Heard this last year at a Good Friday Service and loved it, so I’m sharing it here:
What is our life? A play of passion,
Our mirth the music of division,
Our mother’s wombs the tiring-houses be,
Where we are dressed for this short comedy.
Heaven the judicious sharp spectator is,
That sits and marks still who doth act amiss.
Our graves that hide us from the setting sun
Are like drawn curtains when the play is done.
Thus march we, playing, to our latest rest,
Only we die in earnest, that’s no jest.
-Sir Walter Raleigh
A busy day comes to a halt.
Simple, loving words are the culprit; they stop
in my tracks –
a little girl’s text message.
My lungs swell with gentle, reminiscent breath
as I remember
that I am missed
by an old friend
G’night, darling child.
Tonight, your fondness shall
into my dreams.
Today at lunch a couple of my co-workers and I discussed the pros and cons of post-undergraduate life. And my initial thought/statement was this: “I don’t really miss school.” Especially since I’m still at school every day (just playing a different role now).
But as I sat there and pondered my own words, I realized that deep down, I’m still quite undecided when it comes to the whole issue of being finished with school. The life of a graduate has a number of significant pros: no homework, more sleep, more time to pursue a social life…hell, I even have more time to, well, waste! Guilt-free procrastination! (Hmm…although, I suppose it isn’t really procrastination, since I’m not exactly putting off any particular tasks or assignments. Whatevs. You get my point.) I love that I can come home from work, eat, relax, watch some TV or a movie, and go to bed without even an inkling of remorse or that nagging question in the back of my mind: “Okay, what did I put off that will come back and bite me in the ass later?”
Blissful sigh. It’s a wonderful life, really.
But, of course, it’s not all pastries and frothy caramel lattes. Being out of school has its cons: my student loans are now in repayment, work (although I still LOVE my job!) can sometimes feel a little too tedious and monotonous – and freakishly busy! Sheesh!, and I sometimes feel lonely and disconnected. Being a student flat out handed me a social network that was always there, even when I didn’t want it. Now I have to work twice as hard to maintain friendships and connections. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining! Honestly, I didn’t expecting anything less. But still, for an introverted, semi-anti-social butterfly like myself, it’s not particularly easy! But you know what? I’m fine with these ‘cons’, because I knew they were coming. You can’t live out your college experience forever and truthfully, were the choice mine, I’m not sure I’d even want to.
There is one ‘con’, however, that has created a significant amount of mental stress for me – stress that I keep trying to ignore. But, as usual, one can only ignore these things for so long. My conversation with my co-workers today brought said factor to the forefront of my mind again, and as I went home and thought about it this evening, I found myself a tad bit depressed.
Here’s what I realized (or perhaps “re-realized”) today:
More than anything, school always fueled my ability to create. I learn and create best when I’m surrounded by other people who love to learn and create, and my network of friends, classmates, and profs at NU (especially in the English and/or Music departments) provided me just that.
I think about my Conducting class with Bill Owen, or my creative writing classes with Lenae Nofziger, or my Romance & Fantasy Literature class with Julia Young…the enriching discussions, creative projects, and countless hands-on opportunities to communally discover and express ourselves…I just don’t have that anymore! And my life – my writing, my lack of interest in other creative pursuits that once greatly interested me – clearly reflects that.
Yes, it might be weak and pathetic of me to say that I can’t create without school, but that’s not what I’m getting at. I fully acknowledge and accept that I, the artist, am responsible for my creative pursuits and results. But I realize now how large a role school played in these pursuits and results, and now that school isn’t in the mix, I feel, like I said, a bit depressed.
At the end of the day, it all comes back to two key concepts:
One, I am a learner — and very much a communal learner. I need a community of thoughtful, think-outside-the-box-type individuals to fuel my own interests and passions. Otherwise, I have an awfully hard time coming up with ideas on my own. Second, I need to find new ways to keep a balanced amount of creativity in my life. As much as I like this new stage of life – having a job, having other responsibilities that allow me to build my independence, it’s undeniable that, in this 9 to 5 world of adult responsibility and professionalism, creativity can slip right through your fingers without giving you even the faintest warning. That is certainly my story. And I am seriously ready for a plot change.
It may determine the rest of my life
Or at least the immediate tomorrow.
“Behold,” I say, echoing Jeremiah in his youth,
“I do not know how to speak.”
But in the quiet darkness, I hear a voice—
A familiar voice.
He, as usual, is silently loud, and
His words reverberate an ancient promise:
“Do not say, ‘I am a youth,’” He says,
“Because everywhere I send you, you shall go,
“And all that I command you,
You shall speak.
Do not be afraid of them,
“For I am with you.”
Today I rest
With touched lips.
Sometimes, when my own words fail, a song successfully says it all. Nani, I miss you–more and more each day. The holidays just aren’t the same without you.
The holidays usually make me happy. Really, really happy. I love how the air grows crisper each day and fills with childlike expectancy, as everyone anticipates the year’s first snowfall. I love how the city, bustling and sparkling with red and gold lights, bursts with magic and seasonal cheer. And, of course, I love the many sounds, smells, and tastes that accompany this time of year: street corner choirs who sing jazzy renditions of Christmas favorites like “Carol of the Bells,” the unmistakable scent of a freshly cut noble fir, or the brilliant aroma of spiced apple cider. And a cup of hot cider must be accompanied by gingerbread cookies, or a fresh slice of pumpkin pie, right? Mmm…doesn’t it all sound utterly fabulous?
Nope. In fact, I’m cringing as I type this.
I know, I know, you’re probably staring at me as if I’m crazy, but I’m being completely honest. The truth is I’m kind of dreading the holidays this year. Whether it’s the family drama, the fact that Nani isn’t in this world anymore, the overall lack of finances (and, therefore, the lack of holiday plans), or maybe just a grand mix of all the aforementioned reasons, the point is the Grinch in me has awoken this year, and as a result, I find myself constantly annoyed with any and all holiday-related ideas. For example, I was flipping through radio stations the other day, and I landed on WARM 106.9 FM. They were playing “O Christmas Tree,” and my instinctual thought was to beat the crap out of my car’s radio. (Oh, and by the way—whose idea was it to start playing Christmas music before Black Friday?!) Another example: a number of people in my neighborhood have already put up their Christmas decorations. Just a few weeks ago, Halloween decorations accentuated people’s yards, and now I’m seeing lights and ornaments and those plastic Santas on people’s front porches. And frankly, they’re making me angry.
What’s my point in telling you all this? I guess I don’t really have one. ‘Cause really, when it all boils down, Christmas isn’t about the decorations, the songs, or the treats. It’s about—brace yourselves; I’m about to throw you a Sunday-school cliché—Jesus. But I suppose it just bothers me that I’m at such a low point and can’t seem to come out of it. What I probably need to do is get my focus off of myself and find an opportunity to make someone else’s holiday season a little brighter. Because I’m certainly not the only person who’s hurting. And I’m positive that many people have it a lot worse than I do. But, again, I believe in being honest; and these thoughts have been bubbling inside of me for a while now, so I figured I’d get them out. Besides, I can’t imagine I’m the only person who’s ever suffered from Grinch-ism. So let me close this note with the following questions: for those of you who have suffered from similar thoughts and anti-holiday attitudes, what’s your story? And how did you overcome your own Grinch-ism?
DISCLAIMER: This is more or less an exaggerated rant written for the primary purpose of getting my thoughts out in an uncensored fashion. Please don’t e-mail me with questions about my sanity or overall well-being. As Orlando Bloom’s character in Elizabethtown said, “I’m fine.” =)
Yesterday I was standing in line at the grocery store, and this caught my eye:
Due to lack of time, however, I didn’t bother picking it up. (Okay, and maybe secretly I didn’t care, since this is, after all, Oprah—and yes, for those wondering, I’m not a fan.) Regardless, the title got me thinking.
I sometimes detest that word. Thank you, church culture, and—more importantly—thank you, Northwest University! In all honesty, though, the general overuse of the word is not my problem; my problem is the lack of clarity when it comes to its definition. Forget asking the question: ‘What is my calling?’ What the hell is a CALLING, anyway? If I were to ask a handful of people, I’m positive I’d get a handful of definitions (in fact, this has happened already). And therein lies my issue with the concept of calling.
Four years ago, I thought I knew what my calling was. But four years ago, my definition of ‘calling’ was synonymous with my definition of ‘vocation.’ And while I’ve learned that the two are separate entities, I still haven’t quite figured out what ‘calling’ means.
All I know is this: as of this very moment, I’m not where I should be. If the ultimate goal is to love God and love others the way I love myself, then I have quite a few miles to travel—especially since I don’t love myself right now. I look at the person I’ve become and cringe; I’m often bitter, full of doubt, angry (at myself, at others, and sometimes at God), unmotivated, and overall uninspired.
What happened to the girl who made it her mission to push through the harsh circumstances? The girl who once embraced life’s challenges and still managed to walk forward? Where is the girl who had dreams, goals, and aspirations, who once knew how to set goals and move toward them? Where is the artist who looked at her life and the lives of others and found raw, creative potential there?
And where on earth did this person come from? This person who always wants to hide, who tells herself constantly that she’s never going to be good enough, whose eyes are suddenly on herself and hardly ever on others? How and when did I become this person? And how do I find my way back to the right path? (Whatever that means.)
Perhaps I’m thinking too hard again, and perhaps I’ll one day look back at today and laugh, but right now, this all feels just as unpleasant as a sleepless, insomnia-infused night. It’s like my very soul has insomnia, and no matter how much I toss and turn, the restlessness refuses to retire.
I have more questions than answers, and the more I seek out answers, the more complex my questions become. And as a result, I find myself shying away from everything—questions, answers….everything—until I’m completely numb and hopelessly immobile. But immobility is a dangerous disease, a type of cancer, really. And I loathe myself for getting to this point.
Once again, there’s a pretty significant chance I’m just thinking too hard. I do that often.
Anyway, I was reading Amitabh Bachchan’s blog earlier, and he opened his entry with these words. They really caught my attention:
“It is the simple things in life that move us the most. It is the common things in life that affect us the most. It is, I have discovered, life itself that touches us the most. I wait patiently for life to present itself to me. I wait till it summons me to notice. I wait in expectation of that which shall unfold itself, and having found it, expect more.”
Thinking too hard or not, I seem to have caught some sort of strange amnesia when it comes to being moved by the simple, common things in life. The “big things”—life altering circumstances, etc.—keep pushing me down. And my general expectations—for myself and for others—are terribly low.
But I’m so damn tired of that! I’m tired of crawling out of bed each morning with the sole purpose of making it through the day. Simply surviving. I want to have higher expectations and I want to be able to find meaning in the small, normally unnoticed aspects of life. Only then can I discover and grasp the bigger notions: my purpose, my calling.
Fear will paralyze you if you let it, and I certainly have. But it’s now time to arise, to make new discoveries, to move toward something new and fresh, whether that “something” is big or small. Head held high, no turning back. But the daunting question remains: how?
“Wake up, O sleeper,
—rise from the dead…”
You need to write a blog.
Those words have been echoing in my mind for weeks. But every day procrastination overtakes me. I am naturally a procrastinator. Most people know that. But this time is different. This time I’ve been procrastinating on my writing because of the subject matter at hand:
the death of a parent.
On Friday, August 27, 2010 I lost my Nani, who was very much a parent to me—even more avidly than my actual parents. Cancer and several other health issues are to blame.
Grief is a strange (and, in my case, very foreign) concept. I’m practically an expert when it comes to other emotional phenomena: anger, bitterness, excitement, even depression. But grief is unfamiliar and therefore scary.
In all honestly, I half-expected Nani’s death to send me back into depression; I know I’m in a completely different place (both spiritually and emotionally) than I was in 2007, but I guess I thought that the shock of losing someone I loved so dearly would drive me back into that deep, dark hole again. Fortunately, though, it didn’t.
I’m not depressed, just confused and…well, lots of other emotions I haven’t really processed yet. I’m often quite scared to be alone with my thoughts, because whenever I am, I find myself missing Nani so much that it literally, physically hurts. I finally understand what that phrase means: “I miss you so much it hurts.” But I wish I was still ignorant to it, ‘cause I’m telling you: it sucks. Am I in denial when it comes to my feelings? Perhaps. Will time eventually break/heal me? That’s for God to know.
And how is my relationship with the Lord? That’s a touchy subject. Let’s just say that grief has a way of coloring your faith in hues you didn’t even know existed.
I still love Jesus, but—to put it lightly—I’m frustrated with Him. However, I promised myself that no matter what, I’d stay with Him and tell Him how I really felt. After all, what’s more meaningful in a relationship than total transparency and honesty with your companion? I could’ve cut myself off from Him like I did a few years ago, but I refuse to wander down that path again. Besides, He’s a big God; He can handle my brutal honesty.
At this point my main focus is to survive each day, despite my grief. Not an easy task, by any means. But thank God for coping strategies! What is my current “coping” strategy, you ask? Old Hindi films. Haaaa!
When you really think about it, though, it makes perfect sense: Nani was a daily—and very vivid—reminder of my Indian roots, something I otherwise ignored (sometimes unintentionally, but other times purposefully). For example, I always called her “Nani”—the Hindi word for your mother’s mother. If I really wanted to, I’m sure I could’ve called her “Grandma”; after all, I call my mother “Mom” and my father “Dad.” But “Grandma” just never seemed to fit her. Nor did it fit the relationship I had with her (a relationship that was definitely driven by some cultural undertones). So she was and will always be my “Nani.”
Also, these movies bring back memories of a better time; I remember being five or six years old and watching them with my mom and Nani…and then running around the house, singing all the songs and reciting the dialogue! While everyone else was watching The Little Mermaid, Star Wars, and The Princess Bride, I was watching Amar Akbar Anthony and Hum. (Ok, fine, I watched the aforementioned English movies, too, but they still pale in comparison to the aforementioned Hindi titles. Am I biased? Maybe a tad bit!) Even now, though, I can hear Nani’s amused laughter in my head when the oh-so-amazing Amitabh Bachchan does something ridiculous on screen…oh, what I would give to [literally] hear her laugh again!
And finally, the most shallow reason for making this coping strategy my personal method of choice: Amitabh Bachchan is effin’ hilarious. Seriously, Hollywood’s finest comedians–past and present–have nothing on this guy. I’ve been watching several of his flicks from the 70s and 80s, and all I gotta say is: Eat your hearts out, Steve Martin and Betty White! And thank you, Mr. Bachchan, for making me laugh so genuinely, despite the current heaviness of my heart…also, thanks for reviving my interest in the Hindi language and for giving me a newfound love for Hindi music! =)
I miss Nani terribly. I know she’s in a much better place, but that doesn’t eliminate my constant longings to have her physically back in my life. I hate going downstairs, seeing her things and her living space, and knowing that she’ll never inhabit that space again. Of course, then I find myself thinking about the amount of pain she was in during her last days, and I feel like smacking myself; why would I or anyone in their right mind ever want her to suffer like that again? ‘Cause at least now she’s free of that pain. And, so, the cruel cycle repeats itself. (Oh, and did I mention that my insomnia’s back? Yeah…stronger than ever, too. Uggggh!)
But regardless of the current cloudiness of my mind and emotions, there are two things I know for sure:
First, that my grandmother was a beautiful soul and a true saint. She set the bar higher than anyone else I know, and I can only hope that I’ll one day leave behind a legacy that’s as rich as hers: a legacy of unconditional love, complete perseverance through any and all circumstances, and childlike faith that never wavered.
Thank you, Nani. You don’t even know how much you’ve impacted my life and faith. You are the ultimate example of godliness. Who needs the Proverb 31 woman when they have you to look up to?
The second thing—and I’ll close my entry with this: Amitabh Bachchan kicks ass!
[Wrote this for my grandmother, Subhabya Devi Mudaliar, who passed away on August 27, 2010. R.I.P., Nani. Love you and miss you terribly.]
Subhag; Amma; Nani—
How can we express in words (a failed medium) our gratitude?
For your life, your love, and most of all, your faith—
Your faith in us, your faith in others, and most of all, your faith in Christ.
Time strangles and limits all that needs to be said, but we want you to know
That we’ll never forget you—
Your life, your love, and most of all, your faith—
Your faith in us, your faith in others, and most of all, your faith in Christ.
We’ll never forget the times when you suffered,
How you quietly took the abuse
Of a husband who was supposed to love and protect you.
We’ll never forget the times when you got up early, body battered and bruised—
Yet you cooked, cleaned, and took care of your family.
We will never forget.
We’ll never forget the time when you left everything behind
And moved to a new country—
How you answered the cry of your hurting daughter & grandchild.
We’ll never forget your love, or your selflessness,
Or your unwavering loyalty to others.
We will never forget.
We’ll never forget the day when you forsook the idolatry of your forefathers,
When you gave your heart to Jesus;
How you prayed and how He answered.
We will never forget.
We’ll never forget the times when you cradled little children,
How you fed them, changed them, wiped their tears,
And shared with them the incredible love of Jesus.
Yes, this, we will never forget.
And we’ll certainly never forget all those times
When you held us in your arms and in your heart,
How you laughed with us, how you encouraged us,
How you cried for us
And how you prayed for us.
And most of all, how you always pointed us toward the One
Who will always hold your heart and ours.
Thank you, Amma, and thank you, Nani,
For all the times and in all the ways that you lived and loved
And displayed your faith in Jesus.
We will never forget you.
Never will we forget your life, your love, and most of all,
Your faith in Jesus.
We will always remember.