$800 Car Wash

I’m sitting on my couch, just marveling that I have the free time and mental space to write this blog post.  I got into my first (and hopefully, last!) car accident 2 weeks ago today and the last 14 days has been an endless game of phone tag with insurance agents, auto shops, and claims adjusters.

I am relieved and grateful to say that as of 4:30 PM today, we have a Ford Focus back in our lives sans all the dirt that clung to the windows and floor mats.  Since the old car was declared a total loss and we replaced it with its nearly-identical Ford Focus twin, we basically just got the world’s most expensive and longest car wash.  Nothing has changed except the musty “I moved across the country in this” smell has been replaced with that slightly antiseptic “new car” stench.

Very long story short, I lost a little bit of my naive faith in humanity—I had assumed that the at-fault driver would tell the truth—but gained it all back (and then some) due to the generosity of our friends, family, and co-workers as they helped get us where we needed to go during the last long two weeks.

Now that the massive car headache is finally subsiding, I can focus on more important things like Phase 2 of Mission: Minimalism. Coming soon to a blog near you.

 

The Day the Sun Cried

A quick glance out the window assured me that the day was bright so the cold kerplunk of a rain drop on my nose caught me by surprise when I stepped outside.  A sunny rain shower is a rare phenomenon, even here in Southern California.

I’m an either/or personality.  You can have things either this way or that way.  Buy this or that. My favorite saying in college was, “You can’t have it both ways” which led me to cancel one of campus’ most popular events when no one volunteered to help put it on.  It’s also why most progressive political policies ultimately fail (but that’s another blog post entirely).

But here comes the sunny rains and every little teardrop falling from the clouds holds the promise of a radiant rainbow as the sun doggedly perserves in shining through the showers.

How many beautiful rainbows in my life have I missed because I don’t see the both/and moments?  Joy mixed with streaks of sorrow.  Bad days with sparks of hope.  The adrennaline rush of accomplishment tempered with a lazy afternoon. Having fun and investing in the future.

Both/and makes for messy spreadsheets and uncategorizable moments. I’m too quick to classify my days, weeks, and years with one predominent emotion instead of recognizing that it’s the mixture of many feelings that gives life its beauty.

It might not fit into my color-coded, tabulated life, but the next time life gives me the chance; I’ll take a little rain with my sunshine.

 

The World Is Too Much With Us

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
–William Wordsworth, The World Is Too Much With Us

 

It feels like that alot nowadays, doesn’t it?

At least it does for me.  Life is good.  Really good, actually.  I remind myself of that often when I have gray days.  I write out my lists of gratefuls and count my blessings and I’m blown away by all the wonderful things in my life

  • a loving husband
  • delicious food
  • a great job
  • a caring church
  • family
  • friends
  • flowers
  • chocolate milk

The list goes on and on.  And yet, the world is still too much with us.  The daily drudgery of waking up, driving around, doing work, making food, eating food, doing dishes, and then doing it all over again can be slowly exhausting.

Without real problems in my life, I find myself obsessing over small insignificant decisions.  Do I go to the gym or run errands during my lunch? Stir-fry or spaghetti for dinner?  What does “crisp-tender” actually mean?  Are my vegetables simultaneously crispy and tender? Have I been making stir-fry wrong for the past 18 months?

These are the kind of questions that can make you stare aimlessly at the ceiling for whole minutes until you start worrying about yourself staring aimlessly.

This post is untimely, because we’re facing a lot of political change which many people would classify as a Big Issue and here I am complaining about lots of little tiny issues.  But personal energy and outlook doesn’t sync perfectly with political cycles.

My husband is great at these small problems.  Usually, he reminds me that the exact problem is that I’m thinking about everything in regards to optimizing my schedule perfectly or more generally, interpreting life with myself at the center.

Most of my problems in life do circle back to an unhealthy focus on self.  Which is why I’ll start this blog the way it began–with a poem:

So when at times the mob is swayed
To carry praise or blame too far,
We may choose something like a star
To stay our minds on and be staid.

–Robert Frost, Choose Something Like A Star

Impossible Nostalgia

I just wish things were the way they never have been.  174984

It’s fall in Southern California, which means that it’s not fall at all.  Palm trees don’t change leaves, and over-priced cider from Walmart isn’t the same as freshly squeezed apple nectar from an orchard.

At first, I attributed my intense nostalgia to the lack of autumn here and a general homesickness.  Yet, as I attempted to self-medicate this heart sickness through Facebook crawling and copious amounts of decaffeinated tea (official sign of the end of college life), I realized that I was battling an impossible nostalgia.

1043516I have this idea that at some indeterminate point in my past, I enjoyed  quality time with my closest friends while attending a continual coffeehouse and the charms of my hometown.  The reality is, many of my closest friends from college graduated before I did.  School was stressful and cafeterias are inhumane and I was more likely to be serving coffee than sipping it in acoustic bliss. Not only that, but I have dear kindred souls from childhood and high school and none of them are ever in the same place at the same time.  And if I walked through the streets of my hometown, very few would remember my name or face.

It’s a feeling of impossible nostalgia that carries the hope of a reunited tomorrow.

I am not missing out on anything nor can I return to this rose-tinted moment that never existed.   And I have hope for my own Clapham group in the future.  Luke and I are so blessed to have such incredible friends from coast to coast.  Maybe, one day, we’ll all be within driving distance (or at least the same time zone).  I know I’m biased because the common denominator between you all is my husband and I, but I promise you it would be awesome if we gave it a try.  Because you all have already impacted our lives in so many ways for so much good.  Thank you.

Until next time,
Chloe

Layers

This is my senior year, last semester.  A multi-layer image of friendships made and lost or faded or stayed. Fun times and hard times, all dictated by the never-forgiving academic calendar and endless stream of lectures, events, chapels, dances, and the occasional game of bowling.  Everything I experience is held to the light of past experiences in the same place and time, just years later.

Things To Remember

Every once in a while, I make a list of the things in life that I hold strongly to.  Some of them are based on experiences and wisdom from those around me. Like many things in my life, a lot of them are rather arbitrary but I still cling to them quite tightly just to spite their lack of quantification.

I am not ultimately in control of my life or who I am.

Happiness is not our main goal here.

Life is not falling apart; it was never all together to begin with.

Life is an adventure.

It’s going to be okay.

Expectations will kill you.

So kill them first.

The times that I am the worst are the times that I am spending the most time thinking about myself.

We are never alone.

There is no point in needless sadness.

But it’s okay to be sad sometimes.

There are always decisions to be made, we just don’t take the time to realize we are making them.

There is much to be thankful for.

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

Heavy Backpacks

My backpack got progressively heavier and heavier throughout the school year.  I’m sure it had nothing to do with my tendency to accumulate unseemly amounts of flashcards.  Every night/early morning when I’d get back to my dorm I had the opportunity to experience one of the best feelings of relief: taking off the 40 pound weight that I had trudged along with me up and down the stairs to my classes, meals, and dorm.  No matter how many ribbons I put on it, that backpack was the bane of my college existence.

Yet I couldn’t go anywhere without it.  Without my backpack, I lost my immediate access to study materials and homework.  Without this access, I could potentially be in a situation where I was not being productive.  Without productivity, I felt purposeless.  Tasks and to-do lists gave me the feeling of meaning that, while ultimately hollow, kept me motivated to keep moving and learning and making more to-do lists.

The problem of the heavy backpack lies in me grasping tightly onto an identity that was built on empty definitions of accomplishment.  I don’t carry around a backpack during the summer, yet I still have multiple cross-referencing task lists to perpetuate this unfounded identity.

The paradox of the heavy backpack is that the thing that I couldn’t let go of  was the very thing that was dragging me down.  A never-satisfied need to be productive is what could make and destroy me simultaneously.

Sometimes other people’s backpacks aren’t as easily seen as mine.  Maybe they aren’t tangible at all.  I think it would be safe to suppose that almost everyone carries their own burdens that they both need and despise.

Let’s try lightening the load a bit.

Inadequate.

I have been recently thinking about inadequacy. Not for the purpose of beating myself up, but just a realistic look at who I am. I have come to the conclusion that I am ultimately inadquate in everything. I will never be the friend, roommate, Christ-follower, daughter, student, leader, or sister that I should be. I am very confident in the fact that I will ultimately fail. This thought could be stifling, but it doesn’t have to be.

Which is why I don’t mind posting things like this, thoughts that aren’t just interesting analogies or insightful lists. Letting the realization that my life is be defined by inadequacy stop me from trying to be better is fatal to the person I want to become. Yet lying to myself in thinking that everything is always perfect is equally dangerous.

It’s okay to not understand life sometimes or yourself or why you feel like you want to cry but never can.

What’s not okay is letting that stop you from moving on, looking beyond the meladrama in your mind, and making life better.

Observation

People-watching, the nice word for staring absently at everyone around you, is incredibly interesting and telling.  As much as I love to observe those who surround me, I also like to self-watch.  I try to separate the me that is aware of my surroundings and motivations and internal thoughts from my actual actions.  I pretend that I am someone else and observe what I do in given circumstances.  It’s a bit bizare but rather revealing.

Major Observation #1:  My reactions to happinness and stress and sadness and anger in life are all exactly the same.  When my emotions go to any extremes I generally isolate myself through headphones or location and scribble madly on a notebook or type wildly into this blog.

Major Observation #2:  Even though I write just as much when I am experiencing negative emotions as the positive ones, I rarely share the more “downer” pieces.  Mostly becaue I feel that my other writings aren’t as good and the world has enough hurt without me adding to it.  This being said, it isn’t too hard to figure out when I’m having a splendid day (like today).  It’s a bit more tricky the other way around unless you belong to the small group of people that can read me with scary accuracy.

Minor Observation #3:  I actually don’t have a minor observation.  Or another major one.  I just felt that if I had major observations than I should have minor ones as well.  For balance’s sake.

Regret

In a retrospective and introspective mood lately, I decided to read through some of my personal rants, poems, narratives, and essays.  For the majority of them, I completely understand why the past me didn’t share them.  However, a good deal of my wrirtings were direct letters and notes towards people and this makes me a bit sad.  I regret now that I did not share them sooner.  So to those people, I apologize.  I should have shared my thoughts.  It would have made us stronger.