All Things New

Sunday, April 24, 2016

It was both nothing and everything.

It was nothing because, if you were to ask me what I would expect one of the most memorable moments of my life to be, I wouldn’t necessarily jump right to sitting on the curb in a dark parking lot, under the glow of a streetlamp, chomping on an Italian flatbread sandwich alongside two friends.  Of the throng that had filled the lot two and a half hours earlier, we were the only stragglers remaining, save for those staffing the food trucks, whom we watched as they set about washing dishes.  They moved with such efficiency as they cleaned up for the night that I briefly wondered if this was how Santa’s elves occupied their time the other eleven months of the year.  On the whole, it was a bustling yet insignificant scene.

But something extraordinary was also unfolding there.  As a girl who’d spent eight months yearning for community in my new home, in that moment I could finally see I’d begun to really find it.  

Though I’ve long been a fan of saying, “The best is yet to come,” if I’m being honest, in the past year since graduating, I’ve spent a decent amount of time wondering if some of the best has already come to pass — in daily dinners in the dining hall and lunches overlooking the bay with a ubiquitous network of friends, movie and game nights with the same loyal group, in laughter and song and prayer at weekly choir practices.  The four years I spent in college were a magical time for me in terms of building community, but I think I’ve dwelled too much on the loss of that, and I’ve been hesitant to open my heart to new beginnings.  Even in interactions with new friends since arriving here in Colorado, there’s been a part of me that’s been so intent on comparing emerging experiences with old ones, as though doing so could help me bring that time back, and could erase the discomfort of starting over by giving me something familiar to cling to. 

But to spend any moment wishing for another is a waste of the beauty inherent in the now.  That moment in the parking lot with my new friends as the food trucks packed up was special because, in our laughter, in our discussion, we were making something new.  The most recent in a string of new movie nights and game nights and lunches and dinners with different individuals, this moment symbolized the basis of a new community.  It looks different from my college one, and that’s okay.  I don't want to replace it or compare it, because this is something different.  And it’s supposed to be.

I just want to rest with the confident assuredness that, as God promises in today’s second reading, “[He] make[s] all things new” (Revelation 21:5, NAB) — that optimism and hope are the Christian way of life, and that what we perceive to be endings are, in fact, beautiful new beginnings.  

Who Am I? And Who Are You? Five Things

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

“Who am I?  Who am I?  I’m SARAAAAAH ZENTNEEEER!

If you’re at all familiar with the musical Les Misérables, then hopefully you read/sang the above in Jean Valjean’s voice in your head, where it maybe didn’t sound as crazy as I realize it probably looks on the screen.  And if you’re not familiar with this magical and moving piece of musical theatre… well, I feel sorry for you.  Truly.  Get on that.  

But I digress.  This post is not about Les Misérables.  It’s about me.

And it’s about you, dear reader.  

Allow me to explain…

I’ve recently been reading Brené Brown’s vulnerability opus, Daring Greatly, in which she exhorts her audience to share their authentic selves with each other, even though this is decidedly uncomfortable, awkward, and scary.  The truth of the matter is that we can’t expect to build a genuine sense of community, belonging, or love — what Brown argues are cornerstones of the human experience — with others if we don’t allow them to see us for who we truly are.  It’s when we take off our masks and show our scars and let ourselves be real with each other that we can see the very things we’re afraid of revealing most about ourselves are, in fact, those shared experiences that most unite us in common humanity.

This is what drew me to blogging in the first place.  That a blog can provide a platform for anyone to stand on his or her truth and share it with the world is pretty awesome.  And the ripple created by one person’s bravery can reach thousands — thousands who, in turn, might then be inspired to share their stories. Honesty blazes through the wilderness of our souls, and, while we might be tempted to think we’ll be left scorched and barren, the opposite is true.  We become empowered.   

I would say I’m already pretty transparent on this blog.  But I’ve noticed a few things:

  1. I’ve written a few times on missing my alma mater, USD, or other aspects of my past — a completely understandable attitude given that this is still my first year in the post-college “real world;” or
  2. I’ve written about where I feel I should be, and insisting that I’m trying really hard not to beat myself up for not yet having arrived there (even though I still sort of am); or
  3. I’ve often struggled with what to write at all, because I feel I can’t think of enough things to say. 

But last night, as I was discussing my blogging aspirations with my sister over Dancing with the Stars and chocolate chip cookies, I diagnosed these problems as stemming from an uncertainty of, or perhaps more accurately, an unwillingness to define, who I am at this moment.  What is the story I need to tell right now?  Part of that might certainly involve grappling with questions about my past and my future (and it does — oh, does it), but I think to most powerfully and authentically impact the lives of others, I need to be honest about who I am at this point in my life.  From there, I can walk beside others and help people answer questions similar to mine.    

So, who am I?     

A devout Catholic, trying to figure out how to apply my faith to my worldview and vice versa, seeking God in every day, and trying to live faithfully, compassionately, and joyfully.

An avid reader.  Seriously.  I love to read, people.  Right now I’m really into exquisitely crafted literary fiction and books on self-improvement that teach you how to be an all-around amazing individual.  In addition to Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly, I also just finished reading The Nest, a tightly written family drama by Cynthia d’Aprix Sweeney.  Highly recommend it, especially if you’re looking for reassurance that your family is somewhat normal, because this one brings the fun to dysfunctional, that’s for sure.  

A Colorado transplant.  I’ve clung to my “new” status all year as an excuse for driving 25 miles an hour on the freeway when it’s snowing, not knowing how to play corn hole, and being unfamiliar with the dozens (hundreds?) of local brews.  But now I see it as a reason to coach those who are also experiencing a transition.  Maybe some of them are living in Colorado (I’d love to feature some local restaurants, tourist attractions, festivals, etc.), but most are probably just wondering… now what?  Let’s walk through this time together, friend.  

A young single woman, navigating the awkward dating waters and hoping to maybe meet a nice guy out there somewhere.  There are some good stories to be found in this process.  I’ll leave it at that.

A job seeker.  Since graduating from college, this is the part of my persona I’ve been most embarrassed by.  I feel like something of a failure for having been hunting for almost a year now and still not having found any full-time, salaried-with-benefits work.  But the pity party stops now.  I know I’m not alone.  And I also know that, even if I don’t have all the answers (which I definitely don’t), I do know enough about the process by now to at least hold your hand and walk alongside you if this is something you’re struggling with, too.  

Now it’s your turn!

I want to hear from you!  Who are you, dear reader?  I want to know who you are and what you need from me, from this blog.  What do you wish I would write about?  What do you need to hear more of?  What do you want advice on?  Basically, where are you at in this life?  From here on out, this blog will probably be a hodgepodge of posts on the above topics, but I want to know that I’m serving you in a way that you need to be served.  Let’s build a community here where we can love and support each other in this crazy little thing called life.  So talk to me!

Use the form at the right to e-mail me a list of the five things that describe you right now, or find me on Instagram at skzentner, where you can photograph your list of five things, tag me, and hashtag it up with #whoiamsarahndipity so I can see all of your beautiful transparency.  We’re in this together, friends.  And I guarantee that however you define yourself currently, you’re pretty rad.  

So much love, and I can’t wait to hear from you!

A Place I Called Home, and a Piece of My Heart

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

As the daughter of an Air Force retiree, I’m no stranger to empty houses.  To moving out and moving in.  I’m well-acquainted with the hollow sort of feeling that emerges from tracing my fingers along bare walls while my mind fills the space with the ghosts of memories that colored it with laughter and love.  And although these tangible reminders of the life I was leaving behind tended to make me sad, I usually took solace in an assurance that “home is where the heart is,” and the knowledge that the people with whom I had built a home from shared meals and holiday gatherings and Nintendo Mario Kart tournaments would stay with me, ready to wield this special power on a new, unfamiliar locale.

But sometimes the loss of a house is linked to the loss of a person, of one of those memory makers.  And far from that person being present to continue to making memories with you elsewhere, the loss of a place seems to slice that last tenuous tie to them.

My grandpa just sold and moved out of his house in San Diego.  To provide some context, he’d owned that house since the early ‘80s, when my mom started high school there and my aunt was in Los Angeles for college.  And though he and my grandmother had vacated and rented it out during stints in Germany later that decade and in Laguna Hills, which took them through the turn of the 21st century and both of their retirements, they moved back about 15 years ago, and so I’m still tempted to think of it as their house.  And I suppose I’ve spent enough Thanksgivings and Christmases and Easters and summer vacations (and even some nights in college, when I’d seek refuge there from hectic campus life), to consider it my own as well. 

My grandma passed away in September of 2008 from ovarian cancer, and so I know that after seven and a half years of going it alone in a house that once was theirs, my grandfather maybe feels it’s time for something that is just his.  Something that is free from so many whispers of her memory: in the Post-It written in her elegant handwriting that’s been taped to a kitchen cabinet for a decade, bearing reminders of when to wind the grandfather clock in the living room; ornate Russian lacquer boxes she’d handpicked on trips to St. Petersburg; collections of porcelain and china acquired throughout the decades by her top-notch taste.  I don’t think you’re every really done grieving for someone, but I do think the process takes on different shades as the years progress.  And perhaps for my grandpa it’s reached a pale, calm shade of acceptance and the decision to move on.

But it’s still hard for me.  I so vividly remember her in that house: sitting on the bed in the room my sister and I always inhabited when we visited, staring intently at a thin white pipe creeping down the wall; rushing in to allay our concerns when we heard a suspicious, tinny sound coming in from outside in the middle of the night; serving me ice cream as we watched the 2004 Summer Olympics on the couch in their newly remodeled family room; watching my sister and me take turns jumping into the pool; attending fastidiously to the finishing touches on Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners on the granite kitchen countertops.  Saying, “I love you,” to me for the last time when I kissed her goodbye on the forehead in the family room two weeks before she died.

It’s so difficult to imagine my grandfather saying goodbye to that house, because in some ways it feels like I’m saying goodbye all over again to her.  It’s a feeling my mom echoed when she said, out of habit, she’d dialed the house phone (still labeled “Mom and Dad” in her contacts list) after he’d moved out and was told the number was no longer in service.  “That was my mom’s phone number,” she said, and we both tried to bite back our tears.  Because that’s how it feels sometimes, when you want so badly to reconnect with someone you’ve lost.  That they’re “no longer in service.”  Cut off.  Gone. 

Of course, I choose to believe that my grandmother has become a guardian angel to me, and the guidance she’s orchestrating from heaven is more than she could give me on earth.  But more often than not, I feel this is a weak substitute for her physical presence in my life.

This is normally the part of a blog post where I would transition into some kind of deep, resonant message to provide my readers with a poignant takeaway to mull over.  But I can’t really sum up what I’m feeling into something that would suffice, and besides, I think that any aphorism about how “our loved ones never really leave us” or “at least memories can’t be taken away from us” would trivialize what I’ve been reflecting on here.  I guess the purpose of this post was more just to share something that’s been on my heart with you, dear reader.  To let you know that if you’ve every felt this way about losing someone or something, you’re not alone.  And that’s okay.  It’s okay to miss someone and feel sad.  And I’m here for you, because I get it.  And you’re loved.        

And I love you, Grandma.