known sickness

When I was a younger sort of girl, I frequented the camp circuit throughout the summer. If I was home for more than five consecutive days, my sanity became questionable. I loved adventure. I loved meeting the new. I scoffed at those who were homesick. I didn't need my mom or my safety blanket or the chirping of a certain kind of cricket in my windowsill. Homesickness is for the weak and wobbly.

October was difficult for my older sort of girl self. I spent a good part of every weekend praying for people somewhere else, dreaming about the memories they were making, the laughs that they were sharing, the joy they were creating. I distracted myself as best I could. I surrounded myself with laughter and food and beautiful sights and even some hefty homework assignments. But as much as I tried, I was plagued with the longing to laugh with someone who has also shared my tears, borne my exasperation, and held my hand when words failed. Laughter is magnified with it knows pain.

This longing feeling gnawed at me through every weekend and into the weeks in an unsettling way. I was happy in my new home. I was thankful for the blessings of house, and school, and work, and friends. I didn't want to return home--home is full of its own challenges and its own problems. I wasn't sick for home. But I was sick.

I was sick to be known.

Known-sickness is the heartbreak I feel when I long to be with someone who just knows. It isn't the need to be in a certain place, but is the need to say four words (like, "remember loud laugh boy...") and receive a perceptive nod in return. The void can happen anywhere--your hometown, your college dorm, your new home. Its struck me in places I've lived for ages in moments of acute loneliness.

Feeling unknown tears at my inner self. I question if I am knowable, if I am worthy to be known, if I am inaccessible to my friends. I believe that it is known-sickness that drives us to unhealthy relationships and excessive hours in darkened rooms. If I can't be fully known, I want to maintain a façade of known-ness or give up trying. 

I don't have a cure or remedy for known-sickness. It comes and goes in my life. This time, it eased with an acknowledgment of its existence, explaining it to those who know me and those who don't, and in creating new definition of known. Knowing me is not understanding the abyss of my emotional landscape. Knowing me, knowing you, is acknowledging that we probably won't journey through all things together, but we can love one another anyway: acknowledging the limitations of knowing, embracing what we do know, and creating a new known together.


don't make me leave my tacos

A disclaimer: this post is not about one of my catastrophically hilarious adventures on a bike. I haven't climbed on yet today, so the day still has potential.

I find it terribly easy to get focused in life. I want the perfect handouts for a presentation. I want to finish writing this essay and I want to edit it six times. I want to research all of the best Mexican restaurants in Durham and eat at all of them. If I want it, I give you my half-hearted blessings to attempt to convince me that I don't. I'm not changing my mind and I will convince you that it is in your best interest to want it for me, too. And then I am going to do it.

There are million and ten unhealthy points to this focused behavior. Potentially, there are an equal share of healthy ones. The point isn't really the health or unhealth of focused behavior, but that it exists in me and I can't get rid of it. Deep within the way I am wired is the potential to make people feel like they are interrupting my life's important work. This is a problem.

It has become especially problematic in my life because I recently moved away from a horde of solid and amazing friendships. They are friendships that are meaningful and important and that I hope to nurture, except that there are papers, Mexican restaurant scavenger hunts, and new friendships in need of attention. I don't function well with divided focus.

With this in mind, I have been pondering what it means to have a goal with the capacity to be interrupted. That is, the goal is designed to be flexible and malleable enough that it can be interrupted by a friend's goal or need, a Vietnamese food excursion, or bicycle catastrophe.

What does it mean to anticipate others' needs and life without anticipating the actual content of their needs or the change that life brings? How can I build within me a capacity to be interrupted, an ability to stop, listen, and respond even if my tacos are getting cold? 

Am I patient enough? Am I generous enough? Am I loving enough?

I can try. I can try.


some pretzels aren't very tasty

This blog is quickly devolving into a "Things that Happen on  Bike when Alaina is on it" Blog. Let's face it, most of my life is spent in lecture halls and libraries. The most interesting things happen when I am getting between my home and school. Until the clamoring for posts on the Christian exercise of power becomes too loud to ignore, I'll stick with the humorous end of things.

Today was going to be just another day on the bike. Except that somewhere between home and school, I hit a bump.  This bump caused my newly purchased bike headlight to bounce out of the pocket of my backpack (how does this happen?!) and onto the street. I quickly slowed, turned around, and reached to grab the light from the ground. Then, my bike collapsed on me. In the absence of an image (Praise GOD!), let's settle for a word picture: I became body-bike pretzel.

In case you are worried for my safety, I have half a brain and waited until the cars passed to do anything about any of it. I also turned my face towards the houses so that in the off chance that one of the 50 people I know in this town happened to pass me on the road in that moment, there would be no possibility of recognizing me. Priorities, people.

If all that wasn't enough, a bolt/screw/fastening device loosened and, when I hit that bump, my handlebars rotated about 75º. While not humiliating, this poses a few safety concerns, such as, I can't reach my brakes. Don't worry, a little Allen Wrench action saved the day.

True confessions: I learned, just today, that those little L-shaped metal pieces that you use to put together IKEA furniture are called Allen Wrenches. Who knew?


it makes me want to line dance

Fall has finally come.

It is gorgeous...

...and beautiful

And it makes me want to line dance?


puttering toward beauty

I puttered behind two dear old friends on our hike. There were moments and images to capture with the camera. The peace of the forest reeled me into its silence. As I puttered, I saw this:

Words from the past haunted me. They made me smile.
Life is no longer a collection of all-too-short walks shared with others, but an opportunity to marvel at the beauty created in and around each person who travels beside me for a moment.


bike riding isn't always glamourous

I started taking a new route home from school on my bike. It's less trafficky, the hills are easier, and the view is especially beautiful.

As I peddle up the residential streets on this route, I bike towards the middle of the lane. I'm rather petrified that a car driver turning onto the street won't see me if I bike too far to the right. The street is wide, so I'm not preventing cars from passing me.

Today, my theory proved correct. A driver saw me coming towards the intersection, waited for me to pass, and then began to take her turn. It was all fine and good, except that there was a car behind me that she failed to notice. The second car driver honked but the turning car continued to turn. The honking continued and I peddled faster thinking that I had done something terribly wrong. The two cars drove parallel to one another as I peddled in front of them praying they would resolve their dispute before reaching me.

I nearly fell off my bike in fear.

Not only would that have been painful, but incredibly awkward. You see, as I climbed onto my bike minutes before, I suffered the embarrassment of a hem-to-zipper seam split in my skirt. I determined that if I didn't get up off of my bike seat, no one would know. No standing to peddle up hills or to move faster.

The drivers figured it out and they zoomed past me. I didn't have to reveal my seam split. Embarrassment averted.

Of course, when I reached the only four-way stop of the route, I fumbled on my peddles and held up traffic for a good ten-seconds.

Bike riding keeps me humble.