Thursday, December 31, 2009

Reflections on a bitter-sweet 2009

2009 can be most accurately described as a year of chaotic stability.  I have experienced some of the highest highs and lowest lows of my life.  The challenges, successes, struggles, opportunities, and experiences that have characterized this year have lead me to great growth as an individual, friend, and student.  Although this year has been characterized by much loss and difficulty it has also been characterized by joy and celebration.  In 2009, I fell in love which in the end resulted in a broken heart.  This is something that changed my life profoundly and something I have struggled with more than most people realize.  2009 introduced me to one of my very best friends, Mandy.  This friendship was unique from the beginning and strengthened within the context of one of the most difficult situations I have ever been involved in.  A situation that challenged me as an individual and a friend.  I feel so blessed to have been a part of Mandy's support group, and am SO proud of the growth and progress that she has made throughout this year.

I have also had the privilege of being involved in a variety of joyous occasions throughout 2009.  I had the honor of being the maid of honor in my best friend, Rachel's wedding.  I feel so blessed that Rach chose to include me in her special day.  It was even more meaningful now that she and I are living at opposite "poles" of the US (she's in Texas while I'm in Minnesota). In August I had the opportunity to attend another good friend's wedding in Cancun, Mexico.  I felt so blessed to be included in Sophia's wedding, especially since she now lives far away in London.  This was my first real vacation and I had the opportunity to spend it with my best friend.  There is absolutely nothing better than lying on the beach in the sun, listening to the waves crash against the beach, with a mango margarita in hand.  I've NEVER been more relaxed in my entire life.  More recently, I've enjoyed celebrating the engagements of my brother, Josh & his fiancee Whitney, and my best friend, Leslie.  

Personally, I have made great strides this year in becoming the person that God intends me to be.  I have grown immensely as an individual this year.  I've uncovered my own strength and resilience; and have discovered my capacity to love unconditionally.  Scholastically, I've successfully completed half of my doctorate coursework and have decided upon my dissertation topic.  I have also made great strides in my professional development by presenting my thesis research in the form of presenting a research poster at the National Council on Family Relations annual conference in San Francisco.  

As most people who know me well know, I prefer a life of chaotic stability to a life of stagnation.  Although this kind of life is characterized by high highs and low lows, I would rather experience the lowest of lows knowing that I am living a passionate life.  Knowing that the life experiences I have are giving me opportunities for personal growth.  While in many ways 2009 has been associated with difficulty, pain, and heartache, I recognize the silver lining in these experiences.  As I have often been told, nothing in life that's worth having comes easy.  Personal growth is not easy.  Love is NOT easy.  Life is not easy.  The most profound realization that has occurred to me in 2009 is the importance of living and loving fiercely, passionately, authentically, generously, and wisely.  While this is not easy, and as I've come to realize, at times quite difficult and painful, in my humble opinion, it is the only way to live a life that is worthwhile.  

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Double Consciousness

The notion of double consciousness was described first by W. E. B. DuBois in 1902.  He described the challenge of being both a "negro and an American."  According to the Duboisian worldview individuals should be capable of embracing multiple identities so they have the ability to fully function within one’s ethnic group, religion, and culture while simultaneously having the capacity to be fully a part of the wider society.  Throughout the semester I have been attempting to navigate the internal dissonance I have experienced as a result of a sense of double consciousness between my academic identity and my identity as a Christian.   Although individually I have been able to navigate this double consciousness and integrate these two identities, I have yearned to find a community of others who also experience this double consciousness.  But I have struggled to identify the underlying opposition between these two identities.  In some way I associate academics and scholars with a liberal paradigm (as increasing education often is associated with more liberal/open minded thinking) whereas the Christian paradigm is often associated with conservative values and beliefs.  While I do believe this reflects some of the dissonance I experience, it does not fully explain why academic and Christian identities are difficult to integrate within today's society.  After watching Angels & Demons last night I feel as though I have a better understanding of the fundamental dissonance between the two.  Academics typically value science; which at its core is about seeking truth and knowledge that can be validated.  Christianity, on the other hand, is about having faith, "being sure of what we hope for and certain of what is unseen" (Hebrews 11:1).  Herein lies the fundamental juxtaposition of academic knowledge and Christian values.  The first is a matter of the mind.  The latter a matter of the heart.  However, I believe God gave us both a heart and mind that coexist.  

I have experienced the internal dissonance that exists within this double consciousness.  And although I feel as though I am capable of integrating these two identities individually, society provides some barriers that make life within a state of double consciousness difficult.  One of my course assignments this semester was to create a learning community.  So I decided to create a community of individuals who were also interested in taking an academic, critical approach to Christianity.  I was fortunate to hear Greg Boyd, a well-known Christian author and pastor in St. Paul, MN, preach.  He takes an academic approach to understanding the fundamental values of Christianity that align well with my own beliefs.  My small learning community has decided to begin our study by working through Greg's book, "Repenting of Religion: Turning from Judgment to the Love of God."  I feel that by creating a community of individuals who are interested in discussing Christianity from a critical perspective and finding a pastor who acts as a radical leader, I no longer feel isolated within my state of double consciousness.  

Monday, December 7, 2009

Wait for the man...

"Wait for the man who pursues you, the one who will make an ordinary moment seem magical, the kind of man who brings out the best in you and makes you want to be a better woman. Wait for the man who will be your best friend, the one who will drop everything to be with you. Wait for the man who makes you smile like no other guy makes you smile. Wait for the man who respects and loves you for who you are, not who everyone else wants you to be. Wait for the man who wants to show you off to the world when you are in sweats and no make-up, but loves it when you get all dolled up for him. Wait for the man who praises God for you and encourages you daily in your walk, and most importantly, wait for the man who is more in love with God than you."

*I would also add, "the one who is willing to defend your honor." Because its not always about "who everyone else wants you to be," but rather who they try to make you out to be.*

One of my best friends showed me this quote a couple years ago. It immediately resonated with me as exactly what I was looking for in a guy. I'm ashamed to admit that at first when I read this I selfishly thought to myself that I didn't want the man I am with to be more in love with anyone (including God) than with me. I realize how selfish, arrogant, and naive this is. And as I reflected further I came to realize that in actuality, a man who is more in love with God than he is with me actually has a greater capacity to love me than a man who is more in love with me than with God.

I'm still not sure that I will find someone who fulfills/satisfies ALL of the above mentioned description. And honestly, I have absolutely no desire or intent to search for or even "stumble upon" a new relationship. But I do know that I will not settle for anything less than what is described above. Because honestly I have experienced what life with a man who fits much of the above description is like and nothing less will be sufficient. For now I am just trusting in God, being thankful for the family and friends who enhance my life, and focusing on further developing myself to fulfill God's plan for my life. I am not closing my heart off to the possibility of love but rather am attempting to open my heart to have the capacity to love others the way God loves me. I am attempting to reflect God's love in my life and simultaneously re-defining love to reflect the love that really matters in life.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Team Edward or Team Jacob???

*Spoiler alert...if you haven't read the Twilight series or seen the movies yet, the following blog post does contain some spoilers.*

I will readily admit that I am slightly (ok more than slightly) obsessed with the Twilight saga. I read the books this summer and became completely enamored with Edward and Bella's love story. Edward's love, adoration, protectiveness, and selflessness with Bella is, I believe, what most women hope for. And although in many ways I am not seeking out love, there remains a part of my heart that desires to find a man who looks at me the way Edward looks at Bella. A man who loves, adores and exhibits a protectiveness over me the way Edward does Bella. However, in the storyline of New Moon, Edward leaves Bella and utterly breaks her heart. Enter Jacob, Bella's best friend, who also happens to love Bella. Jacob is the only person who can alleviate the pain and begin to mend the hole that Edward's absence left in Bella's chest. Herein, lies the Team Edward vs. Team Jacob debate. Personally I'm Team Edward AND Jacob. But I have a great appreciation for and understanding of the debate now.

Delving deeper into the storyline we see that Edward left, not because he didn't love Bella, but because of how much he loved her. He left because he thought it was in her best interest. He thought he was protecting her. The problem was, he didn't consult Bella in this decision. He didn't allow her to be a part of the process. He didn't give her an opportunity to decide FOR HERSELF what was in her own best interest. AND, he lied to her; left her blaming herself for not being good enough to deserve Edward's love. He made it seem as if it was easy for him to walk away from her. Jacob, on the other hand, was always open with Bella about his feelings. He too was very protective over Bella; however, he also recognized that he couldn't protect Bella from everything, from all pain and heartache. He included her and allowed her to decide for herself what was in her best interest. Even when it meant that Jacob got hurt and rejected. The point is, Jacob allowed Bella to make her own decision, Edward did not. While both did so out of their love for Bella, Jacob valued Bella's ability to make decisions for herself. This storyline really resonates with me based on my past experiences. And while I admire the love and adoration that Edward has for Bella, I appreciate Jacob's openness, honesty, and willingness to allow Bella to be involved in the process and make her own decision. Even if that wasn't the decision that he himself wanted. So maybe it is this distinction that explains why I choose to be on Team Edward & Jacob. I recognize the traits in each that I want in a man, should I find one worth dating. I want the intense love and adoration that Edward exhibits and Jacob's ability to be open, honest and include Bella in the process. And while I want someone who will be protective over me, I also want someone who will make decisions with me, rather than for me. Until that time I'll continue "watching a gorgeous vampire and buff werewolf battle for a girl's love" which "is the perfect distraction from my inability to meet a semi-datable human."