Meredith Bazzoli

Thankful Thursdays Guest Post: The Problem of Good Things

Today’s Thankful Thursdays guest post comes from my friend, Meredith. Meredith is one of the people who most motivates me to keep on writing, who makes me believe that we’re doing something worthwhile here. I’ve had Meredith share here before about her experiences with purity culture, sex, and marriage and I’ve been able to guest post for her as well. It’s always an honor for me to share her words. As someone who also struggles with depression and anxiety myself, I loved this beautiful piece that looks with both honesty and hope about the power of gratitude and joy, even when it does not come easily. 

Flickr Creative Commons: John Lodder

Flickr Creative Commons: John Lodder

The Problem of Good Things

The spring caught me off guard again with its explosions of pink and boughs hung low with purple blossoms. I never remember the way sidewalks can smell like walking through a bath and body works (with the exception of those flowering trees that smell like dead fish, those are the worst).

In a new house, you never quite know what potential flora hibernates in your lawn until the spring comes. The scrappy lawn of our rental house surprised me with lilac bushes in front, a few burnt out tulips struggling through weeds at the side of the house, and even some grape hyacinths like the ones next to the raspberry bushes at my childhood home.

Best of all, a patch of violets grew in our backyard, a wild and wonderful spray of purple flowers large enough to lie in. I imagined a quintessentially hipster moment where I would retire to the violet patch wearing a linen dress with my hair wrapped in a braid around my head. Drew could bring me lemonade with a sprig of lavender and a striped paper straw bobbing in the ice.

The violets reminded me of carefree days when yard boundaries weren’t prohibitive, and I came home with grass stains on the knees of jeans and the circle marks of dandelion stems speckling my shirt. Violets made wonderful flower crowns and handfuls could easily form bouquets to hand to mothers or neighbor ladies.

But busyness set in, and every day I’d walk past the violets with a growing sense of anxiety. I feared the lawn mowers of the landscapers, the heat of the sun, and anything else that would take away the violet patch. I stopped enjoying the flowers and started fretting for them. The lilacs in the front bloomed for only a day or two, then stood with bare branches with only a few leftover buds hinting at their former glory.

I developed a sense of cynicism toward the Magnolia and the dogwood trees; I wondered at the worth of planting such things of beauty in your lawn to flower for a week out of the year or less.

Flickr Creative Commons: Kikasz

Flickr Creative Commons: Kikasz

Each day when I came home, I checked the patch of violets, daring them to last another day. No sooner would a bloom appear than I’d be predicting its death, cursing the way good things slipped through my fingers and dropped their blossoms before I had a chance to enjoy them.

I frame many good things in my life this way; I immediately wonder when and how they will disappear. I do this with the love in my marriage, my parents health, and even the small blessings of the day to day.

Living with depression, sometimes there are days of amazing clarity where I feel awake and able. But soon enough, the sun sets, and the spell is broken. With enough of these days of jubilee under my belt, I rarely enjoy them anymore. Their goodness taunts me, and reminds me to fret for a tomorrow when the weight of the world will come back.

Opening myself to joy is risky like placing a big target sign on my back, hit me with your best shot; I’m happy, I’m relaxed, I’m confident, the flowers are blooming. I imagine a set of universal scales that must balance out eventually. If the universe heaps a job promotion and remission for mom’s cancer on the good side, I’m sure the article I submitted will not be published and there will be little chance of my improv show going well.

In her book Daring Greatly, Brene Brown calls this superstitious way of thinking “foreboding joy.” Its the sense that joy is rigged, that something’s gotta give. But shutting out the good based on its predicted transience means not enjoying the wild patch of violets, means leaving the walls of our rental bare, and missing connections with people who pass through my life for an instant.

I don’t want to live this way.

So how do I respond, when joy comes for a minute, for a week, not even long enough to take a picture?

Brene Brown says this, “…the shudder of vulnerability that accompanies joy is an invitation to practice gratitude, to acknowledge how truly grateful we are for the person, the beauty, the connection, or simply the moment before us.”

I am on a mission to bless the temporary, to baptize the instant with significance. I want to seek the Lord where he may be found and dance in the yard while the violets still bloom. I want to plant gardens of risk though I am an exile in this place and to seek out the Joshua Trees, waiting expectantly for their time to blossom.

Flickr Creative Commons: Christopher Michel

Flickr Creative Commons: Christopher Michel

And even when the blossoms fall into carpets of petals, I long to wait with open hands for the beauty of the other seasons, stark cardinals on snowy backgrounds and trees catching fire in the autumn.

Perhaps the transience of the violets makes them even more beautiful. I thought I had learned long ago that I cannot subsist only on a diet of sweet things, but today I am learning again to take on a posture of gratefulness instead of trying to hold the flowers too tightly, crushing them in my clenched fists.

Dith Bazolli small for web-33-2Meredith Bazzoli is a comedian and writer  living just outside Chicago. She spends her days as an instructional assistant on the west side of Chicago and her nights practicing and performing improv. She loves hosting and DIY projects and her tall, dark, and handsome husband Drew. Meredith loves hearing and recording other’s stories, finding glimmers in the mundane, and seeking what it means to love and follow Christ in the everyday. You can find her online at Veryrevealing.com or follow her on Twitter @MeredithBazzoli

Meredith Bazzoli is a comedian and writer  living just outside Chicago. She spends her days as an instructional assistant on the west side of Chicago and her nights practicing and performing improv. She loves hosting and DIY projects and her tall, dark, and handsome husband Drew. Meredith loves hearing and recording other’s stories, finding glimmers in the mundane, and seeking what it means to love and follow Christ in the everyday.

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Extremely Quiet and Incredibly Remote: An Uneventful Climb Towards Mid-Twenties Virginity

Today’s Sex and the Church post comes from my newly-wedded friend Meredith. Mere and I went to Wheaton together. We were both on staff for the newspaper and took some of the same writing classes. It wasn’t until after Wheaton that I realized just how wildly talented she is. Meredith’s writing is witty, insightful, genuine, and often pee-your-pants funny. I’m so excited to add her voice to this series. I love this piece SO MUCH partly because I can relate to it so well, but also because it’s another story no one ever tells. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.  For more from Meredith, be sure to check out her blog, Very Revealing  and follow her on Twitter @MeredithBazzoli.

You can check out previous posts in this series here, here, here, and here.

***

Alex D Stewart on FlickrThe CTA brown line became my converse confessional booth. Sometimes a truth wells up to the tip of my tongue and I know that in the next hour or so, I will unleash it on the innocent person sitting next to me. In this case, it was my friend Ann.

Taken out of the warm lap of evangelicalism, my pearl of great price got turned on its head. In the past, friends disclosed illicit missteps to youth pastors and close circles of friends; as an adult, I found that within my new communities I had the dirty secret.

My sin? Unlike my friends who “fell off the path” and let boys’ hands wander too far up their shirts, I carried the sin of inexperience, omission, naïveté.

My confession:

  1. To those who thought me an experienced woman of the world, I want you to know that I lost my virginity just over a month ago. And not even on my wedding night; we watched “Too Cute: Pint Sized Edition” on Animal Planet.
  1. To those of you think I completed a task of great personal will power and moral strength, I must confess that, most of my life, remaining celibate was out of my hands. It would have been much harder to abstain from gluten, dairy, or television than saving sex for marriage.

I want to talk about virginity not as prize accomplished or a misguided evangelical pursuit, but as a mundane reality, not only for those who signed pledges and sealed themselves with purity rings, but also those who just ended up that way.

I grew up in an evangelical household during the “True Love Waits” movement. No one ever presented word-for-word biblical evidence to keep my legs closed, but sex sounded scary and magical—saving myself sounded romantic.

purity ringMy parents gave me a ring on my 13th birthday. They ordered it from a Christian book distributor, and it quickly bent to the shape of my ring finger. I penned a diary to my future husband and listened to love songs from musicals before bedtime. When no teenage boys knocked down my door to have their way with me, “waiting” and “saving myself” occupied my thoughts and satisfied the unease of loneliness.

My middle school and high school years passed with little to no romantic activity, let alone sexual activity. At times I wondered if a Rumplestiltskin-esque character made a bargain with my parents to keep suitors away from my “gift” until the correct prince came to unshackle me from my obscurity and to claim his prize, a girl who mentors mused might just be “too intimidating for boys.”

Mostly, I suspected that I was an ugly, kurmugeony thing, too furry and sweaty to land myself a boyfriend, or even a date to a school event.

The summer before college, I began my first long-term relationship with a boy from my church youth group. We were longtime friends taking baby steps out of the friend zone.

Each physical mile-marker scared me, not as gateway drugs into sexual immorality but as feats of physics—two inexperienced bodies fumbling towards one another, learning to interlace fingers and willing lips to meet.

We were young and I remained pure from sheer inertia. We had few opportunities to push the envelope of our purity since I lived in a dorm room at a Christian college, and he lived with his parents. I figured that we would get married, and as we discussed timelines and dates, waiting seemed manageable.

During this time, I made my decision to remain a virgin, in part, due to my anxiety and fear. With little boy experience since an “I’ll show you mine-you show me yours” encounter with the backdoor neighbor, nakedness terrified me.

I loathed my swirling patches of body hair and the way my thighs brushed together; I worried my nipples weren’t the right size. I wore an ultra-modest, Lands-End bathing suit made for moms wanting to hide their baby bodies, complete with a mid-thigh length skirt and a control top.

I held on to my virginity long enough for my heart to get broken. The man I thought I wanted to marry walked away.

I imagined him having illicit romps with other girls, betraying what felt like our shared vow to stay virgins. He zoomed away with little explanation, and I suffocated in the dust, sure I’d missed my one chance at marriage and sex.

Shortly the break up, I got my first gynecological exam. I dutifully answered the nurse’s questions about my sexual activity:

No, I’m not sexually active.

Yes, I’m sure.

Zero sexual partners.

Is there an option for less than one time?

Yes, I’m sure.

No, there is no possibility that I could be pregnant barring being raped in my sleep or receiving the second messiah.

No, I’m not a Mormon.

In my twenties, the prospects remained equally bleak. This time around I was in the places where people meet people, bars and theatres and the parties of mutual friends.

No takers.

No one ever tried to bed me.

The closest I got was someone else thinking I was going to hook up with someone. One night at a bar, a male colleague started to interrogate me about my faith, picking obscure Old Testament passages to trap me into making broad admissions about my beliefs. As we talked about the Philistines, our friends continued to drink, and soon decided that we, being engrossed in conversation, were in the process of hooking up. Across the way I heard my friend utter, “I think he’s going to bang her.”

Um no, absolutely not.

One, Two, skip a few more eventless years…

And then, Drew.

T and C Photographie

We re-met in July of last year, we started dating last August, and we got married this September. Sexual purity was low on the list of reasons to marry sooner rather than later. However the ability to cohabitate did definitely weigh in. Mostly, we clicked, in the sort of nauseating cosmic way. We knew we wanted to spend all of life together, and we wanted to start soon.

At the end of the day, we had both committed to remain celibate until marriage. For good, bad, and negligible reasons, we came to our relationship as 25-year-old virgins, equally rejected by all possible dating scenes and goofy in love with each other.

Although the fire of our early relationship made me question whether I’d keep my teenage pledge, things got dark fast. And then darker still. My mental illness, my mother’s cancer, and the injury and trauma caused by a dog attack left us weak, and not much in the mood for hanky panky. On top of that, I spent the majority of our relationship on anti-depressants that entirely muted my sex drive.

We didn’t go without talking about these things, shutting away the physical and embodied parts of our relationship to rattle on the fringes of our consciousness. Our attraction for each other felt profound. I knew Drew desired me and I him, but we saw our sexual relationship as a journey, one we wanted to continue into our seventies; the choices we made day to day didn’t hold pressure or urgency. Many days, I just needed Drew to hold me. This intimacy cut through layers and layers of me, leaving me much more naked then I knew I could be, far past my furry belly button and possibly unattractive nipples.

I don’t want to totally underplay my commitment to stay a virgin. There are few things I’ve stuck with since the 7th grade. Since that time, I’ve fallen off the wagon on tens of diets and wellness plans, discarded a beginning of the school year ritual*, and changed my opinion on many vegetables. (*It involved candles.)

I made choices about my sexuality and took agency at pivotal moments in my life, sometimes for reason of virtue but often out of fear or inaction. Virginity happened for me, it worked out in my case. And I’m grateful. I could find no greater partner to navigate the hilarious, scary, wonderful adventure of bodies becoming one.

If there is any challenge in this piece, I’d ask people to revisit and expand their idea of virgins. I know some virgins my age, some younger, and even a few forty-year-old virgins.

Some make hard choices all the time, while others remain unwilling virgins forced by circumstance over any religious commitment. All our stories are different and very few involve pioneer dresses, homeschooler braids, or being Mormon. Well, I did wear a pioneer costume as a docent in a museum, but that’s another essay.

The brown line neared my stop, creating a timeline for the secret burning behind my lips. Ann may have been mid-sentence, or maybe she was silent, I was only listening to the anxiety cyclone twirling its way through my nervous system and back again.

“I’m a virgin!” I blurted out.

“Yeah, I know.”

***

Dith Bazolli small for web-33-2Meredith Bazzoli is a comedian and writer  living just outside Chicago. She spends her days as an instructional assistant on the west side of Chicago and her nights practicing and performing improv. She loves hosting and DIY projects and her tall, dark, and handsome husband Drew. Meredith loves hearing and recording other’s stories, finding glimmers in the mundane, and seeking what it means to love and follow Christ in the everyday.

Image Credits: L -Train by Alex D Stewart on Flickr, Drew and Meredith by T and C Photographie

What I’m Into: May 2014 Edition

It’s officially June! Which means it’s time for the May wrap-up/What I’m Into post. I started participating in Leigh Kramer’s link-up a few months ago and I’ve found it’s a fun way to review what’s gone on in the previous month and read other people’s suggestions for new things I may not have heard of.

What I’m Reading

I haven’t read a huge quantity of books this month, but the books I’ve read have been long and good. And I have quite a few things on-deck for next month


wise man's fearThe Wise Man’s Fear
by Patrick Rothfuss. I started the month with The Wise Man’s Fear – the book that follows Name of the Wind in the Kingkiller chronicles. It did not disappoint. There are times that this book feels a little winding and unfocused, but it’s hard not to love each individual part anyway. The prose is really spectacular and the characters are complex and engaging. It’s a hefty 1,000 pages, but well worth the time.

 

book thiefThe Book Thief by Marcus Zusak. I had actually read part of this book way back when we were still living in the US, but I had borrowed it from the library and didn’t finish it before we moved so I had to return it. It was on sale a while back as a cheap kindle book so I went ahead and purchased it so I could eventually finish reading it. There was no reason except for unfortunate circumstances that I didn’t finish this book earlier because it is a gem and a quick read. This book has gotten a fair amount of attention and I think rightly so. The characters are unique and interesting and the story is moving. I sobbed through the ending. I think it’s the best WWII fiction book I’ve ever read.

carry on, warriorCarry on, Warrior: Thoughts on Life Unarmed, by Glennon Melton. This book was an easy read that was mostly a delight. Not only is Glennon hilarious, but she writes in such a familiar way you feel like you’re sitting at a coffee shop having a chat with a good friend. While I don’t subscribe to all of her views on life, there’s a lot about Glennon’s writing that I really appreciate and resonate with – especially her emphasis on showing grace to yourself and allowing yourself and others to be the messy human beings that we are and find beauty in that anyway. Glennon is a recovering alcoholic, drug addict, bulimic, etc and in spite of it all has such a hopeful outlook on life even with its messy bits. I especially like Glennon’s mantra that “We can do hard things.”

Lies of Locke LamoraThe Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch. I’m not quite finished with this one, but I’m including it this month anyway since I’ve read most of it in May. I’ve found this to be both highly entertaining and well-written. My friend Josh recommended it to me by describing it as part Oceans 11, part swashbuckling pirates which sounded like a winning combination to me.! I’m not quite finished with it yet, but it’s been great fun and I look forward to reading the other books in Lynch’s “Gentleman Bastards” series.

 

 

On Deck: I’ve got a lot of books queued up and waiting for me to “click to buy” on Amazon, but I think my next few books will be Daring Greatly, by Brene Brown, Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, and maybe Elizabeth Gilbert’s The Signature of All Things. I’ll probably also sneak some sort of light fiction book in there for my long weekend at the beach. Honestly…I have like 20 books on the “read ASAP” list with new ones popping up on my radar almost every day, so we’ll see what happens. If you want the play-by-play you can follow me on Goodreads.

signature of all thngs

bird by birddaring greatly

What I’m Watching

I’ve finished all the episodes of Call the Midwife available to me on Netflix, so naturally I’m listless and depressed by that. We are still catching up on a few season finales but have finished up some of our favorites including Parks and Recreation, Mindy Project, New Girl, and Community.  In new discoveries, I’ve become fascinated by Anthony Bourdain’s series, Parts Unknown which explores both food and culture in different parts of the world (two of my favorite things). There are two incomplete seasons on Netflix that I am working my way through haphazardly.

In movies, we recently saw the new X-Men movie. Twice actually. I thought it was fantastically entertaining despite some weird plot holes. (SPOILER ALERT: So a mutant drops a stadium on the White House and tries to kill the President, but then everyone decides the mutants aren’t dangerous because one of them saves the President? Sure, they proved that not all of the mutants are bad, but Magneto just got away!)

I’ve got a big thing for James MacAvoy, so watching him is always enjoyable. And as much as I hate to follow the crowd, I do still love J-Law, so it’s always a pleasure to watch her. I will say though, I remain perplexed by the supposed controversy about her body… I hear in the media all the time her saying things like, “I’m sorry! I like to eat! I don’t want to look like a pre-pubescent boy, I want to look like a woman!” and then I see her more or less naked in this movie and think, “Who the heck thinks you’re fat?! That has to be made-up.” Because not only is she objectively thin, she also has this killer body!

We also saw the new Amazing Spiderman movie at the beginning of the month and I really like the new franchise in spite of my initial misgivings. Andrew Garfield is a superb on-screen crier. And I’ve always liked Spiderman’s smart-alecky ways.

 

What I’m Listening To

My amazingly talented friend Avery Bright has a new EP out called Under the Influence that everyone should listen to. You can even get a Free Download here!

 

What I’m Eating

I’ve been experimenting with a few new recipes lately and while this hasn’t been a great thing for my resolve to “eat healthy,” it has been a great thing for my amazement in my own culinary abilities. 😉 For example, check out these pretzel bread buns that I actually made FROM SCRATCH! Who knew such a thing could be made in my own home toaster oven. I felt like an awesome professional baker.

You can get the recipe  I used here or check out my Pinterest boards to see what else I’ve got cooking. I think my next project will be homemade naan and curry.

I took this picture with my phone! These are the actual buns that came out of my oven!

I took this picture with my phone! These are the actual buns that came out of my oven!  Be sufficiently amazed!

 

On the Blog

This month was pretty busy. My parents came to visit until May 12th so the beginning of the month was jammed with lots of traveling around and showing them Korea. (You can read about their visit here.) I wrote a post introducing people to the real me, even the parts I’m not proud of, and you readers were very gracious to me. I wrote about my Bible study girls and how we might not be the best Christians, but we sure are good at eating cookies. I told the story about my first grade teacher outsmarting me and trying to let go of control. And last week I talked about cellulite and other things a 26-year old never-carried-a-child body isn’t supposed to have.

On the Internets

Some of my favorite pieces on the internets this month include my friend Meredith’s hilarious piece about accepting ourselves as we are. I think the title speaks for itself. “My Mustache Brings All the Boys to the Yard.”

My friend (OK, she’s not like my “real-life friend,” but a girl can dream) Addie Zierman wrote a fantastic piece over at A Deeper Story about how there is no fool-proof parenting plan that will produce kids who love God and how maybe spiritual struggle is just part of life.  It reminded me a lot of some of things I wrote about in this post a while back.

An anonymous writer wrote a guest post on my friend Briana’s blog, sharing a very important story that challenges the assumptions the evangelical purity culture has made about post-marital sex. I appreciated that this woman was brave enough to share something so personal because I really understood some of the harmful ideas and thought processes even if I didn’t have the exact same experiences that she did.

I was also really moved by this video of a talk by Shauna Niequist about the importance of women pursuing their calling and not pushing it to the back just because they have a family. I think it was a really good message for those who feel like pursuing something outside of caring for the family is a selfish thing. I made my husband listen to this too because I wanted him to be on the same page about what I hope our life looks like once we have kids and are more settled.

In Life:

I suddenly got up the stamina to start running again, and then a week and a half into it, summer hit Daegu and we’ve got highs in the mid-to-high 90s (between 35 and 38 Celsius, people) which has derailed some of my more ambitious plans. It is just not healthy to do long runs in that kind of heat.

Last weekend I went out for my first girl’s night in I-don’t-know how long. This partly made me feel good like, “I’ve still got it!” in spite of being more of a homebody the older I get. And it partly confirmed that I am in fact an old lady now that it’s taking me three days to get over staying up so late. (I was in bed at 8:30 last night and I’m still exhausted today).

This coming weekend is a 3-day weekend for Korea (Friday is a holiday) so we are taking a trip to Namhae where we will go to the beach, snorkel and kayak I am ready for a break, if not for wearing my swimsuit in public. We’ll try to take some good pictures and get a full report up next week!