Tag Archives: relationships

Adultery of the Heart

jesus-and-the-sinner-woman-adultery
Theology of the Body
Adultery of the Heart

Christ pivots to the heart in this key text in Scripture:

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Matthew 5:27-28)

Just two sentences from Christ’s Sermon on the Mount, but Pope John Paul II (JPII) spends over 35 weeks unpacking its meaning (TOB 24-59).  That’s thirty-five consecutive sermons on just a couple of sentences.  I remember wondering how Protestant pastors can spend 45+ minutes on just a single passage in Scripture, but I guess they have nothing on JPII.

While I’m still only at TOB 53 and have yet to finish JPII’s exegesis of this specific passage from the Sermon on the Mount, I think I can at least share some of what I’ve learned.  I’m surprised to find it has been almost three weeks since I last posted.  I was lost in Scripture (praise God!), but it’s time to strike camp and take a breather.  Reflect and share what I’ve been seeing in His forest.  What I saw was an ugly side of myself that I managed to keep well-hidden.  Thanks be to God, the light of the Holy Spirit shined into the cobwebbed parts of my soul.

JPII focuses on this particular verse in Matthew because “Jesus brings about a fundamental revision of the way of understanding and carrying out the moral law of the Old Covenant (TOB 24:1).”  I was surprised to learn that despite the severe punishments for adultery in the Old Testament, there were loopholes for men.  (No exceptions for women.)  For example, the prostitution trade back in OT times were mainly operated out of temples (cf. Gen 38:13-21; Job 36:14).  There were “sacred” female and male temple prostitutes.  While it was a sin for a married man to use a prostitute, an exception was made for unmarried or widowed men who used unmarried prostitutes.  This was not how it was “in the beginning” (Gen 1 & 2, before Original Sin).  Christ actually exhorted his fellow Jews to do even better than the law, “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 5:20).  These loopholes for adultery happened because the meaning of the original commandment willed by God suffered deformation (TOB 24:4).  “[T]he history of the Old Testament is clearly the theater of the systematic defection from monogamy” (TOB 35:2) because of the desire for numerous offspring.

Adultery is understood above all (and perhaps exclusively) as the violation of the man’s property rights regarding every woman who was his legal wife (usually one among many); adultery is not understood, by contrast, as it appears from the point of view of the monogamy established by the Creator. (TOB 35:4)

Interpreters of the Old Covenant permitted polygamy, concubines and cohabitation with slave women.  They were not by God’s original design, but became exceptions over time.

With the phrase “[every man] who looks at a woman with lust,” Christ shifts the center of gravity to man’s interior disposition. There’s already a basis for this shift to the inner heart of man in Proverbs 6:25 and Sirach 9:8.  When you lust after someone, you are reducing them to an object that could satisfy your sexual desire.  This mere act destroys “the stupendous spousal meaning of the body” (TOB 40:4).  So, not just the physical act of adultery was a sin, but my imagination, my fantasies of adultery were sins!

JPII then sets the stage for the moral whopper: “It is significant that Christ, when he speaks about the object of this act, does not stress that she is ‘another’s wife,’ a woman who is not one’s own wife, but says generically, a woman. (TOB 43:2)”  Adultery committed in the heart is different than adultery committed in the flesh because it goes beyond interpersonal relations and into the heart of man, where sin can hide.  Christ, in using the generic term “woman”, includes all women — including a man’s legal wife:

Adultery “in the heart” is not committed only because the man “looks” in this way at a woman who is not his wife, but precisely because he looks in this way at a woman [emphasis original].  Even if he were to look in this way at the woman who is his wife, he would commit the same adultery “in the heart” (TOB 43:2).

Wow.  That’s a whopper.  All this time, I was committing adultery against my wife because I desired her as a sexual object.  I was using her to satisfy my own urges, stirred up because of some gratuitous nudity in a movie I watched, or simply from my lustful imaginations.  Even when I was focused on my wife, could I honestly say to God that it was not out of lust?  When did I ever truly appreciate the spousal meaning of my wife’s body?  Rarely, if ever.  It’s uncomfortable to admit, but the Holy Spirit was shining his light on these cobwebs of sin that have grown in my interior castle.  Instead of being embarrassed, I marveled at how long this sin was kept hidden, how easy it was to miss.  I could’ve lived for years thinking I was a good husband, a good father, without ever realizing that when it came to sex, I am as guilty of violating God’s original intention as any other non-believer.

In case my ego wanted to resist being embarrassed, JPII continues with his logic that I found hard to resist:

The concupiscence that arises as an interior act on this foundation changes the very intentionality of the woman’s existence “for” the man by reducing the wealth of the perennial call to the communion of persons, the wealth of the deep attraction of masculinity and femininity, to the mere satisfaction of the body’s sexual “urge”.  Such a reduction has the effect that the person becomes for the other person above all an object for the possible satisfaction of his own sexual “urge.”  In this way, a deformation takes place in the reciprocal “for,” which loses its character as a communion of persons in favor of the utilitarian function.  The man who “looks” in the way described in Matthew 5:27-28 “makes use” of the woman, of her femininity, to satisfy his own “drive.”  Even if he does not use her in an external act, he has already taken such an attitude in his interior when he makes this decision about a particular woman.  Adultery “committed in the heart” consists precisely this.  A man can commit such adultery “in the heart” even with his own wife, if he treats her only as an object for the satisfaction of drives. (TOB 43:3)

Christ’s words opened up the innermost recesses of my heart so that the Holy Spirit could fulfill the law as it was originally was intended by God.  Our bodies have a spousal meaning.  My wife is an image of God, a living gift to be cherished.  While my broken nature may have a tendency to reduce my wife to a mere sexual object, I can always turn to the Holy Spirit to increase my awareness.

Innocent Penance

Saying “sorry” even when you know you are right is the same as doing penance when you are innocent.  For a husband to be able to do this is a grace from God; his action would be united to Christ on the Cross (cf. Ephesians 5:23)  He was innocent, yet Jesus did the ultimate penance for those who are guilty.  If Jesus can do penance for His enemies, then I should be able to say sorry to my wife even though I know I’m right.

Mercy

Our men’s group is reading Tim Keller’s “The Meaning of Marriage.”  The focus is on Ephesians 5 and the challenge that most men fail to see (including me) is that Christ suffered for His bride.  Am I willing to suffer for my bride?  Dying once for my love is tragic and romantic, but what about dying a little everyday through denying myself what I want in order to please my wife?

How many men think husbands who constantly forsake their own interests for their wives’ is stupid?  Most men would think it is more reasonable to compromise, “I’ll give up something, if my wife gives up something.”  Did Christ ask the same of His bride?  “I’ll go to the Crucifixion if you stop stoning prostitutes and permit healing on the Sabbath.”  Instead, Christ asks God to forgive the Pharisees persecuting Him because they didn’t know what they’re doing (cf. Lk 23:34).  Jesus offered Himself first.

I am reminded of this every time when I take the Eucharist.  I may not stop sinning immediately.  Awareness of His self-sacrifice and developing a personal conversation with Him through prayer, I start wanting to change for Him.  I start to see my sins as empty promises.  By the grace of God, the temptations are not so tempting anymore.  I feel the strength to resist.  One day, I realize that a particular chain isn’t around my ankle anymore.  I smile and work with the Holy Spirit to unfetter my soul from the grip of other sins.

So, I must offer myself to my wife first.  I cannot expect her to change first, or bargain to have her change with me.  It’s not about reciprocity.  It’s about following Christ: He laid down His life for His bride first.  I do the same.  If I cannot forgive my wife even when she refuses to say sorry, how can I meet Christ’s greater challenge to forgive my enemies?

The more I live my marriage as God intends it, the more people will think I’m a “hen-pecked” man.  The more I please my wife and not ask for anything in return, the more people will think I’m “being taken advantaged of.”  This is the world’s opinion; they judge without the light of faith.  They do not see the Holy Spirit at work in her.  She has grown so much and I had nothing to do with it.  Her prayer life, her own journey with God did it.  She is a woman whom I love more than the day I proposed to her.  She is a mother I admire.  I watch her interior life grow, like the petals of a flower in slow bloom.  I do not pick the flower to adorn my pocket, but just watch it.  Learn from it.  Because I’m a flower, too.  We are growing, blooming, for God.

Father Hunger, Father Wound

Chapters 11 and 12 in Richard Rohr’s “From Wild Man to Wise Man” really had a profound effect on me.  I found myself putting the book down and reflecting on my own father hunger and father wound.  How did they affect me?  How do the hunger and wound manifest themselves in my life?  What I discovered about myself was amazing… waking-up-at-4am-amazing.

Father Wound, Father Hunger
(Source: http://www.hickorymensfrat.com)

According to Rohr, much of the human race experiences a deep “father hunger.”  The “pain is quiet, hidden, denied, and takes many shapes and forms that sons cannot even grasp–or care to grasp.”  We grow up without a good man’s love, without a father’s understanding or affirmation.  So, we always hunger for it, finding it in any older man who will offer it to them: in the military, in the business world, in hierarchical churches… seeking to be approved by their superiors.  A father’s response is the first response of an “outsider.”  A mother’s love is “body-based” and is assumed, taken for granted and relied upon instinctively, “which is why a foundational ‘mother wound’ can be even more devastating to one’s very core.”  He believes that what Judeo-Christianity was trying to communicate in seeming to prefer masculine metaphors for God is to heal this deep and pervasive father wound.  “God is that loving and compassionate Daddy they always wanted.”

Continue reading Father Hunger, Father Wound

Love in the Time of SARS and War

We grew up only 20-minutes away by car.  Los Angeles was and still is big enough that we would have never met except for a pandemic super-flu and a civil war.  The fact that we met and married goes to show that God can make good out of evil.

Logo of the United States Peace Corps.
Logo of the United States Peace Corps. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was set to graduate in 2002 and be a Peace Corps volunteer in Xian, China.  Two weeks before I would leave to DC for Staging, I received a disappointing call: the Peace Corps program in China was canceled indefinitely due to SARS.  All current volunteers were being evacuated immediately.  My goal to get into a Tier 1 MBA school and then work in a prestigious investment bank was based on getting this work experience in China.  China was where the money will be in the future and the only way I could afford two years’ worth of experience in China was through the Peace Corps.  I didn’t think about the poor people getting sick in China from SARS, or the fear people felt from this super-flu.  I only cared about my own dreams.  Even to this day, I associate SARS to how my roadmap to become a high-flying investment banker was burned.

I tried to find new meaning in my life for two years, working in the private sector, before I decided to sign up for the Peace Corps, again.  This time, it’d be a two-for-one: I’ll get both an MBA and Peace Corps’ experience at the same time via the Master’s International Program:

While I was getting ready for my Peace Corps assignment, my future wife was getting ready to evacuate from hers.  Anne Marie and her fellow volunteers were in Nepal for less than a year before the Nepalese Civil War intensified.  The Maoists bombed a U.S. facility in Nepal on September 10th; exactly six years later, our first daughter, Maya, was born.  Three days before my 25th birthday, Anne Marie left Nepal.  She didn’t quit the Peace Corps.  Instead, she signed up again and was given two years in Guatemala.  The threads God were weaving in His Tapestry brought the patterns of our lives closer together.

God weaving threads of our lives into a tapestry

Continue reading Love in the Time of SARS and War

What If My Children were Gay?

An old friend found my reflection about gay marriage and Satan ridiculous and challenged me to consider what I would do if I found out my children were gay.  My eldest daughter is now two years old and the other is just four months.  I have about six years or so before their sexual awareness.  So, I have time.

Nevertheless, it’s a very good question to explore, now.

Same-sex attraction is as natural as concupiscence.  It doesn’t make them bad people just as my tendency towards sexual immorality doesn’t make me a bad person.  We’re just broken in different ways.  What will bother me the most is the vitriol thrown at homosexuals by self-righteous people.

Moral Insiders Treating Others Without Dignity

Moral insiders often do not treat homosexuals with human dignity; I’d be even more sensitive to that if my girls were gay.  I think it is an injustice, the way we moral insiders treat moral outsiders.  I’ve been reflecting on the Parable of the Prodigal Son.  As the elder brothers, we should be going out to find our wayward younger brothers who are squandering our Father’s inheritance.  We should not be brooding in our Father’s house, objecting to His mercy.

My girls, if they are imperfect, need to be confident of my love for them – just as I am confident of Our Heavenly Father’s love for me, as imperfect as I am.  They need to understand the true meaning of free will, and the reality of God’s prodigal mercy.  Our goal in life is to become the best-version-of-ourselves.  If my girls discover that they are gay, then my job as their father is to help them become the best version of themselves, despite the heaviness of that Cross.  I am to be like Simon of Cyrene and help them carry their burden, not like the Pharisees who are ready to cast the first stone.

Maya drinks a bottle of milk and then a bottle of water or two before bed.  So, she needs to go to the bathroom three to five times before falling asleep.  My wife finds going potty that many times is excessive and that Maya is merely trying to avoid sleep.  When Maya sneaks out of her room and finds mommy, she cries while being told “it’s the last time.”  When she finds daddy, she gives a sheepish grin, takes his hand and skips to the bathroom.

Maya learns discipline from mommy, forgiveness from daddy (what Anne Marie terms “spoiling.”)  In matters of the Spirit, our Mother Church teaches me what is right and wrong, and our Heavenly Father teaches me about His abundant mercy.  Our home is our daughters’ first experience of the Trinity; if they cannot be accepted in our family for being gay, then we would have failed as parents to live out the Gospel message of love.

My love as a parent, though, doesn’t give me the right to define what is moral.  If my daughters choose to live a sinful life, then I will continue to love and bless them as God even now continues to love and bless me in my broken, sinful state.  How is their father any better as a Christian, any less of a sinner?  How is their sexual sin any worse than mine?  The sun will continue to shine on them as it does on me.

If they insist on gay marriage and children from that marriage, I will tell them that this is not what God wants.  There will be consequences, but I will be there for them.   I will continue to love, pray, fast and sacrifice myself for their sake.  I will care for their spouse, when she is sick.  I will babysit and cook for them so that they can have a break.  I will love them and the new community they’ll bring into my life, even though they are living a life of sin because God loves me even though I myself live a life of sin.  How can I do any less than my own Father?  Christ surrounded himself with moral outcasts and gave them hope.  Perhaps I am called to do the same with the help of my daughters?

Being a Christ-like example of love and mercy may not be enough to inspire my children to a life of conversion.  They may harden their hearts against any religious message because it contradicts the life they’ve chosen.  If that’s the case, then I will offer up my own life in exchange for their immortal souls.  There will be consequences to their actions, but I will pay those consequences myself if, in the end, they do not repent.  For God so loved the world that He gave up His only son for the expiation of their sins.  For I so love my daughters, I will give up my life for them.  What will my Passion be?  That’s for God to decide.  In the meantime, fatherhood is a training ground for that ultimate sacrifice.

So, to answer my friend’s challenge, while I cannot change God’s definition of marriage, I am willing to pay the price for His forgiveness of their sins.

Rebuttals to arguments for same-sex marriage

This article provided non-religious arguments against same-sex marriage.  There’s been a lot of activity on my Facebook page from friends who are supporting California’s Prop. 8 that is currently under debate at the Supreme Court.  It’s forcing me to look at my reasonings for believing in what I believe.

http://www.osv.com/tabid/7621/itemid/10339/Rebuttals-to-arguments-for-samesex-marriage.aspx

Rebuttals to arguments for same-sex marriage

Examining the most common arguments for redefining marital unions …and understanding why they are flawed

By Brandon Vogt – OSV Newsweekly, 1/13/2013

Perhaps no issue is more nerve-wracking today than same-sex marriage. It’s a magnet for controversy, evoking strong reactions from those on either side of the debate. But beneath all the fiery passion and rhetoric, there are real arguments to evaluate. In this article, we’ll examine the 10 most common ones made in favor of same-sex marriage, many of which you’ve probably heard before. By pointing out the flaws, we’ll show how each argument ultimately comes up short.

Continue reading Rebuttals to arguments for same-sex marriage

Songs and Heartache

Kaiko’s place is nice.  The sofa makes a soft bed and the insulation for the apartment is much better than the house in PG.  No complaints.

I finished watching “Just Married” about half an hour ago.  Ashton Kucher and Brittney Murphy.  The premise was marriage at young age and the perennial issue of whether love is enough to sustain a marriage over time.  The movie was… blah.  But, it got me thinking.  It got me thinking about Alicia Keys’ song, “When You Really Love Someone”:

‘Cause a man just ain’t a man if he ain’t man enough

To love you when you’re right
Love you when you’re wrong
Love you when you’re weak
Love you when you’re strong
Take you higher in a world when you’re feeling low
He’s giving you his last, ’cause he’s thinking of you first
Giving comfort when he’s thinking that you’re hurt
That’s what it’s like when you really really love someone

Shit.  It’s like listening to a critique of my love for L.  How can I say that I really loved her if it was conditional?  Did I really love her as much as I did if I don’t feel shitty when I think about our break-up?  No heartache.  No regrets.  No “fuck-I-lost-a-good-thing” feeling.  I’m glad it’s over.  I have that feeling Tim Robbins got when he crawled out of the sewers in “Shawshank” — the exhilaration of freedom.  But, that’s it.  How could I have loved L. so truly and deeply if my happiness now can be equated to Robbins’ after escaping prison by crawling through football fields of feces?

It’s a fucking mystery that I’ve tried to solve with all my closest of friends.  No explanation so far really strikes as the right one.

I suspect that I’m just really, really, really pissed off and I’m trying to keep an Hiroshima-type explosion on the down-low… a Southeast Asian tsunami-like sobbing session at bay.  Did this break-up fuck me up so bad, so deeply that I’m still incapable of fully experiencing its full effect?  Was I so thoroughly wounded that I had to shut off my ability to feel about anything related to this relationship?  It would make sense.  I close out any feelings so that I wouldn’t feel the pain, and, as a side-effect, I feel like I’m over L.  I feel like I’ve moved on, that I’m neither attached nor feel the love I once had for her.  Geez… and I thought I was good at understanding myself.

When I drove home that night after leaving R. and her friends, I started thinking about how much I missed that feeling.  That feeling of being around someone who made you enjoy the moment.  Carpe diem.  I always live for the future, work for that day when I would reach my various goals.  When I was with L., I just loved being around her.  I didn’t care about the next day or worried about the future.  I didn’t mind what we were doing as long as I was with L.  I didn’t care where we were going as long as she was going with me.  It was… goddammit… love.

So, I was driving home and David Gray starting singing “Be Mine”:

From the very first moment I saw you
That’s when I knew
All the dreams I held in my heart
Had suddenly come true…

Fuck.  I was bawling.  The tears ran down my face and clouded my vision like the rain that poured on my windshield as I entered Monterey that night.  It felt so good to cry.  I hit the repeat button just so the lyrics could elicit all my pent up emotions again.  Could I have been any more morbid?

I wrote it off, though.  I wrote it off as my feelings for R. that were twisted into my recollections of L. But, maybe those tears were genuinely for our dead relationship?

Whether or not I’m suppressing the full impact of this break-up, I just hope it doesn’t manifest during any new relationship.

The Break-Up

So, why don’t we start with the situation as it is now?  L. and I haven’t spoken to each other since October.  I called just a couple of days ago just to ask how she was doing.  The first time I called, I think she (or maybe one of her siblings using her cell phone) hung up.  The second time, I got her voicemail.  She has yet to return my call.  Just a minute ago, I wrote her an email with the same inquiries.  I’m just trying to be nice, you know.  Just because we broke up doesn’t mean I don’t care about her dad anymore. Continue reading The Break-Up

Year 2004 In Review (Finally)

I am taking forever to reflect on this past year and the new semester is about to begin.  Damn… where to begin?

Career
I quit my job as a loan officer in 2004.  The money was less than what I expected and I learned what I needed to learn to continue on my own.  More importantly, I was inspired to go back to my original plan to be in international business.  I want to keep my license.  And, I still need to come up with a business plan to launch retail mortgage as a side business.

Academics
So, I applied to b-school.  And, I got into my school of choice (although, admittedly, my school of choice wasn’t very selective).  Now, here I am, at Monterey.

My degree will involve three semesters.  I just finished my first and most difficult one.  It was difficult because I had to do the International Business Plan (IBP) right from the get-go.  A typical MBA student is supposed to take the IBP only in his last semester.  And since I’m an Advanced Master’s International candidate, the school’s curriculum deemed I was ready for the capstone course in my first semester.  Although I was a bit nervous at first, I soon realized that I was more than capable for the task.  Although stressful, I had a very successful semester.  I impressed a lot of new people, learned new skills, and managed to keep good grades.

I still need to write an entry about the IBP itself.  But, I’ll save that for later.  I think I’ll just keep this entry a topical summary.

Social
I met relatively few people compared to my days at Humboldt.  During the first couple of months when I started my undergrad, I met over 50 people.  By the end of the first year, I could not walk across campus without saying “Hi” to twenty.  After my first semester here, I’m lucky if I can remember ten of my classmates’ names.  The IBP really consumed me.  My social life was completely forsaken.

However, there are a few notables.  During the summer program, I found a new good female friend, R… I chuckle at the thought of this friend:  R-nita Scandalita.  She’s not as wild as the “aura” around her seems to convey.  I wouldn’t typically gravitate towards someone like R. since I’m such a boring guy.  But, we were able to talk openly and we developed a strong friendship that continues even though she’s back in Virginia.

S. I met through R.  And, while R. went back to the East Coast, S. stayed here at MIIS to study Translation & Interpretation.  S., although from Beijing and this being the first ever in the United States, speaks English better than most Americans I know.  Even more impressive, when she’s doing her interpretive work, she has a British accent.  How cool is that?  In a way, S. replaced R.  But, to my slight disappointment, S. does not appreciate the degree of disclosure that I am used to with R.  All in all, she is a great friend.  A great person to spend time with.

I made some guy friends, too!  F., I met through an MBA classmate.  He came to MIIS from Taiwan to improve his English and study for his GREs.  I helped him a bit as a language partner.  And, he helped me a bit during my Mandarin summer program.  When the partner bit was over, it translated into a good friendship.  F., sadly, moved further north to pursue his graduate degree in aerospace.  But, I hope to continue my friendship with F.  He is very mature and has a very good heart.

B. I met from odd circumstances.  He asked me out on a date.  As soon as I cleared the air about my sexuality, we were able to hang out.  He is also very mature and somewhat of a film buff.  So, I hope he doesn’t mind having another straight friend.  I’ve lost contact with him over the Winter Break.  So, I hope to rejuvenate the budding friendship we had before the final hours of IBP threw us to the winds.

Love
I broke up with L.  Quite a tragedy considering how much I love(d?) her.  I guess it’s a bit ironic, too.  Besides taking me for granted, lacking in affection, being a bit naive about men-women relationships, giving off a cold, stand-offish personality, and missing critical conflict-resolution skills… L. is a great woman.  She’s smart, determined, assertive, and holds strong family values (not in the Republican-sense… hmm, on second thought, she is pro-life and a closet anti-gay, holds a strong self-responsibility stance towards marginalized people — perhaps she’s a Republican afterall?  Haha!)  But her nose has been in her textbooks for too long and she is not as well-rounded as I imagined her to be.  Yes… I know.  Since when is anybody who we imagined them to be?  True.  However, for me to have loved her so strongly only to be taken for granted even before we’re even married, I came to realize that she could not make me happy.

Anyway, a huge entry can be made about this event in my life.  I’ll save that for some other time.

In other Love news… I have been on the dating scene for a bit.  Can’t really call it much, but there were some prospects.  Now, sad to say, there are none.  No one interesting.  I’ve met many women whom I can have a good time with.  However, I haven’t met a woman who can inspire me to write in verse like L. managed to do at one point.  I don’t think I will for some time.  Shucks… such a tragedy.  I loved writing poetry.  I loved thinking about what to do next to sweep her off her feet.  Damn… I loved being able to say “I love you” all the time.  Eh.  The yearning will pass.  I will love again.

Family
My parents are doing well.  They don’t seem to be arguing as much.  My dad finished remodeling the master bedroom after a decade being a “work-in-progress.”  His next 10-year project?  The roof.  Hah!  Oh, which reminds me: I worked with my dad to redo the roof.  It’s only partially done, but what a great feeling to work side-by-side with my dad.  As a teenager, I hated working with my dad because it was such hard labor.  And I’m such a pussy when it comes to getting my hands dirty.  But, having grown some balls over the last eight or ten years, and minus the raging horomones that augment any emotion, I really enjoyed being in the hot sun, ripping off the shingles of our roof.  It had a strong feeling of accomplishment.

My mom is still dealing with her diabetes.  It is more or less under control, but I worry about her sometimes.

My little cousins are all growing up.  I can still terrorize Feigao with impunity.  And, I can still pick up Tracy in my arms.  I doubt I’ll be able to do that when I come back from the Peace Corps.  I better enjoy each moment while I can.

Personal Accomplishments
I think I lost my fluency with Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata.”  I haven’t practiced that piece in quite a long time.  I also haven’t picked up my guitar either.  So, musically, I’ve degenerated.

My Mandarin, having not practiced regularly and deliberately, also have decayed.

My fat, however, gratefully fell off.  I went from a 180 going on 185 to a 160 going on 155.  Although I may be slimmer, I have maintained much of my lean muscle.  So, I no longer have a spare tire.  I can see more definition in my arms, my chest and my abs.  In the physical sense, I’ve done well.

I would still like to learn Beethoven’s “Appassionata.”  I want to sing some Jackie Cheung songs in Mandarin.  I want to learn more about wine tasting.  And I want to learn how to use Flash to develop my own webpage.

I also want to develop my own investment system.  After taking that Financial Statement Analysis class this Winter, I have taken a new interest in an hobby of mine.  So, I guess I should add that to the list.

Conclusion
The year 2004 was a year of new beginnings and abrupt endings.  The outlook is bright.  I’m alive and healthy, and I still got a lot of uppity goodness in me.  So, here’s to 2005!

The Real “Dear Jane” Letter

Dear L.,

My criticisms of your behavior have caused you much pain, anguish and turmoil.  I am sorry, and I regret having made such criticisms.  As you say, they were without merit.  My words made you feel inferior and unworthy.  The words seemed to paint you as a monster.  In the end, my crticisms seemed to imply that you were undeserving of my love.  For all these implications and more, I am sorry.  I truly regret making you feel such pain.

You should know that you are very deserving of the best love.  You are beautiful, intelligent and resourceful.  Despite my criticisms, you are more than capable of handling the most enormous burdens.  You have endurance and determination that many women cannot match – and, as you say, who would breakdown and give up under such pressure.  You have ambition and strong family values.  Such qualities and more make you very attractive.  You don’t ever have to worry about who your husband and father of your children will be because such qualities as you have can only demand the best.

You should know this.  And I am ashamed if my criticisms caused you to doubt those qualities.

I have known you for over ten years – two of those years intimately.  You have grown much, especially in the last couple of years.  You are more loving and caring than before.  And, in time, I am sure you will be even more so.

The most important thing is not to lose focus.  The anger you have will pass.  Everything will be okay.  Life will always bring new joys.  So, the most important thing is not to lose focus.  Concentrate on what’s important for your future… for your own self and your own family.  Life will always bring new happiness.

Don’t worry about me.  I will be okay.  Like you said, I will learn.  I will adapt.

You were the best thing that ever happened to me, L.

Yours truly,

Keenton C. Luong 姜