Thursday, December 9, 2010

That secret that you know.

Every year I set New Years Resolutions. I know that many people don't believe in them, but I think that having annual goals is a really good idea. This year, my fifth resolution was this:
“My understanding of 'love' and 'guilt' and how they impact my daily life will become a part of who I am in a positive light” (January 1).
I thought it would be interesting, now that the year is wrapping up, to look back through my journal from this year (resolution number two!) and see how I've worked to develop an understanding of love. I've pulled a few quotes from the year and I am surprised at how my understanding really did grow over this year.
“For Christians, the single command is to love. The Bible says there is nothing without love and that we are nothing without love. The Bible says that we are not lovers of God if we are not lovers of man. [...] Love isn't the main thing God calls people to do, it is the only thing” (January 23).
I think one of my strongest pulls towards love at the beginning of this journey was knowing that I was called to it. I had no desire to be labeled as 'loving'; I knew I was supposed to. And I really struggled with it!
“How do I show love when I don't always feel so loving?” (February 5).
Another deep struggle of mine this year was developing a healthy self-image and learning to love myself.
“If I don't love myself, how am I supposed to love anyone else?” (March 14).
One of the best mediums through which I learned about love this year was my friendships. Living at West House and spending my time with people I truly loved and felt loved by was an amazing experience. 
“I've never loved any group of people as much as I love this 'family'” (May 1).
In the summer, I began to wrestle through the inherent weaknesses in love.  It really struck me how closely related love and guilt were, and it took a lot of deep conversations with my friends to work through this.
“Love is both mankind's most desirable strength and our greatest downfall and weakness. On one hand, we would be nothing without it. On the other, it makes us weak, vulnerable and predictable. Yet our only purpose is to love: our created longing is to attain our strongest and weakest trait” (June 7).
As my trip approached, I began to develop an unshakable anxiety.  I was afraid to lose the grip I had developed on love and was anxious that my friendships wouldn't last.
“Is Ben Gibbard right when he says 'love is watching someone die'? Who will be with me, I wonder?” (July 12).
After leaving, loneliness and I became fully acquainted.  I then realized how much loneliness and love have in common. 
“Loneliness is the strongest force which drives my philosophy of self, home and love” (September 30).
As I had more time to reflect, I came to understand that love is not essential 'because God says so'; it is essential because our souls demand it.  We were created to be beings in relation with one another.  Love is something you cannot exist without.
“I need to love and be loved” (October 9).
The longer I spent away from my new-found sources of love, the more I came to understand the glory of love.  The other revelations I had had regarding love still stood, but there was something more in my understanding now.  Love is scary, but it is worth it.
“Love and desire are tough. They can hurt and ruin and burn. But they are good and they can be absolutely amazing if you work hard at them” (November 4).
Finally, the lesson on love that I learned this month brought everything together.  This month, I learned that I am loved.
“I wish I knew how to show as much love as I've been shown. I truly have the best friends on earth. If there was ever a year to try and understand love, this has certainly been the one” (Dec 7).

Sunday, December 5, 2010

I had a dream that I...

"I can never read all the books I want; I can never be all the people I want and live all the lives I want. I can never train myself in all the skills I want. And why do I want? I want to live and feel all the shades, tones and variations of mental and physical experience possible in life. And I am horribly limited." — Sylvia Plath

Friday, December 3, 2010

All I Want For Christmas is Vous

For the past three days, it has been snowing in Paris.  Presumably, if you are reading my blog, you know me well enough to know that I detest the snow.   I absolutely abhor the cold.  I generally hibernate during the winter season.  But for some strange reason, this year, there is a warm glow in my heart when I think about Christmas...

For the last few years, my Christmases have been less than joyful.  The birth of my Saviour is overrun with lights and commercialism, and it breaks my heart.  For the past few years have also found myself in a season of loneliness.  Add the cold on top of that, and you nearly always get one miserable girl.

So what makes this year different?

My friends -- the best friends anyone could have ever hoped for -- have decided that they want me to be with them for Christmas.  And they have gone far beyond simply stating that desire.  They have actually decided to go in together and get me home.  That's right: that ridiculously overpriced holiday ticket from Paris to Toronto?  That is my present this year. 

And that is why I was overjoyed to see snow in Paris this week.  And that is why I am watching How the Grinch Stole Christmas right now.  And that is why I  have had an unshakable smile for the last week!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

It was for freedom, from myself and from the land.

I believe there is a reason for time-outs.  Isolation and solitude can be like meditation for the soul.  When you are alone in your surroundings, you are forced to connect with them and to connect with yourself.
“None of us will ever accomplish anything excellent or commanding except when he listens to this whisper which is heard by him alone.”
--Ralph Waldo Emerson

One-way tickets are keys to unlocking secret corridors in your heart.
Enter accountability.  All of a sudden, there is no one else to blame.  There are no character flaws that are not your own.  There is no one to watch your bag, no one to take a picture of you, and no one to lend you a jacket.  You become the sole person to blame for anything you do wrong.  And by traveling alone, you learn to accept responsibility for your thoughts, words and actions.  So to speak, you begin to design your own life.

Enter independence.  You are no longer the sum of your possessions, accomplishments and friends.  You are just you.  You learn to embrace the solitude you are given and learn how to direct your own life's coming and going as only you see fit.

Enter self-analysis.  Our generation adores the idea of 'finding oneself'.  But until you see how the world sees you outside of your own little bubble, you never can.  But when you're alone -- truly alone -- you become able to see yourself through new eyes.  Your old scars become exposed to new light.  Your character flaws begin to come to light.  You are able to learn who you are.

Enter self-understanding.  When you are alone, away from all the familiar sights, smells, tastes and relationships, you are no longer an actor portraying who you have become.  You are stripped bare of the expectations of your family and friends and you can finally learn how you see yourself.  You can finally learn what makes you happy and what simply does not. 

Enter hope.  When you have analyzed, understood, been independent and held yourself accountable, the next step seems to always be looking to the future.  Suddenly, the world stops getting in your way and you can look at the future for its everythingness and nothingness all at once.

Enter love.  When you are alone, you must learn to love yourself, in spite of or even because of all your quirks and faults and flaws.  And once you learn to love yourself, you become suddenly capable of loving others.  And loving love itself.
“I am not the same having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world.”
--Mary Anne Radmacher Hershey
By being alone, you finally discover that you were what you were searching for.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Don't Let Your Soul Get Lonely

Lonliness sucks.

It doesn't matter that every day I am surrounded by people. Right now I am writing so furiously that my elbow is bumping the wrist of the lady next to me. It doesn't matter that I have things in common with people here. In fact, this poor lady is attempting to enjoy the same drink that I've let turn cold beside me on the window sill. It doesn't matter that I've made enough acquaintances that I'm never without someone to say hello by name.

What matters right here, right now, is that these people are not my friends. They are not the people I know inside and out. They are not the people I stay up to talk to all night. They are not the people I can make pancakes for to persuade them to wake up and watch cartoons with me. They are not the people who made me embrace nerdy card games.  And I don't want to let them become that to me, because in 7 months I'll have to leave them behind.

And while I'm forced to be here, my friends are all back home, together. Still staying up and eating pancakes and playing cards. And it only gets harder. Because back home, alongside my friends are other people who are doing these things with them who don't know them or love them like I do. And because back home, my friends have too much on their plates to be able to hold contact. And because back home, my world is going on perfectly happily without me.

Tout et depuis toujours, nous rêvons le même rêve. Et ce que nous pensons être la vie – et que nous considérons comme étant « notre vie » -- n'est rien de plus qu'un roman écrit par personne. Mais si personne n'est l'auteur de notre rêve commun, pourquoi le rêvons-nous? Et, surtout, pourquoi le rêvons-nous ensemble?
-- Edgar Kosma

Yet, there is a collectivity to my loneliness, as paradoxical as that sounds. Because at times, this lady gets lonely, even with the comfort of her Grande Latte Caramel Noisette. (Ok pause: This drink is seriously really good). And at times, people with my friends are feeling lonely.

Sometimes someone steps back and sees how short life is and realizes that they don't know themselves and that they don't know anyone else or anything at all, and they feel lonely.

So yeah, loneliness sucks.  And no, it doesn't get better. It doesn't get easier. But at the very least, it gets accepted.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Western Man's Need to Cry

This weekend I had the privilege to travel to Ypres and Brussels for Jour de l'Armistice (Remembrance Day).
Ypres was more than an eye-opener. Now I've seen war, I've seen hatred, and I've seen pain. But I don't think I've ever connected with the reality of their existence in life before.
The most moving things I saw in Ypres were the stories printed on the Christmas cards sent from the front over 90 years ago...
 ...And the horrifying count of how many armed conflicts Red Cross has been a part of since the 'War to end all Wars'.

How have we still managed not to learn to love?
After Ypres we headed to Brussels. Since Belgium only seems to believe in rain, we spent most of our time inside, at the national Art and History Museums. Luckily, we managed to score a great weekend to be there. The World Photography Exhibit was being displayed here.
Many of the pictures once again reminded me of all the hatred in our world and all the pain that exists. But the first place photos in the Arts and Entertainment category (the photographer, Kitra Cahana, was Canadian!) reminded me of something else: even though our world is rough, and we feel helpless, and we hate and cheat and lie and steal and kill, there is still joy.

That's one reason there have been so many armed conflicts since the war to end all wars. Because we have to protect our joys when they are threatened.
Do I agree with war? No. Do I want it to exist? No. But I understand that there are some times where talking no longer suffices as a way to work things out. I just have to pray that those times are few and far between.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Carpe Diem

Ripe -- Ben Lee

The moon sheds light across the end of the bed.
You made me wait but now I'm touching your leg.
And i remember all the little things you said,
"quesadillas, made with cheese" and "a rock band who were Japanese."
So for once in my life, I saw what I wanted and took a bite.
I picked the fruit from the tree and it was ripe.

Your love got big, your jokes got worse each afternoon.
Like bacon at a bah mitzvah, like a lead balloon.
And who's to say what really happened in that room each day?
I was looking for a bride, you were looking for a groom.
So for once in your life, you saw what you wanted and you took a bite.
You picked the fruit from the tree and it was ripe.

And all you people are the heroes I've known.
We're staring off the edge into the unknown.
We are not there yet but we cannot go home.
So we cry, and we sing.
Yeah, I remember everything.
For once in our lives, we saw what we wanted and took a bite.
We picked the fruit from the tree.
And it was ripe.

Carpe diem. Seize the day. Live your life to it's full potential.
It's certainly getting me through.
It takes on a different shape each time.
Sometimes it entails going for a run and getting horribly lost in my own arrondissement.
Sometimes it entails hopping on a plane for a weekend in Madrid.
Sometimes it's having the balls to take up an offer for a date.
Regardless, it makes living life feel good.
And best of all, it keeps me from missing these people too much.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Elle parle avec un légère accent

Well, we are 43 days into my life in Europe. I don't have much to write about, because life is decidedly similar as a student no matter where you live.
There are always classes -- always earlier than you'd like them -- and they always bring homework. There are always intelligent students, ignorant students, entertaining students and lazy students. There is always have enough money to live, but not enough money to spend. There is always enough food to eat, and not enough motivation to cook. There are always responsibilities in the way of fun, and there is often fun taking place instead of responsibility.

I am admittedly enjoying my time here. There really is a lot to love. There is, of course, a lot to miss, too.

My professor has somehow pinpointed me as the hopeless romantic of the class. At first I had no idea what she was talking about. Heck, in Canada I'm one of the least romantic people I know. Put me in the city of love and I should appear closer to a necromancer than a romantic! But after a bit of reflection and self-analysis, I have decided that she is right. I do have a romantic perception of a lot of things, including my faith (something that is challenged frequently here), my sense of home, my sense of belonging, my views on man's goodness, and above all, my friends.

I frequently wander the streets alone, listening to music and thinking about the meaning of life. One tends to do these things when one is alone. I'm actually grateful to be alone with myself for a time.

I am learning much more about myself than I would have imagined. I think that people travel not to see the world, but to see how the world sees them.

Paris has reached a profound part of my heart that I had forgotten was there.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Paris Holds the Key

Paris in point form:
1) Jet-lag sucks. Especially 6 hours. It scares me to return home. Also, I will have lost parts of my life because I lost 6 coming here on a 7 hour flight (pretend it's a 13 hour flight) and will gain six coming back on an 8 hour flight (pretend it's a 2 hour flight). I find it strange.
2) Everyone wants your money for everything. Fees are hiding EVERYWHERE!
3) The have CHERRY COKE here. CHERRY COKE! I was so excited the guy at the Subway we found actually called me Cherry Coke (sounds like a horrible stripper name! Yikes!) when we left.
4) Everyone here smokes, looks amazing (except a lot of people in the Metro... must be the lighting), smells good, and shows a lot of physical affection.
5) No one here drinks coffee on the go, showers for a long time, uses electricity if it can be avoided (I have to run down the hall at night because the light's on a timer and we're at the end and I'm afraid of monsters or armed robbers)or smiles at you in the road.
5) People like Canada, but not America. Also, people are surprised at my French. I guess they haven't heard Canada is bilingual.
6) The Eiffel Tower is lame. I hope Versailles has more to offer.
7) The coffee here is AMAZING.
8) Booze is everywhere. I like it.
9) I dress conspicuously North American. And I'm proud of it!
10) I really REALLY have the best friends on earth. I miss them more than words can say, and wish they were all here to experience this with me. But reading the things they wrote to me in my journal (Thanks Mandar!) and the emails/letters keep me from missing them enough to drop out and fly home.

Thursday, September 2, 2010


Goal: fill a sketch book solely with sketches of the next people I see smoking or drinking coffee.
I can't explain why. I just think it will be a neat adventure.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Chelsea and Aaron Get Married!

Yesterday, one of the most beautiful and caring women I know, Chelsea Watterworth (well, Eygenraam now, I suppose!) married one of the most dedicated and passionate men I know, Aaron Eygenraam. The ceremony was beautiful and the reception was a blast! Congrats to the lovebirds!

Here is Chelsea posing briefly with me during the reception.

This is my wonderful group of friends from what seems like a lifetime ago. We used to all attend youth with Chelsea. All in all, the day was full of nostalgia, fun and love!

Congrats to one of my oldest and dearest friends, and her super-lucky guy.
Best wishes for the future to Chelsea and Aaron!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Redeemer University College

Yes, it costs a lot. Yes, I will have worked too hard for the degrees I will be getting. Yes, I will have a less well-known name on my certificate. However, I am glad to be a student at Redeemer.

Firstly, I'm glad I go to school. If I had gone straight to the workplace I would be forever unhappy. I would have a lot of unused brain power and I would always wonder what could have been. I also have seen many people who've gone straight into the workplace being so unhappy with their lives and compensating in stupid ways.

Secondly, I'm glad I go to this school. I'm glad I am somewhere where not everyone feels the need to go out drinking simply for "the college experience". I'm glad I am somewhere where we can openly discuss faith and issues without worrying about sounding closed-minded. I'm glad I am somewhere that doesn't make me feel the need to be "hot" or "cool" or anything that isn't simply me.

Lastly, I'm glad I'm in the crowd that I am in. It took a while, but I am now surrounded by honest and caring people. They expect nothing from me besides my love, and the same is returned. Grateful doesn't begin to describe it.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Choir Tour 2010!

Why Choir (And Tour) is Amazing:

10. The voyage. In all three of my years in Choir I have yet to experience a far-away tour, but I have high hopes forthat in my fifth year. Outside of that, however, the trips to Quebec and Northern Ontario have actually been loads of fun. It's essentially a giant, God-centered road trip with a bundle of your best friends.

9. The attitudes. Granted, some people are there for poor reasons and have bad attitudes. And even still some people with great attitudes get tired and cranky. But there is no denying that it is hard to imagine any group of 20-something-year-olds with more joyful spirits.

8. The jokes. Every tour has them, and some of them are just too good to forget. This year for me it is Dontcha, Taylor's attempts at French and Joz my passionate lover. And I love the fact that I can glean this from a week of bus-riding and fatigue!

7. The music. Take it from someone who favours screamo, rock and punk over Beethoven, Bach and Handel (not Liszt, I would take him over anything!), there is a whole world of absolutely incredible music that our generation is going to miss out on. Were it not for Choir I would never have heard of O Magnum Mysterium (Lauridsen), Christus Factus Est (Bruckner), Crucifixus (Lotti) and Requiem (Faure's, Gilles' and Brahms') among many other marvelous repertoire.

6. Sopranos. They might be divas sometimes, but so many of these ladies are the nicest, most honest people I have ever met. Many of them inspire me to be more in touch with my femininity.

5. Tenors. There are few sections where you can find pop stars, politicians, math buffs and basketball players. But we have them all, and they love nothing more than to give out hugs and spread joy.

4. Basses. Some of the manliest men I know, and some of the most reliable friends I have.

3. Altos. There is not one alto in choir that I don't absolutely adore. These ladies are entirely dedicated to love, to God, and to each other.

2. Dr. Teeuwsen. While he may come across to almost everyone in their first impression as the scariest, most intimidating man alive, T-Man is like a giant teddy bear. True, he plays organ like a world champ. And true, if you aren't singing to your full potential he'll scare the crap out of you in a concert. However, he will also sing "Dontcha" and "Go for a Soda" on the bus, will hug anyone, anywhere, anytime, and will become your father while you are at school.

1. Faith.  I'm not the only one who wants desperately to understand, and when we sing songs like this all together, I feel certain that we're all seeking answers together.