identity crisis 1

Girls will sometimes play this game — pick out your character from Sex and the City (and hardly anyone ever wants to be the Miranda of the group). Or we like to answer those quizzes that are on facebook — “Which ____ are you?” — just for kicks. Maybe it’s like a hard-wired longing for us to be recognized.

How often do we play those games and guffaw at how the results nailed our personality? It’s like reading the character descriptions on the Chinese Zodiac or your astrological sign. Nails it! I am a total strong-willed, self-controlled, self-confident, blah blah blah Leo. My perfect mate is an Aries (which, btw, woah). And then how often do we immediately discredit the result in some way because we don’t want to be pigeon-holed as just one type of person? This is the riddle of our being. To be known and celebrated, and yet so private. To be understood, and yet completely mysterious. (This is why Stan and I have decided Bella, from Twilight, is so popular and such a coveted character. She has the best of both worlds, and all she has to do is stutter and blink her eyes a million times in one frame! Ugh, lame! But Stephenie Meyer must be pure genius.)

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how knotty

I've always loved this picture.

I didn’t want all my blogs to be about relationships, but that’s all that seems to be coursing out of me. Jodi Picoult (her best known book is My Sister’s Keeper) said in her interview at the end of her novel, The Pact:

I had such an uneventful childhood that when I was taking writing classes at college, I called home and asked my mother if maybe there might have been a little incest or domestic abuse on the side that she’d forgotten about. It took me a while to realize that I already did have something to write about–the solid core of family, and the knotty tangle of relationships, which I keep coming back to in my books.

All I’m thinking about, lately, is the knotty tangle of relationships. This string is about my parents.

We’ve heard the stories so many times now, it’s almost a hackneyed subject–the persevering stories of immigrant parents coming from somewhere in Asia to the U.S. to work in an effort to make our futures as bright and shiny as the elusive American Dream. Sometimes, that’s all it really seems–as bright and shiny as it is elusive. But we second generation-ers still sympathize with one another when we laughingly grumble about it, comparing and competing to see whose parents do what the most, sharing notes and anecdotes about the things our parents do and say.

After so many years, it’s still hard for me to reconcile my parents’ will and God’s will. I’ve never been one to flat out rebel. When I was younger and fought with my parents, my mom would do the yelling, and I would hold my tongue, my mouth forming a tight, thin line, my eyes glazed with indifference. My mom said I could be so cold, but she also felt bad because I’d take verbal blows from her without saying a word. I held this front until she felt bad enough to buy me peace offerings of new outfits and plums. But I digress.

I’ve always listened to my parents and their wishes. When they put my sisters and I on lockdown in high school, we vented to each other in camaraderie, but never disobeyed the rules (or more accurately, never disobeyed them without feeling extreme guilt). When they pushed studying pharmacy on me in college, I went with it until I bombed Chemistry 1101, to the complete dismay of my mom. The stories could go on like this. I was brought up trained to keep one eye on my parents for the slightest nod of their approval.

At some point, though, they started to come to this understanding that me and my sisters weren’t kids anymore. And I started to come to this understanding that my parents aren’t just parents. It was this tangled knot of love, dependence, regret, sympathy, exasperation–coming from all directions. I really couldn’t say when the point of understanding came, for any of us. I just know that it happened. The roles flipped, occasionally and then frequently. Instead of my parents telling me what to do, they asked me what they should do. Instead of my parents explaining choices to me, I gave them reasoned choices and they went with it. My sisters and I do a lot on our own, and we even sort of raise our youngest sister while my parents work. Yet, they are the parents that I revere, and we are the daughters that they baby. And I’m still always looking for their nod of approval.

Sometimes I think there is great love and sadness in all of this, in this double-edged sword. They want so much for us because they don’t want us to end up in their worn and torn shoes. They have so much love for us that they’d pack up everything and move to a foreign country to start a strange, new life so that we’d have a shot at any sort of better life. But that’s just the thing–they have done all that and worked so hard that now they’re afraid to let go. What are the odds that I’ll screw up? We’re pushed to perfection, maybe not by force, but by the seed of guilt, watered by the Pacific Ocean and fed by the money made from long hours at the restaurant and cleaners. We are strained to bursting point because we just can’t get there. The ever elusive there.

I want to honor my parents as my parents, but there’s such a pull in my heart. My parents raised me and my sisters as God-fearing women. Yet, their vision of God is so intertwined with their history that their will and God’s will is hard to disentangle. They see through the eyes of the diaspora of boat people. We see through the eyes of opportunity begetting entitlement. They see through the eyes of the desert. We see through the eyes of the land of milk and honey. Neither seems to be right, and neither seems to be wrong. Acting in separation of any of these capacities would do little but create a bigger communication gap. How do we rectify God’s will, his heart for all of us, in this? What a tangle web we’ve weaved indeed.

just saying

My summer class ended this past Monday, and now I’m just keeping myself busy until fall semester starts up. So far, I went to Ignite (which was supposed to be a two-day thing, but I only went the first night…it was great, but let’s just say I felt kinda old), camped out for hours at multiple coffee shops around Atlanta to catch up on reading and organize my life, ran a whole bunch of errands I put off during the summer semester, caught up with an old friend, and went to Houston and back for a wedding. Sounds like a lot, but it wasn’t and then it was and then it wasn’t, again.

Keeping busy seems to be, like, totally indicative of how successful we are or will be in life. I hate that, and I think it’s a dumb measure not because I want an excuse to be lazy, but because it puts our lives on a pedestal. This is conflicting for me because I want to be useful and productive…but it’s hard to distinguish that from being available for use and fruitful. I believe there are differences to be sorted out of these terms and images to be shed.

Anyway, Stan and I just got back from Houston, TX to celebrate one of his good friends’ wedding. This is a snippet of the song the groom sang in thanksgiving before his bride walked down the aisle:

I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection
Why should I gain from his reward
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom

(How Deep the Father’s Love for Us)

And this is the snippet of the bride and groom’s first dance song:

Darling, we’re both scared
But where love is, fear won’t tread
All of these friends here agree
We’re right where we should be

Underneath all your white
My lady, my love, my bride
In your darkest hours
Will I love you still
I have and I always will

(Dave Barnes – I have and I always will)

I think the older I get, the more I’m prone to cry at weddings haha.