Posts Tagged ‘ independence ’

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

Advertisements

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.

Revival

Wow, so I haven’t been on here in a while! Well, I plan to change that. God has really brought me to a point in my life where I am just relishing in Him. I’ve made some new friendships with brothers and sisters and am so grateful that I have surrendered to this change in my life.

I’ve been yearning something, and I think I know what it is now. I’m longing to just talk about Him. To talk in depth and at length about my King. To challenge others with and be challenged by His word. And I guess I am a little discouraged because I don’t have any one person that I can talk with like this. My mom is SO unbelievably busy, working to support my whole family now that my dad has lost his job. She’s very tired, and though of course we talk about Him, we don’t have the time to talk at length and in depth as we used to be able to do. And then my Christian friends here at school are so busy preparing for graduate school admissions exams, among the other million things they’re involved in. So I can’t talk with them because they don’t have the time. Friends at other schools have their own Christian friends and have formed their own deep bonds with them. So, they don’t have the time to go in depth with me, when I’m sure they’re doing that with others at their university. SO, I am left alone in this. But not so alone 🙂 God will have to be my Bible study buddy, and, well, who better to have, right?!

I imagine this must have been how my mom felt when my brother and I were younger and she started to seek God more deeply. My dad wasn’t in the picture spiritually, and since they had just moved to a new area, she didn’t know anyone who she could talk with about the Lord. From what she has shared with me, it didn’t seem like her old friends were at a point of seeking the Lord just yet. So she was alone… as I am now. But of course, not alone, because He was there, as He is here for me now.

I think I’m just a little saddened and frustrated because I am so used to going to people and talking with people about God. So to not have anyone to talk to feels so different, and a little off. But I think this isolation is only good for me. Because people are not going to always be in the picture. They’re not always going to be available to converse with me… so in such situations, what will I do? I need to be less dependent on others and solely dependent on God.

Wow, Lord… I think I get it now. I think this is why I am here this semester. See, I was supposed to be abroad in England right now, but I couldn’t because of financial problems at home. The disappointment of not being able to go abroad is a pain that I’ve kind of filed away in the back of my mind because facing it is too sad for me. I’ve never been out of the country nor had an experience so independent of family and friends, so my heart was really broken when I couldn’t go. I think this disappointment is manifesting itself this semester by my lack of drive. I am literally pushing myself through all of my work. I am really not excited about pretty much anything I am learning… except perhaps the new language I’m picking up. But, I even have to push myself on that. I guess you could say I’m experiencing a little depression. And although I have not turned these sentiments into anger toward God, I have been questioning Him on why this couldn’t work out for me. All throughout college, I have felt like I was at least a step behind the other students in terms of experience/academic background. So I was really looking forward to 1) getting away from university and 2) having an experience that would be mine, all mine… something worthwhile that I could finally talk about with my more experienced peers. But now that I type that out, it really seems like my motivations were fueled indirectly by others. I’ll have to think about that. But yea, so I’ve been deeply disappointed and wondering why God has me here. I think it’s for this isolation. I think it’s because He wants me to dig deeper into Him, to find myself in Him and Him alone. I think it’s because He wants me to face the pain in my life. Rather than running across the ocean to get away from thoughts of my parents’ bad marriage and my feelings of being caught in the middle, I think He wants me to stand here and face it and make room for His healing.

So, although I am still disappointed, I won’t turn away from Him. I’ve been there done that and only know that that leaves me empty and dark. No, this time, I will look to Him and trust that He will turn this disappointment into the purest joy and contentment in Him. After all, I did set the new year’s resolution that I would become the best version of myself yet… I think God’s got me on the right track for that.

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

Reliving your Parents’ Marriage: Fate or Choice?

My participation in the Singles & Dating section of Yahoo! Answers has encouraged me to come to terms with the role my parents’ marriage has played in my life. I am very good at “self-diagnosing” myself, as I jokingly like to call it. But, seriously, I have a good head on my shoulders and am not afraid of being honest with myself. The last person I want to lie to is myself. What an ultimate betrayal that would be!

That said, I have always been aware that my parents’ marriage could impact me later in my life when I started to date, but it is only now that I am realizing that I have some choice in the matter. I am not merely the debris of their relationship. No, rather, I have the power to decide how I choose to be affected by their decision to remain married. I don’t think many people realize they possess this right to choose. I think many people believe that they have an inevitable and uncontrollable fate to be damaged by their parents’ bad marriage, when, in reality, they can CHOOSE! Someone make a billboard, please!

The major flaw in my parents’ marriage was a lack of respect on my dad’s part. They dated for the latter half of college and for a short time thereafter and eventually married when they were 26. Within their first year of marriage, he and my mom became pregnant with me and I was born a few days before their 1st year anniversary. I think my dad did not fully understand what he was committing to when he married… what his role would be as a husband. My mom shared with my that he would often leave her home and just go out with his friends, without notice of where he was going or when he would be back. His communication was just terrible; very inconsiderate.

My brother was born 2 years after I was. I am glad that I can say that I mine was indeed a very happy childhood. During our youth, their marriage was rocky, but it was better concealed… or, we just couldn’t comprehend its defects. My mom was not happy in her marriage during our youth, but for the sake of myself and my brother, she decided to remain married. She didn’t want her children to grow up fatherless.

As I matured, I became fully aware of the disconnect between my parents. Lack of communication remained a severe fault in my dad. He’s the kind of person who will keep a problem to himself and then in quite literally the 11th hour, seek help from my mom. This, of course, causes her great stress because, had she known about it from the onset, the problem would have been alleviated under much calmer circumstances.

As a youth, I also witnessed their disunity in other ways. I remember appreciating whole-family outings because they were so rare, and their rareness only proved to be proportionate to my age. Indeed, it was a special treat to have my dad accompany my mom, brother, and myself to different events. It was the norm for him not to be there. However, looking back, I must force myself to understand this to a certain extent. He worked the third shift when I was younger, six days a week, which can be taxing on a person. So I must forgive his absence. He was working hard to support our family. And yet, I look at my mom, who worked full-time once my brother was about 4 in age. When she came home, she still had the involuntary responsibility of cleaning the house, cooking for my brother and I, helping us with our homework, and getting us ready for bed. And she did all of this with such love, and such patience. It makes me cry to remember her sweetness. Not to mention that the nature of her job required her to complete a lot of paperwork at home. After putting us to bed, she would stay awake for hours finishing paperwork. And she would wake up the next day, get us ready for school, send us off and go through her day. Such it was, everyday. Now how was it that she was able to do all that, and all my dad was able/willing to focus on was working is third shift? Women cannot be so superior in capability to men. No, I will not make this on the sexes, but rather a battle of will. Why was he unwilling to try harder? I know the truth, or at least what I perceive to be the truth…. and yet, why is still so hard to say? … He was being selfish.

A few years later he developed a heart problem and my mom left work to care for him, while still not dropping the ball one iota for my brother and I. Yes, we felt some fear, but as we truly did not grasp the severity of his condition, we were able to maintain a large degree of normalcy. All by her emotional and physical sacrifice. And yet, I wonder how since and even today, my dad does not show her the respect she so duly earned. How she has shown him love throughout the years, which he has not returned in neither words nor action. He continues to play the passive aggressive card, holding information from her, lying, manipulating circumstances and thus setting her up for hardship. He shows her no affection in his action nor manners. He seemingly makes an effort to embarrass her in the company of her friends and yet somehow cannot see his wrongs. Or if he does, he does not admit them. He is the indelible victim.

It was not my intention to paint my dad the antagonist of this marriage, although it would seem he is largely if I allowed myself to believe it. Many would say that living in the midst of such disconnect and strive would prove irreparably damaging for a child. I have often thought the environment toxic and I even recall a time when I implored my parents to just divorce already! As a teen, I used to fear that I would harbor irreversible damages from their tarnished relationship, including fear of intimacy, lack of communication, fear of marriage, the development of an independent character that would deflect any chances for a relationship, early divorce if I do marry.

However, (and I cannot speak for my brother) upon closer consideration through matured eyes, I can speak for myself when I say that I have learned much from my parents’ marriage and I am a better person because of their flaws. I now know that I will not rush into marriage, as I feel my parents did. And I will not settle for a man who gives early hints of a selfish and disrespectful nature, as my dad revealed during their dating years. I will not allow myself to be taken advantage of a man, as my mother did early in their marriage. I will not allow myself to love a man who does not love me as passionately and with an equal measure of commitment.

I want a partner in life, and will not settle for anything less than that. And I know that I deserve it. I will allow myself to know myself and protect the virtues of my character against any attempted tarnishing by a disrespecting man. No, I feel wholly confident that I will be happy in a relationship because I will not make the mistakes I saw them make.

I thank God that my parents did not put on a show for me. They didn’t raise me to believe that love and life are perfect. They showed me the real, and it is because of that I am certain I will know how to love in a real way, with dedication and effort. I am certain that I will be able to face life’s challenges confidently with a partner who is devoted to me and committed to my happiness. I will know how to connect with my partner because I saw where they failed. I have already lived with the mistakes of a poor marriage, so I know that I will not make them.

Being in college, I have talked with so many of my friends and it is really a shame what charades their parents put on for them. I have one girlfriend whose mother refuses to talk to her about her previous boyfriends before her dad. Because of this, my friend doesn’t have the privilege of knowing where her mom went wrong in prior relationships before her dad. Her parents’ marriage is not a happy one either, but unfortunately, my friend has yet to process it in a way that I have. If anything, she only fears that she will marry someone just like her dad, but I don’t really see her becoming proactive about ensuring that she does not. I have other friends whose parents would argue in separate rooms and do their best to pretend like everything was wonderful, when in reality, it was deteriorating. Why hide your struggles from your children? I think it is healthy for children to gain a grasp on reality, *as long as* you help them to process what they’re witnessing, as my mom did.

Do parents want to set their children up for miserable, failing marriages? Do they want to cycle repeated? Does “misery love company,” even when the happiness of one’s children is at risk?

The Alchemist: A Fable About Following Your Dream

Everyone on the face of the Earth has a treasure that lies waiting for them.”

“In order to arrive you must follow the signs.
God inscribed on the world the path that each man must follow.
It is just a matter of reading the inscription He wrote for you.”

“The glory of the world is transitory, and we should not measure our lives by it,
but by the choice we make to follow our Personal Legend,
to believe in our utopias and to fight for our dreams.
We are all protagonists of our own lives,

and it is often the anonymous heroes who leave the deepest mark.”
(from Paulo Coelho’s acceptance speech to Brazilian Academy of Letters)

“The closer you get to your dream,
the more your Personal Legend becomes your real reason for living.”

The Alchemist

For the past two years, I have been searching for some person or word inspired by God to restore meaning in my life … I have found what I was looking for in Paulo Coelho and his novel, The Alchemist. After reading this book, I felt like I came alive again. I had feared that I would not find a way to dig out from underneath the negativity I had piled upon myself, and oftentimes felt tempted to surrender to an ever imminent feeling of defeat. And then, I learned of this book from a friend… it couldn’t have been suggested at a better time because, as I mention in my first post, I am trying to pull my life together.

I had heard of The Alchemist earlier in my life in passing… you know, like one of those books you know the title of and recognized it as a classic work of literature, but don’t know what it is about and don’t really have any inclination to read it. The Alchemist was that to me, until a dear friend of mine just recently suggested that I read it. She had just finished it and suggested that I read it, saying it was a story about a boy’s journey to realize his dreams. Normally, I don’t think that would have really caught my interest, but for some reason, I was intrigued by this description, likely because I am in a state now where I am trying to flush out my dreams and determine in which direction God will have me travel. I would like to thank my dear friend, for she has given me a gift that I could never have anticipated… the gift of hope and anticipation for greatness in my life!

I thank God for the gift of new perspective. My eyes have been renewed by seeing life through the eyes of a simple shepherd boy who had hope and faith in a dream larger than his present circumstances could ever foretell. Despite the immense difficulties that threatened to thwart the realization of his destiny, he persevered and chose to continue his journey instead of accepting defeat. To quote the book, “…he realized that he had to choose between thinking of himself as the poor victim of a thief and as an adventurer in quest of his treasure. ‘I am an adventurer, looking for treasure,’ he said to himself.” For him, quitting would take the fun out of his journey. As stated in the book, “It is precisely the possibility of realizing a dream that makes life interesting.”

That scenario speaks to me directly. In these past years, I have burrowed myself into a state of such deep regret that it has immobilized me. I have fixated on the mistakes I have made that I have allowed them to hinder me from moving forward. But looking at the shepherd boy fills me with such inspiration. I need to actively learn how to see my mistakes as moments of life experience, moments that carry lessons to be used as examples of how not to handle things next time… the key point being that I should not shelter myself from situations that will test what I learned from my mistakes, but face them head on with a new and greater awareness!

What I also love about how Paulo Coelho depicted this situation is that he was very real about it. Before coming to this state of hope and determined persistence, the shepherd boy was tempted to yield to the resistance created by his mistake. After being robbed, he thought regretfully to himself:

“When I had my sheep, I was happy, and I made those around me happy. People saw me coming and welcomed me, he thought. But now I’m sad and alone. I’m going to become bitter and distrustful of people because one person betrayed me. I’m going to hate those who have found their treasure because I never found mine. And I’m going to hold on to what little I have, because I’m too insignificant to conquer the world.”

I absolutely LOVE that Paulo wrote him realistically. I know that everyone of his readers must have been able to relate to this feeling of despair and utter regret, knowing that we had things better a time before our present misfortune and disparaging ourselves for allowing us to get to this state. It’s human nature, and like us, the shepherd spoke ill of his future and for a short time there, was tempted to believe it. He even thought to blame God for his misfortune, saying that “this was the way God repaid those who believed in their dreams.” But instead of succumbing to the temptation of quitting, he realized that his destiny still remained and that a treasure was waiting to be found, by him. So instead of stopping his life story there, he had faith in his destiny, proclaiming to himself, “I am an adventurer, looking for treasure.” This unfortunate event was only a mild pothole along the road.

His outlook of transcendence is an example to me, to us all. He acknowledged his part in his misfortune and decided to learn from his mistake of so easily trusting a stranger. Yet, he did not fixate on his mistake. Rather, he looked for beauty in the seemingly lowest of moments. He focused on the positives of his experience, centering himself on his accomplishment of reaching Africa and coming that much closer to realizing his destiny.

I hope that in life, I can face each day with such optimistic vigor. In every day, every moment, every breath, there lies beauty. There is always something to be praised. The challenge is to train your eye to see it. Once you can accomplish that, beauty is all you’ll come to see, in every circumstance. God is EVERYWHERE. He is not hiding. Rather, it is our human eye that fails to recognize his presence in every living moment. Here is an analogy to better explain my point. Don’t credit this to me; I may have heard this from somewhere a few years back. I am realizing this now: When you are driving, your hands naturally guide the vehicle to whichever point upon which your eyes are fixed. So if you are fixated upon the car approaching you in the opposite lane, your hands will naturally reposition the car toward this oncoming car. But if you are focused on the lane you are in, you will continue to safely drive the course. I have been focusing on my past mistakes, and have thus been living in the past. My life has been unable to move forward because my gaze is pointed on what is behind me. I feel closer to God after reading this book.

I may have finished reading this book Friday, June 20, 2008, but its words and the images it evoked still replay in my mind. I am certain that this book and its author have become bright threads in the tapestry of my life journey. The story was especially affecting to me as a Christian. I felt closer to God after reading this book, and that feeling still remains. Reading it, I just knew that Paulo Coelho must be a Christian because he speaks in the language of Christ. I cannot even express how much this blessed me. As my faith diminished during the last two years, my relationship with God grew gradually more distant. It was not until last January that I felt an undeniable separation from God, which truly scared my. I committed myself to seeking the Lord and have been praying for redirection in my life. I was feeling like my life was headed back in the wrong direction when I learned about The Alchemist. Reading it, it was as though my soul was being cleaned throughout and uplifted in encouragement. As I said earlier, I felt closer to God, which I so desperately needed. I heard Him through the words of his creation, Paulo Coelho.

I know that I am destined for something amazing! I was under so much spiritual fire in these last two years and at the point of almost succumbing fully to its will, when God sent me this light to guide me back to the path on which He has destined me to be! Wow… my destiny MUST be something amazing and important that the Universe conspired at this exact time to remind me that my dreams are realizable… the time when I most needed such encouragement! I just have to trust undoubtedly in the strength God has put within me and trust that He has portioned me more than the right amount to surpass ALL of resistance’s efforts to prevail against me. Thank you, Lord for this new view on life! It is the same life, but ahh… it looks SO different to me now. I never thought that I would reach this point of sublime certainty in my clarity and clarity in my certainty of Your truths in my life. But Lord, am I ever paying attention to Your signs now.

I highly recommend this book as a read for EVERYONE. I especially think it should be a necessary read for school-aged children, whose dreams are so vibrant and fragile, full of fervor but slipping so easily to the wayside as they grow. The lessons it teaches are invaluable. Also, I particularly recommend the book to those walking with Christ. You will be greatly blessed to see how God’s words flow through His faith-filled creation, Paulo Coelho.

I feel it only fitting to end this post with the words of the man who inspired both this post and this blog. Be blessed and may God bless you and Paulo Coelho, right where you are now.

Life

What is this force that drives us far from the comfort of the familiar
and makes us take up challenges instead,
even though we know that the glory of this world is only transitory?
I believe this impulse is called the search for the meaning of life.
Over many years of seeking a definitive answer to this question in books, art and science,
and in both the dangerous and easy paths I have followed,
I have found many answers.
I am convinced now that a definitive answer will never be given to us in this life,
but that, at the last, at the moment when we stand once more before the Creator,
we will understand each opportunity that was offered to us.

– Paulo Coelho

Today is My Day –> Saturday, June 21

I’ve had an iCal alarm set since May 19, telling me, “Today is Photograph your Day Day!!! So do it! and make an album!” but every time it’s gone off, I’ve delayed it. It first started off with “remind me in 2 hours”… then 2 hours became 1 day, and one day became 1 week. But, one month later, and rather spontaneously, I finally made time to document my day in my summer city! And it was a great day.

I slept in and then had to go into lab for a couple hours in the afternoon, but after that I had the urge to set off into the city to explore. I stopped by a vintage clothing store, 1793. I love rummaging through other people’s garbage. Total believer of the saying, “another man’s trash is another’s treasure.” It had some pretty interesting things inside. The expected 1980s fashions, outdated shoes, gaudy dresses, jackets that require a someone with a superhuman degree of confidence to dare wear it in public… or with a killer buzz. ::smile:: But you always have to rummage through the muck to uncover the true find beneath. And behold my find:

I’m really into bohemian fashions, so you can imagine my pleasure when I found this 1970s India top.

The picture really doesn\'t do it justice.

I felt like I’d stumbled upon a treasure. And only for $14.99. It crossed my mind to try to bargain it down to $10, but, what can I say… I haven’t fit into my haggling shoes on yet. But I have a feeling I’ll get there one day soon. Here’s a closer look:

The designs are so different, from the butterflies on the shoulders to the paisleys on the chest and hem to the leafed vines and yellow flowers… and yet it doesn’t clash. It all goes together so well. And it’s so light and airy and just a tad see-through. But not in a trashy way. The pictures really don’t do it justice. It looks even cuter when wearing it. Maybe I’ll post a shot when I finally do take it off the hanger. Ooo, it would be perfect for the beach!

Leaving 1793, I continued walking around for a bit and then it dawned on me! “Oh my gosh, this is my ‘Today is Photography your Day Day! Why don’t I have my camera!?'” I debated on whether to just forget it and photograph another day since I was a ways from my house, but I decided to head back after all. It was worth it because I finally had this day for myself.

After a couple hours, I headed back out into the city and found out that it was Pride Day. Walking around a festive block, someone said, “Happy Pride Day” to me, and not knowing to what they were referring, I just smiled back at them. It was actually kind of funny because I was walking through this block, noticing little things… some people were dressed a little more outlandishly than usual; lots of men with the small lap dogs; rainbow-colored Hawaiian leis… Although I must say that the tell-tail indicators were the drag queen and this man:

Then it hit me. “Ahhh! Pride Day is for gays and lesbians!” Yea, took me long enough. Hahaha. Walking throughout the city, there were so many block parties sealed off. I can only imagine how long into the night the parties lasted. I think this is my favorite shot featuring Pride Day:

The colors are so vivid, the angle is interesting, and you can see the action of the wind in the flag. Needless to say, it’s a good shot.

Walking around the city, seeing displays of so much pride, I couldn’t help but feel pressured to face the topic on which I’ve so long avoided forming a firm opinion. For a while, I tried to suppress the thoughts rising in my mind, but then, as I approached another Pride Block party, I happened to turn my head and saw this:

And a short walk from there, I saw what the next photo shows at the entryway of a different church:

I just knew that it was time that I start sorting this out for myself.

I’ve been sitting on the fence… or rather, hiding in the background while I let both sides of the gay/lesbian debate duke things out so that I don’t have to form an opinion. But really, I feel the worse for not making up my mind, and swaying with whatever crowd I’m in. It’s cowardly.

I am a Christian and believe that God’s Word is true. I believe that God views homosexuality as an abomination because he says it is so. But I also believe that I, as a Christian, am not to judge ANYONE and that a man/woman’s relationship with God is personal and his/her sins are between him/her and God. Heck, who am I to judge anyone? I’m too busy dealing with my own spiritual baggage to go looking at what someone else is doing. I feel secure in these beliefs. Where my personal struggle lies is when I consider queer culture + spirituality + politics. I have yet to resolve what the word says on advocating political limitations on the freedoms of non-Christians. I believe in free will. And God is a God of free will. So considering that, it doesn’t settle well with me to limit other’s free will if it goes against God’s mandates because at the end of the day, that violation lies with that person. But then, a part of me feels wrong in saying that. Of course in my ideal world, everyone would know Christ and choose to follow Him and His ways. And I know that as a Christian, it is my duty to affect the world for Christ. But wherein lies the boundary between affecting the world for Christ and forcing others to follow Christ? At most, we can force them into the motions of following Him, but then they’re not really following Him, are they? Exactly. This will take some more personal sorting out on my part. This is a topic that I just can’t leave untied.

After walking through the city, I prepared to meet a few friends for a viewing of the famous Waterfire. I’ve visited 3 times before and every time has been nothing short of wonderful. On my way, I was glad to be able to walk along the river before the sun set. I love getting shots before the fires are lit. And I even made a new friend:

Male? Female?

He/she came up behind me while I was snapping a shot. I was so intrigued to know the sex of this person, but didn’t have the candor to ask… Also, that would have been pretty rude, I decided. “Are you male or female, because I just can’t tell?” That would have felt offensive just leaving my lips, let alone hearing it.

Making my way along the river, I saw the gondola rowers, who I so admire!

They must be in amazing shape, rowing up and down the river all night (no “that’s what she said” comments, please! ::smile::). When I finally met up with my friends, we decided we’d take a ride the next time we visited. Unfortunately, my camera died once the show began. Go figure, haha. I’ll have to steal the pictures from my friend.

To finish off the day, we got dessert from the Cheesecake Factory. I had never been there before and feel like I’ve been introduced to this big secret that everyone else knew about except me! I’m very indecisive when it comes to ordering (among other things), and was craving every chocolate delight I came across in the menu! And to my surprise, guess what?! They had a cake that had EVERYTHING I was craving! The masterpiece is called Chris’s Outrageous Chocolate Cake, but my friends and I joked that they should have named it after me. My friend took a picture, but to avoid the delay in uploading it, here’s a picture from the internet:

Chris\'s Outrageous Chocolate Cake

This delightful treat that will keep on treating you for days later (I still have yet to finish the one piece I ordered!) includes the following yummy layers: brownie, chocolate mousse, cheesecake, coconut, moist chocolate cake, and chocolate chips… and of course, we cannot neglect to mention the side of whipped cream. Every bite is a surprise of flavor! All I can say is “”Mmmm, mmm! Thank you, Chris, whoever you are!”

I usually don’t like cheesecake, but turns out that cheesecake layer rivals the coconut layer in best layer of all! I am highly anticipate my next visit! We’re supposed to eat dinner next time we visit. If their cake is this good, I’m excited for their meals.

All in all, it was a good day… good day.