The Gathering

Inspired by Bruno Pirecki’s debut novel Town Lawe as well as Ben Franklin’s Junto (which later became the American Philosophical Society), I decided to start my own communal gathering. Both the examples listed depict people coming together to discuss ideas and pursue wisdom. And that’s what I wanted to do.

As someone who naturally resonates with the lone wolf archetype, I am often drawn to self-sufficiency out of fear that the need for community is based in weakness. But ultimately humans are communal creatures, and the cultivation of a healthy community can be incredibly life giving. I reached out to some friends individually to pitch the idea to them: I wanted to start a weekly gathering to build community and to pursue wisdom through the discussion of various topics.

Some people attend once and others come every week; I usually provide a charcuterie board of sorts so no one needs to leave hungry. Through my commitment to set aside this time and space on a weekly basis, a small group of about three or four of us meet to talk, often late into the night, about our questions, observations, frustrations, and celebrations in life. Sometimes the conversation doesn’t go very deep; other times I find myself revealing vulnerable truths I wrestle with as I search for growth and healing. The whole process has felt like a necessary part of leaning into what it means to be human, at least for me.

And as I have sought to offer value to others, I have found that blessing returning to me as well. There have been times I felt exhausted, and a friend furnished and prepared the snacks for me so I didn’t have to. As I have attempted to cultivate an environment of trust for others, so I have found I am able to express more vulnerable parts of myself and allow others to speak encouragement into my insecurities. This, I believe, is part of what it means to pursue wisdom.

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My First Echocardiogram

“We’re going to take care of your heart today,” the practitioner said as he led me down the dark hall to the exam room. He was middle-aged, with grey hair and glasses. I wish I could have seen his full face instead of it being half-covered by a medical mask, but his eyes seemed kind enough. He asked if I had any questions, and I said no.

I was only there for preventative measures, and I was fairly certain everything would come back normal. But given my family history of heart issues, I wanted to be safe.

He led me to a dimly lit room with computers, an ultrasound machine, an exam table, and other medical equipment and explained the process. I was to undress from the waist up and put a gown on with the opening to the front, then lie on my left side on the table close to the edge.

Once settled on the table, the practitioner placed a towel over my breast area and then readied his machine to examine my heart. He squeezed gel onto the ultrasound wand and placed it on my rib cage to begin, and suddenly on the screen above him appeared a grey fuzzy image of my heart chambers, opening and closing in rhythm. I was fascinated to see the movement happening inside my body right at that moment. I gazed at the screen, entranced.

The practitioner worked quietly, creating lines on the screen to take measurements, then moving the wand to different places on my body to get different perspectives. Time stood still. I felt safe the entire time, yet vulnerable. I wasn’t used to having someone look so deeply into my body, especially to what felt like the core of my being. My heart continued to beat as it always had, yet now I could actually see the work it was doing to keep me alive and healthy. Those moments felt sacred.

When the practitioner finished, he explained the doctor would follow up with results, but assured me if he had seen anything alarming he wouldn’t be letting me leave. I got dressed and left.

I stopped by Starbucks for a warm drink, as a way of saying to my body “Thank you for being vulnerable today. Thank you for working hard to keep me alive and well.” I continued to feel a sense of vulnerability throughout the rest of the day, a sense of energy movement behind my sternum. It felt uncomfortable and emotional, so I did my best to meet that feeling with gentleness and compassion. I had a fresh awareness of respect for my body and the sacredness of it. And that felt like a beautiful thing.

My Blog Anniversary 2020

In January of 2013, I began this blog as a sophomore in college. I was having trouble deciding what to major in, and I began writing as a way to help me figure out what to do, to help me figure out myself.

At first I wrote often – almost every week.  I wrote about things I enjoyed and things I wanted to learn more about. Things that confused me and things I longed for. I changed from declaring an undecided major to a bachelor of science in multimedia production, although I still didn’t know what I wanted to do with that. I chose a broad major in hopes by the time I graduated I would have it figured out, but graduation came and went and I still had no idea.

I continued to write, though less often. Writing was how I processed my thoughts, and in many ways it felt easier to write than it did to speak. I found that in the act of writing down what I’m thinking or struggling with, my process feels more complete. I don’t stumble over my words the way I do when I try to express myself verbally.

At the same time I wanted to maintain a healthy boundary on expressing vulnerability on the internet, so I kept hand-written journals and would save the less private thoughts for publishing online.

Throughout my journey I sought other ways of processing life: therapy, yoga, walking, and connecting with friends. Writing became just one of many tools, a supplement to help me create balance and to live more holistically.

These days I continue to write as a form of self-discipline. I’m still figuring out how to balance privacy without seeming sterile. If I do publish something online it’s usually with minimal details of events and people, and with a greater focus on reflections and emotional process. Countless times I’ve heard the advice “write what you know,” which often doesn’t leave me with much to write about other than myself. And so my journey continues.

“I Said Yes!”

“I said yes!” The all-too familiar phrase flashes across my screen. My first reaction is joyful surprise at another of my friends accepting a marriage proposal. My second reaction, almost simultaneous with the first, is a pang of grief. My friend enters a new stage of life, never to be the same again. I am losing part of her.

Perhaps I feel some jealousy when a couple gets engaged; I would love to be married someday. But not yet. I am called to a different destiny for the time being. What I do feel is a form of nostalgia for the girl I used to know – the one whom I’d stay up late with, talking about our dreams, our insecurities, our sexual frustration. No longer would we share the kinship singlehood provided. She has found her calling to be a wife, and I do not wish her to neglect that calling. It is as it should be, but it still hurts.

The challenge of saying yes to something is sometimes it requires saying goodbye to something else. We will not cease our friendship simply because she is getting married. In fact perhaps our friendship may take on a deeper meaning because she is following her calling, becoming more the person she is meant to be. But our friendship as I once knew it will be no more. Something has shifted, grown, evolved.

The woman I described above is not just one friend, but multiple of my friends who have evolved, one by one, to meet their calling. I, like Jo in Little Women, question “Why does everyone have to go off and get married? Why can’t things stay the way they are?” But just as I would not wish children to remain children (when they are meant to become adults), so would I not wish for my friends to remain single when they are meant to be married.

Strangely enough, the engaged women I see on my social media feed are often people I have lost touch with. I have longed to connect with them, but our paths have taken different turns over the years, and the closeness I once felt with them is but a memory. I cherish those memories, I grieve them, I hold them close to me. Most of them may not even know how deeply I valued our connection, however short a time we had it. Through life changes, our individual communities changed, and it was no longer practical to share the same closeness we once did. Oh, but I miss that closeness.

As I say goodbye to the parts of these women I once knew, I find myself saying yes to something else on the horizon. Not a marriage proposal per say, but a calling nonetheless. A deep stirring within my spirit, beckoning me to move. I will not neglect this calling, much like my friends will not neglect their calling to marriage. My soul whispers, “It is time.” And I am ready.

I Yearn for More

The question “How are you?” has morphed into a shallow greeting not meant to elicit an honest response. Those who do wish for an honest response have to probe further to uncover the mysteries that lie beneath the masks. Perhaps the more appropriate question to ask would be “How is your soul?”

If I am honest with myself, my likely answer to that question is “My soul is groaning.” I can tell you what my daily stressors are and why my life is hard, but that barely scratches the surface. Beneath the top soil of my heart lies the tough clay surrounding the root of my struggles, which sometimes not even I can define. Words are not sufficient to describe my feelings, my yearning for something I do not know how to find. And often this translates to depression.

I do not deny that chronic depression is an illness, a chemical imbalance of the brain that should be addressed. It is a battle I have fought for many years. Those who wrestle with depression feel differently from those who do not, even if it entails periods of numbness. There is a depth to the darkness that lasts indefinitely, casting a spell of fog upon those who experience that darkness. One could even argue that those who are depressed feel more deeply in certain ways. But suppose this is not a bad thing? Suppose we looked at depression from a different lens?

What if depression is not merely an illness, but a deeper realization of what it means to groan for eternity? That my soul longs for an unearthly love not yet realized? The material woes and issues of this life are but a thumbnail of a bigger picture which has yet to be revealed. A rocky relationship may propel me to fear that I am not loved and will therefore be alone. A dwindling bank account may scare me into thinking I will not be provided for.

Often we realize and express these anxieties only on the surface level, hoping that if we could just make more money or get along better in a relationship that our problems will be solved. We cling to these tangible issues because they are the some of the only ways we know how to express the deeper feelings of our hearts.

Truthfully, solving the issues on the surface may make life more convenient, but it will not satisfy the underlying ache that permeates the very fibers of my being. To place my hope of fulfillment on my surface saviors is a burden none of them were built to bear.

Many who aware of their deeper feelings have come to this realization, that nothing on this earth can fully meet their most intimate needs. As a result, people have ended their lives as a sign of giving up on this world, longing for a sense of relief and rest. They are right to realize the emptiness of life, but as most therapists will say, suicide is not the answer. What is has been debated over centuries, because this life as we know it is simply too limited for us to completely understand the human spirit. This much is clear: we are meant for something greater; what that entails remains to be discovered.

Exposed Soul

The summer is coming to an end, but it will still be awhile before cooler weather sets in.  I remember last summer feeling like I was seeing a lot of posts about modesty, but this summer I don’t recall seeing as many.

This is not going to be another post on how women should/should not cover up; there are plenty of those on the internet. What this is about is some thoughts I have on clothing from a slightly different perspective.

I wish we could all walk around naked without being judged, but that is not socially or legally acceptable in 2015. But I wonder if our focus should be less on exposed skin and more on an exposed soul.

Let me explain. Any form of exposure requires a degree of vulnerability. Some people are completely comfortable showing skin, while others are more comfortable sharing personal stories or emotional experiences. Some are fine with both or neither. Could the two be related? Could it be that the more skin I expose, the less comfortable I feel revealing my soul? Or is it that the more I cover up, the more insecure I am about how people would react if they knew the true me?

Even in the famous story of Adam and Eve, the two of them walked around naked and were completely vulnerable in all aspects. After the Fall, they covered up, not only physically, but perhaps emotionally as well.

I tend to show more skin than many of my conservative friends may be comfortable with, so I am not going to shun you based on how much or how little you cover up. What interests me more is the core of a human being: who she really is beneath the masks of social constraints.  What are you struggling with that you’re afraid to tell anyone? What are you covering up that is keeping you from being healthy? That is what matters to me.