For about as long as I can remember, I've been the most pensive person I know. It wasn't that I couldn't find happiness. I did. It's that I have felt this constant low-grade call toward something I never understood. I have been called an over-acheiver. I have been called Type A. I have been called a lot of things and deserved many of them. To many, I've been a lousy friend and that was so important to me when I was younger. In the last eleven years, though, two things have occurred simultaneously: I met, fell in love with, and married Natasha. And I have become a poet. I cannot say that one event isn't married to the other. For sure I know I would be neither a husband or a poet now, at 28, without God's intersection.
Next week we are going on a Mission's trip to Seoul Korea to work in an orphange, teach English, cook, and talk to unwed mothers who are unsure what to do. It is incredible to me that after years of trying to force my way back into Korean consciousness (reading countless wikipedia articles, books, and even devoting my own artistic energies to create a book of imagined relationships with my birth nation), it's all coming to a head. We' re going. Really. I have the tickets. Really.
I read a book two years ago about Sabbath years. They occur every seven years and they are supposed to be your most pivotal spirtual years. Can you remember what happened to you at seven? Fourteen? Twenty-one? At seven, I became a spelling ace, beginning a life long affair with language and words and their order. At fourteen, my face was broken in four places and I spent long hours alone in the dark wondering what I would become. At twenty-one, I traced a picture of Korea into my sketchpad and ignited a search for who I was beyond Mayville, beyond what I could measure.
I have been praying for so long about this trip. On the surface, it's what I've always wanted. But as that old adage warns: be careful what you wish for. It is more than sage advice. I'm terrified about what is going to occur upon arrival, during seven days in Korea, and throughout departure. I've this terrible feeling of potential let down.
But it's leading me to measure myself in new ways. I think I understand myself better these days than ever before. It makes sense to me why I am a poet after years of wondering if this was really the right choice. Seriously, I'd ask God, this is it? There is nothing else that could make You happier than having me putting marks down on paper. But those marks aren't the thing. The real joy, for me, is invisible. And those marks are but the coded trail, the footprints I leave when traveling to the remote isles inside myself to discover all the immensities of what God has given me.
I can't help it. I keep thinking about coming to America 28 years ago. I had nothing. I was hurtling in a silver plane to NYC stinking of vomit without diapers to meet my parents and new life. And somehow, even in the small town I grew up in, I met a woman. And that woman became my best friend. And that woman became the mother of my child. And we're together still in mutual love and respect (and set to fly across the world 15 hours into the future to find out where I've come from and where all those hours of staring into walls or not communicating while company was over have gone).
I meant this to be a simple thing to say. I'm happy. For the first time in so long -- and that's no slight to anyone I love -- I'm happy. I keep thinking about a way to describe what this is like. This is the best I can do. I feel like I'm a book, a book whose cover has been sealed in glue and whose pages (thoughts and feelings) have been fluttering in a circle back and forth with the tide. And now the glue is gone. And now I'm holding the face of the book shut because I am not ready to see myself. And soon there will be no choice.
I kept a dream journal from 2006-2009. I wrote in it every morning, jotting down what I recalled. This is the period where I resigned myself to the fact I would never return to Korea. But so many of those dreams are occuring in the here and now. I dreamed I was carrying a Priority envelope around trying to find a way to enter Seoul. A month ago, a Priority envelope came in the mail with some information about the trip and our tags for our bags. I dreamed that Tash and I were lost in a desert at some gas station and the attendant (God himself) would not talk to me as I tried to ask for directions. He spoke to Tash and of course it's sensible since she found this trip since she's the only one who loves me this much to not let this part of me, this tiny flicker, burn out. I dreamed that I was fishing in the river of heaven and it was calm and there were no shadows. A giant fish flew out of the water and smacked me in the face. In reality, it was my daughter's hand smacking me in the forehead. And I dreamed that my birth mother often thought of me and hung clothes up on lines outside along the Han River shore.
And that was true. After imagining who she was and what it would be like to meet her, God has delivered. I'm meeting my birth mother in ten days. She does own a cleaners shop and like so many other dreams, I knew it. I had been there, quietly within myself, perhaps while sleeping.
For every way that I doubted, I now see the giant fold. I see my life opening in blossom, this year, at 28, and these blessings are experiences I can only perceive in the periphery. For if I turned and saw all the goodness sprouting now, I would surely burst into flames. -JN