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Last week was Juan’s birthday!  Even though I couldn’t celebrate with him, I figured I could still bake him a tart and eat it for him.  Since both of us love chocolate, this double chocolate tart was perfect for the occasion.  And to show my appreciation, I thought I’d write about a moment in our conversations that really inspired me.

This is a post about my weakness.  About a moment that I am not proud of, but I will write it here so that I do not forget.

You’ve always said that you see so much good in me.  The truth is that it’s so easy to put up a kind face and speak kind words and do kind acts.  Sure, some of that may genuinely come from the heart, but more often than I care to admit to, I do it because I know it’s the right thing to do.  But just when I want to pat myself on the back for being so righteous, I see that I’ve never been Good at all.

Juan, I confess that I am fickle.  In love and in life.  I find it easy to be discontent because my heart always wanders to the things that I don’t have.  My eyes see all your deficits but are blind to my own.  And I love with a selfish affection–only when I feel like it and hardly when it’s inconvenient.

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It was a snide comment.  I can blame it on stress or fatigue, but neither can really justify my words because they were said with the intent to wound.  I knew they would, so I said it: “You’re not so bright, are you?”

Yea, I knew it was wrong, but at the same time, I took in smug satisfaction knowing that I had said the thing that would cut you the most.  And the most horrible thing was that I wanted to say more; I trembled to see just how far I can push you.

I never thought that I would judge you for your educational level, socioeconomic background, professional accomplishments, financial success, or even physical appearance.  Not only because it is not fair–you were not privileged, you were not lucky, you were not raised in affluence, you were not me–but because none of these “markers of success” says anything about strength of character.  Yet, my cruel words showed that I judged you for everything that I didn’t want to.  There was something inside me that wanted to say that you were not good enough for me.

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I expected you to be angry, yell or shout, maybe even cry.  But what you said in response completely blew me away. Instead of telling me off, even though you had every right to, you told me about your moment of weakness:

There is guy in my class who obviously grew up in the ghetto.  I could tell because he walked and talked like a guy from the ghetto: uneducated and pretentious.  It made me mad to see him act like he was better than everyone else.  I thought, “I’ve done better than him even though I had grew up in the ghetto too.”  After class, I saw that he was walking and trying to impress a girl; so I got into my car and drove past him, thinking that I can use my car to show off and make him look like he was less than me.  “He has to walk home, but I don’t.”  And it suddenly struck me that I was judging him for things that he probably couldn’t control.  But even worse was that I thought I was better than him.  This is not why I was blessed with this car.  So I stopped and asked God to forgive me.

And then you said:

I want to see our relationship like I see mine with Christ.  I may not always see Him all the time, but I know there is nothing else out there that can compare to Him.

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Juan, thank you for your story.  I can’t quite articulate why it “spoke to me.”  I just know that I was struck in that moment by your gentleness, steadfastness, and grace.  I knew that what I needed in a guy wasn’t riches or prestige, but someone who walks with God.

Thank you, for grounding me in the things that matter the most.  I may have been blessed with education and opportunities, but you…you were blessed with faith.

Feliz Cumpleanos!  Treinta y dos!

Chocolate Tart from Dulce Delight (I used almonds instead of hazelnuts)

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This morning I stumbled on a cache of old “love” letters, if you will, from high school.  Reading them wasn’t so much nostalgic as it was amusing (and somewhat cringe-worthy).  They are filled with corny endearments, from “honey bunny” to “smoochie wookums,” with a healthy smattering of “darlings” thrown in.  This is only made funnier by the fact that my “ex” and I are currently great friends, and I can no longer imagine him uttering the phrase “dearest Joanne” unless it was dripping with sarcasm and followed by some cheeky insult.  Yet I have, in my possession, a reminder of his “whipped-ness,” once upon a time.

But on a sentimental note, the letters chronicle our adolescent angst and fears during a transformative period where both of us were navigating our transition into college while trying to cling onto each other.  So eager to leave our suburban childhood and yet wholly unprepared to give up on this relationship.  Funny how life seemed so much more simple and dramatic, at the same time, when you’re only 17.  By golly, that was six years ago!  To think that I was a nerdy, naive college freshman, walking around campus with my dorm key hanging on a lanyard around my neck (oh God, how did I ever think that was COOL?)  Religiously attending every 8 AM lecture and fantasizing about marrying my high school sweetheart.  Can you imagine?

There is not a drop of regret or wistfulness when I read those letters from the “yonder days of youth” (oh gawd, I crack myself up).  I still remember the sense of freedom and peace when I realized that we had come to the end of our story, but not of our friendship.  A revelation that was tinged with satisfaction and not resignation; gratitude, not bitterness.  I could not have asked for a better person to share in the excitement of adolescent romance.  And it was with excitement that I greeted our new friendship, which I can say with the utmost certainty, would last for a lifetime.

These days I make a point to catch up with him every few weeks.  Occasionally he picks up the phone to my mournful wailing.  You know, the usual “My life is in shambles!” call.  But I think we have been truly blessed to watch each other over the years, as we find our callings, pursue our passions, and slowly grow into the kind of person we always wanted to be.  And D—, if you’re reading this, you can be sure that “honey bunny” is forever eliminated from my vocabulary.  I doubt it would ever make its appearance again in my future relationships.  Because seriously, wtf were we smoking?

Yours truly,

“Honey bunny”

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Gingersnap Crust from Cook & Be Merry