Friday, October 27, 2006

ennui on a Friday afternoon

I'm struggling with motivation and focus today. My brain feels heavy, and I have the attention span of a preschooler. Three times now I've opened a new browser window or Word document, only to get distracted by some unrelated thought or incoming email and then turn back to that new window or blank document moments later to find that I've forgotten what I was looking for or about to do.

I took my car to the mechanic at 7:45 this morning to have it assessed for preventative maintenance needs (my father recently made me aware that I'm long overdue on multiple services). I'm not really sure why, but something always comes over me when I take my car in to one of these places. Even though I try to go in there all confident and assertive and knowledgable, when the time comes for them to explain to me everything that needs to be done, I end up feeling incredibly ignorant and vulnerable, reduced to nodding and saying, "Oh" and "Really?" as I try to follow along, willing my chin not to quiver and my eyes not to well up as this guy probably 5 years my junior graciously gives me the benefit of the doubt and shows me each part that is worn/cracked/loose/leaking as if I am able to confirm his findings and recommendations by sight. Even when I go in there knowing that I'm going to need a bunch of work done, it's always incredibly disheartening to be told that just under the hood of my seemingly well-functioning car are a multitude of parts and processes just waiting to crack, leak, explode, die, or otherwise break down on me. And on a day like today, when I am feeling tired and rather melancholy to begin with, my car being on the cusp of mutiny only invites metaphors, and I consider that sometimes life feels like my car, and I wonder what's there, just under the surface, ready to bust and leave me stranded. And though I know that preventative maintenace is required, and probably long overdue, I feel burdened by the cost. The Mechanic tells me how much better my car will run once I've had these things taken care of. I want to believe Him, but I am wary, lacking trust.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Reunion, Reception, and Rabbit Ears

What a busy weekend! First off, this past weekend turned into a mini-reunion of sorts as a bunch of my TU friends happened to be in town at the same time. Friday night we feasted on Mexican food together at Uncle Julio's Hacienda in Chicago, and Saturday morning we woke up to good friends and comforting breakfast foods at Egg'lectic Cafe in Wheaton.

Favorite moments include: a) when Lori grabbed her camera to take a picture of the girls at dinner, and rather than prompting "Say cheese!" she instructed, "Say 'We're having a baby!'" to which we instead said "What?!" and moments thereafter, once convinced of the veracity of the announcement, together squealed the kind of girlie squeal that makes the whole restaurant wonder "What's gotten into that table?" Before the check came we had already begun planning the baby shower. b) back at Allison's house afterwards, when we were all just sitting around talking, someone said something that made Allison laugh, which made Janelle laugh, which made Allison laugh harder, which made Janelle laugh until she fell over, which me laugh until I rolled over into the fetal position and went into silent-laughing mode where you just shake until you finally manage to suck in some air as the tears roll down your cheeks. c) at breakfast, when Chris couldn't decide what to order, so he ordered the oatmeal, and the cinnamon roll, and the fruit and yogurt parfait.

Also on the weekend's agenda was accompanying my friend Melissa to a co-workers's wedding. Favorite moments include: a) Introducing Melissa to the "in the bathtub" hymnal game during the drawn-out processional, and stifling our laughter when we came across, "Lord, Make Me A Captive" (in the bathtub). b) being approached by an older gentleman at the reception who led off with, "Don't worry, I'm not coming over here to ask you to dance," and then proceded to offer to set me up with his 45 year old son, who, although perhaps too old for me, apparently has lots of money. He then asked how tall I was, sans heels, and informed me that I was too tall for his son, after which he returned to converse with his little group of older men, leading Melissa and I to believe that perhaps the son does exist, but they were really just taking bets on how tall I am (which, with heels that night, was probably about 6'3"). c) stopping on the way home to take a picture at a gas station with a sign that read, "Puppies for Sale 39.95." Turns out the puppies are fake, but the sign did make us choose to fill up at that particular gas station, so I suppose it worked to sucker in our business.

Finally, the weekend's activities included heading into the city to be spectators at the annual Chicago marathon. Despite the many layers (including foam bunny ears which, in the absence of a hat, served to at least keep my forehead warm) we had donned to do battle against the low temperatures and unforgiving wind, we didn't last long. We watched from the 25 mile mark long enough to see the first 50 or so people run (and wheel) by (including that poor man from Kenya who finished first but slipped and cracked his head on the pavement at the finish line) and then we retreated to Java Java, where we warmed up with tasty beverages and leisurely passed the rest of the morning with our reading materials. After lunch we did a little shopping and called it a day.

Back home in the cozy warmth of my apartment, I spent Sunday afternoon cleaning my apartment and ordering my life for the week ahead while listening to the voice of Tim Curry reading the first five chapters of The End, the final installment in Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events, and then capped off the weekend in the company of Michelle who came over to watch The Amazing Race, which involved me yelling at the TV (and specifically Peter) at least once.

A busy weekend indeed, but the good kind that leaves you feeling full instead of spent.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Lather, Rinse, Retreat

It's hard to believe it's Thursday already! The retreat last weekend was great, jumble of feelings and all, but now I feel like I almost need another "mini retreat" in order to process everything that was stirred up in my mind and heart. I'm hoping to carve out a few hours Sunday afternoon for just that purpose, and then maybe I'll be ready to articulate here some of what I'm working through. For now, I wanted to post a few pics from my time among beautiful trees and dear friends in Michigan.

Friday, October 13, 2006


In a mere matter of hours I will be on a bus headed to Michigan for a weekend retreat with the young adult ministry from my church. I am a jumble of feelings going into this.

I am excited. I am fatigued. I am optimistic, with a tinge of dread that I can't quite put my finger on. I am looking forward to meeting new people and to deepening relationships with those I already know. At the same time I am wary of spending 14 hours (7 each way) on a coach bus with people I know and don't know to varying degrees, where I will most likely be subjected to a wide array of get-to-know you games that will tax my social energy (which will make sense to the introverts out there). I am not thrilled about the constant temptation of a multitude of baked goods and other items that are not at all part of my diet. I am eager to spend time amidst the beauty of turning trees and rolling dunes. I am cranky that it's so dang cold outside. I am relieved that hours and hours of shopping finally produced a cute coat that fits. I am hopeful for times of refreshing from the Lord. I am fearful that I'll get in God's way.

I am a jumble of feelings going into this.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The Comfort and Satisfaction of Being Known, Or, How Jane Austen Makes Sense of My Life

Abraham Lincoln once said that “the better part of one’s life consists of his friendships.” When I take a moment to really consider the tremendous people I am privileged to call my friends—or when I am able to sit down and connect with one of them over a latte, or go for a walk where we air our concerns, or squash my cell phone against my ear as we catch up on each other’s lives—I am always overwhelmed with wonder and gratitude at these precious people God has placed in my life.

Yesterday morning I called one of my best friends on the way back to the office after dropping off my boss at the airport. It had been too long since we’d last talked, which was admittedly and pretty much single handedly my fault, and before long I was spilling out my latest account of relational klutziness, marked by more than a little melodrama. I confessed to her my confusion, my indecision, my moments of womanly weakness (real or perceived), my failed attempts at assertiveness, the battle of my instincts vs. my inclinations, my uncertainty about the validness of my standards and ideals. I appealed to her for perspective and wisdom, and she came through for me beautifully, confirming that my red flags were completely justified and telling me what I just needed someone to straight up tell me. Why is it that sometimes we need someone to tell us to do what we already deep down know we need to do in order to have the courage to actually do it?

One of my favorite quotes about friendship—because it so exquisitely captures the comfort and satisfaction of being known—goes like this:

“But oh! the blessing it is to have a friend to whom one can speak fearlessly on any subject; with whom one's deepest as well as one's most foolish thoughts come out simply and safely. Oh, the comfort—the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person—having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all right out, just as they are, chaff and grain together; certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then with the breath of kindness blow the rest away” (Dinah Craik, A Life for a Life, 1859).
It was really quite remarkable. It was like I backed up my dump truck of life stuff, unloaded it on the dock of her willing ears, and with wisdom and grace she was able to take stock of the sticky mess I’d laid before her and say to me gently but confidently, “You’ve said a lot, but in all of that, I didn’t hear this, and from what I know of you and hope for you, that’s a pretty crucial thing to have absent.” And then, without missing a beat, she came out with, “It’s like in Pride and Prejudice, when Elizabeth has that encounter with Mr. Collins…or in Emma, when they’re in the carriage…” And I was like, “Oh my word, you are SO RIGHT! That’s exactly what this is like,” and “How did I not see that?!” and “Thank you for reminding me not to let go of hope for that which seems so elusive simply due to the immediate presence of a pale counterfeit.”

Okay, so in the actual moment my response was not nearly as eloquent as that last statement, but now, a day removed from the conversation, I can see—because a good friend helped my eyes to focus—that that’s what I had done.

And then, causing me to be further emboldened and encouraged, another friend called me yesterday afternoon to tell me the story of a not-even-close-to-mere-chance encounter with a remarkable young man who so far seems to be the male version of herself in terms of interests and passions, and that has bolstered my waning hope even more, giving me the courage to stay true to my inner Miss Elizabeth Bennett, and not succumb to the melancholy resignation of Charlotte Lucas.

Chaff, grain, and Jane. Thanks, friend.