I’ve just been so out of it this week for some reason. I can’t help but feel that the daily grind of things is getting to me. Having to prepare for five tutorials per week, each with at least 50+ pages of readings and a set of questions to answer, is no joke. I’ve been wanting to get out of Exeter just for a day trip but this daily workload doesn’t seem to take too kindly to that idea. Plus, the weather has just taken a turn for the freezing sub-zero temperatures this week. I’ve been thinking about ways to ‘get out’ of being bogged down by the daily grind, which I have attempted to do so in the course of the week:
– Treat thyself to an episode of ‘Gossip Girl’ a day after school to unwind
– A cup of fresh coffee every day (oh dear, I’m becoming an addict…)
– Eat lots because it’s cold
– Distract self with pretty images of lovely interiors, places, food, people and encouraging words
– Listen to music more often than I usually allow myself to
– Justify moment of distraction with the basis on online ‘job-searching’ for the near future
– Flood the bathroom and consequently, the room’s carpet because it’s not something mundane that happens every day like homework (Ok. I kid about the intention. But it did happen this week. )
– Try not to Skype too often because everyone back home has their own life to live
Above all, try not to curse. It’s not very becoming of a lady and least of all, of a person whose faith is in God. On a positive note, for all the sub-zero temperatures, the sun was out on most days of the week. I noticed my moods were better on those days.
Cast in that light once more, back to square one. What I fought so hard to leave behind came back just because I didn’t fight hard enough it keep it away.
Trying to keep it together is like cupping a little mound of sand in both hands, only to have it fall through just the tiniest gap between the fingers should they move the slightest bit apart.
Cracks in my resolve.
Which one is my solid ground when all around me is sinking sand?
Those words hit me hard, sent me reeling back into the catalogue of things I wish I didn’t have to think about, buried deep in the recesses of my mind. I don’t know if I have what it takes to be that rock. What if I can’t? Where do I go from here then?
I see a crack running longer, farther and wider, feeding off other cracks and breeding more of them.
The rock on which I stood may then perhaps no longer stand for me.
Not until recently, I’ve always thought being vulnerable was pathetic, a sign of weakness. It took me a while to accept that it was okay to not be okay. That it wasn’t a failure on my part if I was struggling with something, internally or externally. I think people need to know that. Last week, I watched this talk about how embracing our vulnerability is what makes us alive. For all that it is a secular talk given in a secular context, I’d say it hits the nail on the head when it comes to the ‘truths’ about life. To be vulnerable is to allow ourselves to be seen, by others just as we are. Life would be pretty miserable if we were to keep our guard up all the time, even amidst the people who genuinely care about us. It’s about being perfectly all right with our imperfections, acknowledging that they’re there and fully embracing them in making up who we are as individuals. There were snippets of the talk that stood out most to me; the examples of what it meant to be vulnerable. It’s about the willingness to say “I love you” first, the willingness to do something when there are no guarantees, the willingness to invest in a relationship that may or may not work out etc. It takes real strength of character to be able to do these and just the sheer lack of the need to ‘pad’ our lives with perfection/excellence for security against failures/mistakes is something I really admire.
In other words, having the courage to be imperfect.
Having been brought up in a society where competition percolates right down even to the insignificant things in life and where excellence is everything, it is difficult to take the opposite stance. While I’ve always wondered what was wrong with me for not being the typical perfection-striving student with stellar grades like most people were back home, I’ve had to be reminded of there being a reason for my shortcomings in life, even if I didn’t quite fit in academically with the rest. The last few years have been the most trying time of my life, in every sense of the word. Although I couldn’t see it at that time, there was a belief that was slowly but surely building up in me that I was imperfect for a reason. Each struggle and each tough experience reinforced and affirmed that belief that now stands in me that mistakes and flaws shouldn’t be buried or denied out of shame. They make up the essence of who we are. As John Mayer, one of my favourite singers just because his lyrics are amazing, puts it:
“When you got hurt, it made you beautiful the cracks around your heart, they let the light shine through. When you got hurt, in pieces on the floor you put them back together even better than before.”
And yes, I am one of those who firmly believe that this very vulnerability is what makes us beautiful. I’ve read enough dystopian novels to know that the concept of a perfect, unblemished absolute beauty is nightmarish in and of itself. The idea of something that is “too perfect”. Often, we get scared when our shortcomings are exposed; the fear of being inadequate (or more accurately, the fear of being perceived as such) chills us to the bone. The mere appearance of flawless beauty and performance is just plain superficial and ‘plastic’ to me. There’s nothing human about it. I don’t know about humans but there is something in vulnerability that draws us to each other.
An article entitled “10 Things I love about my husband” that I read earlier this week struck a chord within me with the following passage:
“It’s human nature to love things that need us. That’s why we surround ourselves with creatures that are basically furry balls of need with fangs (needs that are usually voiced in the form of querulous demands).
Maybe it’s human nature to love things that need us because providing for others’ needs gives us the opportunity to feel strong. And feeling strong may be how we learn to love ourselves.
Strength doesn’t see others in the shapes made of need and fear. Strength gives others the space to be vulnerable. Strength seeks out opportunities to earn trust.
In fact, strength can’t exist in the absence of need. In oneself, in others.
So the final reason I love my husband? The one that sums it all up:
10. His vulnerability.
There’s a certain type of vulnerability that’s masculine. It’s a lot harder to pin down simply because of our ingrained gender binary that says, “women=vulnerable/men=invulnerable.”
But it’s there, waiting to be discovered.
I love that being vulnerable is an incredible act of trust. His being vulnerable is a demonstration of trust in my strength and my ability to give him a place to feel safe.
And the gift of allowing me to be strong for him is the greatest gift of all.”
This lady put expressed the thoughts I had trouble articulating properly, even though I don’t have a husband per se. Being a female puts me automatically under the category of vulnerability by default. Hence, the terms “the weaker sex” and the “fairer sex”. But we forget that vulnerability isn’t gender specific. It actually binds us together in ties and relationships that function by need.
Over the years, I’ve learnt that it is through vulnerability and imperfection that God’s perfection is best manifested. Our vulnerability is not without reason. One of the verses that never fails to encourage me, especially when the going gets tough is:
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
I’m not quite sure how I feel about 2012, unlike many others who are pretty certain that this is the year the world ends. And once more, it amazes me at how fast the past year has flown. 2011 has been a rather challenging year for me, but nevertheless still enjoyable overall. Here’s an attempted timeline of 2011:
January: This blog was born and it was when I picked up blogging regularly again.
February: 5 months into learning to live abroad on my own, I was still grappling with loneliness. I signed up for an account on PostCrossing and began to send and receive random postcards from random people across the globe.
March: I botched my eyebrows after entrusting them to a local salon beautician, never again. I also went to York and had to think about big decisions.
April: Sleep was elusive and my level of homesickness was at its peak. I remember begging several times to come home then even though I was just 2 months shy of coming home for the summer. Attended my first Exeter Food & Drink Festival for 3 days in a row and stuffed myself with heavenly food all day long; I’m definitely going again this year.
May: The end of final exams brought great joy. Spring weather was most pleasant and outdoor picnics with the girls were aplenty.
June: The exhilarating joy of coming home after 9 long months was an amazing feeling. Vacationed in Taiwan and Malaysia with the family.
July: Filled with meet-ups with friends and I started a proper internship for the first time.
August: Work continued and was quickly becoming dull. I realised time was ticking and I missed my social life.
September: Bittersweet weeks leading up to my departure for the UK. On one hand, I just loved being at home and on the other, I couldn’t wait to return back to my life here where I had my own space and freedom.
October: Adjusting back to life here was quite a breeze. My then timetable was very Skype-friendly. I loved and still love my new room.
November: The workload piled up swiftly and I felt completely stressed. Didn’t really have much of a social life.
December: Visited gorgeous Bath for a day with two girlfriends, Y and H. Experienced the old joy of getting Christmas gifts and cards for loved ones again. Got to see the family again and re-visited my childhood’s “heaven on earth” – Disney World after 11 long years, reminding me why I love America. Well, the holiday aspect of it along with the plus-sized everything and late night shopping (:
Amongst the many things to be thankful for in 2011, I’m thankful that/for in no particular order:
1) God sustained me through 9 months of living abroad on my own for the first time, He saw me through ups and downs and was always faithful and true to who He is.
2) I was blessed with good grades for my foundation year and got a place in Exeter.
3) An extremely supportive and loving family who never fails to care and pray for me all the time. And of course, good friends back home who do the same.
4) By God’s grace the relationship has not only survived LDR but has also grown in many ways that I thought wasn’t possible.
5) A bunch of good girlfriends with whom I have gone through a lot and for the friendship we all share despite our many differences in personality and culture.
6) The provision of technology like Skype, BBM and Whatsapp, all without which, I would not be able to keep in close contact with family and loved ones back home. I’ve realised that constant contact, even if its a conversation on the most trivial of things, means a lot in terms of keeping ties alive.
All in all, I’m really grateful for the things God has blessed me with, many of which were things beyond what I could have asked for. Thank you, God for teaching me so much in both the good times and bad times.
I’ve missed celebrating Christmas at home, it’s been two years now. But I’m grateful that at least, I got to celebrate it with my family this year at Disney World. I just got back to Exeter yesterday and I miss my family already. It’s a strange thing, missing people. Before the trip, I knew I’d be missing them even more since I’d be seeing them for the first time in 3 months. During those 3 months, I did miss them but I was okay with it; it was like something I got used to over time. And as horrible as this sounds, I knew that seeing them after a long while would “un-do” the status quo of my feelings. But obviously, that is not the mindset I should have. I do appreciate and cherish my short time I had with them on holiday. Now as I’m unpacking my suitcase, I feel a sense of loneliness and homesickness. I guess it’s true when they say nowhere feels like home without your family and loved ones.
I can’t help but feel a sense of dread for the next 5 months or so without being able to see them. I survived 9 months last year without seeing anyone from home except a good old friend of mine, J, who was in London to visit her brother. It’s difficult. Not to mention, i’ve got 2 essays and an exam to study for in less than 2 weeks. I feel daunted and scared to say the least and I wonder how I’m going to pull myself together emotionally to get over missing my family/that sense of homesickness and get down to focus on my work. I haven’t actually been studying for over 3 weeks now and bringing my books to the US to study was of little success.
December has always been my favourite time of the year, family birthdays, Christmas and New Year to look forward to. It passed really quickly after my presentation ended in the first week. I can’t remember much about what happened but the highlight was definitely the trip to Florida. The whole month has been quite relaxing. And its been a rather warm winter so far! I’m really liking the relative warmth.
The end of 2011. So much to reflect on and think about. I’m ashamed to admit I haven’t had the energy and nor have i set aside time to do that properly yet. But I will. It’s still the first week of the new year (;