Posts Tagged ‘ growing up ’

Mental Anesthesia

Where is the existential unrest? I miss it. I have become too numbed by circumstance. I am too fatigued by the day-to-day to dream and question and remember the injustices that lie parallel to my reality and how much I once longed to intersect with them for hope of somehow raising them to my plane or higher. Maybe my trip to the Dominican Republic will revitalize the me that felt angered by corruption and was filled with a fire to uplift the survivors of marginalization and the victims on their way to survivorship. Where has she gone? Why is her voice so faint? No… absent? Or rather, whose ears am I now activating and how did the messages they carry come to dominate my worldview? I feel nothing. I resist nothing. Everything is “cool.” Why question anymore? Why not just appease? Just accept?

I am numb.

How unbelievably tragic.

The recent death of my father has made me think a lot about life. I suppose that is the natural response when someone dies – think about life, realize we truly are not invincible, that our days are numbered and therefore, we need to cherish and live them to the fullest. All the clichés that, in reality, should not lose their meaning. I suppose I have joined the ranks of mourners struck by such realizations. But for me, they have had a more positive effect, and, it is conflicting to say and likely sounds incongruous, but in a way I am thankful for his passing for this lesson that it is teaching me. I have largely wasted the past 4 years of my life due to fear and doubt. But I am slowly realizing that everything that matters so much to me – my intellect, my work, what other people think about me – are nothing but trifles in the major scope of my life. What I need to return to and inhabit is my conviction that my life contains the potential and power to impact others for good and that therefore, my focus needs to be on placing myself in a position of access to the resources that will better their lives. It truly is as simple as that. I am so sad that this conviction has only returned after his passing, but feel a burning commitment to carry it out as his legacy.

Hmm… wow. Lightbulb moment. In light of my dad’s death, I have been thinking that the timing of my pre-scheduled trip to the Dominican Republic is quite odd. However, I realize now that this may very well be perfect timing and may supply the tangible encouragement to fully occupy the person God intends me to be and the good qualities that both my dad and I have sought, but been unable to attain. He certainly has them now, in the presence of God’s glory. I pray it doesn’t take death in order for me to attain them.

May he continue to live in peace.

Music Monday: Albertine by Brooke Fraser

For the past month, I have been at a cross-roads, struggling to discern my own desire from God’s and my own fear from the Spirit of wisdom. And my decision has only been compounded by my mom’s fears. As I wrote in a previous post, I have had a tendency to identify with my mother, and because of that, I have to a certain extent struggled to become my own person, to become what I would consider fully independent. But that said, I also don’t want to choose one road due to some subconscious desire to rebel or break free.

Maybe all of this would make better sense if I am more explicit. Haha. So, in early April, I received an email about an opportunity to go to Haiti. Of course, I was absolutely psyched! I immediately emailed one of the directors for  more information on the program, but he never answered me back. After a few more inquiries with no replies, I wrote it of as an impossibility and forgot about it. A month later, I received another email about the program from another school department and this time the directors of the program would be visiting to hold a meeting about the program. After learning more about it, I decided I wanted to go! The program is not related to any of my immediate academic interests (health, health care), but would still give me the opportunity to interact with native Haitians, learn about their experiences living in Haiti, and improve my Haitian Creole (very important!). In fact, I’m hoping that 1) independently continuing on in my Haitian Creole textbooks + 2) 3-weeks of practice with native Haitians will allow me to skip the second level of Haitian Creole and go on to the third! (Here’s hoping.) Besides language, it may also help me further develop a non-profit idea that God gave me a few weeks ago.

So when I don’t think about the potential danger, I am so excited to go. I have been able to bring my mom on-board, but I can tell she is still very concerned. But I just don’t want my fear to limit me. I feel like I am so fearful of… everything, practically! And that is no way to live. Since high school, I have had an immense desire to work abroad with communities in extreme poverty. But over the years, I have seen that goal uprooted by fear. My mom has had angst about this goal and has pushed me to consider staying in the US instead. Her reasons are sound:  “There is so much poverty here. People need help here. Why are you running to another country when people in your own country are in need?” Logically, that makes perfect sense to me. But it doesn’t erase the pang in my heart to do something for those abroad. I feel like I need an experience in order to confirm either God’s calling for me to serve abroad or His intention for me to serve populations in the US. I just don’t want fear to usurp the decision and rob me of clarity.

Last night, I shared some of this with an old friend who I haven’t seen in… at least 2 years! We had a wonderful conversation. And I realized how much I have changed as a person through my conversation with her. I am so much more open and talkative now… but I’ll spare you details on that. Maybe for another post 🙂 But, yes… our conversation was so encouraging. She went to Haiti last year and was able to share about her emotional transition to living/working in the country. It was especially comforting to me that she could relate to my expressed desire to have an experience to call my own, one that would positively challenge me to grow and become independent, and one that would give me clarity on where to go from here (international vs. domestic). After listening, she strongly encouraged me to go and embrace this opportunity. When I push the fear aside, I feel that it is the right thing for me to do and I believe that it will be a positive experience for me.

So what does all of this have to do with Music Monday? Well, last night my friend told me about Brooke Fraser’s solo album, Albertine. You brothers and sisters out there may know Brooke from Hillsong United. She’s the front-woman for the songs “None But Jesus” and “Lord of Lords.” Well her solo album is absolutely beautiful and I have especially fallen in love with the title track, “Albertine.” In 2005, Brooke went to Rwanda to work with World Vision. In her visit to a Rwandan orphanage, she met Albertine, a young girl who was orphaned by the 1993-94 Rwandan genocides. This song is a promise to Albertine and this album is dedicated to her.

This song (especially the chorus) expresses my exact sentiments about engaging work in the international community. After learning about disparity, how can you just sit down and do nothing? And in doing nothing, how is your mind not plagued by the truth and how are you not guilted by your unwillingness to do your part to help?

I have a dear friend at school who seems fascinated by my interest in Haiti. Because I have no direct connection to the country, he cannot understand why I feel compelled to help them. Akin to Brooke’s chorus, because I know the history of injustice the country has experienced and know of the extreme poverty that millions of Haitians live daily, poverty that their parents lived and their parents before them, and poverty that their children will have no choice but to endure… how can I not be responsible to do something? I may not have seen this (yet) with my naked eyes, but isn’t the knowledge that it exists enough to be mobilized to do my part?

“Albertine”

I am sitting still
I think of Angelique
Her mother’s voice over me
And the bullets in the wall where it fell silent
And on a thousandth hill, I think of Albertine
There in her eyes what I don’t see with my own

[CHORUS]

Rwanda
Now that I have seen, I am responsible
Faith without deeds is dead
Now that I have held you in my own arms, I cannot let go till you are

I am on a plane across a distant sea
But I carry you in me
and the dust on, the dust on, the dust on, the dust on, the dust on my feet

[CHORUS]

[BRIGDE]
I will tell the world, I will tell them where I’ve been
I will keep my word
I will tell them Albertine

[CHORUS]

I am on a stage, a thousand eyes on me
I will tell them, Albertine
I will tell them, Albertine

Tabs“Albertine” @ UltimateGuitar.com

Thoughts for the Day: Growing Pains…

PAULO COELHO

“Choosing one path means abandoning others – if you try to follow every possible path you will end up following none.”

ANONYMOUS
“The hurting is there to test you, to help you grow.”

Paulo Coelho – Quote of the Moment

Paulo Coelho

Man improves himself as he follows his path; if he stands still, waiting to improve before he makes a decision, he’ll never move.

(Unpublished Saying)

It is God, all God that I saw this quote today. This morning, I was thinking about the person I am right now and felt somewhat dismayed by the gravity of improvements I feel I need to make. Within myself, I wondered if I should just stop and try to make these improvements before I keep moving … make sure I am completely in order first. I laughed to myself, because I realized I was thinking with a perfectionist’s mindset. And yet, even though I knew I wouldn’t be able to be perfect, I figured I could at least try to become as close to perfection as possible before moving on to new experiences.

I know I am not the only one who is tempted to yield to such thinking. There is a security when you feel completely prepared for everything. (God, do I crave that security!). But I was so blessed by Coelho’s quote. And I feel it is so true, or at least in my own life it has been true.

Often when I stall, I get stuck there, likely because I become so fixated on my faults that they end up staying with me. Like I wrote in a previous post… the car analogy. When you’re driving, you subconsciously direct the car toward the point upon which your eyes fixate. It is the same in life. When you fixate upon a point, you begin to reposition your life to get there. So my stalling for perfection and fixation on my faults only keeps me right there at this point. I can’t move past them because I have stopped moving altogether.

We have to keep moving, with our eyes focused ahead on the person we want to be. When we focus on our future, better selves, we will position our entire lives to become the person we want to be.

So Lord, I have decided to keep walking.

An Old Dog Abandons Her Old Tricks

For all the growth I have made this semester, I have still been held up by old vices, which is extremely disappointing. I feel the Lord changing me, changing the person within me, and oh… God, I am so eager for it! To be new, fresh, unhampered by the past. And I know I can be. I have tasted newness this semester. But, man, can I be my own worst enemy. But I am determined to win this battle against my old self, and to do that, I need to purge.

My real weakness is that I feel too much. I identify with people, imagine their situation, imagine myself in their situation, try to come up with ways to help and guide them, feel utterly helpless if I can’t succeed in helping them, need to let them know that I am there for them, and then must follow through in being there for them fully. An extreme empathizer. So much that, as a school psychologist pointed out earlier this semester, I allow my own happiness to depend on others, which is so detrimental to myself.

I think this disposition is why I so easily identified with my mother, who in her adversity (being married to my dad), had so much need for empathy. I imagined myself in her place and tried to emotionally fill the void that my dad had created within her. Because I identified so strongly with her, I paid more attention to how my dad treated her than I did his treatment of me. And also, because I identified so strongly with her, she became an example of the kind of person I should be, while my dad became the example of the person I didn’t want to be. I put her on a pedestal.

When I was a little older (~late teens?), my mom told me that she is not the person that she used to be, the person she was before and in the early years of her marriage. But the only person I saw and could remember was this new person she had become. A woman who strived to be wholly self-sufficient, independent, emotionally guarded, masking and denying her true emotions… A necessarily strong woman. A private woman. A dependable woman, who denied herself her own desires and happiness, ranking them after those of everyone around her. Growing up, she was the image of what I thought I should be, of what I wanted to be.

But I realize now that I have truly identified too much with my mother. I have become her in many ways. The qualities that I once viewed as strengths have become faults because I have adopted them too intensely.

INDEPENDENCE –  I always feel like I need to be self-sufficient. I don’t like to ask for help for anything, if I can help it. And I don’t allow others to do niceties for me. For example, I remember when I was moving out of my room at the end of my freshman year at college, a friend scolded me for this. “Let us help you!” he said. “You don’t have to do everything by yourself!” I had tried to move my heavy boxes by myself instead of taking up their offer to help.

Don’t get me wrong, independence is an admirable quality and I am glad that I am equipped to and comfortable with doing things for myself. But sticking too firmly to it has been detrimental (i.e. because of my independence, I have purposely created distance between myself and my friends). This is something of which I am coming to the full realization. I shouldn’t allow my independence to divide me from the people I care about.

When I think more about this trait in relation to my mom, I also realize that she was so independent because my dad didn’t fulfill his husbandly role as God describes it. So she had to step up and lead my brother and I. This example, a woman leading her family, only added to my view of female independence and encouraged me to believe that I shouldn’t depend on any man to do anything for me. And because I didn’t know what that looked like… to have a man lead his wife and for her to be able to depend upon him… I now even find myself resisting guys’ attempts to do something for me. I probably appear less “feminine” to them when I hold doors open for them, rather than allow them to open a door for me. But after years of seeing my dad not do such niceties for my mom, I don’t expect it from any man (except my brother, who my mom brought up to be so courteous) and just automatically do such things for myself. But I don’t like that I am this way. Again, I should be willing to allow people to display their courtesy.

WALLS – My mom set up emotional walls after she realized that her emotions were not appreciated by my dad. He couldn’t be trusted with them. So she entered into  subsequent friendships with a walled heart. Encouraged others to do more talking, so that she wouldn’t have to give too much of herself away. Basically Proverbs 4:23 to the extreme.

I am the spitting image of her example. Growing up, it was emphasized that our private business was our business and not to be shared with others (we had extremely gossip-y neighbors). But I have carried this mandate with me into my young adulthood. I let others do the talking, which is fine because, being an extreme empathizer, I like to hear about their experiences and like bringing them pleasure by showing my interest in their life. And I think I don’t share my emotions partly because I don’t want to run the risk of discovering that they won’t be appreciated by my listeners.

But I have realized that this stunts my growth. Part of being in a relationship with someone is giving of yourself. And part of growing as a person is learning how to trust others with parts of yourself. I think a lot of my past friendships ended because I was unwilling to do this – unwilling to open up and show the other person that I trust them enough to let them see me. Trust. Now that is something that requires true strength. This is definitely something I have been working on building.

This reminds me… I recently read a quote that said something to the effect of… “the problem with [emotional] walls is not only that they keep people out, but they keep you in.” This could not be more true. It definitely has been pretty lonely being the only person who knows me.

DENIAL+MASKING – this falls in line with building walls. My mom was a master actress. Being strong for my brother and I, she denied many of her emotions and masked them. She always appeared strong. Always appeared happy. And she was both of those things. But there was a storm inside. Since I am older now and our friendship has matured, I see this more. She will sometimes say things that hint her desire for affection, but then quickly denies it and masks it. But I know her well and can identify when she’s doing this. And I think she does this because deep down she doesn’t feel that she is worthy of having her desires… or, perhaps more correctly, that it isn’t possible for her to ever have them.

I think out of all the qualities I have picked up, this is the one I need to change the most because, I realize now, it leads most directly to self-sabotage. I deny myself of my desires and convince myself that I can’t have them or am not worthy of them, and then mask that I have a desire at all. For someone who so strongly values communication, this tactic makes me a complete hypocrite because it keeps me from communicating with myself and with others, who very well may be able to deliver what I want. It is a breeding ground for mixed signals.

The truth is, it is not that I cannot have what I desire… but that I do not allow myself to have what I desire, and what is perhaps even available to me. So I create my own unhappiness, not my situation or any other person, etc. In living this way,  I  also offend God by not accepting and trusting His ability to deliver my wants, if they are right for me. So I tie not only the hands of those around me, but His hands as well. I deny myself happiness and love, so that in the end, all I have is my independent self, sitting within all those walls I have built. Alone.

—————————————————————————————————————-

I realize that I have been living as though I am a woman in a wrecked marriage, perhaps thinking deep down inside that behaving this way will prevent me from acquiring her unhappiness. But, my God. It’s all SO wrong… couldn’t be more wrong than this. And I just praise the Lord that He is bringing me to the full realization of these things NOW, while I am still young. I need to live up to a higher standard – to God’s standard. I am resolved to not look to any other person as a model for how to live, because we are each fallible in our own ways. God is the only one worthy of a pedestal!

We can’t help what situation we’re born into, but we can help how we allow ourselves to be affected by it. And I choose to love myself… fully love myself and believe that I am worthy of happiness and all my desires and that I can and will indeed have them, if not today than someday! All according to God’s perfect time.

Wow, when I re-read this, I wonder who on earth would want to have such a complicated person in one’s life. Yes, I suppose I am quite a complicated mess right now, but I know that God is a good janitor. The best, actually. And now that I have finally given Him the master key to my building, I know it will clean up better than “just fine” 🙂

Future Post:  Traits I’ve picked up from Dad.

I’m Not Who I Was (Brandon Heath)

So I was listening to a random stream of Christian music on Imeem.com, and this song, “I’m Not Who I Was” by Brandon Heath, came on. At first I really got into it because I liked the blend of the drum beat, guitar riff, and the light touch of piano in the bridge and chorus. I found myself getting happy from it. But it wasn’t until the second time around that I actually listened to lyrics and realized he was talking about forgiveness, and in particular, a specific someone he had struggled to forgive. This immediately made me think of my dad.

I didn’t post on here, but about a month ago, I took a step forward in our relationship by forgiving him for hurting my mom, which has hurt my brother and me. In that step, I also reassured him that I love him. I think he could have easily questioned my love for him given the way I have treated him.

Earlier in the semester, I spoke with a psychologist about my family and she told me that I am “too identified with my mother” and “too involved in their marriage.” Well, I knew the second was true, but I had a hard time accepting the first assessment because I felt that I had sided with *right behavior,* not a particular person. After all, I did (and do) criticize my mother when I think she has said or done something out of line toward my dad, my brother, or myself. But in talking with her more and hearing the very defensive statements that came out of my mouth, I realized that she may have a point.

I think I have put my mother on a pedestal because she has always gone over and beyond in performing her role as a mother and in showing us her love. She is more often than not the parent who displays what I would call righteous, or Godly behavior, which I defend. But the fact that I feel so intimately involved in their marriage has definitely made me feel pressured to pick a side, choose an alliance.

I try not to blame myself for this fault because being a teenager, it was hard not to feel caught in the middle. But my mistake in siding with my mom made it very difficult for me not to see his relationship with her as a reflection of his relationship with me; his sentiments toward her as a reflection of how he felt about me.

I think I realized this a while ago, or at least a partial realization because I remember asking my mom to stop talking with me about the details of their marriage because it clouded my perspective of my relationship with my dad. I remember that I felt so guilty when I asked her this because I felt like I was betraying her by wanting to know the person who has caused her so much pain.

But I praise God for where He has grown me. Being older and more mature in Him, I can now separate her relationship with him from mine. She still tells me details. She can’t help it, and I know this. She needs someone to talk to, and now I honestly am glad to be there for her because I can handle it. I have finally realized and accepted that just because their marriage is strained doesn’t mean that my relationship with him has to be strained. I shouldn’t ever feel guilty about accepting his love when he’s willing to give it. He’s her husband, not mine.

There’s more I’d like to say about my relationship with my dad, especially since I made a very important realization of another mistake I made growing up. I am so grateful that God is revealing to my my own faults. For so long I looked at him and blamed him, instead of turning the mirror on myself and realizing the hurt that I was doing to myself! God, You are magnificent! I love growing in You!

I am so glad that every day I can say with greater confidence that “I’m Not Who I Was.”

I wish you could see me now
I wish I could show you how
I’m not who I was
I used to be mad at you
A little on the hurt side too
But I’m not who I was

I found my way around
To forgiving you
Some time ago
But I never got to tell you

I found us in a photograph
I saw me and I had to laugh
You know, I’m not who I was
You were there
You were right above me
And I wondered if you ever loved me
Just for who I was

When the pain came back again
Like a bitter friend
It was all that I could do
To keep myself from blaming you

I reckon it’s a funny thing
I’ve figured out I can sing
Now I’m not who I was
I write about love and such
Maybe ’cause I want it so much
I’m not who I was

I was thinking maybe I,
I should let you know
That I am not the same
But I never did forget your name

Hello

Well the thing I find most amazing
In amazing grace
Is the chance to give it out
Maybe that’s what love is all about

I wish you could see me now
I wish I could show you how
I’m not who I was

The Contrarian Within

Yes… self-therapy. Indeed, that is a specialty of mine 🙂

Being home has really focused the lens on why I am the way I am. In just these few days, I have strongly come to believe that a person is a product of their environment. A person will inherit certain traits of their parents, or choose to do the complete opposite of their parents. The key word here again is CHOICE. Yes, that ‘s right. In the end, we all have the right to choose, despite our experiences. The challenge is realizing and recognizing that we each possess that right.

I have long ago realized that I have that right, but only recently was I able to discern why I have certain traits about myself, and discover that I do not like this particular trait.

I am an pop-culture entertainment junkie. I love television, I love movies, I love music. I wouldn’t even come close to calling my affinity for entertainment cultured, because it’s not like I see it as an art. I am merely attracted for the entertainment factor.

Growing up, my mom worked very hard, both professionally and more so for our family. She sacrificed so much of herself (and still does) to my family that she regarded television and movies as her one self-pleasure. Jokingly, she would remark, “Can I at least have one thing?!” As my mom and I are very close, I would watch tv with her. Much of this entertainment was our quality time together.

Realizing this, it is no wonder that today I continue to gravitate toward entertainment. I too have come to view it as my escape from the world. Furthermore, my mom would indulge in treats and goodies. She used to be very active in her youth, but in the busyness of taking care of two children and a sick husband, she lost the time to indulge her interests in outdoor activities (except gardening and landscaping! She makes time for that, and boy, is that a lot of physical work!). Her activity so revolved around caring for us that at the end of the day, the last thing she could think of was working out. As far as I’m concerned, we were workout enough! Thus, all she wanted to do was escape into the television with cake in hand.

I am the same way now. I used to be very active in middle school and high school, but as my relationship with my mother built (for which, don’t get me wrong, I am so grateful!), I began to workout less, indulge more, and escape into the world of entertainment.

In my freshman year of college, I honestly felt like a fish out of water. My peers were cultured, as society recognizes the meaning of that word. I’m talking about kids who grew up reading Dante and the Illiad, going to plays, traveling the world, learning multiple languages, and using big SAT words in their regular vocabulary… Cultured. I knew that attending an Ivy League university would mean that I would commingle with such students, and yet I really didn’t realize how dichotomous my relation to them would feel.

For a while, I felt deep unrest while at school. I always felt unqualified and wholly ignorant when around my friends, I felt like a round-the-clock actor, faking an understanding smile at their references and laughs at their intellectual jokes, constantly fearful of my ploy being discovered.

In reflection, this seems ridiculous to me. So very real in the live moments, but utterly ridiculous now, and I am so grateful that I have made a breakthrough. You see, in my youth (haha, as if I’m old now at 19!), I prided myself on being a contrarian. I truly tried to seek out my own route despite the paths that others chose. Now, I will not say that my stance on this was always rock solid. From time to time, I would feel swayed by the current of society and I never allowed myself to be fully taken by it. My freshman year was the first time I had been completely and utterly gripped by that current. I do not in any way regret the anguish I experienced during this first and my second year at college. I feel that it has helped me to become the person that I am today, a woman who is dedicated to deafening her ears to what society says to do, a woman who is critical of the examples that were set before her by her parents and peers, and is committed to choosing her own path in life, ruled by God’s standards alone. I am my own compass.

Thinking back on my sophomore, I am blessed to have clarity on one thing. It was my spring semester and I had finally built the courage to express the coping difficulties I had experienced over the last three semesters to a school psychologist. I remember her saying to me, and I’m paraphrasing, “You mention a lot of the things that your friends have experienced, but you must know that you have a lot to contribute yourself. You have invaluable experiences that your friends have not had. You bring different elements to a relationship as well.” Outwardly, I nodded , mostly to appease her because inside I was completely scoffing. I thought this remark was so textbook and was actually expecting it.

It is only now that I have removed the dark lenses from my eyes that I am able to see that I indeed do have invaluable experiences, and that I have a wealth of wisdom and knowledge that my friends do not. My experiences are my own and they have helped to make me the person that I am. So I cannot discredit my past and live regretting what I did not experience. Rather, I must embrace the exchange that I am privileged to now, the exchange of experiences and knowledge with my friends. We each bring something unique and I am wholly contented by what I have to offer.

Given all that was written above, I will not cave to any social pressure I feel at school, unless, of course, I truly possess an interest for its cause. That said, I have no interest in Dante nor the Illiad, so I will not be reading those and I will make a point of not pretending like I know what people are talking about when they refer to it. Sure, I may cliffnotes them for a general understanding, but only if I am so inclined, and that will be the extent of it. Furthermore, I have realized that I do not like how much time I spend in the front of the tube. I want to get outside and experience life. I waste so much precious time on shows that really provide no important contribution to my state of self. So, I have decided to limit my fall shows to Ugly Betty, Grey’s Anatomy, and (maybe) The Office. That may seem like a lot to watch, but trust me, I had more shows! 🙂

Over the summer, I discovered that I really enjoy running outdoors, so I want to continue that. I am also really enjoying the guitar, and am getting quite good at it if I say so myself! I have only been playing for a month and can already barre chords! Okay… I’ll be honest, I only barred one! Haha, and my finger killed afterwards, so I shouldn’t make such a claim, but I’m getting faster with the regular chords the more I practice them! I’m currently debating on signing up for piano lessons. I really love music and since I’m not doing a cappella this year (took up way too much time! – 6 hours per week!), I would like to cultivate my interest elsewhere (and more productively, if you ask me!). I probably won’t, but the thought is nice. Lastly, I discovered that I really missed personal reading! I often found it so much more entertaining than television (I have a hyperactive/creative imagination).

In closing, I would like to leave you with the most recent addition to my favorite quotes list. I truly feel that it describes me:

“To be nobody but yourself in a world which is working night and day to make you like everybody else means to fight the hardest battle any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.”

– E.E. Cummings