Friday, November 23, 2007

with my family, and the friends I've loved in my short life I have had so many people I've deeply cared for

(the pictures are explained at the end of the post.)

Before I get into that:

a thought on music: the measure of a great songwriter, I think, is that other artists can take the song and do something interesting with it. (submitted for consideration: Bob Dylan songs, Beatles songs have been covered meaningfully [or otherwise] by so many artists. See also: jazz standards, where any artist can give it their own take. If your song has been covered by a jazz artist [or by more than one] you can console yourself that it's pretty darn well-written.)


the measure of a great musician, I realized today, is that people don't dare cover the song, because they know they could never measure up to the standard set by the original (or at least THE version) -- Every artist who sings "Hallelujah" will be measured against Jeff Buckley, every artist who sings "Watchtower" will be measured against Jimi Hendrix. Some bands just never have, like, ANY of their songs remade, because their musical identity is so unique that no artist could measure up. Really, who's gonna cover a Led Zeppelin song? You'll never top them, so why bother trying, unless you take it in such a different direction that it's barely the same song anymore, or only do it live, where Zep is sure to fire up a crowd? Even in jazz -- "My Funny Valentine" isn't done much anymore, because that's Chet's song, and "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off" is cute, but you won't be as cute as Louis and Ella. Mark of a musician.


a Roboseyo observation on life:
Problem is, the worst 1% of a demographic is usually also the loudest.

OK then. Blog soundtrack time: hit play, and then read.

I don't know if this blog actually qualifies as a public forum. . . though theoretically it is, much in the same way you can hold up a sign on a street corner and people can choose to read it or not. . . maybe this blog is more like holding up a sign in an alley at night, I'm not sure how many people come here, really . . . nor whether anybody other than folks who used to be on my personal mailing list still care, but. . .

In going through my old e-mails from the year before, and then the year after Mom died (no small task: over 500 pages just from the five I e-mailed the MOST during that time) I've been struck, staggered, and humbled, by the amazing quality of friends I have.

The thoughts and emotions shared during that time were pretty raw, I was basically bleeding through e-mail a bunch of the time, and my friends (in descending order of number of pages sent back and forth) Tamie, Anna, Melissa, Matt and (before we broke up) Exgirlfriendoseyo really worked like a life buoy (or maybe a tourniquet) for me.

So here are some specific things I'm thankful for, concerning each of these friends:

(in descending order of pages)

Tamie - was my grief buddy. We were peripheral friends during University, but she stayed on my e-mailing list, and then suddenly, when Exgirlfriendoseyo and I broke up, she sent a letter so gentle and compassionate that we've since become good friends. We connected deeply and instantly for several reasons, but you'll just have to ask HER what they are, for privacy reasons and such. Our e-mail correspondence was extensive, and traced a lot of changes in my character and faith, as they were happening. Tamie is wise, gentle, and compassionate. She doesn't give unsolicited advice, or answer without thinking deeply first. She was really diligent in speaking with compassion and without judgment, and by doing that, gave me a space where I could poke around at myself, during a time when I really didn't like being in my own company. Thanks, Tamie!

(also, for a while I think Tamie and Mel were the only ones actually reading my blog. . .)

(it's American thanksgiving, so I guess I can get away with this.)

Anna - my friendship with Anna was one of those "friendship least likely to happen" situations after university ended, but despite (or maybe because of) a knotty beginning, we became good friends later. She lives in my brother's hometown, and she has brown eyes full of wisdom, and she's my age, but she's still the kind of person who listens to birds, and goes outside to look at the frost on the grass in the streetlights, when it shines like diamonds. Like Tamie, our lives followed a somewhat similar arc in certain respects over the last while, and between conversations and e-mails, she's been a good travel companion through some rough patches.

Melissa - didn't get as many pages of e-mail, but it's not because I love her less (it's because we'd meet while I was in Canada, and back in Korea, I phoned her more - hard as that is to believe, considering how sporadic my calling habits are). If I had to be stuck on a desert island with one person, I'd have to choose Jesus, because then we could walk on water back to the mainland (and chat along the way) but if I got to pick three people, it'd be Matt, Dan, and Mel.

One of the things I love about Mel is that she'd beg me to choose someone else so that she could remain with her wonderful husband and her amazing two little boys (you can go read about them on her blog, which is linked on the side here). Mel makes me laugh beyond all reason, and she's been my most loyal university friend. Our friendship has had some amazing give-and-take, and I'm so grateful to have her around. She's extremely smart (but never arrogant), and she takes no crap from me, and chops me back down to size if I get too preposterous, at the same time praising me when I do well. She's one of those rare friends who can give a person the truth honestly, but also kindly enough for a person to really learn something, and maybe become a better person. She has an amazing family, and she needs support right now because her husband is far away in RCMP boot camp, so you should go put encouraging comments on her blog. She's also a badass paramedic, and you can read some of the blood-and-guts stories on her blog.

Soundtrack 2: press play when the other one ends, then scroll down and ignore the images that run as the music plays. Seriously, PLEASE scroll down so you can't see the images that play. They're really cheesy.

The song's "Call it Off" by Tegan and Sara. They're Canadian, and great.

The original version vanished, but this live version has a great crowd singalong.

Matt - Again, more that passed between us was conversation than e-mail. While I was in Canada, with Mom, he got the concentrated stuff, and the korea-related stuff, but once I returned to Korea, well, I might have made it without his support, but it would have been a much rougher, slower go, and I might be a different person than I am now. Matt's the most loyal friend, and the best friend, I've met since university, and he's influenced me more than probably anybody outside my immediate family.

Matt's smart but not arrogant, gentle but tough, honest and tactical. He, like Mel, will call me out if I'm out of line (I really appreciate people who do that), but, like Mel, when he does, it comes from a place of compassion, of knowing me well, and knowing what's important to me (sometimes I get called out by people who misunderstand me or my situation, or who press their values onto my life. . . then it's more of a "thanks for your opinion" than a "I never noticed that before. . . I'll adjust accordingly" as it has usually been with Melissa and Matt. He's funny and he keeps me light-hearted when I need it, and he's ready for a sauna, a poetry reading, a night of revelry, or a mountain-climb, as suits the situation. I love him to pieces. His wife Heyjin is so amazing she, like Melissa's family, really deserves a post of her own, so for now I'll say, I'm glad and grateful for my friendship with her.

Finally, Exgirlfriendoseyo:

Before things fell apart on my return to Korea, she was a good e-mail pal, and she got a lot of the day-to-day updates on Mom's condition. I'm glad she was in Korea waiting for me, because having someone to look forward to sure makes a difficult time like watching your mom die a little more manageable. Exgirlfriendoseyo was (and probably remains, for all I know) a sweet-hearted woman. She's caring and lovable and I'm glad I met her. We weren't quite ready to go the distance together, but I learned a lot about loving from her, and then I learned a lot about grieving from losing her, and for that, I ought to be grateful.

There's a song I wanted to have as the soundtrack for this post: Red Cave, by Yeasayer ends with the repeated lyric, "I'm so blessed to have a good time with my family, and the friends I've loved in my short life I have had so many people I've deeply cared for" -- which sounds nice, but it's miles better set in the rest of the song.

At some point in the future, some cut-and-pastes from the e-mails that passed between me and those five (e-mailing was basically my version of therapy for those two years, along with a few other habits and activities), might appear on this blog. They might not. It depends on the context where they seem most appropriately used.

There are a lot of other people who have been there for me through this time -- shout out to my brothers and sisters and my dad, of course, as well as some other e-pals and coworkers, and the people pictured throughout this post. I love you all and I'm so glad you're in my life. I haven't attached names because I don't necessarily have permission, per se, to name these people on my blog, but you've meant a lot to me. But the five mentioned that bore the lion's share of my grief (certainly my e-grief), and as I look through the old e-mail records, I'm wildly, ridiculously grateful they (and the rest of you) were around when I needed them.

Thanks, eh?

all the love in the world:


(Actually, when I think about it again, maybe the one person I'd choose to be stuck on a desert island with is Dick Cheney, so he couldn't f*** up the world any more than he already has. . . but that's another post entirely)

(Morning has broken, by Cat Stevens)


melissa v. said...

you walk beside me, too. I'm abundantly grateful.

Deb said...

The thing I love about family - is that no one gets it the same way. I can just say "You know..." and you do. Not so much e-mail went on between you and I, Rob, but I was glad to have a sibling close to share the journey with on a more daily basis.
Love you.

Dad said...

What an amazing journey of grace. I'm very thankful to be a part of it. May God continue to shower his rich blessings on you.

Roboseyo said...

Yeah, Deb. I know. (in korea, they call that deep-beyond-words-connection Jung, and claim only Koreans can understand it. . . but that's bull. It can happen to anyone. Like to us.)

tamie marie said...

wow. what to say? i don't think i realized at all the affect my e-mails have had in your life. which maybe is part of the reason you wrote this post. thank you for writing it. it's really humbling to me, and encouraging too. you had a huge affect on me during that time too. probably bigger than *you* realize! i like this idea of writing a post about people who have affected one's life. maybe i'll copy it.

melissa v. said...

Which one is Matt? I've heard so much, but have no face for the name.

Roboseyo said...

first, and second last pictures in the entire post.

Rebecca said...

Rob, after your blog (amazing post, by the way. I especially liked the picture of Opa.) I went and read Melissa's (for the first time) and Deb and Brad's. So I have to post my thoughts here, since you are the only common link connecting those two (that I know of). In reference to Deb and Brad's new superheroes, and Melissa's piss poor day, here are:
Amazing Mom and Pee Baby. [emotional tone is in square brackets]
Pee Baby:[The world is falling apart! This is an emergency!] I need to pee!
Amazing Mom:[calm and collected] Don't worry, I'll find you a place. Just hold on a minute.
Pee Baby:[The world is falling apart!] I need to pee right now, Mommy!!
Amazing Mom:[calm and collected] We're almost there now. Just tell the pee to wait a little longer.
*pregnant pause. Tinkling sounds*
Pee Mom: [The world is falling apart! This is an emergency!] You just peed all over me! I'm wet from the waist down! My shoe is full of pee!!!
Amazing Baby:[calm and collected] Ahh. Me good now, Mommy!

The next pair is Trite Commentator and Amazing Come-Back Guy. Don't you ever wish they really travelled together?
Trite Commentator: Oh, look at you! Are you pregnant?
Amazing Come-Back Guy: No, you just decided to wear a basketball under your clothes for nine months, right!

Trite Commentator: Don't feed your kid that, his teeth will fall out!
Amazing Come-Back Guy: I bet you already have a set of dentures for him in the cupboard, right!

Okay, you guys, you're better at this stuff than I am. I'm more likely to make the trite comment than the cool comeback.
Love, Rebecca.