I’m twenty-one

Might as well write a post, right?

The defining moment yesterday: I carried the laundry basket in my arms and walked across the hallway- a picture of the birth canal. I thought: twenty one years ago today, I was a singularity. From where there was no consciousness, I was brought to life. And here I am with the fullness of moments, strings of thoughts and feelings, present and past knit together. Here is a snapshot of life: moving forward daily, through to the end of the hallway. Making my way to a graceful exit.

What do I do with a day of affirmations? Shouldn’t I have felt happier? Why wasn’t I able to embrace the love I was receiving?  Somehow I couldn’t tap into the authenticity of people’s messages. I think I’ve always had this erroneous idea that I must strive in order to be loved- that I must give more in order to deserve kindness. If I truly understood their hearts for a moment – the thoughts of my brother, my sister, my best friends and my acquaintances about me – I’d be brought to tears.

I think we must remind ourselves of the absolute reality that we are intrinsically valuable. God only makes remarkable creatures and He delights in me. He likes me, no matter what I do- just because I am.

It is a privilege to be surrounded by such talented and amazing people in my acapella group. It is a privilege to learn French, even though it takes me five hours to type one page. It is a privilege to send out an email at 2am for my sorority. As my friend so wisely put it: “even on my worst days, my resting state is all the way up here”. Yes! I am resting perpetually on the apex; I am wonderful and I do not have to prove it. Thank you Jesus! If I am already loved, if I am already victorious, what is holding me back from loving the things that I am doing, the things that I am a part of? Nothing. I am walking in His light today.

 

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Trust

Nothing could have prepared me for the blood on my sheets yesterday morning. Fantastically red, smeared all over my thighs as if my skin were canvas. Splatters like cherry trees. I had never seen periods in this way: kind of beautiful, actually.
Though a little annoyed that I had to clean this up (and to think I’d want a puppy…), I got on with the task at hand. Sometimes you just have to do it. Like, cleaning your flatmates plates and taking out the trash before anyone else for some peace of mind. Like, starting a ten paged report, bulking up your skeletal resume, and going to that 9am class when your body feels like lead.

I praise God for a more adaptable attitude and an optimistic problem solving style. Instead of shying away from challenges and feeling defeated, I’ve noticed that I now respond to failure and disappointment in a more level-headed way. Am I stressed out about my Linked-in, the looming GRE and grad school applications? Absolutely. But I’m not going to be paralysed by anxiety. There is no ultimate deadline: success is growth at whatever pace works best for me. Most of the problems I’ve faced aren’t unsolvable, my screw-ups unsalvageable. And best of all, my God has planned every day that lies before me.

You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. – Psalm 139:16

Maybe I should’ve planned my winter holiday better. But hey, I’m on holiday. I’m trying to relax here. I’ve finally finished my two songs and posted them onto Soundcloud- now I don’t feel like a fraud when I tell people I “write songs for fun”. I just can’t find the time for personal hobbies during the school quarter- it always feels like I should be doing something else. Anyway, how frequently do you have to do something for it to be a hobby? How long ago was that a habit? Do you currently write/sing/hike/draw/read? Erm not really.

At least I’ve replied all the important emails and I’ve seen some important friends- though I tick them off the list and think I’ve done my part after one meeting. I’ve done some Christmas shopping, crafted some cards, watched The Intouchables (brilliant French film). I’ve still got Dim Sum and a massage on my mind. Another song. A book to finish. But I’m not going to fret if I don’t complete everything; last summer was a bummer because I couldn’t do it all. This winter will be different because I’m #chill.

Your eyes

I thought: gorillas. Or guerrilla warfare. The kind you must shield your ears from. Laughter like bombs going off, cackles and obnoxious shouts of jubilee. I flinched at every sound, ears turning inwards, conch shell cochlea spiralling towards a fine point.

Overwhelmed by my own discomfort, I could not see the beauty and triumph of the moment: a revolutionary shout. A carriage of black people, celebrating themselves and their togetherness; pure, rowdy, group effervescence. The football stadium kind, when your team make the goal and boy, you’re so proud. When it’s girls night and yes it’s really about the dancing. When the Theban women gather for three nights with their baskets and torches to revel in the magic of womanhood.

“It was kinda cool. I thought that this must have been what it was like for Rosa Parks”, she said.

What an insightful thing to say, I thought. What an awesome picture. With that, my anger cooled, my heart glad.

Wake

In the morning, there can be no Taylor Swift. She is banned. I will take a dose of Thrupence, a gentle waking, the tinkle of wind chimes. My husband needs to know to cure me with morning sex and a bit of coffee to nudge me into existence. A good roommate knows to leave me quietly on the bed, Bible on my lap.

An apple in the morning is the ticket to swelling in the belly- straight to the second trimester. Lunch feels like second lunch. Will this ever pass? Will there be good in the world?

I will yet praise Him. Ah, there it is. The lamp switched on; I am loved. I walk with a small smile for I have inherited the world.

Drunk with the spirit

Woke up this morning red and splotchy, like I’d run a mile. Eyes wrung dry, swollen the size of golf balls. This is why I shouldn’t drink.

I didn’t set out to get smashed. I painted my eyes gold with no roaring excitement for the shimmery feelings of inebriation. I was blissfully unprepared, failing to exercise an inkling of forethought. I believe it is called “living in the moment”.

It is this morning that I remember what my brother told me about alcohol completely disrupting our sleep cycles. I testify to the sort of sleep that is not sleep as I know it at all. Not restful or restorative, just empty, static. The slow passage of time. I woke with ease; had I slept at all? Am I still sleeping?

I am a wreck, nauseated by the mere thought of sweet foods and powdery lemon. I’ve aged overnight, aching with every step, my body resistant to motion. How equipped we usually are, never to pay any mind to inertia. I feel defilement in my cells, my body in reparation from the inside out. Bloated and disgusting. It is exhausting to smile, the muscles in my face slumped and unable to hold themselves up. I don’t feel like myself. I know, I know, I’m a youngin’ and we bounce right back, but still my body doesn’t deserve this battery. What have I done to the dwelling place of God?

I’ve been here before, not too long ago. Said to myself: no drinking, because you let your guard down and act like a fool before God. Now I’ve added another layer to my wall of defence: no binge drinking, because you are destroying your remarkable body. How many times do I need to suffer through my mistakes before I learn to be cautious? Well, I’ll take a stab at it with Psychology. There’s this cognitive theory of alcohol expectancies, directly related to dem dranks. We exaggerate the good times and forget the hangover. We remember the intensity of the buzz and forget the shame. These positive expectancies reinforce our drinking behaviour, so we need to adjust our expectations to better reflect reality.

Plot twist: replace alcohol with your name and we have a pattern of addiction. A cycle of ups and downs, where two years later I’m recovering from yet another trough of this infinite sine wave. It was alcohol that made me numb to the cockroach in the kitchen, the risks of honesty, earlier this morning. It was alcohol that pushed me to the brink, that fanned the anger- what I suppressed and thought I could handle, beneath the positive expectancies and all the good I sent you in my thoughts- into flame.

I need to remind myself that you are not only the guy who told me my hair smelled like gingerbread, made me feel adored by your wistful eyes whenever I left you, charmed by the cloud of energy you engulf people in, but also the guy who made me cry because you gave me silence when I spared nothing on my mind and heart. You asked me to stay even though I was dying in my guilt, and I did because I didn’t want to ruin your moment. I kicked my spirit to the curb so that we could indulge in each other. And you insult me when you don’t acknowledge that-when you expect it from me. You are so selfish with me and you can’t even see it. I’m done with preserving the good I stubbornly associate with you. I’m done with feeling trapped because I still want you to think the best of me, that I’m the one you want despite it all. Am I pleasing God or man? I’m taking on an eternal perspective on what matters in my brief existence on Earth. I want to sever my attachment to the things that won’t let me move forward in faith; the people who won’t let me be my best self. Think what you want about me. You are not my God.

Synchronicity

I’ve been feeling like I’ve put a cap on my faith, a roof to what’s possible and reasonable to expect in my life. I’m drawn to this particular issue because I’ve been seeing this Faith theme pop up everywhere, from an article I’ve stumbled across, a random sermon online, to a book I’ve been reading called Synchronicity: The Promise of Coincidence.

I’m determined to flip this thing around. The more outrageous my prayers and hopes, the greater the power of God I can see revealed. Because He is capable of more than our wildest expectations, if we only ask. However, as I’m writing this, I feel it is careful to ask with the right sort of attitude. With honesty, trust, and humility. A profound understanding that we need His guidance and a deep gratitude for His care and love. He answers not because we deserve it- not because we go to church, not because we clean our trays at McDonald’s so that no one else has to- but because He is good.

‘Truly I tell you that if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and has no doubt in his heart but believes that it will happen, it will be done for him. 24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours’.
– Mark 11:24

Our God is a God of miracles, an unseen supernatural being with whom we can communicate and witness the work of in the material world. I remember believing as a child that the world was full of magic; I flipped through my books on mermaid and fairy sightings, immersing myself in a world where they could be found in countryside cottages, in the hollows of trees or by secluded rock pools. It was my favourite thing to do, fostering a sense of excitement for these enchanting creatures. I loved the Harry Potter books, where there is no limit to the wonders of life, an epic reality where dreaming is synonymous with creation. I wish to redirect that childish, misguided faith and bring openness and expectation to God.

Synchronicity speaks of God’s many thoughts about us, His plans and provisions. It is the idea of perfect coincidences which are in fact, not coincidences at all. I learnt a neat little fact: there is no word or concept of ‘coincidence’ in Hebrew. Only the word ‘mikreh’, which means ‘a happening of God’. Every moment is significant. When good things happen, give thanks, for they come straight from His hands. Sometimes, little ‘signs’ appear just to remind me that He is present and watching. And it has proven helpful in deterring me from sinning a couple of times. Sometimes a web page doesn’t load, the phone rings or a door is knocked on, so I get a chance to rethink what I’m doing. Every time, it is for my good.
When bad things happen, they prepare us for more of Him. They are opportunities! Last week, I strained my right leg doing exercise. Pulled a muscle. And I remembered what this yoga instructor said to me earlier that week: “if you ever tear a muscle or hurt your leg, once you recover, you’ll be more flexible than you were before”. This experience serves as an analogy for what my friend said the other day when I confided in him about my struggle with lust. It was so special: think how He must love you to let you have these desires, this challenge, so that you may experience Him and know Him better. So that I will learn to rely on the One who brings victory. I will trust in His unfailing love.

Here’s a snippet from an awesome article I read today:

The true disciple is an expectant person, always taking it for granted that there is something about to break through from the master, something about to burst through the ordinary and uncover a new light on the landscape.

And I think that living in expectancy—living in awareness, your eyes sufficiently open and your mind sufficiently both slack and attentive to see that when it happens— has a great deal to do with discipleship, indeed with discipleship as the gospels present it to us. Interesting (isn’t it?) that in the gospels the disciples don’t just listen, they’re expected to look as well. They’re people who are picking up clues all the way through.

Rowan Williams

I have started to pray: give me a big faith, God. A hope against all hope. I want to be excited for each new day, because I get to experience more of You.

Rom/antics

So, I stopped myself from sending you a post. It would’ve earned a chuckle, and you’d have confirmation that I remember things about you and that you still surface from time to time. Like a whiteboard stain.

***

I romanticised my English teacher when I saw pictures of his newly furnished house. Wooden panels, artistically placed photographs he no doubt collected. A curtain separating the living room from the bedroom, used also to dim the lights for movies on the couch. A personal cinema. Someone could lay their head on his lap (I still can’t decide if it’s a man or a woman), whilst he holds a glass of wine, as he does after an evening of marking. On a school night, as he seems to be in the cheeky habit of doing and admitting. He’d put on his favourite movies, or they would watch a new cinematic masterpiece together and discuss it’s merits and downfalls. “Well that was shit…” I can imagine him saying. Or he’d bury his face in his hands, mouth slightly open. “I just can’t believe we spent two fucking hours watching that”, and they’d both burst out laughing. “Horrendous”, she’d/ he’d say. “Just awful“. And it’d become a running joke, with lines from the movie quoted and recited back and forth. It’d be one of those deeply inspiring relationships, full of beautiful lively moments. Good stories to tell. They’d see jazz performers, experience sunrises and green smoothies together, spend nights soaking in music from speakers he’d saved up to buy… I respect anyone who, though lives humbly, owns a pair of high quality speakers. I will marry you for that and your bookshelf.

Poppy

The parents are coming back soon, tomorrow-soon, which means two things: I’ll have the luxury of considering a wax and I won’t be won’t be able to blast music or play the piano in the late am. I remember the glorious first day after they left; the clothes came off and the music came on. I shimmied in the mirror and swirled my imaginary skirt like a queen because I owned this place. It was so liberating. I had the license to grab the wine, sleep on the sofa, do whatever I pleased. Almost like having my own apartment. Minus what it takes to survive in real life: bills, cooking, cleaning. Thank God for grandmothers.

Have I been wearing clothes at home for a month? No, the answer is no. And I don’t want to do away with this privilege. My grandmother and my aunt have grown accustomed to the butt cheeks peeking out of my undies. It’s kind of funny how my grandmother so cooly remarked: “oh you’re not wearing clothes again”. It’s fine as long as there are no dudes around, she says. We both pull up our shirts when it gets too hot.

This summer, I’ve learned that I’m more like her than I ever would have imagined and hoped for. I remember delighting over the fact that my grandmother and I were both born in the year of the Rat… Because nothing feels better than being comparable to someone or something you love dearly. My counsellor said that we resemble our greatest influences and attachment figures, and this has revealed to me a completely new and refreshing dimension to self-discovery. When she said it, I was like- of course! But it never occurred to me that it applied to me too. It gives me such hope for the person I’d like to be and the person I’m becoming.

She and I share commonalities on many levels. We both love talking to people and learning tidbits from them; stories with morals, testimonies, anecdotes and transgenerational wisdom. We love to laugh and she is often the object of my teasing- only because she is such a good sport. In fact, I basically christened her with another English name, because ‘Susan’ didn’t quite suit her. It was kind of a joke but it stuck. She’s animated, expressive, creative, and she loves to do things. Sounds like I’m describing myself. I love her honesty and her innocence, although she has seen and suffered more than I ever have. I would like to think that I evaluate my intentions with the same conviction she does, with the same brutal honesty: I am wrong. Even if it is normal because everyone participates to some extent, I am still wrong. But the thing that makes her a gift to everyone she meets is that she is selfless, loving, and generous. If I’m to pinpoint something that sets my heart on fire and makes me happy to be alive, it is to witness the joy of one who receives love. I am compassionate and forgiving. Not all the time, I regret, but these are qualities I love and treasure in myself. Where did I learn them? I can’t say for sure but I think I have a pretty good guess.

It’s you

You make me want to kick and scream “I’m not like that!” But I’m sorry to admit that I am like that, when it comes to you. I’ll be anything you want me to be. Fickle. And I hate that I’ve taught you that I’m no fortress; I’m an open door. Welcome, fuck me (up) whenever! But how can this be when you haven’t made a home in me? Why is it that you’ve never had to ask nicely for anything- that I’m pulling you into me before the clamouring of a thousand reasons why I shouldn’t?

What’s worse than someone who doesn’t know that they’re the special occasion, you ask? Someone who abuses that privilege. Don’t make me angry with myself. Guard my pride as if it were your own.

This could’ve been a good thing, you know. If you cared for my best interests. Shouldn’t our wills be bent towards the person we love if he loves us more than himself? Where pride has no place?  Where we’d do anything for them and melt into their embrace even in our anger? Our emotions serve a functional purpose. Women aren’t crazy. It’s not me, darling. It’s you.