For many, today is a day of celebration. Whether it’s spent in a church, reflecting on a man who once lived long ago, or whether it’s children running around looking for easter eggs, it’s a day where despite celebration, there is still suffering. All weekend I’ve been thinking about writing something today, about what, I haven’t been entirely sure. I opened my laptop this afternoon and there it was, another suicide bomber taking the lives of far too many people, in a country that will probably receive far less news coverage about it than a Western country. I don’t know much about Pakistan, but I know that it isn’t fair that these people are suffering immense amounts of pain today. Pain, on a day that is supposed to be about celebration.
I have been very hesitant to not only write about my faith, but also speak to others about it. I think for many years, I have been ashamed to be a Christian. Aside from feeling like it was just “not cool,” there are so many people out there who claim to be Christian and who are doing beyond terrible things in this world and it has left me wanting to hide under a blanket and say nope, not me, I am not a Christian because I don’t want to be associated with people who create chaos and pain. I do not want to be associated with people who mix political power and religion together to create something really scary. And so I’ve remained silent.
It’s only been in the last week or so that I’ve realized this, but it’s my husband who gave me my faith back. We were both in strange times of life for various different reasons, and before we were dating, he asked me to read the Bible with him because he wanted to read the entire thing, front to back, and so did I. Having someone to read with made it a lot more interesting and kept us accountable in reading this crazy long book. And so we did, for the next 365 days, we read this book from the start to the finish and it was during this year that I finally said okay, I’ll give this Christianity thing a shot again.
You see, religion has always scared me because I’ve seen religion turn into a manipulative business and power-trip. Instead, I’ve always called myself “spiritual,” and I think it was the author Timothy Keller who said it in one of his books I’ve read that calling myself “spiritual” instead of “religious” was a cop out, so to speak, or at least that’s how I interpreted it. In my understanding, it’s a weak/pathetic/passive way of owning up to one’s own faith. It’s not fully trusting a greater power. It’s letting me run my life when I want to, and turning to God only in times of desperation and need. That’s not faith, that’s a pity prayer. And so I've been exploring what it means to be more than just spiritual, but to be part of a religion, too (and to be okay with being a part of a religion).
One of the best books I’ve ever read is called “The Prodigal God,” also by Timothy Keller (he’s a really, really, great author). There’s this story in the Bible where a man has two sons and the younger one runs away, basically rebuking everything his father taught him. Later, when this “prodigal son” hits hard times, he returns to his father, says he’s sorry for what he did, and his father forgives him. The story is supposed to be about God’s love for us, and about how he will always forgive us because he’s full of never-ending love and grace. In the book The Prodigal God, Tim says that the story isn’t just about the runaway son, it’s actually more about the older brother who stayed with his father. This obedient older brother was mad when the prodigal brother returned home and was forgiven because while his younger brother was disobeying all the rules, he (the obedient older brother) was following all of the rules and didn’t receive anything in return for it. The father threw the younger son a party for his return, where the obedient older brother didn’t receive any praise for his obedience.
What Keller is trying to say in this book is that religiosity, that is, the art of following rules and doing things the “right” way is not the way to God. In fact, doing things the “right” away and following all of the religious rules is a far worse lifestyle to live than that of the prodigal son. Why? Because the older brother’s heart was never in it. He was being obedient purely for the return value (his own personal safety and salvation). He wasn’t living for God because of his pure love and devotion to God, he was “living for God” because it was a set of rules and guidelines that would protect him from hell. That’s never what God has been about. He doesn’t care about rules, he just cares about love.
This book was so incredibly refreshing to me. All of the wars and hate and bullying that have been done “in the name of God,” these people are the older brothers in Keller’s book. And unfortunately for them, and fortunately for the rest of us, that kind of faith doesn’t work, nor will it ever win.
I’ve been really ashamed of my faith because there are too many times I’ve seen “older brothers” represent Christianity and cause immense amounts of pain. But I want to change that. I want to change this representation. Not that I think I am a perfect representation, in fact, most days I’m probably a horrible representation because I am a human being who pursues her own needs even when they cause conflict to others. But, not all Christians believe in hate or assimilation or ludicrous Trump ideas. Changing this representation though means that I can’t hide anymore even if it’s way more comfortable to hide. I don’t think Jesus was ever comfortable either, though.
And so, on a day that is mixed with mourning the twisted things that happen in life and celebrating a man who died and rose again, I choose to follow Him. I know the story sounds crazy. I have days where I can hardly believe it for myself because it is just so out of this world impossible. But I think I’m starting to finally understand who Jesus is and why his death and resurrection are so important. It’s my salvation, sure, but it’s also an example of the greatest possible love that could ever be given. Some man whom I’ve never physically met and who lived thousands of years before I was even born loved me so much that he died so that I could be free of all the things I’ve screwed up, of all my guilt, of all my pain. That is insane to me, but I believe it. And for that, I am forever in awe of this person who to some may only be this magical, fantasy figure. But I’ve always believed in magic.
Today I met the cleaner for one of the apartments I photographed. There was a scheduling conflict and instead of me showing up to a clean apartment that was ready for photographs, I showed up at the same time as the cleaner, Bonnie, to a messy apartment that was not ready to be photographed. We decided that she would quickly clean one room at a time, and I would follow behind her with my camera, photographing each room as it was finished. It wasn’t ideal, but I also didn’t want to have to reschedule this photo shoot. So as Bonnie wiped the counters, made the bed, etc., etc., etc. (me snapping photos as soon as she was finished), we chatted.
Bonnie was quick on her feet and incredibly friendly. She didn’t look a day over 50 and so I was quite surprised when she said she was 70. She told me how much she loved her job, loved cleaning, *loved* doing laundry, was also a seamstress and at one point had owned her own laundromat before deciding to clean apartments. She told me about all of the spaces she cleaned, and all the laundry she did, and how busy she kept. I asked her about retirement. “No, I could never retire. I don’t ever want to retire. What would I do if I retired? I love to work, so I keep working! It keeps me young. My husband retired for a few years and he got bored, so he went back to work. And that’s what we do, we work and we love it. I love my job!”
I hope I never retire either. I hope that I am in a position where I can afford to retire, but I hope I don’t actually retire. I’ve never thought of myself as the type to retire, but then again, I don’t know. I know that when my husband and I go on trips, we get bored after a few days if we aren't able to work, and perhaps that's because both of our jobs are creative, and creating for us is like breathing. All I know is that I want my each and every day to be as happy and pleasant as Bonnie’s days are. I want to love what I do, even if it’s not the greatest job or moment. I want to live passionately and love deeply. I want to work hard and never stop. I want to be thankful for each day, even if it seems small and insignificant. I want to live like Bonnie, and I don’t ever want to retire.
I don’t know how womanhood feels to every woman, but I do know what it is to simply be a woman. My experience as a woman is different from other female experiences. I am a white, able-bodied, middle class woman. I was raised in a stable home by religious parents in a small town. All of these things influence my way of being a woman and how I think about womanhood and the world.
All day today I’ve been thinking of the words I have wanted to write on International Women’s Day. I began writing this piece in my head about all the strange, uncomfortable and sometimes abusive interactions I’ve had with men, but then I realized, that isn’t a piece about women at all, it’s a piece about men, and only a small fraction of men at that, for most men I know are incredibly kind human beings. But then I felt like I simply didn’t know what to write about with regard to being a woman, because for most of my life, I’ve tried to suppress my femaleness. Here’s what I mean by this:
I don’t know if I would go as far as saying I have been ashamed of being a woman, but there have definitely been times I have been frustrated about the fact that I am a woman. I have seen and experienced gender inequality in countless ways. These moments have made me so angry where I’ve realized that the only way to get what I want, deserve, and is equal in this world, is to be less female and make myself more masculine, or at least androgynous. I’ve been paid less because I am a woman, I’ve been objectified because I am a woman, I’ve been told to shutup because I am a woman. But none of this is what I really want to write about.
What I want to write about is all of the women in my life who have inspired and encouraged me to embrace who I am as a woman. For that is what International Women’s Day is really about. It’s not about how women have been oppressed, it’s about celebrating all of the achievements women have made.
I’ve heard many times that women, in particular, can’t have it both ways. I hate that thought because, both ways is the only way I want it (which is also the title of one of my favorite books), and I’ve been determined to live my life within this understanding. It’s not that I feel I am entitled to everything, it’s instead that I feel that it doesn’t have to be one way or another for women, it can be both ways. Motherhood has always been something that has scared me. I suppose it’s largely through the Internet that I’ve seen and met so many mothers who not only have families they are taking care of, but whom also have strong, active careers. This has always been so inspiring to me on my quest to having it both ways. I’ve always been determined to keep the core of me, and while eventually I do want to have kids, the core of me has always been to dream big and dream hard and make those dreams and my career a reality. There are so many women I have to thank for this, for making me see that it is possible to do both. Motherhood (and parenthood) is perhaps one of the most self-sacrificing things a person will ever do, and yet, it is entirely possible to still do you, just in a different way.
I’ve been inspired by women who aren’t ashamed of the way they dress. Too many times I have left my home wearing a dress only to go back inside and change into pants, a safer option, a more masculine option. I wouldn’t describe myself as a girly girl (in fact as a kid, I was sure to always avoid things like purple and horses), but I am a feminine woman, and yet I haven't always felt I've been allowed to express my femininity in a way where it is still valued. It’s been women who show up at work and you can just tell that the way they dress represents exactly who they are. I’ve always thought clothing to be a form of art and self-expression, and so when I see a woman wearing the clothing she truly wants to wear, well, I’ve always been inspired by that. It doesn’t only inspire me to feel comfortable in the clothing I wear, it’s that these women inspire me to once again, maintain my core and not be ashamed of who I am.
I’ve been inspired by woman who are financially independent. Not that I think a woman has to be financially independent from her partner, but I think it is incredibly, incredibly important for woman to have the option of being financially independent. I think it levels the playing field and allows both partners to pursue their goals and dreams in an equal way. There are so many hard working women out there who have careers or maybe they are stay at home mothers, but whatever their job is, they do it to their fullest and are fully comfortable of taking initiative and making decisions. These women inspire me and encourage me to be confident in my decisions, as a woman and as a human being.
It’s weird to say this but it’s only really been in the past two and a half years that I’ve started to feel comfortable in my own female skin. And I owe it to all of the women around me who have embraced their own femaleness, encouraging me to embrace my own.
Thank you, ladies. <3
I’ve began to ponder serious things, although I’ve always pondered serious things. Too serious and too sensitive, these are words I often hear, and yet I still find myself wondering what is wrong with either of these things.
Perhaps, though, the seriousness, is because now I can imagine all of these things with some sense of reality. I know age plays a factor, and the time of life I’m in and my friends are in. The things we are walking through individually and together, of our parents growing older, getting sick and dying, of pregnancies and miscarriages, of marriages and divorces, of things like that. Things that are serious and real. Things that I am only at the very beginning stages of. Things I didn’t think much about as a kid, but that are now creeping in. My husband tells me he is starting to feel old, his birthday is only a few weeks away, and yet I wonder how my father feels. Today is his birthday, and he’s almost twice our age. Dad, do you feel old? I wonder if I could ever ask him these questions candidly, as a friend, and if he could ever answer me candidly, as a friend, or if he would choose an answer that only a father would give a daughter in order to protect her, one that would hide his fears in order to alleviate any of her fears. I wonder if he even thinks the way I think, or rather, if I think the way he thinks, and if we ponder these things together, separately in our own spaces. I wonder if he realizes that he will eventually be the oldest in our immediate family line once his own mother is gone. I wonder if my dad thinks about the fact that he’s entering the latter part of his life, and if he is scared and thinks about death. I wonder if it feels like standing in a line at the DMV or at the bank, both business and fatigue circling the air, waiting for that voice, next, and next again. Then again, my father is only 56, and for as serious as I am, I am optimistic, and I am determined that each one of us, myself, my father, and my husband included, will live to be one hundred. Perhaps death is not near for any of us, and this brings me a sense of relief.
But it isn’t death I think of lately. The serious things right now mostly revolve around building something greater. That’s what marriage feels like. It feels like being crazy enough and in love enough to choose to marry someone, no matter what comes our way, in order to build something greater. A home, both literal and as a feeling, a family beyond just us and our two dogs, careers, holidays, family get togethers. History. It feels like I’m building a history that for the first time in my life, I can now start to picture.
Because when I wasn’t married, I could only imagine. Maybe we’ll live here and maybe he’ll look like this and maybe we’ll do this together and maybe our kids will be like this and maybe our thing together will be that and maybe we’ll never fight and maybe this and maybe that and, other than my own personal goals, the rest has been a bunch of maybes.
And so the seriousness, the seriousness comes like this: I know who my husband is, I know where we live, I know what our careers are, I know the things we enjoy doing together and I know what makes us fight. I also know the things we do to not fight and instead the ways we choose to be humble. I know that we could move and I know that our careers could still change. But even now, I feel like I can picture our kids, which I’ve never been able to do before, because I know the parts of him and the parts of me and the how these will mix and make kids who will probably be like this or that and even though I’m sure they’ll be entirely different than I could ever imagine, I feel like I can sort of sense what they will be like. Somehow. Someday.
I continue pondering. I ponder the seriousness of life and how it’s so much more exciting when you don’t let things get under your skin. I ponder the seriousness of life and how it’s so much more fun when you try something new. I ponder the seriousness of life and how it’s so much more vibrant when you embrace the unknown. I ponder the seriousness of life and realize that no matter how I try to picture it, it’s always going to be changing and surprising me, and the best I can do is not to hold on but to let go. To let go and let things happen how they are supposed to happen in order to feel the joy and also the sorrow but then once again the joy that comes after the sorrow.
I’ve changed since I have gotten married. I honestly don’t know if every married person feels this way or if it’s just me and my seriousness. I know I am the same person I was before I was married and yet, I don’t feel at all like the person I was just months ago. Maybe it’s because marriage felt so unknown and now that I’m here, I see who I am rather than imagine who I will be. And as much as I am the person I imagined I would be, for I am still me, I feel different.
Maybe I feel different because now I know that every single decision I make personally affects another human being, and whatever human beings we are able to create. I knew that would happen, but I didn’t know it to happen. With dating, there was always the option to abandon ship, and that’s what was always chosen. Rather than continue to stay in different individuals' lives for better and eventually for worse, we could end the worse and simply move on to other things. I can’t do that anymore, and so I certainly feel different.
Maybe I feel different because marriage has taught me how selfish I can be. It’s no longer about my ambition alone, it’s about both of our ambitions, whether I like all of his or not, because again, I can’t leave and I won’t. Maybe to some that sounds awful, but it’s actually quite beautiful. It’s a love I’ve never fully known until now. To sacrifice so much of one’s self for another, that takes a whole lot of beautiful and crazy and entirely raw love. It’s a type of love that has allowed me to understand God in a new light, because before I was married, I could hardly even utter (type) the word God if I knew it was going to be in a blog post, but now I can most certainly type God and know that His love is as real as anything in this world. Recognizing my selfishness isn’t a bad thing either. It’s taught me to be a better human, not just for my husband, but for others, and also for my own self. Marriage isn’t suffocating like I thought it would be. It’s sad to say I even thought that way, but it was a fear of mine, a deeply rooted fear that took months of serious inner-dialogue for me to confront and move past. Instead, marriage has actually been quite freeing. So freeing, in fact, I wonder why more don't do it.
And as it goes, I continue to ponder. I continue to ponder what life will be like in one year and five years and ten years and thirty. But I also stop to remind myself that life only exists right now, and so to be in this moment and embrace this moment and try new things and to always let go.
Because as it goes, when we let go, we create new space for all those beautifully serious things to come in. And we shouldn’t be afraid of them, oh no, because that is what life is: a collection of tiny and big and confusing and bright moments that whether experienced with another or completely on our own, are building something greater.
I don’t know what makes one a writer. I call myself a writer on my Twitter bio because I write, a ton, both online and offline, but I’ve never been published. Does being published make me a writer? I take that back, I have been published. I was published in 1999 when I was eleven or twelve years old and submitted a few poems to some children’s poetry club and received a letter back saying, Congratulations! We have accepted your poems into our such-and-such-collection and you will be published in such-and-such book. I was over the moon, and to this day I don’t know if every eleven or twelve year old who submitted poems to that book was being published, or if my poems really were a magical and unique collection. But never-mind that.
I’ve often thought that it must be age that will make me a writer, because, with age comes experience and wisdom; years and years of knowledge and trials and information and hardship and also joy. I’ve longed to be older than I am purely so that I could be more knowledgable on certain topics, a right of passage, in a sense, to write without naivety. I hate being naive, and yet I often am, although, perhaps not as much as I think, because I know I am constantly painting myself with doses of reality. Sometimes I am too realistic and in the same breath, sometimes I dream too much. I’m a serious, emotional and sentimental optimist… I think.
But I know I can’t long to be older than I am because once I am older than I am I will only wish to be younger than I am. At least that’s what I think, or at least that’s what magazines tell me. They tell me that being old isn’t cool anymore. You’ve missed your chance. You’re no longer young and pretty (“you’re not in your prime!”), and so you only get certain parts in the movies. But I don’t know if any of that is true, or if that’s only what media wants me to believe. You see, I read the most beautiful essay by Roger Angell called “This Old Man” that was originally published in The New Yorker and was republished in a booked called, “The Best American Essays,” edited by Ariel Levy, author of Female Chauvinist Pigs, which I bought while I was on my honeymoon (I know, that was a mouthful). I read the intro and the first essay while I was in the bath, after a long day of hiking through freezing cold and pouring rain forests with my new husband (it’s still new). Then we returned home and had Christmas and the holidays and New Years and work and routine and rearranging furniture and just last night, over three weeks later, I finally got around to reading the second essay and I cried. Roger’s essay (I prefer to call him Roger than Angell because referring to someone by only their last name sounds so impersonal) was beautiful and the most honest account of death and love I have ever read in my entire life. He’s ninety-three and he’s “feeling great.” No really, he is.
You see, I’ve wanted to be older than I am because being older than I am means I can write on topics with authority, and yet, I do not wish to experience things like death anytime soon, of myself or of a loved one. I’ve been lucky and have been mostly untouched by death in my short twenty-seven years of life. My grandfather’s death was my first one. We got along great. He was the funniest, old man I knew, and thankfully gave all that humor to my funny father. He died quickly, and I’ll never forget the look on my grandmother’s face a week later. She looked like she had died, but there she was still walking and moving and breathing and getting up from one spot to go sit at the next spot (say, the dinner table). She looked so sad and she was so pail from grief that I thought it would only be a small matter of time before she would die from a broken heart. But, over ten years later, my grandmother now has seven great grandchildren and I believe another is on the way (gosh, I hope I haven’t forgotten about any). She’s happy and teaches exercise classes and is just as alive as she was before my grandfather passed. And that’s exactly what Roger said, “the accruing weight of these departures [death] doesn’t bury us.” The next death I experienced was one of the worst experiences of my life, and it was only that I was present when a friend found out her mother had passed. I could write on this more, but it’s not my story to tell, and she continues to amaze me how she’s moved on, and yet I can only imagine that she doesn’t at all feel like she’s moved on, for “moved on” are not the right set of words at all, but I can’t even begin to accurately describe what it must really feel like for her. And then there’s just this past year, where my husband and I each had one of our best friend’s lose a parent, and that was just awful, too. But yet again, neither of those are my stories to tell.
Death is this strangely complex topic that I do think about often. Not too often, not in a weird way, but in a way where it crosses my mind from time to time. Again, I’m realistic and I like to be prepared. Not for disaster, but simply for reality. I hope and I pray each night that my loved ones will be safe, healthy and happy, and afterwards I fall into a never-deep-enough sleep but still deep enough to then wake up in the middle of the night and realize that I had no idea that I was gone (sleeping), and that that must be what death feels like. Unless, of course, you believe in the afterlife, then death must feel like one of my really, really great dreams I have every now and then. Like the one where I am flying and I am able to lift my body higher up into the sky, and then control it as I race down and almost hit the dirt, but right before it’s too late, whisk myself back up in the air again. It feels divine. I haven’t had that dream in years, though.
I admit that getting married had me excited not only for the marriage part of it, but also because suddenly I could start writing on a new topic. If not something so grave and heavy and mature and life-altering as death, but still something complex in its own way, something also life-altering, and I hope to maintain a happy marriage, forever, both naively and realistically.
So, perhaps, now, I am a writer. I am married–that grants me new knowledge and therefore authorship, right? Then again, some of us get married really young, before we’ve had a chance to fully know who we are. Some of us get married because we get pregnant, and instead of simply becoming a spouse and learning things spouses must learn, we instantly become parents. Some of us have a lifetime of experiences and don’t get married until we’re older, or at all. Some of us marry and discover ourselves right away, some of us marry and never discover ourselves or even lose who we are. So perhaps marriage is not what makes me a writer. I do feel different, though. Just last night I asked Eric, “how does it feel, to you, to be married?” “Different,” he said, “and yet I can’t quite put my finger on it. It’s something I could have never adequately explained to my single self, but I know I feel it now. It’s even different than living with someone and not being married.” I agreed, or maybe I said that and he agreed, I can’t remember, but we both continued stirring the brussel sprouts in the pan and cutting the tomatoes for our salad, silently pondering just what it is that makes marriage feel so different. “God… It’s God, for me, that makes marriage feel so different,” I said, “although I don’t know what someone would say about marriage feeling different who doesn’t believe in God.” “I don’t know either,” he said.
I still don’t know, but suddenly, after reading Roger Angell’s piece, “This Old Man,” suddenly I do not wish to be older. Yes, he wrote the most beautiful piece on death and love I have ever read, as I’ve already said, but so much so that I no longer wish to be older in order to have access to additional knowledge, because I realize now, that I will always be experiencing something. And if I don’t write now, when I’m still young and only twenty-seven and newly married, who knows what might happen. I may get Alzheimers or die young or lose the ability to use my hands, and then I will be so mad at myself that I didn’t simply write. Just write, already. It doesn’t matter if I’ve never been published except for when I was eleven or twelve years old and can’t even remember what the publication was called or if I haven’t experienced things that others have experienced. I can still write what I have experienced, no matter how boring/insignificant it may seem. After-all, I don’t personally find it that boring or insignificant. I don’t wake up each morning going, ugh, god, another boring day to get to, no, I usually wake up with either a plethora of things to do, or I create a plethora of things to do, and that is what makes life so interesting. The day to day. The simple and somewhat insignificant moments. The moment where I was both annoyed at my husband because I was so tired and yet found myself hysterically laughing at how silly he was being and how much I love him (he’s always trying to make me laugh, and he does, without fail, even when I don’t want to laugh, but it’s never really him that I’m annoyed with anyway, it’s my own personal opinion of something and how I like things to be, and besides, it’s not always about me, nor should it be). See, it’s not necessarily about marriage or death or xyz, it’s about the collection of the events, and how we go about the events. The marriage itself took place when we said our vows, signed a piece of paper and then mailed it in. The actual death of my grandfather was that he had cancer and then one day, he took his last breath. Both of those events may not be so interesting, but instead, it’s the laughter, the playing, the joking, the doing, the living, the fun, the twists, the turns, the memories, the in-between and sometimes unseen moments that make love and death both so interesting.
And so, maybe being a writer is simply continuing to write. Maybe being a writer is being able to slow down and recall and then write words together in a way that paint beautiful pictures and tell grand stories with letters on a page (or at least I hope my writing will paint beautiful pictures and tell grand stories). Maybe being a writer is allowing myself enough silence and solitude to voice my inner being, the true version of my self, the self that only ever comes out through these collections of words and the deep, intimate and contemplative conversations I have with other writers like me, and the friends I feel safe enough to share with. Maybe being a writer has nothing to do with my age or my experiences, for I would never want to tell my child one day, you’re not a writer! You’re only seven years old!, because how could I ever limit their abilities or dreams of not only becoming someone, but already being someone. A very real and feeling human being. Because when I was a child, I wanted to be a photographer when I grew up, or maybe it was a journalist, or no, a photojournalist, hmmm, it was something to do with photos and words and here I am, taking photos and writing words and I’m still trying to become something and someone. Maybe I already am that someone. Maybe I’ll never feel like I’m that someone. Maybe being that someone is continuing to do the day to day, ticking off small boxes of goals and accomplishments and tedious to-do’s. Maybe being that someone is simply being here, present, in this very moment, and not wishing to become someone, because right now, I am someone, and this someone is me.
even if i’m just a -part- in this gigantic puzzle piece world.
even if it doesn’t enD at me or i’m not the one (the one to do this or that),
even if i’m only a small fraction,
i’ll be that small fraction.
because just as the smallest sliver creates shArp, jAgged pAin,
just as One sip of water creates relief after a longandwarm day in the sun,
so, too, can the smallest fraction create
even with one tiny little minuscule piece,
a greater deed is not complete without what may seem insignificant to you or me.
even if i’m just a woman or a daughter or a sister or a wife or a one day mother or some RANDOM HUMAN BEING,
even if i don’t quite know how i fit in this world or why i should fit in,
i know i’ll do my part. because,
even the smallest parts in this g i g a n t i c ᵖᵘᶻᶻᶫᵉ piece world
even the tinylittleminusculepieces form to
create something Greater.
we matter in our own,
and We Matter Together.
I have to admit that the first thing I thought when I woke up this morning was, I am so glad I didn’t make any new years resolutions, you know, the daily kind, which would summon me out the wonderful sleep I was having and possibly awaken the hangover I felt looming over my body despite only having half a homemade drink last night but oh no, it’s not a hangover, it’s just called staying up two hours past my regular bed time which causes me to feel like death the following day, also known as, aging, and yet, I'm still young. I rolled over and closed my eyes again, knowing I could fall back asleep, guilt free(!), not having broken the first day of any resolution.
But when I rolled over closer to where my husband should have been sleeping (ah! I love calling him my husband!), he wasn’t there, and instead, I heard him working tediously at the kitchen table on his own new years resolution. Inspired, or maybe it was the two dogs jumping on top of me to WAKE UP, I got out of bed, made some tea, and here I am now, writing.
Writing every day, this has been my new years resolution for the past several years and it goes like this: January, strong, February, twice, March, non-existent, the rest of the year, a few more times, and I’ve tried every kind of motivator or action plan there is. I’ve tried different times of the day, different computer apps, phone apps, the old fashion pen and paper. It simply never happens. And so this morning when I opened my eyes, I felt such a sense of relief knowing I wouldn’t fail this year, or even that very day, for I hadn't made any new years resolutions.
And here I am writing. Day 1.
I think I’ve grown tired of trying to become a new person each and every year. Some years are better than others. Some years I accomplish the majority of my new years goals (having only set three) and other years I don’t accomplish any of them (whether having set one goal or ten). But yesterday when I was reflecting on 2015, and how it most definitely has been filed as the best year of my life–this best year being the year I got married, the year I graduated from my degree, the year I moved to Seattle, and more–I realized that I didn’t want to become a new person tomorrow because today (being yesterday) is part of the best year of my life and I don’t want to file it away and forget about it. I want it to continue. I don’t want to think that I was married last year in 2015 when really it was only two weeks ago. I only want to continue doing life how it’s been flowing each day, with magical twists and frustrating turns, the best highs and the worst lows, the ups and downs and spinning around, the all-of-its. I want all of it.
There’s this wonderful book I read many years ago called Both Ways is the Only Way I Want It and ever since merely glancing at this book title I’ve been determined to live my life that way. Not in a way where I think I am entitled to whatever I want, but rather in a way where I want to work so hard that it’s possible for me to accomplish this dream and this dream too, no matter how far apart or complex they are from one another. I want both ways, all of it, thegoodthebadtheinbetweens.
That’s what I want for this next year. To simply keep going, keep dreaming, pursuing, working, fighting, imagining, creating, doing, giving, loving, being, feeling, breathing. I want to be the best version I can possibly be of myself and be the best person I can be for those around me not because it’s the new year but because I have, too, this is the only life I have and ever will live.
And so, as I write these words and soon close my laptop, as I take my cup of tea back to the kitchen, stopping to kiss my husband (eee!, my husband!), put on socks, do the dishes, take a shower, run some errands, make lunch and so on and so on and so on, I want to do each of these things wholly, and to the best of my ability, because this day, this very moment, is all I have. Whether January 1st or May 28th or December 20th or whatever day it is, it is the only right now I have and may ever have. I want that moment, this moment, to be whole, no matter how complex it is, because it is wholly real, wholly happening, and wholly time. The time is right now.
My gosh, 2015 was such an incredible year. I admit, too, that at the end of 2014, I was a bit sad to be leaving 2014, because I didn’t think anything could top last year, but I’m so glad I let go and allowed space for a new year to come.
2015 was monumental for me for a few reasons. It was also insanely busy and at times it sucked the creative life out of me, but I’m so glad I stuck to all my goals and pushed through, because now, for 2016, I feel like I have the whole world at my fingertips again.
2015 is the year I finished my undergraduate degree… at 27. This degree took me for-freaking-ever. It was the one I dropped out of many years ago to move to San Francisco, and the one that once I was in San Francisco, realized I wanted nothing more than to finish this dream of mine. So that was the majority of my 2015 (summer school included). I love learning, and this kept me fascinated enough to stick to finishing my degree, but I am a terrible student and get distracted easily, so I often found myself doodling instead of taking notes, or sketching elaborate photo shoots instead of reading. It wasn’t ever that the subject content wasn’t interesting, and I am still so grateful for all my professors who let me do creative photo projects instead of writing 3000 word essays. And then, finally, finally, I finished.
2015 is also the year Eric and I got engaged. I did not expect this at first. At the start of 2015 I wouldn’t have guessed this, but then a few months down the road, everything finally became clear to me, and I knew Eric was the one I wanted to be with, forever. I remember him coming up to Vancouver, Canada (where I was living) and us going to look at rings. The first place we went to (and one of the few that were open on a Sunday night) was a small jewelry store with the man’s workshop right there in the back. I immediately saw the ring I wanted, but I didn’t try it on at first because I figured it should take a bit of time before finding the one. I tried on a few different rings, and then we went to two other stores we found that were open. I’ll never forget standing in the mall and Eric saying to me, Kima, we could get engaged, right. now., and me laughing saying there was absolutely no chance we were getting engaged right. now. and in a mall of places. I don’t mean in the mall, but we could still get engaged today. I said that I wanted us to wait, and the next morning when Eric left to drive back down to Seattle, he stopped at the small jewelry store and picked up the ring I couldn’t stop thinking about. For the next few weeks, I had my entire proposal planned out. He would take me here and we would do this and eat that and I had every last detail planned out and set to happen at the end of the summer, and instead, Eric proposed later that month when I was least expecting it in the way I did not expect either, and it was better than anything I could have ever imagined.
Summer school was, well, summer school. I had back to back classes for 9 hours a day and the rest of my days off were spent working. Instead of doodling during class, I was planning my wedding. Everything was set to happen May of 2016 in Hawaii, my dream destination, but some things fell through, and I finally gave up trying to force things to happen, and just let them happen how they were supposed to happen.
And so instead, I decided to graduate, move from Vancouver, Canada to Seattle, Washington and get married all in the same month, the month of December. I moved to Seattle during my last week of school and our wedding was two days after my last paper was due. It was a whirlwind and even though it didn’t go the way I originally thought, it was so much better the way it happened, and so much more us. And now it’s only like a week and a half later and here I am, sitting in my office typing on my laptop. Eric is in his workshop, the dogs are sleeping, music is playing, cars are driving by, there is a hole in my stockings, the plant next to me is still dying and everything just feels good.
I’ve always believed that you don’t just “make it” and then live happily ever after. You don’t just graduate or get married or move and then kick back with a big smile on your face knowing that now the rest of your life is good to go. I mean, yeah, I have definitely been kicking back (or whatever) with a huge smile on my face because I have accomplished things I’ve been working so hard to accomplish, and dreaming and praying for, but it doesn’t end here. And I think that’s what I’m most excited about for 2016, because for every bucket list item I can check off, it allows me to make space and write new bucket list items. Work goals and hobby goals and travel goals and weird goals and secret goals and omg goals. Nothing is really set in stone, except that now I can create time to pursue these things again. Now that school is done, now that I’m finally in Seattle with Eric, now that I don’t have to think about planning a wedding, now I can just do me again. I’m really excited for that.
When I read through my goals for 2015, it’s perhaps embarrassing that I didn’t accomplish the majority of them. Stand up tall, sort of, maybe. Write daily, preferably in the morning, aka, sleep longer. Work on thought life, think more positively, okay this one I worked hard on, and it’s helped, and I still work on it every day. Get good grades (A’s and B’s, no C’s), or get all of the above! Deepen relationship with God, still trying. Be a better girlfriend, daughter, friend, also still trying (and learning). Finish the following five books…, 2/5, it’s a start.
Maybe I didn’t accomplish as much as I did according to my list, but 2015 still taught me so much. 2015 taught me balance. 2015 taught me patience. 2015 taught me to work hard. 2015 taught me to trust, forgive, let go (ah yes, always letting go), try harder, be humble… There were ups and downs and lots of learning curves and yet,
I wouldn’t change anything from this past year.
2015 taught me to let life happen how it's meant to happen. Because it's only in letting go that we can truly live.
There are so many different thoughts and memories I have from our wedding. We were married a week ago to this day. I’ve been patiently waiting for a moment to write about the day, knowing that thoughts, feelings and memories would eventually slip away, and I don’t want to forget a single moment from that day. Photographs tell a huge story, and I am SO excited to get our wedding photos and video back and relive our wedding day, but words, words for me are equally as important, and so today, I have found time to write.
Let me start by saying that I am not really a wedding person. I’ve never been the type of person to plan my wedding since I was a kid, know the colors of my wedding, etc., etc.. Plus, I’m a feminist, and not that feminists don’t dream about their weddings, but I’ll admit it’s always been more of a back burner item for me. And so, I will also admit, that our wedding day was beyond magical. It was more than I could have ever imagined and it was genuinely the best day of my entire life. I’m still in (joyful) shock from it all.
Eric and I eloped in what was probably the most planned elopement of all time. What I mean by this is that it was most definitely planned (the location, time, day, and what not), but we tried to keep it a secret and to keep the expectation of the day low. It’s not that we didn’t want the day to be important or monumental, it’s simply that we are both introverts and both hate being the center of attention. Anything big, crowded, overly decorated and filled with traditional expectations is not our style (but seriously, props to all of those who can pull off a big, decorate, traditional and fun wedding because oh my gosh, planning a super small elopement was enough work in itself). We celebrated the day with our immediate family and a few of our closest friends and I cannot tell you how special this was to me (well, to both of us, but I’m speaking from my perspective). Being able to share the day with such a small group allowed me to actually focus on the ones I love and be present during the entire day. It's a good thing, too, because from the moment people started to arrive until the end of the day, everything went into tunnel vision. It’s so strange… I’m a big picture person and Eric is a details person, but I could not see any of what was going on throughout the day except what was in my immediate line of vision. Everything else became a blur and went by so incredibly fast. And so, the intimacy of it was very needed and gave me the space to see everyone, interact with everyone and laugh with everyone.
Our ceremony took place on a ferry boat that took us all to Orcas Island. No one knew about the ceremony and so to see everyone’s faces light up as they realized the ceremony was happening at that very second and on the ferry is such a cherished memory and something I’ll never forget. I remember peeking through the door and seeing everyone sitting on the wind protected deck, eagerly waiting to see what was going on. I remember sitting down to wait and the man sitting across from me reading his newspaper. With his eyes glued to his newspaper and without looking up at me once, he asked me if I was actually about to get married right now.
“Yes, I am! No one out there knows either, so I’m really excited!”
“Wow. In my 27 years of taking this ferry, I’ve never seen anyone get married on a ferry.”
He smiled, wished me luck, and continued on reading. Why did we get married on the ferry? Well, nothing was working out with our original wedding plans and we were both exhausted from trying to make a more traditional wedding work. And so it just kind of happened. The idea came into our heads and I was reminded of the spoon ring Eric originally proposed with, and on the ring, the image of two little people standing on a boat in the ocean. It just made sense, and so we canceled the original wedding and decided to elope instead.
My dad couldn’t stop laughing, asking me if this was actually happening, and if the wedding was actually taking place on the ferry. He knew we were getting married that day and that he was to officiate our wedding, but I didn’t tell him anything else about how the day would go. With huge grins on both of our faces, we walked out onto the deck as Eric’s best man played the guitar. I’ve always had huge anxiety about this moment, this moment being walking down the aisle. I’ve walked down two other aisles before for my two best friends' weddings, and each time I almost passed out from nerves (and I was only a bridesmaid). The anxiety stems from the fear of walking down the aisle and in the back of my head knowing I was marrying the wrong person (because I've heard that story happen). Instead, I remember turning the corner and seeing Eric standing there and I’ve never felt so much happiness, joy and certainty than at that very moment. In fact, that is probably my favorite moment from the day: walking with my dad down the aisle towards Eric, his big, brown eyes beaming and his soft, gentle smile waiting. I could relive this moment over and over again, and I know I always will. I never really believed in the saying of “when you know, you know” (when it comes to finding the right person), but I sincerely knew walking down that aisle that Eric is everything I could have ever imagined and more. He’s my human.
I remember the sway of the ferry as it rocked back and forth in the water. I remember having to hold onto my dad's arm during the ceremony so I wouldn’t fall over from nervous excitement and the swaying boat. When my dad started to cry, I remember quietly saying to him “mawwiage,” the way they do in The Princess Bride, to help him laugh and continue on with the ceremony. I remember watching Eric’s face as he intensely focused on every single word my dad was saying to us. I remember saying our vows, I remember looking out at everyone who was there with us and seeing a few crew members who stopped to join us, I remember seeing my sister standing behind Eric in her coat with a huge smile on her face, I remember our mothers sitting together, I remember seeing my two best friend’s faces and being eternally grateful for all the years we have shared together, I remember everyone laughing when the ceremony was interrupted at a few different times because of an intercom message saying that “the car alarm of the vehicle with the British Columbia license plate is still going off,” I remember putting our rings on one another, and I remember my dad pausing before saying “you may kiss the bride” and finally being able to kiss (and kiss again). The ceremony was my favorite part of the day, and I’ll never forget those twenty minutes.
But I’ll also never forget getting to Orcas Island and having a few minutes to go back to our room together and be alone, because after a whirlwind of a day, finally we could just sit there and say hi. Hi, husband! Hi, wife! We’re married! Oh my gosh we really are! The day was a beautiful blur, almost like a painting, and it was in those few minutes where we could finally take a breath and realize everything that had just happened.
The rest of the night was filled with food, games, laughter and dancing. I ripped my dress but it didn’t matter at all because the only thing I cared about was being there with Eric and those who have been our greatest supports.
Someone later asked us (jokingly) if it felt any different being married, and how it was sort of like turning a new age where it doesn’t really feel different, but it happened. I agreed, although, now I would have to disagree.
Being married does feel different. I don’t exactly know why, because I still feel like me, we still feel like we and life will continue in a similar way to how it was before we were married, but still, something does feel different.
Permanency feels different. There is a new sense of love that comes with permanency, that I could have never felt before. There’s the I’m in love with you feeling and the I love you feeling, but then there’s also this new feeling of love that comes when you realize that being married means we are permanent. I can’t describe it beyond that. It’s a type of love I’ve never felt and it’s a type of love I can’t imagine having for anyone else in this world, because it’s our marriage (and our commitment to our marriage) that is the permanent love. It’s being a unit together, no matter what comes our way. Somehow, this permanency allows us to know one another more intimately than anyone else will ever know us. It’s the good and most definitely the bad and ugly. It’s everything from here to the sun, and it’s ours, together, to figure out.
I’ll admit that already in our first week of marriage we had a decent sized disagreement that had us both frustrated beyond belief. As the fight was happening, I kept getting sadder and sadder realizing, oh no, we can’t undo this, we can’t undo the fact that we fought during out first week of marriage. But then I realized I had some weird expectation in my head that everything had to be perfect (beyond just this first week). The truth is, Eric and I have never been perfect, but we’ve always been willing to work it out, or agree to disagree and put love first. That’s what marriage is, it’s putting love first, and putting the other person first. It gave me such a sense of joy to remind myself of this, when during this disagreement I realized that our issue wasn’t even what really mattered, what mattered was Eric and our marriage, and knowing that what mattered to him was me and our marriage. Again, this permanency was what allowed me to love him a new way, and to quickly forget, forgive, and also say sorry myself. As our marriage therapist also has said, “When a couple walks into my office and I ask them what they fight about, if they say that they don’t fight, the first thing I ask them is, ‘so which one of you is lying?’” In past relationships, it’s always been me who was lying, hence the lack of any fights or disagreements. But finally, finally, I have someone that I don’t have to lie with. I have someone who I can completely be myself with (and vice versa), even when it causes us tension or disagreements. And so, our fight during our first week of marriage, I suppose it’s perfectly normal, and I know as we continue to learn and grow together, we’ll get better at understanding one another’s cores, and we won’t have to fight.
I love Eric so much. It’s weird (okay, well not really), but I didn’t think I could possibly love him more than the day we were married, but every single day, my love for him grows deeper. I know that one day we’ll leave the honeymoon phase and some days it will be hard to love one another, but I know that he’s the only human I would ever risk marrying, if that makes sense. Everyone I’ve known has said that marriage is hard work, and with the divorce stats, it’s even risky, but as I said in my vows to him,
We’ve already been through a lot together, both good and bad, and as much as I’ve hated the bad, it’s shown me that there’s no one else in this entire world I’d rather experience the bad with than you. I know there’ll be hard times and I know there’ll be amazing times and I know there’ll be all of those mundane things in the middle. Today, through all of those moments, and the moments to come, I promise to be by your side through this adventure we call life.
Marrying Eric is the best thing I have ever done. I remember, too, when we had our “first look” photos. The moment I saw him standing in the field with his back to me, I couldn’t walk, I had to run to him, because finally, the day was there, and we were finally making it (legally) permanent. I am so excited to do life with him, permanently him.
He came in. Black pants, an orange shirt, an orange and black polka dot tie with a newsies hat. His long black coat swayed back and forth with the motion of each step, anchored by a cane in one hand and a nearly broken briefcase in the other. The coffee shop was buzzing and he circled trying to find a spot. I waved him over to a table near my own and he gratefully hobbled over, sitting down. Methodically, he set his briefcase on the chair, put his cane down next to it, took off his coat, took out his laptop and his computer’s mouse and then finally sat down. He began typing on his computer, moving his head around as he adjusted his eyes from looking at the computer keys to the screen, his progressive glasses small wire frames. All but twenty minutes passed before the entire situation was reversed. He closed his laptop, stood up, put his coat back on, reached for his briefcase and it broke. We must have looked up at the same time, because immediately he hobbled over to me and asked if I could fix the clasp on his briefcase.
“I have to get back to work here but I don’t want my briefcase flap flying open in the rain.”
I couldn’t get, so I turned to my fiancé who wiggled the clasp for a few minutes before securely locking it back in place. We all smiled at one another, glad that his briefcase was now fixed.
“Thank you so much! God bless.” He shook my fiancé’s hand before turning back to his table, placing his laptop in his briefcase and with his cane, he walked back out into the rain.
We've become desensitized to terror happening to the 'other.' I put scare quotes around the word 'other' because I think the way in which this word is so often used should be challenged. Generally speaking, we, as Westerners, think of those who are not Westerners as somehow allowed to face terror and pain. We think of this terror and pain as different. Or maybe it's just me, although I don't think it is. I fully admit that I've thought to myself, "yeah, but they're used to terror and pain, they are constantly in war," as if their pain is any different than our own pain. It's not, and it never has been. It's my privilege that sometimes blinds me.
I only began to learn about the attacks in Baghdad and Beirut after watching, in real time, what was happening to Paris. I quickly googled the other two places, thought it was horribly sad, and then resumed streaming BBC on Paris. I tweeted that I was praying for Paris, and I was, but I didn't mention Baghdad or Beirut in my prayers until this morning, and for that, I'm sorry.
I'm sorry that we live in a world where racial discrimination still exists. I often wonder why I was born in the West during this time era, a place mostly untouched from terror and war. I don't know if I'm lucky or blessed to live here–not that being born elsewhere wouldn't make me lucky or blessed, but it's quite true that here, in the West, we do not have to worry about war or terror. We have our own problems here, certainly. We have problems with guns and school shootings, we have racial discrimination (whether systemic, individual or both), we have the genocide of Indigenous people, we come from slavery, we have the oppression of immigrants... We do have our problems here in the West, but as a privileged person, I mostly do not see them. What I do see is what I choose to submerge myself in.
Joey Ayoub wrote an article on the racial issues still going on this world. It's beautifully written and incredibly sad. It almost reads like poetry. And it stings. It stings because it's true. I encourage you to read it. I've copied it below.
I come from a privileged Francophone community in Lebanon. This has meant that I’ve always seen France as my second home. The streets of Paris are as familiar to me as the streets of Beirut. I was just in Paris a few days ago.
These have been two horrible nights. The first took the lives of over 40 in Beirut, the second took the lives of over 100 in Paris.
It also seems clear to me that to the world, my people’s deaths in Beirut do not matter as much as my other people’s deaths in Paris.
‘We’ don’t get a safe button on Facebook. ‘We’ don’t get late night statements from the most powerful men and women alive and millions of online users.
‘We’ don’t change policies which will affect the lives of countless innocent refugees.
This could not be clearer.
I say this with no resentment whatsoever, just sadness.
It’s a hard thing to realize that for all that was said, for all the rhetoric of progressive thought that we have managed to create as a seemingly united human voice, most of us, most of us members of this curious species, are still excluded from the dominant concerns of the ‘world’.
And I know that by ‘world’, I am myself excluding most of the world. Because that’s how power structures work.
I do not matter.
My ‘body’ does not matter to the ‘world’.
If I die, it won’t make a difference.
Again, I say this with no resentment.
That statement is merely a fact. It is a ‘political’ fact, true, but a fact nonetheless.
Maybe I should have some resentment, but I’m too tired. It’s a heavy thing to realize.
I know that I’m privileged enough that when I do die, I will be remembered by friends and loved ones. Maybe this blog and an online presence might even gather some thoughts by people around the world. That’s the beauty of the internet. And even that is an out of reach privilege to too many.
But never before have I understood what Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote when he spoke of the Black Body in America. I think there is a story to be told with the Arab Body as well. The Native American Body. The Indigenous Body. The Latin American Body. The Indian Body. The Kurdish Body. The Pakistani Body. The Chinese Body. And so many other bodies.
The Human Body is not one. It sure feels that it should be by now. Maybe that in itself is an illusion. But maybe it’s an illusion worth preserving because I don’t know what sort of world we’d be living in if it stays an illusion.
Some bodies are global, but most bodies are local, regional, ‘ethnic’.
My thoughts are with all the victims of today’s horrific attacks, and my thoughts are with all those who will suffer serious discrimination as a result of the actions of a few mass murderers and the failure of humanity’s imagination to see itself as a unified entity.
My only hope is that we can be strong enough to generate the opposite response to what these criminals intended. I want to be optimistic enough to say that we’re getting there, wherever ‘there’ might be.
We need to talk about these things. We need to talk about Race. We just have to.
By Joey Ayoub, from http://hummusforthought.com/2015/11/14/beirut-paris/
I mourn for all three places, Baghdad, Beirut and Paris. I mourn for those whom were lost and for their families that are now dealing with immense amounts of pain. I mourn for those that witnessed these tragedies first hand. I mourn that we live in a world that is broken. I mourn that it is often only in tragedy that people are brought together. I hope, from the bottom of my heart, that it no longer has to be this way. I hope that there doesn't have to be 'us' and 'them,' 'me' or 'they.' I hope and I pray that through tragedy and through joy, through all of life's circumstances, humanity can unite us to love, offer a helping hand and embrace and love our differences.
I could not describe to you my writing process, except, that,
I can only seem to truly write when I’m listening to music.
It’s the flow, the melody, that guides my thoughts along, releasing them from my soul.
We’re not perfect. I’m not perfect, you’re not perfect, he’s not perfect, they aren’t perfect. I don’t understand why we let perfection consume us when,
perfection is boring. It is utterly boring.
Two of my dearest girlfriends both recently celebrated long term anniversaries with their men. I love hearing of these anniversaries… Three years, five years, six and a half years, 28 years, 52 years, 66 years. Our marriage therapist says on his website that him and his wife “have been happily married for 16 of 17 years – year #8 was pretty rough.” And I love that. I love that so much.
I love that so much because perfection is utterly and profoundly boring. Perfection can look like a number, but it’s not about the number. It’s not three, five, six, 28, 52 or 66. It’s not about how long someone makes it, it’s about making it. Making it, day to day, through all of life’s complexities. Whether as a couple, or as an individual.
I love the laughing. I love the crying. I love the adventures. I love the hardships. I love it all. I don’t always love it in the moment, but I love these moments as a collection of something larger. There are the ugly pieces and the pretty pieces. We’re each puzzles. With dull shapes, colorful shapes, abstract shapes, simple shapes, dark shapes, light shapes. We’re puzzle-like shapes that when scattered, can look quite messy, but when taking each individual piece, intentionally, and slowly putting it together into a larger puzzle, it really is quite beautiful.
Every piece matters. Every moment, every day, every interaction. Our moods, our mental illness, our bodies, our broken bodies, our thoughts, our movements, our very being. They matter. They make up something greater. They are far from perfect.
But they are real and alive and shaping something large and vast and beautiful and never-ending.
Spirits, memories, memorabilia.
The song is over now.
I leave these words.
I go out into the world, collecting more words, moments, memories, tucking them away, quietly, intimately, waiting.
Begin with the end in mind.
The other day I was reading pointless articles online (you know, the rabbit hole of the Internet), but then I came across one called something like “35 celebrities you didn’t know who died.” I clicked it immediately and for the next hour found myself googling name after name, reading everything I could read about their lives and their deaths. I was telling Eric about it later, too, about my weird fascination with death. I tried to justify my statements, saying that I wasn’t into death in like a super weird way but that I just found death to be an… interesting topic. Something none of us can avoid. Something many of us fear. Something none of us have any idea about what it’s like until it happens to us, but then we’re gone, and we can’t even describe it or write about it. And it’s the ones that are left to watch the rest of life unfold.
This past year, Eric and I have both had our closest friends lose a parent. It’s heartbreaking and surreal and you feel helpless for them. You feel pain, but it’s pain for your friend, and it’s only a fraction. You can’t truly understand their pain unless you’ve been through it yourself. Your words only can mean so much, and sometimes you probably say the wrong thing, but you try. You try and be there so they know that they’re not alone in their darkest pain.
Begin with the end in mind.
This is the phrase that circles my thoughts this morning. We, as humans, crave change. We crave change that gets us from A to B, B being what allows us to finally “make it.” Making it being where we are finally successful, finally where we want to be. Whether it be marriage, graduating, having a baby, buying a home, getting that dream job… We think that when those moments happen, life finally begins.
But no. Oh no, no no.
Someone said today that, “what’s unsaid may not ever be said, and we only know this in a house of mourning.” This really resonated with me, and it made me realize why I have a fascination (if that’s even the right word, perhaps, curiosity is a better word) with death. It’s because death keeps me grounded. Death reminds me that each morning, when I wake up, I have to begin my day with the end in mind. Because I won’t “make it” in life when a certain goal in life happens. That goal may never happen. I may be gone tomorrow, I don’t know. But I do know that I have *right now*. Right now, this very moment. I have this very moment to choose to live. To choose joy. To choose joy despite facing the worst circumstances or the most annoying circumstances or whatever those circumstances might be.
Live each day as if it’s your last. I think this phrase has become so popular that it has lost all of its meaning. It’s pasted across tee shirts and Pinterest boards. It’s a catch phrase meant to pump you up. Stating this statement makes you seem like you’re living life to the fullest, but are we really? Are we really when we’re arguing with one another over whether to sleep with the fan setting on one or two? Are we really when we’re spending hours online each day comparing our lives to others, or even reading articles on death? Are we really living life to the fullest when we respond in anger rather than in patience?
Each and every single one of us are going to die one day. We all have this in common, and as hard as it is, it isn’t something we should fear. A few years ago I would have nightmares where I felt like I was dying and I would wake up literally gasping for air in a complete panic. I was so scared of dying or of a loved one dying. It paralyzed me with fear.
But one day I realized I had to let go. I had to let go of this fear in order to live again. I had to let go in order to begin each day with the end in mind. Not as something haunting me, but as a reminder to stay grounded. To accept both life and death, as they are, and instead, try my hardest to live, and not as if it were my last day, but simply with the end in mind.
It’s the end that grounds us. It’s the universal commonality we all have. It’s something so terribly heartbreaking that it probably teaches us more about life than anything else in this world does. It’s something that can bring us all together. It’s something that can give us patience, love, exploration, curiosity, adventure, perseverance, motivation, kindness…
Begin with the end in mind.
Begin with the end in mind.
Begin with love in mind.
Begin with patience in mind.
Begin with kindness in mind.
Begin with the end in mind.
This is what I choose to do.
Sometimes I wake up and look at myself in the mirror and I have no idea who I am. And for being so musically inept, or perhaps too distracted to sit down and focus on the piano keys, it's when I turn on a certain song and, oh, there you are again, I see myself again.
Things are so imperfect and yet we expect them to play out so fluidly. I'm learning that when things play out in such a jagged, heart crushing way, to not give those moments more meaning than they deserve, for often, as often as it goes, it isn't about what happened but how life moves forward. The what doesn't always matter, it just matters that we got through it, perhaps not as eloquently as we wanted, but that doesn't matter. Life is imperfect, afterall. It's getting through it, and being thankful, that matters.
Sometimes I find myself so distracted by the outside world that I forget what's going on right in front of me. I want to dream big and live big and love big and experience big but in a way where each of those bigs can be powerful as a grand adventure but without letting those tiny misicule dot moments go unrecognized, because it's these tiny miniscule dot moments, where suddenly you wink at me from across the coffee shop, that I'm like okay, don't forget, it's these moments, too. These are the really super valuable dot moments.
Sometimes I find myself stuck on a word and I cannot move on until the next song plays. And so I sit here, and I wait. I wait until a new burst of inspiration plays through a note in the song that is playing, muffling quiet conversations. And I keep waiting.
Sometimes I wake up and look at myself in the mirror and I wonder how long it will be until I no longer recognize my physical self. For as deep as my self seems to get buried, I still recognize myself in the mirror. I recognize my eyes and the small gap between my two front teeth. I recognize my unbrushed hair that still hurts just as badly to brush it out as when I was a kid. I recognize new spots on my skin from staying in the sun too long and that the left side of my mouth seems to be wrinkling more than the other side. For when I have those mornings where I have to wake up and try to find myself, I still see my physical self, and that gives me some sense of comfort. But what happens when I'm gone? What happens when me as I feel it is no longer me as I've always seen it?
I dress in black more these days, which is so ironic because I've fought the color black for years and even committed through photos and blog posts to noteverwearblack. But I'm tired. I get older, and I'm only 27, but I get older and I find myself faced with more decisions than I know how to handle and I'm reminded of that article that says humans can only make so many decisions in a day and that it doesn't matter how hard or easy these decisions are. You have a set number, and then you fade away. And so looking at my closet and seeing all these colors, while they are all so beautiful and remind me of certain days, I feel too tired to decide which color to match with another color, and so I keep reaching for my darks, my neutrals, my clothes that I don't have to think or decide on, and you know what, I can quite hoenstly say, I have more room for all of these other far more important decisions and... it's just really nice.
The air is cooling–it's that time again. Time where I wrap myself in a scarf the size of a blanket and wear wool socks and pull out old sweaters from that blue bucket in my room that I forgot to put away last year. It's that time again, where the leaves fall and things slow and I get back into a routine and I'm just so happy to be here, I could cry. I could cry because life is so imperfect but it's these tiny miniscule dot moments when the air is cooling and my breath feels chilled and no matter what happened or what happens, life is so insanely beautiful in a twisted way that I can't help but find myself smiling, even when I don't always know why.
It’s so funny to me, because I remember the day as if it were yesterday. Two years ago to this day, I first met Eric. We met at Sutro Baths and I remember him giving me the biggest hug ever, which I thought was a bit strange as I’m not the biggest hugger, but I remember that hug so clearly, and he hasn’t stopped hugging since then. It’s so funny to me because I had zero idea who this guy was, but I remember taking photos together and hiking up through Lands End and feeling so comfortable and relaxed around him. I remember feeling safe around him and like I could completely be myself. I remember feeling pretty flattered, because he really liked my writing and blog posts. I remember thinking he was a great a conversationalist and asked really meaningful questions and gave very insightful answers, and that’s just him, that’s the Eric I met and still know. It’s so funny to me because as I was hiking through Sutro Baths with him, wondering who this really nice guy was, I had no idea that two years later I’d be engaged to him and that soon he’d become my husband. It feels so magical! And I can’t help but thank God and know that God knew exactly what he was doing, because I certainly didn’t.
I have this journal that I’ve been writing in every day for the past 5 years. Each day it asks you a new question, and then repeats that same question on the same day every year. It’s really fun because without being able to say a lot, I can read something I wrote a year or two ago and instantly be taken back to that memory and how I felt that day. I’m almost done this journal. The last day of this journal is the day before we get married, and then I’ll start a new one, I’m sure.
A few days ago we were back in San Francisco taking photos at Sutro Baths for a client. We hadn’t been back there together since the day we met, so it was nice to be there and relive some very special and quirky memories.
We have no idea how life’s puzzle pieces come together, but I’m so thankful for each one of them, the good and the bad pieces, because together they make up something quite beautiful.
I'm about to write a political blog post, but please, please, read on. I’ll try to make this as basic as possible, as I realize political discussion can quickly become confusing.
A few days ago Canada tightened the laws for Bill C-24, a horribly discriminative Bill against millions of Canadians who are no longer considered “pure” Canadians.
What is Bill C-24?
Bill C-24 has devalued and weakened the citizenship of the following groups of people: Canadians who hold citizenship with another country; Canadians who are eligible to receive dual citizenship with another group (despite not legally being dual); immigrants; and those who wish to receive Canadian citizenship in the future.
Bill C-24 allows the Canadian government to take away citizenship from any of the above people who are accused of a crime or some other type of offense.
Okay, so, maybe you aren’t planning on committing a crime, so you don’t technically need to worry about the government taking away your citizenship. I wouldn’t be so sure, because let’s say you are a journalist reporting about a human rights story and you are arrested during the process. You now risk having Canada strip your citizenship away from you, allowing you to be charged under the laws of a different country.
Internationally, it is illegal for a country to remove someone’s citizenship because it would leave them "stateless" and without a country of residence. With Bill C-24, it is no longer illegal to remove the citizenship of anyone who has ties (or is eligible to have ties) to another country.
Again, I understand that for the majority of us who can now have our citizenship taken away from us, this won’t directly effect us. It does, however, devalue what it means to be Canadian and to hold citizenship in this country. Even the name, “second class citizen,” is horribly offensive, and once again promotes a White elitist nation, discriminating against anyone else who is no longer a “pure” Canadian. What even is a “pure” Canadian? Canada isn’t even 150 years old, and yet the Conservative government likes to think of itself as pure, as the founding fathers of this land, when in fact, Canada is founded on colonization and the genocide of thousands of Indigenous people (yes, genocide, it was not just a cultural genocide).
Yesterday when I realized the full extent of Bill C-24 all I wanted to do was cry. Not cry because I personally am afraid of losing my Canadian citizenship as I hold citizenship with the States as well, not cry because this will also affect my fiance if we ever decide to live in Canada and most certainly will affect my future children… It made me want to cry because this is a huge step backwards for Canada. I still hear people I know talk about how they are tired of hearing the slogan “Black Lives Matters” and that First Nations people are just a bunch of alcoholics. They talk from a privileged perspective, as if no one else’s opinion matters, and as if racism is a thing of the past. Racism, structural racism, call it what you want, it still exists, and this Bill does nothing but create a racist nation. My skin is white and so physically, I can get away with still being considered a “first class citizen” because what being Canadian really means to the Conservative government is being white. I look white enough that it doesn’t matter if my mom’s side of the family is First Nations or that anyone else with colored skin is now seen as a threat to the Canadian government, because I still look white. But it does matter. It does matter that millions of people, simply on the fact that they do not have white skin, beyond just the government’s eyes, have immediate second class citizenship as a Canadian. And second class citizens voices don’t get heard, first class citizens’ do.
Bill C-24 has hardly even been talked about which also makes me sad. I feel so helpless. I feel helpless because I’ve already heard it, yeah but this Bill doesn’t directly impact you because you’re not a criminal. You’re missing the point if you really think that, and that’s why I feel helpless. I don’t know what I can do or how I can educate people further on this issue—it’s rooted in a history of over a hundred years of racism, colonization and white supremacy.
If you want more information on what Bill C-24 means, check out this website:
There is also a petition you can sign to repeal this Bill:
I know this isn’t a typical topic of mine to write about. I like to write about love and life and travel and personal freedom and creating, but I am able to do these things because I, too, am privileged. I have the time and resources to reflect on things like love and travel and creating, as well as experience love and travel and creating, but millions of people aren’t given a leisurely lifestyle like mine. That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t care, though. Just because I am not directly influenced by this Bill doesn’t mean others aren’t, and so I choose to care. I have the freedom and the ability to care. I live in a safe and free country and it’s my opportunity to help create positive change and give voices to those who aren’t as privileged as myself. I write about politics or tweet about politics and hardly anyone engages. No, I have not been directly impacted by war or famine or abuse, but I shouldn’t be lazy and ignorant about the fact that billions of people are. So please, talk about this Bill with your friends. I know politics can quickly turn into a huge debate which often becomes frustrating, but human rights, hope, freedom, safety, wanting to change the world… there is no debate there.
Regardless of citizenship, skin color, age, gender, religious standpoint, net worth, dis/ability, social status, etc., etc., etc.,
there are no second class citizens.
Tonight we booked flights to San Francisco which I am so excited about! It was two years ago that we met for the first time while we were both there, and we haven't been back together since. I'm excited to visit the place we met, to see a bunch of my closest girlfriends and introduce him to the ones he hasn't met yet. I'm excited to show him my old apartment and where I used to work. I'm excited to show him a part of where I became me and do that reminiscing thing together.
Perhaps I am too honest, but I'd rather be real and honest then surface level and dishonest. Booking our flights tonight was exhausting. Him and I are both such passionate people when we're together and so all it takes is one little thing and suddenly we're arguing over which flights to take and then wondering how we even got there. Even now, I couldn't tell you. But ya know, tonight I was watching Friends, yes, Friends(!), and it was the season finale of the entire show (disclaimer: if you haven't seen Friends yet, stop reading because I'm totally about to spoil it, and yeah, it's totally possible to not have watched Friends yet because I just started the show for the first time in my entire life a few months ago). Ross and Rachel finally, finally, decide to stay together and here's what they say:
Rachel: No more messing around. I don't wanna mess this up again.
Ross: Me neither, okay? We are - we're done being stupid.
Rachel: Okay. You and me, alright? This is it.
And this is just it. There are so many of these stupid little things that we let get in our way where we forget what love and marriage is supposed to be about. We are never ever going to have a perfectly seamless relationship together, but every time we stop what we're doing and look at each other and say okay, we're done being stupid, it's you and me alright, that's it, it's like I see him for the very first time again and I realize that no matter what, this is the human I want to do all of these stupid little things together with, because I know that through all of it, there are going to be so many incredible things we experience together and he's the only one I want to do life with.
Eric is really good at letting go. Me? Not so much. He's very quick to catch us when we're having a moment and tell us to stop worrying about some minuscule detail and then completely forgive and forget and move on. It's such a breath of fresh air and I'm trying my hardest to be better at letting go like he can. Which is funny, because, I have written post after post after post after post after yet again another post about letting go and here I am, still trying to let go.
I think people like to think that love is all fairytales and magic. I think people like to think that they've finally "made it" when they get engaged or married or that their life has finally begun. I think people like to think that once they are married all of their problems are going to go away and they're going to be infinitely happy forever and ever and always. This is such a lovely thought that it scares me that some people think this and don't realize or forget that there is an entire other side to being with someone that is the exact opposite of this.
Life and love and being engaged and I'm sure marriage as well is filled with stupid little details that sometimes make you want to make scary faces but if you know how to navigate it, you'll be able to immediately turn around and laugh at whatever it was that was driving you crazy. Life and love and being engaged and I'm sure marriage as well is filled with things that are not fairytales and are really, really hard but I think as soon as you can get over this fairytale kinda thing, you'll create your own fairytale story, if that's what you want to call it. Because things sure as hell are never going to be perfect, but gosh, things can sure be beautiful. Like when Eric called me later and said, we sure are good at that thing we do where we basically turn on the blender without a lid on, and then we both started laughing hysterically because at the end of the day, those tiny, minuscule, stupid things don't matter except for the fact that I still love doing them with him, because him is what matters to me.
Love is really beautiful. It's also a choice. It's a mix of I'm-so-crazy-about-you-never-leave-me-I-miss-you-it's-only-been-five-minutes and oh-my-gosh-I-am-so-mad-right-now-but-I-am-committed-to-you-and-we-will-work-this-out because you love each other, and that's what love is. It's those magical ingredients of both desire and commitment and a whole lot of laughter that makes life with someone so great.
In a world that shouts so loudly—shouts that I have often found intimidating—in the past, I’ve become afraid. I’m been afraid to speak up because I’ve been afraid of being challenged or simply saying the wrong thing. I do not enjoy confrontation and I often don’t understand why everyone can’t just love everyone. But here we are, life, and we’re all so different. We are filled with so many different experiences that shape us and mold us and cause us to act certain ways.
In a world that shouts so loudly, I’ve learned that staying quiet isn’t accepting defeat. It’s staying humble. It’s staying small. Small things aren’t any less important nor do they have less things to say, I just don’t find the need to shout it. Staying small allows me to focus on my present and those immediately around me, and not on superfluous moments outside of my own bubble. It’s not that I don’t care about other people’s bubbles, I just want to care intentionally about the bubbles immediately around me. Staying small and staying quiet reminds me to stay humble. It reminds me to not think of myself as better than anyone else but rather as someone who each and every morning wants to learn more and ask for advice and stay genuine and seek inspiration. It’s, in a world that shouts so loudly, being content with saying less because it’s not about what I say, it’s about how I live. It’s how I allow my thought life to be. It’s how I engage with others. It’s how I focus on bettering those around me and also bettering myself, and not for my own benefit, but for the benefit of others. We are each learning and growing and breathing and stretching and being pulled every which way, and amongst it all, I just want to
and stay quiet.
Because in quietness, I believe there is power.
I’ve grown to love seasons. They are something I’ve known my entire life–something I always took for granted. The hot sun and the falling leaves and the whimsical snow and the new growth. I was so eager to move away from these seasons to hot and dry California that I hardly did any of my research before landing in San Francisco and realizing I would be cold for the next few years. The sun came out as it often did but the wind, the wind never died down. And each morning I’d wake up in this trance like state, unable to grasp or fully understand or even appreciate life’s seasons, for there were never any seasons. It was this perpetual state of recycled sun and never-ending wind, scrambling my thoughts and leaving me confused as to how to proceed.
Moving back here, here being a place of seasons, I’ve come to realize how much I love them. With each season comes a reset button, a chance to refocus and reprioritize. Seasons give me a timeline which gives me stability. Seasons allow me a time of rest, and therefore a time to also work really, really hard. They let me shift my focuses to certain things for certain durations of time, and also experiment with breaking out of molds and cyclical patterns in order to find new inspiration or new light.
Summer is coming to a close and already the morning’s feel cool. This next season is one where I put my head down and work through the fog and the rain and when suddenly the sun comes out again, life is going to be like it has never been before.