Sunday, April 23, 2017

Insecurity

Insecurity 

Dried out, that's how I feel
Consuming exhaustion that doesn't happen because I don't get enough sleep;
I get plenty of sleep
But I don't get to rest from 
worry and frustration
from wondering constantly if I will ever be
good enough. 

Good enough for what? Excellent question
that can't be answered with trite or cliche
and instead burrows even deeper into my mind and comes
out to play when I need it to disappear the most.

Vulnerable rejection based on mistakes in my behavior 
but not in my character
Except --what makes a character if not the behavior?

I rely too much on the outside when I should be 
illuminating from the inside
and attempting not to change my environment or the people around me
but my own awkward perceptions
found deep in the bottom parts of my soul.  

It's a cavern full of dried up, masticated doubt 
and every single time I get to the place where I 
think, this! I am finally rid of that annoying
insecurity!
It leaps up from the shadows and 
burns
my
very
flesh.


Cheryl 
April 2017

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

So. Much. Random. Ness.

We are in the throws of Spring Break and the weather decided to take an ugly turn. Why, Spring, why? Yesterday, you were so glorious that we had all the windows open, the kids were running amok in the yard, and the sun shined upon my face in such gloriousness that I felt so glorious-i-fied! Now, it's windy, cold, and threatening rain. Boo.

Our oldest is off on an adventure! She's gallivanting with friends during spring break and I get to just stay home and worry and pray that she'll survive and come back to us. This is a good trial run for when she goes to Peru this summer with her Spanish class. And college in 2 years. And a mission in 3 years. Sigh... why do they grow up so fast? I love this girl and I will miss her so much when she moves out on her own.

Life continues to go along as normal. I never have enough time to do the things I want to do and I always spend too much time doing the things that won't help me do the things I want to do --it's really kind of ridiculous when I think about it.

So, we had five birthdays in the past month:
#2 turned 14 years old
#4 turned 10 years old
Then #7 turned 2 years old (wha?!)
I turned 38 years old
and
#6 turned 5 years old

We are all caked out! So many birthdays means our February budget is also much higher. It's insane, but not in a bad way, necessarily, you know? I want the kids to feel loved and happy on their birthdays because we are genuinely glad they were born!

I continue to teach piano lessons. I still want more students, but I'm not too worried. They'll come.

Depression is stupid, but I started taking vitamins and upped my exercise (from hardly anything to almost something) and have been eating healthier, so I feel loads, loads better. Loads!

The toddler girl is now speaking a lot. She is too adorable! She repeats (or tries to repeat) everything we say and it really is cute. I love communicating with her more, now, because I can understand her a lot better.

I remember when life was a lot more simple. Simple in that we could take our kids and, almost spur of the moment, go hiking or camping. We could decide to go out and do some fun family activities and it was easy because our kids weren't busy and they were all little. Now that our kids are growing up, it's become really difficult to find time to do this. We have so many different schedules to juggle, not to mention different opinions about how people want to spend their time, and it means this spontaneous trips and outings have become very few and far between. I mourn for those days, a little bit. I hope we can still squeeze them in as much as we can before all the kids are scattered to their various life-winds.

I was talking with a good friend, yesterday, about how conflicted I've been about my purpose online. Specifically, I was added to some political FB forums, and I'm just not sure if I belong there. I know some women have a great push and desire to be as involved as much as they can in the political process and I've felt I need to be more involved than I have been in the past (which is pretty much just voting, the end), but I just don't think I can spend that much time involved with it. There's so much reading, research, and discussion --I can barely keep up! And then there are women who are doing these things for their jobs --they are speakers, writers, journalists, professors, businesswomen, and volunteers. They are right there, in the trenches, doing all they can to make sure they are involved, their voices are heard, and that our government is focused on the ethical governing of our country. This is great! I'm glad they are doing this! And I know it's important to be civic-minded, but it's just not my calling. I really don't think it is.

So, what is my purpose or calling? Obviously, motherhood (duh), but outside of that, I honestly think I'm doing okay with what I'm doing. I try to stay informed, I question news sources, I write my observations, I ask questions of others, and now that I've started writing for a Mormon audience at LDSblogs, I find myself thinking more about the gospel and how it applies to this society I live in. Maybe this is simply what I need to do. There's no big calling I feel other than to write my thoughts and share information with the few people who appreciate what I write.

In other news, we're coming to Utah in July. We have three family reunions to attend (holy cow, it's gonna be a tight squeeze), but it'll be nice to see everyone. Also, for the first time in 5 years (!!!!) we'll be going to Brandon's family's annual camp out. We are so excited! I hope it all works out well and the dates all line up correctly. We'll see. We have such a rigid schedule to keep if we're gonna get #1 back to Kansas in time for her departure to Peru.

I've read some great essays, lately. Here are some of my favorites:

Here's a story of a couple who planned a wedding in five days!

This is a fantastic blog post about what it takes to be a good Mormon and why it makes all the difference.

This blogger writes about how her mental illness does not make her a survivor (I love this one).

Here is a beautiful, poignant, inspiring, and truth-filled essay about what the point is of every interaction we have with each other. It is so, so, so good.

Happy Tuesday, dear reader!

P.S. Here are two more blog posts I wrote over at LDSblogs:
"Spiritual Tornadoes"
and
"What Do You Know?"

And soon, I'll be sharing poetry over there, so watch for those! *insert smiley face, here*

Thursday, March 09, 2017

LDSBlogs (dot com)

Guess what?

I've been asked to post frequent content over at LDSBlogs! They'll be sharing a few posts I've already posted here (like my recent marriage one) and I've already started writing new posts for them.

My first original post went up today!

Go have a look, dear reader. And while there, take some time to read all the other wonderful posts they have published. They've got a good group of excellent writers sharing some pretty inspiring things!

Well-Rounded

I read this post at Segullah, recently, and I really liked it a lot.

Background for you (that you may or may not already know):

I was a well-rounded teenage girl. I had some talents, yes, and they gravitated toward music. I played the piano rather well, but I also enjoyed other aspects of music, and so I was involved in a lot of music classes like choir, band, and drama. I loved being around other like-minded kids, and it was fun to be able to try out new things.

I remember my sophomore year of high school. I was involved in marching band, choir, S.A.D.D., Tri-Hi-Y (mock government), National Honors Society, drama club, percussion ensemble, music theory, pep band, and then I was asked to join Jazz band to learn jazz piano. At the time, my current piano teacher told me I needed to find another teacher, as I was surpassing all she could teach me. Wanting the best, I went and auditioned with a highly reputable teacher in another city. I passed the audition, and she accepted me.

I remember it was a 40 minute drive. I didn't have my license, yet, so my mom drove me until a friend of mine, who also took from this teacher, would pick me up (she could drive). My teacher would sit at her baby grand piano while I sat at the other baby grand piano, and she was very demanding. She was very good! I really respected her talent and her authenticity. But she expected at least 3-4 hours of practicing a day. I didn't know how in the world I was going to fit that in, and honestly, I couldn't. So, I started to resent practicing. I started to resent lessons. I started to resent the piano, itself.

Now, if you know me, that doesn't sound right, because piano is my favorite thing.

After 3 months of this, I started canceling lessons. I did a no-show once. That was not like me, at all! My parents weren't sure what to do because they'd never had to struggle with me and piano before. After another cancellation, the teacher called and told me that if I couldn't' take this seriously, I'd have to find a new teacher, and then she hung up on me. I was so relieved! I told my parents I hated this and couldn't do it anymore. I wish I had just been brave enough to quit before I started acting like a brat, though...

A few weeks later, my mom told me she heard of a friend who was willing to take a few piano students. She wasn't as well known as my previous teacher, but she was just as educated. She lived 10 minutes away and would be charging for less than half what the other teacher charged us. She didn't care how much I practiced, as long as I didn't waste her time (i.e. learn the music and learn it well!). I remember driving to her home (by this time, I had a license) and looking forward to all the lessons. With her help, I managed to win the talent portion of the local Junior Miss Pageant, as well as the graduating senior scholarship competition (there were only 3 of us competing, but still!). I ended up practicing about 1-2 hours a day. And not because I was compelled, but because I just loved playing! I enjoyed practice, I enjoyed lessons --I enjoyed that I could live my life without making piano the sole focus of it.

See, I went on to be the drum major of the marching band for two years. I was still in all the clubs and all the music classes. One semester in high school I split one class period between Symphonic Band and A capella Choir! I did AP Music Theory for four years. I also was heavily involved in church projects, plays, and activities. I accompanied, on average 25 separate solos and ensembles for the music festival every year. I accompanied a lot of the choir performances, too. And I had a job! An after school job where I worked for 2 years (at a dental office). I also ended up with a 3.75 GPA and an acceptance letter to BYU!

But most of all, I was happy. I had zero pressure to decide my life's purpose at 15 years old and I had all the support in the world to have fun. I went on dates, hung out with friends, and did random things like accepting a nomination to be a representative for our mock government trip to Boise (we took over the capital and basically ran a session of Congress amongst ourselves). I got to play jazz piano, audition as an Alto II for All State (and got in!), and write music. I had a wonderful high school experience, and I really believe it was because I got to do what I wanted to do without the expectation that I should do only one thing perfectly.

I have to say that I hate the rise of inflexibility of teachers, parents, and programs that don't allow kids the chance to be well-rounded. It's like this idea of, "Jack of all trades, master of none" is to be completely rejected, just for the fear that not being a master reduces employment opportunities. And they are bringing up these worries before the kid has even reached high school. I mean... wha??

The average change of majors at a university is three. Three. Most people change majors at least once in their life time (my husband did! I did! Granted, I couldn't get into my major, but whatever). A lot more don't even make money at what they majored in, either. So, I find it interesting that 13 year old kids are being told to hurry up and decide on a career. What's the rush? Seriously, who cares?

There's nothing wrong with a Jack--Jane --of all trades. I mean, seriously, look -- "This life is the time for men to prepare to meet God" and "the glory of God is intelligence" and "what we attain in this life will rise with us!"  -- Aren't we to learn all we can? A good well-rounded life means someone is learning new things. Focusing on a career can be important, but let's wait until adulthood before that pressure, okay? Let's let our kids be kids, explore, learn, and enjoy being able to experience a lot of great opportunities so they can actually discover their talents and find what it is that they'd like to do with their lives.

Were you a Jack/Jane of all trades? Did you focus on one talent? Do you think kids these days are being pressured into deciding their futures too early? 

Monday, February 20, 2017

The Longest Post on Marriage You'll Ever Read (probably not, but still)


It's come to my attention that my marriage is being held up as an example to others. A positive example! That's not so bad. It's flattering. It shows that others have noticed we're doing just fine. But it also makes me pretty uncomfortable. Not because I've been lying about my marriage, but because A. I don't want my relationship to be held up under such scrutiny, and B. reality is always multi-faceted and there's no possible way people can see (let alone understand) all that happens in a marital relationship.

I want to explain this all in more detail, but first, here are some ground rules before we move ahead:
1. Abusive marriages won't apply to what I say because I'm not in an abusive marriage.
2. The vast uniqueness of human beings means virtually every marriage will also be unique.
3. Nobody can fix somebody else's marriage. Except Jesus. But it can't be done without agency on the part of the married people.

I honestly have never met a married couple with the exact same marriage dynamics as my own. It doesn't matter if we match up in religion, ethnicity, socio-economic situation, education, job, talents, or shared goals-- our relationship is unique! Even the couples that are closest to us are not the same. Even the couples that are related to us are not the same.

This just makes sense. When a marriage is created, it becomes a new entity. One unique person + one unique person = one unique marriage. When the scriptures say, "and two shall become one," it's not just metaphorical. It can be very, very real (not in a weird sci-fi way, dear reader, you know what I mean). This is why divorce is so difficult. You aren't just separating two people who no longer want to share a life together, you are, in essence, tearing apart an entity. I've spoken to people who have divorced and even though they knew it was the right decision, they still mourned the death of something that was supposed to be lasting and beautiful. Divorce is like death because something really has died.


See, in a marriage, everything is connected. You don't just share a house with your spouse. You don't only share your body with your spouse. If you are parents, you don't just share DNA together and create a new human. You share your trust, your goals, your future, your time, your talents, your effort. Everything affects the other thing. How you work through your finances can translate into your sex life. How you experience your sex life can translate into how you parent. How you parent can affect the way you view housework, job security, religion, and back to the finances and the sex. Everything affects everything else! You can't separate any of it into tidy little boxes. Your lives become, on purpose, knitted together and enmeshed into one beautiful mess. To separate any of it into check lists defeats the point and can, sometimes, make a mockery of marriage.

It's true that sometimes we have to break things down when we're attempting to fix things. For example, when I've discussed my marriage with my therapist, we'll often try to hone in on specific behaviors in myself that might be causing an issue. Sometimes we'll pick apart the behavior of my husband in order to understand it better. But I do not pretend that each behavior is independent and cannot have a profound influence on other aspects of our relationship. I recognize that the workings inside a marriage is like a machine with many moving and important parts. It's like a beautiful symphony. Yeah, a symphony! I like the symphony metaphor better...

Anyway, I think this is important to know. I think most people who have successful marriages understand this, too.


So, what does this have to do with my own marriage? Truthfully, I simply don't want people to think that there is one specific way to have a happy and successful marriage. I don't want people to assume that we've figured it all out and are going to spend the next 60 years in pure bliss. I'm happy to share things that I've learned, and I'm grateful people can see that Brandon and I are sincere in our commitment to one another. That doesn't bother me! I promise. I'm always happy to show the good sides of my marriage because they greatly outweigh the bad.

But I don't believe I'm helping people if they only see the good. Honestly, I can't stand reading about successfully happy couples who do everything right, never disagree, have never had an argument, and are constantly blissfully happy --because it feels so incredibly fake. The married couples I know personally (family, friends, church friends, etc.) do not have perfect marriages. I hear about the conflict, I see the struggles. I know it's not easy because it's not easy for me! So, it's hard for me to read articles or posts that tell me these unattainable, unrealistic, perfected marriages are normal and should be easily created.

This is the part where I look like a hypocrite, dear reader, because what is it I share on social media? I'm always accentuating the positive. I share the good stuff, just as much as those essays. Because even though I hate the sugar-coated pretend-stuff, I really do believe we need to focus on the good! I'm also very loyal to my husband. I will air my own dirty laundry, but I don't air his. I am devoted to him. This means I protect the vulnerable parts of our relationship. We can't work through our challenges if I weaken and cheapen them for a few likes on Facebook! For this reason, I tend to share the more positive aspects of our marriage. I think this is why people assume our marriage is so fran-freaking-tastic, and it makes me wonder if I've done a disservice.


I want people to know that our marriage is not always roses. It's not always easy. Sometimes, it has been really, really, really hard! We've had to work through things just like any other married couple needs to work through things and we've worked through a lot in the last 18 years. I've cried myself to sleep. He's stormed out of the house. We've ignored each other, yelled, said mean things, and hurt each other's feelings. There have been times when I wondered if I'd made a mistake. There's been times when he's wondered if he even wanted to come home after work. We've argued about everything a married couple usually argues about: sex, money, parenting, politics, and even religion. My mental illness has been very difficult for both of us! Sometimes him more than me. Having a large family has created very difficult situations and a lot of problem-solving on our part. We don't agree on everything. Our love languages are different. Our personalities are different. We were raised by very different people. Our goals don't always match up.

And because marriage is a connected entity, we could have allowed any of those things to dig in, fester, and then tear it all apart. If one part breaks down, then it breaks down the other parts, right? Isn't that what I've been saying? It is, after all, a very socially accepted conclusion that if part of a marriage feels un-fixable, then it must be un-saveable. Wouldn't my observation about the one-ness of marriage agree with these thoughts? Interestingly enough, no. It's not true.

Each part affects the other, yes. But that is why, dear reader, we can't allow the parts to infect the other parts. We have to fix the infection before it spreads. Once it spreads, it's really, really hard to clean it all up. It's not impossible, just really difficult.

But the point is this: you can fix it before it spreads. That is the goal. This is why it's imperative to understand how marriage is connected in the first place. You can't fix it if you don't understand it! And I think this is why Brandon and I have been able to have a successful marriage --not only have we put loyalty at the top of our priorities, but we've fixed the infections before they could spread too far.


You know those checklists you read from church leaders, therapists, authors, relationship gurus, etc. on how to have successful marriages? They're not wrong, you know. They know what they're talking about. Sometimes it feels trite to follow a checklist, but I think sometimes, we need them. We need guidelines from other successful couples to help us navigate our own relationships. We need experts (therapists, counselors, psychologists) to explain behavior to help us understand how to react (and not react).

You know the forever-used and sometimes-laughed-about triangle? This one:

It's absolutely spot on. It's probably the best marriage advice in the world! Even if you (or your spouse) don't believe in God, if the both of you are moving towards goodness --charity, love, compassion, honesty, integrity, civility, service, loyalty, selflessness, etc. --then you will be moving toward each other. You can't not create a better marriage when both of you are doing this! The marriages that are the most uneven in this area tend to be the most difficult. In fact, abusive marriages often have the abused spouse up there right next to God (because they think they can fix the relationship by repenting more, serving more, loving more, etc. and so they focus on God as much as they can) and the abuser is so far down on his/her side that there's no way they can see their spouse, anymore. The weight of it breaks the triangle. Abusers, I'm sorry to say, are not moving closer to God as long as they are abusing. If they could stop and repent, there's a chance. I wish more of them would...


What else is on this checklist for successful marriages? Here's the not-so-short list that Brandon and I have tried to keep a part of our own marriage. Sometimes, we do this very well, and other times, we struggle. I promise we are not perfect at any of this! Please don't think my writing about this is somehow propping me up as an expert or the guru of marriage. I just like to share the good advice we received and what has worked for us. I honestly believe the following is what people are seeing us do when they say we've got a relationship to emulate:

*Be fiercely loyal to each other. If you have to choose between family members and your spouse, choose your spouse. You left them to marry your spouse and the married relationship is the most important (not the only important! Just the most important). Don't put each other down in public. Root for each other. Cheer each other on and support one another in your individual dreams and goals. This applies to parenting --be a united front. It's okay if kids see you don't agree on everything, but make decisions together and support the decision, even if you don't really like it. Put each other first above everything --even your children. Your relationship is the most important and if it's strong, your children will have much more security.
*Communicate about everything. Everything! You don't have to vocalize every thought (especially if it's mean) and you don't have to share every desire or hope your heart whispers, but communicate about your lives. Sex, money, sex, children, goals, jobs, sex, where to live, each other's families, sex, money, religion, sex, and sex. Dear reader, because sex is one of the most vulnerable and sacred things a human can engage in, it becomes essential for a married couple to discuss it. Nobody is the same. Not every thing will work for every person. Husbands cannot read minds! Just FYI.
*Put God first (see triangle).
*Never, ever, ever assume (this one thing could have saved me a lot of heartache if I had applied it generously). Do not assume feelings or thoughts. Do not assume motives or intentions.
*Forgive. Always. Constantly. Forgive and then forget. Leave it alone. Don't bring up past mistakes when arguing about new ones.
*Apologize. Even if you apologized first the last time. Even if you are the one who's right! Apologize, because you love your spouse more than you love being right.
*Fix the infections before they infect the whole marriage. Are you having financial problems? Hash it out. Are you not liking the way sex is going? Talk about it. Do you want more children and your spouse doesn't? Discuss at length.


*Spend time together! Date night, anniversary trips, sit by each other at church, hold hands on the couch, eat dinner as a family, pray together (we're horrible at this one --isn't that ironic? We really just forget and fall asleep... ), read scriptures together, run errands together, etc.
*Spend time apart! Do things for yourself. Hang out with friends. Follow your dreams. Do things for yourself that makes you happy and don't rely on your spouse to create your happiness. Their simple presence and existence should be enough to make you happy, so don't put all of these impossible expectations onto them; if you create your own happiness, you can share it with your spouse! And chances are, they will want to make you happy, too. Happiness begets happiness. You'll simply be spending time wanting to make each other happy instead of worrying about how they are or are not making you happy. Does this make sense?
*Argue with each other. I don't mean fighting (although that happens) and I don't mean being mean (that's bad, even though it sometimes happens), but don't be afraid to disagree. Honestly, if you never disagree with your spouse, then chances are one of you is being emotionally and mentally abused. Marriage is a beautiful training ground for how to discuss issues in a safe place. If you can't express your thoughts in marriage, then where can you? Your spouse is supposed to have your back in all things, and if they love you as much as they claim they do, then they will want you to speak your mind. Just be kind about it!
*Go to bed angry. Ignore the advice that tells you to: fight naked, never go to bed angry, or never disagree with your husband (GAH! That last one makes me so angry!). Usually, a good night's sleep will erase a lot of anger, disagreement, and/or frustration. The longer you stay up to hash it out, the worse it will get. Go to sleep!
*Be friends. Friendship is much more solid and long-lasting than romantic love, dear reader. Friendship can get you through tough times! Friendship is the breeding ground for respect and loyalty.
*Laugh. Laugh a lot. Make each other laugh. Flirt and tease each other. Some of my favorite memories are simply Brandon and I laughing so hard, we're crying.
*Don't compare your marriage to other marriages, unless it's to look for advice. Especially refrain from comparing to fictional marriage or relationships in books and movies (how many divorces came about because of unfulfilled expectations women heaped upon men after reading romance novels?). Don't compare with your neighbors, friends, or family members. If you are using the comparison simply as a litmus test to see where you are at, that's probably okay, but don't dwell. Your relationship is unique! And ESPECIALLY don't compare your weaknesses to others' strengths. You shouldn't do that with yourself (comparing your weaknesses to your best friend's strengths), so don't do it with your marriage! Some couples have a great sex life, some don't. Some couples have really easy kids, some don't. Some have communication down solid, some don't. Don't allow others' strengths to stop you from recognizing your own!


*Don't sell out early when it gets hard. Be in this for the long haul. You know how the stock market works, right? There are always ups and downs in the stock market --you can't sell out when there's a temporary dip! I read a study where they said couples who stayed in their marriages for more than 20 years discovered that overall, they were much happier than they were at 5 years. It WILL get better. (If it doesn't, there might be abuse or addiction.) I can honestly, truly, cross-my-heart say that I love my husband more now than I did 18 years ago. Truly. Our marriage is so much better than it was even 2 years ago!
*Remember the 80/20 rule: In college, I learned about a study that was done years ago where they discovered (theorized?) that nobody could ever meet 100% of your needs. It's simply impossible. At most, your spouse will probably meet 80% of your needs and vice versa. However, people tend to get so fixated on the missing 20% that they go looking for it elsewhere. This is how a lot of affairs begin. They find that 20% in someone else, leave their spouse, and then discover that the person who had that missing 20% can only give them, at best, 80% of their needs, or just that 20%. In other words, don't leave your 80 for the 20. Focus on the 80! If the 20 is really important, discuss it, seek out a therapist, do what you can to figure it out. But don't think that you'll find 100% elsewhere. Chances are very slim you won't. (*Again, abuse is not part of this equation. It's the only exception.)
*Love each other. This one is kind of obvious, but sometimes it's easy to forget. Tell your spouse you love them. Show them. Tell your children you love their father/mother so much. My grandmother was a widow for more than 15 years when she passed away. She told me when I got married that I need to tell my husband I love him every day, because I will never know if it will be the last time he'll hear it.


I hope you have a good marriage, dear reader. If you don't, I hope you will be able to find one, someday. I'll also pray it's with the person you married! You deserve this kind of happiness. I promise --you really do. 


Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Letter to Depression

Hello, again.

I'm really tired of you showing up uninvited. I don't have room for you in my life, anymore, but you always seem to squeeze right on in, anyway. It's kind of frustrating, because I've worked so very hard, for so very long, to get you out of my life. I think I always knew you would be lurking nearby. And honestly, I'm okay with you living next door, but I wish you would stop coming into my house and making yourself at home. You really aren't allowed to live here --so why do you keep coming back?

I was doing pretty well. Motivation was high, energy was good, and I felt confident I could make it this time. I figured you would constantly call, maybe drag me back a couple of times --catching me in the street and yelling things to make me look back at you --but I didn't think I would let you grab onto me and waltz back in through my front door.

What bothers me the most, however, is how I let you drag me down. I listen to you, even when I know you lie. I let you distract me, even when I know you offer nothing valuable. I take your advice, even when I know it can't help me in any possible way.

If you were a real, tangible, physical entity, I would be able to mark you as an abuser. I could get a restraining order against you. I could cut ties and work through the aftermath carefully and thoroughly. I could find someone better and we could make a beautiful life together, with you a very distant and small memory. But you are neither physical nor tangible, and so I can't call a lawyer and sue you for damages. I can't convince a judge to throw you in jail. I can't even get you on a registry so others will be warned about the personal damage you have inflicted upon my psyche.

You attack my self-worth, how I take care of my physical body, my motivation, my energy, and all of my goals. You rant and rave that I am a disappointment to those who love me the most. You laugh at me when I try to push you aside and ignore all of your lies. You taunt, pull, squeeze, cajole, and finally, when I am spent, I just lie down next to you on the couch, and you wrap your arms around me. We both lie still. I find comfort in the apathy. You find joy in the control.

I've learned a lot from you. I can't deny that you have strengthened me. Every step I've taken to rid you from my life has made me better. Stronger, empathetic, courageous, faithful, even...

But I still hate you.
You are the part of me I wish I could remove.
You are like a cancer that won't let me go.

And I don't have time to let you hold onto me. I don't have time for you to be here! You are a time waster, a soul-sucker, a desire-killer, and motivation-remover. I don't have time for that! I have a life to live! Children to raise! A household to oversee! I have goals, plans, talents to use... I have causes to fight for and people to help. I don't have time for you!

I don't have time for the fight!
I don't want to fight.
I hate that I have to keep fighting.

Why can't you be the one to ever get exhausted by the fighting? The constant fighting. The battle. The duel. The war....

I'll let you have today, then. Just today. Maybe tomorrow as well, since you've already taken several weeks. But soon, very soon, I will post the eviction notice. I'll gather the weapons. And when you think you've got me pinned again, I'll unleash all that I have in my arsenal against you and push you out of my house and my life! Gone! Forever! Never to return!

Unless you just move next door, again.

I'm not stupid. I know you bought that house.

Love,
Me

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Poetry: Refocus

For Brandon and the often overlooked things he does that proves his constant devotion. 

Refocus 

It is an easy thing to overlook true love.
Our eyes are searching for events and objects 
Found in movies, 
Novels, 
And journals bursting with dreams. 

We glance above the hazy reality. 
Our hearts do not notice the consistent presence 
Of loyalty, 
Friendship, 
And dishes again scrubbed clean. 

~Cheryl S.S.
Feb 14, 2017



Happy Love Day, Lovely People!

I love all kinds of love. Romance, especially, makes my heart a bit happy. Enjoy some love, today, dear reader! Even if it's not romantic, love is good.


"Romance is the glamour which turns the dust of everyday life into a golden haze." 
~Elinor Glyn
















And now, for some reality: 



Happy Valentine's Day! 

Thursday, February 09, 2017

What We Fear

We watched Fiddler on the Roof last weekend. It's one of my favorites, and the movie is especially good (Topol, who played Tevye, has always been one of my most favorite performances in all of cinema. He's just believable and endearing!). I was reminded, again, what happens when ignorance and greed take over good people, and then they do things they normally would not do. Usually, mostly, quite often, it's out of fear.

In fact, fear is what led Tevye to at first deny his daughters' wishes to marry the men they loved. But what I love the most about Tevye is that he recognized where tradition and morality (or the right thing to do) collided. Even at the very end, when it seemed he chose tradition over his daughter, we see that he was not without compassion. 

Fear led the Russian soldiers in the village to follow orders and harass the Jewish people. It led them to follow orders to kick them out of their homes. In some cases, that fear led them to hurt them physically.

That was the reason the Nazi officers gave when they carried out Hitler's orders to invade countries, imprison innocent people, use inhumane methods of research on prisoners, and then exterminate more than 6 million Jews, homosexuals, Catholics, and those with disabilities. They claimed that they had to follow orders. 

The world recoiled at the thought: obey orders to hurt people on purpose? Even when it's wrong? 

And yet, look at the world. Past and present, it's full to the brim of people making the wrong choices because their leaders (elected or not) tell them they have to do it --or else...what? The "what" is the key, dear reader. The "what" is loss of income, loss of job, loss of freedom, loss of family, loss of country, and loss of life. The "what" is pure chaos. What will happen if people start disobeying orders?? And the fear of losing those things is so great, overpowering, and in some cases, quite paralyzing, dear reader. It's actually not that difficult to make the leap to making wrong choices in order for self-preservation, and especially, the preservation of those you love. 

When our families are threatened, we do what we have to do in order to protect them, right? The Mama Bear metaphor is quite accurate. Don't separate a mother from her child! She will do what she has to in order to protect him/her. Fathers are the same way --if they have to, they will go to great lengths to provide for their families. They will do what they can to protect them, even if it means going against their own consciences. 

So, what does this mean for our current society? We live in a country that has always prided itself on freedom and liberty for all people --and yet, our actions have never quite lived up to that ideology. Slavery was pretty brutal. Women still being treated as property was bad. We had to go through hundreds of years before people of every race and every gender had the right to vote, own property, get an education, and be hired for a job they are qualified for. I mean, we're talking almost the entire time our country has existed! But we got there, eh? We did it!

Well, didn't we? 

We keep facing situations, as a country, that test our resolve for liberty and justice for all. It's amazing to me that it takes so many generations for people to finally give up the unrighteous traditions of their fathers. Traditions that are so ingrained, to even think about going against them causes a person to panic. Think about Tevye. He was so afraid to go against tradition! Because tradition is what kept their society going. Well, just because something is a tradition, it doesn't mean it should remain a tradition. I keep thinking about the cycle of abuse. There are some traditions we need to destroy, are there not?

I also keep thinking about that fear. The fear that keeps us from progressing. The fear that keeps us from loving. Fear is the biggest reason why we have to keep fighting in this country --and I don't mean physically fighting but fighting against injustices.

What is it people fear, now? What do we fear in our country that is keeping us from loving everyone? We fear equality, we fear terrorism, we fear differences, and we fear compromise. 

How we fear equality: I was born to white privilege. This exists in our country (although not every country, obviously, because the Caucasian race has been mostly central to Western Europe, the British Commonwealth, and the United States) and it's real. Those who tell you white privilege is made up, dear reader, are either lying to you, or have really no comprehension that this is exactly what they have. I don't know why I was born in the United States as a Caucasian. But I was. I no longer ask, "why," and instead I ask, "what can I do?" Because now that I recognize I have been born to privilege, I realize I have a great responsibility to help others who were not.

*sidenote for my Mormon friends: think about the responsibility of the Tribe of Ephraim. Think about it. 

Does this sound arrogant to you? It might. It doesn't make it less true. To be born into a middle-to-upper class white family in the USA is to be born to privilege because it means no doors will ever be closed to me. Being born a woman was slightly less in my favor, but not by much. I've never been harassed because of my race. I've never been questioned for going anywhere. I've never been detained. I grew up in a safe neighborhood in a safe town; I went to a safe university and got a degree. I married a nice man and had a nice family. We live in a safe neighborhood in a safe town --we've always lived in a safe neighborhood in a safe town. 

I was born not just to privilege, but also to a family that valued education, God, and service. But it wasn't until I moved to Philadelphia that I realized how incredibly ignorant I had been about just how privileged I am. What makes me remorseful is that I could have seen that privilege just by walking to the other side of my city and seeing how others lived. "Others" meaning those who weren't necessarily born to privilege. I lived near a Native American reservation. We had many migrant workers because of agriculture. Why didn't I see what was right in front of me? 

All people are equal, right? Well, some of us are born into extreme circumstances. Let's look at some examples:
*Born in an African village with no running water. 
*Born into an affluent family in China. 
*Born into a hovel in the mountains of Chile. 
*Born in the suburbs of a neighborhood outside of Chicago. 
*Born into the royal family of England. 
*Born in the projects of Philly.

We don't choose where we are born. But we choose what we do with it. And for some of us, the ability to get an education, rise up, move forward, and be successful is vastly easier than for others. A really great friend I love and admire mentioned that kids born in poverty in Africa, for example, don't choose that, but that's way worse than kids who are lucky to be born in America --like the projects of Philly. I explained to her that the difference she sees (like I see) is in the opportunity afforded the child. But the problem is that in America, a black boy born in the projects of Philly should have the same resources and the same chances to become what he wants (American dream!) as a white kid born to a rich family outside of L.A. The kid in Africa will not know any different because everyone around him in that village is the same. They are treated the same! They have the same opportunities! Here in America, where we're supposed to also have the same opportunities and treatment!? It's not true. We have punished non-white people to the point that they are reliable on welfare, they live in run-down apartments, they grab any job they can get (and I'm not just talking about one race, here --I'm talking any race outside of white), and their access to health care is abysmal. 

I saw the differences as I was living in my nice big house, on a full acre with a beautiful view, 35 minutes from Philly, because I had two cars and my husband had a great job. Friends I went to church with had to rely on public transportation (or rides from church members), were often watched by the police, lived in constant danger, and were often questioned for their comings and goings, simply because of what they looked like.

And they are Mormons. Chaste, tithe-paying, job-going, school-going, kind, intelligent, talented Mormons. Being watched by the police because they are black. 

So, why do we fear this equality? Because it means first, admitting there is a problem. It means second, doing something about it. People don't want to admit it exists because at the very best, it elicits guilt. Guilt that they haven't noticed it, yet and guilt they don't want to feel, because to feel the guilt means they will actually have to do something about it! And then, at the very worst, they LIKE that they're more privileged than other people. Honestly. Some people are like this. They want to feel like they are better than others. I have no idea why...

Also: Most blue-blooded Americans are terrified of Socialism because they lived through the Communism scare. But that's another blog post... And no, I'm not a socialist. I'm a law of consecration-ist. 

How we fear terrorism: This one is easy. We fear terrorism because of 9/11. We fear it because we see it on the news, everyday. We fear it because our military (our brothers and fathers and sisters and mothers) are fighting it. Terrorism is real, it's scary, and we are absolutely terrified it will come to our country. 

The problem is that it paralyzes us and makes us react too quickly. Such was the case with Trump's illegal immigration executive order. The fear that a terrorist will slip through our security is so real that people are literally screaming to deport Muslims and keep Syrians out of our country. When we step back and watch, it's pure insanity. But that's what fear does to us --it makes us kind of crazy. 

The truth is that not one terrorist act in our country has been caused by a Refugee in decades. Not one. Zero. But people are still so afraid it will happen, they are willing to check their compassion and refuse to help those that are feeling from the terror. I find the whole thing really weird, and yet really telling. Fear makes us do things we wouldn't otherwise do. 

How we fear differences: We fear what we don't understand. We fear those of different races. We fear those of different cultures. We fear those of different nationalities. We fear those of different religions. We fear those who choose differently --fashion, sexuality, family size, marriage or non-marriage, etc. If it's different, if we don't understand, then we fear. And that fear leads to (as Yoda wisely said) anger. "Anger leads to hatred. Hatred leads to suffering." Basically, fear leads to violence, pain, and death. 

Think about it: what are the terrorists fighting against? In reality, they are just afraid that they are going to go to hell unless they do some kind of extreme-nutso-made-up-religious action, like killing all the infidels. Islam doesn't actually teach this, but they've interpreted to be this way. So, they are afraid, and then they elicit fear in the people they are attacking. If the terrorists weren't so afraid of American culture, they'd be out of a job. 

Some people fear abortion because they feel it's wrong or they have never been in a situation where an abortion was even an option. They don't understand it. Some people fear gay marriage. Some people fear it because they feel it's a religious obligation to oppose it and some fear it because they honestly don't understand what it's like to be gay. They don't know anyone who is, and therefore it must be a big joke.

Seek first to understand. Then your fear of the unknown will dissipate. That doesn't mean your opinions will have to change, but you will at least have an understanding and gain a lot of compassion and empathy. That is true charity, dear reader. The ability to have compassion and empathy. 

Finally, how we fear compromise: I've seen this a whole lot lately --more so in the last decade. It's pervasive not only in our culture, but in our government, as well. 

We simply refuse to compromise or come to a civil conclusion. What's right is right and there will be no bending. In some things, this is good, but honestly, in running a country, you just can't do this. There are millions upon millions of people in this country, and not one of them are the same. There are hundreds of cultures, dozens of religions (and non-religions), many ethnicities, and even more differences in socio-economic situations, jobs, education, and family size. There is no way that they will all agree on the exact same way to do things! It's just not possible in this mortal world, let alone in a freedom-of-speech place we live. There has to be some give and take from both sides of the political spectrum. 

But people still fear the idea of compromise because their idea is the right one! Their religion is the right one! Their way to handle it is the right way! To compromise is to lose power --and the fear of losing power is so great, so entrenched in the psyche of the American people, that they can't stand the thought of it. 

I have heard so many people in the last few weeks preach about civility and kindness, and at the same time, they act as if Trump is the savior of us all. I honestly am appalled. I don't agree with liberal agenda (if they have one) and I don't agree with just yelling at each other, but when I see the great hypocrisy coming from my people (ahem, the Mormons), I have to call it out. Do not preach about kindness and then gloat about Trump and his hatred. Do not preach about civility, and then refuse to give some of it to Democrats and liberals. Most of all, don't talk about how to reflect and represent scripture, and then get all passive-aggressive with people that think differently than you. That's a line you don't want to cross. It's a line that will be very, very hard to come back from, dear reader. Do not be so blinded by your loyalty to a political party that you can't see what's happening right in front of you. This goes both ways!

The uncomfortable truth is that Trump loves to plant fear in the hearts of Americans. It's pretty much why he won. He played on the fears I've listed above (along with fear of the shrinking economy, fear of moral issues, fear of insert-what-your-fear-is). He is still playing on those fears, and both sides are buying into it. On the one hand, his supporters are afraid of everything he tells them to fear (the media, the terrorists, the judges, Hollywood, the women's march, anyone who protests anything he says, etc.) and on the other, his critics are afraid of everything he does (including the good things he's done, like nominating Gorsuch to the SCOTUS). 

We simply cannot let fear rule us, dear reader. We can't. 

2 Timothy 1:7 says:
For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
When I read that, I feel a lot of calm. God doesn't give us fear. He gives us power, love, and a sound mind. Power that comes from creating fear in people won't last. It's not even real. That kind of power often creates rebellions against it and is easily lost.

So, dear reader, don't give into fear. Protect the innocent, fight for those without equality, speak out against hatred, bullying, coercion, and illegal activity. Vote for people who represent your values (regardless of party). Don't be so afraid of job loss or jail that you refuse to speak your mind. Do good. Follow God. Have faith. And for heaven's sake, if you are going to teach about love and kindness, then please, follow your own rule! Thank you.

The End. 

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Just Another Brain Purge

Overloaded. That is how my brain feels, right now. I've been censoring myself a lot, lately, mostly because I have this tendency to offend everyone. But keeping it inside isn't healthy, so, hey, why not unload on a public blog that people can still read and still get offended over? Meh.

*We went to Cancun, Mexico and it was fabulous. Here's what we did in a nutshell:
Slept, swam, snorkeled, hiked on ancient Mayan temples, read books, ate yummy food, relaxed on the beach and by the pool, went to Isla Mujeres and rented a golf cart to drive around the island, enjoyed each other's company, and got great tans. I got the best sleep I've had in 2 years! We kind of didn't want to come home, quite yet.

*Toddler girl is now weaned. I had only been nursing at night, but it was all night. She was co-sleeping 3/4ths of the night, too. Now, she sleeps all night in her bed and hasn't asked to nurse even once! She still wakes up a few times, but easily goes back to sleep after I put her back in bed. Last night she woke up only once! We're close to her just putting herself to sleep on her own.  --Side note! Biggest surprise of all is how little emotion I felt at this. She is my last baby. I will never nurse again! I thought it would be more emotionally upsetting for me as I made this transition, but I am just pleasantly happy with the whole thing. I think it has a lot to do with the fact I've been nursing, pregnant, or trying to get pregnant for the last 17 years of my life. I also haven't gotten a full night's sleep in over 2 years (more or less). My body is ready to rest, I think. And since I've had so much peace with our decision to be finished adding to our family, it's most likely been transferred over to this next step... Anyway, it's finished, she's totally cool with it, and time marches on. Oh! Sad irony: for two years, she rarely got sick. First week weaned, she gets the flu. So sad!

*This morning the power went out for 3 1/2 hours. Unexpected and frustrating (first world problems!). I was supposed to make muffins for the snack at preschool today. Luckily, the power came back on just in time and I whipped up some lemon oatmeal muffins. Yum! Except... I don't know why the recipe had the cooking time at 400 degrees for 22 minutes, because I burned them. Why was I not paying attention?? Good question! They're not inedible, but they were not appropriate for preschool, anymore. BLERG. So, I whipped up crackers and cheese (as in, I put together the last of the goldfish crackers, the last of the ritz crackers, and cut up a bunch of sliced cheese). Sigh. Doesn't matter, really, but I was so looking forward to eating muffins without the burn smell!

*I got FB unfriended by someone I've admired for a very, very long time. I found it both comforting (he'd been kind of rude on my posts, lately) and genuinely heartbreaking. What stinks is it was a direct result of using the gospel to pigeon-hole politics. Or politics to pigeon-hole the gospel? Whatever the case, I obviously didn't have the correct opinions. Which I find really interesting, because there is truth, yes, and then there is objectivity in how we react to that truth. Here's the biggest truth: we all want the same things. Peace, prosperity, love, happiness, family, freedom, etc. Where we all differ is in how we go about making sure people have access to these things --and members of the same religion will differ in how they think we should go about it. Honestly, that's all politics are about. But, if there is any greed, pride, selfishness, or envy involved, then things unravel rather quickly, and it's impossible to come to any compromise or happy solution. We have to be able to allow people to state their opinions, even if they differ from our own. We have to be able to try to understand where other people are coming from and not decide that their entire character is to be found in a FB, twitter, or Instagram profile. When we decide that someone is only one facet of their life, then we lose out. It takes A LOT for me to unfriend someone. There has to be great consistency in how they treat me both online and in real life. If the pattern emerges and doesn't get better, then I do what I gotta do. But until then, I simply scroll on past what I don't like.

*I think Trump is a horrible president and all the hope and cautious optimism I held when he took office is gone. Fled. Ran right outta town. He's turning into exactly who I feared he would. And let me just say that the wall at Mexico (which I disagree with) and the refugee halting (which I hate so much) aren't even the scariest parts --it's that he is choosing the worst, worst, worst people to advise him and work with him (Bannon makes me want to scream). The only exception? His Supreme Court nominee. That might be the only good thing Trump has done. Disagree with me? Think Trump is fantastic? That's your right, for sure, but you might want to not tell me in great detail why. I may lose respect for you and then you'll have to unfriend me on FB. Ha! Just kidding! Sort of! *insert awkward smile, here*

*We might get another cat. Blerg. Walter has been so lonely since Kaz died. Did I write about Kaz dying?? I can't even remember the last time I wrote. Kaz died several weeks ago and it was so heartbreaking. He was 17 1/2 years old, so it wasn't surprising, but it was still hard. He had heart/respiratory failure and died within 30 minutes of us finding him (he came up the stairs around midnight wheezing and panting). It was so hard for me to watch. I've never had a pet die (I never had a pet before him) and it was really difficult. It was also really hard on Brandon and the kids. Brandon made a lovely box that we all signed and then we buried him in it near a tree in our yard. Now Walter (our other cat) is lonely and needs a friend. So, we just might have to find another cat. Sigh... I'm just not sure how I feel about it. It's cheaper and easier with one cat. But he wakes me up around 5AM every morning because he's bored. Plus, he'd be much happier with a buddy, that's for sure...

*I discovered my Aura Personality. Kitschy? Too hippie? Well, it's all good. I like the idea that we all have light and that our God is the source of all light. If our Savior is all light (white), then it doesn't seem outside the realm of possibility that we would each bring parts of His light with us --besides the fact that we are all divine offspring of our Heavenly Father, endowed with spiritual gifts unique to our spirits. Anyway, I am rare, I guess. I'm an indigo-crystal with a blue overlay or something (I think I got the wording right?). I've been told to get it tested because it sounds too rare to be true. Meh. We'll see. I'm pretty confident. My pinterest board would agree, too! Ha! Hahahaha! Ha. You can learn more about the book I read right here.

*My therapist has moved me to monthly sessions. You know what this means?! Nothing, really. Just that I'm doing pretty well. I've made some really great breakthroughs this year! Boundaries, letting go, shifting the way I view myself and my past, forgiveness, self-care, and learning to serve others again --I've gained a lot of ground. Considering the fact that I've been seeing a therapist at least every 2-3 weeks for the last 2 1/2 years, I better be doing well!

*My husband is incredible. I love him like crazy. In the last month, he did something really hard (he set a respectful, but very firm, boundary with someone), he took me to Mexico, he took me to a nice restaurant for our anniversary (4 Olives!), and he almost died. Just kidding! He didn't almost die, but on Saturday, we were in the ER because he was having what looked like a heart attack! So scary! Turned out to be a really bizarre result of a flu. He's all better now and doing really well. Also --my husband doesn't always agree with my opinions on politics. He's more apt to question validity of information and leans more conservative than I do. But he has never made me feel bad for thinking the way I do, and we've been able to have some great conversations, helping each other see each side. I swear, I fell in love with him all over again just because of that! People say you can't be married to someone who doesn't have the same political leanings as you, but I'm thinking that's not necessarily true... We agree on the most important stuff, though, so maybe that is what matters most.

*February is the craziest month of all months in our family. We have four birthdays (and one just barely into March). This year we also have two plays, no-school days, recitals, competitions, and loads of appointments.

*I'm a moderate and it confuses people. I refuse to align with parties (in life --on paper, I have) and I am an enigma when it comes to anything political. For example (many):
--I am pro-life. But I sincerely don't think abortion should be outlawed. Illegality creates desperation and doesn't stop certain behaviors; it only makes them more risky. Take prohibition --good in theory, but devastating in skyrocketing criminal behavior. I would rather we focused all our attention and money on making adoption more affordable, educating girls and boys on the consequences of sex outside of marriage, providing good prenatal care and counseling, and even providing birth control to those who want it. Women who have a strong support system, education, and more choices tend to reject abortion in great numbers. Going further --I wish we would support women in giving birth more than we support women in having abortions. Make birth less expensive!
--I believe marriage should be between a man and a woman. But now that gay marriage is legal, I'm not going to fight it. It's a battle that cannot be reversed. And even though I believe in heterosexual marriage, I don't condemn homosexuals for marrying.
--I hate the way our welfare is run in our country. It needs to change. But it needs to change in a way that is both frugal AND helpful.
--I think immigration is good. I think we are all blessed by the refugees and immigrants who come here. Yes, people should do it legally, but because we make it so incredibly difficult, people come illegally. I don't blame them. We need to help them and we do this by changing laws and red tape, not building stupid walls to keep out the people that aren't even coming here, anyway (i.e. there are more Central Americans coming illegally than Mexicans by a landslide). Also, 40% of illegal immigrants come on airplanes (outstay their visas, etc). A wall isn't going to stop that!
--I hated Hillary Clinton's politics. I hated Donald Trump's politics. I don't like Bill Johnson's politics, either.
--I think the best way to solve problems is to look at all the issues. Extremes solve nothing. Extremes only alienate and create gridlocks.
--I vaccinate my children. But I think forcing vaccinations is fascist and I will never support legislation that does so.
--I think public education needs more funding, more options, and less testing. Far less testing.
--Health insurance is crap. I hate it. I wish we didn't have to have it. But that doesn't mean I agree with socialist medical care. I wish we could just pay for the services we need and nothing more. Hospitals and doctors already do payment plans --we could do that without insurance jacking up all the prices! Once, when we didn't have health insurance (many years ago), our pediatrician had a specific price for the uninsured. For an appointment that included vaccinations, it was $47. When we had insurance, the cost would have been $250. Think about that for a minute...

*I teach primary and I think it's a lot of fun. The kids are so eager to learn and they are so trusting! I thought I would be sick of it by now, but it's not so bad. I guess I'm just fine being in mom mode all week long. Who knew?

*I thought I would have many more piano students by now than I do. I wonder if I was too optimistic? I've had zero calls about accompanist jobs, too. I may need to make more of an effort, but it's hard not to get discouraged. I should be grateful I only have five students right now, because it's easy to juggle. But ideally, I would love 15.

*I started wearing my fitbit! Yay! I've also been doing yoga and eating less and guess what?! I've gained five pounds. Figures.

*I love the gospel of Jesus Christ so much. The end.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Balance

"When things change, or when you have to adjust things because of change, it doesn't mean that what you were doing up to that point was wrong --you were doing what was right in the time it was right. But as things shift, and you change to accommodate that shift, the new patterns are also right. It's not about right and wrong, so much as it's about the ability to adjust with life as it continuously changes. Because it will always consistently change." 
That is my poor, poor attempt at quoting my therapist. That was the meaning of what she said, but I can't quote her directly, because it was more of a conversation between the two of us. I wanted to share it, though, because I feel it's imperative to understand what she told me. I need to be reminded, constantly, as I re-wire my brain, that change is okay. 

Life feels like a constant balancing act. That metaphor (simile?) has been used a lot, but I think it's apt and relevant. Shifting direction, thoughts, schedules, actions, plans, opinions, goals, etc. are necessary throughout life because it will always be changing. Those who refuse to allow the change, who hate the change, who fight the change --they are usually very unhappy. But those who embrace the opportunity to grow and welcome adjustments tend to be much happier. 

I want to do well with change, but my mind doesn't like it. Moving is brutally hard for me. Having a baby is also difficult. Choosing to stop having babies was a hundred times harder! I like to plan for things (I really like plans) and it's taken me a few decades to embrace spontaneity and change. Luckily, I married a man who is good at this, and he's helped me understand how much better it is to go with the flow sometimes, rather than stand against the waves (and then be angry I keep falling down). 


However! When my therapist and I were talking about adjustments, her main point (for me, since, you know, she's my therapist and all) wasn't the importance of shifting, but the importance of not feeling guilty for needing to adjust. I have this attitude that if something is true, it needs to always be true. With the gospel of Jesus Christ, it is this way. With my self-worth, it is this way. But for most things in life, truth can shift and change. 

For example, about 8 years ago, I requested that my husband be home from work at 6PM for dinner with the family. It wasn't a hard request and he even agreed to it. But almost every night, he was late. He would walk in after 6pm or even 6:30pm. He always told me when he was on his way home, but by then, dinner was ready. I was so angry for so long! I couldn't believe he was doing this to us! He claimed he got pulled into meetings and emergencies last minute, that he tried to get home on time (and sometimes he did), and I just figured he didn't want to eat with us. Well, I did some praying, and I was inspired to chill out and shift dinner. Who cares when we eat dinner as a family? Isn't the point to be together? The kids could have a snack at 4PM and then we could eat closer to 7PM, or whenever he could get home. Guess what happened, dear reader? He was magically home on time to eat dinner with us every single night. And my anger disappeared. 

Because I chose to adjust, everything worked. I could have dug in my heels, but then I would have continued to be angry all the time. What was more important to me --my husband eating with us, or my idea that it had to be at 6PM? Once I answered that question, the behavior change was easy. 


It's not always that easy, though. 

I have spent years re-wiring my brain to embrace the subtle shifts of change in my life so I might better balance all the responsibilities I have to myself, my family, and loved ones. And guess what, dear reader? It's finally working. Here are some examples of how I have found balance:

*The first thing I would say is that I have included God in everything. I have always done this, although not always well, and although it was hard and I didn't want to. Even when I was at my lowest low, I still prayed. Even when I couldn't feel the Holy Ghost, anymore, I had faith. I have always kept the gospel and my testimony close by, even if I ignored it at times. Yes, it would ebb and flow. But I would fake it until I made it, and dear reader, that was definitely the right choice for me. Choosing to put God first in my life has made the rest of the goodness that followed possible! I don't know why I have been so good at this when others have not (could not?), but I am grateful. I know faith is a gift. I don't take it for granted.


*I've embraced agency. I recognize what an amazing power it is to choose! Even the smallest of choices can bring about good things in my day. I read something a friend wrote about how some days she says the words, "can I just do this?" when she's trying to accomplish something that feels overwhelming. She found that when she did that, it had a snowball effect into other things and the difficult tasks suddenly weren't so hard, anymore. Like, "Can I just get out of bed and go use the bathroom?" goes to "Can I just take a shower?" to "Can I just make my bed/clean up my room?" and before you know it, you're already on your way to having a very productive day. Another example: "Can I just read four verses in my scriptures?" or "Can I just empty the dishwasher?" or "Can I just answer one email?" 


*With the power to choose, I have learned how to identify shame. Shame is what has crippled me and aided to my depression for years and years. Learning I am, in fact, not a bad person, has enabled me to make much healthier choices. Guilt still happens, but it's far less because I used to confuse guilt and shame. Guilt is for sin; guilt is for things I know I should apologize for or change. Shame just blocks me from feeling the Spirit and making good choices. 


*I do not beat myself up over things I have to adjust. If I can't exercise one day, I don't throw in the towel and decide I can never exercise again. If I binge eat sugar one day, I don't berate my lack of self-control --I just choose to eat a good meal next time. If I have to adjust the timing of when I eat a meal, exercise, clean, do laundry, etc, I no longer panic or give up. I just adjust as needed and move on. (Please notice, dear reader, the words, "no longer." This is imperative for you to understand because it means I used to do this. Often.) For example, I have been practicing yoga every morning (2 days last week and 4 days this week). This morning, I really wanted to do yoga, but I had an important meeting. I couldn't do both. So, without guilt or shame, I chose the meeting. Does this mean my body will never recover? Does this mean I should just give up? Of course not! I'll just practice yoga this weekend or start again on Monday. 


*I am learning to forgive myself for the past. This one has been harder than I thought it would be, because for so long, I felt like forgiving myself for the past meant admitting I was a complete failure and nothing I did was right or true. I have held myself hostage with current knowledge and past naivety. I can't judge how I acted then with the knowledge I have now, dear reader. How ridiculous is that? I don't judge my 4 year old the same way I judge my 15 year old, because I know a 4 year old doesn't have the same capacity to understand as a 15 year old. This is why we have juvenile court and adult court. This is why we have age limits. This is why we can plead insanity. But I have deep, deep regrets for how I've treated people (who have probably forgotten all about it) and I care way too much about how people from my past may perceive me now based on what I did then. To move past this, I have to forgive myself. 



*I'm pushing myself to do the things I've always loved; the things that have brought me joy and happiness, but I have neglected because of shame, fear, depression, humiliation, and more fear. The anxiety I would feel at putting myself out there has been reduced, and so I am giving myself permission to feel joy, again. Making an effort to feed my body and soul each day gives me more confidence to face my daily challenges, not to mention how much happier I feel!



*I choose not to be obsessed about my body. I exercise, I try to eat healthy, but it is no longer the main motivation of my life. For years it was all I thought about --even when I was at my heaviest and I wasn't exercising or eating right. When I was focused on weight loss and eating well, I focused on it. When I was heavy and gross, I would focus on it differently --I would ridicule myself with shame. Getting to a point where I recognize that my body is to be used for good things, that it is a gift from God, that a certain shape, size, or way of looking means absolutely nothing to my overall happiness ---oh, dear reader, I wish you could understand that kind of freedom. I still struggle with it, though. I really do, I probably always will, but it's nothing like it was. Now I know that when I feel shame about my body, it's coming from Satan. And then I tell him to go back to hell (I know he's just jealous)! I have a glorious body! I want to take care of it --not obsess about it. Balance.


*I am practicing patience with others. Practice doesn't mean expert, of course, and so I still fail. I have, however, noticed that I am more forgiving and patient with people overall. I'm better at seeing things from different perspectives. I'm making opinions with more information and thinking the best of people more often. It's showing up in every aspect of my life, too --children, marriage, friends, church, online, etc. People who know me may not see a very big difference (maybe not at all?), but I feel it. Practice, practice, practice...


*I have chosen to be okay with imperfection. This also goes along with the point that I don't give up just because I fall down occasionally. Being imperfect means I'm learning. It means I'm growing. It means I actually care to try. Refusing to try means I'll never grow. And dear reader, I'll share a secret with you: sometimes, trying means just getting out of bed. Sometimes, trying means choosing to get off the computer and practice my piano. Sometimes, it's as simple as choosing not to respond to negativity. Sometimes, it's refusing to speak badly about myself. Trying doesn't always have to be something grand. Trying means you're moving forward.




What have you done in your life to find balance? 

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Stuff I Learned in a Couple of Decades or Experience Teaches Well

Twenty years ago, I was a senior in high school (I know I've mentioned this more than once, but I'm a nostalgic person. It cannot be helped!). I've learned a great deal about myself and life since then, and I wanted to get some of it down on paper (electronic paper?). 

Here are some very (unsolicited) important things I have learned in the last 20 years that I feel have been vastly important not only for my own personal growth, but for any progeny coming behind me who might like to know how to navigate what is before them. This list is personal; I don't assume to have all the answers, dear reader. 

*God will absolutely give you more than you can handle. He will always do this. Why? Because if you could do it all on your own, then why in the world would He have sent you a Savior? We are given more than we can handle alone so that we will turn to Jesus Christ and allow Him to carry the burden He's already paid. Learning to turn to Christ is probably the very most important lesson I've ever learned. Hands down. 

*Loving people doesn't mean you have to agree with them. In fact, you can hate everything they believe, everything they do, and everything the say --and still love them. Love isn't agreement. Love isn't even support! Love is seeing people as God sees them, acknowledging their agency, mourning with them, and serving them when you can. Example: I do not agree with or support same sex marriage. But I will never, ever, ever, speak unkindly about someone who is in a same sex marriage. Another example: I will never, ever, ever agree with abortion. But I will not condemn those desperate women who choose to have one. Love can mean boundaries. Love can mean distance. Love can mean teaching. Love can mean ignoring. Loving someone is never about denying your own beliefs; it's about denying your pride. 

*What you focus on expands. The more you complain about something, the more negative it will become. The more patience you have, the greater peace you will feel. If you focus on the positive and good aspects of something (relationship or situation), it will become positive and good. This has been termed the "self-fulfilling prophecy." Basically, if you want your spouse or your children to be the great people you believe they have the capability of becoming, then treat them that way. If you nag, complain, murmur, get frustrated, yell, whine, and be passive-aggressive, then this is the kind of family you will have. I know this, because I used to (sometimes still) do this. But I also know that if you give trust, bite your tongue, choose to accentuate the positive, refrain from publicly complaining, acknowledge your own weaknesses, apologize, and just try to be cheerful, miracles can occur. People will always reflect back to you what you give to them! Especially children. Especially spouses. But you could take this to another level, too. If you focus on the good in your job, your roommates, your church assignments, your schooling, your parents, your siblings, your home, your entire situation --you will be much, much happier. 

I remember once, in high school, reading about how I can choose my attitude. I could choose not to be angry. I thought it was insanity! Of course I couldn't control my attitude --my feelings just happened! Now I know it to be very, accurately, painfully true --you have the power within you to choose your reactions. You have the power to choose your attitude. Feelings may come and go, but you don't have to actually act upon them, and when you do, sometimes, you've just become your own worst enemy. 

*Self-care is not selfish. Sacrifice can be good, especially if it's in a situation where your service will not only bring about good things in front of you, but good things inside of you. However, there is very little room for life-long martyrdom without a glorious cause. Mothers struggle with this the most, I think, because the very nature of motherhood is to sacrifice herself for the benefit of the children and family. There is absolutely nothing wrong, demeaning, or anti-feminist in a woman who makes sacrifices for her family --especially when she has chosen it! But mothers need not take it as far as they feel they must. And they cannot help their families when their own well-being is shaky. We learn in the church that self-reliance is a must. We cannot lift others until we have lifted ourselves a little bit. So do you want to know what I do for self-care? Every day, I do at least 2-3 things that bring me joy. I also go out with girlfriends. I go to therapy. I take long, hot showers. I read. I write. I create. I play music. I do yoga. I simply do things that make me happy, and then I can, in return, give happiness to my family. There is a fine line, for sure, between self-care and selfishness, but with prayer guiding you, you'll know where that line falls. 

*If you need help, then ask for it. Sometimes, you will need help. It doesn't matter what kind --you'll need help. Self-reliance and self-sufficiency are good, but there's a reason we have each other. Don't you dare be too proud to ask or accept help from others. You need a ride? Help after a baby is born or a surgery? Need to know how to do something? Need to borrow something? Have questions? Just ask. And then think of it this way: if someone were to ask for your help, wouldn't you be willing to help? Then let them help you, too. This also applies to religion and God. You have questions? Ask them. Wait for the answers. 

*There is a pendulum and you do not want to be on either side. Some people will call this fence-sitting, but I see it as something different. The goal is to hit the bulls eye, not to deviate away from it. You will face issues in your life that will have all kinds of extremes and many of them are full of lies. Here are several examples of things that have two extremes: 
Self-sacrifice vs. Selfishness
Modern medicine vs. holistic medicine
Liberal vs. conservative
Prude vs. addiction (or "frigid-house-wife" vs. Pornography)
Letter vs. Spirit (of the law --like Pharisees vs. no consequence religion)
Stress vs. procrastination
Vegan (extreme) vs. carnivore

You can pretty much find any extreme in any part of your life. Moderation brings the most health, the most logic, and from what I've found, greater access to the Holy Ghost. This isn't to say you can't pick a belief (please do!), but don't be swept away by the extremes. 

*What is right for you may actually not be right for someone else. This is tricky (most things are) because I do believe there is a right and wrong. However, how we do things are not the same --nor were they meant to be the same. I'm mostly speaking about grey-area issues that end up being debated ad naseum in social media. For example, how you feed your baby, where your kids go to school, what political party you belong to, which diet you prefer, what clothes you wear, where you live, which kids you vaccinate, which cars you drive, where you donate your money, what exercise you enjoy, what books you like to read, where you go to university (or if you dropped out or didn't go), how you spend your money, and where you go on vacation. Just because you have decided that home birth is not right for you doesn't mean it isn't right for someone else. Just because you vote democrat doesn't mean those who don't are evil. Make decisions based on what is best for you and your family, and don't let others tell you it's wrong (unless it is wrong --like, seriously, addictions, abuse, etc. --not cool, not right, definitely not a grey-area issue!). But make sure you give the same privilege to others, too. If you can't stand that the woman next to you is breast feeding her child in public, then you get to just avert your eyes and walk away because her choice has nothing to do with you --and her choice is not wrong. It's just different. 

*Society's views on beauty are outright lies. Don't buy into it. It's honestly just a bunch of crap. Women, especially, have to be very careful about what they believe. If it is costing you a vast amount of money and a ridiculous amount of time to put products all over your body in order to look like someone else (that doesn't exist), then you need to stop yourself and think about it: how is this helping me be a better person? Help others? Love the body God gave me? The media has done a huge number on women for centuries --we're always being told what to wear, what to buy, what to do, what to sacrifice, and all for what? A completely unattainable persona that doesn't exist in real life. It's okay to be clean (please take a shower!). It's okay to dress nicely (modest, clean, happy clothing!). It's also okay to want to wear make-up or do your hair (within reason). Being creative and choosing clothing that makes you happy is not bad! But don't you dare buy into the lies that you have to wear the latest trends, be a certain shape, or surgically change your body in order to be something else. Those are Satan's lies. He doesn't get a body, dear reader, and so he wants you to destroy yours! He doesn't care how you destroy it. Drugs, alcohol, over-eating, not-eating-enough, surgery, tattoos, piercings, cutting, dangerous activities, hiding it with dyes, makeup, and clothing... just as long as you hurt yourself (inside and out), Satan will be happy. But you, dear reader, are beautiful just the way you are. You are beautiful without all the product and clothes! I mean it! When I rejected the idea of what beauty was supposed to be, I felt like flying! I love my body. I love what God has given me and what my body has been capable of --beauty is in the eye of the beholder, anyway. And I know I'm beautiful! I look nothing like the magazines, movies, or make-up ads. Nothing. But that doesn't matter, because I am beautiful. I have stopped buying the lies --you should stop, too! 

*Your marriage is way more important than your parenting. I understand that for some, this might not be true. Abuse happens and it's wrong. If you are in an abusive relationship, I would beg (seriously beg) you to get out as fast as possible. If not for yourself, then for your children. With that said --if you are in a pretty good marriage, don't ruin it by focusing all your attention on your children. Your kids are going to grow up and move away. They will be gone. You will be left with your spouse and if you've spent the last 30 years ignoring him or her, you're going to be pretty surprised by how hollow your marriage will be. This is why I would encourage all married couples with children (no matter the income, no matter the situation) to go on weekly dates, sit next to each other at church, go to bed at the same time, and go away on vacation once a year (at least one night). People have judged me for years for leaving my kids up to 14 days in order to go on vacation with my husband. But it's been so important to our relationship! Spending that time together to be intimate without worry (which kid will wake up and come knocking at the door), reconnect, spend time talking, laughing, exploring, sleeping, and just being together --it's so important! If you want it badly enough, you'll find the babysitters to watch your kids. Weekly date nights are also really important. You don't have to spend money in order to have a date. Just spend time together! Wait until the kids are in bed, and then do things together you don't do every day. Make your marriage a priority, and you'll be less sad when the kids all leave the house. 

A few other tidbits I don't feel like explaining at length that I may or may not still struggle with, but are still important things I've learned:

*Don't fall on the martyrdom sword and then complain that it hurts. 

*Pray every day. All day. 

*Nature is the best place to re-focus. 

*Your body houses your spirit, so take good care of it. 

*Everyone should have a therapist. 

*Do not gossip. At best, you feel bad. At worst, it ruins lives. 

*Drink water. If you can, drink only water. 

*Make your space (home, room, apartment, desk at work, etc.) your own beautiful space. 

*Keep learning your whole life through reading, classes, study, faith, prayer, clubs, and schooling. 


What kinds of things have you learned in the last 20 years? What would you add to my list?