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Les Miserables


     We saw the film version of the Les Miserables musical when it first came out. I've read the book. I saw the movie with Liam Neeson and Jeffrey Rush. I'd heard the buzz about all the actors performing all the songs 'live'. And I was unprepared for the impact it had on me. I have never cried sooo much at a movie. One of the only other movies I cried a lot at was the Notebook. And it was only at the end. The other was 'Up' and that was at the beginning. Yes, I cry at movies. But the power and the presence created by each actor singing with raw emotion in the scene-- no lip syncing and recorded performances dubbed in, just did me in. I'd grabbed bunch of napkins for popcorn, and I soaked almost all of them instead with my tears. 

     The scene when Jean Valjean is redeemed by the priest will be etched in my memory forever. There are no words that can convey what it feels like to be saved from the consequences of your own folly. I don't know how many times I've wished someone would save me from my own stupidity. That undeserved grace from the priest was unreal. How many of us can truly say we've experienced this? In my own small way I've experienced that grace. I'm not a bad person. I've always toed the line as much as possible. I've always hated to stick out anywhere. Be the one who had to be hammered back into place. Knowing a relationship with Christ meant not sticking out, not paying for my own folly, not dying an eternal death; I chose life. I didn't know what it all meant as a kid; I just knew I wanted it. And I've had many instances since when I've seen God's mercy and grace in my life. Too many to call it coincidence, too many to say there's no such thing as God.  So here's the picture of what Christ did on the cross for me, and I balled my eyes out. 

     The theme of forgiveness, of undeserved grace is woven throughout the whole movie. The priest's kindness turned Jean Valjean into an honest man. And a man of compassion. Because he knew he had been scum of the earth. Treated like the filth in the gutter he was. And being human, like any other Christian, he made an honest mistake. Sent Fantine into the street and utter despair. But when he realizes his mistake he raises Cosette as his own. With Javert always dogging him. The past that will never let go. It's not hard for me to find parallels between Jean Valjean's life and my own. Oh, I've never been imprisoned by anything but my own ineptitude and fear, but I've made mistakes and I've been aghast at my own failings. And I've been wronged for no good reason other than she felt like I deserved it at the time. 

     But the lessons I've learned over my lifetime is that forgiveness is not just for the other person; it is for us. To be able to let go. To move on. And that truly knowing and experiencing God's forgiveness can, and should, change us. Javert was forgiven by Valjean. But clinging to the law, he could not reconcile forgiveness with dirty deeds done decades ago. He couldn't accept that a man could change. That God could be behind that change. The same God that gave he, Javert, the right to pursue and complete his job to perfection. Just like Judas, who couldn't understand what true forgiveness really is, what unconditional love really is, he did the one thing left that he could allow himself to do within his own prison made of the law: commit suicide. Without love, the law is cold, and inimitable. Deadly. With love, the law is only a construct used to help, but never to punish. To bring life, hope, where once there was nothing. 

     Having experienced these things, been forgiven and chosen to forgive, feeling it deeply, I balled my eyes out. When I see Les Miserables again, I know my reaction will still be the same. It is good reminder of whom I have believed in, and why.

It's been a very strange Christmas

...and it's not over yet. First, it didn't start out like it used to. Like a TX Christmas could be hot or cold. Windy or calm. Definitely not for the faint hearted or the frozen. No. But now I'm in southern California, and it did rain a couple of days ago. I think the lowest temperature we've had in a week was 50 degrees. Overnight. So would someone please tell me why the natives run around here in 60 + degree weather wearing pea coats, wool scarves and Ugg boots?!?
     I somehow managed to get hired a week before Christmas. In this economy. At a time when everyone is already over-staffed for the season. And I wasn't even really looking. Like the other job I started here, it kind of fell into my lap. So although I was looking forward to being at home with the kids for the first time in a decade, once again I'm working over the holidays. Whatever. I'm thankful anyway. Mostly.
     My children are the best part of Christmas. But stress doesn't always make the best of every situation. After a few days of one child's severe unhappiness over a relationship, the final resolution towards a loving family together again came through an unfortunate blow up, a hasty retreat and then multiple hugs and tears. What's a holiday without drama? All this while in the midst of me making Christmas dinner. 
     Speaking of which, I was looking forward to having my folks up today because it's only been twice in the last fifteen years we've had Christmas with them.
First phone call: both sisters are feeling sick; slept late. Oh, ok. So's a child of mine.
Second phone call: we're running late. Be there at 1pm instead.
Third phone call: we haven't left town yet. We've been in an accident.
What?

At least it won't be forgettable...




Intolerance of prejudice?

"The discovery of truth is prevented more effectively, not by the false appearance things present and which mislead into error, not directly by weakness of the reasoning powers, but by preconceived opinion, by prejudice."
--Arthur Schopenhauer

     Today I was blocked on Facebook by a friend whose political views became so extreme, prejudiced and insulting that I felt the need to debunk the claims of her posts. Spreading hate by propagandizing unfortunately ignorant signs put up by people who also hate, and using these things to attack groups of people of whom have no proven connection to these prejudiced billboards is infantile and frankly, I thought, beneath her. Unfortunately I was wrong.

     And though I gave well-reasoned ideas to suggest that perhaps the message of hate in her postings is mistaken and ill-deserved of many people of whom she doesn't know, her response was to block me.
People talk about tolerance. But it seems tolerance only flows one way. Their way. And since not everyone thinks, feels or believes the same, how can that be? One way tolerance is ridiculous. Asinine. Yet the same people who would boast of greater intelligence, more compassion and more understanding are also the ones so quick to denigrate, vilify, revile and slander others on the simple premise they do not think like them. They seek to shut out ones who think otherwise. And then they applaud each other.

     What happened to being able to have reasoned conversation? To exchange ideas with or without heated argument and coming out the other side with a better, clearer understanding of an opposing viewpoint? To being able to accept others as being different without trying to smear them? Could the answer lie in this: Man cannot live without demonizing other men because of differences. Because of fear. Because of prejudice.

     I hope not. One would have thought that with the Women's Lib, Civil Rights and LGBT movements we would learn that we are all equal. That we are all human beings. That we should grow past the pettiness. Instead, we justify hate. We justify name-calling. We justify prejudice. We justify our own intolerance.

She is...


     one of the best friends I've ever had. We've had quite a history together. Two of only a handful of Asians at work. In the beginning it was just chit chatting about our oldest. Colleges. Financial aid. Groaning together over their choices. And then it became more. A shared passion for food. Salsa music and dance. Karaoke. Concerts. Fun.

      And during all this, she was battling cancer. Round one came shortly after our oldest kids left for college. I sought her out. I began to admire her. She sought me out. Because I never stopped treating her like she was still a person. I made her laugh. I'd never known anyone as strong as her. So beautiful a spirit inside. She leaned on me and I basked in her light. We started talking in earnest. Bringing food we'd made in for each other. Knew we had a really neat budding friendship.

     A few years later, she was diagnosed again. Though clear of the origin, it metastasized and started making her liver and abdomen its home. Caught a bit by surprise. But she never lost her stride. 'Cheer up,' she'd say. 'Let's go hear so-and-so play this weekend, or let's going dancing'. Last summer, she got this crazy idea to make costumes for a family reunion. So we did. And had lots of laughs doing it. All this time watching her in awe as she went through rounds and rounds of chemo. She would start on one, slowly watch the tumors shrink more and more, and then on to the next chemical. A karaoke party here, a birthday party there. We shopped for outfits together, did lunch. I did my best to make her laugh. A smile from her could make my whole day.

     When we moved, she and I made a pact to see each other this summer. But somehow summer has flown by and school has started again for her youngest. We played text tag. And then I finally got a hold of her yesterday. 'The chemo has stopped working', she told me. 'Now three that have had no effect.'


Oohhhh. 
 

     I feel like there's less air to breathe. I feel numb. Lost and adrift. Like the lump in my throat will not ever go away. I feel the tears burn behind my eyes. Tears that I would never let her see if I saw her. I haven't been gone that long. I haven't been gone that long! And while I was slowly getting used to life away, her life was slipping away. I wanna see her. But I don't know when. So, talk and text. Talk and text. 

     I just wanna see her face. Give her a big smile. Hug her tight like I won't let go… because I can't. I don't want to. Wanna make up for lost time.
     It's so not fair.

     I hate cancer.

Thoughts going over the pond last week--

Pretentiousness...
that's what keeps the masks on. We would so willingly hide behind a facade of serenity and beauty. Women plaster their faces with it. Men use it as a wall around the heart; impenetrable but for a few slivers of life that make its way thru. 
     Behind the shield the soul quakes terror at being discovered. The questions and doubts poke and push until the soft underbelly gives way to cries of pain. And so we plaster on more pretentiousness. We build higher, stronger walls. Yet we reach outward, so desperate to be loved. To be sated. To be wanted. To live. But pretentiousness blocks our way. 
     That tender soul, young beyond its years, knows something is amiss. A chasm of longing to be known has been found. A hungry maw that must be satisfied. So many will attempt it, and will constantly try to fill the void with temporary measures. Others will recognize the raw need and feed it anything that seems to make sense. Still others will look down, deeper and deeper still, and forget what they were looking for. They will consume themselves like black holes; suck themselves out of existence. And the world will not know to mourn their passing. 
    And finally, the ones who manage to overcome the pretending, to look and be dismayed at what they see-- they will start to peel off the layers. Shed all pretense. They will feel the light shine through. Touch their souls and be renewed. More alive. More aware of their surroundings. Brave souls that hold fear at bay, they find their true selves. 

(Of course, I know not everyone thinks this or feels this.)

S'undered

In the land of sunshine and light there is no shadow of darkness
No blighted cloud to mar the beautiful blue sky
The sun is free to shine so bright
     to erase all trace of fear by morning light
There is no black void lurking
No hint of death defying the night
   and straying outside its bounds

And what do we pay for forever sunshine?
To chase all the blues away?
Sunshiney happiness covers over the throes of pain 
        beneath its dance of color
Vibrant verdure beckoning you forth, trees shimmering
The night has flown into oblivion
   and we forget its cool refreshing breeze...

Until we see the brown... 
edging around everything
    slowly dying 
In the unrelenting heat of day
    shade and relief swept away 
Under the blaze burned off haze 
      Sun

What may come?

And so it begins. The tears are starting to find that place behind my eyes, where, unseen, unbidden, they constantly remind me of all I've lost. I can't go very long in a single day where I do not think of what I used to do, who I used to see, and now long for and want to cling to desperately. My heart is sore from being caged. Holding myself in so I can stay strong. Act to my family like nothing is wrong. But so much of it is. No amount of beautiful surroundings can replace the emptiness in my heart that only friendship and camaraderie bring. There are no outside maladies to be revealed here. Only the trappings of a breaking heart. Because I cannot hold this up for much longer. I miss my old life so much. 
   My friends now have other friends in my place. They have moved on, while I remain, trapped in time and another space far from all I know and love. Trying to make a house a home when my soul is tied somewhere else. It still feels almost like vacation, even though I've been gone and back and will soon leave again. I feel out of place. A stranger in my own home, never alone and yet bereft. That lump that threatens to rise and choke me even as those wretched tears mock me-- miserable. 
   But I can hide behind those tears a remnant of happy times. A bittersweet smile curving my lips as I try to make my life make sense. Alone. Try to reach out to the people who populate my life now; so unknown and frightening at best. Will I pass the test and gain a friend? The future may be unwritten but what if nothing gels? What if I'm like this still six months from now? A year from now? What to do then?  
   The tears will fall unbidden. Carrying me away on a wave of emotion. Breaking myself on a stony beach unable to hold myself aground, drawn back into the sea only to be dashed up on the shore again like some wild thing, uncontrolled and unsure of any footing. Drowning in my own heart's emptiness and poverty how long can I endure? I cannot be sure... I just have to keep going.

Life lesson

Someone posted a question a little bit ago about someone whom they looked up to making them feel worthless. And the plea was, why do I let them?

   If there's one thing God has tried to help me understand over and over in the last few years, it is that I do not have to let anyone have power over me. Except Him.
    Let me explain: I grew up in a 'typical' asian family where all us kids were expected to excel in everything. Get good grades, be athletes, be musically inclined, artistic. So much need for approval is a learned behavior that is not easy to let go of. And for me, it spilled over into wanting everybody to accept me. To be better than anyone else around me so I'd have dad's approval. Affirmation that I was a worthwhile person.
   How long does it take one to realize the deep seated need we all have for approval and affirmation comes from the hole in their heart? The aching hole that is deep, and abiding that hungers to be filled. Everyone does whatever it takes to fill it. Whether it be by sex, or drugs, or competitive drive and accomplishments, or wealth or fame... acceptance. Approval. Affirmation. Not bad drivers for life, but these things can never be the end all. Acceptance from whom? Approval from whom? Affirmation  by whom?
    I believe each one of us is alive because we were meant to be. Because we have some part to play in this grandiose place we call our world. So being held hostage by someone else's point of view as wrong as it can be, is like a river drying up in summer, slowly losing the ability to refresh everything around it just by being a river. The source of life flowing thru troubled times. But if at the source that river has forgotten how to receive the water, life will dry up. Like the soul forever searching for acceptance, leaving behind the truth of itself for something else unnatural to its very nature. Watch everything die around you for the very essence of you brings life when you are who you were meant to be. Life flows from you and you receive life from others. Twisting yourself into someone else's ideal is an occupation that will never satisfy your soul. So break down the wall you built at the source to divert what you receive to something else whom you thought would bring you new life and let the water of life flow through you again. The way it was meant to be .

Thoughts at trials

You cannot know how proud I am 
Everything that is good in me is somehow imbued in you
All my hopes and dreams of athletic feats
Ride upon your shoulders
With no small amount of effort you have shown me such wonders
The strength of mind and every sinew 
Is mastered by so very few
And so you stand tall among your peers
And more so for I know
That we could not give you every advantage
That others have enjoyed
And still you strove on
Eyes beholding a distant glory

What shackles hold you down right now
I can only guess at
And hope and pray in every way that
He will lift you up
Miraculously, for His good pleasure
Only do I pray
Because my dear I see your heart and I know that someday
 you will choose for his glory and his fame all thru our world
Do not forget the upbringing you had
Remember mom and dad
And know in love we raised you and your siblings
To praise the king of everything 
For life after this will not end

Journal feelings

Today I opened a journal of mine from last year and started reading. Too soon I'd forgotten I'd written down my heart. With every turn of the page I found myself sinking back into those feelings. Thankful that for some things I already recovered from. I read them and tried to remember what spurred me to write what I did. Some things I wrote to leave the pain behind, cuz it was dragging me down. And now reading, the tears again threaten spilling out of eyes from a well of emotion I'd forgotten was there. 
    I love writing and how easily words can affect you. How someone else's musings come to life yet be detached. Understanding. Able to stem the flow of emotion or dive into the story, live it as deeply as you choose, or stand on the side and watch. I thought I put those feelings to rest. They had all but been forgotten...

Missing you 

heart sore
I wanna feel your hug once more
see your sweet grumpy face as
   you stump by in the morning
Mistaking your serenity
         for boredom
Annoyance trained to be 
        hidden behind a calm facade.
As much as you asked of me,
          You gave back
No more groans, 
     no more asking for help
        on english papers
No more runs to Chick-fil-A
        Or Target just cuz you wanted: 
Last of my children, not last of
         my heart

I wonder...

what's it like, to dream the other side? To pull on memories from otherworldedness than my own? I cannot fathom a single drop of that radiant sunshine, for my eyes were not born to bear such terrifying beauty. 
     Yet in the midst of such aberrant difference a pact can be made. To experience together the shades of reality. Bend them, so they meet each other in the end. And feel what the other knows so briefly, like the fading sunlight across the horizon; brilliant for a moment in its fading glory. Breath stolen in a gasp of acknowledgement and eye-widening wonder...

    That somehow still, we can be one.

Black Swan

They warned me not to. But I did anyway. Watched a woman's slow, agonizing descent into insanity.
     Or was repressing an essential part of her what finally drove her over the edge?
     How is it that learning about your own sexuality somehow equates with the darker side of your soul?
    And when that hunger is awakened there seems to be no stopping its ravenous hold over you as you dance around the edge of the precipice. Looking down, you get pulled, sucked into a vortex of new and terrifying emotions. And feeling like something has been lost; never to be regained, you gasp at the loss. Mourn over its passing.
   Yet you can't help going over the edge; as if jumping off a cliff could save you from yourself. That part of yourself that is somehow swathed in guilty pleasure and insecurity and fear. Fear of the power it has over you and losing control. Of yourself. Living in the moment. Each breath and heartbeat an eternity from each other as time is stretched in a moment of pure ecstasy...
    How and when do we learn to shun those feelings instead of embrace them? Satan has a twisted sense of cruelty. Take something that was meant by God to be pure and holy between a man and a woman and turn it into a battleground for the soul. Which, in weakness, plunges into the worst kind of madness. Unable to save itself it becomes twisted, cold, then lifeless.

He said it is paradoxical...

and so it is. A mind-bending, mind-numbing exercise of what ifs and why did I or not... But you can only take part of the blame and in your own shame must carry within you the deep knowledge that it was you who caused that death...
But to live on. To go beyond that past that has so shaped us and the one(s) we love in spite of living a dream for too long; waking up to find you are alone, uncovered and forgotten. Or worse yet, hated. Maligned. Unforgiven. Unforgotten. Left to die.

You and I
We laid down on the grass 
And stared long at the sky
Wondered at the beauty of the stars
Til time had past

But wakened from my reverie
I find myself alone
I don't know when you left me
slipped away in dark of night
And I forgotten, left cold

Everywhere I wander
Leave no stone unturned
Now I find you left in anger
When pleas fell on deaf ears
And I dreamed along unconcerned

You and I
We are no more
My heart searches the sky
Looking for the light of hope
Trying to be what was before

Yet all alone
I live in squalor
Life like shattered bone
Painfully trying to rise again
Knowing what I search for

Will not come back to life

(how ambivalent I am today)

Anxious

My heart is pounding
like my feet slapping pavement as I run
'cept I'm sitting so still I can almost hear it,
feel my feet moving
My arms pumping 
My heart racing to keep up
A bundle of nerves
My tummy tightens I 
somehow gotta let it go
Let it flow... like breathing
In and out and in and out and in and out
Smooth and relaxed and evenly spaced
Until the fluttering subsides 
And I can take a deep breath...

I hate meeting new people

A new old thing

   My dad was was in the military, so when I was young we moved a lot. Each one of us kids was born in a different place; in three countries. My dad and mom finally settled down on the west coast five years before dad retired. So I've moved a lot in my lifetime. Of course, moving out of my parents' house was big. Going to college meant not ever really coming back. And I didn't, getting married right out of school. I've lived in the southwest for the last 28 years of my life in just two places. Until now.
   Now I find myself back on the west coast because of my husband's job and I really don't want to be here. It's not so much that there's something wrong with moving. I grew up doing it with my folks. As a child you just go with the flow. Never think about much of anything except what's for dinner, when you get to play, fighting with your siblings, and so on. Responsibility has no meaning to you. What, pack? The movers did all that stuff. Mom and dad did all the work after that. No worries. Now?
   I had a life. One that, for the most part, I thoroughly enjoyed. So many friends to hang out with from several different circles. And I loved my city. Nowhere else is like it. I'm not sure any place else comes close. I loved my job. Loved the company I worked for. There's nothing comparable here.
   My moorings have been slashed. I'm adrift and I don't know where I'm going; trying to navigate the waters on a starless, cloudy night. This is old stuff. I grew up on it. But when I was young there was a steady hand at the helm. Life as I knew it was in my parents' hands and I was safe; I could trust them to care. Now I must be the responsible one. Be the one to care. Take charge of the decisions made and follow through. Everything's different. It's all new now in spite of being old. And the experience is like rowing against a raging current. At least, that's what it feels like right now.

1-15 of 15 Blogs   

Previous Posts
Think On This..., posted April 16th, 2013
Les Miserables, posted February 2nd, 2013
It's been a very strange Christmas, posted December 25th, 2012
Intolerance of prejudice?, posted October 17th, 2012
She is..., posted September 5th, 2012, 3 comments
Thoughts going over the pond last week--, posted August 1st, 2012, 2 comments
S'undered, posted July 18th, 2012, 1 comment
What may come?, posted July 11th, 2012, 7 comments
Life lesson, posted July 3rd, 2012, 3 comments
Thoughts at trials, posted July 2nd, 2012, 3 comments
Journal feelings, posted June 23rd, 2012
I wonder..., posted June 13th, 2012, 4 comments
Black Swan, posted June 9th, 2012, 1 comment
He said it is paradoxical..., posted June 7th, 2012, 1 comment
Anxious, posted June 5th, 2012, 2 comments
A new old thing, posted June 2nd, 2012, 3 comments

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