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

Welcome On Board

I’ve been sharing my thoughts, fears, and musings on this web log (blog for short) for over 6 years.  If you’ve been following along, you’ve patiently bared with my 16 year-old angsty self, saw me navigate the perils of my freshman year of college, fall in love with my husband, move to San Diego, and read all the laughs & losses along the way.

I started this blogging journey on Blogspot, moved it to Wix over a year ago, and finally took the leap and bought my own domain name.  After months of painstaking copy & pasting, I have my whole history of blogging under one happy blog roof called chloejsayers.com.

I’ve been slow to announce this change because if you followed my blog while I was moving posts over, you’d be getting 5 annoying e-mails a day.  Now that everything is in its place and the dust has settled, I’d be honored if you’d follow my blog (see the button on your right).  You’ll get an e-mail when I post a new blog, nothing more and nothing less. I’m fanatical about keeping my inbox clean so I promise not to clog up yours.

Since I’ve been on a blogging fast while getting this one set up, I’ve got lots of thoughts bursting to get out.  Stay tuned & thanks for joining me on this journey.

Until next time,

Chloe

Marriage | The First Year

As of today, we’ve got 365 days of married bliss under our belts and while that doesn’t quite make us marriage experts, it does give me the authority to comment on the dreaded “First Year of Marriage.” Cue the dark lights and sad faces.

Real confession time: the first year of marriage was great.

I’m 100% speaking only out of my own experience so if you’re first year of marriage was the worst or just so-so, I’m truly sorry & hope things got better. But since I have so many friends that are getting married this summer (as evidenced by the growing number of bridesmaids dresses in my closet), I wanted to share this ray of hope.

The first year of marriage does not have to be horrible. Contrary to what every well-meaning marriage book and article will tell you, the first year of marriage does not HAVE to entail:

  • Fights over money
  • Time battles over friendships
  • Arguments over where you spend the holidays
  • General despair
  • No more fun
  • Battling over how you squeeze the toothpaste tube (does anyone actually fight over that? Buy separate toothpaste tubes people. Problem solved)

Those are the common issues that a quick Google search will show you. Or just read the first chapter of any marriage book. Most of the ones we read started with: “You thought marriage would be great. But it’s actually super difficult and painful. Say goodbye to happiness now.”

That might be a bit of an exaggeration and while I completely appreciate the effort to set realistic expectations, but I fear that going into marriage with this deluge of fear-mongering propaganda about how much you’ll fight, the dark secrets you’ll discover, and just how generally miserable marriage can be won’t exactly set you on the path to success.Thankfully, Luke and I were blessed with great premarital counseling, wise older friends, and an innate love of budgeting. I’d highly encourage you to read those marriage books because they have a lot to offer after the first chapter. Here’s my summary of the advice from books, the Bible, and mentors that helped us have an awesome first year of marriage:

  • Discuss as many unspoken rules as you can find before marriage.
  • Embrace the money talk. Budgeting can sound scary, but it also can be super fun to set saving goals and get creative with a food budget.
  • Over-communicate. Girls, we love to get offended when guys can’t read our minds. “But shouldn’t they know exactly what I want to eat for dinner without me telling them?” Or worse: “He should know that xyz would make me upset! By doing it anyway, he clearly doesn’t care for my feelings.” Actually, it’s pretty uncaring to get mad at someone for not being able to read your mind or your hints.
  • Don’t keep score. I learned this one the hard way, which you can read about here.
  • Know which battles to fight. If I wanted to, I could probably get annoyed with Luke about pretty much anything. But I don’t have to. I can choose to take a page out of Queen Elsa’s songbook and simply let. it. go. It’s beautiful. And my out-of-tune warbling rendition of this overplayed mantra always lightens the mood 🙂

I’m beyond excited to witness the many marriages that are forming this summer and have loved learning from the other newlyweds and not-so-newlyweds in my life. As I reflect over this past year and sentimentally sob my way through the many wedding cards, notes, and kind advice given to Luke and I, I mostly want to say: Thank You. Thanks to the family and friends that made our wedding day so special. Thanks to the new friends that helped us move across the country and settle down in the foreign land of California. Thanks to the old friends who have stayed in touch and encouraged us every step of the way.

My 49 Cents

For the first year of dating, my now husband and I communicated almost exclusively through hand-written letters. You might assume that we were separated by a great body of ocean or some other romanticly difficult situation. In reality, we lived on the same campus the size of 3 football fields.

Eventually, we both were connected to cell phones and discovered that e-mail is a valid form of communication. One thing led to another, and now we are married and live in the same house so communicating is a tad faster than the snail mail days.

While it was mildly frustrating at the time, I wouldn’t do have started our relationship any other way. Now, I have multiple shoe boxes full of meaningful letters from my beloved. And I’ve often taken the habit of letter-writing to my other relationships. Just this week, I received a beautiful note from a long-time friend. Writing a note doesn’t take long, but that one made my entire week brighter. Totally worth the 49 cents.

The company I work for is a huge proponent of sending out personal notes to serve one’s customers better. It was the first time I had heard of them being used for professional purposes, but the hundreds of notes and letters that I still cherish are a dust-collecting testament to the fact that the written word is alive and well, and emojis haven’t completely killed all communication.

I love this company’s practice of sending personal notes, even between employees! No better way to start a Monday.

A photo posted by Chloe Sayers (@chloejsayers) on Feb 1, 2016 at 3:43pm PST

 

I was actually in the middle of writing this blog when I came upon this article about Peyton Manning’s habit of writing hand-written notes (verified by comparing his signature on an autographed helmet) to football players and figures who had inspired him over the years–even if they were bitter enemies on the field. If you know me, you know I know nothing about football. But I do know that celebrity sports players don’t have a lot of time, and if Peyton could make space in his schedule to appreciate those around him, so can we.

Evangelic-who?

Do you remember that point in 11th grade when your English teacher told your class enough already with quoting the dictionary to start every. single. paper! That’s a good principle to follow.

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Oops. Do you forgive me for breaking the cardinal rule of grown-up writing? I hope so, because there really was no other way to start this post. This is the definition Google gave me of the word “evangelical.”

Throughout all my life, when I heard the word “evangelical” I associated it with the word “evangelize” and assumed that this adjective form of the verb must mean “something/someone that evangelizes.” Google seems to agree with me, but every other Christian community I’ve encounter doesn’t.

9870264.jpgAs far as I can deduct, the word “evangelical” in the Christian subculture of colleges, churches, and seminaries means “any type of Christianity that’s not exactly like the Christianity I associate with” For example, here’s a quote from the excellent book, Ordinary: “Whenever a new generation announces its radical and totally unprecedented culture shift, there is an evangelical movement that pressures churches to get on board if they wan to adapt and survive the next wave.” (Horton, 25).

I think “evangelical” has become the catch-all for Christians that are more liberal, more modern, more “relevant”, and more likely to sing Chris Tomlin songs. Yet all these are comparative statements. More liberal than what? What’s the baseline?

Can the evangelical Christian be defined with a certain set of denominations, the year their church was founded, the kind of music their worship includes, or even better, a uniting doctrine or lack thereof? For as much as I hear the word “evangelical” tossed around, I have yet to hear someone concretely set the parameters for who are evangelicals and who are not.**

This blog post is full of question marks because I still have no idea. I’m genuinely curious and inclined to continue to believe evangelical is the adjective form of to evangelize, unless I can be pointed to a robust and generally agreed upon definition. So, my dear readers, comment away! What do you think of when you hear “evangelical”?

As confused as ever,
Chloe

**Disclaimer: I realize that every professor, author, and preacher can’t spend 10 minutes defining all the words they use in their lectures, books, and sermons. However, since the word “evangelical” can both mean “according to the teaching of the gospel” and “Christian churches/movements we don’t agree with” I think it’s worth a footnote.

The Mutually Exclusive Self

If you haven’t guessed already, I process through the written word. Which is basically the reason for the existence of this blog, and my old one (guys, I’ve been blogging for SIX YEARS. I’m not old enough to have a half-dozen anniversary for my blog!). Anyways, I also process through extended e-mail conversations. It was during one of these electronic epistles that I found myself typing this absurdity:

“If I don’t do something perfectly the first time, I feel like I failed. Even if I go back and make it better, it still doesn’t feel good enough because it wasn’t PERFECT. THE FIRST TIME.”

When I see my words staring back at me, I realize I’m probably certifiable. Because I would also eagerly and honestly tell you that at 22 years of age, I don’t know everything (or much of anything), and I love learning new skills and perfecting old ones, and I want to be a life-long learner. Which is mutually exclusive with viewing imperfection at the first try as failure.

This isn’t a new internal paradox, of course. I was that sickeningly annoying college student that actually wasn’t happy unless I got 100%. It didn’t matter if I got an A, I wasn’t satisfied until I could prove that I had absolutely mastered (or memorized) the material. And once I hit the 100% level–I wanted more. See, this sick cycle NEVER ENDS. If there was extra credit on the table, I’d better get over 100%, otherwise, I was a failure. I’m sharing this in the hopes that there are others suffering from the same incompatible mindsets: trying to learn and grow while accepting nothing short of perfection.

If you’re like me, can we make a pinky promise together? That the next time we aren’t perfect in our first attempts, we’ll stop telling ourselves we’re failures? We are learners. We are brave souls willing to make mistakes to do better next time. Even if better isn’t perfection.

Pretending to be an Insomniac

I’m not, though.  Rather, I’m quite good at sleeping.  I used to practice putting my brain to sleep at bedtime when I was little, and now it seems to turn off all on its own most nights (and most days it seems too).  Exciting things can put me to sleep and boredom can put me to sleep.  I’m probably closer to being a narcoleptic than an insomniac.

Yet tonight, I will fight sleep and I will win for a while.  I am afraid of what dreams might contain and want to hold onto reality a little bit longer.

I have nothing profound to say.  Nothing of value or intrinsic worth.  Which is why I haven’t posted here in such a very long time.  The good thing is, I’m pretty sure I’ve disappeared off the blog sphere world and I doubt this will reach many eyes, let alone minds.

Not that my life is meaningless.  It is brimming with significant events and lessons but I haven’t figured them out yet and don’t feel like this is an appropriate place for such half-thoughts.

And maybe that is why I won’t sleep tonight.  This blinking cursor mocks me with the thoughts I’m too scared to write. I’m constantly searching for distraction but the world around me is in temporary death and will provide none.

I Didn’t Know

I have officially written as many drafts here as I have actual blog posts.  The fact that this blog has has over 10,000 views also seems remarkable.  Yet what really caught me off guard when looking back through this blog’s history, was that I started scribbling thoughts here 5 years ago.

I don’t feel like I am old enough to have been doing something for 5 years.  I’m sure some hobbies can claim that longevity, but in my mind, I started blogging when I thought I had something worthwhile to say which is  when I thought I had achieved some standard level of maturity and adulthood.

5 years ago, I was a freshman in high school.  I knew nothing.  But I also knew that I knew nothing, which helped a lot.  I knew that I was the product of society and my school system and The Town and my family.  I didn’t do much about it, yet I knew it.

But there were a lot of things I had no idea about.

I didn’t know that I wasn’t going to be an engineer.  I didn’t know that I was much weaker in some ways than I thought.  I didn’t know how many people that I would see die.  I didn’t know how much brokenness there was in this world and how little I could do about it.

But I also didn’t know how much of a help I could be if I looked beyond myself.  I didn’t know about the sleepless nights and tired days.  I didn’t know how writing would simultaneously save me and destroy me.  I didn’t know that God was truly my only Savior.  I didn’t know that I would go to a Christian college, or even that I would still be a Christian at this point. I didn’t know about the incredible friends and memories I would find here.  I couldn’t have anticipated the amount of mental strain I would have to learn to overcome. I didn’t know that I would see lives fall apart and God piece me together.

While I’ve never put much stock in who I am, I have an inexhaustible source of confidence of what can I can do.  Even so, alone, I am nothing.  With God, I am still nothing but I am with God.  Being able to say that is more astounding than 5, 10, or 15 years of life-changing experiences.

Things Don’t Make Sense

To my rationalist mind, the worst judgement that I could pass on anything or anyone is: “That doesn’t make sense.”  I’ve caught myself saying that a lot lately.  For something to be good, it must be logical.  Unfortunately, this rules out a lot of the best things in life.

Like love, for instance.  Love doesn’t make sense.  It is irrational to put someone else’s needs in front of your own.  Likewise, emotions don’t make sense.  They are messy and pointless, but they are what make people real.

War doesn’t make sense.  Fighting with swords instead of words doesn’t make sense.  Unfounded hatred doesn’t make sense.  I don’t make sense.

I contradict myself daily, whether in word or in deed.  I have unrealistically high expectations for myself and circumstances beyond my control and expect the world to fall into my preset categories and calendars and it never does.  Some days I want to smile for no reason at all, and other nights I feel like crying into my pasta salad.  And that doesn’t make sense at all, because according to my calculations, happiness is supposed to be circumstantial and pasta salad doesn’t need anymore salt and it really isn’t sad at all.

The world doesn’t make sense.  It never has, and the stubborn desire of one 19 year-old girl won’t change that.  The world is broken, which doesn’t help this confusion, but so am I.  We must learn to live in this broken, senseless world regardless.  Stomping my feet and scowling at the surrounding nonsense doesn’t help anything.

You know what also doesn’t make sense?  Friends that love you when you are unlovable.   Loyalty that lasts through the test of time and trials.  A perfect God that loves an imperfect people.  Beautiful sunsets that fall every night on a world that doesn’t deserve them.

Nonsense.

Somedays I just like to play popular music obnoxiously loud while reading about computer programming.

I feel like jumping around and up and down and tackling and tickling people.

I don’t want to be responsible and serious and calm and composed.  I want to be crazy and silly and slap happy and experience true hilarity.

I feel like being 5 and doing cartwheels everywhere that I want to go and I don’t know if its the nice weather or if I’ve finally snapped or my inner child is tired of being forced to be a young adult.

I’m also very tired and sleepy and maybe that’s why I don’t make any sense.