Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Be here now.

~If our friendship depends on things like space and time, when we've finally solved the mystery of space and time, then we've destroyed our own brotherhood! But take away space, and all we have is "here". Take away time, and all we have left is "now". And in the midst of "here and now", don't you think we might see each other once or twice?~ (Antoine St. Exupery)

The scenario: the time between you turn off the lights to go to bed, and the moment that you actually fall asleep. For me, it spans from probably 10 minutes to 45 minutes, depending on the caffeine intake, and previous events of the day. But all to often, what I turn to is a "happy place", we've all heard that phrase before, some moment of my existence whose circumstances and feelings associated with them were happier than the ones that are currently, in the here and now, on my mind.

The only real flaw of living in a set place for a long period of time, at least in my opinion, is that it is incredibly difficult, and I'm not sure entirely impossible to not fall into a pattern. Not only does that pose a risk of stunting growth, but, along with that, it makes it difficult to see where, on the life scale, you have sold yourself short. Does that even make sense? No, no it does not. In other words, making something other than the greater hope for mankind my "happy place" means that on a semi-nightly basis, I turn my energies (granted, they are few by the end of the day) toward something in my past, and in essence, saying that I wish I was back there again because today did not top it. Now, I've been teased since high school(thanks Nic!) about the anxiety that I sometimes get about the future, and the big hoohah joke (that's right, hoohah!) was that I wasn't living in the moment, and everyone else magically was.

The fact is that my life is incredibly tame compared to what this existence can throw our way, and I would imagine that there are plenty who would give anything to go back to those good old college days when food plans were available, or when their parents were alive, or when they didn't feel useless, or when they had the love of another person. "Moving on" is an interesting pair or words to toss around, because it demands that we recognize the past for what it was, act accordingly, and then completely forget about it.

Even in such an awesome place and experience such as the one I am living, and trying to live as hugely as possible; I find myself, in those situations when comfort from home is needed, I turn my thoughts toward a relationship or experience that I know either Seattle or California brings me. I, quite frankly, have no excuse, and will try from now on to be fully and completely and wholeheartedly in Israel. One of my favorite sayings of Confucious is "Wheresoever you go, go with all your heart." Don't leave it with your friends or favorite water front, or even family. Your presence in those places and hearts is there whether or not you turn to them for a quick escape from discomfort or not. But if you opt to feel the tough things with as much absorption and acceptance and grace as you feel those mountain top moments, it will give you a perspective and strength that is incredibly useful and conducive toward helping and contributing whenever the need may present itself. Every chance we take not to run away assures that those inevitably tough areas of life that demand the strength of the human spirit to rise infinitely higher will not paralyze with fear, even if the difference is miniscule, it matters.

I hope you all are well living the good life with the remaining summer that is among us. Rock on, croutons.


Saturday, August 16, 2008


I grew up a child of the 90's, and that inevitably meant that T.G.I.F. television, Full House, the Disney Channel, and classic movies that featured the one and only Emilio Estevez were, sad or not, comfort experiences whose theme songs I can still recite on command and whose actors I most definitely crushed on once or twice. Hello, John Stamos. I also, and this is a lot of information, but if we're not honest, there's not a lot left, have always desperately wanted to be a child actor on one of those programs who got that awesome profile shot with their name under it accompanied with a very upbeat theme song about family values. At this point in my life, I couldn't be more thankful that a) I didn't have the talent to do that, as my cuteness was more because I had purple glasses and a few speech impediments, not because I was witty and b) My parents caught onto that, and never entered me into anything that resembled a talent competition.

Now, it's been a whole 10 days since I've had the joyful encounter of watching Mr. Feeny rock the classroom, but one of the things that always drew me to entertainment of wholesomeness is because at the end of each episode, there is always a redeeming moment, one where everything works out for the best, people hug or kiss, inspirational music plays, and you end the show believing that life like that. You all know what I'm talking about, and they get me EVERY time even though I'd like to think that I've changed since 4th grade. Regardless, the end-of-movie victory scenes in all three Mighty Ducks movies give me chills like an eskimo. When Charlie hugs Coach Bombay because he gave it his all and beat Iceland, or made his mom proud, or whatever, there is something about the underdog having the last say that is moving.

That was a very long explanation as to why what I saw today was particularly moving, and I'm hesitant to even write about such a topic because it's not my style to enter into this conversation unless both parties are ready and willing. But eff that, because while wandering in the Old City today, some friends and I stumbled upon the Holy Sepulchre, which I've been wanting to see, but didn't expect to find today at all. The Holy Sepulchre is a huge church built in 1149 that houses the site of Jesus' crucifixion, anointing, burial, and first resurrection sighting. It's a rather large labyrinth of chapels all dedicated to different points in time and people who played a part in that story, and they have original remnants of the slab or rock where He was anointed, the hole in the ground where the cross was nailed, the rock that held it up, etc, etc.

The people who I was with had no particular emotional attachment to this, so it was both understanding and uncomfortable that it was hard for me to hold it together as I was wandering through this place, because what kept hitting me over and over again was the victory story that these very real remnants tell humankind. What I find the most compelling about Christian faith is the redemption aspect...that it's never over. The point of the cross is that just when you think all hope is lost, and mankind really is as doomed as it feels, God sprouts some green through the concrete and we find that the game's not over, and the hope that we deem way too good to be true, actually exists, and perhaps the toughest thing to accept is how good of an offer that really is. I didn't mean for that to get preachy, by any means, but I'm convinced that it's more of a universal feeling and longing than a Christian label can bring across.

Christianity has been tainted and the church has made horrible mistakes, and absolutely still continues to not live up to the mission the God that we claim so fervently, or in some cases, as quietly as possible, to believe in. I believe that the way of peace and love and forgiveness and service that Jesus taught is the best way to live, but there aren't a lot of labels besides Christian that fit that description, but I definitely struggle with wanting to identify with Him versus wanting to identify with an institution that on many fronts, I don't agree with, and I don't think is portraying the gospel. The thing about today though, and perhaps about being in Jerusalem in general, is that it's just the Man right there, no messed up rules or expectations or stigmas to twist the message. Faith is a journey of valleys and plateaus, of that I am sure, but I'm both ecstatic and relieved to find that this story of love winning in the end topples most of my doubts. I know that's not the case for everyone, and I think that's absolutely legitimate and understandable. Perhaps it's just me being a sap, or perhaps it's more of a uniform core feeling than I realize, but the concept of the story never being completely finished, and that there's always something you can have up your sleeve to win that big game is one of the greatest truths I have to hold onto.


Wednesday, August 13, 2008


I'll keep this short and sweet for now, since I have to bounce in a few. This blog comes from the lovely land of Israel, where the skies are blue, the historical sites are numerous, and the falafel is BOMB. And I'm officially eliminating that word from my colloquial vocabulary. eeeeek

My time here has, already, forced me to grow in places I didn't know demanded growth, let alone, existed. I've met some really neat people, a few who I think are soul mates, seen the essentials, with the full intention of going back 34 more times, visited the Western Wall and the Old City, and learned the alphabet, geography, greetings, time, and food in Hebrew. Nutsos!

At the risk of sounding like a white, naive 22 year old, the middle east never ceases to fascinate me  with all of the contradictions that can literally be found in every crevice. Amidst all of that, however, is this incredible community who seem to cling to this ground, and they live their lives unabashedly willing to face whatever terror comes their way. Mind you, I went into this with the very biased perspective that Israel is wrong on almost every front. I'm sorry if that offends anyone, but the conversations and experiences that have happened only in a short week have me all bumfuzzled. All I can articulately say, at this point, is that existence in this place is not the way that anyone is meant to live, by any means, and it is both heart breaking and understandable and universal, and it's amazing that it's felt from the sidewalks to the children to the classroom.

More later, I gotta go haggle with my people. Peeeeaaaccceeee


Sunday, August 3, 2008

Hey Nic, put down your iphone. No? Ok.

The scenario: Listening to The Wedding Singer's signature ballad in Nic's zen apartment located in beautiful NYC, digesting Dominos, hours away from the Holy Land and all that will bring about with it, and reveling in the fact that this afternoon I was mere feet away from Bradley Whitford, West Wing star. Holy shit?

I'll keep this brief because more important things like Edward Scissorhands on DVR is calling my name...but I find myself ridiculously and incredibly grateful for people who have known you since awkward fashion malfunctions, drooling smoothie before the morning even really begins, and thinking that massaging one's stomach after a big meal helps with digestion. Relationships have changed and morphed over the last 3ish years, and it's hard for me to remember what it felt like to spend all my nights with people who I now speak to every few weeks or so. I know that it was glorious and comfortable and that it paved the way for moments like this weekend, when all of the stupid/raw/Abigail Vanzantenfeudenheiserkennolyn characteristics were let loose, and I didn't make one attempt to cover them up. I think it was Oscar Wilde who said that it with old friends that one can afford to be stupid with. Get your dangling prepositions right, Oscar. I jest.

No but really, moving forward with my life with a few life-long friends in my pocket and a speed dial phone call away when an African-American Albino walks by, or when I become a nervous pooper and need a familiar voice to walk me through it in the stalls is a gift in and of itself. Good people, good people. There are few things more precious than those who you can pick it right back up with after months of little contact, and it's not because we haven't moved on, and it's not because we haven't changed, but it's because enough time was spent to get to know those unchangeable, essential parts of each other that no new clique or location or job can change. I'm becoming a mushy Maggie at a ridiculously fast rate right now, but I care not. If I ever become famous for my reflexes or impressions of flight attendants, (because that's all I know how to do. Ever.) I know that I will become instantly grounded when trips like this happen, and souls that have been there since forever show up. I'm so thankful that college hasn't changed these encounters that I cherish so dearly, and I'm so thankful for the confidence that they instill, so that taking big leaps become more than just a little possible, because of that assurance of a nervous pooper rescue. I love you all.