Twenty-six

There’s something about twenty-six years that makes a person stop and ponder.  Perhaps it’s the realization that you are no longer “early twenties,” that you are on the high-side of “mid-twenties” with “late-twenties” coming up next year…and not long after that, the “thirties”.  You still feel like a teenager sometimes, except that 18-year-olds look so young.  At the same time, you feel that you aren’t quite as adult as your 30-something friends and family who seem to have found their groove in life (even if they would tell you they haven’t).

You may, by this point, be wise enough to know what you don’t know (or at least, you know that there are, in fact, a few things you don’t know), but you do know that you can get along without having it all figured out.  In fact, that’s mostly what adulthood seems to be–you may have a plan, but sometimes the plan is to improvise as you go along.  This, perhaps, used to seem more like an adventure than it does currently.  Some days you want to throw in the towel and take a road trip across the U.S. or go traveling in Europe; other days–most days–the status quo of bills paid, a place to sleep every night, food in the fridge, and the cat purring on the couch is more than good enough.  In fact, some days you find yourself wishing for a little more routine, and you wonder what happened to your more flexible stay-up-til-two a.m.-and-not-feel-it college self.

You realize that you’ve really done quite a lot with yourself in only twenty-six years.  You’ve traveled and been educated and met wonderful people and done things you never thought you’d do–until you surprised yourself and did them.  You’ve plumbed the depths of your deepest beliefs, and surfaced again to find that they are not what they used to be–they run deeper than ever, deeper than you can ever know–but their foundation is the same and remains unshaken.  You’ve discovered that joy and sadness alike can ache, and that they are sometimes bound together, inextricably; and that the hardest things to do, are often the most worth doing.  You’ve realized that you are not the same person you were, even a day or a week or a year ago, and neither is most anyone else.  You’ve learned a little more about patience and humility and compassion and grief and giving (and receiving) the benefit of the doubt.  You’ve had your eyes opened, your heart pierced, and you’ve asked questions you didn’t know existed until you asked them.  You know that you still have a long ways to go.

At the same time, there are things you’d thought you’d have done by now, which haven’t come your way yet.  Late at night, or on the edge of sleep, or while you’re doing dishes, you weigh these unclaimed things in your heart.  Sometimes you can cheerfully place them back on the “hopes and dreams” shelf (which has perhaps shrunk a little and become more organized in the last few years), but sometimes the weight of them brings you crashing to your knees.  You know that you’re “only twenty-six, you’ve got time,” but at the same time, you know that some people haven’t made it this far.  And sometimes, quietly, you wonder how much time you have left, too.  You wonder how much of that shelf you can pack in over the remaining unknown years.

But then, as you blow out the twenty-six candles on your cake, you remember that the best thing to do with life is to live.  Not to dread the things undone, or rush ahead to the next milestone, so that you can’t remember what happened while you were getting there.  There are some prized items that may stay on the shelf a long time, but don’t discard them.  Do what you can, and be patient with what you cannot.  And try to remember that the clock on the wall at work and the laundry and the dirty dishes and the cat litter are the fulfillment, or the road to, one of those dreams.  Life wouldn’t go on very well without them.

As you slice into your birthday cake, and taste the twenty-six years it represents, reflect and be encouraged.  Plan, and be ready to make it up as you go along.  Don’t ignore the stings of unfulfilled heart’s desires, but don’t let them overwhelm you.  Know that the hard will come, with a vengeance–but so will happiness and joy, with equal and more strength. You have changed and you will change–if you pray hard and work hard, this will be for the better–and this is one of the best and most merciful aspects of life.

Happy twenty-sixth birthday.

The Oddities of History + Pinterest

Along with the usual crafty-home decor feeds, I also follow the History feed on Pinterest.  This can result in some very strange image combinations on my home feed.  Tonight, for example:

-How to organize your shoe collection
-5-ingredient BBQ chicken
-Cottage shabby
-World War I, English Cavalry, Western Front in France, 1916
-Napkins from vintage sheets
-Baby shower card
-Kaaskerke, Belgium, 1917–photo of a soldier under a sand-bagged railway tunnel.
-White Peach Jam
-Gifts in a Jar
-Photo of a female Nazi concentration camp guard holding a gun to the head of a naked female prisoner.
-Free planner printables!

Pinterest: the trivial and the terrifying…sometimes it’s enough to make your head spin.

The Storm

Saturday, Shaun and I traveled north to help my brother and sister-in-law move into a new apartment.  Thunderstorms began to roll in around dinnertime.  As we started to return home, we could see that we were paralleling the edge of another front coming in.  There was clear sky to the north, on our left, and a wall of thunderclouds to the south, on our right.

We turned right, crossing the leading edge of the storm and heading straight into the mass of dark clouds.  There were a few moments of peace in the darkness, and then the rain poured down like a waterfall.  Thunder cracked and lightening flashed.  I turned the windshield wipers onto their highest setting, but after a few moments, even that wasn’t fast enough to clear the water away.  Unable to see the lines on the road, I pulled over, and after a few minutes, Shaun and I switched places so he could drive.  Just the few seconds it took to run around the car was enough to soak us both.

We continued on, Shaun steering us carefully but confidently through the deluge. The rain continued to come down hard almost the whole way home.  At times, the noise of the heavy drops pounding on the windshield made my ears hurt.  The road ahead was blurred by water.  I sat in the passenger seat and prayed, and several times suggested that we pull over and wait for the storm to pass.  I do not like thunderstorms.  But soon, my prayers for safety turned to prayers of awe.

We were driving through a corridor of storms that stretched south as far as we could see.  Away to the east, we could see the edge of its line, ragged against the a clear evening sky.  The deep blue eastern edge became purple-gray ahead of us, in the thick of the storms.  To the west, the gray clouds melted into the orange and gold sunset.  At times, through the black shadowed trees, we could see the majestic orange-red sun setting in the distance.  Lightning flashed continuously as we drove through the pelting rain, jumping from cloud to cloud and from cloud to ground.

At some point, I became more interested in the beauty of the storm than in its terrors.  I marvelled at the eerie colors and the power of the lightening.  As we passed through one of the darker areas of the storm, where neither its eastern or western edge could be seen, I spotted a dim rainbow to the east.  It was a strange rainbow, a storm-and-sunset rainbow of red and orange and green against the livid thunderclouds.  As I watched, a bolt of lightening lanced through its arc.

“Now you know why I love thunderstorms,” said Shaun, smiling as wonder edged out my fear.

After almost an hour, as we neared the end of the storm corridor, its western edge began to break apart, leaving gaping holes in the clouds.  The sunset blazed through, and I captured some very poor pictures through the rain-flecked window.

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It was a welcome sight.  The rain began to ease, and finally ceased altogether.  The clouds continued to dissolve and lost their menace, awash in the colors of the sunset.  The moon rose in the east, large on the horizon and rust-red.  As we drove home under the remnants of the storm, I pondered.  It had been frightening, and awesome, and beautiful and surreal, sometimes by turns, sometimes all at once. Now on the other side of the storm, I was glad that we drove through it, for the fear and the risk was worth the awe.

***

There is an akathist from which I have quoted before, and I will quote it again here, with new understanding:

Kontakion 5

     The storms of life are not frightening to one in whose heart shines the light of Your fire. All around the weather is bad–there is darkness, horror and the howling wind. But in the soul of such a one, there is peace and light. Christ is there!
     And the heart sings: Alleluia!

Kontakion 6

     How great You are in the power of thunderstorms, how visible is Your mighty hand in the blinding curves of lightening, amazing in Your greatness. The voice of the Lord is over the fields and in the sound of the forests; the voice of the Lord is in the birth of the thunder and rain; the voice of the Lord is over the many waters. Praise be to You in the thundering of volcanoes spitting fire. You shake the earth about like a garment. You lift up the waves of the sea into the sky. Praise be to You Who humbles human pride, drawing out the repentant cry: Alleluia!

Ikos 6

     When the palaces of earth are suddenly lit up by lightning bursting forth, how paltry seem our ordinary lights afterward. In just such a way You suddenly light up my soul during the times of deepest joy in my life. And after the brilliance of Your light, like lightning, how colorless, dark and unreal these moments seem. And my soul rushes in pursuit of You.
Glory to You, beyond the limit of the highest human dream!
Glory to You for our tireless thirst for You,
Glory to You Who has inspired in us dissatisfaction with earthly things,
Glory to You Who has enveloped us in the delicate rays of Your light,
Glory to You Who has broken the power of the spirits of darkness, and Who has doomed to annihilation every kind of evil,
Glory to You for Your revelations, for the happiness of feeling Your presence and living with You,
Glory to You, O God, unto ages of ages.

~Akathist of Thanksgiving, by Metropolitan Tryphon

The Log Book: May-June-July 2015

May went by in a rush and a whirl.  Between a wedding and a two-week trip to California, time sped away until I was suddenly in the middle of June.  And then I blinked, and it was the middle of July.

Latest projects: Spring cleaning.  Or should I say summer cleaning?  Better late than never, I say.

What’s cooking? Not a whole lot.  I did make strawberry shortcake for Mother’s Day, and steak for Father’s Day. But I didn’t cook for about three weeks between the wedding and California, so I’m trying to get back into it now.
This month’s favorites: Most of our meals have been eating out, or eating at other people’s houses.   It was fun to walk up and down Fisherman’s Wharf in Monterey, CA and sample clam chowder from various restaurants.  In our opinion, the Old Fisherman’s Grotto had the best chowder.  We also bought ourselves some horchata and indulged in some pan dulce and other Mexican treats while in California.  Apparently there are some things I miss about El Paso.

Reading:
Pig Tales by Barry Estabrook
The Emperor of All Maladies:  A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee (I am still reading this one.  It’s thick, but good.)
300 Sandwiches by Stephanie Smith
Uprooted by Naomi Novik (I have not enjoyed a piece of fiction this much in a long time.  Highly recommend.)
Financial Peace Revisited by Dave Ramsay
Harry Potter:  Sorcerer’s Stone, Chamber of Secrets, Prisoner of Azkaban & Goblet of Fire

Watching and listening:
M*A*S*H
season 1 & 2
Unbroken
War of the Worlds
BBC’s The Chronicles of Narnia:  Price Caspian & The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, The Silver Chair
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

I’m looking forward to: Not having any major events scheduled until Christmas.  It’s been fun, but I am ready for things to slow down.

Other happenings:
My younger brother commissioned into the Army and graduated from college on Mother’s Day weekend.  Is he really grown-up enough to do that???
…and then, because you can never cram too many important life events into the space of a few weeks, he got married over Memorial Day weekend.  Despite my sarcasm, it was beautiful.  I was a bridesmaid and Shaun was in the saber arch.
…two days later, we went on a two-week trip to California, visiting Shaun’s relatives.  We went to L.A., Yosemite, Monterey and San Francisco.  I want to go back!
At the end of June I took a test to determine if I have asthma.  Although the results were close, they were negative.  This is both a relief and frustration: while I don’t particularly want to “have asthma,” something is going on with my lungs.  It would be nice to pin it down and say, “That.  That is what I have.”  I am considering allergy testing, but for now I’m continuing to treat my “asthma-like symptoms” and hope that this will go away at some point.
A reunion the second week of July with some of my dearest friends from college–the first time in four years.  We met at the school and spent the weekend together.  Some oft-repeated statements that characterize the weekend:
“Why did we wait four years to get together like this???”
“We need to do this more often.  Let’s do it yearly.”
“Guys, we’re talking about health insurance and jobs and the mileage on our cars.  WE’RE SO OLD!”
It’s a summer of weddings!  My brother-in-law married to his lovely fiancee in mid-July.  We weren’t able to attend the ceremony, but we will celebrate with them at a reception in the New Year.
We have four new windows on our house!  Good-bye to stuffing dishcloths in the gaps to stop the winter winds, or sweltering in summer because we can’t open the windows to let in the breeze.