Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Life Happens: A trip back to my old church, nostalgia, and growing pains

It's Monday, already, and it snowed beautifully last night when my mom and I took a midnight walk outside. I've spent quite a bit of time with my friend Stephanie, doing miscellaneous errands and mutually helping one another doing this and that. It's been a little exhausting at times, but nonetheless, I felt like I was helping out. Now on Sunday, there was a Christmas pageant at my old church, Emmanuel Lutheran, and we spent the good part of the morning there. It was good times filled with nostaligia.

It was also going to be my official last Sunday of church there before I left for Korea. I enjoyed however, seeing all the old faces I remember so well from childhood (faces, but not always names, mind you!) We had a breakfast afterwards, put on by the Altar Guild ladies, and it was yummy (well, I thought the egg casserole thingy was strange, but the muffins were good!)

Steph and her husband Jay were Mary and Joseph, and it brought back memories thinking of just a year prior, we were all sitting together watching Juan standing up as one of the Wisemen during the story of Jesus born in Bethlehem. That seems like so long ago, now... it's funny how time flies.

I caught a photo of Rachel (the church Treasurer and my personal life-saver, as she helped me on many occasions when I was working last spring as church secretary~ before Korea, of course). Her daughter has the most beautiful eyes, and I snapped right when she looked up at me. Neat moment, indeed.

Today was just one of those days I needed to sit at home, my folks' home, and do nothing. Every other day, I've either done errands, went to buy stuff, gone to visit someone, or... whatever else I find I don't remember. Nah, I just needed to slow down. And I did. But I felt aggitated, like I needed to do something constructive. You see, I've got an 'equal work/equal play' work ethic (or I try to, at least). I have to find a balance, and sometimes having just too much of one or another, I realize I don't feel right. Rather strange, but then maybe that's just me.

I think moreover I realize now that my vacation is winding down, too. Perhaps it hasn't helped that I've come down with a snag of a cold, and I'm feeling it now; or maybe I don't feel as in control as I'd like to be. That could be my problem, come to think of it. I've always needed to be in control, to have the freedom to do as I please, and it should be that way seeing as I'm 27. But, as you can imagine, going home and staying with the folks (because of sheer nostalgia, the feeling of 'living at home again') maybe has brought me down, or reliving some of my childhood memories, among other possibilities (although I have to admit, they've let me do pretty much what I wanted, and they've bent over backwards for me, I know). It could be having the freedom to get in the car and go; then of course, there's car rentals, silly me!

But the truth of the matter is, I think in the midst of this near month-long vacation, trying to free these demons that have built up inside me (health issues, the nostalgia of being back at home and seeing all of my friends and family again, in particular my ex-boyfriend~ whilst placing myself in time and realizing my 'here-and-now' in Korea) I've come to the conclusion that I think I'm right in the middle of a little growing up crisis.

It seems odd, I know, but it's a fact. I feel that strange clock ticking, being around my since-childhood friend, Stephanie, her husband and child. Then there was the 'Bon voyage back to Korea' family party we had on Dec 10th my Grandmother's, visiting the Brown family once again, and seeing my cousin Amber at 6 months pregnant with her second boy. And Jennifer, my Junior High friend, who I'll see this week; she's got 2 boys already and they're growing like weeds!

Alright, alright, so I happen to be focusing on the baby/children part, but that's not necessarily what I'm concentrating on. It's the life happens part. It's not just the geography; my bro and his wife are in Alabama. My dad and step-ma Debbie are in Louisiana. My pop and mom are here in Washington. I've got family all over, so I can't just say I'm 'missing out' because I'm 6,000 miles away in Korea, or just out of the country, for that matter... or can I? Does geography have anything to do with it, or is there something more...?

I used to think it was not being near my friends, or family, or simply in the same country as the people I know that I thought was the root problem. The life happens part will happen, whether your close geographically or not. The unfortunate part is that many families-including my own-live so close to one another, yet they hardly visit. They hardly pick up the phone. They hardly email.

I'm guilty of this too. And I realize, as I'm sure I'm not the only one, that we let too many things get in the way of what is really important; sometimes I think this American (Westernized, if you will) culture molds us into thinking that life is made up the 'haves' and the 'have-nots'. It's become an issue of materialism---how many homes you have, if your 'dialed in' to 'what's going on' (how many of you got that one?), where to get the best prices, and saving for retirement (among so many others, folks). Yeah, I compare myself. I want to be apart of the 'haves' more than the 'have-nots'. But you know what? Life isn't about that. We're fueled by tv, the media, this secret underlying connected cortex we associate with, we depend upon, we're fed by. It's pathetic, and sometimes I think it's the only way we can survive, because it's almost ingrained in us. It's a cruel world out there (no cliche intended), and with fierce competition, you gotta know when to 'run with the bulls,' as they say. I wonder if that's a law school slogan? Would be interesting, anyway.

In the end, it's all boils down to how you live your life, right? I mean, we preach about what's really important in life, we talk about how money is meaningless, we listen to self-help books and watch shows and movies about improving our lives, our productivity, about being happy and fruitful, and 'balanced'.. HA! Yet we don't even heed our own advice!!

And we watch National Geographic, the special on Ethiopia and the starving children, with hyperextended stomaches from malnutrition; we cry with them, maybe talk to someone else about the show we just saw. But do we do anything about it? No. We move on to the next gossip, or the next errand, or the next hour to get ready for work or school.

I mean, how much fun would God have if he had created perfect human beings, anyway? That's precisely why we are the way we are.

And so there's turmoil. And suffering. And the educated. And the poor. And people struggling to be the better of the 'haves' whilst the 'have-nots' just struggle to make ends meet. And in the middle, there's Tyra and Opera tv shows, giving away such wonderful, unreal, expensive Christmas gifts to a select audience who live like Kings and Queens for a day. Or an episode.

Which is probably all given back after the show, but is made to look like the audience is lucky, making all the normal folks at home wish we were in the audience.

But wait! These tv show hosts really do change peoples lives, don't they? I mean, it's all about believing. Isn't that what Christmas is all about? Believing there will be lots of good food to eat, Christmas presents to exchange, family and friends to meet... it's the chaos of Christmas and guess what? It's the Money, with a capital 'M', that drives the season through. Alas, we have come to the truth.

After the holidays, credit card companies are happy, and people are sapped, zapped and monkey slapped with no money and debt up to their ears because they wanted to be apart of the 'haves'. Or, at least, rememembered that way. Afterall, you'll always be remembered for the Christmas gift you gave, right? What did you give last year, and do the people remember? What about 5 years ago??

Let me get back to the point I was trying to make: we shouldn't use Christmas or Thanksgiving, or the Holidays as an excuse to get in touch with our family, friends or loved ones. It's truly how you stay in touch with your family, your friends, or the people you know that is the most important, without the influence of the media-fueled holidays to rectify the call or the visit that enables you to recount the entire last year in a single conversation.

Emails are incredible tools, and likewise, the telephone (or the other way around); but nowadays, it seems that emails are replacing the telephone, which originally replaced the one-on-one, the face to face communication that many of us desperately needed~ and still need 'til this day. Eventually, there may no longer be such types of communication needed; but hey, that's way, way, way down yonder to think about.


Nostalgia, growing pains, the lack of communication, and misaligned meanings of Christmas and holidays... these are all what I call 'relative clauses' in the story of life. And the deal is, there is no such 'instructions to life' (if there is one, please enlighten me!). We are all essentially a product of our parents and our surroundings; and though we don't necessarily have to be like them or what influenced us from day one, we still have the choice to write our own story and instructions to life.

Sometimes just one phone call, a knock at the door, or--an email, could make all the difference. So put down that newspaper, throw away that magazine, turn off the t.v. and maybe, just maybe you might be inspired to bash in that computer screen (wait, if that's the case, you wouldn't be able to read my entry... now I'm caught in my own entanglement! How about you put that 'ol screen on standby, then.) Indeed, it's about staying in touch, and it's about finding that right balance. That's life, naturally, one day at a time.

~ Chelsea

1 comment:

Mike said...

Hi Chelsea: What a good writer/communicator you are! That is why I always look forward to reading what you have written.

The questions you ask are some of the very same ones that I have pondered over the last decade or two.

You have hit the nail on the head. You have figured it out. You have discovered "the secret".

"That's life, one day at a time."
That's it!

Five years ago at 45 years of age, I sold my car, disconnected cable TV, and moved closer to downtown to walk more and use public transit. I realised that a lot of the things and ideas that I had been raised with, were not really necessities or positives in my life.

And yes, family dynamics can be challenging.

All we ever have is today.

God grant me the courage to change the things I can change,
Accept the things I cannot change,
And the wisdom to know the difference.

In the last five years that one little prayer has made such a huge difference in my life and ralationships.

Merry Christmas!