Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Being Known

You know that thing we all have in us...that insatiable desire to be known? It drives our actions and thoughts. We move throughout the day with it calling out for knowers.

The fear of never being known masks as insecurity, loneliness, depression, bullying. Oddly enough, the fear of being known can wear the same masks. I have seen such a work's progress in me as I am noticing being more open and vulnerable. Is this the confidence of my 30s as some magazine articles would lead me to believe? Or is it the constant refinement of the Holy Spirit and an answer to prayer?

Last week I attended Northeastern for a class and connected with several from my cohort, particularly one woman. We're the same kind of people, you know?

We bonded on the second day when she asked, "Is that dress from Lands' End...because I definitely have it in several colors and patterns?" Yep. I said that even though it was cotton, I'd felt spoiled with all the other dresses I have become accustomed to since they have pockets. Oh my, what a conversation about pockets in dresses. We're the same kind of people.

I turned away from a vending machine that wouldn't give me some cold caffeine lateish at night. Then, I watched her get rejected too. So she walked with me to another machine in another building and paid for my drink since my dollar was rejected again. A small but appreciated service to me. It's the little things that matter.

Like asking someone on a first date, I asked her the next day to get dinner (Maggie--note my social aggression!). We had such a great time. As she let her guard down too, she shared that she has three guilty pleasure tv shows, including Honey Boo Boo. As she sought to nervously hide her delighted shame, I could see her wanting to be known. I immediately dished about the crazy guilty pleasure tv shows I watch when dogsitting, which typically includes shows like Flava Flav, Hoarders, Sister Wives, medical documentaries like the one with the man with the giant scrotum or people who eat non-digestible objects. I watch a lot of other weird shows, and I hardly ever admit it. Because...judgment and vulnerability. 

If X is exposed about me, what will others say, think, do? But avoiding that doesn't really help my relationships, it helps me continue practicing not being vulnerable. It helps me continue to be guarded and distant. Over the last years, and especially months, I have been practicing authenticity and intentional vulnerability. 

And it feels...awesome. Even better relationships are building, a sense of community, and I am acknowledging when I need help and need to depend on others. The last is the most difficult for me, but wow, I have seen growth in my words and thoughts. I think much of this growth comes from knowing my Knower. The closer I have become to my Knower, the closer I have been able to allow myself to know and be known by others.   

This is what we all desire. This is what I desire for you. And I hope that I can encourage and help others in that journey.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

An unsettled settling.

There are a number of days I see who I am and wonder what happened to old me and when. I still have a long way to go in many areas, but there are several that are so strikingly different, I must take note.

Sunday I was going to make stuffed peppers because I had all of the ingredients, needed to use them, and yum. I looked in the cabinet for my nutritional yeast to make a tasty sauce to top the peppers. OMG, WHERE WAS MY NUTRITIONAL YEAST?! I got the ladder and pulled nearly everything out of the cabinet looking for it. Not there. Not even the huge tub of it. I had a bag at some point and 2 huge tubs and another container I'd moved some to. None. I pulled everything out of the lower cabinet that holds extra flour, sugar, oil, and what-not. I know I had stored a tub of nutritional yeast in there at some point. None. You do not even know how unsettling it is to not be able to find something when I always have a place for things and to realize that I'm this disturbed over Nutritional. Yeast.

Nutritional Yeast is this weird but tasty ingredient I began using during the strict vegan days. It's in a number of recipes I added to my repertoire and several I count as favorites. So, where was it? Scrambled around the condo and realized I had a bag in my bedroom that it might, just might be in. Yep. There it was. That huge, glorious tub of fish-food-looking flakes. I had taken it out of the cabinet one night when I couldn't find all of my groceries in there. (That's one thing I will have at my next place...more cabinet space!)

So, I go on gathering the ingredients needed to finish out my dishes and had no almond milk. I left my comfortable home on a day I did not feel great and needed to be working on a paper so I could go to the grocery store and get just almond milk. And I did it.

First, I went a little crazy about finding my nutritional yeast. Then, I went to get only almond milk, when old Andrea would have just nixed the sauce and made another topping. And these are a couple of the odd things that have changed in the past four years and the patterns, habits, and preferences I've settled into. I'll have more on this another day.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

A privilege and labor of love

A couple of weeks ago, I had the honor of overseeing a memorial celebration and scientific symposium for my friend and former boss. I have so many thoughts, so many feelings. I have been somewhat numb over the last months planning this and dealing with the chaos of work, school, and several big unknowns. In some ways, this has been a great blessing.

In the last months, I have also spent time with his wife and daughters. It has been pretty amazing in such an unexpected way. They did not treat me as his former subordinate; they treated me as his and their old friend. They knew much more about me than I could have anticipated. They told me their side of hearing our long phone chats and knew about my various hospital stays, travels, and tattoo. They knew about my deliberation over the years in going back to school and what he thought of my work. They knew that Jesus is real to me, and that I'm an aunt. They knew a lot. I am surprised and flattered at how much he told them. They were amazing and so fun and though I had previously only met one daughter in person, I quickly connected to all of them. I sort of felt like I knew them too. Isn't it weird the connection to others' friends and family? One daughter apparently is also quite reserved, but with me, she blurts out questions and statements unashamedly. Another locked arms with me, and they all hugged me freely.

What a strange and beautiful privilege to be able to plan the Charlottesville and UVa service for him and them. I made sure the details were taken care of to appease the professional attendees, but I also added personal touches I knew friends and family would appreciate. It was a lovely time and very respectful and honoring. There is a bronze bust, a walkway plaque, and a memorial fund. Other than the details of renting equipment and the boring stuff that just makes things run smoothly, personal touches were needed for a meaningful memorial celebration. I ordered all of the food I knew he loved for the reception. No one really noticed anything particular about the food, but I knew and his family even commented about loving all of the dishes. Ha. I'm sure they share tastes. Meatballs don't say "nice reception" but they were one of his favorites. He also was obsessed with peanut butter cookies. We had more conversations about peanut butter cookies than we probably had about some work tasks. So when I ordered cookies, they were all peanut butter. There was a playlist of songs to play as people were walking up for the service and mingling for the reception...all upbeat very non-memorial service songs. All were songs and artists he loved. I created a slideshow to play during the reception, the service was outdoors, I lined up the speakers, and I also got to read a fair amount of nature writings and poems before to include a few lines in the slideshow or pass along to the chaplain and others to integrate into what they shared. There were other things too, but what I'm getting at is that this event has been shaped over the last 6+ months as a labor of love.

I thought about not sharing about this event, and even with what I have shared, I have left so much out. But in my seven years working in my current position, even with several really great events I have coordinated or the amazing score on the grant renewal, this is the one work I am most pleased with and proud of. I am not so proud of what I did exactly. I am proud that everyone in attendance, from professional to personal relationships, felt this event was exactly as it should be to honor him. I am proud that the little details I gave much thought to were acknowledged and appreciated. I am proud that the family was most pleased and really felt the burden of coordinating a service for him lifted. I am proud of how this made our Center and our Director look. I am just really pleased at how it went and think that as much as he would not want even a mention of his name, much less an entire event around him, he would have actually enjoyed the two days...if they weren't for him. It really was such a privilege to be able to honor him in this way.

I leave you with some snippets from John Muir I think really reflect who he thought and sought to be.
One learns that the world, though made, is yet being made; that this is still the morning of creation; that mountains long conceived are now being born, channels traced for coming rivers, basins hollowed for lakes...As long as I live, I'll hear waterfalls and birds and winds sing. I'll interpret the rocks, learn the language of flood, storm, and the avalanche. I'll acquaint myself with the glaciers and wild gardens, and get as near the heart of the world as I can…I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.