Wednesday, November 28, 2012

“I love you and I’m sorry we’re going to die.”

“I love you and I’m sorry we’re going to die.”  My favorite creative writing professor at Florida State once told my class that every short story, when you read it carefully, says this message over and over again.  I can’t remember where he got it- a book, a friend, his head- only that at first it made me sad.  The class had mixed feelings. We asked what he meant but he would never say more; only that it’s true and we must figure it out ourselves. No way, I thought, that’s ridiculous and morbid. My short stories will be about love, about life and friendship. Death will never touch them.  I was still angry then.

Sorry if you tuned in for something funny today- I had every intention of compiling a list of all the simple joys in life that I cherish.  They’re definitely funny. But as I wrote, it seemed like the second act of a play. How could I explain the things that bring me joy without the bigger picture? Like the joy of the first flower bud opening after a long, cold winter; like seeing a dear friend’s face just before you’ve lost the details of every freckle and color in your memory.  I think you may better understand my greatest joys with a glimpse of my greatest sorrow. Essentially, the truth in that tiny message: “I love you and I’m sorry we’re going to die.”

But now that simple phrase doesn’t seem so scary.  I wonder if it means something like this…that any story- any good story anyway- without knowledge of its end, cannot really begin.  To acknowledge this life is only a journey with an end…there is a weight there, some credibility. As if the writer tips his hat to death, pulls up his boots and carries on.  The sorrow is only for things that pass away, namely, our time here.

 Or another interpretation: are there really any two things on this earth worth saying more? “I love you” certainly speaks for itself.  “I’m sorry we’re going to die”- this is the hang up. Sort of makes you uneasy.  We don’t like thinking about death.   The being sorry part is interesting, too.  It certainly could have been, “I love you and one day we will die,” or, “I love you and I hope we never die,” or even, “I love you and I accept that everyone dies.”  Honestly, it used to make me feel guilty. I thought we should not be sorry to die if we really believe our purpose is to return to God. 

That may be true.  I’m not sure. I hope I’m happy to go home, when the time comes.  Half the time I’m yelling at God for making us stay on this crazy planet without Him for one second. To feel Him for even a moment, to know Him and want Him, and then feel torn from Him? Death, in this case, would only be joy. The fulfillment of our deepest purpose.   I get that. But if we didn’t mourn losing our lives on earth at all…what would be the point?  Is not saying, “I’m sorry we’re going to die” equal to saying, “I’m so happy we’re alive?” Does it not carry in its very meaning a respect for life and its beauty that perhaps only the light of death can reveal?

 Regardless, this phrase came to me at a time I needed it most.  Sophomore in college, thinking I had it all figured out as I slowly slipped, refusing to confront myself.  I will never forget it.  It helped me shed my despair instead for gratitude.  Life no longer a ticking clock; death no longer a bomb waiting to explode at any minute.  It reminded me it’s simply our final destination- and if we’re not enjoying the ride enough to be sorry when it’s over- we must not be paying attention. 

I think He works with all of us much more gently than we work with ourselves.  Like in simple phrases that can change our whole perspective when we only stop to listen.  Whenever I’m in a slump, He sends me what I need. Recently I attended a memorial mass for a friend I lost five years ago, today, actually. I’m sure that’s the reason my joys slipped slowly from my fingers onto the page.  This time of year is always hard for many people. But the priest’s homily convicted me the same way this little phrase did back in school.

He reflected on the experiences of those who have met death. Others can only describe the marked difference in them as depression. Perhaps, sometimes it is.  I remember feeling as if I’d aged a thousand years in a moment. But often, he said, death simply changes a person’s entire framework and for them the whole world is changed.  They now hold the weight of reality in its fragility and mortality. They realize the truth that this world is transitory.  The only difference for people of faith is that we have hope. Hope that God made us because He loves us and one day we’ll make it back to Him; hope that those we’ve lost have simply gone before; hope that we can really enjoy this life.  He challenged everyone to make our lives count, to get up every day because it glorifies our lost loved ones’ lives and God.  It’s a responsibility really, once you’ve seen the truth, to choose to live so fully that you will in fact, be sad to go, and others will mourn your passing.

The same day a friend sent me an article that touched me from the New York Times. It’s called, “On Being Not Dead,” by Bill Hayes. Check it out, if you have time.  It’s so nice to read your own feelings in someone else’s words.  It’s like making a new friend with endless affirmations that you’re not, in fact, insane.

So here’s to beauty of our short, meaningful lives. I do love you.  I’m sorry we’re going to die, so I pray for the strength and wisdom to recognize every joy, large and small.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Rookie Runner

When I moved home to Maryland this fall and resolved to kick weight watchers in the face once and for all, I decided my parents and I were going to become “active people.” You know what I mean, people who say things like: Oh, I wake up at 6am to run 10 miles every morning…or…Can’t go out tonight, I have to wake up early for a triathlon…or my favorite…Man, I really need new running shoes, I’ve really worn mine out.

Gosh, what a dilemma. My running shoes look brand new if you’d like to borrow mine.  I listen to these people with equal feelings of admiration and flat out envy.  While they’re on mile 5 each morning, I’m throwing my alarm clock across the room.  The only thing that can drag me out of bed is coffee or food.  We’ll be more like…afternoon active people.

This determined desire to have more active lives stems from a few reasons.  One, healthy body= better chances for a healthy mind, and Lord knows I could use some help with that. Two, since I broke up with sugar and carbs to count points and it’s WORKING, exercise is the best thing.  Hello skinny jeans. 

But let’s be real- the third reason may be what’s really pushing me.  Active people are just. SO. COOL.  And now that I’m an adult, and my metabolism has basically leveled out with all the effortlessly athletic tiny people from my past – let me tell you- it is healing to get out there and have fun.

For every time I wasn’t picked for the dodge ball team because I was slow…boom!  I’m 5’9” and I can outrun you now.  For every team party we weren’t invited to because we weren’t in the junior Olympics…HA! Now I can bike miles and miles and I’m not even tired.

And the best part is…we like it. My parents are right out there with me- cold weather and all- biking and walking it up.  My super cool Dad even got our new bike rack on sale. What’s. Up.

If I could, I’d personally thank WW, whoever invented the Couch to 5K app, Drake, Daft Punk and Big Time Rush (judge away), and every person who ever had a 13.1 sticker on their car that made me want to be like them.  It really is a whole new world.

Don’t be fooled- I’m still a rookie- overestimating my running capabilities and limping home.  Today I was chased by a dog, and only noticed it was on a chain after I had tripped on the sidewalk.  I also suggest NOT wearing spandex pants unless your tush needs affirmation from random men.  Rookie mistake.

So for all my people out there- the slow runners, the chubby kids, those of us used to getting participant ribbons- there is hope on the other side. Get some good shoes.  Some good music. Double up on sports bras and just go outside.  I prefer jogging and biking because I love the scenery and you can run away from people you’d rather not speak to.  Also kickboxing- but that’s a whole separate blog.  Kicking the crap out of something just makes everything so clear.  And if you want to lose weight- I obviously love WW- but today I’m tired and if I write about it I may crack and eat a pizza. Another time.

It’s getting late- go work out! The snobby awesome active people are.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Welcome to Planet Amanda

Welcome to Planet Amanda.  Yes, I know Earth is technically “revolving” around the sun, but I like the word spin much better, for any science people who automatically thought me an idiot.  You may be right, but that’s for another day. Thank you, truly, for clicking on this page.  Seems silly to have a blog if I’m the only one reading it.

Quick bio for those who don’t know me well. I write to you from cozy Southern Maryland, a town where the metro traffic meets the corn fields.  I’m a practicing Roman Catholic, I'm proud to be American, and I love my family and friends dearly – those three things being my main reasons for getting out of bed each morning.  I enjoy writing, obviously, reading good books, biking and kickboxing.  I just graduated from Florida State- go Noles!-and I miss my land with my whole heart, as the south runs through my veins.  But Mary-land is indeed my home, and resting before my next big adventures has its advantages.  

This blog is weeks, months, years overdue perhaps.  Simply because I’m still hesitant to jump on the blog train.  The permanency of words strewn across the vastness of the internet cyberworld may seem commonplace to some, but for me it is like signing my name in blood.  I do not doubt the overwhelming power of words; I’ll be sure to be particular with mine.  I try to only say things I mean with my whole heart and body- so when I say welcome to my planet, I mean it.  If I give you nothing else, it will be my genuine lens of reality- with all my selfishness, joy, love and sorrow intertwined.

So even with my doubts today I felt compelled; convicted even, to start sharing some of the words I hold so close.  A mixture of events happened simultaneously which stirred a deep pang to simply do something.  As I sipped my afternoon coffee I perused Facebook and my email on my beloved iPhone.

Two friends had sent me links to Articles/ videos about Dorothy Day, regarding the Bishops progression with her path to sainthood.  If you don’t know about DD- you should.  Like St. Teresa of Avila or Edith Stein…let’s just say she’s my woman.  Tough, brilliant, compassionate, to the point.  I respect these women with every ounce of my being.  It’s my life dream to help people like they did.  Go read about Dorothy Day right now, even if it means you stop reading my blog.

As I tried to control my joy and quit screaming, I saw my mom emailed me an article from the Catholic Standard called, “U.S. Bishops, Catholic bloggers discuss how tweets, blogs help evangelize.”  Great.  Dig the knife even deeper. Deep down, I know my generation is more than jersey shore and sexting. I know we have the capacity for greatness, if only we could build each other up.

Catholic Social Media Article

It was a moment of self reflection.  I have all these plans…mixed with so much confusion about the present. I’m 22 years old, fresh out of college. I’m not the acclaimed novelist my 16 year old self thought I would be.  In fact, most of my plans don’t really turn out as I hoped.  And with all my happiness a grasp away, wrapped up in some dream of the future, I consistently fail to realize the beauty of today.

So if Dorothy were here, I bet she’d tell me to get off my butt and do something.  You want to be writer? Then write something.  You want to tell the world that young people like you still love God and will give their lives for their faith? Then you better start telling them. That bit about building each other up? I think it can start somewhere as small...or as a blog.

Each day I wake up, amazed that we’re on the Earth, spinning around the sun. Really.  If you think about it too long, it will start to freak you out.  As a child, I used to cry and cry thinking about the depth of eternity. Now, I just don’t think of it lest I lose all capability to function, completely lost in my mind dreaming of paradise.  In the past, I’ve tried really hard not to- but I believe we’re on this planet for a reason. I have to believe He didn’t give us each day for nothing; that we didn’t have to pass through this life alone.  I often wonder why He made us at all. In fact, I wonder that still. Wars, disease, violence, accidents.  Sometimes it seems like such a waste.  But as we spin around the Sun, unsure of so many things, take courage in the fact you are not alone.

I hope this blog can be a source of comfort, of laughter.  A simple reminder of our fragile humanity and how each day is new.  As a rule I try not to take myself too seriously, so I suggest the same for you.  We may have a lot in common, or nothing at all.  But for musings on being human, a single young woman, encountering post grad quarter life crisis, bleeding incense because we’re so Catholic, hating/loving weight watchers and my stupid skinny new life, or for general sarcastic and snide comments…you’re in the right place.