Open Floor: Join Us For Happy Hour

Calling all readers! Yes you, if you want. Tell me about a moment when you were happy, so happy you could hardly see straight. You couldn’t have been happier if you’d won the Lottery.

A few months into the blogging last year, I realized truth and beauty were what I was drawn to exploring on this blog. We looked at some hard truths this year. Of race, culture, boundaries, loneliness, guilt. I’d like to turn our attention to beauty. No matter the size of your blog or whether you even have one, you are welcome to submit up to 50 words in answer to my prompt. That’s just a few sentences. Those who’ve featured here are welcome back. I will post my favorite responses with a link back if you’re a blogger. Remember, what strikes me will depend on the other answers that come in. If you find yourself spilling over the word limit, you can take it up as a challenge to save spit.

Send your snippet to holisticwayfarer@gmail.com with HAPPY in the subject and a link to your blog. If you don’t end up on the grand list you can always run with it and share your memory on your own blog. =) I’m working on the guilt fixation. I refuse to feel bad for the stories I can’t take. No one wants to read a list 100 items long. If you’re serious about stepping up on this platform please send me your best draft.

The window for submissions closes 11:59 pm PST this Sunday, September 28. Please give me a week to get back to you. Comments are disabled because you will write me or you won’t.

Love,
HW

The Question of Human Suffering

MoonlightMore times than I can name, my wayfaring has been a desperate crawl. This is not a metaphor, as there were days I could not drag my broken body downstairs for the mail.

Jan 2003, Meningitis. The virus had taken itself up in my spine and lining of the brain. Journal:

At every turn of the neck, the world exploded out of stereos on max – inside my head. I could do nothing but weep driving home. Never have I known such blinding pain. I really did not want to live like this anymore.

That night, I plumbed depths of rock bottom I didn’t know were there. The pain was so great nothing mattered anymore. Not finding a job, making ends meet. I just wanted to drop everything and die.

An email from a cancer survivor:
Been processing resentment in my life. God is showing me how I’ve been building that up in my life and it affects my immune system making me susceptible to disease.

February 2003
There have been mornings I would wake and realize with wonder my eyes had opened. That I was given another day. The awe came with…disappointment.

Midmonth – exactly ten years before I would start blogging – I found a totally unexpected check for $500 in the mail on my 30th birthday. The bills would be paid that month.

There is no word for what God has done tonight other than that He “disarmed” me. For the first time, I was enabled to pray blessings upon those who have hurt me or whose blessings I have begrudged.

How slow I have been to learn the weightiest, simplest truths these 13 years in Christ: we are meant to grow not on wings of ease but in suffering, and this thing called faith is meant to be lived out with the support of others. The ABCs…..perhaps they are also the XYZ. I marvel that I have marveled at suffering.

March 2003, God wasn’t done breaking me. So He sent me $1000 this time. Through an anonymous donor.

While I have harbored suspicious reserve of my God and His heart for me in these maddening trials, the one I should remain suspicious of is myself and my resolve to change. Even my most genuine, sweetest moments of repentance may be but moments; I know my heart, at least in times of sanity. I know I am as helpless to sanctify myself as I am to justify myself.

Something breaks. In order to restore it, you have to know the intent of its maker in the original design. What is the object of our living? The two-car garage white-picket watchdog two cute kids?

Across the spectrum of distinct faiths, we find that those who’ve struck the purest of gold in joy and freedom are those who renounced themselves most simply and profoundly. Heaven’s for later.

We come to the most famous historical narrative on suffering. Job had lost everything we define our life by and legitimately treasure: children, home, possessions, wealth, livelihood, health. Oh, Job wept. He literally lay in the dust. Dr. Timothy Keller offers a deeply thoughtful treatment on the question of human suffering. He says the Christian perspective is entirely realistic. We don’t minimize the impact of tragedy and loss. When it sucks, we acknowledge it does (my paraphrase). We don’t try to zone out of it. We weep, enter its fullness – I would add, like Jesus. He didn’t meditate himself out of the agony on the Cross. He refused the wine offered him in his thirst, wouldn’t dull himself away. It was His surrender to the torment that redeemed both Himself and His bride, the Church. In the book of Job, our Maker does not apologize. Contrary to what many have imagined in times that strain, God does not lament here either – at least, in flummoxed helplessness. He even seems to go off topic when He finally presents Himself to answer Job. God’s own query points to the limits on our knowledge and strength.

The book of Job, Chapter 38, as I examined those early months in 2003:

“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?

Tell me, if you understand.
Who marked off…Surely you know!
Who stretched…
Who shut up the sea……
Have you ever given orders….
Have you journeyed…

Have you seen…
Have you comprehended the vast…
Tell me, if you know all this.
Can you…
Do you know
Surely you know….
Can you bind….
Can you loose…..

Can you bring forth….lead out…
Do you know the laws of the heavens?
Can you set up……
Can you raise…
Do you send…..

Can you hold him…
Can your voice…..?”

Chapter 42, Job’s reply:
“I know that YOU CAN do ALL things; no plan of yours can be thwarted…
Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.”

Why do we suffer? I, for one, realized I ate nonfoods my whole life and then petitioned friends for prayer when Natural Law kicked in. Whether in the way we mistreat ourselves or others, more of our troubles than we care to admit are manmade. Of course affliction visits lives that contributed nothing to it. And when fists shake at God, the Church offers a range of well-meaning answers that justify Him or us. But theology does not satisfy the cries of the heart. Job 42. Where were we when He rolled out the universe and furnished it in spectacle? Indeed we are but a vapor. Theologian J.I. Packer said we must acknowledge the mystery of God. I don’t see that He would remain God were we able to unlock the secrets of His glory. In my book, a God who hangs his head in attrition or fits inside my fabrications and understanding is not worthy of worship.

I May Be a Man

What is UP with the drama? Look, I don’t need any. See me way over here sitting quietly on the end of the girly, feminine spectrum by the zero mark? My gravatar is a pathetic attempt to cheer myself up, comfort the ragged face in the mirror. I don’t wear make-up, hate shopping, clip my bare nails the moment they’re long enough to go. If you want to torture me, force me to endure a bridal or baby shower and make me play the games – your idea of fun. I have nothing to add to inane talks about your favorite TV shows because I’m a bore who doesn’t watch TV or movies. I’d rather be writing a book on the meaning of life. Are you getting this? My head’s in the sand, I’m not a busybody, I don’t know pop culture, I don’t gossip. And I still attract drama.

Because I am a woman.

Ugh! The sad part is it doesn’t matter that I am confident and secure. Problem is the insecure mamas don’t like that. Whether it’s watching how I take care of my son or seeing I would cook for them! I mean, who in the world would slam you because you sent them a surprise dinner made with love? Only women. Can you imagine men being so convoluted? They’re not multilingual. They don’t count facial expressions, pauses, intonation each as a language so the first minute of chatting with a friend, guys haven’t just broken out in four languages. Oh, to be a man! When life is as simple as the pork juice on your chin and the beer bite on your tongue. To be able to say yes and no and know your buddy is not saying no and no. To enjoy the peace of mind that a few minutes of exchange will never spin into a saga. Why in the world did I spend those months investigating the sport of fighting, wondering why men punched one another and then hugged? I so wish I could use my martial arts on a woman who pisses me off, shake hands, know she’s good, I’m good, all is well with the world and then have some honest fun with her in a mean game of bball on the court the next week. Only with women could a BFFship of years dissolve in one hard acid day.

And how do you men take your nice, strong arm and sweep the clutter of To Dos off your mental table? It’s a gift – the amazing ability to check in with yourself, tend to your needs in the moment. Why did I ever complain of your one-track mind? Food, sex, game that’s on, sleep. You just roll over, close those eyes, and…”Honey? Honey? I was saying –” You’re gone. Way off in a deep sea of sweet nothingness. I’m jealous. I’m stupid. I mean, why wouldn’t I want sex or sleep? Ah, but I have the million-dollar answer. Hostage to hormones. People say that time of the month like it’s one day. It can run a week, people. And that’s all just the fun prelude to the bloody show. Did you know many of us also feel discomfort and can get emotional when we ovulate? How many clear and free days does that leave us in the month? I’m pleased not to be one of those women who’re able to call up tears at will. But catch me on the right days and I’m a bawling mess. Weeks like this, I’m not sure which is worse. To be a woman or have to live with one.

The Color of Make-Believe

What color is make-believe?
It is the color of time that never runs out,
the sun streaming over a land where
children are kings and queens,
It is the heart of Middle-earth

The color of Cinderella’s tears,
the color of beauty who loved the beast
Pinocchio’s lies and the virtue of knights,
the spell of witches and hope in the
Wizard of Oz, a magic carpet ride

It is the color of your cape.

What color is make-believe?
It is the color of Mom’s laughter unbridled
with burden, the color of ache
she buries in loving memory
It is her morning song

It is the color of her wildest
dreams come true.

The Measure of a Woman

I don’t remember my mother ever having the cold or flu. She must’ve had her share, especially in the sharp New York winter. She remains healthy in my memory because she never took a day off, never took a nap, never complained. Not even when the needle flew off the Singer and disappeared into her finger. Between the waitressing years in New York, Mom sewed for the giant garment industry that Latino and Asian immigrants pinned their hopes on in the 70s and 80s. The heaps of cut fabric she brought home in the metal shopping cart, they literally called homework. It enabled her to raise her kids and stay involved in my early schooling. Mom did everything fast. She would feed polyester rectangles through the machine and recruit me and my little brother to flip them. At two cents a piece, time was the enemy. She ate a lot of dust.

The older I grow, the smaller I feel in the shadow of my mother’s sacrificial silence. I grew up exasperated with Mom for the most part, but her threshold of patience in marriage and motherhood was a lot higher than mine. I am not only a verbal woman, I am a vocal wife. Thanks in part to the freedom of speech this beloved Land of the Free so fiercely protects, the culture of rights I am privileged to claim citizenship in. Thanks in part to a man who works to give me all I need and ask for. And most absolutely in part to my nature which still begs tempering. I don’t take crap from husband or son. And sometimes I should. My counselor helped me trace my emotional defensive offense to the years of living under a sense that my needs could not be met. I had to take care of a lot of things in the home, which at times included my parents. My anger is really fear. As helpful as this insight has been, it’s no ticket out of jail. I need to be humble. Need to love. I worship a God who exchanged his rights for a cross.

MomKitchenI don’t have the patience and gentleness for my son that Mom had for me. How dare I draw myself up to her small frame in these comfortable shoes that cost more than what she ever spent on her own tired feet? It wasn’t just waitressing that her legs ached from. She stood hours in the kitchen, the traditional side dishes that every meal called for time-consuming. Korean food is misogynistic. When I dug up the picture of Mom, I was surprised at the poor quality of the photo. It had stuck in my head as a beautiful shot, one of my favorite of hers, because it shows her radiant slaving away in a hole with no ventilation in a tiny apartment. And then my grandmothers had it even harder. No appliances to keep up with the laundry for a family of eight or nine. My mother’s father passed away when Mom was three, leaving Grandma to flee on foot with six children when the communist North invaded Seoul three years later. My mother became the youngest in the family when her brother, three years old, died en route from the pneumonia they could not treat in the winter flight. They buried him on the road and this and the rest my Grandma endured with silent heartache and grace. If unassuming, unreserved sacrifice is the measure of greatness, does greatness diminish with each generation? Or is it just me? I am probably the weakest link in my line. Of course I don’t believe all women before me were noble, and I know of many among Mom’s generation who even abandoned their own. I’m talking of the times and culture. Even though I have my hearty share of struggles, my days aren’t heavy with the desperation I sensed in Mom as a child. The small matter of war aside, she and the women before her had to make their way through resistance just to procure the basics. Korea was poorer then, immigrant life tougher than the country that shut no door on me as I grew up. Living seemed to have required more fortitude. There are things I do better than Mom did. Like many of us, I determined to be a different parent. But my savvy turns out to be simply a matter of knowledge and opportunity. From the education my mother paid for with her self. I had set out to do better but I now see every success of mine is the dream she chased.

The Ten Commandments of Blogging

1. Thou shalt not waste readers’ time. Offer up thy readers a worthy sacrifice that they might take and be satisfied.

2. Thou shalt honor thy muse. Be prepared in season, out of season to seize inspiration when she comes that ye might write, dance, photograph, paint thy bliss. Be not caught without thy scroll, ink, pen, iGadget, camera. Thou wilt not redeem the moment the locust has eaten.

3. Thou shalt preview thy draft and spell-check before publishing that the Angel of Vengeance shall not fly over thy blog in the night.10commandmts2

4. Always speak ye the truth.

5. Thou shalt not take up the like button in vain, foremost on this blog. It is holystic ground. Thou shalt in integrity read the posts before clicking anything lest thou incite my wrath. Know ye that I see thou couldst not have read four of my brain-intensive posts in one minute. I be no fool. I do not need dross. Go ye find something better to do, ye bored soul.

6. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s likes, nor his comments, nor her following, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbor’s.

7. Thou shalt honor thy active supporters as ye best is able. It will go well with thee and thou shalt live long in blogosphere.

8. Go ye forth and support five new bloggers this day. Show unto them kindness. Thy blog shall also be fruitful and multiply.

9. Thou shalt count the cost of brain wear-and-tear and the bloody battle against time. Be ye a good soldier of blogosphere. To blog is to accept a high calling.

10. Thou shalt refrain from grumbling when Holistic Wayfarer tarries in her visit. She is likely beset in the wayfaring, climbing cybermountains, crossing desert valleys, caught in a maelstrom of words. Forget not that she also teaches her boy how to write that he might grow up a mighty holistic blogger.

Seven Signs You’re a V.I.P. Blogger

1. You laugh and cry with people you’ve never met. And if anyone tells you they’re not real friends, you know which friend is on his way out.

2. You feel like a superhero. Not because you’re out at night saving the world but because you have this whole other identity, a life some friends have no idea you live.

3. You burn your third pot in a month, preoccupied with the new post bubbling in your head. No one can get too upset when you’re…inSpiRed.

4. You have not only given up on the dishes but quit stressing that they’re in full view of guests. No time, no pride, no shame.

5. “Sorry? I don’t follow” or “You follow?” isn’t something you can say in cyberspace anymore.

6. Your vibes with bloggers are in sync. Just when you’re thinking of a reader, a like from the dear soul comes whizzing through.

7. You’re reading this blog. (Reader’s suggestion on Ten Signs You’re a Real Blogger. I will say it again: I have the best readers!)

Do You Love Your Blog?

We make a thousand choices each day. What to wear, what to eat, how much, which errand to run first, how to get there, what to say. Ever notice how one simple decision ushers you into a world of unforeseen events, some that are life-changing? In the aftermath of the accident you think, “Why did I have to turn on that street today?” March 6th last year, I brought over to WordPress the handful of posts I had started loading on Tumblr. Little did I know. I would never be the same on the Holistic Journey after putting up that first post Lessons from my 30s.

For the love you’ve already shown me, I had wanted to celebrate AHJ’s birthday in quiet. But I decided to share some thoughts on blogging.

BIRTH PAINS
I wish I could whip out posts like cowboys with their pistols. I have asked a lot of myself here. Every post is a birth. I don’t write for your respect or like but feel I must bleed to earn it. Even if it’s just a paper cut. Has to be the masochistic Korean in me. Some posts I’ve spent months preparing. I have asked through many of them why in the world I was exacting a college paper from myself. I think, squint, think some more, hush the groaning in my brain. And after handing you the gift I prepared with love, I crash. Am physically drained after clicking publish.

WHY I SUFFER
How can I not? Why would I not give you my best? You fit my holistic journey into the countless choices you make in your week. The question of why it is we do what we do as bloggers came up in a conversation with a reader. I contemplated it and discovered my reason was curiously one that many men would have. Impact. You know how women are supposed to derive satisfaction most from relationships and men from a sense of significance? Obviously the goals are not mutually exclusive, and I’m not done talking about this community. But isn’t the angle many men and women approach people and work from interesting? I was able to distill my purpose in blogging to the extraordinary satisfaction of making an impact, in whatever way that happens. No real surprise, actually. Like many men, I’d rather have respect than love. Yeah, you can imagine how it pleases my husband to tap my soft side (reLiEf). I have written so that my words would land somewhere and do something. Otherwise I would’ve kept to a journal. I have written also because I couldn’t stop once I started. I’ve gone about the past year more inspired than I could handle. CPU overload. The floodgates had burst.
Gold
IT’S GOLD
Many say they blog because they like to socialize. The relationships that gave me new life have been an unexpected reward for what I’ve put into the writing. The connection with my readers is so magical I’d have to call it alchemy. There are more than words in this place. There’s a couch, with a box of Kleenex. It hit me recently that the couch was for me, too. It wasn’t just readers who walked away with food for thought. You have given me much to ponder, reconsider. I have a treasury of insight and wisdom under every post to revisit when I need to. Gold. You’ve made me a rich woman. Do you love your blog? I shamelessly confess I love mine because my readers have turned it into what it is and I love my readers. Why should you like it if I didn’t myself? While having fun sharing some old posts with Opinionated Man‘s crowd, I put out The Power of Unstoppable Love for you here. And you responded. You didn’t know how good it felt to be home.

I was speaking to all my readers, which means you, in my last post on his main blog this week. I wanted to save your read for today:

I don’t hear just the song and the band when I play an artist. I observe the inflections that say it’s Celine. I hear Josh Groban’s breath between the lines. And breath is something you more than hear. It’s something you feel.

I’ve noticed in the past year how up close blogging brings you. I mean this even of posts that do not divulge personal stories. It’s the nature of writing. The voice, inflections, color of your words reveal so much of how your mind works, who you are, where your heart is. I feel the writer’s breath, his laugh, her cry. I’ve seen how high your sky is, how deep your night. When I see a reader on my Stats burrow into my archive, I almost want to cover myself. Hug my chest. He’s digging to know me better. He lifts page after page of my mind. Her understanding of the things deeply important to me will grow clearer with each post. She hears my voice. All to say, I have really enjoyed my time with you. Thanks for caring to read – and as many of you have, for doing it so faithfully.

My final song on mike, Curtain Call, I dedicate to you. It goes like this. If the curtain were to close on you in some way and the post you’re working on turns out to be your last, would you be pleased with your content and presentation? Would you be glad you got to tell your story? Did you leave us something worthwhile? Even a good laugh is a saving reminder of the joy of lightness. Make your posts meaningful or fun for yourself so that it’ll be meaningful and fun to us. Are you inspired, excited by your art or photography? Then you can hope we will be. Make the most of the time and attention on you, and the endless potential for connections from your post.

If we were each writing in our own cubicle with no way to visit one another – bring a cup of coffee – we know blogging would be a whole other experience. Pen name or no, you want to be known. Want to know you matter. So you splay your heart, asking us to feel its pulse. Make your posts matter, then. My readers don’t stop by my cubby with feedback on my posts. I’ve cleared the walls and we sink in the couch, our circle, with lots of pen and paper and the light in our eyes. While blogging has threatened to detract from the duties of living, my writing through this beautiful intimacy has been my living. My breath.

I’ve given you myself. I hope it was enough.

st r u gg ling artist

                               so   i    decided
i am more than the answer to "what's for dinner?"    
     the unrelenting pile of dishes

i am more than the name i changed at the altar,
     and the ways i fail Husband

i am more than the boy i nursed 'til i was spent
and would give up my only breath for, more
     than the worry over the
     mishaps that visit children

caught. i feel caught  between
the rock of guilt   and   the hard place of time

as i push push my way through this beautiful life i don't deserve
for a chance to paint the helpless run of words

en route to errands i pop in an audio - Pooh's tales,
then settle back for the story that wants to tell in my head
and catch it on paper when i park the car

i race, i snatch and just the same watch
the minutes fall 
                       through
                                      hungry fingers

i am more than the faith that rose from my dead life
     because we are more than spirit but too, flesh and mind,
     borne of the Living Word that justifies our reply

what does it say of me as Wife and Mother, my grateful honor --

but that i am happiest
     (clap hand over mouth)

when my dreams find their light in the words
that come together, sometimes soldiers
in sharp line or ballerinas
in fluid form?

i realize it is never a burden, a fresh joy each time

i am the song of history and hope
(except the Greatest Women past and present have denied themselves)

through the fatigue i wear in my bones, i delight through 
the hard, hard way to get it down    just so
so u can s e e    the art and grace    in the world that thrill me

i know the prince and the pauper are apportioned the same
hours but my time feels rationed

pl e a se, let me finish this thought, but
    -- the but --
                     incommodius conjunction, dissolution
of my right to self

i am more than the Kitchen i have loved but it needs taming 
because i am Wife and Mother and there i go to 
the unrelenting pile of dishes i am 
more than
Apron
I am indebted to my husband, to whom I dedicate this poem, for doing his 
darnedest to leave me to my words.

Once Upon a Ballroom

Once upon a ballroom
they noticed one another
in furtive glance of boy and girl

“May I have this dance?” he asked
permission to step into her
space and take her hand

She followed him out
circled her hips
swiveled and he smiled.

1-2-3-and-4, 5-6-7-and-8
He knew there’d be more ands
to the eight count and the turns

How did he know he wanted to hold onto her?
Dear simple man

East had met West, Mars wooed Venus
but she was a cautious goddess
He eased into rhythm while
she tried to study her feet

They triple-stepped to Bobby Darin’s
Sunday in New York where she was from

Who knew eight months would bring
them back to that room in tux and satin ivory
to laugh and Sugar Push where he would spin his bride

he had just vowed to carry through sickness and health?

Though she never did get the Shag and Balboa
now he, he says she made him ambitious

Over the years He learned
to stand tall, say No
She’s come around, to say Yes

And still he does not ask for much
of her. If he listens he’ll make out her
Thank You in the prosaic music
of the day-to-day

They’ve tripped,
loved     off  key
shouted for a different song

They’ve forgotten steps but the moment
she asks he will jump
to dance again.


They Sugar Push in tux and satin here.

In My Fantasy

1. I eradicate the flu, cancer, and the bad grammar virus.
2. I’m Catherine Zeta-Jones in the movie Chicago. Not talking about what lands her in prison, folks. I mean the moves, her look, her zip and tang in the enchilada.
3. I wiggle my nose and the dishes disappear from the sink.
4. I sing jazz in a red dress. A Korean Ella Fitzgerald. Yeaah.
5. I’m a kick-butt Lindy hopper out of the 30s.
6. I finally get that PhD in language, literacy, and culture.
7. Time rolls itself out, an endless runway under my feet when I write. No interruptions.
8. I work on my books in a mountain cabin: poetry, my mother’s story
9. which Random House has signed me for
10. and there are no women around.
11. I expunge the Christian landscape of American contemporary worship ditties, I mean music.
12. I am editor-in-chief of a vibrant writers’ platform and host of my own TED talks.
(How stinkin’ awesome is that? If this is a dream, don’t wake me.)