resolutions & relationships

This morning, I was contemplating the connection between keeping up friendships & keeping up with Jesus.

As 2014 wanes, I’ve been thinking about 2015, and filling up with aspirations–expectations–that I sort of know will crumble (but still hope they won’t); I’ve been saying that in 2015, I want to “double down on people.” Relationships have been so exhausting the last few months, but part of me knows that a lot of my wellness depends on continuing to interact with people, especially dear loved ones.

I realized that my relationship with God is the same way–though there’re years of history between us, I can’t just depend on that to see me through, I’ve got to continue to prioritize interacting with/time with God. My new internet crush, Katharine Welby, writes about the same kind of thing here.

The Unknown


On Tuesday, here in Columbia, South Carolina, we began to batten down the proverbial hatches for Leon, the Snowpocalypse.  Most children were out of school (though the weather didn’t start till after school time, Atlanta’s is a cautionary tale), the roads were treated, the university and the government were closed.

Among those of us who gathered at work, diverse attitudes abounded.  I was soon struck by the variety of responses to the same news, and realized that a bit of what we were experiencing was how each of us–where ever the impending ice-meggedon found us emotionally that morning–dealt with change and uncertainty.  Of course, no sleep the night before, or a big deadline, or experience driving in snowy weather surely affected our outlooks as well, I was struck that the way we respond to small things may inform the way we respond to large uncertainties in life as well (then again, a death in the family and a possible snow day are rather different things).

There were those who greeted the possibility as a gift–an unexpected opportunity for something different, an adventure, a change of pace, a tool to knock us out of the “norm” and into whatever the day or the weather might have in store for us.

A few others of us looked at the sunshine, the empty, dry roads, and slivered our eyes, “Is there really weather coming?” we asked the skies.  The existence of the storm was doubtful, its effect unproven.  These folk were unimpressed-till-snowed-in; crossing the bridge if it happened to materialize out of the sunny skies, pragmatically focusing on the task at hand till then.

Though there weren’t any in our offices yesterday, I suspect (judging from the empty OJ, milk, and bread shelves at supermarkets) that another significant group was gripped with fear of the unknown.  Would it come?  Would it not-come?  What would happen?  The anxiety of an uncertain future was debilitating, and so they busied themselves laying in supplies.

For a Christian, there are bits of truth in each of these life-attitudes.  We need not fear or be anxious about the future, but we ought to be wise as serpents, shrewd in our decisions and prepared for unexpected events (thinking of the virgins and their oil lamps).  Of course, we ought not run about as a chicken sans-head; being so preoccupied with the unknowable possibilities of the future as to forget the task we’ve been set to here and now isn’t for the best interest of our earthly companions or for the glory of God’s kingdom.  Finally, life is indeed a joyful adventure, though hopefully we can remember that when the weather (or a day) is unremarkable as well.

Cause and Effect: A Response to the HuffPo Blog

What’s the motivating force?  Physics, chemistry–this is why we had to learn the stuff in high school; now, in real life, we make analogies about the motivating force of our lives from the principles we learned in physics (and we accuse our chronically-late husbands of being a limiting reagent in our effort to get out the door 🙂 ).

Yesterday afternoon, a fellow Dukie, Miho Kubagawa, wrote on Huffington Post about her approach to resolutions in 2013.  She and a group of friends had undertaken a sort of Happiness Project–making monthly resolutions instead of a year-long haul.  Miho narrated how her group’s google doc and update emails inspired and spurred each other on, “[w]e are more vulnerable and courageous, and we are taking more risks with each other’s support. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what the resolutions are; what is more telling is our reflection on how our previous month’s commitment went and why.”  She goes on to share a resolution that she had trouble completing–unplugging from electronics for 4 consecutive Saturdays; an experience she saw as a “wake-up call.”

She’s got the motivating factor wrong.  What is most telling isn’t the reflection on a previous month’s commitment, nor is it the daring and creative things that people choose to pursue–did you see how she started each of her tips?

“We…”–Miho, and her friends.

Miho reveals that the google doc group don’t even all know each other, but committing to each other by joining the listserv and encouraging each other in their individual efforts has had both corporate and individual results–drawing them close to each other and empowering each of them in their daily lives.

The motivating factor of Miho’s resolution-success is relationships with other people; it’s not the 30-day timing.

Our problem is that deep, sustained relationships with other people, especially in large cities (Miho lives in NYC), and especially amongst young, transient demographics, is difficult if not impossible.  Significant relationships produce conversations, perhaps especially around this time of year, that often lead to a resolution, goal, or intention for the coming months.  Those same relationships (the ones which are made up of people with whom you live, or work, or see on the street every day) are the ones who are best equipped to assess your progress, and to encourage you on your journey.  But the point isn’t the resolutions.  The point is the relationships.

People, and the relationships we have with them, aren’t simply an ingredient in the compound of better life (a difficult concept in this market-driven age); relationships with people are the whole solution.

Who Are We?

A wise woman blogging through a difficult transition recently wrote that she’s “trying to set energy aside for dealing with life’s daily hiccups before they derail [her].”  Immediately, I knew what she meant; I call it “emotional fat”–that energy, a shock-absorber, that keeps spilled milk from becoming a puddle of tears and torn-out hair.

Sometimes we lose our way when it comes to an equal-and-opposite reaction, or even better–no “reaction” at all, but being a non-anxious presence in the midst of upheaval.

Coming back from a place of emotional-boney-ness (which may come up suddenly and without warning, or you may know very well whence it comes, but it’s still unexpected when its impact is so great) takes time, of course, and it happens gradually, with the help of loved ones, and sometimes doctors, and often (for me) chocolate and pastry.  Then one day, you look back, and though you’ve got plenty of new stressors, you realize you don’t even want that pastry you promised to yourself for completing the task–the task being done is plenty, or perhaps the task itself was a joy.  You make a mental note, “Remember, Self: you love this task which you do.  You may not think so, but the moment you get yourself out of bed, or into the car, or onto the phone, you love the way the task reminds you of who you are, and the way the task helps you to be connected.”

I wonder if some of the emotional-boney-ness comes from losing track of who you are.  We are the relationships we have–I wouldn’t be Emily if I didn’t have two brothers who live in NYC and with whom I became who I am; I wouldn’t be Emily if I didn’t have lots of family of varying blood-relation splattered all over the globe.  Apart from our relationships, we don’t exist, and being un-connected can sort of make us feel as if we aren’t there at all.

On the deepest level, the relationship which truly defines us is Jesus.  God came to rub shoulders with each of us, and in relationship to us, with so much love, peacefully, willingly gave up his life for each of us, that we may all be together at the end of time with no death or disconnection ever again.  Our worth and energy and emotional fat comes from working to believe* that God really does love you so much as to give up everything for you.

*this is “faith,” and it is a gift, not something we can really work our way into, but it does seem that we’re told a lot of lies about our worth and what makes us worthy.  we continue to pray.