Tuesday, June 28, 2011

When love throws bows

M & J's wedding. June 25, 2011.

Love's throwing bows all over the place this week -- kicking ass, taking names, knocking folks out.
  • My good friends were married under a bright blue California sky. The pastor spoke about the adjustments they'd need to make in their life, how partnership is hard work.
  • My aunt married for the second time on the opposite coast. I was there in spirit as she celebrated fresh starts and renewed joy.
  • My pen pal finally responded to me. He ended up in the hospital the week of his 88th birthday, and is now home mending.He writes about his wife of 60-odd years improving her own ailing health as she cares for him.
  • The state of New York passed a marriage equality bill, becoming the largest state in our Union to offer same-sex marriage. It's a win for civil rights and a win for lifelong commitment.
  • I fought with Fella about how much I'm traveling. How can I possibly say no, I argued, and miss out on nurturing the relationships in my life, be they with coworkers, distant friends, my family, or him? Yet I say no to nurturing myself without hesitation -- thus removing the one relationship that enables the others.
Love is a many splintered thing during weeks like this. It defies labels and packaging, eschews convention and definition. It makes me want to drink wine, sometimes for the wrong reasons.

So this week, I'm going to give you the prayer I wrote as a present for my good friends out in CA. You may recognize some of the phrases from previous IMS prayers, but the message hits home so squarely in this moment that I can forgive some self-plagiarism.

Here goes.

Prayer #170: So Love the World

God so loved the world He gave us love.

Not just any love either, but big love. Brimming love. Brazen love. Love that walks upright and speaks without thinking and goes where it pleases.

Love that has its own backbone, sturdy and beautiful, that it happily drapes with our stumbling words and deeds so it can go out in public and be recognized, even in its imperfection.

Love that raises an eyebrow when we throw fits, and leans against the door, arms folded, patiently waiting for our tantrums to subside so it can start on the real work of fixing things.

Love that comes inside covered with grass stains and mud splotches, ecstatic at all the adventures to be had and positive there is time enough to have them.

Such is the love God gave you.

Such is the love He asks you to live.

Amen.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

It's not a quarter-life crisis. It's life.

Photo by LarimdaME

The day before I turned 25, I ended up in the ER. At the time, I was there because I nearly fainted in the steaming Metro. A physiological hiccup, pure and simple. I went in, I went out, I drank some water, I was on my way.

What I wasn’t prepared for at age 25 was my psychological hiccup -- aka my quarter-life crisis, a self-conscious term that could only come of age with the Millennial generation. Ever self-examining and overachieving, my peers simply accelerated the midlife process and called the natural transition into real adulthood -- bill-paying, job-searching, rent-owing, mate-hunting adulthood -- the quarter-life crisis.

If I sound a bit dismissive, well, I am. Or, more accurately, I have become so. When my own crisis began, it was accompanied by doubt, anticipation, awareness of mortality, and an overwhelming pervasive question: What will I make of my life? What will life make of me?

After a lot of journaling and tearful phone calls with Mom, I changed jobs (now twice), picked up my creative writing again, and took steps to focus my life on what I felt I was being called to be.

Fast-forward to today, a month shy of my 28th birthday. And guess what I’m feeling ... doubt, anticipation, awareness of mortality, and an overwhelming pervasive question: What will I make of my life? What will life make of me?

Hmm. Curious. You mean that wasn’t sewn up three years ago?

Thus, the more I think about it, the more I’m convinced that the so-called quarter-life crisis is not a singular, contained event after all, but rather the dawn of understanding that this is what life will entail for the rest of your time on Earth.

I don’t bold to scare; I bold to emphasize. Though these concepts sometimes make you squirm, they’re still good to ponder. They can introduce a wider worldview, invite you to pursue new goals, help frame your life, uncover some purpose. The point is to let them guide the big picture, and not to govern the day-to-day.

Doubt, anticipation, awareness of mortality, and overwhelming pervasive questions about the meaning of life did scare me at 25. They give me pause now. And I hope that in 10, 20, 57 years, they give me peace – not because I figured out the answers, but because I’m comfortable living the questions.

So if you’re 25 or so and reading this post, I don’t have much to offer beyond these steps:
  • Take a deep breath.
  • Follow your heart.
  • Drink plenty of water on hot days.
But trust me – that’s enough to get you started.

Prayer #169: Drawn and Quarter-life

Questions that come in the night are drawn in black ink – insistent, bold, stark. And though they may fade from view in broad daylight, their impressions stay on my eyelids, faint memories of blank answers.

Use my heart to trace the lines, Lord, and grant me the dogged faith to follow their loops and squiggles until the grand design is revealed.

Amen.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Bad things happen when you misquote Voltaire

The contrary violet. (Photo by Symo0)

Le mieux est l'ennemi du bien.

Literal translation: The best is the enemy of the good.

Variant: The better is the enemy of the good.

Or to put it the way you know, well, best: The perfect is the enemy of the good.

If I had a nickel for every time I've heard or uttered the phrase "Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good" at work, I'd have enough in the piggy bank to buy perfection flat out.

But until I started Googling the quote for this post, I hadn't known that 1) Voltaire originated it, 2) in French, 3) with the word 'best' rather than 'perfect.'

Ah word choice. Such a funny thing. With that one little swap I suddenly feel a whole lot better about eschewing perfection. Not that I'm ever accused of being a perfectionist -- I'm a big fan of getting things out the door -- but I'm often bothered by the feeling that I should want my life, my work, even my essence to be perfect.

Because the thing is ... I don't. It takes a lot of work and a lot of energy, and, frankly, it's unattainable anyway, so why waste the time and miss out on the fun stuff? I mean, even the word itself looks stuck-up -- all jabby serifs and sharp corners, meant for precise and supercilious pronunciation.

Best changes the matter, however. While perfect screams ideals, purity, and expectations, best sidles up beside you, offers some wine, and chats about what you think would be most productive for you.

Which makes me question how I feel about Voltaire's original quote. I can get behind a statement disregarding flawlessness; I can't so easily dismiss the pursuit of personal fulfillment. The best is a friend of the good. It takes what's strong and passionate and meaningful about us and amplifies it. It's good brought to ripest fruition.

So though we probably can't achieve best in every corner of our complex lives, who's to say we shouldn't at least try for one shining summit at whatever altitude we're built for? Best leaves up to us what perfect tries to squelch. I think it's worth a closer read.

Prayer #168: Good's Perfect Enemy

God, make me the best.

At what, I don't know.

Maybe just the best ... me?

That sounds good.

So whatever that means,

for me

for You

make me that.

Thanks.

You're the best.

Amen.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Because who doesn't love a quickie?

I'd planned to give you a thoughtful, well-written post this week about relationships and growing with people over time.

This is not that post. Not because I don't want to write it; just because travel, bills, grown-up-ness, and obscene humidity* have joined forces to keep me from writing it before a week goes by.

* Yes, humidity. Don't judge until you've spent a summer in DC and experienced a Foggy Bottom for yourself.

Instead, I give you this pictorial summation of my life 1) because it's true and 2) because it's quick:

help. me. (photo by beast love)

Now let's join hands and say a prayer for sanity, if only to keep from smacking our foreheads.

Prayer #167: At Wit's End

I found a boat by the shore today
And decided to set sail.
But no sooner did I hit the waves
I was welcomed by a gale.

No sooner did the wind die down
I was greeted by the rain.
And no sooner did the rain dry up,
A sunburn gave me pain.

Aloe helped the burn subside
But still more was in store.
I looked at my damp feet and saw
A hole in my small boat's floor.

No bucket, no cup, not even a hat
Had I handy to empty my vessel.
So before I knew what had happened
I was left with the sea to wrestle.

I put my backstroke to the test
(Though sharks like kicking limbs).
Imagine, then, the relief I felt
When I arrived at an island post-swim.

Now I'm wet, bewildered, and very alone ...
Oh, what would I give for a friend!
But that's when I realize You're here too --
Together, we'll weather Wit's End.

Amen.