Stop Waiting

One of the most harmful things you can do to yourself is to stay in a mindset of just waiting around for things to happen.

Let’s distinguish between waiting and endurance. Endurance involves coping, maintaining a steady course, doing what you can do in an adverse situation. Endurance is necessary and advisable. Waiting, however, means expectation—anticipation of change. Something or someone outside ourselves which is going to change us and perhaps even decide our future.

There is a theme of waiting that permeates modern culture. Waiting for likes and comments. Waiting for a promotion. Waiting for friendships and “the One.” Waiting for leaders to fix the country.

This waiting mindset is not limited to secular society. Depending on your religious background, you may also carry the understanding that there is a destiny awaiting you, whether it’s a relationship, career, or something else. Don’t get me wrong—Christian destiny is true, in a sense. God loves you as an individual and wants you to be part of His Work. He even calls certain people to special missions or purposes. This is all real, with biblical precedent.

The part you need to be careful about it framing this entire idea into a Hollywood timeline, fine-grained on the individual level.

Life is like a movie only sometimes. Meanwhile, there’s many decisions you have to make. You’ve been gifted with free will to make those choices. Your life is not a screenplay. You have the autonomy to think, reason, and act, and there will be consequences to those actions, good and bad.

Stop waiting. Just stop.

I’m saying all this as if writing to my younger self, because I wish someone had told me this a long time ago. At some point, I thought if I was just good enough, patient enough, or had waited long enough, some kind of change or resolution would occur that would bring me in contact with my destiny. I shied away from making certain decisions, trying new approaches, or taking risks, because I assumed it was best to do nothing—nonintervention, if you will—and wait for things to happen. I think introverted women can be especially susceptible to this habit and sometimes attribute it as a natural element of our personality or gender, which couldn’t be further from the truth.

Waiting is not always bad—there are times and seasons for it. However, neither is it the pinnacle of faithfulness. What was really happening was that I was abdicating responsibility, and that’s the opposite of what we are called to do. If you want a change in your life, do something about it; act in good conscience and remember perfection is impossible. Just don’t get stuck in the waiting rut.

For more on this topic, I recommend Fr. Mike Schmitz’s video What’s a Sign from God (and What Isn’t).

Biography

Day 18: If you had to devote a year researching to write a biography, who would be your subject?

Someone—almost anyone—that I know.

That probably sounds flippant; let me explain… I think “ordinary” people have some of the most interesting and unusual life stories. Anyone would make an excellent biography or biopic, if you really got into the nitty-gritty of their past. More than that, I think ordinary people are the best reflection of a particular time period, more than celebrities, so you would learn a lot of history from their life story.

Moving Forward

Day 17: What activities or realizations from this past, unprecedented year will you carry with you moving forward?

Looking Back

I was looking back at my COVID journal the other day, and I had to smile. On March 12, I wrote:

I’m actually optimistic it will all blow over in the next couple of weeks and that these shutdowns are either an overabundance of caution or much-needed preventative measures.

Three days later, I was “a little bit in shock.” At some point in that week, I realized it wasn’t going to be a two-week stint, but that the entire world was changing… whether I liked it or not, whether it made sense or not.

This past year has been a time of growing self-awareness. I had such high hopes for 2020—I’d just started a new job (working from home, ironically!) and made plans to travel, find a church, and get my life together on a new track. These were my hopes, after many years of being a homebody, hyper-focused on uni and work. This was me on New Year’s Eve, 2020.

At first I giggled a bit over the shutdown. Now, people like my old coworker, who relentlessly teased me about staying home, were experiencing the same thing. As for me, I would pass through this trial quite easily, right?

Er… not quite…

Being close to grandparents with serious health vulnerabilities, my family has essentially self-quarantined for the past year. We take very, very few risks. There is nothing easy about this, even for someone who leans introverted. I no longer go on the occasional outings and rituals I used to, such as going to the theater, concerts, farmers’ markets, or family get-togethers. I don’t eat at restaurants with family or friends anymore. (In WA, theaters and restaurants only just reopened for indoor dining anyway). I’ve learned there is a big difference between voluntarily staying home and being forced to stay home.

At first, my mental health took a downward turn. The smallest things, like logging in for work, felt so burdensome. Meanwhile, political warfare raged overhead, and I watched as the worst sides of people surfaced in my community. I struggled with literally every aspect of my life, even my “rock-solid” faith.

Finding Myself Again

Whether a life is fulfilled doesn’t depend on how great one’s range of action is, but rather only on whether the circle [of one’s influence and impact] is filled out.

Viktor Frankl, Yes to Life: In Spite of Everything

There were a couple of lessons I took from 2020.

First was that I realized the gift of free will. God gives free will to all people—“the good and the bad and the worst and the best.” Of His believers, He only asks that we believe and trust in Him and follow His commandments. With that as my compass, I have so much freedom in life and many decisions to make. It’s a great responsibility but also a blessing. A new habit I have formed from this is engaging more with the world, more than I ever did before the pandemic, as well as taking more initiative in my life.

Second thing I learned is that clarity is also freedom. Jordan Peterson put this well in 12 Rules for Life when he said “Be precise in your speech.” This includes everything from telling the truth to setting personal boundaries and clearly communicating what those boundaries are. I’ve also applied it towards journaling, writing out exactly what I perceive problems or fears to be, the pros/cons/reality of the situation, and possible decisions I can make. This is rarely comfortable, but it is the right and truly kind thing to do, both to yourself and to others.

I think my third takeaway is that life is still very good, blessed, and beautiful. Just as I’ve seen the worst in people, I’ve also seen the best—family taking care of each other, friends checking up on friends. You can live for an imaginary “post-pandemic” future, which may never come, or you can value each and every day as a gift, improving what you can and accepting what you can’t improve. I don’t claim to be “doing it right” at all… in fact, every month and milestone, I cringe over my mistakes and hope and pray to get better at coping. But all you can do is do your best, and you only find out your full potential when you’re put to the test.

Giant Cedars – TBT

Do you have a happy place? No, I don’t mean drugs…. I mean a place you can imagine in your mind where you feel safe and happy.

There are several places that make me feel this way, but when I think of my official happy place, it’s the Giant Cedars Boardwalk in B.C., Canada, which my family visited back in 2011.

When I walked through this cedar forest and felt very calm and at peace, I decided this was the place I would think about anytime I felt stressed or unhappy… a wooden path through waves of green, with ribbony bark rising up overhead. It wasn’t even the most beautiful forest I’ve ever been in, but it came at the right time, and memory elevates it to the place of a fairytale.

The Age You Feel

Day 16: Suppose you have no idea what year you were born. What age do you feel right now?

I have an odd relationship with the age 35.

I’ve long thought that I’ll have things figured out by then. Life will be more predictable. I will be more predictable. It’s a tacit promise I’ve made to myself, not particularly rooted in facts or realism, just in a desire to stop feeling at sea and a decision to cast anchor when I reach the magic number.

What I’ve found lately is that I feel I’ve lived several lives already. I don’t mean in a reincarnation sense. I mean that my life of 20-something years reads like a series of clearly defined eras, and I was a different variation of myself in each one…sometimes very different.

Right now, and with those iterations behind me, I do feel about 35 years old. Yes, I do have the occasional existential crisis (which could not be more 20-something 😉 ), but on my best days there is a steadiness inside me which I can’t imagine bettering.

It could be, too, that I will always feel old, because my personal philosophy is that you can always reach your full potential in any time of life. Your full potential is just the limits of what you can do with the knowledge, experience, and abilities you have at that point in time. So it is rather unfair to say that one matures… you only mature if you find a way to maximize your potential in the current moment. But comparing your younger self to your older self doesn’t make sense; it almost assumes constants, when life is a series of variables.


Back from dinner… I’m not sure if any of the above made sense, even to myself. I’ll stick with 35.

Earliest Memory

Day 15: Describe your earliest childhood memory. Regardless of how mundane, why do you think it has stuck for so long?

I have a few early memories, but I don’t know what order they come in, or how accurate they are. For what it’s worth:

I remember one evening that I got night terrors (yes, I was one of those kids). My dad came and carried me around on his shoulders to calm me down. The stove light cast a dim, yellow glow around the kitchen and the sand-colored linoleum floor with its geometric flowers. He had a slow, rhythmic way of walking reserved just for these times, and I felt much better. It occurred to me if I showed it too much, he might put me back to bed, and I wasn’t ready to go back to bed. So I sat very still and quiet, and sailed over the flowers a bit longer.

This memory has probably lasted because I tend to only remember things that affect me very strongly, and everything else fades into the background. When you’re little, getting scared feels like a life-and-death situation, and it’s how the adults react in these moments that sticks with you, for better or worse.

Thoughts on Red Cliff (2008)

Tonight I watched the abridged cut of Red Cliff. This was a 2-part Chinese historical drama first released in 2008 and 2009. The short version is about 2.5 hours long, a condensed edit of the two longer films (which are over 4 hours total).

The plot—loosely based on historical events—follows two warriors from the south, Liu Bei and Zhao Yun, who set out to meet Prime Minister Cao Cao in battle. Cao Cao has plans to usurp the throne, but he is doing so under the guise of suppressing southern rebellion. He also has his sights set on Zhao Yun’s wife, Xiao Qiao, whom he’s been obsessed with for years. With fewer numbers and resources, Liu Bei and Zhao Yun must use their wits and the wisdom of a young advisor, Zhuge Liang, to put up a meaningful defense against the northern aggressor.

I got to watch this because it was free on Hoopla, but I think watching this version may have been a mistake. The abridged cut is, as one Amazon reviewer put it, little more than a montage of battle scenes. They’re good battle scenes, but they don’t carry the plot well enough. I found myself drifting off towards the end of the movie, even during the biggest battle. Apparently the two-part version has more in the way of character development, which this was somewhat lacking.

The resemblance to The Lord of the Rings is really striking. The beginning of the movie starts with something like Helm’s Deep, where the warriors are defending a group of peasants attempting to escape on foot. I saw similar characters as well—types that reminded me of Arwen, Éowyn, Gimli, and Aragorn. The cinematography and color palette also reminded me of LOTR. This isn’t a bad thing, and those looking for serious historic warfare, with just a touch of mythology, won’t be disappointed.

I don’t know why this film is rated R. There was plenty of battle violence and blood, but it all happened so chaotically there wasn’t much gore shown. There is one intimate scene between husband and wife, but again, nothing really shown. This is the kind of movie you can watch with just about anyone, so long as they don’t mind the battles.

Overall, I give the abridged Red Cliff 3.5 stars. It was good, but I didn’t love it. I’m undecided whether I want to see the longer version, maybe some time in the future.

What I Do

Day 14: Without noting your job title, explain what it is you do in life.

“I consider myself kind of a Christian existentialist.”

He looked at me with surprise.

“Sometimes you don’t know what you’re doing in life,” I went on clumsily, “what you’re here for. I’m confident in my faith, but sometimes I don’t understand everything until much later, or at all. I don’t know what I’m doing. But it’s ok. It’s about finding the meaning in each moment, day-to-day.”

Yes… even when you wake up at 5:40 AM and wonder if this is all you have to look forward to. Life feels like a series of meetings, training, and tasks. Sometimes I remember somebody out there sees what I made, taps the button I added a hundred times, is battling struggles far greater than mere tedium. I remember what that was like.

I hear about outsourcing and am humbled.

I skipped a nap to have that conversation because for some reason the words stick, and I will survive six hours of sleep but not an hour of silence.

What you get paid for is replaceable; what you give is what you are.

We haven’t spoken since. Some would have called it a waste of time, but I think it was meant to be.