Sunday, October 25, 2015

Afraid of Nothing

Right now I'm reading a graphic novel (i.e. book with cartoon panels) entitled Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel. It's not exactly a light read, regardless of what the medium might lead you to envision. It's full of family secrets, growing pains, and psychological complications. And what is more, it's all depicting true events.

I think it is remarkably brave of Bechdel to put her family's struggles in words and pictures for everyone to read. I'm increasingly drawn to autobiographical work these days. There's something so honest about it. The fact that Fun Home is acclaimed in the graphic novel world lets me know that other people also understand the beauty behind the maxim that "truth is stranger than fiction."

I have desired to put my story into words myself. Once I tried to write a semi-autobiographical novel about my first year of college, but I stopped. Part of the problem is my life is composed of separate episodes, elements that are discrete but undeniably linked. How do I write both about mental illness and my travels? How can I depict my family issues in the same place as my forays into romance?

However, I suppose a major part of the problem is this: I'm not yet over it. I still get mad when I think of certain things: how I majorly embarrassed myself, how I was dropped by people I thought were my friends as a result, how people never really change. This anger is directed at others, but mainly at myself. I hardly trust my own mind, and only do to a certain extent if I take four white pills every night. I never asked for this life, for these problems. But even that sentiment makes me angry. I refuse to be a victim. I left the bipolar support group on Facebook because I grew tired of seeing people still enslaved to the disease, who refused medication, or who couldn't find the right one. I just was not in that place anymore. I had to cut the tie.

There's a song by Sharon Van Etten called "Afraid of Nothing." It goes, "I can't wait til we're afraid of nothing. I can't wait til we hide from nothing." That is what I hope for myself, and for others. No fear. Fear tears us from other people. I've been told that I am brave. Mostly I just want to go through the whole house, looking in every corner, throwing the blankets from the beds so that no secrets remain. I want to reveal each whimpering lie, each assumption that keeps us from knowing the truth. Fear does that. It hides things. I want to understand every horrible thing that has happened to me, to hold it up for all to see, and conquer the fear that hid it in the first place.

Sometimes I long for a story. An engineered, fine-tuned concoction specifically designed to elicit a specific emotion at each turn of the page. And yet, a part of me rejects this. much greater is a masterpiece that is true, that is genuine, than one that was just thought up?

Maybe one day, when I am afraid of nothing, I will write down my own story. I still think I have a ways to go, though. I will just have to keep my secrets in their corners.

Monday, October 12, 2015

I Hate Asking For Money

I know, there is an obvious response to the above title-- "If you don't like asking people for money, then why don't you just earn a living like the rest of us!" I wish it was that easy. I wish I could actually earn money by doing humanitarian work. Unfortunately, that's not how the world works.

Maybe I'm just being a little defensive (wouldn't be the first time). I feel like I always have to explain myself to other people, as if they are not already capable of doing the thinking themselves. I just want people to know, yes, I wish my calling was one that could earn my some money. I'm hoping to branch out, maybe raise some funds through my writing or if either one of those skills was a) hard to come by or b) known to be a cash cow (yes, an attempt at sarcasm).

Practical, dynamic, world-changing mission work, or humanitarian work, is just the sort of thing the world needs--but it takes an unexpected person to fund it. Because, yeah, the people who need the help, the people who are lining up to get it, the people whose lives are changed because of it--those people are the ones who can't fund it. What about their government? It's an old story. The government often fails its people. In worst case scenarios, it is the problem (or is always the problem, but that's a little too political for me here, heh). So, if a people group cannot help themselves, and their government can't/won't help them, who does?

You do. That's right, the person to step up to the plate must be you. Not me. This isn't about me. This is about you, and your role. Maybe you help at a food pantry. Maybe you are helping at a fundraiser this month. Maybe you sponsor a child in another country. When you do all of this and more, you are on the front lines. You're the one who funds it, whether with your time, effort, or finances.

God is the real MVP here. But you are the hands, and the feet. Some of us are eyes, and mouths. My job is to go, get involved, show you what I see, write down what happens, and let you know. My job is to be connected to you at all times, like I am connected to the orphans I'll be working with. I'm not asking you to fund me and forget. What I'm asking may actually be more.

I hate asking for money. A part of me feels like a mooch, but that's really not accurate. This is my dream, but it's also the futures, the lives of other people that will be impacted. I know I can't do much, but my God can. Jesus has been good to me. He has shown me that this is the path he wants me on. Every turn, every twist in the road was necessary to bring me here. To be honest, I'm not sure what is waiting for me. It's going to be far from easy. But it's only impossible if you, the one reading this, don't see how important you are to these orphans' lives.

Check out Next Generation Outreach's website. I'm not over there right now, so there is a limit to what I know and therefore can share about what it is like to work through the difficulties of helping young men and women who have been neglected by the system. But please, pray. I hate asking for money. But I'm not going to let some embarrassment keep me from what I know without a doubt God has called me to do. I'll keep you all in the know, as usual.


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Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Driving Into the City at Night

I never like the city as much as when I am driving into it at night. Somehow, it looks cleaner, brighter, more varied and intriguing than walking its streets during the day. I'm only impressed by it at those fleeting moments when I drive onto the section of the highway where no trees or buildings can obscure my view. Then, the buildings owned by banks and large corporations and other companies rise, in Disneyland-like splendor over the streets below. Streets which are most likely deserted at this time of the night. But you can't tell that, not from here. From here, for now, the city impresses me.

During the day, I see downtown Raleigh differently. I see an obstacle course of people parking, people walking, people trying to cross the street, while I am driving; or, a series of ill-timed street crossings, while on foot. I enjoy getting out of the office, which has only has one window to the outside, and even this shows me nothing but a wall. I make my way to the bank twice a week, if we have enough donations, and I walk the few blocks briskly but while enjoying myself. I notice people--people sitting on the benches, talking excitedly, cursing, asking me for money. Once a woman was selling bracelets. I declined at first, but seeing her again on my way back, I softened. "How much?" I asked. "Fifteen dollars." I had $2.

Men will talk to me. "How's it goin'?" "How you doin', Sweetheart?" "Want to get lunch with me tomorrow?" "I'm in a hurry, I've gotta go!" I said to that last one. What happened was, I had been walking along to my car when a rat ran out in between me and a construction worker, from the gutter to the spiky bushes. "You see that rat?" Laughing, I nodded. Then he asked me out. I don't think rat sightings normally lead to dates, and this time was no exception. I never know what to do when men speak to me on the street. Usually it's positive, I think? A "how-are-ya" is fine--but sometimes I'm uncomfortable. The line between friendly and intrusive can be hard to gauge here--in California it was easier to tell. But then, I only went to LA for excursions, class trips and Saturday jaunts to check out a bookstore and get lunch.

Downtown has its share of anomalies: an overabundance of sirens, streets blocked off by a squad of police cars, not to mention cars which somehow managed to flip upside down (I've already seen two of those). There are young black men who evangelize on behalf of the Christian Science Reading Room, preaching in from of buildings and drawing small crowds. Fun stuff happens, too, on the first Friday of each month. Store are open late, and bands play in the street. Vendors sell various goodies out of easy-ups. Some people dance to the music.

I'm living here. I am a resident of Raleigh, the capital of North Carolina. I've done a fair amount of driving around the area for work. This place no longer feels big to me. And it's not. You can drive across downtown in a few minutes. I still like it here. But I know I'm staying for a while. I'm going to see little kids going from door to door soon, chanting in unison for candy. It's going to get cold, and then colder, and then I'll be colder than I have ever been in my entire life. I might be standing in a parking lot for upward of three hours at a time while it snows. I will see Christmas trees lit up in windows, and then Christmas trees stripped of their finery, lying by the side of the road. I'm going to pass the New Year Year here, if I don't spend it in California for the holidays. But my home is, and will be in Raleigh. And then the end of June will come, and I'll be in California. But not for long.

The lights of downtown Raleigh shine differently than the lights of LA, though. Somehow, they're more stunning. Because I know what those streets hold. And I know that it's hidden. My boss, Sam, once said that Raleigh's lights are different because they're ours. It's ours. Ours to work in, ours to walk in, ours to live in. It's a smaller city, but it's only small because the both of us have come here from other places, with our preconceptions and otherness, and have spent time here. I'm not a local. I wasn't raised anywhere near the Triangle area. But now, for a while, this is home. This is where I'm living my life. And I think it's okay to call it mine.

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Sunday, October 4, 2015

The Boyfriend Post

I'm currently reading a really raw, really honest, really not-for-children graphic novel by Daniel Clowes called Ghost World. It's fairly well-known, at least among people who read this sort of stuff. It's wacked, but in a good sort of way. It genuinely depicts how real people tend to live their lives, something I am always looking for in literature. Don't worry, I won't tell you how it ends, because I'm in the middle of it, anyway.

What I do want to share is one panel, one I just happened to share on Facebook. Enid, one of the two main characters, has just lamented that no boys ever ask her and Rebecca out, and exclaims, in a particularly poignant moment, that, "The trouble is the kind of guy I want to go out with doesn't even a rugged, chain-smoking, intellectual, adventurer guy who's really serious, but also really funny and mean..."

While I don't esteem all the above qualities that Enid Coleslaw (yes, her full name) has listed, I can definitely relate. I've come across lots of different guys in my life, some of whom I was more attracted to than others, but obviously, since I've never had an actual, authentic, gen-u-ine boyfriend, I have never found anyone who I really connected with. Once I thought I did (okay, more than once), but in that particular situation, even though all my boxes were checked (missionary? check. deep thinker? check. attractive? check.), his were not. He called something I did "refreshingly mature," he admired my "depth and style," but that wasn't enough for him to hang on.

When am I ever going to find someone who doesn't want to see me go? my heart feebly asks, as I keep everything under control, just under control enough to mask the empty spot inside me, a spot that sometimes is barely noticeable, and at other times gapes wide open.

Lots of people are single. Lots of people don't think about it, either. Usually I am one of them. But once in a while, I am reminded that there could be more to my life than there is right now. Sometimes it makes me happy to realize that. Sometimes it hurts. Usually, it's a little of both.

I am at the place where I know I am meant to be with someone. I trust that God will lead me to the right place, at the right time, to meet the right person. But I do get tired of worrying about the end result. Meaning, I don't want a husband. Not right now. I guess right now, all I'm aiming for is a boyfriend. After all, the one comes before the other. Maybe I'm just tired of all that purity culture emphasis on some nebulous future spouse. I'm just not in that place right now. I do want a husband, eventually. But if I think "husband, husband, husband," I might look for perfection instead of a work in progress.

Should I be looking for a guy who has all his "stuff" together, or one with a few flaws? How many flaws? How good should it be, being with him? Should it be fantastic? All the time, or most of the time? I have a feeling, that when I find someone whose life plans actually mesh with mine, and who I really love to be with, I will feel pretty sure. But should I be? What if I'm wrong? What if I just need to keep waiting, if it's not totally obvious? When is it ever totally obvious?

I know, too many questions. My mom has some pretty good advice: you should know someone for two years before you marry them. It takes not one, but two years, to really see all that secret, sometimes icky, stuff come out. Not just in reference to your partner, but regarding you, too. Some people go through this during marriage, and I guess we all do/will, to some extent. But to be more safe than sorry, wait to marry.

Or at least that's what will probably work for me. My future boyfriend/fiance/husband/whatever is going to get to know my goofy side, the way I talk to cats, the way I talk/laugh/sing/fart in my sleep, how little things bother me (esp. if they're my fault), how I love to get really deep really fast in conversations, etc. My hope is that, rather than just tolerating me, my husband will cherish me. Love me. That's seems like a little to expect, but it's actually a lot. Sure, I'm probably going to bug him some. He's probably going to bother me sometimes, too. But there needs to be a greater, prevailing, unquestionable bond between us that embraces, rather than rejects, our flaws.

Oh, dear. It seems I've been using the "h'" word (husband). I guess it would have been a lot to expect all that stuff from a boyfriend. I read a blog post the other day about not settling. So I guess that's what this is about, too. Don't settle. Don't settle for less than love. Love isn't perfect. It takes work. But a guy who loves you (and who you love) will stand out from all the others.

I think so, at least. Sorry, I'm not exactly an expert.

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