Not because I'm angry or upset, but just because I don't have much to say. I feel like I should say something. Anything. Just to check in. Just to say, "Hey, I'm still kind of, sort of fumbling around here." I mean, I'm pretty sure you're the real deal, and, at the same time, if you were, I'm not sure how I'd know it. There are so many people in so many places talking/preaching/screaming about who you are. And if you are who they say you are, I'm not sure I want you.
I don't want a God who judges me vehemently based on how I dress, what I eat, and what music I listen to.
I don't want a God who will punish/burn those who chose the "wrong" day as Sabbath.
I don't want a God who applauds bigotry and hatred toward LGBTQ folk.
I don't want a God who advises people to set fire to abortion clinics.
I don't want a God who sees me as less-than because I've got a vagina.
I don't want a God who has a political agenda.
I don't want a God who promotes war and violence as a vehicle to peace and love.
I don't want a God who thinks that Americans invented Christianity.
I don't want a God who measures my "godliness"by my church attendance.
In short, I don't want most of what many modern-day evangelicals have co-opted and called "Christianity", and yet, I know you must be more than that. Better than that. Right? Please?
If so, tell me more. Because that's the kind of you I can get down with.
"Inspiration does not come like a bolt, nor is it kinetic, energetic striving, but it comes to us slowly and quietly all the time, though we must regularly and every day give it a chance to start flowing, and prime it with a little solitude and idleness. I learned that when writing you should feel not like Lord Byron on a mountaintop but like a child stringing beads in kindergarten--happy, absorbed, and quietly putting one bead in front of another."
Most recently, I'm feeling content with "putting one bead in front of another." Trying not to assume what the future holds. If I will ever write another book. What--if any--career I will ever have.
For this edition of it's-the-18th-of-the-month-which-means-we've-been-living-here-for-fourteen-months post, I'm going to share some random things I didn't know about Korea before living here.
-The mayor of Seoul recently affirmed same-sex marriage and commented that he hoped Korea would be the first Asian country to do so.
-In some women's restrooms, you can find the Etiquette Bell. It's a button you push that masks the sound of whatever you're doing in the bathroom.
-There's a big (1 ton) rubber ducky floating in a lake in Seoul.
-Sometimes/often when Korean women appear at an event (or especially on TV) wearing a skirt, they will put a blanket over their knees to be modest.
-Love motels are a thing in Korea. You can pay by the hour if you want to meet up with your secret-lover for a quick visit. Most foreigners just know they are cheap and convenient at may $40 USD per night. But these places are super secretive and have special places to park so that you don't have to be seen going in.
-Korea is one of the cheapest places in the world to buy cigarettes, thus, a lot of people smoke. It costs about $2.30 USD for a pack in Korea, compared to $14.40 USD in Norway.
-Twenty percent of Korean males reportedly wear some kind of make-up.
-In Korean restaurants, there are little buttons on the table used to summon your server. They don't talk to you. They don't ask if you need anything. They don't hover. They just come when you call. It's kind of nice. Oh, and there's no tipping in Korea!
-Korean school kids are the least happy, but they get the best grades.
Since July 22nd, you have posted 196 "Anonymous" comments to my blog.
Now, my comment moderation process means that any time someone wants to comment, the comment must be approved by me first. Most of the time, I publish 100% of the comments sent my way, however, of the last 196, I think I've posted one because I just don't know what to make of them.
Almost every day, and recently every hour, I'll have a new comment (or twelve), ranging from:
10:22p Bo, I sure do love you. I sure do love your Blog. ^_^
I am that I am The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. Proverbs9:10"
;) I want to go you a "Oso" hug rite now and sniff you. I bet you smell like a lawn field of wild flowers. . . .Sundayor Moonday . . .
You are my heart beat Heather. Nothing you can say or do will or could ever change that. I got you in the marrow of my bones beatin in my chess.
Riding the wave i keep my dreadlocks dry mane God is dog spelled backwards. Cat backwards is Tac and say10 can sit on it. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z Where is the singing Heather? She stole my heart the first time that little bird sung a sang while tickling those black n whites. Ew wee 13thsun got 'em heated ! I hope and have faith that you will confirm and approve us on your brief trip to the "States". Don't let these Korean people keep you down. Keep up and good work and as my Grandpa said, "Once you got 'em goin don't stop". You got no worries and no problems your next year in Korea in set just throw a few bones to your peeps in North America then return to you nest in paradise. I do all my banking at The Heather Bohlender Bank. Bo Bones Korea Bank. ^_^_^ I have always loved you Heather with a mighty love and I will overwhelm you like a mighty wave." HB 4 Prezzi ! That's UU I am going to frame your toes and hang the picture frame up in my living room. JK I think that might be illegal. ^_^ Love you !
I'm glad you are enjoying my blog. However, I would really like to know who you are and if we've met before. So this is just a heads up that I have disabled anonymous commenting. If you want to comment, you can sign up with a username and password. And unfortunately, if you continue spamming my blog posts, I'll have to block you.
Growing up, I remember watching movies or TV shows that involved marriage proposals and thinking, How awful?!
In my wee little mind, I assumed that this guy was getting down on bended knee to ask this gal for her hand in marriage and she had NO idea it was coming! It was a surprise and she definitely looked taken aback. Ahhh. It was also around this time that my wee little mind thought: Oh no, if thinking about being proposed to makes me panic, maybe I'm gay! (and the only "oh no" in that comes because where I grew up, popular opinion was that being gay was a choice).
My views on relationships and marriage have changed a bit since then, mostly in one particular vein: This marriage stuff requires a lot of talking.
Talking about how to sort the laundry.
Talking about what to eat for dinner.
Talking about what we want to be when we grow up.
Talking about why you said that thing and what did you mean by it?
Talking about how that hurt.
Talking about sex.
Talking about that little quirk that drives one of us up. the. wall.
Most surprising, are the things we talk about that seem so perfectly romantic in movies. Like, "I love it when you kiss me, and I love it so much more after you brush your teeth..." In 833 days of marriage, we are still learning how to talk about hard things. Still finding our way in this friendship/partnership/love.
Rarely does it happen that we are both on the same page and all the pieces fall into place and we can just read each other's mind. Oh wait, there was that one time last week when Jeremy had toothpaste in his mouth and he mumbled, "Hu nun" and I was like, "Yes" But most of the time pretending that we are mind-readers leaves us on separate sides of the apartment. Brooding.
It doesn't feel particularly sexy to have some of these conversations, but that's only because I got too much of expectations from Hollywood. I can tell you what marriage is not, but I can also tell you what it is:
-it is hard.
-it is wonderful.
-it is painful.
-it is healing.
-it is annoying.
-it is rewarding.
-it is laying my soul bare and vulnerable before the man I trust and being blown away and flabbergast that he takes me anyway. Every. Single. Time.
What if my right leg were two inches shorter than my left leg?
(Where did this thought come from? I have no idea. I don't ask my brain questions, I just go with it.)
I was walking downtown yesterday, when I considered this question: Would I be basically the same person? Would it change me? Would I be married to Jeremy or someone else? Would I be in Korea? Would everything change because of two little inches?
I imagine, from a young age, when the difference became clear, I would've gotten a lot of pity, "Oh, what a shame, she's such a cute little girl." We'd spend a fair amount of time at the doctor and physical therapy.
I imagine that it would've been the thing people saw first, and so I probably would have too. It would've been harder to be anything else. To be smart. To be talented. To be kind. As soon as the first drop step and hobble was seen by another, I would've just been that girl with the wobble.
I imagine I wouldn't have been the confident, fun-loving kid that I was. I would've wanted to hide. I would've felt less than. I would've made different friends. Friends who also like to hide, go unnoticed, blend in. I'd hang out with the "different" kids and, frankly, as a result I probably would've been better at math.
I imagine I wouldn't have felt as capable of physical activity. Of stretching and moving and feeling my body. I wouldn't have been so eager to start up football games at recess or organize relay races with my friends. I probably would've just sat and watched. Not wanting to draw attention to the way in which I fell short.
I imagine that those two inches would've kept me from playing competitive volleyball, basketball, and soccer from the age of ten. I wouldn't have known the struggle of running until your lungs burn. Of winning as a team. Of losing as a team. Of learning how to walk into an opposing team's gym with confidence and how to talk out of the losing team's gym with grace.
I imagine I wouldn't have been popular. I wouldn't have made the friends that I did. I would've fell in with a different crowd. People who weren't so outspoken. People who didn't care about sports. I probably would've gotten into computer gaming. Or maybe marijuana.
I imagine I wouldn't have pursued the same passions in high school and college. I would've had a different college roommate. I would've pursued a different degree. Maybe sciences. Maybe something that would require less time in front of people. Less time on a stage. Less time being the focus.
I imagine I would've have had the courage to go to Cambodia. To travel and be stared at for even more things: white skin, blonde hair, and a hobble. And then, I wouldn't have gotten that curious e-mail from Jeremy that led us into a relationship. I wouldn't have written a book. I wouldn't have spoken at different schools. And I definitely wouldn't be in Korea right now. Maybe later. Who knows? Just maybe.
It's only two inches.
Two little inches.
There are people in the world whose skin can't handle the sun.
People who are allergic to water.
People with such sensitive immune systems, they can't be touched. Ever.
People with one less chromosome.
People who cannot taste.
People who live with unbearable, chronic pain.
There are people with special needs and health concerns who live bright, vibrant, active lives. They compete. They perform. They thrive. And I'm ever more impressed by people who take a limitation and make it beautiful.
But yesterday, I wondered if I would have been one of them. Would I have had the courage to write a different story or would I have settled into the popular narrative about what it means to be "abnormal"?
I'm really, truly not sure.
But I do know that gratitude matters.
Recognition that, "Yes, it's raining today, but it didn't rain yesterday" is important.
Awareness that, "Yes, this sucks and it could be so much worse" matters.
And appreciation that, "Yes, I live an abundant life" changes everything.
Being a foreigner in Korea gives me a lot of time. Time to observe. Time to learn. Time to think. And while I am not often alone in a city of 800,000 people, I very commonly feel like I am alone.
Like when I'm teaching an English class and see not one look of recognition.
Of anything at all.
Like when I'm drinking tea with my co-workers and listening to them speak Korean.
Like when I'm walking in the hallways past hundreds of people every day.
Like when I'm riding my bike through a sea of strangers I can't easily communicate with.
Like when I catch the eye of a bewildered toddler who has never seen a foreigner. Ever.
Like when I'm sitting in a coffee shop where there are eight different conversations happening, none of which I understand, so the room might as well be empty.
I can't even say I'm upset about this. I'm an introvert by nature, so being alone doesn't exactly break my heart. Being an observer in this world has shown me how unimportant it is to understand every bit of Korean that passes my ears.
Life isn't about the words.
Life is about the moments.
"Blackfoot warrior and orator Crowfoot said, 'What is life? It is the flash of fireflies in the night. It is the breath of the buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow that runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.'"
-From Body of Work by Pamela Slim
And, to Crowfoot, I would add:
What is life?
It is the old man crouching over his garden in the morning mist.
It is the steady pace of cars and people coming and going, going and coming.
It is the toothy grins of kindergartners when they say/sing, "Hello" and feel so proud of themselves.
It is the fumbling exchange of money for bananas at the street market.
It is the familiar embrace of lovers after a day spent apart.
It is the routines that root us: slice, saute, stir, steam, serve, savor.
It is the in and out of the breaths we breathe. The life we live. The things we see.
It's been awhile since we've spoken. Talked. Interacted in any meaningful way. Yeah, about ten months since I last acknowledged you: my body. That thing that carries me through the world and that thing that protects my heart and my soul.
I'm sorry because I haven't been very appreciative lately. More abusive actually. Demanding your transportation from one side of the world to the other (and then back again). Withholding sleep. Expecting sprints out of legs that normally jog. Asking six miles out of a body that usually gives me three. Sheesh. Thanks for that.
No, really. Thanks.
I know you are hurt by the verbal assaults from me and from others. It hurts like a punch. It wounds like a stab. Why did she have to make it about competition? Why did they think my body was open to their critiques? Why did he say that unnecessary thing? As if we would care. As if those words could hurt us.
But they do hurt. I know, you never signed up for this. You never promised perfection. You agreed to do your best at maintenance, not elegance. You're a machine. A function. A vehicle that works to stay alive. Not just a thing to be seen, to be criticized, to be judged. You'd think pumping blood and oxygen through my body would be worth something. That digesting food and bringing air into my lungs would matter, would get some recognition. But it seems that all they want is a thigh gap and all we have is a perfectly functioning brain. Shoot.
And I wish I could protect you from it all, but I can't. I'm pulled in by the critiques. I'm vulnerable to the opinions of the crowd and for that I am so sorry. I'm such a sucker. I don't deserve you. You keep on keepin' on even when you're completely ignored.
I can get more sleep.
I can eat more vegetables.
I can take deep breaths.
I can avoid toxic relationships.
I can protect you from the onslaught of insignificant opinions of others.
I can teach my critical eye to be a gentle gaze.
I can trust that you know what you're doing.
I can be grateful for all that you do.
I can appreciate what I have.
I can be content.
I can be.