May 2008


love is a place
& through this place of
love move
(with brightness of peace)
all places

yes is a world
& in this world of
yes live
(skilfully curled)
all worlds

– e.e. cummings

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Today has been quite the whirlwind. Memorial Day is usually day for barbeque’s and time spent with friends and family… my day was a bit different. I was woken up from the strangest, most realistic dream I’ve had in a long time by my younger brother (who shouldn’t have been home until late evening) telling me that my mom was on the phone and that she wanted to speak to me. She asked me if I was ok and then told me she was on her way home. Utterly confused by all of this, especially her asking me if I was ok, I stumbled out of bed and grabbed my cell phone to check the time–it was 3:05 pm. I, too, stopped for a moment to wonder if I was ok after realizing that I slept through half the day.

Soon enough, my mother, father, and grandmother were back and I was helping them lug their purchases into the house. While my grandmother was momentarily distracted my mom pulled me to the side and confided in me that she found out earlier in the day that her uncle had passed away. She looked over at my grandmother for a second and looked back at me and said in the most helpless voice I’d heard come from my mother: “I don’t know how to tell her that her brother has passed away.” At 70 years old, my grandmother has more life in her than most young adults. When everyone else is too tired to keep going, she’s still zooming around cleaning something or fussing over someone. Yet, ever since my grandfather passed away five years ago, she has become markedly far more fragile, losing weight and shrinking to half her size. As I watched her zooming around our kitchen, I wondered how much more grief her frail frame could take.

As soon as everything was settled, she started asking my mother to call her brother for her. She wanted to congratulate him since his daughter had just recently given birth. And it wasn’t just any ordinary birth. You see, my mother’s cousin is 46 years old. She has been married for over 20 years and in all those years she had not been able to conceive. She went to fertility experts and tried all the medical methods available, but it was not her lot in life to bear children. So it came as a wild surprise that when she went to a doctor with complaints of stomach aches that she discovered that she was 6 months pregnant. The miracle baby was born 2 months premature and a few days after her birth, her grandfather passed away.

Life’s cycle seemed to cris-crossing in a furious manner across my relatives in a manner that made very little sense. As my mother was left to come up with reasons as to why they shouldn’t call my great-uncle at the moment, I was left with the task of finding a priest to come and sit with my grandmother and help break the news to her. After some phone calls, a few voice messages, and some waiting I was able to find one with some time to spare between appointments during the day to stop by my house.

He came, we read the Bible and prayed together, and then we told her that her brother had passed away. She did not take it any better than anyone had expected. The day came to a close quickly and quietly. I packed up in order to return to my apartment and said goodbye and then started my hour long drive. An hour spent alone in a car is enough time to mull over a miracle birth, a sudden death, and strange dreams a hundred times over. But the only conclusion I could come to with absolute certainty after an hour of thought is that nothing at all is certain in this world. In a few short days the barren can give birth and those in the best of health can pass away. I may finish typing this post and head to bed and not wake up in the morning. Will I be prepared to meet my Maker? Will I be able to stand before Him with my head held high because I used the time given to me on this planet to live a life that glorified His name? Or will I be overcome by shame for wasting away the gift He has given me? Will I have regrets, things left unsaid, actions left undone?

But now is not the time for questions. It is a time for action, a time to take chances, a time to throw fear out the window and live. This moment may be my or your last (or we may all live to be 99) but there is no certainty, so if it is my last then it must be no less than wonderful. Make peace with everyone, tell those you love how much they mean to you, leave smiles behind you everywhere you go, treat everyone with gentleness and respect.

Today the great-uncle I knew so well in my childhood left my world and a miracle baby entered it–the equation remains even.

I previously left this topic with the open-ended question “So what now?”

 

What does one do in the face of a world full of people spinning around while singing Mariah Carey love songs, people who think you’re insane to not be spinning with them and crooning your favorite Mariah ballad?

 

And my answer to that is “Absolutely nothing.” There is nothing that must be done or worked on or understood. There is only a life to be lived without a singular worry about the who, when, where and why of dating, relationships, and marriage. My personal conceptualization of “taking dating seriously” as I was told I should took some time to form over the 2 years or so from when I was first approached with this proposition. I tried to absorb all the do’s and don’ts being thrown at me from that day forward but none of it made any sense to me. It required too much planning and forethought and calculation—it seemed like one was almost gearing up for a war in which all the single people were mercenaries out to work for themselves. But that’s not how relationships between men and women began. That’s not how the very first relationship ever came into existence.

 

Let’s go back to Adam and Eve for a moment—the world’s first couple. After God had created everything and Adam and allowed Adam to run around exploring the Garden of Eden and naming everything, He saw that “it was not good for man to be alone.” So what did He do? Let’s start with what he didn’t do first. He did not create a bunch of women and have them prance around while Adam got to sit around and pick one. No, His plan was perfect.

 

He took Adam and put him into a deep sleep (basically, He knocked him out.) He took one of his ribs and formed a woman, Eve, and when Adam woke up He took her by the hand and placed them together.

 

There are a few things to be picked out here. First, Adam did not run around frantically searching for someone. Instead, God saw that he needed companionship and decided to give it to him at the exact time in which he needed it (in Adam’s case it was around the time he ran out of things to name.) Then He created for Adam a perfect companion to complement him, drawn partially from his own being. Neither Adam nor Eve had anything to do with it.

 

Thousands of years have passed and God is no longer knocking out men so He can create perfect companions for them out of their ribs (although I’m sure there are those who would prefer it still worked this way.) But the principles of living a life without a worry or a care over this issue can still be taken and applied. There is no need to wage World War III of the Singles Trying to Find a Companion. The only need there is for the individual is to continue living and learning and growing in grace and wisdom—to use the ever popular yet quite applicable cliché, to live, love, and laugh until you find Him leading you by the hand and placing you with someone else. And if it never happens, that’s cool too because you lived, loved, and laughed your way through this world.

“…but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.” The Christian principle of turning the other cheek is hardly ever seen in action because it is simply very hard to follow. When wronged and hurt, how many of us stop and think, “Well now that you’ve called me fat and ugly, please call me stupid too.” No, we get angry and we want to extract revenge and we want to we want to return the hurt.

 

It is especially most difficult to turn the other cheek when we are hurt by those we consider to be our friends, because we don’t expect them to smack us in the first place. In fact, we expect them to be there to run to when we are smacked by those who are not so close.

 

Ironically enough, it is hardly ever the stranger who randomly comes over and knocks you on your behind. Instead, it usually turns out to be your buddy who you thought would have been there to help pull you back up… and now according to this principle of turning the other cheek you’re supposed to let them kick you while you’re down too. But why behave in this masochistically sounding manner?

 

Over years of analysis and practice, I’ve found that turning the other metaphorical cheek requires a lot of tolerance and patience. Letting it go when someone has hurt you does not mean walking away and pretending nothing happened while you’re brewing with anger and hurt on the inside and complaining to everyone willing to listen. Letting it go, for me anyhow, has come to mean understanding my own imperfections and shortcomings so that I may show tolerance in the face of the imperfections of others. Ok, so maybe your friend so-and-so can be a real thoughtless jerk sometimes, but face it… so can you. So can I and everyone else on the face of this planet. (And since it is far more difficult to see our own faults than it is to see the faults of others, that just really means that I’m a bigger jerk than I think I am or can be.)

 

Over time, I find my expectations of others falling lower and lower by the day, and it’s not because I fear being disappointed… no, it’s because I know you’re busy or stressed out or annoyed or tired or just don’t feel like talking or you’ve decided that you can’t stand me or a million other things that can lead you to do one thing or another that will hurt my feelings. And because I know all these things, I will not be sad or angry when so-and-so does this or that. Life is much too hard for us to hold it against one another.

 

I find that this raises the value of the small, nice things that people do. Someone saying hello generally makes my day. An ear willing to listen is worth 100 times its weight in gold. Concern and care (although sometimes negatively manifested) is a God-given gift to be held in high esteem and lauded with gratitude.

 

I know I have a long, long way to go on this path of mine, but after discovering the joy in patience and tolerance and turning the other cheek, I’m quite content to travel for as long as I need to…

Perhaps it’s this time of year or maybe just this time of life but I can’t seem to spend any time with my girlfriends lately without the conversation somehow turning to the topic of dating/relationships/marriage. The last time this happened was this past Friday night. I thought I was in for an evening of light, fun conversation and buffalo wings… and well, at least I got the buffalo wings. Being the only single one at the table put me in a precarious position–they wanted my input, but how much is my input worth anyway? My perpetual stay in single-dom, as I shall refer to it for lack of a better term, gets mixed reactions from strangers and friends alike. When I told my dearest friend, he told me it was a gift from God (he is a priest after all.) There are those who find it to be downright horrifying and others who think I’m just lying. When I finally convince them that I am, indeed, telling the truth they usually exclaim some variation of the phrase “But you’re so pretty!” My least favorite reaction comes in the form of patronizing advice from those happily dating someone and believe that makes them dating gurus.

One day it was suggested that I start taking this whole dating thing seriously by a good friend… At first I tried listening to all the advice being thrown at me… after all, what do I know about it all? Quite obviously a lot less than any of my friends do. So upon being advised to do so, I quite grudgingly read the silliest book ever. Yes, I shamefully admit that I read He’s Just Not that into You. From that I learned that if a man is not hunting you down like an obsessive maniac, then quite frankly, he’s just not that into you. Then there was a host of other pieces of advice… don’t start more conversations with a guy than he does with you, talk less, talk more, do your hair this way, come here, go there, stop talking to him, start talking to him, if someone asks you out say no, tell him he looks nice, don’t wave like that, it’s all a game and you need to learn to play it, what did he say and what did you say back? spin around counterclockwise three times while singing a Mariah Carey love song (ok, so maybe I made up that last one, but you get the point.)

It was quite enough to drive a girl mad. When it got to the point where I questioned saying hello to others, I decided this insanity needed to stop. If that’s what “taking dating seriously” looks like then I’d rather stay single till the day I die (which is most likely what will happen anyhow.) This was a giant, nasty mess that I needed sorted for my peace of mind… so what now? Stay tuned for the answer tomorrow…