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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Nonsensical post

No structure: free form, degraded hand-writing. Cursive, illegible. Makes me think: rap, jazz, free-style. You do it often enough and it sounds rehearsed; you get it right the first time.
So here I go, this was my day:
God, help me. I didn’t want to get up from my bed. Limbs weak, eyes dry. I put on my make-up, had Oreos for breakfast. Put on my falsies and got in an Uber: 8am photoshoot.
Some people can put on more makeup and look beautiful- I however, can only go so far. I look middle aged or like my face has been painted on like a festival mask (it is le Dia de Los Muertos). I am also awfully self-conscious in front of a camera. I focus on the fact that my eyes don’t crinkle when I smile, that I must look dead and insincere. I don’t know where to position my body, so my arms are fat and my shoulders are hunched – the body of a hag. Crazy to think I used to get a kick out of play-pretend modelling. Sleepovers were for perfecting catwalk, bootcamps for sexy squints.
I went home to rip off the lashes and put on my workout clothes. I went from acapella to boxing crew, all of whom were wearing hoodies as uniform. Made a joke about running on Oreos. Chimed in on the banter, got teased for my “night-before” makeup. I love this group: so encouraging  when I forgot the combo and even more so when I got it right (whoops, cheers, high-fives). It’s frustrating to deal with memory blanks. I check out and my body goes berserk. Don’t think about it, just feel it? Ironic that the key is mental repetition. Think about it.
Microwaved chicken, left over couscous with parmesan cheese. Bread and jam, two eggs. And Oreos for the rest of the day. Insulin spike won and I took a nap, only to be woken up by a phone call. I had agreed to Skype but my soul was dry. I LOVE MY FRIENDS but sometimes I let my temporary discomforts take over. I am drained, I am annoyed, I am bothered by the prospect of socializing. But remember: she’s going to graduate- you are lucky she even makes time for you.
Today I scrolled through my phone and wasn’t all present in conversation. Today we talked about this temporary home- it feels real now, like it could last. But we are just passing through. But speaking of the ephemeral, I downloaded Tinder and swiped for a brief fifteen minutes because I remembered this cute Burning Man guy who didn’t reply me after asking to hang out. (??) Such is life.
Talked to God seriously in the shower and came across something profound:

If obsessing over a certain kind of behavior will actually increase the probability of that behavior manifesting itself, and if it’s the intent of our heart that really matters anyway, doesn’t it make sense to take the emphasis off the behavior and place it on making sure the intent of our heart is right? Doing this accomplishes two good things. It will restore our relationship with God, helping us to regain our victory, and it will make the manifestation of the behavior less likely by depriving it of its importance.
– Jack Kelley

#preach. Food does not have the power to control me- neither through the fear of giving in or through obsession. We are all works in progress. I’m okay with that.

I watched a presentation on childhood development and technology and loved it– I realize I love research for it’s findings, not for it’s methodological design (bye pHD).The concept of contaminated time is also so real and intriguing- with technology and constant access to people, work, and school, we no longer have separate spheres of life. We no longer have a set time to do different things; we forget there are seasons in life and do everything at once. We can’t get away from work and are constantly stressed. I recently learned that some French companies will shut down email access during lunch hours for their employees. The French know what it means to live well. I also frkin love podcasts. I daydream about listening to them during research but it can get distracting so I listen to music instead.
I was pleasantly surprised by an interview offer for the developmental minor I applied for- although, the only available time slot for me is TOMORROW. Good luck to me!!!!!!

Sleep beckons.

 

Fragments

Pine needles adorned with pearls of rain, forest green, thick milky skies.

I hear melodies in the hum of appliances. Cymbals in rattling pipes, scales in soaring airplanes.

Auburn leaves gently sweeping through the air in slow motion. Like the littlest petals. Bon Iver, maybe Bootstraps cooing. I am watching something unfold: a God-given moment.

“I love music that makes you look up at the sky”.

So far

It is currently 2:13 am and I am forcing myself to write. I have forgotten how great it feels to walk around in the dark, naked. I am beyond full from a tray of Animal Style fries from In-N-Out – maximal gut distension- and am relying on green tea to kickstart my metabolism. I have been finding it difficult to refuse things I don’t even need. I am not listening to my body.

Last time I felt compelled to write, it was 6am on a Monday as I was riding the buzz off the coffee I’d chugged to complete an application for a minor (due later Monday). But alas, I did my French homework and went to sleep. I would like to reiterate that college is not conducive to hobby maintenance.

This quarter has involved a string of responsibilities I asked for but did not understand the realities of. I expected a quiet quarter- more space for relationships to grow, more time to weave networks. Instead, it’s been stacked acapella rehearsals, greater investment in the Schizophrenia treatment lab, lots of planning for my sorority’s philanthropy. I attempted a 21-day fast (learning as I went) and have recently come off a binge. Post-Application/Stress Monday was cheat day. As was every day since.

Whenever God changes something within me- whenever I am no longer struggling – I seek out the very things I’ve been saved from. No longer craving peanut butter? Let’s eat peanut butter for the hell of it. I remember post-fast brownies: disgusting. But I kept eating, hoping the next bite would taste as good as I had once remembered. My first bite of an Oreo was strange- not nearly as satisfying as I thought it would be. How interesting. Why, Lord, do we still chase our former idols? It’s like, not wanting to take antidepressants for fear of getting better- for fear of transformation. Who would I be without my vices?

Sometimes I catch a glimpse of who He has created me to be: free. All things are permissible but not everything is beneficial. I am mindful of what I put inside my body. I take only what I need, no more, no less. I am content, I do not crave. I seek Him first, over any material goods, and I live according to the belief that all actions have a spiritual consequence.

Although I am so far from this goal, I have faith that God can take the worst of me and write me a beautiful story of transformation. My evils will teach me Your redeeming grace, Father.

For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs–heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. – Romans 8:15

 

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.

F sleep

Any less than four hours of sleep and I am subhuman. Expressions fail to materialise, lips pressed into a hard line. I am unresponsive for the most part.

I cried on the way back from the Christmas party. It was cold, I was tired, and the thought of the trek in heels made me weak. I thought I hated her too. All of a sudden, I’m the better friend for bearing the brunt of her mood swings. I can’t wait to fly home and celebrate Christmas with my true friends. Maybe I won’t ever come back. Fuck social pain. Fuck irrationality.

I didn’t play White Elephant because I didn’t get a gift for anyone; I watched on the sofa with a heavy belly and a drowsy head. Sick from all the sugar I ate to compensate for the sluggishness. This. is. Defeat.

I dredged up all the frustrations in my heart and threw them at her in my mind. Then I forced myself to remember that I am loved with unfathomable depth. That He was loved least by men. That I can learn to love without expectation.

(sleep erases the accusations)

I slept in, skipped class this morning and drank some coffee. My skin is amazing because ovulation. Music is wonderful. My research investigator called me an Honour Student. My friend invited me to free-load off her sorority for lunch and my schedule is working itself out. It’s like magic.

I pledge to take better care of myself, to be invested in what my friends are doing and write more. Today is a better day.

Sept 11th

Clouds, floating grey asteroids in a changing gradient of green, blue and yellow. Van Gough, Money, Degas could not have painted a sky like this, a picture in transition. God, You know beauty like no other. Thank you for the glorious display, the shocking beauty of the sky, like glaciers bathed in warm sun – think marigold, maybe a tangerine before it is ripe- with dark fissures for clouds. Is this the stretching plain of dawn or the falling curtain of night? My grandfather said today that never in history had the clouds been this way, and never again will the pattern be the same again.

Out of dust

Sophie's picture

Photo of New Zealand by my grandfather. 

I am tucked in the middle of a queen-sized bed in my favourite black bralette. Family Guy is running in the background and in front of me is a scenic painting of Norwegian mountains. I have a glass of water beside me, a cup of tea, a bowl of jelly beans and a dry-fit hiking hat I told my granddad I liked. That hat has been to the untouched underbrush of New Zealand, the snow tipped French Alps and the coves of Mallorca.

Grandparents love to spoil their grandchildren, especially grandchildren they don’t see often. Love pours out of their eyeballs, like dew drops by the bridge of their noses (they’re not crying, it’s just something that happens when the glands are tired). “Let me get you coffee!” said my grandma. “Let me get these tickets for you” said my grandpa. But the best part of it all is that time with them is sacred. Momentous. The fact of your existence is already a joy and you are an exquisite thing to be learned and absorbed. They get the gist of you, your knack for the arts a red pin in your profile. Your favourite colour, a pair of killer heels on a card for when you had a phase for fashion illustration. A photo of a dog, a cut-out from the newspaper, something they think you’d like. Being around them is so plainly satisfying. There’s so much to learn from these wizened souls, the ripples of influence forever expanding from their ancestors to your parents and now to you. We carry each other in one way or another, the memory of you ingrained in the way I pay close attention to harmonies, enraptured. In the way my desk mirrors the clutter in your kitchen, a projection of the sparks in your mind.

The older generation knows that tomatoes are picked from trees, not grown in baskets. Grandparents raised in the countryside have a special appreciation for the world that moves without us, the scuttling of hedgehogs at night and the turning of leaves from lime to amber. They are in wonderment of the Earth, the ancient trees, the land that gives and gives us life. The carpeted floors of moss, the gentle trot of speckle-breasted does by crystal streams. Life all around us, nudging us into humility. Beautiful without even trying! And you see how they used to think the gods were everywhere.

I walked through the fields, weeds tickling my ankles. In the dust from which I came, I thought, horse poo trailing my Nikes. Out sprung a blackberry bush, and I picked at them with fervour, bearing the sting of nettles on my hip and hands. Not to fear, they grow by Doc leaves, I remembered my dad once said. I rubbed the leaves on the swollen bumps and the pulsing in my hands abated. The Earth provides. I went home, boiled the blackberries and made dessert. The Earth provides.

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.