I am exhausted right now.
I’m exhausted in muscles of my body I didn’t even know existed. I’m exhausted because getting told what I’m doing wrong for hours every day can be incredibly discouraging. I’m exhausted because my brain is pounding with new information from all sorts of subjects.
I’m just really, really tired.
And now I have to write a five page paper, stretch, and prepare for the next day to do it all over again. The life of a dance major is harder than most people think. This week I have over 22 hours of dancing rehearsals and classes in addition to 10 hours of other academic classes. And right now I really don’t feel like writing a paper because I’m so exhausted, but I still have to. Homework is the last thing I want to do because dancing has already torn me to shreds in so many ways.
But dancing also puts me back together again; that’s one thing it never fails to do.
This life is really tiring. But one thing that keeps me going is the fact that what I do, this miraculous thing I get to do every day, is important. In fact, it’s so important that it makes me collapse on my bed when the work day is done. How cool is it that I get to do a job that gets me so exhausted at the end of the day? In this, I find true meaning for my life. Whenever I am home for breaks and binge watch Netflix, eat at weird hours and go to sleep whenever I want, sure it’s relaxing, but in no way is my soul fulfilled. I go to sleep on breaks only because I know I probably should. But when I’m at school, I go to sleep because that is the only option I physically have left.
I’m grateful for this sweaty, meticulous life. And my hope is that everyone can feel exhausted at the end of each day and be proud of doing an important job well done.
(Written January 1, 2014)
There is no reasonable justification
For why you have to suffer this way
If it were fate or a scheming God
I would rather sleep
I do not know why
You must shriek when you stand
While ninety-five year olds are
Teaching yoga classes
I still see a sparkle
In your eyes
And right now that’s
One bit of human you have left
I’m so sorry it has to
Be this way
I wish it didn’t have to be
But it is
You do not deserve to be swallowed
In confusion and buzzing
You do not deserve to be
Merely ticked away by the second
Into nothing soon
Without your say in any of it
I’m sorry Grandma.
Every holiday when we get together with family, we say the Lord’s Prayer before the meal. But sometimes it can be frustrating saying the prayer because of how easily it can turn into some monotone profession. While Jesus told his disciples how to pray this beautiful and simply honest prayer, it can be absolutely meaningless if you let it be.
My grandma is suffering from dementia. It’s sucking everything from her: her wit, her drive, her ability to ask questions, let alone her memory. Sometimes she doesn’t even know who my grandpa is. You have to talk simply to her because the only response you’ll get it is, “Yep,” or, “Oh.” She’s going to have to die soon, and it’s really sad that she will have to leave us this way.
So my grandma and grandpa went to Thanksgiving dinner along with my parents, three brothers, aunt, uncle, four cousins, and other grandparents. My uncle announced that we would be saying the Lord’s Prayer before the meal, so everyone bowed their heads and closed their eyes. But I open my eyes after a couple seconds and looked over at my grandma.
All sixteen of us said the Lord’s Prayer, including my grandma.
And it was so beautiful. My grandma didn’t just produce complete sentences; she produced the timeless, sacred words of Jesus Christ, who saved her from her sins and will soon carry her soul on wings as a new creation. She produced pure holiness out of her human mouth, out of the same mouth of dull responses and stained teeth. And whether or not she knew what she was saying, she was still saying it, and “saying” hasn’t been something she’s been able to do lately.
I couldn’t believe my eyes. While the rest of my grandma’s body and personality will gradually cripple away, this still remains. My grandpa told me she can sing along to hymns too…such a miracle. It’s a miracle that the Lord’s Prayer or the words of these hymns could be the only thing she remembers in her last minute of life. And while it is sad that Grandma has to be an example of a broken world, she is an example of a power in Jesus’ name.
Two days ago at a school friend’s open house, I was chilling on the couch with some other girls. This little one, a five year old girl, joined us in the room we were sitting. She looked like she wanted attention (I know that look because I was that kind of kid too.) She started guessing our names and would say them correctly with the help of the host right next to her. She said, “Allison,” at my turn. “Aww…how cute,” I was thinking. Then she said to me, “Your nose is ugly. You look like a boy” and started giggling to herself. Thank you, little one. At least I’m mature enough to know that the shape of my nose does not define how beautiful I am.
But it still hurts.
I think every girl (or at least many) have done this to herself at some point: look up and down the body and find the bits she wishes were different. I have never been overly obsessed with this often hourly game, but I’ve done it, and my nose has definitely been on the list. I’ve thought that my nose is too “strong”, too big, too round, too bumpy, the list goes on (though my extreme ability to flare my nostrils has come in handy when I want to be impressive.)
I pick out the body parts of myself and so does every girl. I am that 5 year old girl to myself. It stung a little when she said that rude observation, though I tried to laugh it off. The thing is, aren’t those types of comments stinging every girl who has ever looked up and down her body? She doesn’t even realize the damage she’s doing because it’s more than just one time. It’s every time she sees a photo of herself on Facebook. It’s every time she looks in the mirror when she’s getting dressed. It’s every time she’s with her “skinny” friends.
Why do we do this? Why do we inflict this upon ourselves? Why are you such a bully? Why would you do that? Doesn’t that sting? Can you feel it yet?
That little girl will maybe learn someday, and maybe it will be something to laugh about. She may learn to get a filter and see every girl as perfectly beautiful, but when will I? When will you?
College is going to be a huge change for you. Don’t expect it to feel comfortable, at least for a while. But, what is a life that is comfortable, anyway? Be okay with struggling with your faith like Alfred Corn, because it’s something everybody deals with. At times you may feel like your brain is about to explode with new information and routines, but you will always need to hold onto faith. Struggles will strengthen your faith, even though in the moment, you may not feel like you’re being the best Christian you can be. That shouldn’t even be the goal, though! Instead, love radically. People will probably hate on you, give you weird looks, find more logical reasons to be agnostic or atheist, and it will probably feel very lonely. But, remember Jesus in that jail cell in the Grand Inquisitor? Remember how as the Devil goes on and on, claiming things like how he loves people more, Jesus simply sits there and listens? He listens. He loves that angry man when he gets up and kisses his lips. It will be hard to love at times—really hard. But, listen anyway. Love those hard-to-love people for who they are, not what you want them to be. And that love, which is the greatest power of all, might leave a little mark that burns inside of his or her heart and make those tense minutes in a religious discussion absolutely worth it. Hold on to that. It will be easy to conform to the ways of others, but keep holding on. Fight the good fight of faith. It won’t come naturally. You might need to remind yourself of truth, daily. Don’t give up.
On another note, you might remember the discussion of deepest likings. In case you’ve forgotten, you love sitting in that same tree with your favorite ice cream. You love sweating bullets after an impossible dance class. You love eating food that’s scorching hot, even though people laugh at you. You love running rehearsals and screaming counts at the top of your lungs. You love sipping diluted lemonade. You love painting with the sunshine beaming through the windows. You love thinking deeply about life. You love writing, and even math. You love dancing grand allegro because you feel like you can touch the clouds. Allison, you love these things. Keep loving them. Get your ass off of Facebook and do what you actually love to do. Live a little. Cherish the moments. These things are what make you, you. Just because you’re going to be a broke college kid doesn’t mean you should stop being. Feel joy, but don’t forget about others’ pain. Feel pain, but don’t forget about having joy. Even though you’re an introvert and it may seem like being is easier when done alone, try being with other people. The only reason you feel “peopled out” is because you’re doing it wrong. If the people around you challenge you and you enjoy their being fully, it will be impossible to feel “peopled out”. People are fascinating. Continue to be fascinated with their existence. Feel uncomfortable once in a while. Love your neighbor. Pray for those who persecute you. Smile. Mess up and try again. Go on an adventure. Dance your heart out. People will see this in you, Allison. Never lose hope. You are learning so much. Keep learning. You loved your College English class because of what it taught you. Keep remembering the truths you learned from it as you tie your pointe shoe ribbons once again and click the buttons on a calculator more than you’d like. Love every second of it. Keep pressing on.