Posts Tagged ‘ maturity ’

“Not Here” by Jelaluddin Rumi

I recently found this poem on Clyde’s Blog, http://opinionatedoldfart.wordpress.com/ and decided to re-post it here. It is by Jelaluddin Rumi, a 13th century Persian Muslim poet and theologian. This poem so suits a current transformation the Lord is undergoing within me (will post on later). And I especially loved Rumi’s mention of alchemists! 🙂

Not Here

There’s courage involved if you want
to become truth. There is a broken-

open place in a lover. Where are
those qualities of bravery and sharp

compassion in this group? What’s the
use of old and frozen thought? I want

a howling hurt. This is not a treasury
where gold is stored; this is for copper.

We alchemists look for talent that
can heat up and change. Lukewarm

won’t do. Halfhearted holding back,
well-enough getting by? Not here.

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.

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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

Garden Principles II in its Entirety

**This post has been broken into parts (see above) in order to make it easier to read. However, some may prefer to read the message in its entirety, so I have kept this full post available for viewing.**

~ A1chemist

So, a month has gone by and I am just now revisiting this topic! But I’m actually glad I waited because a few confirmations have come my way since I first gained this understanding in our Lord.

So, as a refresher, in the first post we established that men and women were created equal, but in their disobedience were cursed with non-physical distinctions:  1) men would be most concerned with their jobs and would face the challenge of providing for their families, and 2) women would be most concerned with their relationships and would face the challenge of being “ruled over” by her husband, despite her own desires to control him.

Now, for many it is really troubling that men should “rule over” their wives (Genesis 3:16) and that wives must “submit to your husbands as to the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:22). But I think they make much spiritual sense when we restrain ourselves from reading these verses with a worldly understanding and instead consider these commandments in reference to Adam and Eve’s relationship and their behavior in the garden.

Just remember that God has a purpose in all He commands and ultimately aims to bring us closer to Him. So, with that in mind, what is the purpose of these commandments?

Let’s look at the first temptation. As we all know, Eve was tempted by the serpent to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. As I wrote in the former post, where was Adam when she was being tempted? When the pastor posed this question, I took it to mean where was he physically. But in Genesis 3:6, it says he was with her:

“… she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.”

So rather, I now take his question to mean, where was Adam in that moment? In these verses, he is voiceless. He did not *communicate* with Eve, counsel her, guide her in this pinnacle moment. Adam did not lead her and was not acting like her head. He submitted to (trusted) her leadership (I elaborate on what it means to “submit” below).

Rather, Eve was the leader. In verses 3:1-6, she conversed with the serpent, she made the decision to eat of the fruit, and she led Adam in eating the fruit. Again:

“… she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.”

Thus, in this moment, she guided her husband and ruled over him.

Therefore, when we consider the roles that men and women are commanded by God to adopt in Ephesians 5, it makes sense that God challenges them to assume the roles that Adam and Eve failed to perform at the moment of temptation.

Let’s look at Adam and Eve separately in order to gain a deeper understanding of this.

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Adam and Men

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So as I just stated above, Adam was not the head of their relationship in the moment of temptation. Instead, he submitted to (trusted) Eve’s guidance and partook of the fruit she brought to him. Therefore, in Genesis 3:16, we see that God challenged man to adopt a role opposite to that which Adam played in the garden. God commanded that Adam (man) will “rule over” his wife and, in Eph 5:23, will be “the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church.”

Now, this ruling over her does not mean that he is to be an overlord, dictating her every action and restricting her freedoms. No, this is how the world would have us interpret these verses. But is this how Christ rules over us, His church? No, it certainly is not. Christ is not a dictator. He is our greatest counselor, adviser, example, and leader. In Eph. 5:25-26, it states that husbands are to:

“love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word.”

I think this only confirms a husband’s role as his wife’s counselor, as he is commanded to “wash her through the word.” Now let us think about what exactly is required in order to be a good counselor and adviser. Such requires someone to be wise (and therefore worthy of giving advice!), a good listener, and a good talker. This means that men are to be 1) constantly plugged into the word of God and cultivating their personal relationship with God (how to achieve wisdom), 2) hearing and understanding the full content of what their wife says (good listener), and 3) talking to his wife (good communicator). Thus, men are to be good communicators with God and good communicators with their wives. This is what Adam failed to be for Eve during the temptation and what men are now challenged to be for their wives.

However, men will likely find it difficult to communicate with their wives and develop their role as counselor because of Adam’s curse, given that their preoccupation with work fosters a systematic-style of communication, focused on solving problems, rather than engaging in open-ended discussions of emotional concerns (the style of conversation that comes more easily for women, who are more preoccupied with their relationships). But to dive deeper into this right now is a bit of a digression. In a later post, I will talk more about the implications that Adam and Eve’s curses have for husband-wife communication and how this challenge can be alleviated by both spouses.

In the future, I also want to discuss how husbands are to give themselves up for their wives, just as Ephesians 5:25 tells us Christ did for the Church, and discuss how this intimates differences between a man vs. a woman’s demonstration of love. This especially relates to the Genesis curse!

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Eve and Women

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In the moment of temptation, Eve acted as the leader in her relationship with Adam and led him to eat the fruit. In this moment, she was the chief counselor in their relationship and advised Adam on what to do. Thus, we see that God commanded the opposite for women: In Ephesians 5:22, wives are to “submit to your husbands as to the Lord.” In v. 24, we see that they are to “submit to their husbands in everything,” and in v. 33, “must respect her husband,” who will “rule over her” (Gen. 3:16).

Now this is very unsettling for secular and Christian women, who interpret these verses to be anti-feminist by intimating that women are to act as doormats and do whatever their husbands command. They apply such sterile interpretations of these verses, as though the relationship between a husband and wife is like a master to his slave. But this is incorrect thinking and thwarts the growth that is intended for both spouses in a Godly marriage.  Women are not to be subjected to the dictatorship of men. No, rather, I believe “submission” is synonymous with “trust.”

Let’s again look at Ephesians 5. After it states that wives are to submit to their husbands (v. 22), it immediately relates the husband to Christ and His relationship with the Church. I think this is done to discourage us ladies from interpreting our submission as subjugation. As the Church, we are not forcefully dominated by Christ. Rather, we must submit to His rule. And how do we do this? By trusting His ability to guide us. Thus, in the same way, we as wives are to trust our husbands’ ability to guide us and advise us in the way of the Lord.

Here’s another way I thought about this. Since husbands are related to Christ’s relationship with the Church, I thought it would make sense to look to Christ and His Bride (the Church) and consider what He most desires from her (the Church). The answer is her Love. Mark 22:37-38 states: “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.” Thus, Christ most desires our love for Him, and how is love fostered and achieved? Through intimacy. And what is required and developed through intimacy? Trust.

Thus, if Christ and the Church represent the model to be followed in marriage, then all of these elements (love, intimacy, trust) should exist between a husband and wife.

Let’s look again at Ephesians 5. I think it is extremely significant that in God’s description of a husband and wife’s relationship, He describes intimacy. It’s as though He built the same case as made above (love <-> intimacy <-> trust) so that we women would understand that trust is what is expected of us in our marriages. In Ephesians 5:28-31, it states:

“In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. [29] After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church – [30] for we are members of His body. [31] ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ [32] This is a profound mystery, but I am talking about Christ and the church. [33] However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”

These verses point to the unity and intimacy that should exist between a husband and wife, that he should “love [her] as [his] own body” and both should “become one flesh.” And as aforementioned, in intimacy, trust is essential to a relationship and further fostered as the relationship deepens. I think this is intimated by the fact that these verses on intimacy end with the commandment that “the wife must respect her husband.” I don’t know about you, but personally, it is much easier for me to trust and take the advice of someone that I respect.

This was a looong description, but I think it’s much more difficult for people to understand the concept of wives’ submission to her husband, so I wrote more for this section. Moral of the story:  Eve led and counseled Adam when they were tempted. Therefore, women are now challenged to trust the counsel of their husbands.

Now, this is obviously not an easy commandment to follow. Of the three elements (love, intimacy, trust) that must be cultivated in a marriage, trust will certainly be the most difficult for women. As the curse indicates:  Gen. 3:16 – women will have desire for their husbands – i.e. will strive to control them. But sisters, I would challenge you to be aware of your desire and strive to grow in the Lord by trusting the guidance of your Godly husbands.

But in a future post, I plan to elaborate on the ways in which women communicate love, how Eve’s curse provides an explanation for the ways in which women expect their husbands to love them, and how women’s understanding of male communication/love can help them convert their idealistic expectations into realistic ones.

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Thinking about the Whole Picture

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I think this view of Adam and Eve is not only important for laying the foundation for what roles a husband and wife are to live (Ephesians 5), but equally important for providing us a model of a husband and wife that fail to act out these roles. When their roles were reversed, they entered into spiritual disobedience and all chaos broke loose.

Personally, it really makes a lot of sense to me that God would challenge men and women to adopt roles that are opposite those that were played by Adam and Eve in the moment of temptation. We only grow closer to the Lord when we are challenged and challenge ourselves. Therefore, living roles opposite those of the pre-curse Adam and Eve will challenge: 1) men’s temptation to just focus on their work and not counsel (i.e. communicate) with their wives, and 2) women’s temptation to be in control of their husbands and dictate the direction of their relationships. God wants to stretch us and make us stronger in Him, so I would encourage you to resist these gender-specific temptations and instead push into Him. Men, strive to be good spiritual examples to your wives; strive to advise and communicate with them. Women, strive to respect and trust your husbands ability to lead you and your family in the right direction.

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*Personal Note Regarding Unequally Yoked Partners

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Now I put a star at the end of the previous paragraph because I don’t want this to be misunderstood. I feel like often people think of male-female relationships as one-sided, as though the actions of each are one-directional. Rather, I think that a synergy is supposed to exist and that synergy is achieved through intimacy. I touched on this in the section on Eve and Women, but I think it is worth emphasizing so that I am not misunderstood. Again let’s consider Christ and the Church. When we as members of the Church have a concern, do we just wait idly by for the Lord to reveal what we are supposed to do? No. What do we do? We talk to Jesus. We pray (talk) to Him. We actively seek Him. We express our concerns, our hopes, and our desires to Him. It is a two-way communication, a partnership. We move toward Him and He moves toward us. This is as it should be between a husband and wife also. They are to communicate with each other; the husband is to listen to and fully consider the concerns, hopes, and desires of his wife, and she is to listen to and fully consider his counsel.

Now, as for submitting to (trusting) your husband’s guidance, I personally only feel that a woman should trust the guidance of a Godly man who is truly striving for enlightenment and intimacy with Jesus Christ. This is my PERSONAL opinion, absolutely not me saying that I have read this in the Bible. I would encourage you to do your own searching on this and bring this question to the Lord. But for me personally, it just makes sense that a Godly woman can have peace submitting to (trusting) a Godly man because he is striving to live according to the husband role  established by God, and is therefore plugged into God and living to exemplify Christ in his daily walk. Thus, if he is submitting to (trusting) God, as she is submitting to (trusting) him (the husband), there is an overall submission (trust) in the Lord. But if the husband is not a Christian actively in the word and actively striving to live according to Christ’s principles, then she is trusting a man who is not trusting God and not weighing all of his decisions in Christ. Rather, in such a marriage, I feel that the wife should look to Christ alone to be her head and to counsel her in matters related to her marriage and life.

Now, because the roles are different, my opinion will be different for men. In my personal opinion, men should still live as the head with their non-Christian wives. They should be ever-connected with God and counsel their wives according to His principles. I would hope that in living this role, he would be successful in leading her to the Lord.

Again, this is just how I see it. I am still studying the Word on this, and Lord please reveal to me if this is wrongful thinking and, if it is, guide me in Your Word to Your truth.

NOTE: God bless Brother wellis32 for reminding me of 1Peter3:1-7:

[1] Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; [2] While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear. [3] Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; [4] But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. [5] For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands: [6] Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement. [7] Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.

I will have to pray on this a bit more. I’ll come back to this post.

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I hope this has been a blessing to someone! Even if just one person. Continue to seek the Lord, trust in Him, and develop an intimacy with Him. You won’t ever regret it. I know I don’t. 🙂

God Bless you!

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

08/08/08 … a new beginning

Today is 08/08/08. Thrice new beginnings! My Christian brethren will understand that, but for those who do not, 8 is the number of new beginnings. So imagine my delight when I wrote the date for today and realized what it was.

Today made me reflect on all of the goodness that has happened during this summer… all of the progress that I have personally made. I have a new beginning. I am so excited about going back to school with a new and improved attitude, with a stronger character, a clearer outlook, more self-awareness, greater confidence, and most importantly, an increased faith in God. I may not have accomplished everything that I wanted to during my time away from home, but I have accomplished this most important aspiration of mine: retrieving and rebuilding my zest for life and God’s promises. What more could I have asked to accomplish in two months?

So, I would like to take this time just to praise God for working in me. For shaping me according to His liking. I am a work in progress and do not wish for His work in me to ever be complete. May I ever be upon the Potter’s wheel.

~ Amen.

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?