But, First, A Glass of Wine

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The couple walked into the Italian restaurant I work at, and my supervisor nodded toward them.

“That’s your table. But take your time with them. They like to have a full glass of wine before they even order.”

I led the elderly couple to the table, greeted them, and got their wine order: a bottle of Chianti. After pouring two glasses and telling them to let me know when they were ready to order, I had simply to play the waiting game.

Throughout the evening, they, indeed, took their time. When they finally ordered, after finishing their glasses of wine, they made clear to me that they must be completely finished with their side salads before I brought out the main dish. I had to ask the kitchen to keep the food warm, once it was made, for this very reason. The couple took even longer to finish their meal, and they sat for long after, drinking more of the wine.

Throughout the evening, their unhurried manner irked me. I wasn’t upset; their manner was just one that I did not see very often. After they had gone and I was still pondering over it, I realized that I was irked because I feel that I could never be so at peace with myself and unhurried as they seemed.

Let me expound further.

In my opinion, one of the great differences between Baby Boomers and Millennials is the mindset of busyness into which they were raised. Baby Boomers grew up in a time of far less advanced technologies, not to mention far fewer, than we have now. While the original intent of having such technologies may have been to save human time (washing laundry and dishes, recording/ copying/ computing data, transporting ourselves and goods, communicating, and manufacturing goods), I believe that technology has made our modern culture more stressed out than it used to be. We feel the need to keep up with and stay ahead of/ in control of our technology. Technology allows us to multi-task so much and be so “productive” in short periods of time that we feel the need to cram the absolute degree of productivity into each bit of free time. We must always be hearing, seeing, engaging with, or working on something. We are used to constant visual change and input: TV, social media, computers, ads, signs, lights, etc. We are used to constant noise: headphones and portable music devices, crowded workplaces, and blaring music at public establishments. Growing up immersed in such a culture crafts people who are in a hurry and who have a hard time justifying the act of sitting and doing nothing, especially when in the presence of others.

I’m not a naysayer about all things related to technology. Technology is very wonderful, helpful, and useful. However, overall, I believe that technology makes us feel not more rested and blessed with time, but more helpless, dependent upon it, and frustrated by our need for it amidst its failings and interruptions.

Meanwhile, Baby Boomers grew up in a time in which simple tasks, business, communication, and transportation were more difficult but probably simpler. I think that this divide in technology creates an older generation that enjoys a slower pace than that of the younger generations (Generation X/ Millennials). Because of the hard labor required by tasks, perhaps they weren’t immersed in constant multi-tasking (driving while talking on the phone, having multiple conversations at once via various social medias, and working on multiple projects in a computer setting). Focusing simply on the moment one was living in, the person/ people one was physically spending time with, or the task at hand might have been easier.

As the evening went, I was intrigued by the couple. They looked old enough to have been married for twice the span of my own life. They enjoyed the simple act of sitting together for a long period of time without even engaging in an activity together. They weren’t working, being entertained, holding constant conversation, or getting things done. They were so comfortable with each other that they seemed to be implying, “I enjoy your presence enough just to soak it in and be fully here in this moment with you, even long before our meal arrives and long after it is finished.”

Once the elderly couple left, I marveled a bit. I wished that, someday, when I have grown old, I will have the sense of rest, joy, and peace within myself and my relationships to simply sit and savor every last drop of wine in my glass. I suppose that sense of unhurried, focused peace begins with focusing on every day, every hour, and every moment, trying to be present in each moment, undivided in body, mind, and spirit.

Such a mindset is hard work to maintain, especially as I am adjusting to post-college life and trying to remember that I don’t have to maintain the same level of stress-driven productivity as I was maintaining in school. But the mindset that I am perpetuating in my life now will plant the seeds of the mindset I will have for the rest of my life, so there is no better time to start than the present.

And maybe that all begins with a simple, unhurried glass of wine. 😉

Photo source: http://www.rd.com/health/wellness/red-wine-benefits/

 

The Newsroom Bard

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I think one of the happiest things in the world is to see a person sitting in a public place playing a musical instrument. No matter if they are playing for tips or simply for their own enjoyment, I think that playing music in public, especially by yourself, is such an act of courage. You are opening up your creative heart to the world around you and giving it the option to reject you or appreciate you.

People might walk by and ignore you. Some might mock your playing. And some might stop and listen. You are being vulnerable with the world, offering it a gift, and you can have no idea how it will respond.

About 5 months back I started playing the ukulele. I would say that the absolute best thing about the process, so far, has been developing a skill for no one else’s sake but mine. A lot of the things I do revolve around pleasing people: impressing them, supporting them, working for them, completing assignments they give me, making them proud, making life better for them. So a good bit of my life consists of making every moment worthwhile and useful to other people.  However, I tend to take it too far, never resting, and rarely doing things solely because I alone enjoy them. Obligation reigns over rest.

However, playing the ukulele has become a skill that fills me up with joy, energy, and peace. When I sit down to play it, I’m not doing it because someone else wants to hear it, or because a professor or boss requires me to practice and strengthen my skill. I’m not extraordinarily good at it yet, and I may never be. But I don’t really care. I play to produce and channel joy in my life. And it’s a lovely feeling.

Now, it’s not that I never play for others. I have learned and performed a few songs as gifts for friends and family; taking the time to learn and dedicate a song to someone seems like a very meaningful gift, in my perspective. And my roommate really enjoys listening when I am just sitting around, practicing. The cats do, as well.

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However, in those moments, I am still playing because I want to and because I enjoy it.

So, I’ve taken to sitting on my apartment porch, accompanied by 13 sad potted plants that barely survived the out-of-the-blue Florida freeze last week, and playing the ukulele for a bit before I begin the day. I sit out there, overlooking the oak tree in front of my porch, and finish my morning reading while enjoying a cup of coffee. Then, out comes the ukulele for 15-20 minutes (maybe longer, if I get on a roll and keep thinking of new things to try playing). I’ve never really worried about people getting annoyed by the noise. I am sitting on my own porch, after all, and if the noise drifts, people can deal with it.

Well, my apartment building is right next to the complex dog park, so anyone walking their dog has to walk past the building. Dog-walkers will often pass by as I’m playing, but no comments have ever been made.

So, I was out there this morning, practicing Annie Lennox’s “Into the West,” from The Return of the King. The song is one of my favorites- so peaceful and thoughtful. I saw my neighbor who lives on the opposite side of the building out walking his two dogs. Somehow, I knew his dogs’ names, but I didn’t know his.

A few minutes later, I heard paws scrambling up the stairs. To my surprise, I look to my right and see my neighor at my porch with his dogs.

“Sorry to interrupt you,” he said. “They just wanted to know what the sound was.”

So we struck up a conversation about the ukulele and about animals (my two cats are mesmerized by the instrument, as well). He said that he’d heard me out here playing in the past, and that he really enjoyed starting out his morning hearing the music as he walked his dogs.

As he was saying this, my brain was going, “Who? Me? 5-month-experienced, previously-competely-unmusical me? My music brings you joy? My music isn’t an annoyance? It has a voice of its own? It reaches out to touch people I didn’t intend it for?”

But as he kept talking– saying that it was nice to hear the music before heading to a long, busy day of work– I realized the sincerity of his words. I was kind of blown away; I hadn’t intentionally been trying to reach out to anybody.

“Where do you work?” I asked.

“The newsjournal. Yeah, it can get kind of stressful in there. It’d be great to have a ukulele-player to just have in the office.” He smiled jokingly.

Understood, friend. Office environments seem very dead inside. 

“Aha…. a newsroom bard. Good idea,” I joked. Turns out that “bard” actually means more an epic-poem musician, but whatever.

My mind is still a little blown. He actually feels like I’m approachable enough for him to come talk about the ukulele. This just comes to show, once again, the atmosphere that playing instruments in public creates. It invites people to approach ask, and engage, rather than making them feel awkward or pushing them away. Obviously, if a person is playing music in public, they are not ashamed of other peope engaging with it. And my mind is even more blown that it is possible to be doing something solely because I enjoy it and at the same time bring joy to someone else, unintentionally.

So, before he headed back to his apartment, I made sure to introduce myself and find out his name, which had somehow eluded me  in the past. He went on his way, and I went back to my ukulele-playing.

Joy is a powerful thing, I suppose. And when I seek to find joy and rest for myself, perhaps I am reaching further to give it to otherst than when I am intentionally trying to help them.

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So, here’s to many more mornings to starting the day out right with 13 sad but slowly resurrecting potted plants, a cup of coffee, a book, and music with my ukulele, Georgina.* May such mornings continue to bring much joy.

By the way, if you guys are interested in seeing me post some videos of ukulele-playing, just let me know down in the comments. 🙂

*I named my ukulele Georgina. Don’t ask where I got the name; it just randomly came to me. But I like it; I can nickname her Georgie, or Gina, or George, etc. 🙂

Can You Tell Me My Story?

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When was the last time you looked at someone you knew and wished you could just knock them on the head with cast iron skillet?

You’ve had thoughts and opinions about them brewing in your head for a long time, and you wish you could be completely honest with them, knocking senes into them and inspiring them to carefully consider their actions.

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Though I’m too afraid of people disliking me for me to be that honest with them,  I frequently rail at them in my head, silently preparing speeches that I will never verbalize.

Why are you so uptight? Why won’t you stop _____ [insert bad habit here.]? Why can’t you stop being so proud and unable to see past your own nose? Why won’t you leave that relationship that is causing you to become someone you’re not? Why can’t you just stop being so stressed and/ or sad? Why are you wasting your money on that thing when you have so little to spend already? Why on earth do you support ___ [insert politician or leader of choice.]? Why can’t you just get your shit together and make good decisions?

You get the picture.

In other words, I’m actually asking, “Why aren’t you more like me?”

In reality, if everyone were like me, the world would not be a much better place. The world needs to be filled with people with varying priorities, interests, personalities, strengths, flaws, and histories. Back to the point, though.

The logical rebuttal to mentally railing at people would be as follows:

“I am not _____ [insert person that I am railing at.] I have never been in their shoes, so I have no right to tell them what they should or should not do to make their life better.”

This rebuttal to self is good and makes sense. However, a very thought-provoking and painful conversation that I had a few weeks ago birthed a clearer, more powerful way to fight the unwarranted advice and judgement I often want to give people.

The conclusion I’ve come to is this:

There are always times when we need to be challenged and critiqued by people who truly love us; otherwise, we would have only our own opinions to inform us, and my experience has taught me that my own view is extremely limited, shaped only by my narrow sphere of experiences. We need to hear truth, advice, and outside perspectives from friends, family, significant others, and coworkers. Oftentimes, true friends will be the ones to tell us things need to hear but perhaps don’t want to hear.

If you’re a reader of the Bible, you might recognize this concept in the following Proverb:

Faithful are the wounds of a friend;
    profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” (Proverbs 27:6, ESV).

However, before I feel the need to challenge a friend, pointing out their possible flaws or mistakes, giving them advice, to presuming to label their decisions as bad or good, I need to consider this question:

“I am able to tell this person’s story accurately?

You know, their story. The story of their life.

Every person has an intricate and unique story. Think about a character in about any book you have ever read or movie you have watched. The story begins by introducing the character, sharing with the reader/viewer essential information from the main character’s backstory. The story then communicates that character’s traits, characteristics, strengths, and failings, within the context of their life and setting. Then, the story rises to introduce a central conflict in that character’s life, mapping their main struggle until the climax of a a significant victory or defeat. The story then wraps to a close, perhaps hinting at the direction this character’s life may go, based on recent events and choices.

Now, imagine telling the life story of one of your friends this way: important background information, struggles, characteristics, main problems, significant events, etc. Whoever you were telling the story to would probably gain a pretty good idea of who the character was.

If humans were to think like this before shoving their opinions upon people, they would probably do a lot more listening and a lot less talking and would gain much  greater understanding of those around them.

So, when it comes to advising people or inwardly railing at them about their decisions, I want my mindset to change. Before I even think about telling them [mentally or verbally] how I think they ought to live their lives, I want to ask myself “Can I tell their whole story?” 

If I can’t sit back and tell back to them a true version of their story, then I am probably missing essential information about what is really happening in their life, their true motivation, events that have shaped them, and the actual effects of different people/ objects/ substances/ relationships/ choices upon them.

After I had the previously-mentioned difficult conversation a few weeks ago, I asked myself, “Do I know this person’s whole story?”

After a bit of consideration, I realized that I knew bits and pieces, but there was so much I didn’t know.

I couldn’t pinpoint what were actually the peak moments of victory in his life. I couldn’t accurately portray what his main struggles were, especially in his earlier life. I couldn’t define his main turning points. I couldn’t prove wrong certain things about his life that I didn’t agree with.

When it comes down to it, there may be things that I see in his life that I think of as negative but that he thinks of as positive. If this is the case, I shouldn’t just rebutt his defense and rail at him,”No, that thing is still negative!” I should genuinely and earnestly seek out as answer as to the ways that thing has positively affected his life. I may just find that I was missing an essential piece of knowledge which kept me from understanding his actions and choices.

In that moment, I realized that I had a lot of learn: about him, about truly listening, and about peope, in general.

I have so, so much to learn.

It’s a simple fact: Anytime you express opinions about someone else’s life, you are doing so as an outsider looking in, and you  will never fully know what it is like, in their life, to be the insider looking out. But the best possible way to gain a clearer understanding is to learn their story, getting even just a tiny glimpse of what life looks like to them.

So, next time you find yourself opening your mouth to release a storm of advice that has been churning in your mind, consider that question– “Can I accurately tell them their story?” And if the answer is no, please seriously consider putting aside your opinion and advice for a better time and rather seeking to understand their story. People love to tell stories, and they love to talk about themselves. Thus, this task should not be difficult. You might be amazed at what you learn.

The wounds of a friend may be faithful, but those wounds should not be given lightly. And they should not come from people who are not willing to learn  your story, for true friends will seek to understand every bit of your journey, no matter how long it takes.

But, then again, why should you listen to me?  Who am I to offer you such advice? After all, I don’t think I know your story very well. 😉

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Chain Mail, Part 1

I’ve always enjoyed learning about and reviving bygone, less-than-practical arts and skills: for example, woodburning, embroidery, and leather-tooling, to name a few.

Recently, I’ve had the chance to dive into a whole new archaic art: chain-mail-making. The project is part of my cosplay for the upcoming 2017 Pensacon convention.

When my brother and I began working on it the chain mail shirt, we knew that we had two possible routes:

  1. Buy rings of our chosen weight, size, and material from a website like The Ring Lord
  2. Make, cut, and close our own rings

After a lot of price-crunching, we decided to go the difficult path and make our own rings. We bought an enormous roll of 16-gauge galvanized steel wire and set to work winding tight coils on a large drill bit.

After that came cutting the coils (1-3 rings at time) into rings with Knipex 8 inch wire cutters. A little over half of the cut rings we would close completely, with as small a gap as possible between the ends of the wire, while using opening up the ends of the remaining rings.

The tools we used for this step were regular and needlenose pliers.

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Once we had cut, closed, and opened plenty of rings, we used this helpful tutorial link here to get started on constructing the mail itself. Essentially, we started by putting 4 closed rings on 1 open ring and closing that ring, to create “5s.” Then, we took the 5s, laid them out flat, lined them up, and used more open rings to attach their edges together. Single strips then were attached to create small blocks, and after many failed attempts and redone rows and sections, we managed to construct the below piece.

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However, chain-mail-constructing is one of those skills that comes slowly at first and then becomes very natural and simple. Thus, within a couple of weeks, our pace was quickening, especially when we sat down and worked together on the chain mail for a couple of hours. As of last week, we had constructed this piece (almost 19 square inches):

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This piece is large enough to be the front of the torso of the shirt. So, we still have to complete a similarly sized piece for the back of the torso, smaller pieces to cover the legs, and, of course, sleeves.

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Although it has been very time-consuming, it’s been very an enjoyable and confidence-building task. And it’s really fun to form the huge chain mail square into a ball and toss it around. 🙂

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And the character I’m cosplaying as?

I’ll give you a single-phrase hint:

“I am no man.”

2 a.m. Writing: 20 Years of Flaws

Self-Composed Writing Prompt for the night: Write a short narrative imagining yourself, in 20 years, still struggling with the same deep flaws you fight against now.  

(This is very much a first draft. But I thought that it was an interesting piece of writing and a self-reflective idea. Feel free to use the prompt to write your own posts on the subject, linking back to this post if you do.)

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Midnight Philosophers 

The microwave always beeped far too loudly, but it seemed louder at night, when everyone was trying to sleep, than it did in the day, when it didn’t matter.

She winced as she pulled her tall coffee mug out of the microwave. 2:30 was far too early to be waking anyone else in the house.

Trying to tiptoe, but still elephant-stomping (everyone told her that she did it, though she didn’t believe them) across the wooden boards, she made her way to the kitchen table.  Her coffee mug joined the entourage of other necessary 2:30 items: an overworn daily planner, a shining laptop screen, a notebook labeled “2nd period,” and a stack of random papers that looked like it had been accumulating and tangling itself over a year’s time.

She sat down and grabbed the first item: her planner.

Mental list time: 1. Fill in dates for this week 2. Fill in classroom budget form 3. Get ahead on lesson planning for the 9-week unit, and, if any time was left over, 4. Finally deal with that junk paper pile of reminders, bills, letters, notes, and tea bag wrappers.

Footsteps. Hall light switched on.

“Mom, what are you still doing up?” Her son’s voice was groggy and confused. He already knew the answer, though.

“Just too much to get done in waking hours, honey.” Her reply was polished and focused. She only sent a brief glance up at him before returning her gaze to her work.

He trudged into the kitchen, grabbing a glass from the cabinet and filling it with water.  “You always say that. And then you turn around and tell me to get sleep because I’m a growing young man.”

She raised an eyebrow and kept up her focused list-writing, an ironic chuckle rolling off her tongue.“You are. And I’m a slowly deteriorating 40-year-old woman. You need the sleep. I don’t.”

“Well, what do you need?

She let out a deep sigh. “Time.”

He slightly smirked back, a challenge glinting in his eyes. “Dad says that you’ve always been this way.”

At this, she paused. The focus temporarily left her eyes, and she met his gaze suspiciously, almost defensively. “What way?”

“Everything is always important. Everything has a deadline. And everything is always on your shoulders. Dad says that when you were in college you never let yourself sleep, either.”

Her shoulders started to tighten as she took a deep breath. “Honey, you’ve got to understand something. Yeah, maybe I’ve always been this way. But that’s because life has always been the same for me. Burdens come to me: burdens that need to be picked up. Somebody’s got to take care of them.”

Damn. Deep questions disturbed her focus. She had to get back to work. Focus. Focus.

“Are you sure you don’t look for them?” There was hesitation in her son’s voice. 2:30 is a dangerous time to threaten thin ice.

For the first time, she paused. This time, useful answers didn’t just pour from her mouth. She tried to meet his gaze, but her eyes couldn’t seem to focus on his. It was as if she were physically staring at him but actually focusing on invisible finance numbers, grade percentages, check-boxes, and sentence fragments flying around his head. He couldn’t stare into the depths of her eyes, as if the dark circles underneath and the red tinge around her pupils had made her gaze shallower.

She finally sighed and defeatedly closed her laptop. “You’re probably right. I just have no idea how to live any other way. Just like you said . . . I’ve always been this way.”

“Mom, I don’t want to see you this way.”

She nodded in agreement, staring absent mindedly at the table. “Yeah, yeah, I know.” Her gaze and the lines on her face had seemed to soften with a sort of sadness.

He just stood there, waiting. She always needed her time to process. She rarely let herself hear things like this about herself.

Finally, she looked up, the expression on her face a little brighter. “So, why are you up?”

“Couldn’t sleep. Have a test tomorrow, but I know it’s no use to try to study now.” He shrugged, an easy smile spreading on his face.

“You probably should get your mind off of it.” She nodded to the chair beside her. “Want to sit down?”

“Yeah. I’d like that.”

“So, what else do you have, my midnight philosopher?” She leaned forward a bit and looked him the eye.

“What do you mean?”

She leaned back in her chair a bit and smiled. “Well, you seem to observe things about me that I don’t always see clearly. You have a unique perspective. Tell me about me. Tell me about Dad, and your sisters. Tell me about you.”

The fifteen-year-old mind is a vast cavern of idiosyncrasies, contradictions, and mysteries.

“You sure you’ve got the time?” His expression was simultaneously suspicious, amazed, and intrigued.

Grinning, she swept the pile of junk paper clean off the table, letting the pieces settle to the kitchen floor like a pile of falling leaves. “Yeah, I’ve got all the time in the world. We midnight philosophers always do.”

Margin

It’s a little frightening to think that joy, creativity, and spiritual connection can become conditional.

I have always counted joy and creativity to be some of my best traits, and spirituality has always seemed to be correlated to my creativity. The more I connect with creativity by writing, processing thoughts, and entertaining possibilities, the more I am open to spiritual input, challenge, questions, and inspiration.

However, as life has gotten busier and more stressful, with seemingly realistic and important tasks as foremost priorities, my creativity and joy and thus my sense of spiritual connection have begun to wane. They begin to close up, like flowers on neglected plants. And it scares me. It scares me to think that, put under the wrong conditions, I might have no access to the inner forces that make me tick and keep me walking forward, inspired, every day.

This is how I see it: when there a margin of extra time in my life that is not filled with a scheduled activity or a task that needs to be completed, THERE IS POSSIBILITY FOR THAT TIME.

I could do anything. I could sit under a tree and just stare at its leaves for hours. I could walk around downtown for no particular reason. I could read a book I’ve always wanted to read. If so compelled, I could go buy food for that homeless person on the corner and talk to them for a bit. I could call up an old friend that I’ve needed to talk to for a while, to have coffee with them. I have nowhere I have to be and nothing I have to do, and so I am free to let possibilities, unpredictability, and adventure into my life. And being in tune with possibilities, unpredictability, and adventure is the food of writing creatively.

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To write creatively, one needs to be able to consider multiple ends, be open to changes in plot and characters, and experiment with adding and removing certain elements from the story.

Oddly enough, however, having margin in my life and seeing the almost immediate effects upon my joy and creativity scares me more than the waning of such forces. What scares me is how quickly those things seem to return as soon as I allow or accept margin in my life, as though I were in control of all inspiration and input into my life,

Yet, I suppose, this fear shows that creativity and joy are powerful things, and I am only a few steps into the journey of understanding  the mystery that is them.

All that I know, right now, is that this week I’ve learned a lot from the margin I have given myself.

 

I gave myself the margin and the space to feel sorrow.

I found the mental space to wonder about spiritual questions that often get deadened and degraded by a “realistic life.”

Within mental and emotional margin, I wrote, exploring the possibilities of characters and life.

I walked the downtown sidewalks for an hour with no particular agenda, just drinking in the presence, essence, and noises of those around me.

I sat at a crowded dinner table of co-workers, amidst uproarious and ridiculous laughter and stories, learning to see a different layer to these people that I normally see every day.

I perched on my porch, delighting in the chilly, windy day that heralded winter, practicing the in-progress art of playing the ukulele.

I biked to work amidst said chilly wind, pedaling too quickly with too little result because of the gear shift that won’t change.

I drank in creative energy as the possibilities in life opened up, just for a day. I guess there’s a reason that we’re supposed to take life day by day, then. Creating margin in one’s life is a powerful change that can only be made slowly, through a re-wiring of how we think. We must unlearn the thinking that our worth comes from how busy we are and how productive our work seems even at the expense of personal life. We need to learn when to stop and rest. Hopefully, creativity and joy will follow, not because they come solely from rarely-occuring margin, but because we have learned to tap into them in every moment.

 

 

 

Photo credit:

http://quoteaddicts.com/topic/fork-in-the-road-quotes/

 

 

 

 

My Voice Must Be Hidden in the Mariana Trench

One of the most impactful things I’ve ever been told was a comment from my cousin Andy during a music festival a few years back.

“You seem like you have a lot to say, but you don’t know how to say it; like you’re trying to find your voice.”

This anecdote came the evening after I gave my testimony in front of my volunteer group, during a concert that the group was volunteering at. As we were walking back up to the group’s camp site that evening, Andy and  I got to talking about public speaking, theater, and public vocal expression, in general, which led to the previous comment.

When I first heard his words, I was a bit shocked. I’ve always trusted in my words to save me and to make me appear confident in every situation. I had felt fairly confident when telling my story to my group members that day. What was wrong? Did I seem ingenuine? Was my story stupid or unworthy of being listened to?

I would go on to puzzle over these words for a long time after, not because he said something offensive or hurtful, but because he said something that proved to be very true and foundational to my character. He simply pointed out something in my life that I would otherwise have continued to deny and ignore.

Writing is a significant piece of who I am, and the development of a unique, worthwhile, engaging voice to speak to readers with is one of the most difficult things to find or develop.

I wonder, whenever I do feel confident in my public speaking, teaching, writing, and conversation skills, if my confidence is simply false pretense, or if I truly have found a voice for myself.

Reminders of the importance of voice keep showing up in my life these days:

My roommate is dressing as Ursula the sea witch for Halloween, a character which has gotten me thinking about the idea of voice. Ursula literally takes away Ariel’s ability to speak, express, and even be herself, by taking away her voice.

I have been working on a 9-week-lesson plan for my “Teaching Language Arts in Secondary Levels” class, and I chose the theme of “Finding Your Voice” to guide the set of texts, activities, and materials that I choose. My great desire for the students I eventually teach is that, no matter their love or dislike of reading and writing, they leave my class knowing that they have an incredibly important story and a unique voice to tell it with … and that the world needs to hear that voice and its message.

These reminders of voice are appearing around me, and yet I still don’t seem to get it. I can’t seem to finally accept that my words are actually important. I can’t seem to believe that process-writing is okay and that my writing doesn’t have to be perfect before I release it into the world. I don’t know if I’ll ever get past overanalyzing my work and fearing the response or lack or response it will get.

There are many times these days when I can’t seem to find my voice or my message. They seem to be hidden somewhere as deep and mysterious as the Mariana trench, and I have to conjure up a lot of energy to search for them.

I don’t know where my voice is right now or exactly what it sounds like, but God knows I’m trying to stumble across it in one way or another. So, thank you to everyone who has encouraged me to put my voice out there even when I thought it was insufficient or imperfect.

As it turns out, an imperfect, broken, human voice can be far more effective than a perfect one.

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Photo credit: http://www.studiokotokoto.com/2014/12/12/beauty-in-the-art-of-repair-kintsugi-by-david-pike/

As Lucky as We Are

Inigo and Fezzik

I just recently finished reading “The Princess Bride” by William Goldman, and, after having been a fan of the movie for years, I must say that the book definitely surpasses the movie, wonderful though it be. I would say that about 60% of the movie is directly quoted from the book, giving the reader all of the humor of the movie, but about twice as much of it. Each character is developed beautifully, with his or her own tragic or hilarious (normally both) backstory. Plus, Goldman inserts funny and oddly-timed dialogue with his reader into the story, along with exaggerated explanations of why/ how he came to write the book. Anyhow, it’s a fabulous book.

One part in particular stayed with me after I finished it. In the book, after Wesley has died and Fezzik and Inigo are searching the forest for him, they actually don’t find the secret entrance to Humperdink’s torture chamber in the tree, but they find the fake entrance that Humperdink has arranged as a trap. This trap, designed to take intruders through the most dangerous parts of the Pit of death (housing dangerous beasts that Humperdink spends his time fighting and hunting), to kill them off before they get to the bottom level (a.k.a. where Wesley is). On the first level, they fight a giant snake. On the second level, they fight deadly bats. So on and so forth, until they reach the sixth level, and are preparing themselves to face the worst obstacle. All the torches in the winding staircase have suddenly been put out. Both the sword master and the giant are very terrified, and the knowledge that the other is just afraid as they are makes their fear all the worse. As they descend the staircase, Fezzik quivers,

“Will you draw your sword with your free hand?”

Inigo responds, fearfully…

“I already have. Will you make fist with yours?”

“It’s clenched.”

Inigo then responds heartily…

“Then, let’s look on the bright side: We’re having an adventure, Fezzik, and most people live and die without being as lucky as we are.”

I absolutely love this quote, because it communicates the idea that being in any sort of trouble, hardship, or uncertainty can be viewed as wondrous luck and good fortune. It’s especially significant to me, as I’m about to head into a rather uncertain fall semester: starting it out with a my first overseas trip in about 5 years (To Guatemala, to visit a good friend and her family), then leaving the job at which I’ve become part of a work family and awesome crew for two years, beginning new and more intense fall classes than normal, and beginning a new job (working 2-3 days a week tutoring college students in English and grammar, one day a week tutoring high school students in the same subject, and substitute teaching at any K-12 substitute job that is available on the other day of the week).

After nearly two years of being the experienced crew member and trainer at work, I am now going to be the newbie, facing a whole new type of work and new challenges. Plus, I’m going into my senior year of college, after spending the last 4 years in it. It is definitely going to be an adventure, and I never want to stop seeing every bump in the road as just that: a chance to draw my sword, clench a fist, and walk into dark chambers of death alongside brave companions, facing the odds for the sake of each other and our fellow humans.

So here’s to adventure: alone, or with great companions. May we never cease to stumble over adventures at every turn of our paths, and face them with thankfulness, hearty joy, and good fortune.

inigo and fezzik

Picture sources:

http://www.bustle.com/articles/63316-6-reasons-you-need-to-read-the-princess-bride-because-theres-so-much-more-to-the

http://bsc-snark.livejournal.com/312994.html?thread=7256226

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