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Friday, August 30, 2013

answers

i keep wanting to change the title, because i suspect i've used it before. but i'm in a hurry to get to the meat and potatoes. so, the garnish can complain all it wants. it's not even of tertiary importance tonight.

this blog post has been brought to you in part by an unwitting accomplice, someone whose mind is somewhere around 90% compatible with mine.

Q: "Where is the line between blaming somebody for something and giving negative credit where credit is due?"

A: i could not have answered this before i was married. but now the answer jumps up and down like Donkey. "pick me! pick me!!!"

to answer this question for thyself, thou needst only answer these two questions: 1) what is your attitude, i.e. heart, toward the person being 'credited'? 2) what is it that gives you the responsibility to determine who is to be credited with what?

Q: "Why do you want to pick up our friendship again? I never could, even back then, figure out why you chose to hang out with me. What did you get out of it?"

A: this answer could easily be its own post. but i'll take this opportunizzle to practice something i usually succ at: succinctness. i hope it won't be perceived as a lack of mental or emotional investment on my part.

1) i really don't know why it was so easy to be-friended by you initially, since your energy level and straightforward style of social interaction don't seem (on the surface) to be compatible with mine. and when i say straightforward style of social interaction, i am not referring only to your signature greeting: the tackle-hug. it's more than that.

i detect in you this important isaiac compat-ability: to hover between extraversion and introversion. between the outwardly-focused and the inwardly-. between the restless adventurer and the still-waters-run-deep contemplator (pronounce it "con-TEMP-luh-tor" for hoity-toity points). those in my life who have most easily developed the most closeness, have been such tweeners: Andrew Peterson. Brandon Scott. Caleb Werner. Jerad Mendel. Danica Overton. Reelika Muraško.

2) you showed almost immediately a genuine, healthfully selfish interest in me as a person, and soon followed it with the essential complementary trait: genuine, healthfully selfless care for me. this reacted with my low opinion of myself, as well as my need for closeness, which is not easily met.

3) i've said many times that i get along better with girls. well, you get along better with guys, so... yup.

4) we have some very significant commonality in values, interests, and modes of operation: the Christian faith. vocal music (especially its creation, and not just consumption). self-expression through athleticism. partiality toward nocturnality. desire to better oneself. introspection. and others.

Q: "You had mentioned, initially, that you were worried/feared something with contacting me - what were you afraid of?"

A: that i would rock whatever boat you might now be comfortably sailing. that you would [rightfully?] 'credit' me with our friendship's blackout. that you would assume i had an ignoble motive of some kind.



and now for a fun trick: a question of my own, which is actually a response to the answer you gave before i now ask it.

iQ: what do you get out of this friendship?

A: "I always knew I appreciated that about you- the time and effort you would put into helping me, exploring my mind and my heart, piecing me together like a jigsaw puzzle, pushing me to new limits. (I know you got a certain satisfaction from it, though I could never pinpoint exactly why.) I never realized how much I valued that (in general and with you specifically) until it was no longer available. I wanted to thank you, the kind of thank you where one makes eye contact that speaks to the soul of the listener from the soul of the speaker. I mentioned to my mother yesterday how you have always had the talent of challenging me; emotionally, spiritually, physically, and mentally in ways that few to none ever have before or since. You have a way of stretching, challenging, expanding, and enlightening me in a way that pushes me to my limits but I enjoy the discomfort and the adrenaline and the pain in the same fashion that one feels while working out. It is terrible in the best and worst ways simultaneously and the outcome is always worth it. For this- for bringing out the best, and my favorite version of myself when I am with you- and even to an extent when I am not- and for the rest of everything that you are and do as my friend for the last decade plus- I thank you, my dear friend, genuinely."

it has been (and i hope it will continue to be) my great pleasure and privilege to do so.

p.s. in keeping with my penchant (pronounce it "paw-shaw" for exotic hoity-toity points) for challenging and pushing you, i will post this now, and ask your permission / forgiveness afterward. #sorrynotsorry #barewithme #fearonlyfear

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Dearjeeling

Hello. My name is Rachel, I am 18 years old, and I am a freshman with my major declared as Linguistics (sorry, I’ve had to introduce myself to professors and classmates all day). I can count on my fingers the number of times I have seen and spent time around Isaiah in person, first as my best friend’s older brother, or that guy who enjoys singing and flautist-ing in my school’s hallway; but in light of lacking physical presence, I value him as a great encourager, friend, war-buddy, and- yes, διδάσκαλος- but most importantly, as Isaiah.

~     ~     ~

He has given me a prompt: a) What is essential in a person for them to build a good relationship with you? b) What do you value most in your current close friends?

There will be overlap I suppose, but that's ok. While the prompt itself is challenging, I’m very thankful for the specificity of the questions asked. The first narrows down the subject from my relationships/friendships in general to what is necessary for other people to build a *good* relationship *with me*. Many of my relationships and interactions with other people have been/are one-sided and/or superficial. They are this way usually because a) these people to not make the effort to get to know and understand me personally, something that is not their fault, nor is it anything I would ask of another human being. I understand that that can be simply too much. b) Most of these people accept the friendship, kindness, and what interaction I provide them out of what they deem as a need to socialize rather than as an intentional choice to be a friend. They accept what I give them not because I am Rachel. A number of these one-sided relationships have ended already or are currently faltering because sooner or later they realize that I can’t be who they needwant me to me. My efforts and my love to them is just a disappointment because while I know them as my friends, they do not know who I am, and thus where my friendship is coming from. The remaining ones that have lasted I consider good, but they are still superficial.

While all of this (friendships… socializing… people…) is very draining on me, I find it to be more than worth it when God calls me to bless and show other people friendship and love in situations where they wouldn’t see that in their lives otherwise. He has also taught me many lessons, and much about myself through getting to know these people that I would not have learned on my own.

The people who manage to build good relationships with me are entirely different.

It’s difficult for me to point out what is necessary for a person to build a good relationship with me from scratch because that has not happened in a very long time. I do believe that I am currently in the process of building new, good relationships, so I will share some of the things that have helped those people to connect to me, and I to them.

Desire and determination for personal growth- spiritually, relationally, and intellectually. It is usually easier and more enjoyable to have a deeper relationship with me when you are my brother or sister in Christ, you actually want to know me and allow me to know you, and you are not necessarily academician, but you value information, wisdom, awareness, and your own cognitive ability and pursue those things.

Selflessness- not necessarily tangible generosity, but valuing others above self.

The ability to understand and appreciate the need/want to be alone, and to be quiet- if not in themselves, in other people, such as myself.


These people who are able to be closest to me usually seek to be more like Jesus, value my friendship, and appreciate my quirks or personality traits even if they are not shared (A warning to anyone thinking about getting closer to me: I can get pretty weird). A few of them do actually exist, with connections I am afraid to fully understand, and I want to weep with gratefulness at the way I have been blessed by them, and just because they exist. 

the crappiest awesome thing ever

i think i've told you this story before... but i'll tell it again, because it's far more relevant to my life now, and to the lives of others close to me.

~     ~     ~

1st semester at VUSC, which was fall '04. Andrew Peterson called just weeks after my first day, and told me he was in town. this was crazy fortuitous because we hadn't lived in the same town for years, but he had been my closest friend at some point... and i had just moved away from home, 15 minutes from the place where he would end up (without having planned to be there until the night before he arrived).

all of that is very confusing unless i create a timeline, which i will not do right now. the bottom line is, we ran into each other by 'accident' (or by magic trick if you believe in Magicians)... for several years. these years were themselves magical, and gave birth to several wonderful half-formed creations that we call original songs, written and performed by a group called the Secret. i'm rambling. it's normal for me when sprinting down memory lane trying to recall where i placed certain things so that i can reassemble them to create something oldnew.

so: he was my only close friend there, and i was his only close friend there, and he was making bank, and i had a roommate who was often gone, especially on the weekends. and Andrew & i had the same hometown. so we would drive to Fresno several times a month, and when we weren't driving to Fresno we were diving into church activities or songwriting or talking theology and life until 4a. even if we had work/class at 8a.

then, at some stupid point in the midst of all of this, Andrew showed up late. and i need to explain what that is, because Andrew is not on time, ever. for him to be late means four hours late. or not at all. otherwise he's "on time" (two-ish hours late). actually, i would usually say "come over at the time" and then plan to take a nap at that time. he would then wake me up whenever he arrived. BRAIN STOP RAMBLING

okay, so one fateful night, Andrew showed up late. extra very late.

- where were you?

"...oh, i was uh, dropping off a guitar."

- for whom?

"this girl..."

ooooookay. intentionally awkward silence time. the gears in my head start spinning wildly toward the inevitable conclusion, and after some more details about his evening, i figure out what i want to say in response:

- Andrew, i have really enjoyed this awesome time we've had. it was pretty amazing, and

"whoa whoa whoa, hold on. nothing's changing. i'm not going anywhere!"

yes, stupid head, you are. you made me wait... for a girl.

"[denial blah blah blah we're bffs so shut up]"

- [you're in denial so you shut up and listen]

"[whatever whatever i'm awesome whatever]"

- [okay let's just hang out and you'll see how right i am]

"shut up and sing."

~     ~     ~

and so the days passed, and turned into weeks, and the weeks turned into more weeks, and, just as i, the prophet isaiah, foretold, Andrew began sacrificing his i-time for this girl instead. on one occasion he tried to arrange for the three of us to hang out; but he and the girl (of course) actually forgot that i was present, and so i simply left the two of them to do twitterpated things.

i hold nothing against him in any serious way. i just give him a hard time about it every chance i get. the girl is actually a great person, someone perfect for him. things didn't work out well for me, since i lost a best friend, but we are still on good terms and hang out occasionally. when he's around and not 7 hours away.

the point is, this happens every day, probably in lots of different cultures (though i can't speak for others. they are not my skittle). actually wait, that's not my point. my point is this: it's supposed to happen.

"isaiah, you can't be serious!"

who are you, anonymous speaker? my sister Leah wants to know who asks these dumb questions on my blog.

"I'M ASKING THE DUMB QUESTIONS HERE"

why do i put up with you? oh, right, sorry. you're asking the questions. okay um... actually yes, i am serious as a heart attack and twice as deadly.

"friends are supposed to stop being friends?!"

no.

"close friends are supposed to become far friends??"

no. close friends are supposed to give up some of what they enjoy, when romantic friends enter the picture.

"what is a romantic friend?"

someone you date, whom you also actually know pretty well. these are, sadly, not as common as they should be. anyways back to the main point: super-close friends can't be super-close as much, or they can't express it as much, when a serious romance occurs in the life of one or both of those friends. why not? because there simply isn't room. time, energy, affections, money, everything. i was forced to give up my weekly mushroom burger at Red Robin because of Andrew's new girlfriend.

"but isaiah, what if the close friends aren't willing to give up some of what they have?"

then they shouldn't be seriously dating anyone, because that dating relationship needs that stuff in order to grow. you can't give your significant other your social leftovers. you can't even split your resources evenly. 70-30 is possibly still not enough to really pour into a romance the good stuff it needs.

i know this from watching it happen, and i know it from my divorce: friendships change when a serious romance enters the scene. you know it as well, reader, as well as i do; yet we may have differing levels of acceptance when it comes to specific situations in which this truth is shown.

there is a particularly urgent & important need for the sacrificing of friendly closeness when the friendship (the one doing the sacrificing) is between a girl and a guy. i will trust that this does not need explanation, especially if the reader has been so kind as to read my handful of posts about the grey area. i will trust that the reader understands how short that fence can be, between friendship and romance, and how the emotions present in a close guy-girl friendship need not be romantic in order to be inconvenient.

more simply (yes, i know: your favorite part of the post): serious romantic commitments require serious sacrifices from friends.

and that concludes the objective and seemingly cold, matter-of-fact portion of this post.

~     ~     ~

the personal portion will be vague of necessity. but i want the reader to know that i have experienced this several times, from multiple roles/viewpoints, and expect to experience it again in the future. so, i speak not only from logic and observation, but from a place of aches & pains that, to me, represent and remind me of the value i place on my close friendships. it is no betrayal if those friends leave me for something wonderful. yet it is still a loss, and when it occurs, i feel it like a dull, jagged blade working its way into me centimeters per day. from any position, whether i am sacrificing, being sacrificed, or being sacrificed for.

"but isaiah, aren't some people really good at maintaining and continuing to nourish the friendships they had before the romance occurred? don't some people do a great job at continuing to grow their friendships even after they get married?"

some people do. they are to be commended. go right now and commend them. i'll wait.



even in those cases, sacrifices are made. if the friendship was a close one, it must make room.

"but it doesn't have to be given up."

of course not. but keeping something & giving it up are only the two ends of the spectrum. everything in between exists as well, and navigating that complexity is difficult sometimes. redefining a substantial friendship in order to accommodate life change is difficult sometimes. but it is necessary. and worth it.

"i refuse. i'm going to get married but keep all of my close friendships the way they are now, including the cross-gender ones."

please come back and guest blog for me when you succeed at that, and i will get a million hits for just that post because everyone will be clambering to witness it and then re-enact the miracle in their own lives. clambering is the right word, right?

"Google it."

attitude... wonderful. i need a new anonymous dumb-question-asker. apply within.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

evitability

when isaiah went snowboarding for the first time, he had never done it before.

this did not deter him in the least; actually, it served only to excite him further. his heart was singing and his veins pulsing with gleeful anticipation from the moment he awoke that day.

had he known ahead of time that he would be literally unable to move the next morning, still he would have neither flagged nor failed. (ninjas do not flag; it would be considered un-ninja-like.) you can read about his experience here.

i enjoy reliving this experience (he was there alone, but wished someone had been there to share it with him; ergo, i accompanied him) because it illustrates the difference between goals and motivations very clearly. goals are ends toward which we work; they pull at us from the future, and always toward one specific point or area. motivations, however, push at us from behind, or from within; and they are often driving forces without definite trajectories. in other words, when something pushes at you from the inside, neither your direction nor your destination are known ahead of time.

goals are easily expressed in language. motivations are often indecipherable and mysterious. why are you eating that donut? in order to satisfy your desire. why are you seeking to satisfy your desire? because... uhm... well, that's what humans do. but why? 

motivation.

have you thought about the potential results of eating that donut? well, of course not; at least, you've tried to avoid thinking about that. it's not a part of your dieting plan. it isn't a habit you have consciously established, to be pursued with discipline and determination even when you don't feel like it.

that's the other difference between goals and motivations: goals are meant to be worked toward even when, sometimes, you would rather not. motivations are often the "rather woulds."

my goal is ______, and my reasons are ______, but i would rather ______.'

this fill-in-the-blanks sentence should be isaiah's facebook status right now, because it describes him quite well in many of the most important areas of his life. and yet, he hems and haws, putting off the inevitable choice: your goal is such-and-such, and your reasons are this-and-that (and occasionally the other thing, as well), but...

that's where i come in. not in the but, but... ah crap. well, you know what i mean. whatever! just keep reading. (quick, before he comes home and finds me typing this.)

~     ~     ~

after his first five wipeouts on the slope, he could have easily justified taking a break. a long break. mainly just to stretch and stuff. yeah, that's it.

>.>

<.<

but he did not! it would have fallen into the flagging category. so, when he fell, he got up and tried again. sometimes he got up just to fall down again. yet still he perserrrrrvered (do trill the Rs if you say that aloud, reader). and when he, with neither preparation nor forethought, choreographed what would later become his famous signature move (the What-the-Effing-Hellicopter or whatever he calls it), he hesitated only moments before righting himself and continuing on, much to the horrified amazement of his trembling musculature.

this is where i begin to explain the reason for my babbling on and on about things that have already been blogged.

isaiah's signature move (which we'll just call the epic fail, since that's actually what it is), actually occurred last fall. he spun out of control and nearly broke bones. got snow and dirt in his mouth. anyone who watched that move probably cringed.

but when he could move again, he did so. it wasn't his goal to go down the slope a certain number of times, nor to succeed at any particular technique. in fact there was no goal in mind; there was no definition of success, no thought given to success itself at all. it was purely motivation that took him two hours north to get beat up by a stationary object (a mountain). it was purely motivation that made him get up again after each beating.

he remembers the day not in details but in feelings (it was a very emotional day; go figure). he does not remember making any decisions to go back to the top of the slope. that's because he needed to make that decision only once. motivation enforced the decision after that, until the facilities finally closed down at the end of the day. in spite of every bruise and potential discouragement, he simply went up the lift and down the slope repeatedly until it was no longer allowed.

this is the nature of true, deep, strong motivations: if the processes which they inspire are simple enough, then hardly any decision-making is needed. he wasn't even aware of his choices; they were as instinct.

this is a very powerful state, a cognitive suspension that allows adrenaline and other similar influences to push one over or through barriers that would otherwise seem insurmountable, or at least give one pause. isaiah in particular is prone to considering an obstacle from every angle and weighing the costs against the benefits ten times just to be certain he missed nothing.

so when he begins to act in any arena without doing so, i take notice. in this case, gleeful notice.

~     ~     ~

he cannot much longer rely only on his goals to enforce his behavioral standards. his motivations wake him at night with the intensity of their dreams, cause him to speak before thinking, and in general act very much like someone else entirely. well, he would say so, anyway; actually, he is simply discovering that there is far more to his actions than his decisions, -and- that when this is the case, it is nothing new or alien, but just a greater fulfillment of the spectrum of traits and aspects that make up his person.

it is no longer sufficient to describe him as deliberate, thoughtful, cautious, intellectual. he is forced to acknowledge within himself spontaneity, passion, creativity-- basically, all the space outside the box that is still part of the isaiah package. (sorry, reader; that really is the best word to use there. double sorry.)

most significantly (for me and this post, at least): he is forced to acknowledge that some of the motivations that drive him most strongly, are not by themselves a problem. the only problems will have to do with how he manages these energies. and the word 'management' is important here because it admits the truth of the matter: that some things are by design, not deviation, and they are meant to be channeled rather than quashed.

i really like that word 'quashed.' i like words.

this is the hardest thing ever, because despite his love of complex problems, he sees that this one will not be unraveled. therefore he wants to slice it in half, a Gordian solution, rather than deal with the intricacies, the messiness. sorry, friendsaiah: it will not be sliced. 

but it will form new patterns according to your wishes, if you give it a little room to wiggle. and if you agree not to try suppressing it anymore.

don't give up. things are excruciatingly difficult right now, but they don't have to stay that way. you have options, you have encouraging friends, you have a great deal with which to work. blessings. graces. don't give up.

and don't get mad at me for writing this. or for posting it. publicly.

(and sorry to everyone who wasn't sure who the audience was by the time the post wound down. this blog is for isaiah first and others second, which is really just a nice way of excusing its authors for being confusing sometimes.)

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

into the wild-ish

being here under the milky way, smelling the campfires and the eucalypti, making my own schedule and recalling some of my best high-school memories, shooting gorgeous sunsets and hunting for gifts to give to close friends...

being here, by myself, is the second best thing ever.


Sunday, August 04, 2013

letting out the ocean

when i wrote that first story (with some critical assistance from a trusted writer friend), it was past evening, and i was exhausted. disinhibition has often been an ally in my creative process. no, wait-- too weak. it has been an instigator of creativity. yes; better. so, though it carries negative connotations, i revel in it. that's not the same as enjoying, although i sometimes do. it's more like a dog howling at the moon. i doubt the dog thinks to itself first, "hm. the moon is quite bright tonight. perhaps i shall howl." nor does it (i imagine) howl with pleasure, though it may indeed enjoy the moon and/or the howling.

i think it's instinct, the kind so strong that it doesn't override conscious decision-making, but rather, simply leaps over it. and the pre-frontal cortex is left with a facial expression best described (in modern vernacular, at least) by this acronym: "wtf?!"

~     ~     ~

that instinct is presenting itself as i type this. floodgates have opened, and security (which should be doubled at times like these) is absent without leave. probably getting drunk or high somewhere. i swear i pay them too much.

one of the problems with this recurring situation is that the intense drive to express myself is not necessarily accompanied by any substantial ammunition. you can observe this phenomenon by noting how little of worth i've said by this point, the fourth paragraph. you might respond by pointing out that blogging isn't such a great idea. but i might respond to your response with this question: "if i don't blog, then what will i do instead? for i must express somehow, else forsake sleep, sanity, and satisfaction of any kind, no matter what distraction or worthy pursuit for which i might desperately grasp."

the sad truth (well... i'm saddened, anyway; thou art, as always, free to emote as thou wilt) is that i have much to say, but no way to justify saying any of it. this woeful circumstance often accompanies late-night disinhibition, and i think i will never get used to it. always my jaw will clench, my hands ache and tremble slightly, and my breathing become shallow due to my forgetting that i need air. i don't mean to make it sound painful, nor is anxiety quite the right word. it's more like the kind of energy a rubber band has, when stretched too far to be comfortable for the fingertips yet not far enough to tear & snap.

i still haven't said much of anything. eff. it feels like dry retching. feels like trying to scream in a dream. feels like striking an already-numb thumb with a hammer. feels like using spiderwebs for guitar strings. feels like a straight shot of pure liquid tannins. feels like moths' wings and pre-dawn fog and discovering that your toe has been bleeding for the past half hour but not remembering any injury occurring.

feels like trying to speak words in a language not yet learned.