Every Wedding Starts with a Memory

It is said that at every wedding, those in attendance think of their own wedding, whether remembering the past or anticipating the future.

At Sammy​ and Sarah​’s wedding, I asked Anthony Moreno​ about this. He said that when he say Sammy and Sarah at the front, he remembered his wedding to Mona​ last year. He remembers the vows he made to her that day. Those vows are still just as true, but they have been strengthened by their experience together these past few months. But he did say “I didn’t see then how our life together would turn out the way it has so far.”

I think about my own parents’ wedding nearly 30 years ago. They did know that they would relocate to another country to start a new life.They did not know that they would have to juggle career with raising a family. They did not know that they would gain so much from their new home, but would miss out on so much back in Korea. There is both fear and adventure in that uncertainty. As Michael​ and Maria​ have said, “We don’t know what the future holds, but we’re excited to do it together.”

“What about you?” Anthony asked. Truth is, I haven’t thought about my own wedding much. Since I’m not dating anyone now, it’s hard to envision any wedding. Maybe it will never happen. But if so, I am still full of thankfulness for all the rich relationships in my life. We don’t know what the future holds, but we’re excited to do it together.

Positive and Negative Emotions

A friend was complaining to me about his difficulties with his pastor. He said “I feel angry, but I know I shouldn’t feel these negative emotions.”
We naturally describe emotions as positive (joy, wonder, love) and negative (anger, sadness, anxiety) based on whether we enjoy them. We enjoy feeling happy; we don’t enjoy feeling angry. Yet these descriptions lead to bad thinking about our emotions. We say “I shouldn’t feel angry” and try to feel differently by willpower. This only serves to submerge our emotions to the point that we don’t even know what we feel.
The better way is to honestly feel the emotions and decide how to respond. Rather than say “I shouldn’t feel angry,” it is better to admit to the anger, explore why it exists, and decide how to respond to it. As the saying goes, “You can’t heal what you can’t feel.”
Emotions provide information about our internal states. The information may be a misguided response to what’s going on, but it is still useful information.

On Lifelong Wellness

Nathan VanNortwick​ once said something simple yet profound: “I used to want to get really big and strong. But now my goal is to be running marathons at 90.”

Nate is definitely a runner. He runs marathons and ultramarathons (he ran a 100 mile ultra in just under 23 hours.) I don’t have ambitions to become a runner. Still, I find myself returning to his perspective of the long goal.

So much modern workout culture is fixated on the immediate. Get Strong Fast! Get Big Fast! Get Yoked/Ripped/Lean! These are valid goals, although perhaps unduly informed by vanity. Yet a healthy body is not only strong, but mobile, well rested, and free from pain.

Exercise is not just to lose weight. It is part of a holistic investment into the future. A little less Muscle and Fitness, a little more AARP.

Building Relationships

During the Spring Break of Service in St. Louis, our team got to meet withMichael and Maria Lanahan. Michael and Maria are alums of the school and are associates in law firms. Michael is also involved in the Ferguson Commission, particularly in supporting small businesses in Ferguson.
Michael said that he was focused on building relationships amongst various people in Ferguson and the greater St. Louis area. Policies and ideas are important, but building connections is valuable as well. It is one thing to advocate for a policy that may affect some faceless “community members.” It is another to know that it will affect Jasper, Michelle, or Sam and their families.
Difficult problems will not be solved simply by relationship. We will likely not reach consensus on intractable social problems by proximity to others. Yet if the goal is to understand each other, then we need to get close.

Networking

I was talking to a friend at a networking event at school yesterday. I asked how she felt going into the event and how she felt afterward. She said “You know, I was really dreading this event. I hate these networking receptions. But now I’m glad that I came! I think it’s just about getting over that first initial awkwardness.”

I think no one is naturally good at these events. I remember feeling uncomfortable and self-conscious at my first few receptions. What do I do? What do I say? I don’t know what kind of questions to ask…I think everyone feels that way at first.

It would be easier if we could just be straightforward. “Hey you! We both feel awkward and uncomfortable, but social interaction between us would be beneficial! It may lead to positive career outcomes! In the short-term, it makes us feel good to have a connection with another human being! Let’s get past this initial clumsy stage and start meaningful social engagement!” But that would just be strange.

Actually, listening to “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me​” on the radio helps me with talking to new people. When Peter Sagal has a listener on the line, he is very good at asking friendly questions. “Where are you from? Oh, where is that exactly? Oh yeah, I’ve been there! What do you do there? What does that mean?”

Dream Sequence: Zombie Attack

I’ve got another dream post for you. This one was from a couple years ago. It’s quite extended.

I was in the Batcave with the crew from Scooby Doo. We were marveling over Batman’s gadgets and gear. Suddenly, we heard a siren and screens everywhere flashing “WARNING!” Batman looked at the screen, then turned to us and said in a whisper, “the zombies are here.”

The screens lit up with images of the zombies, shuffling around with their glowing red eyes. We jumped into a canoe to fight them. Since there was no water, we rowed on land. We maneuvered into a high school, rowing through classrooms and hallways, fighting the zombies with our paddles. The zombies were joined by human-sized squid beings, their translucent blue jelly-like flesh quivering around a glowing red core. One by one, my friends were picked off, until I remained alone.

I paddled back to the Batcave, and emerged at the top of the stairs. I slowly floated down and found my friend standing at the bottom. She had rips in her clothes and it looked like she had been in a battle. Beside her stood a little girl, about 8, with pale skin and straight black hair, no expression on her face.

My friend said, “Joel! You have to get this little girl out of here! She is the key to the whole thing!”

We heard the pounding of the zombies at the door. My friend turned to a console and turned a few dials. A giant screen behind me lit up with an image of a rooftop. My friend put my hand on the screen, and I slowly melded into it. “Go!” said my friend.

I emerged on the other side, on the roof. I turned around and saw only static on the screen, and I realized that my friend had been killed. The little girl stood beside me. I grabbed her hand and started running. Zombies and squids started emerging from all around the building, chasing us down. We ran for the elevator, the horde right behind us. We leapt inside and the doors slammed shut. Through the window, I could see the glowing red eyes and glowing red cores.

“Whew! We made it!” I said to the girl, as the elevator started to descend. The girl said nothing. I said, “Are you ok? What’s going on?” Then, the lights started to dim. Everything began to fade into darkness. I looked in horror as the little girl’s eyes started to glow red. As the elevator went black, all I could see were her glowing red eyes.

Then I woke up.

On not dying alone

Strange dream last night: I heard that a friend at school had gone to Florida for a ski trip. He broke his arm and went to the hospital. While he was there, the doctors found a malignant brain tumor. He would die within the week.

The next day, I ran into another friend at school. He said, “Did you hear what I happened?”

“Yes.”

“Man, lucky guy, huh? He gets to stay in Florida and relax.”

“But he’s going to die…”

My friend shrugged his shoulders, smiled, and walked away.

Later, I called my friend on the phone. He said, “Thanks for calling me. You know, it’s been really hard. No one has come to see me. I’m all alone. I’m dying, and there’s no one here with me. I’m scared.” He started crying. I sat and listened, not saying a word. Then I woke up.

I’ve never had this experience of sitting beside a person in the final moments. At some point, words fail. All that I can do is to sit with them so that they do not die alone.

Useful words

It’s been some time since my last post. I was fairly ill two weeks ago, and then I took a short hiatus for Easter. I actually thought about taking a break. Truth is, though I enjoy writing these short posts, there is a faint critical voice the dogs me. “You’re too preachy. You’re too sentimental. You’re wasting people’s time.”

A few days ago, I ran into a friend at school. She reminded me of my post about my visit to the post office and not allowing the crushing bureaucratic morass to kill my joy. She had it starred in her email and would read it on occasion. I was very touched by her words.

I am grateful that people find my writing helpful. It is a great impetus to continue. My words may not be clever, original, or incisive. I’m no poet, pundit, or playwright. Yet I will endeavor to be honest, thoughtful, and forthcoming. I hope that it is useful.