Many Thanks

Now that Thanksgiving has come and gone I would like to reflect on the great time that I had off. The break was not too long, it never is; but, it was much needed. After a long period of time that had me inundated with schoolwork and extracurriculars, it was nice that I finally got to have some time off. There were no better people to enjoy this break with than my friends and family.

I appreciate every moment that I got to spend with them. They brought me back to sanity and relaxed me after I had been stressing so much from my schoolwork. The support I get from my family is something that I feel I do not appreciate enough.

They are always there to help me and guide me through the any struggles that I may have. They also are able to help keep me up when times are good. Finding anyone who can do this (friends or family) can make a world a difference. I know it has for me.

Without their constant support I do not know if I would be in the same position that I am today. I cannot thank them enough for all that they have done and continue to do for me. Although the break was short, and I feel like I did not get to see people enough, I am glad that I did get to spend whatever time I could with my friends and family. I would like to thank them so much for everything they have done. Thank You!

 

Silence

When friends ask me how my Thanksgiving was this year, my answer can be summed up in one word: “quiet.” There are a couple of reasons for this, not the least of which being that I lost my voice as soon as Thanksgiving break began.

To be fair, it did return within several hours, only much more softly and in a much lower pitch than I am accustomed to. But at the time, it was both an alarming and amusing experience to wake up and realize that I could hardly produce sound, let alone talk.

Our voices provide an incredibly powerful instrument of expression and connection. When singing with choirs, I have sometimes felt a profound, intimate connection with  the people around me through the music, the rise and fall of harmonies overlaid with liquid, flowing rhythms punctuated by occasional rests and breaths. Some musicians I’ve talked from my home congregation in Brookline have described feeling the presence of the Divine in their exultation through music.

So what does it mean to lose this instrument? On the one hand, it was somewhat distressing to wake up unable to produce much sound. On the other hand, the silence was also a little comforting. It gave me more time to reflect, to think, and to sit still.

I remember the verses from 1 Kings 19: 11-12, when Elijah is waiting on a mountain for God to pass by: “Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence.”

I should point out that in some translations of this passage, the sound of sheer silence is instead written as a gentle whisper, or a still small voice. There is a subtle difference between these different readings. Sound can be described as soft or gentle, but it is much rarer to see silence described with similar terms.

And yet, I think that silence comes with textures of its own. There is the quietness that comes with being in solitude, the awkward pauses that settle so quickly when people run out of things to say. There are the harsher forms of silence, those that come with deep feelings of hurt or from turning a blind eye to something.

Then there is the kind that I find most comforting: the one that comes from understanding that there is nothing that needs to be said. The silence that comes with solace and being at peace, even if it is only for a moment. This silence carries its own sort of warmth–faint, and perhaps difficult to detect, but present all the same. Losing my voice reminded me that such moments of this kind silence do exist. I hope to encounter it as the semester begins to come to a close.

Rest

I have always loved Thanksgiving. It is time for rest, reflection, appreciation, football, being with family and friends and green bean casserole. But this year in particular, Thanksgiving came at an important moment. November was a hard. The mountain of work and effort of processing was draining. By Thanksgiving break, I was physically and emotionally exhausted.

Last Tuesday I realized that this was the first time I would celebrate Thanksgiving without my parents. My brother and I had opted to stay together and go to a friends house, rather than traveling to meet up with the rest of our family. Though we had decided to FaceTime on Thanksgiving day, I was beginning to realize the traditions I have always taken for granted that I would miss. I came into the week with a lot of lingering stresses. What I found in the next couple days was a lot of peace and love and exactly what I needed.

In my last blog post, I talked about Sabbath moments. My thanksgiving break was full of them. I found rest in the movie nights, and homemade meals. I found peace in secluded bookstores and little coffee shops. I was made whole by the hugs, dancing and laughter.

This break I was reminded of the importance of rest, that it is crucial to slow down, withdraw from the schoolwork and internet and spend time with loved ones. My

I came back from this break refreshed and renewed.

These past few days Matthew 11:28 has been on my mind. Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

I have a lot to be thankful for, I have been blessed with incredible people in my life, an education, so many opportunities. But this year, I am most thankful for this time to rest.

Hardest Battles.

Last week was much needed. I buried the anxiety that the papers I have, created and the impending exams coming in the next few weeks, and focused on family. I surrounded myself with love and laughter and family I had not seen in what felt like so long ago, and nothing felt more natural. We came together for a holiday that I no longer see the beauty of except for the fact that it brings families together.

Sadly, a holiday that unintentionally or intentionally, celebrates one of the many dark period of American history this year, came at the same time that Native Americans at Standing Rock are protesting to save their sacred land now.

Nonetheless, I sat ar the table and realized I was thankful for the stress and the feeling that work assignments would never stop. I was thankful for every quiz, internship duty, and essay. They made me cherish these moments even more. Every second with my grandfather was a good one, especially during a year where we almost lost him. The stress made me thankful to be back in the safe environment of my marsh associate Monday meetings.

One of the biggest questions I’ve always asked is why does god have us struggle? Why the make the people who only wish to praise and live more like his Son, go through pain and tribulations. Those people in Standing Rock have had they people wronged for hundreds of years, why do they need to go through more? I’ve usually answered this question by not answering it at all. I move on and focus on 3 weeks from now when everything will be better.

I recently was on twitter and I came across a quote that said, “God gives his hardest battles to his strongest warriors.” Maybe that is what happens to us. Maybe we are one of Gods strongest warriors. I don’t think we get to chose if we are. However, if we are his strongest warriors, I deeply believe there is no battle that God would put in front of you if it did not help you in the end. That idea seems problematic for a lot of people, it is the solution for me.

Grieving Heartbreak

This week was very long – and yet, I do not recall doing very much this week.

I had one midterm. It took a lot of energy to motivate myself to study for it. It took a lot of energy to sit down and work through the notes and the practice problems. It took a lot of energy to prepare myself to face the exam. But I still tried. I still tried to sum up the courage to work through the problems because the courage is there somewhere inside me. I am not sure if I succeeded.

I was invited to see a movie with my friends from Sojourn last night. It took a lot of energy to motivate myself to go and see the movie. It took way too much energy to be social. Although I am an introvert, I have not felt like an introvert in a looooong, long while. I usually have the courage. There were so many times where I stumbled in my words while talking to my friends and where I would pretty much shut off because I was hearing myself and what was I saying?

I met with different mentors and very close friends all throughout the weekend and early week. Each time, I tried to rationalize my situation. Why? Why did this happen? Where did I go wrong? Did I treat her well? Was it a lack of communication? I tried to attribute logic to my heartbreak. But, at this point, what was logic going to do to help with the pain of a heartbreak? Only time can heal it.

All it takes is time. At the end of the day, all I can do is keep going because there are no other remedies for this. Numbing the pain away will not help. Ibuprofen only numbs the painful symptoms, but it doesn’t cure the fever. I also can’t ignore the pain. It’s there; the pain is real and ignoring it will only prolong the hurting. Fevers do need to be dealt with, after all. Nobody with a fever tends to decide that while having a fever is the perfect time to go skiing or  go ice fishing or do anything really.

It’s incredible how much pain one can feel as the result of another individual, and how the pain makes you feel broken and empty. It feels like a portion of yourself is dying away. It feels like a death of a sort, a death that is as unstoppable and impending as physical death itself. And yet, no amount of bargaining, no amount of denial, no amount anger or sadness can stop or delay the inevitable. It simply comes crashing down and one must accept that the decision has been made and the heartbreak is real.

It took me a while to fully accept that this is real. In fact, I almost wrote that last sentence as: “It took me a while to fully accept that this is probably real.” Even now, I’m struggling to accept my current state. Heartbreak is a lot to deal with, especially when you spent a quarter of your conscious existence with your love. It hurts, and then it hurts. And you look around for comfort while facing the pain, only to find that a lot of that comfort and security is no longer there. And then it hurts a little bit more.

But at the end of the day, I am not unhappy that it all happened. And by it all, I don’t mean the heartbreak. I mean the relationship: from start to heartbreak. I am thankful to have had such a wonderful person in my life for such a long time. And, I still think romantic love is an incredible thing.

It’s incredible how much comfort, security, and love one can feel as the result of another individual, and how the love makes you feel courageous. It feels like a portion of yourself is stronger. It feels like a portion of yourself is finding new life, a new life shared with another individual. It is a new life that strikes the individual with such strength and surprise that the only reaction is to let go of the damaged armor and to let down one’s guards.

So, while I might feel cynical right now, and I might be grieving a heartbreak, it was all worth it. It was all worth it, and I can only accept and forgive and forget and just simply wait, rest, move on, and let the healing come over time.

And, that is all okay.

What do you really want?

I’ve been thinking about what I really want lately, asking the big questions of what do I want to do next, and what do I want to do before I leave. Those questions feel huge and unanswerable. Despite, being busy 24/7 theses days, I can’t help but stop and I think about the future. I usually avoid these type of inner discussion because they seem to only bring stress. I think my lack of direction is what worries me most currently. Going through 2 years of college already I am very happy with my majors and I am generally interested in what I am learning. However, I can’t seem to focus on where my direction is taking me. Every week it seems to change.

Howard Thurman asked the question “what do you really want.” I really want peace of mind, I really want to come to whatever career I enter and feel energized. I know what I really want to feel, but I don’t know what I want to do that makes me feel that way. I think there is always an opportunity to do more, especially in light of recent political events. Anything I think of being as something that I really want, continues to return to the idea of it not being enough. That question, “what do you really want,” thought structurally simple is extremely difficult to understand. We want many things as humans, it’s in our nature, but what makes you come alive?

That question, ever since I have first encountered it forces me to wrestle in my mind. When do you know what you really want? Take a figure like Jesus. You don’t know what he really wanted, but if we do know, when did he tell us. When did he figure out what he wanted. More importantly, does it matter if you know what you really want. Can we live with that wrestling?

Solitude

When I first came to Marsh Chapel during my freshman year, I became known by the staff for consistently cleaning the dishes after Monday night community dinner. At the time, I didn’t think anything remarkable of this. Cleaning serves as a meditative practice that I find enjoyable most of the time, ever since my mother taught me how to wash the dishes as a kid. It allows me to clear my thoughts and focus on the water rinsing out plates, bowls, and cups to reuse them again.

I only realized within the past few years that it provided me something else: time by myself. Time to think, to reflect, to simply be present in a moment. It can sometimes be hard to find this when living in a city and being surrounded by activity, distractions, and external demands. While I do love engaging with people on a regular basis, especially people I care about, I also need to balance that time with space and moments to be alone. Somehow it feels easier to be attuned to the world around me when I’m attuned to my own thoughts and emotions.

Right now, I haven’t had as much time recently to practice this kind of self-awareness or find such moments of quiet solace. As Thanksgiving approaches, I hope that I can make time to create that space for myself.

 

Sabbath Moments

I’ve recently taken to the idea of “Sabbath Moments”. Sabbath moments are those things that we do for ourselves, to slow down, to maintain our sanity, to notice the divine. In the past few weeks those moments have become even more important. The number of assignments steadily increased, the responsibilities to extra-curricular groups, family and friends piled up, and troubling news continued to pour in. In the midst of all this, it has been rather easy to start to feel overwhelm. When I look at all I have to do and my anxiety level rises and all I can think about is how tired I feel, that is when I know it is time for a Sabbath. Making time to put down my phone, read a book for fun, eat some comfort food, admire the sunset or watch a show for the billionth time has been so important to my stability. I’ve realized that these Sabbath moments are less about what I am doing, and more about how I approach that action. I am no longer result driven; I enter the moment seeking only rest and peace. I emerge from these moments renewed-ready to continue the work I have been given.

Life can be a lot sometimes, but I think it’s the Sabbath moments that get us through. Accepting the invitation to focus on something for ourselves for a moment is so important and allows us to lay down our burdens and notice something other than our to-do lists. In Hebrews chapter 4, the author speaks of the rest that God has promised saying “ a Sabbath rest still remains for the people of God…let us therefore make every effort to enter that rest”(Hebrew 4:9 and 11). As we prepare to enter the holiday, and finals season, I intend to take those Sabbath moments, resting my mind and soul.

Appreciation

As the weather gets colder and Thanksgiving nears it is important to reflect on the things that matter the most to us. Giving thanks is not just about trying to let others know you appreciate them, but it is also about showing them that you appreciate them. This does not involve going out and getting things for the people; nor does it involve any extravagant act of kindness. It can be the simplest act of just respect or kindness. Just showing people that they are appreciated and that they matter. I believe that is the essence of what Thanksgiving truly is.

I would like to thank all of my friends and family for helping me with every day of my life. I cannot tell you how much you mean to me and how much of an impact you have on who I am as a person.

I hope that everyone is able find someone to be thankful for. I hope that if you have someone you both let them and show them about how thankful you are. Show your appreciation not because its what’s expected, do it because you actually generally want to.

Although people may not be the only thing you are truly thankful for, they are the ones that will appreciate your thanks the most. I myself was not always the best at expressing my gratitude for others. That is definitely something that I have had to work on in my life. I want to thank all of you for being accepting of me and my opinion. Have a Happy Thanksgiving.

Listen

Over the past week, I have sent a lot of my time listening—listening to concerns shared over social media; listening to the views, opinions, fears, and fragile hopes expressed in articles, op-eds, and blogs; listening to professors process right alongside me; listening to friends voice anxiety, outrage, terror, exhaustion; listening to people trying to find hope. I have listened to the names of Catherine Cortez Masto, Tammy Duckworth, Kamala Harris, Lisa Blunt Rochester, Stephanie Murphy, Ilhan Omar, Attica Scott, Kate Brown, and Pramila Jayapal repeated like a litany. I have also listened to the growing list of acts around the country that have attempted to discriminate, intimidate, and alienate. I have listened to the words of my fellow Marsh Associates as they voiced the things for which I couldn’t find words. And so, for my blog post this week, I would like to share some of the things I have heard from them through their own posts.

Nick: This week…felt like an explosion. But it didn’t really feel like an explosion at the same time. It felt like my perceptions of reality and identity caved inward and crumbled. It felt like an implosion.

Matt: Over the past 24 hours I have seen the entire mindset of a nation change. I have seen the markets crash. I have seen politicians, celebrities, and everyday people question what will happen next. I have seen people rejoice. I have seen people cry. I have seen people rationalize.

Denise: Today I am filled, not so much with a stinging pain as a deep deep aching. An aching in every fiber of my being and an uncertainty I can’t even begin to explain. As I walk through today, I feel unglued.

Devin: We didn’t do our job. I’m willing to live through this, I don’t have any other choice. But those brilliant and bright eyed children shouldn’t have to…they should grow up knowing that bigotry and racism is not American culture, and if it was, it no longer is. Sadly, I’m not confident that is our reality.

Ian: Hope is a complicated emotion. It can comfort as well as delude, blind as well as provide clarity. How do we discern a hope that brings us together and keeps us going from one that shelters us from facing difficult realities? How do we hold on to hope at all, when the world is changing and the future seems bleak? It may seem hollow to talk about hope right now, when the future feels so uncertain, so chaotic, so disrupted. And perhaps right now, for many it is. Sometimes the weight of a moment needs to be processed in its own time. But I believe that it is possible to look toward the future while acknowledging the messiness of the present.

Matt: Aggression is never defeated by aggression and anger only spawns more anger. We are in a world surrounded by other people. Just like you, they are people’s children, grandchildren, siblings, cousins, friends. Everyone’s life is in some way connected; whether it be the economy, war, or common beliefs. Bigotry and racism are not accepted. There is no exception to this. We are all living.

Devin: I sat for hours thinking, what do we do now? I realized we can’t lose hope. We have to keep going…It will be harder than we’ve ever known it to be, but we will get it done. I pray that we all stay strong, but more importantly that we stay hopeful.

Denise: Progress will be lost only if we stop marching, if we go silent. There is more work to be done here. Right now I’m hurting, but I know more certainly than I know anything today, that we cannot allow despair to stop us.

Nick: I can only hold fast and know that when things fall, the only direction often possible is forward and upward. Only broken things are capable of being fixed. I can tell myself that I can keep going, in spite of surprises, in spite of fragilities and in spite of implosions. And often in the randomness, in the fragilities, there are pockets of grace and hope.

Ian: Right now…I make my own resolution. I choose to affirm what I most strongly believe in: listening, compassion, and kindness.

In the midst of my listening, their words have buoyed me up. They have reminded me that we cannot face the world alone. Rather, we must listen to, support, and encourage one another because that is how we love one another—that is now we resist the forces of hatred and division and violence. As Martin Luther King, Jr said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” As we face a world that seems a little darker and a little more hateful, I pray that we are able to give ourselves over to love instead of hate, that we spread light instead of darkness, that we hold onto hope, that we continue to speak, and that we never stop listening.