Archives for posts with tag: Relationships

Everyone has what I call “Sliding Door Moments.” If you’ve seen the movie Sliding Doors, you probably get what I mean. For those of you who haven’t seen it, it’s a movie about a woman’s (played by Gwyneth Paltrow) life shown in 2 parallel timelines. I don’t think I’m giving anything away here, but just in case, SPOILER ALERT. In one timeline, the woman catches a subway train just before the doors slide shut and gets home in time to see her boyfriend cheating on her. She breaks up with him and falls in love with someone else. In the other timeline, she misses the train and doesn’t catch him. She stays with him, even though neither one of them seems to be getting much out of the relationship, and he continues to cheat on her. END SPOILER ALERT.

As I’m sure you’ve probably guessed, a Sliding Door Moment is a moment in our lives when something occurs or a choice we have to make radically changes the course of our life. For example, one of my Moments was January 8, 2008 in the early morning. At that moment, I seriously, SERIOUSLY considered not going to the airport and not getting on the plane that would take me to Japan. I clearly remember thinking, “I don’t HAVE to go.” That’s an example of a choice that I made in a Moment. An example of a seemingly serendipitous Moment would be when the representative at Chase Visa gave me the advice that eventually helped me out of debt.

250 yen for one strawberry. To buy or not to buy?

250 yen for one strawberry. To buy or not to buy?

Both of those moments profoundly changed my life. Some of it was good, some of it was bad, all of it was difficult. But at the end of the day, I am here because of those moments, and they helped make me who I am now.

Even though I like my life and who I am now, it’s tempting to think, “What if?” Of course it’s not tempting to wonder about the Moments that obviously led to good things. I have never once tried to imagine what my life would be like if I still had all that debt. But what if I hadn’t gotten on the plane? I had a really good life in the U.S. I had lots of friends, I liked my job, I was very involved in my church. There was absolutely nothing that I wanted to run away from. There are also lots of events I wouldn’t have missed if I had stayed: marriages, births, concerts, parties. Another Moment I often wonder about occurred back in 1987. It was the moment I forgave my high school boyfriend for cheating on me. Forgiving him led to 7 more years in a totally unhealthy relationship, a devastating breakup, and depression. What if I hadn’t forgiven him and instead broken up with him? Wouldn’t my life have been better?

As easy as it is to dwell on those Moments, to convince yourself that life could have been better or easier, it’s so wrong to do it. Most people will tell you that you shouldn’t regret those episodes in your life because they made you stronger and wiser. That may be true, but that is not the only reason I like to leave the past in the past. The Bible tells us that God has a plan for each one of us, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” And as if that’s not enough, He also says He will go with us: “Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age,” and “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” He never once promises His way is easy or painless, but He does promise we won’t face our challenges alone. If we trust this, then we know that those Moments were meant to be. There is no point in wondering “What if?’ because there is only what is.

So the next time you find yourself dwelling on a decision that you should or shouldn’t have made, remember that you are right where you are supposed to be.

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Have you all seen this new Pantene commercial that tells women to stop apologizing? I just came across it the other day and I’m really confused by it. I get that the point is to help women feel empowered. And some of the examples are really valid. For example, the scene where the guy sits down and takes over the whole armrest. The woman who was already sitting there is the one who moves her arm and says, “Sorry”. The guy doesn’t even glance at her. Clearly, he’s a rude jerk who should have apologized to her. And yes, the scene with the multiple women apologizing to the guy who comes in late and wants to sit down was ridiculous. But what about some of the others? Was it really wrong that the woman said, “Sorry,“ when she walked into the person’s office? We have no idea what the person was doing in the office before she walked in, but the door was clearly closed. It would not be unheard of to think that a closed door means the person is busy. I don’t know what they’re teaching the kids these days, but I was taught to use words like “sorry” and “excuse me” when you interrupt someone. Was it such a terrible thing for the woman to apologize when she and the man started talking at the same time? Yes, I know, the man didn’t bother to apologize, but that doesn’t mean she has to be rude as well. It was polite of her to say, “Sorry, you go first.”  Is the commercial saying that women don’t have to be polite because men aren’t? Is it saying that everyone should just be rude and selfish no matter what your gender? Being empowered does not mean being rude. A little common courtesy never killed anyone. Perhaps if we all exhibited a little more polite behavior no one would need to be empowered by shampoo commercials.

Here’s a better ad, in my opinion:

 

There’s something that’s been on my mind for quite a while now, so I guess it’s time I attempted to put it into words.  I’m not sure how eloquently or clearly I’ll present it, but I will do my best.

For several years, I went through a very difficult and personal struggle with being single.  I can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t expect to be married some day.  Having a lifelong partner, with or without children, was my goal, and I never even entertained the thought that it wouldn’t happen.  When I was in my 20s, I didn’t worry too much because I figured I still had plenty of time.  But when I got to my early 30s, a nagging desperation began to set in.  I pushed it away most of the time, because I knew I was still young.  But it was there.  It began to rear its ugly head every time I received another wedding invitation or birth announcement from one of my friends.  It got even worse once I started getting invitations to the weddings of the students I used to teach in Sunday school.  I kept telling myself I just need to be patient and God would reward me.  After all, He loved me and wanted what was best for me, so naturally He would present me with my significant other soon.  Then the self-deprecation started.  To be more exact, I began mentally ripping myself to shreds. I wasted so much time criticizing myself, my looks, my character.  Obviously I was deficient in some way.  As more years went by and Prince Charming continued to elude me, I became more and more critical.

During these times, I honestly did turn to God.  In every difficult situation, when I turn to God and seek comfort in the Bible, I am never disappointed. So talking to God about my struggles with singleness always helped. For a while.  But then I’d walk out the door and be slapped in the face again with how perfect everyone else was and what a loser I was.  I rarely spoke about it with anyone, but many times I would get comments like, “Jen, I can’t believe you’re not married yet, or “We need to find you  husband.”   That made it even worse because that meant that everyone was aware of my deficiency. I suspected that my friends, especially the married ones, pitied me.  I just knew they had secret conversations amongst themselves: “Why isn’t Jen married yet?” “I know!  She’s so nice. What do you think the problem is?”  I just couldn’t cling tight enough to God to be able to deal well with society’s perceptions and expectations.  Which of course were my own perceptions and expectations as well.

The thing is, all these comments and bits of advice were well-meaning.  I know that my friends like me and enjoy my company.  That’s why they’re my friends.  I know that when they say things like that, they want to encourage me and make me feel better.  But the problem with all of this is, they’re all looking at it wrong.  I’ve been looking at it wrong. I believe that the prevailing attitude in our society, including the Christian community, is that marriage is the final goal.  It’s what all of us, especially the women, should strive for.  Ultimate success is marriage and family.  Of course, no one would say this exactly.  It sounds so old-fashioned. But it’s such a part of our culture (and I’m guessing many other cultures) that we don’t even notice that we think this way anymore.

The way I see it, marriage and singleness are gifts.  I’m not just talking about spiritual gifts, but gifts that God gives each of us to equip us for the work He calls us to do.  They are gifts the same way that patience and athletic ability and intelligence are gifts.  One person can draw and another is good at cooking and yet another is good at science.  The difference in these gifts doesn’t make one person better than the other.  Each person just has different ways of being able to serve God.  My married friends are able to serve Him in their marriages.  I am able to serve Him in my singleness.  Neither one trumps the other.  They are simply different states of being. Marriage should never be the end goal or the defining factor of our lives. Serving God as best we can should be.

I am single right now.  I have no idea if that will stay the same for the rest of my life.  Things change.  A spouse can die, and people can get married at any age.  But I can honestly say now that I have stopped worrying about it.  It is a waste of my time.  It’s like obsessing over being bad at math or not being able to sing.  Sure, you can force a change.  But it’s so much work to do it!  All the time and resources to change something that really doesn’t matter is pointless.  I want to focus on what God has given me, not what I wish He would give me.  I have peace in knowing that I am right where I am supposed to be, doing what I am supposed to be doing, and at least trying to live the way I should live, all for Him.

I have to admit, recently I have developed a pretty big crush on Tom Hiddleston.  Not on Loki, as so many fangirls have.  But on the actual actor himself.  He’s got a great smile, dresses well, lovely hair and eyes, an adorable laugh, and he just seems like an all-around good guy who truly enjoys doing what he does.  Of course, it doesn’t hurt that he has a beautiful British accent.  I always had a weakness for that.  I am crushing big time.  Have you seen his video with Cookie Monster?  How can you not adore him?

Anyway, this got me thinking about Hollywood Crushes in general the other night. I decided I would put them into 3 main categories: Looks, Talent, and The Whole Package.  The Looks category is the simplest to understand.  It is based solely on physical attractiveness without any regard to talent or public personality.  These are the actors that I am rather ashamed of finding attractive, even though most people would agree with me.  Some actors I would put in this category are Antonio Banderas, Orlando Bloom, and Chris Hemsworth as Thor.  I find these actors very pretty, yet sadly untalented. Or perhaps only good as one type of character.  Hence the feeling of shame.  How can I be reduced to such shallowness?  In my little fantasy world where it’s actually possible that one of them would be interested in me, I imagine I would be extremely flattered to be asked out.  But after a date or two, I’d realize that there was no way I could believably support and encourage him in his “art” and I’d have to break it off.  You know, before he got too attached to me.

The second group, Talent, is a bit easier to admit to.  These are actors that maybe aren’t stunningly handsome, but whose talent is great enough for me to truly admire them.  For me, this admiration actually makes them seem extremely handsome.  For example, Gary Sinise, Emile Hirsch, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Mark Ruffalo.  Maybe some of you think these men are really attractive aside from their talent. But attraction is subjective, and I would have to say that if I saw any of these men on the street and they weren’t famous, I wouldn’t really notice them. These are the guys that don’t make much of an impression at first, but if you give them a chance you see how beautiful they really are (talent-wise). “He is SO hot!” is replaced by, “He is SO talented!” The problem is, even in my fantasy world I’m sure none of these guys would give me a second glance (with the possible exception of Gary Sinise, who seems like a genuinely nice guy, probably because he’s also from Chicago).

The third group is easily my favorite.  The Whole Package.  This is where Tom Hiddleston lives.  You might also run into David Tennant, Colin Firth, and Hugh Jackman.  These guys are handsome, talented, and all seem to truly love the business of being famous actors without being arrogant.  They’re doing what they love and they know how lucky they are to be doing it.  They know that being in the limelight has certain disadvantages, but they don’t let it interfere with their joy.  They don’t punch photographers; they pose.  They don’t shove past eager fans; they stop and sign autographs.  With a genuine smile.  They don’t just have a pretty face or a great personality.  They are the whole package.  They are the ones I’d most love to meet.  And based solely on their public images, I think they wouldn’t mind meeting me.  In fact, I’m about to meet Tom for drinks right now.  I just know he’ll find me irresistibly charming.  In my fantasy world, of course.

Fannie May

The Fannie May traditional assortment is certainly nothing to turn your nose up at.

Valentine’s Day is a big business holiday in Japan.  And just as in the U.S., chocolate  is a bestseller.  While you will never hear me complain about receiving some good old Fannie May, I have to admit that the creativity and artistry that goes into Japanese Valentine’s Day goes far above and beyond what we Americans are most familiar with.

 

 

Even though the chocolates sold in the stores are beautiful, many young women like a more personal touch.  It’s very common to make your own chocolates to hand out to friends, boyfriends, and co-workers.  But just because you went that extra mile for your crush, ladies, don’t expect anything back just yet.  In Japan, February 14th is the day women give chocolate to men.  Men aren’t expected to reciprocate until White Day on March 14th.   Why is it called White Day?  Well, the gifts are usually white.  I asked a Japanese friend once what kind of white gifts are given and she told me that marshmallows are common.  Which I think is just terrible.  You slave over a hot stove melting chocolate and lovingly pouring it into molds all night, and a month later he hands you a bag of marshmallows?  You’d better hope that’s not an indication of how the rest of the relationship is going to go.

I have always been an extrovert. I feel more energetic around other people. I have better ideas when I am with others. I am a verbal processor.  I like being around people.  But I am a terrible roommate.

In the traditional sense, I think I’m a great roommate – I’m clean, I’m neat, I can cook, I pay bills on time. Everything always starts out great. We start out as friends and spend time together hanging out in “our place.” Either we agree on decorating choices, or we easily come to a compromise in the common areas. We bend over backwards for one another (“You can use the washer first. I’ll do laundry later.” “No, it’s fine. You go and I’ll do mine tomorrow.” “Are you sure?” “Yeah, absolutely.” “Because I can always do mine later tonight…” “No, really! Go ahead.”). We don’t mind washing that extra bowl in the sink from the other person, because we know that they’d wash ours if the situation was reversed. And there’s always the obligatory, “Let me check with my roommate,” before inviting a non-mutual friend over.

Of course, this whole “honeymoon” stage ends soon enough and, inevitably, the uber-politeness stops. Many a time I have found myself angrily washing pots and pans from days ago that I didn’t use, and absolutely seething when I come home to a washer full of someone else’s wet clothes impeding my plan to do laundry. At one time, I had a roommate who suddenly revealed herself as a total slob after just a few short weeks. If she dropped something on the floor by accident, it would most likely live there until I picked it up. I once left a spoon she had dropped on the floor, stubbornly refusing to pick it up on principle. I finally gave up after 3 weeks.

And this is where the problem lies. Instead of bringing these issues up, I let them quietly fester, until they are no longer that quiet. Rather than face a possible (though avoidable, if handled with love and grace) conflict, I internalize everything and let resentment build. I completely forget that I have annoying habits, too. I become uncommunicative, unfriendly, and unlikable.  Why don’t I just address these issues?  Because deep down I know they are petty.  For the most part, these roommates of mine began as friends.  They were people I hung out with regularly, confided in, trusted.  Did my friend’s inability to use a vacuum affect her ability to make me laugh? No.  Just because she regularly left her things on the kitchen table, did that make her any less loyal or faithful?  Of course not.   No one’s personality was changed by these things except mine.  I was the one who became a bad friend.  And I knew that’s why I could never, ever bring it up.

Last spring, I went back to my hometown (near Chicago) for 5 months. I stayed with a family that I have known for about 10 years and whom I consider very good friends. Naturally, I was worried about how that would go. I knew what was on the line if I couldn’t get it together. Maybe it was because I was living as a guest in a house that belonged to somebody else.  Maybe I have grown up a bit (I hope this is true). Probably it has something to do with all the praying I did in the months leading up to the move. Whatever the reason, it was one of the best experiences I’ve had in my life. We cooked and ate together almost every night. We had TV shows that we would only watch when everyone was together. In fact, many times I chose to stay home with them rather than go out with groups of other friends. Speaking objectively, the same issues were probably still there. It’s just that I didn’t even notice them anymore.

I returned to Osaka last September, and I was able to rent an apartment by myself. It’s the first time I’ve lived alone in almost 10 years. I am once again enjoying having all the space to myself and making everything just the way I want it. But you know, it’s a little lonely.