All the Little Colors

Sometimes I feel like life is moving too slow, though it is at the same time moving too fast. I’m talking about the big moments in life. Finding that special someone, moving out, getting that big promotion, launching that grand project. I feel like it is easy to pass through life waiting on these things to happen without enjoying the mundane and ordinary that make up the majority of our days. The real life where real moments, memories, and character are forged–it is easy to waste away. It is deceptive; the days can seem to drag out long and slow, but when you begin to add them up you get to wondering how you got so far out into the present.

I might have gotten used to thinking that everyday should offer some sort of fireworks spectacular. Something that would set my days apart, either jump-starting or lighting it up with emotion. Some films and novels would have me believe that. What’s so devastating is that most of my days, in fact, are no different from one another. I wake up, go to work for 9 hours, come back and eat dinner, do chores, read and write (and occasionally, exercise) before turning in to sleep. Then, I wake up the next morning and push repeat.

Yet, it is in this routine of life that I am finding what it means to be devoted to the small things, the little details and attention of life that can make the mundane magnificent and even sacred. It is learning to put every bit of heart into every moment you’ve been given. It is learning to look deeper than the surface, to discover what makes this day’s color sepia as opposed to mahogany. (It is easy to see a contrast between blue and red; it takes a whole other set of eyes to split and define shades.)

I remember contributing an article to an old publication several years ago, when I was just starting my post-graduate journey. As a jobless and poor young adult, I talked about how I felt like Moses when he was relegated to spending 40 years of his life in the desert, doing little more than tending sheep and wishing for a 7-Eleven to open up near his house. My focus was on how Moses eventually made it through that desert period and onto the next stage and calling for his life.

It’s almost five years later and I now revisit that story but with a different perspective. A part of me still feels like I’m in that desert (or have returned there). But this time, instead of looking to just get through it, I am now focusing on my life while being in it. I’m sure Moses learned it this way. Though Scripture is mum on the matter, something tells me that he made the most of his time. That as a careful shepherd he came to know each sheep and its unique features, why this one was missing a patch of wool above its ear or why that one always steered left of the herd. In my mind there is no doubt that he cared for each sheep dearly and studied each one intently. He learned how to be a great leader before he was ever called to be one.

We often look for the big moments and events by which we can mark our lives. It may be rightfully so. But what will we make of the other seemingly ordinary days that come before and after the fireworks? I am learning to see the colors beyond the surface, whether or not the smoke has cleared. And the days shall all be wonderful if we are willing to see them that way.

The Slow Blog

My sister found me the perfect site today. It’s called “The World Institute of Slowness” or simply the “Slow Blog.” She said she came across it and actually thought of me first. I don’t know if she’s implying that I’m dumb or that I take too much time when I move.

But after clicking the link and looking through some of the content, I realized it was indeed for me. It talked about life and the necessity to slow some things down in efforts to really get at the heart of life–the quiet pleasures, gradual beauty–that is so often missed amidst the noise and quickness of “life.”

I stumbled upon a quote from one of their earlier entries that really sums up its ideals (and, of course, my “slow” sentiments). It’s from the Dalai Lama:

We have bigger houses but smaller families;
more conveniences, but less time;
We have more degrees, but less sense;
more knowledge, but less judgement;
more experts, but more problems;
more medicines, but less healthiness;
We’ve been all the way to the moon and back,
but have trouble crossing the street to meet
the new neighbor.
We build more computers to hold more
information to produce more copies then ever,
but have less communication;
We have become long on quantity,
but short on quality.
These are times of fast foods
but slow digestion;
Tall men but short character;
Steep profits but shallow relationships.
It’s a time when there is much in the window,
but nothing in the room.

It’s a great site that’s worth checking out. That is, of course, only if your quick and ever-demanding schedule allows it.

Terrible Twenties

I never thought my twenties would be this hard. I never thought I’d be complaining about a time when I would have the most freedom to do whatever I wanted. A time when I was old enough to go where I wanted to go and rich enough to buy whatever I wanted to buy (not that I make a lot of money…I just don’t have a need for the “finer things” in life). A time when I wasn’t quite responsible for my own wife and children, yet had no obligation to tend to my mother and father (who might actually enjoy having an empty nest after all). The twenties–a decade that screams “It’s all about you! Enjoy it while it lasts.”

So, why are my twenties so hard? Why are there so many days like this, when I would feel utterly lonely, entirely spent from a third of my day at work, restless with whatever evening I have left to spare? Why are there so many days that I feel like I’ve wasted? That I wish I could take back? Why do I feel like I have so much catching up to do? What am I even trying to catch up to, or with?

Perhaps I feel like being in my twenties should entitle me to automatic-fun days every day of this decade–and the problem is that I’m not. Perhaps a part of me feels a little slighted, a bit indignant. I know and hear about people living like there’s no tomorrow–boozing it up, sexing it up, not giving a care about anything beyond their five senses. These people waited all their lives for the twenties. They’ll even try to extend it into the thirties if they can help it. They’re having fun. They’re reaping the benefits of their fleeting youth. I get it.

But I don’t get it at the same time. Because if it were that simple then I don’t know why I’m still miserable whenever I am out “where the people are” or when I see a friend get hammered. I haven’t fully bought into the seductive lie that it’s about me–and I can’t. This small part deep inside of me–perhaps more, who knows–knows that there’s got to be more to my life than this. But I guess I haven’t fully turned my ear from it either.

In spite of it all, there is something inside me that tells me to hold on, especially on days like this. It tells me to keep waiting. To keep praying. To keep giving. To keep counting my blessings. To keep walking, even when I feel like sitting down and raising my flag. It tells me that even when it doesn’t feel like it, I am still living it right.

I am reminded that there is a cost for everything in life. The greater the prize, the bigger the cost. Sacrifices are demanded. Athletes give up certain foods and habits to train their bodies to compete. It’s no different from writing a good story. The best stories always take the most time, creativity, and effort to complete.

I suppose then it is no different with life. The lives worth living, and the obituaries worth reading, are the ones that tell of the sacrifices made to give, reach, teach, and love. Stories like these are being written everyday, and they are the ones that will be remembered forever. But they are often overlooked or go unnoticed, and maybe that’s what makes it so hard to buy. But I should know better by now–didn’t they always tell me not to judge a book by its cover?

I believe I will get through this one day. I hope one day I will look back to these times, when my neurosis was on full drive and misery as my only company, and appreciate them for what they were worth, and how they made the ending that much greater.

Run To Break

I’ve watched people do it on TV, and I’ve read stories of those who’ve trekked miles on end, going through hell or high water to complete the course. I’ve even sponsored those who’ve done it for good causes. People who’d run 10, 20, 50 miles for something. Kudos, I’d say, good for them. But as for me? No thanks. Just watching people do it already felt like torture enough.

I don’t know what it is about running, but I was never drawn to it. This might seem kind of funny, coming from someone who’s been active in sports ever since a young age. But I didn’t play soccer, and I hear they do a lot of running, so maybe that might explain some things.

But this one day, I got asked–or more like suckered–by a friend who’s in grad school for Physical Therapy to help assist in a “project.” She’s nice and cute, so I said sure. Little did I know what I had consented to. What this meant was a whole day’s worth of physical tests: crunches, dips, box jumps, and finally, after all of that–running. A mile and a half. I wanted to curl up in a ball and die. Why do I always fall for these tricks?

Before I had time to bail, we were at the Claremont Colleges track. She said I had to do 6 laps, which was equivalent to one and a half miles. My first lap around the track was cake. I made good time, and I was all smiles; I even waved to her. But then my body began to remember that it hadn’t run that much in four years. It began to throw a hissy fit in the middle of the track, and I couldn’t shut it up. My legs began to slow, I couldn’t catch my breath, and my stomach started to cramp. I wanted to quit right then and there.

But I didn’t. I finished the race. In fact, my scores for all the tests weren’t half bad. More than anything, I was just glad that I didn’t faint on the track and end up looking like an idiot. I told her she was funny and that she had fooled me good. She said there’ll be re-evaluations in 2 months. I told her that’s unfortunate, because around that time I would be inconveniently missing in Zimbabwe.

But something started in me that day. This whole concept of running was something different. Something that broke me from my norm, and something that took me away from my fears. And throughout the next couple weeks, I would find myself in these sporadic, sudden urges to jog. So I would. Ten minutes each time, which was also about the time it took my mind to register regret. But funny thing is, I’d do it again another night. And another.

———-

Here I was, after a long day of work. Eleven hours behind a desk. I come home and was initially tempted to shower and sleep, or go right back to my computer, as if eleven hours weren’t enough. Or turn on the TV. But, for some odd reason, I felt that urge again. So I listened. I got home, changed my clothes, and hit the road.

Instead of my usual jog around the block, I decided to run across the main road to the other side of my street. This road was new to my feet; it had a steeper incline and darker paths. But I was digging it. I was lost in the familiar, yet newness of the place. Then it occurred to me, as I was rounding the end of that street. In the past 13 years since I’ve moved to this city, I had yet to see this side of the street. Thirteen years. I felt a sort of pathetic sadness come over me; it was just the other side of my house. But then I realized another thing: tonight was a new night. I didn’t have to live out my past, my history. Life was handing me another page, telling me I had a chance to rewrite my days. But only if I wanted to–only if I’d choose to take my life off auto-pilot.

I came back and showered. It was a settled satisfaction that met me in the water. The sort that painted a new color to my life this night. For many it would have just been a jog. Deep inside, though, I knew it was more than that. I ran to break monotony that night. I ran to break the comfort that I had so easily resigned to. I ran to break my fears. And I knew, if I would only run to break more often, then my life would be the sort of life I’ve always wanted and longed for it to be.

———-

I watch less television now. Instead, I try to run. I try to tune into the night’s revelry of stars and violet haze, the trees and the smell of season’s freshness. I am entertained by what they all have to say. It is a beautiful episode.

I couldn’t believe how often I had traded this in for the next rerun of Sportscenter. But that’s in our nature, isn’t it? Sometimes, we live our lives and go through the routine, expecting no more and aiming no higher. We can’t imagine what it would be like to live a different story, to run a different route. All the sights you’d find, all the paths you’ve never imagined your out-of-shape body could travel. So, we opt for more gadgets and more sitcoms and more drinks to forget.

We spend half our days living in fake worlds. Then we spend the other half wondering why our lives are boring.

———-

It’s funny. In what I had once dreaded I have now found refuge. I don’t know if I would have ever discovered it if it weren’t for that one day. But I’m glad I did.

Now I see a little more how God speaks. He speaks in my risks, my struggles, my pains. He speaks in my runs. And he tells me wonderful stories of peace, adventure, and fulfillment.

Keep running, he’d say, because there is so much more you have yet to discover.

needed to run to break the monotony, the patterns, the comfort that only numbs my life until it is sucked dry. So I laced them up at 10:15, usually 45 minutes just before my bedtime, and went for it.