Some truth for Valentine’s Day

It’s been awhile. I can’t believe I wrote here only three times last year. I’ll talk about my reasons for my absence in another post (or maybe not if the past ten months are anything to go by).

What I will talk about is why I’m crawling out of my WordPress hibernation for.

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Coincidentally, my reading for today fell on 1 Corinthians 13. For those of you who don’t know, this is where the famous “Love is patient, love is kind…” verse comes from. So when I opened my Bible and saw this, my first thought was that I am too single for this.

But then, as most things are with God, He surprises me by dropping some knowledge when I least expect it.

I used to think that this whole chapter is basically what the pastor/priest/chaplain/minister says in every wedding I’ve ever attended.

False.

The first three verses of this chapter are just massive truth bombs. And with everything that’s been going on in the world right now, I genuinely believe that we are in desperate need to be reminded of this every day.

Whatever cause we are fighting for, we can always support or defend it with love and respect for our fellow human beings. Because in the end, no matter how witty or intelligent or amusing or impressive or catchy or persuasive or viral our words and actions are, if we do not have love, nothing happens.

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Laughing at a funeral, and my amazing best friend

The grandmother of one of my very best friends passed away yesterday. She fell asleep while watching TV. She didn’t wake up again. Just the day before, she went grocery shopping and bought more stuff than their house actually needs.She was very healthy for a 79-year-old and she had a strong personality as well. “She’s like the grumpy cat but funny,” Katrina, my best friend, would say.

Earlier today, I went to the wake. Believe me when I say I am fully aware of how totally inappropriate and just flat out wrong this sounds, but I had a really good time. I went there, preparing myself to be the shoulder to cry on for my best friend. I left, being told by that very person to drive carefully and that she was very happy to see me.

No tears were shed. On the contrary, laughter was very much had.

Katrina told me funny, and I mean really funny, stories about her grandmother – how she would intentionally fart near her face, how she would unintentionally ask a store clerk for a pack of beer when she really meant a pack of bottled water, and some other hilarious memories she has of her.

And then at some point I realized I’ve never seen her cry before, which I shared with her. Which led to us reminiscing about the only time she saw me bawl my eyes out when my ex broke up with me. Which made us remember how her brother drove around campus with the windows rolled down, shouting my ex’s name so that he could beat him up for making his sister’s best friend cry.

So there we were, at the front of an otherwise solemn room, laughing and giggling.

My family loves Katrina, but they also think she’s weird. And I have to say, she really is. That’s what I love about her. I went to her grandmother’s wake, thinking that she, like any normal person, would be either consumed with grief or completely lost in it.

But it was neither of those. Because Katrina is weird. Because Katrina, unlike any other person,  has the grace to accept the bad and the spirit to focus on the good. She still has moments of sadness, but she doesn’t allow herself to stay there longer than she needs to. She can laugh with a broken heart because she knows it will heal.

Now isn’t that just crazy beautiful?

What shall I write tonight

Shall I write about my hopes for tomorrow

Or my accomplishments for today?

Or maybe the regrets that continue to haunt me,

Or the secrets I can’t say

Out loud because when the sun is up

We’re all critics passing judgment,

But when the light gives way to darkness

We all cower in our blankets.

There’s something about the absence of light

That, in me, ignites a spark

To divulge every lie, every sin, every pitiful thought

Because we’re all the same in the dark.

But when the sun rises

And the birds sing their tune,

When you see what I’ve written

Underneath the full moon,

When you wake up tomorrow

To welcome another new day,

If you read the things I write tonight

I wonder what you’ll say.

Will you judge me for being honest

At a time when we find comfort in our shame

When the ugly and the truth are identical

Or will you point to me and say,

This girl of contradictions

Of anxiety, doubt and spite

This girl reminds me so much of me

Before I sleep every night?

 

So what shall I write tonight

Shall I write the words you wish to see?

Or shall I write the ugly truth

Whose words may set me free?

You know my best friend who tried to kill herself last year? She’s celebrating her birthday today.

It was only a year ago when my best friend looked me in the eyes and told me that she tried to end her own life. Today, she’s celebrating another year.

There’s no magical fairy tale story here. Only a very real one.

Life still hasn’t turned out the way she hoped it would. She still has trouble getting along with her family, though there has been progress. While she made the difficult decision to move back in her family’s house, she has always made it clear that the only reason why she’s staying is because of her sister. Her parents’ relationship is just all over the place. Her relationship with her boyfriend has been a bit rocky lately. She quit her job a couple of weeks ago, and now she’s unsure about what her next step will be. Her life is still complicated; it becomes okay one moment and then it turns agonizing in the next.

But here she is, blowing out a candle on a chocolate cake. And you know what the best part is? She’s smiling.

She’s smiling because she feels loved. Unlike a year ago when all she felt was drowning pain and loneliness, she’s finally able to let the good things in her delicate heart. A year ago, she would’ve said allowing good things in would be setting herself up for even more pain and frustration. Now, she might still say the same thing, but she’d also say she’s willing to give it a shot. You see, she still thinks her life sucks. But at least now, she prefers to live and do something about it than just quit and end it like that.

I remember a few months ago, she told me that she felt like she was drifting in the middle of the ocean. Every direction she looked, she’d see nothing but water. I told her that it was okay to be drifting and to not know where you’re going as long as you don’t allow yourself to sink. After a long pause, she said, “No, I’m not going to let myself sink… Don’t let me sink.”

There is something I hope people take away from her story, especially the ones who are going through some hard times. Even though it still hasn’t gotten any better, life is still worth it. Life is always worth it. It’s why God blessed us with it in the first place. You may not know exactly why right at this very moment, but you will. I don’t know when, but you will. She still doesn’t know why, but she knows she will eventually. And when she does, it’ll be beautiful.

So live. If you find that living for yourself doesn’t seem all that appealing anymore, then live for the moment when life reveals itself to you. If you’re having trouble putting your faith in God, then put your faith in that.

When a song saves me from myself

Every now and then, I have a bad day. Granted, such days are few and far in between, but when they happen, I feel… burdened. Yes, that’s the word. Burdened.

I feel like there’s this big, heavy hand on my chest that’s trying to stop me from walking any further, and that it takes an extremely enormous amount of effort for me to even take a step forward. And this doesn’t depress me nearly as much as it tires me and weighs me down.

I had a bad day recently. I can’t even remember why anymore – that happens a lot, doesn’t it? I have a feeling it had more to do with me and less to do with what was happening around me. But I do remember feeling just okay right until I stepped into the car. You know how an angry person slams the door so hard that the glass breaks, right? It’s kind of like that except the glass didn’t break; it was the thin layer of just okay-ness that did.

It was like the car was suddenly filled with water and I was drowning. But I wasn’t struggling to breathe. I was just sitting there, waiting for the windows and the windshield to break to flush out the water. But there wasn’t even a crack.

Some twenty minutes later, I found myself in the driveway. I didn’t feel like getting out of the car – that would take effort I couldn’t seem to muster. So I sat there and stared at the wheel, still waiting for the freakin’ windows to break.

And then I realized something. The freakin’ windows weren’t going to break by themselves. So I took out my iPhone, connected it to the player and tapped play, hoping one of the songs in there to be the hammer that would cause the windows to crack.

Then this came on:

Kris Allen’s Out Alive was not that hammer. It was the wrecking ball that smashed the car to pieces, but left me unscathed and whole.

As the song played, the words that echoed in my head found its way to my heart. I felt uplifted, for some reason, by the song’s honesty and its humble dose of hope. The first thing it tells you is that you’re going to have your heart broken, but it ends with you hearing six words that can change everything: Maybe we’ll make it out alive.

And I guess, when we’re experiencing the worst of it all, that’s all we need to help us live through another day- a maybe.

In a previous post, I shared a couple of songs that made me fall in love with life even more. This isn’t one of those songs. In a way, it’s better. Because it reminded me that life is worth falling in love with in the first place.

I’ve fallen in love with words on paper: Ruta Sepetys’ Between Shades of Gray

Just in case your eyes deceived you, that’s Between Shades of Gray, not the other, less pleasant shades of gray. This one is a thousand… no, infinity times infinity better. I finished this book in two days and I would have finished it sooner had I not been working – it was that captivating.

Between Shades of Gray is a historical fiction novel set in Lithuania and Russia during the time of World War II. It revolves around Lina, a fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl, and her life story as a prisoner of Soviet Russia. It shows how the people of the countries occupied by Russia were mistreated, punished and killed – and that the rest of the world was seemingly unaware of it because of the war against the Nazis.

When I saw this book on Amazon, I was unsure if I should get this or not mainly because I knew it was bound to break my heart into tiny little pieces that will take weeks (if I’m lucky) or months (if I’m not) to put back together. I love historical fiction, especially the ones that are about World War II and the Holocaust, but I also hate them just as much. You know how some people keep coming back to their ex-girlfriends or boyfriends even when they know they’re just going to get hurt in the end? That’s basically my relationship with historical fiction novels. The fact that such tragic and unimaginable stories are based on real experiences by real people make me that much more attached to the characters and the story and that much more depressed and broken after finishing it.

But now that I’ve read it, I feel like buying this book is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made when it comes to book-buying. To tell you the truth, I knew that there were people who suffered under the hands of Stalin and the Soviet Union but I never really paid that much interest to it because I assumed it wasn’t as compelling as the Holocaust. I couldn’t have been any more mistaken. To the people of Lithuania, I sincerely apologize. Before this book, the only thing I knew and, frankly, cared about Lithuania is its geographical location. Now, I have so much more respect for the country’s history, its people and how they came back from a truly devastating and horrific situation. So to the people of Lithuania, I just want to say that you are one really wonderful nation.

And now, some wonderful words from a wonderful book that would hopefully touch you the way it touched me:

Have you ever wondered what a human life is worth? That morning, my brother’s was worth a pocket watch. (p.27)

“Kostas,” she sighed. “He was clumsy, but he was so sincere. Sometimes there is such beauty in awkwardness. There’s love and emotion trying to express itself, but at the time, it just ends up being awkward. Does that make sense?” (p.161)

“Good men are often more practical than pretty,” said Mother. (p.161)

They were happy to help someone, to succeed at something, even if they weren’t to benefit. We’d been trying to touch the sky from the bottom of the ocean. I realized that if we boosted one another, maybe we’d get a little closer. (p.307)

Between Shades of Gray is so real and so genuine. After reading it, my heart felt so heavy and so uplifted at the same time – it still is now. It ignites your soul to hope for a world that does not tolerate hatred and violence. It makes you want to do anything and everything possible to make sure such atrocities never happen again. It makes you care about people – not just the ones living around you, but also those who are living thousands of miles away, even in places you’ve never even heard of. It just makes you want to strive that much harder for humanity.

I seriously recommend this book. It teaches you history and life – something we all need every now and then.