“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; It is not arrogant.”
-1 Corinthians 13:4

My week has been rough, but this day was subtly amazing.

We made ligonberry Swedish crepes for breakfast. It was a communion day at church and I was hugged like family. The pastor quoted the same passage that I had recently shared with Jeff. We cleaned off 20 or 30 snowy cars as the people left. We had good conversations and baked soda bread and made stirfry vegetables. Then we met his brother and brother’s wife to cross-country ski and had a beer after. The weather was perfect and the sun was shining. We made pasta and ate banana pudding. We watched the Olympics and The Help. We talked about people and gossip and respect and how people treat each other.

And when I left, I had sweet goodbye and was thanked for my persistence in convincing Jeff to try something he didn’t think he wanted, to watch that movie. It sounds silly, but it spoke volumes. Gentle persistence. Comfort zones. That came up a lot today.

Taking the time to have fun and be patient to understand, that makes such a difference. Slowing down enough to enjoy the smallest things makes anything feel refreshing. The pastor quoted 1 Corinthians today, and I thought it was a good thing to remember.

And in other news, I’m back writing full swing for the Athenian – and illustrating, too.

Timing.

I spent the majority of my weekend in Tennessee.  It took my friend and me arriving to absolutely every scheduled event exactly on time for me to realize how stressful day-to-day scheduling has become.  I already have experienced the stress from the other perspective, when I worked in third world countries and a contractor doesn’t show up or call for a couple of days which is apparently completely okay over there.  That stressed me out because I was on a schedule.  But what about when you can make your own schedule and be stressed by yourself?  We didn’t need to meet my friend, do the Louisville Slugger tour, taste-test at Jim Beam’s, hike Mammoth Caves, honky-tonk in Nashville… but we scheduled ourselves to do all of those things.

I just got so accustomed to the stress and success of the weekend that, when tragedy struck leaving the Smokies and Knoxville, I was completely unprepared to be stranded in southern Kentucky without a car.  The timing has kept us from getting to work today, finishing things we had to do,…and I have to feed my cats again.  The timing then restricted us to shops being closed on Sundays, places being booked on SuperBowl Sunday, an impending storm limiting our travel, and even plopping us down in the most remote corner of our entire voyage.

But the timing has also made many more things evident which are positive.  I have finally had to forcefully resolve the small, persistent problems in my new car which are actually big problems that somehow flew under the radar when the dealer sold the car to me.  I have a new perspective on how to handle and prepare for these situations, partly thanks to a conversation I had with a friend.  It also made me realize how much patience my friend Jess has and how amazing Jeff is for offering to come “pick us up”.  That would be a 12-hour roundtrip and he didn’t hesitate to offer help in any way possible.

I just think timing is a funny thing, how it can keep you from seeing something or be so perfect at making a little thing obvious.  I just hope it doesn’t decide to show me too many things on our drive home this afternoon…

Inexplicable Comfort.

I know I started this blog years ago with an intention of bashing satire, but lately I feel like I have turned it into a documentation of my transformation.  I think the combination of busyness and that the emotions plugged into my original satire all equally provide the reason for the turn.  Writing about my “little thoughts” just comes so much more naturally than always sitting down to ruthlessly tear apart a topic or an attitude.  Sometimes, doing the latter almost makes me feel worse.  Writing about pure Kayla Faith just feels healing and therapeutic, like a journal that I throw up to the world and don’t care who sees me for who I am.

I’ve found comfort in this kind of writing as of late.  And, today, I noticed that I found comfort in places I never expected to find it, at times that didn’t seem to be supportive of it.

It started last night, really, when a long Saturday at work turned into a fun night in the snow and an invitation to spend the rest of the weekend with someone I care as much as humanly possible about.  Never in a million years would I expect such an invitation from someone so busy this past week and so low on spare time.

Today, despite a conversation that I had last night that tore me down a bit, I attended church as I have a few times now with said person.  I found so much comfort in going.  We always sit in the same place, I’m starting to recognize the same faces who always express their loves to see me, and I watched snow fall outside the whole time.  When I first attended, the music was my favorite part.  An actual band plays.  Now, it has become the application of scripture.  Perhaps that is because I have been reading the Bible to understand the preaching better.  And today, I had few qualms with what was being said.  I had memories of singing Gospel with my grandma, thinking she had the most beautiful voice in the world and that one must obtain such a voice by singing for God and that only,… so I suddenly began craving the scripture reflections and traditional hymns.  Furthermore, just the feeling of going to church makes me feel good.  I got up early in the morning, I went with someone I care a lot about, I supported his faith the way I like when people support what I care about, and I saw many kind – and now familiar – faces.  I’m not saying I believe things one way or another, but I’m just saying I have come to love those Sunday mornings.  I know he would say God is making me love them, but I don’t care what is – I’ll just keep going.

Comfort came to me again when we left and we drove through the snowy parks.  We ran up to Squire’s Castle, I in his work boots because silly me wore moccasins, and we just loved the snow.  Snow.  Snow.  Snow.  I love you, snow.  Snow is perhaps the silence that screams about peacefulness louder than anything else on Earth.

I always find comfort in fixing our meals, sneaking the dishes into the dishwater before he can yell at me for cleaning up, leaving notes and sending letters…  Sometimes I worry I look like I’m trying to hard when, really, I just can’t imagine not doing those things.  Maybe it’s actually selfish.  They make me feel good?  Because I make someone else feel good?  Maybe that comfort isn’t inexplicable, because my friend Rita already sat me down and explained to me years ago that I’m a “people-pleaser” like her.  It helped me understand why I feel so easily rejected and depressed when I don’t meet someone’s standards.  Regardless, I found comfort in doing those favors today.

I found comfort on the way home when I stopped at the store.  I usually avoid talking to people or making eye contact.  I always feel like some silly deer in the headlights.  People always come up to me and ask if I’m okay because I look frazzled or tired or stressed or like I’ve been crying… and that’s happened on my happy days, thus launching such days into self-conscious misery.  So I avoid it altogether.  But then I had the briefest of all conversations at the checkout counter with the grocer.  I recalled previous experiences at Whole Foods and nearly all of them include conversations at the checkout.  That never happens at normal stores.  Whole Foods definitely has a unique vibe, and suddenly I felt comfort that there are people out there who understand me but whom I have not yet met.  The world maybe isn’t as dark as I always think it is.

I found comfort in driving from the store to home and listening to my audiobooks.  I had previously finished Knowing Scripture, a book to accompany my reading A History of God while also reading the Bible (NKJV) cover to cover.  I actually really enjoyed that audiobook.  It was gentle, although set in its ways, and tried to express the importance of “literal” meaning.  What is literal meaning?  Taking something literally doesn’t mean word-for-word but instead the way it was intended to be taken, something that can be determined by its literary mechanisms.  Was that hyperbole?  What is that in the context of its time?  (Or, in the case of the Bible, things like What was the original word for this in its native language and how might it have been translated?)  I liked that, but then I listened to RIchard Dawkins.  I thought I would like this audiobook more, a much longer book which basically speaks against Scripture and is the opposite to the book I just finished.  Truth of the matter is this book is so damn arrogant, the claims so wildly inappropriate half of the time that I sympathize for any and all religious or semi-religious peoples.  Some moments, I agree full-heartedly.  Others, I’m appalled.  I think I was appalled maybe once or twice at some far-fetched concept in Knowing Scriptures and so I suddenly realized how arrogant the arguments sound.  Religious people often strive to be loved by and show love for their god(s), whereas atheists often display contempt for those loving people.  I’m not saying it’s either-or, but I suddenly felt comfort in places where I had previously felt uncomfortable: under the judgment of those who follow religion rather than those who follow proving it wrong.

At this point, I was home.  Expected mail was not in my inbox.  My place looks half-cleaned.  And I suddenly burst into tears in the kitchen.  I do that sometimes, maybe because I’m just confused about life.  About why I’m here, who I am, what I’m supposed to be doing, am I supposed to know these answers, are there no answers, where do I go from here, what is the point, etc. etc. etc.  Suddenly, from no where, I turn to the kitchen counter on my left and my cat Phantom is looking up at me, eagerly.  She has never jumped on my counter before.  She starts to nuzzle me, so I pick her up.  I have never cried into a cat so long before.  All she did was purr and respond to my scratching her ears until I set her down at the windowsill a good 10 minutes later.  Sometimes I’m convinced that people of our past are reincarnated into our pets, to somehow guide us.  Perhaps there is some god that oversees this.  Or perhaps I’m just crazy.  I don’t care, I still feel that way.  Just like I somehow know my grandma is there every time a ladybug refuses to leave my arm.  (And, yes, that exact experience has caused the only female on a construction site – me – to burst into tears in front of a slew of male drillers before.)

Finally, comfort came in the form of a text conversation.  One of my closest girlfriends from home texted me this evening, asking about the person I spent the day with (she saw a photo I posted of us hiking).  I briefly explained the situation.  I mean, she’s probably one of the better people to speak to about it.  She became incredibly passionate for my side that it made me feel, yet again, that inexplicable comfort.  Where did this come from?  She was so adamant to support me, being me, believing whatever I believe, no matter how it ever does or doesn’t change…  She was convinced that love is boundary-less, that it is foolish to throw out feelings over a difference that may not exist and that may only strengthen the diversity of something if it does…  Her argument made me feel sound and strengthened and not so hopeless.  She gave me courage after a day of mild confusion.  And, better than all else, she made me feel like my battle was not lost but just slow at being won.  It’s comforting knowing people so far away can care about you so much that they nearly lose their cool in expressing their support for you.

Ever since a conversation I had with a non-religious friend a few months ago, I have fully adopted his outlook on religion and faith: We are all religious, we just define our personally tailored religions in different ways.  This is, I think, completely true.  Even if you’re Christian, you likely interpret things a certain way, one in which others may not.  But what is wrong with that?  Follow the Scriptures all you want, but only certain ones were selected, they were all translated to varying degrees of accuracy, and who says they are set in stone?  (Okay, maybe the 10 commandments were originally but…)  With this in mind, I have no doubt that I am religious.  Religion is literally – there it is again! – defined as not just supporting a superhuman concept, but also following a set of beliefs with a certain upheld faith.  BOOM.  My beliefs may vary throughout the years, molded by whom I am near and what I have learned and seen, but I will have those beliefs nonetheless.  I’m adamant about adhering to certain ways of living and doing what is right, whether or not I’m convinced that right and wrong have to exist.

BOOM.  I am religious.  I always have been, but now more so than ever.  And I find it really odd, but I have been compelled to occasionally pray since I was about 8 years old.  Sometimes I pray because there is someone who asks for a prayer or who is struggling, so I pray for them and I pray to whomever their god is or gods are.  Sometimes I pray because I feel completely hopeless and what else should I do?  I always start off in my mind with “Dear God or gods or Mother Nature or whoever it is that I’m sorry I don’t know but who might have a say in this…”  I honestly hesitated to express in an entry that I am this way because I didn’t want people to regard me in a certain way, but then I decided why do I care?  I am who I am and I don’t know who I am but I’ll still be who I am whether I want to be me or not.

Seriously…my mind is such a freely flowing stream of randomness…but I just really felt like I had to record this moment, today, a day of highs and lows but of discovery and this odd sense of comfort in moments that felt so dreary.  Today, just when I felt like all was lost, I actually began to feel more hopeful.  Like, these are the tests we are going through to make us confident that this is actually everything we want.  We can handle this, because it is nothing.  There is so much compassion to be had and, like my friend told me today, love and respect are the center of it all.  And that’s there.  It will all be okay because that’s there, so I just need to focus on me, continuing to be growing, dynamic me, and this will work out because it’s meant to be this way.

Even if not everything has a purpose, as humans we always find it one.

Smiles From Strangers.

ImageI got up early this morning to walk to the indoor Farmer’s Market at Shaker Square, stopping at the bank along the way.  I was proud that I got up early while it was so cold and I would normally have second thoughts.  I got up early, I drank some tea, I read, I played with my cats, and then I got dressed in a dress and even wore lipstick and a hat.  I walked to the market with my satchel from Willi’s Ski House, withdrew cash, and passed inside the market with my list scribbled on the back of a Starbucks ad.

My motivation this fine morning?  Picking up ingredients from local, organic, animal-friendly vendors to cook another fantastic meal on Monday with Jeff.  He’s been working hard, long hours in the cold.  I feel for him, and I’m also thankful that he chooses to spend so much of his limited free time with me.  He’s always texting me and calling me with positive words, even when he is working or busy, and I want to do him favors while I can (not to mention shamelessly show off my ability to cook anything from scratch).  I rounded up ingredients, bought fair-trade coffee at Dewey’s, and walked home to reorganize my produce into tin foil and the proper crisper drawers. And, yes, this vegetarian even bought grass-fed meat to cook for the meal.

While I was emptying my half-peck of apples into the crisper, I started thinking about all the people I saw today.

First, at the bank, an older, white gentleman came in as I finished at the ATM.  As I walked out, a younger, black man came into the room.  The older man was still fumbling with his wallet and insisted for the younger man to go first.  Not only was it strikingly kind, but I realized that would never have happened between most strangers where I’m from.  I’ve been realizing how much more colorblind people in Cleveland are than in my rural hometown in Pennsylvania.

Second, I thought about the first meat vendor I spoke with who didn’t have pork or ham.  We chatted like old friends and he pointed me directly to another vendor and listed all of the others who sell meat.  I told him I’d keep him in mind if I ever need beef or chicken.

Third, I revisited the Woolf Farm vendors for their apples.  The old gentlemen who sell the pecks are sometimes so brittle that I want to help them load their crates.  Yet, they’re always the first to bend over to pick up anything that is dropped, they always help lift paper bags into sacks, and they always have a friendly, crinkly smile like you buying their apples was the kindest thing you could have possibly done for them.

Fourth, as I walked to the other room of vendors, I took a moment to step back and see how many people had walked (and some driven) from all around town to stuff their eco-friendly bags with organic, fresh, higher-than-the-grocer’s-priced goods.  They were all out here despite the 14F-degree morning.  Many of them had children in tow, all sporting home-knit hats or classy bowlers.  I had this sudden good feeling, like these are the kind of people who are going to keep the world good.  These are the kind who care and who keep caring and who get up, bring their family, help out friends they don’t know…

Fifth, I finally found the vendors I needed for my meat.  I chatted with the father and son about how a vegetarian has no idea which meats she needs, but she (I) will surely make it taste alright anyway.  They pointed me in the right direction based on the recipe I said I was making.  The girl beside me gasped and said that not only did it sound good but – And pardon me for getting in the middle and overhearing, but my what a thing you’re doing to be cooking meat for someone!  That’s really cool! – and I thought, maybe it is?  Not for a second did I dread doing it; it only seems proper to cook an ordinary meal and not subject my guests to my eating habits.  Well, I subject them a bit.  I am after all buying local, organ, grassfed – because that’s the kind I support.

Sixth, I walked into Dewey’s to get my fair-trade coffee.  I was impressed by the numbers of people crowded along the tables, many from the market, all barring against the cold in home-knits and pea coats and smiles, appreciating the local, more expensive things.  It was a well-mixed crowd too.  I even recognized a student who used to come into the library while I was on Welcome Desk shift.  I’ve seen him in there before.  He is such an outlier and cannot blend in at all with society; I’m not sure if he actually has a problem, or if he doesn’t realize that people don’t really care about his magic cards and his ability to rule fairies, the way-too-loud conversation he was holding in the middle of the room one morning at 7am.  But they all know his name.  They all ask him questions to relieve the last person and pass him around, making him feel like he has a home.  I’m not sure what the poor kid does with his life; he has got to be older than I am.  But there he was today, on his laptop in the corner, surrounded by throngs of people who I know would defend him.

Seventh – this is the moment that stuck with me the most and made me recall the others.  It was something so simple.  I was walking out of the coffee shop and pulling out my earbuds when I noticed a small dog tied to the bench, shivering.  No, I’m not a bleeding heart over animals left outside.  We keep our dogs outside all of the time and they much prefer it.  I just felt bad because he looked distraught and lonely.  So, I walked over to him, introduced myself, and kneeled down to pet him.  At first, he cowered, but I reached and scratched and he came closer.  Soon, his little tail was wagging rapidly and his breath was panting out steam.  When he looked warmer, I started to pull away and walk back.  I looked up just in time to notice a man, having held doors for many people, walk briskly past us, look back, observe the moment, and bear an enormous smile that he then proceeded to carry into the Farmer’s Market.

All of those smiles – whether from the face or the heart – were affecting people right, left, and sideways today.  It was good to see some hope left in what has been feeling like such a drab, dreary, dark world.

So thank you, man with the smile, and you’re welcome to the person who caught it next.

When Life Gives You Eggs…

This was taken from my recent draft submittal for my satirical column in The Athenian.

pizza

Valentine’s Day seems to render two distinctly different emotions: excitement or dread.  If you’ve got someone and you’re anxious for whatever surprises you’ll get or give, then you’re probably bubbling with excitement for the one day of the year that you might actually feel special.  (But, god forbid, if someone were to forget the date…)  Maybe the pressure to make the day special is too much for you and you’re contemplating breaking up with the other person on the 13th, then asking them back out the 15th.  I mean, why spend the money?

Ah, but maybe you have no one.  And here you are, trapped alone in the United States on this dreadful day full of sickeningly red, pink, and white hearts, flowers, cards, disgustingly sweet boxes of chocolates, fat cherubs, arrows, advertisements, heart-shaped pizzas, busy restaurants, and a take-out menu looming in the corner on your refrigerator.  Maybe you had someone and you thought it was going to last until this day.  Maybe you never had anyone and don’t know what it feels like to celebrate.  Well, not everyone has a Valentine’s Day full of chocolates, roses, and cheesy gifts.  I mean, do you really think all those men in countries where they take dozens of wives are really going to care about some fruitcake holiday?  Does anyone even know why it came to be or is it just another Hallmark event?

First, let me present to you a taste of global Valentine’s Day experiences: If people celebrate this day at all, they do it in even crazier, stranger ways than the States.  People in Wales don’t even honor Saint Valentine; they have their own patron of love.  In France, a ban by the government had to be put on the old tradition of walking across the street and matching up with random singles because the rejected women got too rowdy burning photos and other memorabilia of the men who rejected them.  In Denmark and Norway, men send out rhymes to women with their names signed as a series of dots instead of letters.  If the women can’t guess who it is, they owe him an egg at Easter.  If they guess it, he owes her an egg.  Gotta love them eggs.

The Asian cultures, though, many of them are crazy.  In Japan, it’s said that it’s the woman’s job to surprise the man – the one time of the year that it’s acceptable for affection to be displayed between them.  They give out different “levels” of chocolate, like “obligatory” chocolates that basically say “Here ya go, but I don’t particularly want to give you this”.  But what really gets me is those South Koreans.  They have completely taken the 14th of February to a new level.  Not only do they make traditions between couples, but also get-togethers with singles at restaurants where they eat black noodles in groups.  They have made an event day for EVERY SINGLE 14TH DAY OF EACH MONTH.  So Black Day, White Day, Kiss Day, Rose Day, Hug Day,… Talk about stressful; I’d just accept a heart-shaped pizza to myself and stay in the States.

But maybe that doesn’t make you feel any better, knowing how loony the world is.  Maybe you’re still lonely and you want to feel better.  Well, my friend, I have a great strategy: Go make your life awesome.  I’ll tell you how.  So let’s say you’re a college-aged girl and there’s this guy in your Calculus class that you just love SO much because he’s actually somewhat good-looking (for Case) and he totally can do all of your homework for you.  Well, because he goes to Case, I can guarantee he is well-connected to the Internet.  This is your window of opportunity, you just need to know how to use it.  The plan is to make yourself desirable to him and get him to ask you out on a V-Day (or Belated V-Day) date.

First, stalk him.  Check out all of his likes on Facebook and like them as well.  Scan through all of his photos to see what he does.  Check out his best friends.  Maybe follow them around some and watch what they do and monitor what they like to talk about.  Don’t forget Twitter, either.  Get SMS notifications sent to your phone when he tweets and pray there’s geo-locations attached.  If not, see if he has Instagram or watch when he uploads photos – they all have geo-tags now.  Make a Pinterest board of all the things you’re going to have to like now in order for him to like you and make another one for all of the things you need to forget to like that he doesn’t seem to like.  Watch all of the movies he likes, read the books he has read, and play the video games he plays.

Second, make yourself desirable.  Go on Facebook and make an account for a fake friend.  Add a bunch of hot people as his friends, but only guys.  Make sure it says on his status that he is single.  Upload a bunch of photos, mostly of ones you’re Photoshopped in with him having a crazy-awesome time.  Post on each other’s walls and share links to things that you think the guy you like might find interesting.  Have your friend comment on your posts with stuff like “oh, that’s dumb” and then retort with “Well, that’s why we’re not dating!  We just don’t like the same things.”  Make sure your crush sees your posts and clutter his feed.

If this doesn’t work, then hell…Just add your fake friend as your boyfriend and Photoshop pictures of you guys eating tubs of ice cream, heart-shaped pizzas, and boxes of chocolates together while cuddling with your cats and watching The Notebook.  I mean, whatever.  At least you’re not getting (or giving) an egg in a month.

Is This Progression?

I just got back from a long day full of work, my first dance class in a new studio, and attending Market Garden Brewery’s Brews + Prose as I always do – this time with special company.  It’s the same old routine, a few new tweaks, and yet these are the moments when I feel like my “year of discovery” hasn’t progressed me in the slightest.

I’m still in the same dull town, one year later.  I’m working a real job, but it technically doesn’t answer my calling.  I changed studios because I am not cut out to be a full-time, successful dance competitor and am settling for shows.  I went to a favorite event at a favorite place with a favorite person and felt just as ORDINARY as I did with said favorite person a year ago.  Not my intentions.

While traveling the world changed me internally, these external qualities are depressingly static.

So depressing that I can’t help but feel another wave of depression.  It’s not because it’s winter; it’s because this is life, and life strikes at inconvenient times.

I’m exhausted from a day of internal struggle.  I long for freedom and self-expression.

I also long for a second of that last pale ale because, darn, that was good.

Drawing Lines in Black and White.

applesoranges
“Just make a pros and cons list!” my close friend told me last week, as if the solution were that simple.  I was feeling so suddenly divided over my feelings for two people when I saw her.  I had been gravitating one direction, but being around her causes the scales to tip in her vote’s favor.  Of course she wanted me to make a list; she thought all I needed was stark contrast to see the obvious.  I wasn’t sure it would be that obvious.  Besides, how do you even compare people like that?
Case A                             Case B
smart                               smart
hard worker                  hard worker
tall and handsome     tall and handsome
nice                                   nice
No, no, not like that… that’s stupid.  Think harder.
Umm, okay…
Case A                      Case B
go-getter                   more laid-back
smooth-talker            trustworthy adventurous              reserved formal                        goofy
pragmatic                  dogmatic
Closer, doesn’t this help?
No, it doesn’t help.  These kinds of things aren’t black and white!  And you can’t just group people like that!
And so I struggle.
Case A.  Someone might be a go-getter and adventurous, but that could also mean they’re busy, hard to entertain, always just as easily pleased by the world around them.  That person might seem slick, but a smooth-talker could just be telling you what you want to hear – a politician.  A formal, assertive, confident presence can be just as concealing.  Yet pragmatic people, the ones who try to see the logic in things, the scientific light,…those people are often so much easier for me to relax around.  There’s room for debate.  There’s sifting through facts.  There’s entertaining the mind without fear of hurting someone’s feelings.  But does it provide perspective?  I like perspective.
This should be easy.  Why isn’t this easy?
Case B.  On the other hand, someone else might be more laid-back.  This could be good because it’s a comfortable place to be, but does that person ever go outside of the comfort zone?  That person may be obviously trustworthy, an excellent quality, but what if it’s at the expense of adventure because of how reserved and in-the-box one lives?  Goofy is good; similar humor is appealing and leads to fun times that require less formalities and that can be spontaneous.  Then my friend’s always saying, What about that dogmatic part?  The part so hell-bent on a certain perspective and way of living that any deviance is unwelcome?  Unaccepted?  It offers me perspective and conversation, which I like, but I don’t like feeling like my own opinions are invalid, like that person has the only possible right answers.
Finally, my friend forgets to realize it’s not just one-sided; how someone regards me, yearns for my company, makes an attempt – friendship, relationship, whatever – that plays an enormous part in my considerations, and understandable so I’d say.  So far, it has been that factor dictating the majority of my choices.
“Pros and cons list!  Pros and cons!”
I can’t just do that.  I love making lists to lead my life, but people are not black and white and divided by the thin line of a column on a piece of paper.
And the whole time, I cringe at the thought: Who is comparing me?