All of March was a whirlwind, and it seemed like God had a plot twist for every week. I wanted to sit down and write about the experience, but this was quickly overshadowed by everything that happened in April.
I couldn’t find the time to chronicle everything properly, so I decided just to write what I could when I could. Hence, we have this post.
The following paragraphs are drafts I wrote in departure from each other. At first glance, they may seem disjointed. Yet together, they weave an accurate picture of where my head has been at over the past month or so.
It feels strange because I typically need to have all my writing ducks in a row. Thoughts have to be complete. Emotions should lead to a conclusion. Stories need to end with redemption.
But if there’s one thing I’ve been reminded of recently, it’s that I have to embrace things as they come. I can put out stories that remain incomplete.
Let’s talk about that.
The story of impermanence
It’s curious how life can be so fleeting.
A friend of mine passed away on April 26, and it made me reflect on the impermanence of things a bit more. It still feels strange to know that I’m walking on a planet where he no longer exists.
All that’s left are memories, chat threads, and photographs– as much as there are to go around.
Several years ago, I spent a day at a theme park with him and some other friends. I documented everything using just my film camera. He and his brother would take turns carrying it because it was heavy, and we’d tuck it away inside their bag when going on water rides.
I can still remember the shots I took: everyone lined up for Space Shuttle, the sun setting over Rio Grande Rapids, and the game faces on the Dodgem as we were all bumping around.
I was so excited about getting the roll developed, but I was just a film beginner then. I made a mistake and ended up accidentally exposing the entire thing.
So, all those moments supposedly immortalized on vintage snaps? Gone. Just because I didn’t take care of them properly.
I was sad about it then, but I’m even sadder about it now.
The stewardship of memories
I’ve repeatedly said I would get better at sharing more personal experiences here, but I never really got around to it because, well, they’re just stories… or so I thought. I realize I haven’t even talked about my solo trip to Taiwan three years ago, and that’s an adventure worth telling stories about.
I should really get around to that.
Because these moments shaped who I am. Meanwhile, my stories convey why I am who I am. They give a glimpse into why I think, act, speak, and believe the way I do.
I’m pretty sure the same applies to you.
And when stories and moments turn into memories, we may find ourselves beginning to wish that we captured them better; that we preserved them more accurately; that we didn’t take them for granted.
Because here’s the thing: memories are malleable and subjective. We remember things the way we want to.
If we want to romanticize a toxic relationship, we can. If we want to fixate on bitter incidents, we can. So, when we look back on our lives, the moments that stand out are the ones we chose to nurture; the narratives we keep telling ourselves.
In science, they call this neuroplasticity. Here’s how it works: The more we play something over and over in our minds, the more defined a neural pathway becomes.
The opposite is also true. When we allow certain thoughts to fall dormant, we eventually forget about them.
This is why we should learn how to steward our memories in the same way we steward our talents, time, and money. What are the moments we immortalize? What are the stories we allow to define our lives? How will we tell our history?
Cactus injuries and the elections
On Mother’s Day, Mara came home with a cactus plant. It was a freebie from the restaurant, she said. She put it on the table where we pile random stuff, mommy barely gave it a glance, and we all moved on with our lives.
The next day was National Election Day. We had already finished voting and were waiting for our neighbors to come over. We were spending the night in Tuguegarao together, and by the time 10 am came around, everyone was packed and ready.
At the last minute, I realized I was missing my laptop charger. My brother’s girlfriend then zoomed in on it atop the random-pile table.
I rushed over, reached out to grab it, and… *ouch.*
There they were: six cactus spines stuck on my skin. I slowly pulled them out, one by one, as Abie got me a band-aid. I slapped it over the point(s) of injury, hurried everyone into the car, and completely forgot about it.
Until that night, when I took off the band-aid and saw six red, throbbing spots on my forearm. Apparently, I failed to care for the “wounds” as I should have, and they got infected.
I say “wounds” because they were incredibly tiny. I thought they weren’t that big a deal and would completely heal if I just used a band-aid.
It turns out I made things worse.
Abrasions and emotions
Wounds hurt, no matter how small they are. And they need to be addressed properly lest we want to find ourselves hurting even more.
I was in a hurry, so I felt like I didn’t have time to think twice about what had happened. But if I had just taken a minute to clean the punctures before heading out, my arm would be in a much better state.
So, you know what? Slow down. Take your time. Feel what needs to be felt. Deal with what needs to be dealt with. Then you can rush back into the rapids of life.
Don’t just slap on a band-aid to get it over with.
Conversations with friends
I had taken but two steps into the cafe when my friend whipped his head around and flashed me a smile.
“I heard your footsteps,” he said with easy familiarity. He finished giving our orders then we spent a few minutes talking about how we’ve been. I went along with the small talk, but I also knew he wanted to meet up for a reason. I dove right in.
“So, how is she?”
He ducked his head, a bit flustered, and reassured me that the girl he was seeing was doing great. It’s been just about a month, and he really liked her. I smiled, nodded, then looked right into his eyes.
“I recognize that our dynamic will change, and that’s okay. We’ll set new boundaries and figure it out.” He sighed in relief. We talked about it some more.
We’ve always been transparent with each other, but I realized just how nice it was to have friends I could truly communicate with. Gone are the days when we had to play coy and mask what we truly wanted to say.
We’re adults now, after all.
I’m currently transitioning to a church community that encourages dating, which is quite a bit of a departure from the culture I came from. With that, I bid a final goodbye to I Kissed Dating Goodbye.
Here, you can straight up ask a person out to get to know them better. If there’s a connection there, great. If not, you can leave the situation as friends. It still requires the courage to express interest and risk rejection but lacks the immediate pressures of courtship.
I’m still trying to wrap my head around how it works, and I don’t quite know what to say when people ask me if I’m open to it. Nevertheless, I consider it a breath of fresh air. I’d much rather have straightforward conversations than engage in guessing games and assumptions.
Plus, it’s nice to be in an environment wherein a Christ-centered relationship doesn’t have to tick off all the culture-imposed boxes to be tagged as such.
Politics and realism
The following afternoon, my mom and I were talking about political games. While I appreciate the employment of strategy, I struggle to comprehend why things have to be so complicated.
Sure, I acknowledge with how the political and international arenas are currently set up that we live in a zero-sum world. The prisoner’s dilemma may very well ensnare all the powers that be.
But I’m more of a constructivist than a realist, which means that I believe most of the systems in this world are socially constructed. Accordingly, I think that the nuances of politics were created by a set of people inclined towards utility and power maximization.
Thus, with collective agreement, we can also un-create them — if we choose to do so.
Is it possible? I don’t know. But it’s easy to see that the current way of things is not working, and there has to be something we can do about it.
Constructivism and Christianity
It’s funny because the first time I learned about realism, it made so much sense to me. Of course, human nature is selfish and anarchical to its core. That’s what depravity and the fall are all about.
Yet it dawned on me that the theory itself leaves no possibility for redemption and change; things that both constructivism and Christ make room for.
It’s just that in the Christian sense, the way this occurs isn’t through enlightenment or societal advancement. Instead, it can only happen through the Gospel.
So, this may be the way things are right now, but this doesn’t have to be the way things continue to be. And the answer to all this chaos and scheming isn’t better political machinations; it’s Christ and Christians who choose to live like Christ.
“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves." Matthew 10:16
We need to remember that the battle is not against flesh and blood but against the rulers, authorities, and powers of this dark world. When we lose sight of that, we quickly descend into superficial tirades that have no heavenly impact whatsoever.
What do we mean when we say we want to see His kingdom come; when we insist that we want to be His hands and feet? Do we form our assertions based on society’s standards, or are they anchored on the standards of Jesus?
Everything is mere chasing after the wind when all is said and done, and His kingdom alone will remain standing. So inasmuch as we celebrate the grace given to us today and we do what we can now, God is still working things together through the lens of eternity.
It’s pretty straightforward, really: It has always been His story. He just kindly gave us a part to play. It then falls on us to steward this well.
"I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that people will fear him. Whatever is has already been, and what will be has been before; and God will call the past to account." Ecclesiastes 3:10-15
2 replies on “Life in Paragraphs: An Anthology of The Past Month”
It’s been quite awhile since I last read from you and I’m very glad to know you haven’t stopped. Your writing carries a sense of warmth that I enjoyed when I was a single person and continue to enjoy now that I’m married.
You’re right – stories make up who we are. In some way, it’s been nice getting to know you through your writing. So after all that I’ve said, all I really wanted to say was thank you for sharing your stories 🙂
Hi, Jensen. I’m pretty sure I know you from Facebook. 🙂 Congratulations on your marriage! Also, thank you for your kind words and for sticking around all these years.
Indeed, God has been faithful to us through everything. I pray that this next chapter of your life will be full of wonderful, God-authored stories and adventures as well! 🙂