Monthly Archives: June 2011

Not What Was Expected – Trust Falls


After thinking about my reprieve from the past couple of weeks, I’ll save reflections for next week.

This week, I need to take a retrospective pause.

I don’t know what lies ahead for me.

So much is left up in the air and in God’s control. I don’t know when our house will sell, I don’t know where I’ll work after college and I don’t know when I’ll get married. I’m not sure where I’ll be in five years, or who I’ll be with or how I’ll be earning my day-to-day bread.

I don’t know where my friends or loved ones will be. I haven’t a clue if I’ll ever see some people again or meet others for the first time. I’m caught in such a void of uncertainty that some days, I’m not even quite sure what I was meant to do. I know the things I love and I know the people I love and I know where I’d like to be, but I don’t know any of these things in permanence.

All I’m looking for is a little security. Some sign that the future isn’t determined by Bob Dylan lyrics. I’m just asking for some sort of waystone that I can rest at, feeling the soft summer sun and knowing that some definite answers ahead of me. I don’t want all the answers, I don’t even want to see the future in all its Encarta Encyclopedia detail. I just want a glimmer that soon, things could be set. Things could be as they will be until I die. Most people wish this but they never see it. I doubt I will either.  The problem lies in that my future is held in the hands of my protector, my suitor, and our Creator. My future lies in the economy, the government, my college and my global neighbors. So much of my future lies in the hands of others, and I can only try and pry their fingers apart to see the sparkle of light within.

I have keys to my future. I can determine which jobs to look for and hobbies to take up. I can determine the foods that I eat and will continue to lose weight through Weight Watchers. I will go where my family goes until someday, hopefully sooner than my poor, longing mind can imagine, I have a family of my own. I can decide which movies to watch and when to go to bed – and I can also determine when to get up and walk and sit and speak.

I don’t need to be long-winded to know what I feel. And I know this isn’t what you expected. Maybe it’s because of my lack of sleep or my lack of food or the fact that I’ve been working at the same table in the Solon Panera for over four hours without moving. Whatever the cause may be, my heart just isn’t in my writing this week. It’s not fair to you to be trapped with my insecurities, but occasionally the blogger must make the judgement call about what should be shared and what wants to be shared.

I’m taking the initiative to share myself with you. I want to share my uncertainties, my desires, my hopes with you.

I want to trust you.

That’s what this all comes down to – trust. I trust my parents when they say they will love me and provide for me, regardless of where we may have to uproot to. I trust Matt when he tells me he wants to marry me and it waiting for the right time to ask me to be his forever. I trust my friends when they say they’ll be there, I trust my college to prepare me for the world beyond myself. Above all else, I trust God that He holds me, my future, my soul in His hands at all times, for eternity. I trust He knows what is best, and will convey that knowing to all those involved. In His times and in His hands, when all else fails, this I will still have for certain.

I know that trusting people can lead to pain and heartbreak. I know trust can be hard, painful and shaky. I know it can be gained and lost. Trust is like patience – both must be learned and had and will have consequences. Both hold great reward.

I find that when I confront my thoughts of trust, I am weak. I am impatient. I am selfish. It’s about me and the fact that I deserve to know. I deserve to have all the facts that you do, to be on the same. Doesn’t that defeat the very idea of trust? That we put our resources, our effort, or lives into the responsibility of others? We still must take responsibility, but we must trust if we ever want to find rest.

Trust includes forgiveness. Trust includes love. Trust means being prepared to make a leap without looking over the edge. Trust does not mean foolish or foolhardy agreement and surrender. But it does mean a sense of surrender – knowing and accepting that you can’t do this alone.

It means falling back into the arms of love and knowing they will catch you.
It means tripping into a blind darkness of uncertainty and knowing a light will be there to guide.

Lord, you have given me this opportunity for patience. Lord, help me to truly trust you and those you have put in my life.

I long so frantically for time to pass a little faster.
The deepest yearnings of my heart paint utopian images in my head of how I pray everything will be.
I’m walking multiple paths with multiple people, but only one sits in the middle with one other traveler walking  by my side.

I’m longing and hoping and praying, and over all of that, I trust.

Let me savor the time I have now rather than long for that which has not yet come.

But please, let it come soon.

I’ve never been very good at waiting.

Update Tomorrow – Don’t Lose Hope


Hello, dear followers!

Due to some circumstances beyond my control, my schedule has been packed and I have been away from internet access. However, I will be returning to my regularly scheduled posts tomorrow. Juggling between the topic of secret places in our lives or memories from New York City. Let me know what you think, and see you tomorrow!

-H-

Glass Houses and the Neighborhood Watch – The Facebook Folly


Let’s say a man decides to build a glass house in the median of a busy highway. He makes sure the glass is one hundred percent transparent as he really likes seeing the sun. He also likes being able to wave at his neighbors as they drive by and wait in traffic. He doesn’t want to waste the time putting up curtains or shades since it’s a lot of work and he wants to come across as an open and accepting sort of fellow. One precaution he decides on, however, is a petite white picket fence around the edge of the property. It won’t keep the deer or neighborhood dogs out, and it won’t stop a speeding car. Still, it looks nice and gives him a feel-good sense of protection.

Then there comes the terrible day. The man wakes up to find out a pipe burst under the sink and has flooded the kitchen. His wife yells at him for tracking mud across the floor and the fight escalates into a screaming match. He receives a notice for a heavily overdrawn debit card and he pulls out the bottle of whiskey to drown some of the pain. Later that day, he steps out of the shower without dressing and walks into his bedroom only to find a few people sitting outside the windows, watching the house with intent curiosity. A few look concerned, some downright bored and a few just observe with a smug interest. Infuriated, embarrassed and ashamed, the man hurriedly dresses, gets in his car (recently dented from a drunk-driving incident) and speeds to the local police station.

“I’ve had peeping Toms! They’ve been watching me! Arrest them, officer, they have no right to nose into my life. Only people I trust have permission to cross such boundaries! I didn’t tell them they could just hang around! TRESPASSERS!” A few people turn heads, some shaking sympathetically and some sniggering behind a cupped hand.

The officer rolls his eyes and, humoring the crazed man, follows him back to the house where bystanders have stepped over the foot-tall fence and are now watching his teenage son sharing some beer with his friends and posing for lewd pictures that they’re planning on putting on the internet. The officer glances in, appreciating the neatly trimmed hedges in the back yard through the very clear front window, tips his hat sarcastically and wishes the man a nice day.

Dear Facebook Users, Friends and Strangers,

Facebook is a glass house. You built it, decided who you wanted to invite in and who you wanted to leave outside. You pasted every little detail of your lives, from drunken teenage raves to sexual orientation to marital problems (and successes, some to the nausea of your friends). From there you sent every restaurant and hotel and gas station and newsstand you ever set eyes on to Facebook from your iPhones and you posted every photo of your wedding, your children and your vacations. You tacked up your phone numbers, addresses, relationships and religious beliefs. Just to be sure that you didn’t have “unprivileged” people peering into your lives, you put up a tiny picket fence of security measures: passwords, limited profiles, restrictions, strongly worded statuses directed to SELECT viewers. You felt like kings behind the tiny little gates with their tiny rusty locks, and you continued to feed the selected people your entire lives, minute by minute.

Knock knock, the entire world from hemisphere to hemisphere is sitting outside your windows.

Whether you choose to admit it or you lack the common sense to comprehend it, Facebook is not your secret journal. It doesn’t keep your hopes and dreams under lock and key. It is a wide-open chronicle of every breath you breathe because you make it that way. I’m going to present a few very real scenarios to you to illustrate the folly of people putting their face in the Zuckerbeast’s* creation.

1. “I post vague, deeply upsetting statuses that list half the details of my life struggle. But YOU aren’t allowed to pry.”

More than once, I’ve had Facebook friend who give sob stories in song lyrics, poetry and vague digs at people they hate in their 420 character status. They may be totally detached and give no clue what’s going on, but it’s hard to ignore a status copied straight from the “Never Too Late” lyrics on Sing365. The other alternative is to post statuses that give half the details, describing part of the situation and none of the outcome, or the entire situation while leaving out names. Anyone who comments on these, desperately curious or genuinely concerned to discover what’s going on (we care about friends, that’s why we’re connected on Facebook), BEWARE. If you say the wrong thing in your comment or appear too interested, you may face a response similar to this: “How dare you! Only the people who DESERVE to know who I really RESPECT have that level of knowledge. It’s none of your freaking business.”
I have one thing to say to these people: If you don’t want other people commenting on your troubles, don’t post or don’t be friends with anyone who hasn’t climbed to your level on the mutual respect ladder. Either that, or auction off your friend slots to people who “really matter.” The rest of us are just chumps you string along to make us think you want to connect. And you feel the right to smear opinions and remarks on my wall?

2. “I post every detail about my life from everywhere, starting in my coffee shop and ending with my bedroom. Anywhere that falls in between gets tagged too. Where do you get off being so nosy?”

      I can’t write this one without laughing. These people really send me doubling over with a snort and an elbow nudge. Do you know the reason that celebrities use fake names and often say they’re attending two different venues? They don’t want the paparazzi to follow them. They know how to try to get people not to pry – by keeping information secret. You think Facebook is just a neat sharing tool for spreading your life like hot  manure over the internet. That may be so, but don’t bother getting all hot under the collar with people who ask questions. By laying your daily escapades, deathly boring or wonderfully exciting, all over your wall, you have no right to get upset when people inquire. You have no right to get upset when people make comments on how much you go out, what you eat, how many binges you’ve been on or what men/women you’ve slept with. You have handed every one of your friends a newsletter of your [usually] mediocre lives and then expect people to just pretend like you’re never there. No, you need affirmation that your life it great enough to share every part with everyone, but only on your terms. You are Supreme Commander! You can delete any comment with an opinion you dislike and you can disable anyone who says you have nothing to brag about so you brag about everything. Don’t be surprised if you leave your home address written on every bar napkin and bathroom stall and hundreds of curious creeps, thieves and bored wanderers show up at your doorstep. I have no sympathy for you when you get mad. I also don’t want to be laying next to your husband or holding your hair when you vomit at the club. But you put me there constantly and, when I do comment, you take personal offense because I must have an ulterior motive. No, you shared, so I thought I had the freedom to say something. Next time I’ll just show up every place you tag and ask if I can cut in.

3. “I have so much stuff about my life I don’t want parents and authorities to know, so I’ll post it on Facebook. Why am I jobless and my mom knows I drink underage?”

       To introduce this final key point, I must say very directly that if you don’t want people knowing aspects of your life, DON’T POST IT ON A GLOBAL SOCIAL NETWORK. “Global” means “relating to the entire world.” This isn’t your neighborhood or state or country – it’s everyone. Once again, that tiny picket fence you put up is an idiotic waste of material! Sure, it looks good and it might stop the rabbits from hopping into your herb garden, but anyone with two legs and any brain left will just step over it. Friends of friends, Google searches, groups, weak privacy settings and the inability to close one’s mouth are all portals directly into your so-called “private page.” I’ve been able to view weddings of people I don’t know, vacation albums of friends I’ve never met and phone numbers of total strangers, simply because I know a mutual friend or I clicked on their profile. Moreover, it’s not like you have all your Facebook info tucked neatly away into the lock box in your basement. It is stored on a server controlled by people you will never see. It will stay on the internet as long as the internet exists, and eventually future employers might utilize it to see whether you’re really job material. Those drinking pictures from high school? To an employer, law official or parent who can access your page through anyone you know? It wasn’t cool or funny, it was just plain stupid. You don’t want your parents to know you’re gay or living with your girlfriend? Don’t post it on Facebook. You don’t want to let that ex-boyfriend know you cheated on him with his brother? Don’t post it on Facebook. You don’t want that nerdy kid from your tech class getting your cell number? If you don’t see where I’m going, you must be one of the people who does these things and never realizes it’s you. Facebook is not some secret club. It’s a glass box that you have the key for, but everyone else can look in and watch.

This problem has occurred more and more recently in the past few months. Whether it is a total loss of common sense, especially in my generation, or whether people are just more naive than I would be willing to accuse them of, I don’t know. All I know is this: These are scenarios and attitudes that are sent across the web every second of every day. In the end, you can go to bed and turn your lights off, but people can still see the glow of your TV, your nightlight and the stars through your roof. When people talk about you, you start pointing fingers for who let word out, but you won’t admit you started the gossip by printing it and handing it out to a crowd. In short, your life on Facebook is a glass house that you build and maintain, but you get mad at people for slowing down in traffic and peering in.

If this is you, any of it, you have serious reconsidering to do. The rest of you, let this serve as a warning of how not to ruin friendships and how to keep a hold of your life.

Be friends with only those you deem worthy, or don’t dare say anything about “privacy settings.”
If you don’t want it known by one person, don’t let it be known to millions.
If you don’t want people to ask questions or voice opinions, don’t spoon-feed them your every waking moment.

In the end, post whatever you want. But don’t bring out the flamethrower when I pull up a lawn chair.

Dismissed.

 
*Terminology brought to you by The Oatmeal 

A Better Friend Than Most


I went swimming in our pool for the first time of the summer. Eighty degree water in an eighty five degree night felt cool but refreshing on skin that’s been sitting in a stagnant haze of June.

I’m not a strong swimmer. Compared to most people in the world, I am quite weak. I don’t put my face in while doing laps, my feet sink when I lay on my back, I wheeze and splutter and dread being pushed under. But I still swim and enjoy swimming. But I’m nowhere close to the best and won’t be before I die.

I love painting. I take care with each stroke of color, evening out the coat and sensing the movement of every bristle into grains of wood and fibers of paper. I thrive for the vibrancy and variety of colors and am fairly proud of the artistic creations I produce. But I’ll never be the best. I often get discouraged that I can’t paint very realistically or that others have more creative minds than my own. There’s always someone with something more creative, more neatly done and more beautiful to the common eye. I continue to paint and love what I make. But I’m nowhere near the best. Not even close.

I have longed to own a horse since I was just tall enough to ride them alone. I love the grace in their movements, their power and their fierce energy. I respect their space and their need for gentility, but I also can ride with some confidence. I worked past my fear of height and falls and learned to control and work mutually to produce something beautiful – rider and horse in harmony and flight. However, I fall. I become nervous or overly cautious when I should embrace courage. I can’t groom or tack with showman efficiency all the time and I am impatient. But despite this, I continue to ride and live for the smell of hay in the barn and the deep vibrations of hooves galloping through the long camp fields. I’ll never be anywhere close to the best, but I am better than some and can always improve.

All of these things involve me and the world. A horse may have a mind of its own and its own rhythm and heartbeat, but I am a sentient being with thoughts and words and knowledge. I brush paint on the open canvas, I part the water in tiny crests with my palms. I have some grasp of how to perform. I can manage myself.

But with friends, life becomes difficult. We all have different tastes and interests and schedules and beliefs and lifestyles. We get along in some groups but not in others, and the places where our friends overlap, we face conflict. We all want to plan and spend time and have fun. But we also all want our own way.

I have too many friends and acquaintances to count.  They come from their own universe of religious diversity, heritage, race, language and background. I know them from thousands of encounters and events and networks and circumstances. Some are friends with each other, some will never meet in this lifetime. I am blessed with all of them and we all share common ground in some way, even the tiniest thread of connectivity.

I love being a friend. Even when difficulties come and tensions rise, I try to be there at all costs. Whether it be three in the afternoon, ten o’clock or three in the morning, if a friend is in need and I’m conscious, I’ll be there. I listen when everyone else has left them alone and I turn on a light where everyone else left them in the dark. I go out of my way to make myself available, to make connections, to do things to serve them and make them happy.

I am nowhere near the best friend that I could be. I’m constantly late for appointments, I get hurt easily and I sometimes let that hurt become bitterness. I allow myself to wallow in self-pity and hate feeling like I’m being used. I sometimes begrudgingly accept friendships or force myself to connect because it’s what we’re supposed to do. I seek approval, but sometimes I let that desire overshadow my need to always defend my principles.

Despite these flaws, I stand my ground. I defend my friends and offer them a neutral perspective on issues they fear to face. I bridge gaps between genders and religions, loving them all regardless of their past mistakes. I accept them no matter what they have done, because if I don’t, how can I guarantee someone else will? I am there for my friends without ever expecting anything in return other than a hope for mutual respect. I don’t go into any friendships hoping to achieve selfish gain, but because I love other people’s happiness and wish to share in it. I get them gifts that are personal to them, I write notes, I try despite my laziness and forgetful mind to keep in touch. They are what bring joy to my life and a spring to my step.

I am not a good friend at times. I have my many flaws, too many. I may never be able to avoid unjust anger or hurt feelings. I may never be able to be completely selfless in my relationships. I may be late or lazy or occasionally more blunt than necessary. I may not always come through in ways they need me.

I may not and may never be the best.
But in my heart, I am a better friend than most.

You Can’t Go Back From Here


Weight Watchers has begun to change my life.

It starts with the little things – choosing carrots instead of chips, peppers and cucumber on my salad in place of croutons.

Then, the effect starts to spread. I begin to weigh the balance between a sandwich or a cup of vegetable soup. Carbs and fats are more important than sweet with salty, but both are important. Before I realize it, the change has integrated itself into every moment of my eating experience. I start to savor the flavors of my food from the first bite to the last, eating slower to enjoy my meal, watching the pounds I’ve been dreading start to slowly slim off.

Instead of just pulling food from the fridge and eating, I sit and read while I enjoy some fruit salad and a cup of coffee as the summer sun starts to break through the leafy veil over my window. I begin to really believe that everything I eat has an effect on my health and my attitude. I feel lighter, fresher, free.

I pulled my bike out of the garage this evening to enjoy a ride in the cool evening and work off the few extra points from my pad thai. It hasn’t been this cool since April. The entire day was delicate, soft and pale. The sky was unbroken by clouds and a calm, temperate wind pervaded the stuffy house. There was a rest from the rain and the beating sun. In a way, it was a reprieve that came without us realizing how much we really needed it.

I’ve been riding my bike around this area since I was old enough to go out on my own. When I was younger, I stayed in the drive, riding up to the mailbox and back down around the storm drain. If I felt brave, I’d let my bike tire bump down over the curb to the street when there was no traffic – no sidewalks in our part of Solon back then.

As a teenager, I was permitted to leave the safety of the drive and the view of the porch windows and bike to the church on the corner. I would swoop and spin around the parking lot full speed until the sky began to fade to purple light, and then I’d bike home. On dry days, I would wheeze and heave my bike to the top of Cannon hill and come flying down through Hidden Lakes, scattering geese and pressing the grass between our house and our backyard neighbors. Splattered with mud from the ditch in the property line, I’d roll the bike back in the garage just as Mom rang the bell for dinner.

High school gave me a whole new set of liberties. On early mornings I’d kick my tennis shoes out from under the bed, fill a fresh water bottle and bike the four miles to the high school, racing the sun down SOM Center Road, past the rock wall and apartments and frenzied parents in their Sedans. The smell of exhaust and coffee and hot asphalt was the joy of morning, and at school I’d roll my bike into Mr. Kramer’s back room. At the end of the day, we’d part ways and I’d start the long trek through town and walk part of the huge hill that had aided my descent to get to class on time. Of course, there was no rush home, just small lungs and afternoon heat.

College weighed me down a bit, even with my bike on campus. So I’ve started riding again. Today began as a simple start up the hill to Lewis Elementary. Then I caught a second wind and kept pushing on to Clarendon Drive. Even though I’ve known this area my whole life, I never knew these roads looped around each other. I discovered new paths and new faces and a whole new jungle of deep green, overhanging oaks and maples. The smell of cool, damp grass, wood burning in a bonfire pit, the quiet murmurs of suburbanites out in the unseasonably chilly June night… I have missed these things. New York has many beauties and many joys, but my heart is here. I love the curve of development sidewalks, the occasional bark of  a dog or pattering of feet on an after-dinner stroll. The traffic on the main roads begins to slow after seven o’clock and there is a whole new world to the north of the city. The air is fresher and the evening sky clearer, despite the light pollution that chokes out the stars.

I let my legs pedal me to my old childhood haunts – the elementary school, now tiny and flat against calf-deep field grass.  The broken parking lot, the yellow slides, woodchips and the chalky United States on the black top. I weave in and out of the tether ball poles and give wide berth to the little girl and her mother on the swings. Somewhere in the aging building is a lone custodian, pushing a dry mop and moving the rack of lost-and-found coats to the cafeteria. He’s been in this place so much longer than I have, and how small the building must seem to him after so many nights of sweeping…

My ears and fingers have started to get cold, a wonderful fact for Ohio in June. It’s time to move on as I’m losing my light, and I cut through to the church next door. My tires run the length of the parking lot where we used to play tennis, now cut off and replanted with grass. The spot where he and I sat in the thunderstorm and wept, he angry at me not trusting him and me furious that I was right all along.

I stop at the arbor benches and enter the woods, walking slowly along the Stations of the Cross. I’m walking to “Exile Vilify” by the Nationals and missing you ever so much, each step a reminder of the ones we’d be taking hand in hand if you were here. Each step gives me a reason to think of why I love you.

The song ends and I’m back out of the shade of the canopy into a golden sky. A single jet trail cuts the whisper of paling blue  and catches the fiery remains of daylight, gilding it gold. I find the beat of the tune by Joe Taylor and I weave my way towards the hill and home. There’s almost no need for any movement from my legs, the hill knows what I want. I’ve earned the free ride down 1,200 feet to my house. The elevation was worth crushing my lungs on the way up, and the more I take this route the easier it always gets.

Back in the house, I pour a glass of ice water with sweet lime and miss my brother in Pennsylvania, remembering his attempts to teach me to dance and sharing what’s he learned about true manhood.

I walk past the stairs where the one I love came up for breakfast less than a week ago. I miss you there, and a few steps further where you made a heart with your hands and sent me to bed.

I make the final trek up to my room, take off my shoes and enjoy the lush of new carpet underfoot and the crisp twist of night air pushing through the window screens. The walls are now green instead of pink, the bed now between the open windows and the closet empty and organized. All is almost in its proper place.

Except for you, as you are so far away. Soon, we’ll fix that.

I left the house for Weight Watchers, and came back for you.

There really is no going back from here. It’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle change.

It only starts with food – and ends with one soul parting the air of a June evening in a corner of Ohio.

I work for myself, I work for my future and I work for all of this. All of this that I love.

That alone can shed the weight off a heavy heart.

when the puzzle isn't quite complete

(c) HEYanega 2011