Monday, January 16, 2012

free-write: on rediscovering

Looking for something a former-me wrote, I slid my 2009 journal off my shelf. It's a thin volume of lined (always lined) cream-colored pages with a bright woven fabric covering reminiscent of those pot holders we used to make as children (remember those?). I bought it from the clearance bin at Urban Outfitters in Santa Barbara for $4.95 and then couldn't decide if it was ugly or not, so it sat on my shelf, empty and stiff, for some time. Journals are to me what shoes are to most women: I can't resist a deal and sometimes that can lead to buyers remorse. 

Finally I decided that at the very least it was fit for scraps of information that didn't fit anywhere in the neat, tidy, narrative-only journals I used to keep. I started with recipes, an email address, and directions to I don't know where. My idea-collecting evolved to include church notes, weekend to-do lists, prayer items and taped blurbs cut from magazines, even poems, anything from mundane to inspiring. Soon it bulged with all the extra papers I stuff inside the front cover and I wrapped it with a rubber-band to contain it. Bursting -- this is what I wanted my imagination to be. I took it everywhere, and it held everything that was important to me. It's bright, ugly colors soon became endearing because it was unique and bold and sure of itself in an overstated way.


A few weeks back, I did one final desperate search for a passport I haven't seen since two apartments ago. We had just finished dinner, the house was warm and dimly lit, and my housemates all sat contentedly in the living room, reading or playing on their iphones. And I, feeling lazy and a bit lonely, tried to guilt-trip them into helping me look for it. Drudgery is always easier with company. One housemate graciously obliged and sat on my bedroom floor to keep me company as I pulled out old shoeboxes and containers to root through. The search included my old green plastic expanding file, one I've had for nearly 10 years and haven't looked through in at least 3. Started before the time of google reader, pinterest and bottomless email storage, I used to print out articles, or rip them from magazines, and even cut them from newspapers, information I knew I'd want to access someday. There was an LA Times article on slums, the piece written and read by my cousin from my Nana's funeral, and an update letter I wrote to family and friends after my trip to Manila. My housemate and I laughed at some of the things I'd saved, but I also held those remnants with great care, and afterward put them back in the file, because I knew the girl who had collected those things. I can look back now and marvel at what she was trying to do, who she was trying to be. Even if I'm not sure she would recognize me, that night I remembered with respect and a bit of awe what she was like.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

where has reading taken you?

For the holidays, I decided to ask my nieces and nephews to name a goal or wish they had for the coming year so that I could choose a thoughtful gift that would encourage and motivate them. To my utter delight, two of them responded with reading-related goals (though no less delightful were the wishes of my other niece and nephew, who want to go to Disney and make more cookies -- these kids play seriously, let me tell you).

But back to the reading. This morning NPR featured a story on the newly-appointed Ambassador for Youth Literature, Walter Dean Myers. The new ambassador has chosen the slogan, "Reading is Not Optional." Give the interview a listen (or a read). Ambassador Myers is delightful, the interviewer is one of my NPR-nerd crushes, and the story is a serious and uplifting reminder of the places reading takes us in our imaginations and in fulfilling our individual potential.

Where has reading taken you?

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

joy that comes from being quiet

In lieu of resolutions, I've made a loose list of goals and hopes for 2012. They range from the very concrete "read Brothers Karamozov" to the more exploratory "love my work and play wardrobes" and "create and stick to a budget that really works for me" to the aspirational "see the Grand Canyon." Perhaps the one that is most like a resolution -- a discipline I intend to stick to throughout the year -- is to spend my Sunday's without internet, tv and movies, with the exception of enjoying them for social reasons (ie watching a movie with my housemates). This past Sunday was my first try, and it was more difficult than I expected. Checking email constantly is habit and whenever I have a random question, I look it up unquestioningly. My screenless-sabbath made me re-think my habits, and when after dinner the kitchen drain suffered a clog that draino couldn't fix (and on the first day of the year -- what an omen!) I couldn't retreat into streaming a stupid tv show episode on netflix or starting a new scrabble game on my phone.

Instead, I actually had to deal with my emotions, and after avoiding them briefly by cleaning my room -- perhaps I need physical space to allow for some mental and spiritual quiet -- I settled down, prayed, wrote, remembered and experienced peace, even in the midst of a very imperfect start to my year (and I'm not just talking about the kitchen drain).

Have any of you read this article called The Joy of Quiet from the New York Time? I have a hunch that it is, ironically, making it's way around the web.Joy, the author of the article quotes a monk as saying, is "that kind of happiness that doesn't depend on what happens." And it's not something that can be found by being endlessly and assuredly connected to people and ideas and things but, I believe, by being connected to our Maker and what He is making in and around us.

May you experience the joy that comes from being quiet, alone and connected in an unconnected way, throughout 2012.