironwoman? You know normal humans get injured by cars.” Well, I know and all those who know me know that I am probably the antonym to normal, so I half-smiled and biked off in the rain on my bike that I later learned was broken. I was truly felt like Bruce Willis standing in the rain realizing my invincibility. In that adrenaline-pumped moment I felt like nothing in the world could hurt me, or even more amazing that I could do anything. What a strange and curious feeling of power. Perhaps some would say a little masochistic. Some would say just down right foolish.

I got to my coach’s office stunned, in disbelief and just matter of factly noted that I had just been hit by a car–something that for whatever reason my head could just not comprehend. It seemed so natural that I would get hit by a car. No big, right? It was the first time in three years of bravely traversing the narrow, car-jammed roads of Boston that I was hit by a car. I have had a lot of close calls, but nothing that resulted with me on the ground. The thing that concerned me most of all were my two fingers; they were swelling and blackening by the minute. I had tons of papers to type and I desperately needed my index and pointer fingers. (Such a good student, I know! I hope my professors are reading this! But let us not digress from the story on some tangent that will only inflate my head with more sick notions of invincibility or self-aggrandizement.) So, I went to my former athletic trainer who told me to immediately go to student health services, so I reluctantly followed orders and the folks over at SHS were fantastic as they speedily and tenderly cared for me. They told me to go to the hospital to get some scans and x-rays done, but by this time I was convinced of my invincibility. So, nope, forgo the visit to the hospital. Hospitals are for wimps, and I am only in minor pain—or so my body pumped with adrenaline was telling me. I went on with life like everything was normal, like getting hit by a car was commonplace in urban settings. No big deal; I took a hit by a car and walked away. How could there possibly be anything actually wrong?

I wasn’t singing the same I’m-invincible tune the next day. Pain is always worst the second day. I will testify to that truth now. As an athlete you would think that I would have known pain was lurking around the corner, but no I had continued to live the delusion of invincibility. But not on day two or three; the delusion started to fade; my notion of invincibility was cracking. I hurt. Constant pain that even 600mg of motrin could not seem to relieve. So, I agreed to a check up. Blood work, urine sample, scans and x-rays all came back negative. I had successfully and invincibly survived being hit by a car–almost because I couldn’t deny the continuing pain in my ribs, back, and abdomen. Minor bruising, no big deal so it sounded to me, but the pain suggested that I would have to lay low awhile to allow my body to heal. The risk for major injury was there, but I and my worried family can sleep well knowing that death is not looming in some overlooked broken rib fragment or punctured spleen or internal bleeding. Close call I guess, but I was lucky.  Unfortunately I am sure not all cyclists along Comm Ave are so lucky.

So the personal lesson I take away from this experience is that I live in an extremely delusional world of a false sense of security where I only seem to be invincible, but clearly I am not. No one is. But doesn’t one of Erik Erikson’s stages of adolescent development include the feeling of invincibility? Clearly I need to grow out of that stage as I believe it is unbecoming of a person of 25 years of age to feel invincible–at least in the regard of surviving a bike wreck relatively unscathed and basking in that triumph. There has to be a happy middle on the spectrum of feeling invincible and fearing life so as to take no risks.

I guess this is a subject perpetually on my mind as of late. Too often I forget that I am 25, wondering where all those years have gone when I look in the mirror and see the body of a young woman and not that of one of my younger selves. Yes, there is no denying that the she I see in the mirror is aging whether I want her to or not. I don’t know why I am so surprised it’s not like I live in Never Never Land. For whatever reason I want to cling to my youth and resist growing up for fear my body will not be able to keep up with what I want it to do.  But this worry has gradually trivialized as I become aware that what happens to me does not just happen to me. In that I mean that I am not an isolated being unconnected to my surroundings; I do not merely exist as an individual but I live in a community where what happens to me, my safety and life, is a concern of those who love me. My life matters to others just as the lives of those I love matter to me. So, rather than being convinced of my invincibility, I have become more aware of my vulnerability and what that means as I live in relationship with others.

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Untamed Wind

I want to live like the wind, blowing untamed here and there, untethered to the world in any kind of permanence, blowing soft and calm like a gentle breeze at times and at other blowing wildly strong, passionate, and unpredictable.

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A Riddle…

Hippomenes won Atalanta with golden apples but you’ll need to cast your line with cardinal bait if you want the slightest bite. Lake Vanern might be the first place you go to look for the ruby lure needed to get a nibble. But angler, beware! You’ll need the skill of a confectioner in your chase of the elusive scarlet hook. For it is at home in water but quickly melts when wet.  

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Resolution

I should be finishing a paper on John Wesley’s theology of the nature of God, but one of my 2010 resolutions was to blog every day. Today is 18 January and I have one post and an insipid one on butter at that, so in continuing my irresponsible procrastination I am blogging in an attempt to keep at least one of my 2010 resolutions. I like to write and for nearly three years I have been consumed by papers on theology–which do pique my interest, but sometimes I need an escape from the weightiness of deep theological ponderings. I used to be in the habit of journaling and carving out time for creative writing, letting my imagination roam untethered, allowing my mind to explore nonsense or reflect on everyday happenings. But as a grad student I have a black hole of deadlines, so I, ever the procrastinator, have lived the past two and a half years from assignment to assignment, wanting ever so much to believe that grades cannot and will not be my motive to do work, but fully knowing that I do need passing grades to receive a degree which will allow me to get a job and enter the adult world. Living from paper to paper, reading to reading is not much of a life unless you have time to digest and reflect, so my hope is that some of what I am learning will work its way into this blog–and of course I hope to continue to write nonsense reflections peculiar to my mind because they do reveal thoughts that I rarely get to share, thoughts probably not proper for a future preacher, but to suppress them is to suppress me and I need an outlet for outlandish musings. So, I plan to write honestly and openly, sharing the many dimensions of me. To writing in the New Year!

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