Saturday, February 17, 2018

Life: Sometimes it Sucks

“Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.” (2 Nephi 2:25)

I truly believe that scripture is true. But I also know that life isn't one joyful moment after another – there are a lot of not so great moments sprinkled in that come with great pain and heartache attached.

Right now is one of those times when the fact that life isn't fair is 'in your face' and joy seems distant.

Flying out to Utah with the Knight family for a funeral for their 12-year-old daughter Madi, who just passed away from a brain tumor, I heard some lyrics from a song I love. However, these words hit a little too close to home today:

Call it a feeling, call it a premonition, things are about to go my way....some see a cancer killing me, I see a couple I.V.'s that I'll use then I'll beat...”
      - Looking Up by SafetySuit

Except when it doesn't, like this time.

More song lyrics come to mind:

Words fail...words fail.”
      - Words Fail Dear Evan Hansen

But, I'm going to try to use a few words to process what I've been feeling.

A few weeks ago I listened to a TED talk about the power of emotion that has been on my mind since. One of the big take aways is that there is danger in false positivity. I find this to be both powerful and comforting. We can, and should allow ourselves to feel emotions, to express them. We can, and should, “...mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort...” (see Mosiah 18:9). And that is hard, and it hurts, but doesn't mean not having hope or seeking for peace.

A reminder for how, and where, to find peace came in one of the most spiritually powerful moments of my life. There were about 30 young women and their adult leaders who came to sing to Madi. The spirit in that room was so powerful, it was palpable. Many cried as they sang or heard the repeated words:

When there's no peace on earth, there is peace in Christ.”
      - Peace in Christ

I am grateful for the kind of relationships in this life that make us hurt when bad things happen to people we love. Not that I want bad things to happen, but that I want to care about people so much that I do hurt when they hurt.

I am also grateful for the Atonement of Jesus Christ. I am grateful that He came to earth and gave His life to make it possible for all of us to return to live with God after this life.

While it doesn't make the pain go away, there is great power in knowing that we are eternal beings and our family relationships will last beyond the grave.

Praying for peace in Christ for the Knight family – and all those who love them – at this time when there is not peace on earth.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

There's a Hole In My Bucket

I've been thinking about the difference between identifying problems and solving them.

Lately I feel like a natural at identifying problems. The other day I even caught myself saying something like, "I don't have a solution for it, but..." and launching into a complaint about something I wanted to have go away.

When I looked back at that moment, I didn't like the way it made me feel. Identifying problems is all well and good - but I found myself dwelling on them. Feeling stuck - not mulling over how to solve them or what I could do to make the situation better.

All this brought to mind a song, and a specific time I used it to solve a problem.

The song: "There's a Hole in My Bucket" which catalogues Henry's woes about his bucket with a hole in it and Eliza's attempts to resolve each problem (lyrics below).

The story of how I used it to solve a problem:

I was babysitting while in grad school and the little girl had thrown a fit and chucked markers around. Once she calmed down, I explained that she needed to now pick up all those markers she had thrown. Of course she wasn't happy. She started whining to me that she couldn't do it: there were too many, one was under the couch and she couldn't reach it, it was too hard for her to do by herself...and on the list went.

For each excuse I offered a solution: I could help her find them all, we could get something long to help us reach under the couch or move it out...

As we kept going in circles, it made me think of the song. So I started singing it. We were both laying on the floor and her sullenness melted away as the song went on and on.

Now, I doubt that this 4-year-old girl had any idea the connection I had made between the current situation we found ourselves in and the song, but she loved it. So much so that when the song was over she asked me to sing it again. So I struck a deal - I'd sing it again if she would pick up the markers while I sang. (Full disclosure: I knew that this little girl loved songs, and I was pretty sure that singing would help calm her down and distract her :)

There are times in life when I will be Henry - cataloguing my woes, complaining to someone else and throwing another probelm in the face of every solution they profer me.

There are times in life when I will be Liza - listening to each problem and offering a solution no matter how many new problems come up.

And sometimes I might even be both.


There's a Hole in My Bucket

There's a hole in my bucket, dear Liza, dear Liza,
There's a hole in my bucket, dear Liza, a hole.

        Then fix it, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry,
        Then fix it, dear Henry, dear Henry, fix it.

With what shall I fix it, dear Liza, dear Liza?
With what shall I fix it, dear Liza, with what?

        With straw, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry,
        With straw, dear Henry, dear Henry, with straw.

The straw is too long, dear Liza, dear Liza,
The straw is too long, dear Liza, too long.

        Then cut it, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry,
        Then cut it, dear Henry, dear Henry, cut it.

With what shall I cut it, dear Liza, dear Liza?
With what shall I cut it, dear Liza, with what?

        With an axe, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry,
        With an axe, dear Henry, dear Henry, an axe.

The axe is too dull, dear Liza, dear Liza,
The axe is too dull, dear Liza, too dull.

        Then sharpen it, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry,
        Then sharpen it, dear Henry, dear Henry, sharpen it.

With what shall I sharpen it, dear Liza, dear Liza?
With what shall I sharpen it, dear Liza, with what?

        With a stone, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry,
        With a stone, dear Henry, dear Henry, a stone.

The stone is too dry, dear Liza, dear Liza,
The stone is too dry, dear Liza, too dry.

        Then wet it, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry,
        Then wet it, dear Henry, dear Henry, wet it.

With what shall I wet it, dear Liza, dear Liza?
With what shall I wet it, dear Liza, with what?

        With water, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry,
        With water, dear Henry, dear Henry, with water.

In what shall I carry it, dear Liza, dear Liza?
In what shall I carry it, dear Liza, in what?

        In a bucket, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry,
        In a bucket, dear Henry, dear Henry, in a bucket.

But there's a hole in my bucket, dear Liza, dear Liza,
There's a hole in my bucket, dear Liza, a hole.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Waiting to be Commanded in All Things?

With my life in transition, I've been thinking a lot about how to make decision - specifically the role of making my own decisions vs asking God for confirmation that I'm making wise and productive decisions.

The awesome thing about personal revelation is that you can receive direction in life.

The hard thing about personal revelation is the potential danger of waiting around to be told what to do.

As I was thinking in circles about this, the following scripture came to mind:

26 For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward.
27 Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness;
28 For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward.

Time to get doing!

Friday, July 8, 2016

Fun Home

A friend and I were talking a few days ago and she said, "You don't have to destroy people's souls for art."

I've been thinking about that a lot. It came back to mind after I saw Fun Home on Broadway too. Art can be very powerful, and provide a great medium/ venue for exploring topics and situations that can be hard to talk about or process. And it doesn't have to destroy your soul - it can inspire our souls and help us feel greater compassion for others.

As a little overview, Fun Home is a show based on a graphic novel memoir about a woman who grew up in a "dysfunctional" home and deals with topics including homosexuality, suicide, adultery, and the power of communication, or lack thereof. The production shows the main character at three different times in her life, jumping back and forth between childhood, college, and the present (around 42 years old). I'll try not to give away too many plot points, but feel that having some background is helpful and necessary.

There are some powerful comments made about time - looking back and trying to understand things:

"Across oceans of time to get here."
"Dig into what is true until now grows into then."
"And then it's now"

As Alison tries to process and make peace with her past, and realizes that time can play tricks on you, it reminded me of a similar concept conveyed in Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger:

"It seems to me that when you look back at life, yours or another’s, what you see is a path that weaves into and out of deep shadow. So much is lost."

In addition to the theme of time, I was also struck by a comment to Alison from her father:

"I can't see the point of putting a label on yourself."

That idea is all well and good, but we do put labels on ourselves - and on others - all the time. Maybe part of the point is liking and identifying with the labels we have.

This makes me think of You Are Special by Max Lucado - a book about a village of wooden people called Wemmicks who spend all day putting stars (good) or dots (bad) stickers on each other all day.

One Wemmick named Lucia doesn't have any dot or stars - they don't stick to her. A Wemmick named Punchinello who has lots of dots and is very sad asks her why dots don't stick to her, and she tells him to go visit their Maker. He does. When Punchinello asks why Lucia has no stickers the Maker softly tells him, "Because she has decided that what I think is more important than what they think. The stickers only stick if you let them."

We all need people in our lives who help us feel special, to highlight and remind us of the wonderful things about us, just because we are who we are.

But perhaps the thing I've been left thinking about most is the idea of how powerful, and hard, talking can be. Especially to those we are closest with. And how dangerous, and potentially damaging, not talking can be.

As Alison put it in Fun Home:

"Say something - talk to me!"
"It doesn't matter what you say, just make the fear in his eyes go away."

I think this feeling is also very well captured in some song lyrics - Say Something by A Great Big World:

Say something, I'm giving up on you

And I... am feeling so small
It was over my head
I know nothing at all
And I... will stumble and fall
I'm still learning to love
Just starting to crawl

Say something, I'm giving up on you
I'm sorry that I couldn't get to you
-Say Something by A Great Big World 

Why is it that often the people that are hardest to talk to are the ones we are closest to?

Despite all the challenges of life, I found  a ray of home in another line from Fun Home: "Every so often there was a moment of perfect balance."

May we all find those moments of perfect balance - build on a expand them. That's my wish.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Look Up!

There are two experiences from the past week that relate to the idea of "Look Up!" (which refers to a song lyric from my childhood, but I'll get to that...)

Yesterday I was walking along Central Park West: It's the day before the 4th of July and there are a million tourists in New York City. One of them was a little girl on a bike. It has a bell on it, which she rings as she runs her handle bar into my leg from behind. A second after that, her father says, "Allie, pay attention!"

Despite by bruised leg, it was a good remind of the need we have to "Look Up!" in this world. And it reminded me of a song my dad used to play all the time when I was a child:

Look up! Look up!
The stars in the heavens cry out!
Look up! Look up!
Your course does not lie on the earth or the sea,
it lies in the heavens above;
look up! Look up!

Look up by Stephen Kapp Perry

This idea was  also driven home while I was volunteering as a group captain for Youth Conference (where my church takes the 14-18 year olds on a faith promoting trip each summer). The youth love to leave New York City and have a chance to see other places. We took them to a retreat in Lancaster Pennsylvania where there were stars and campfires and ziplines and fresh air and no tall buildings. It was awesome.

On the second day, in one of the classes, the teacher asked if anyone had seen the stars the night before. Several youth excitedly chattered about how many there were and how inspiring it was to see them. The teacher went on to compare the feeling of seeing all those stars to feeling God's love, knowing He is there in our lives, and using that as a barometer. Out in Lanchaster we could see countless stars. This has always helped me feel closer to God - seeing His creations, trying to wrap my mind around all that He is capable of - while still being aware of us each individually, it is truly awe inspiring.

In contrast, the teacher asked how many stars we can see while we're in NYC. The answers: "I've seen three one time." and "I think the 'stars' we see in the city are actually planets, right?"

The analogy/ challenge the teacher then gave is something I've been thinking about since: If we feel like our closeness to God is more like only seeing two or three stars (or planets :) in NYC, we should ask to feel the full majesty of His love for us. He's our Father, He wants us to know and love Him. He wants us to feel His love. And all we have to do is "Look up!" or in other words, get on our knees, close our eyes, bow our heads, and ask - He will answer.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Random Thoughts on Making a Difference

I'm cleaning up and purging things from my life. In doing so, I've come across some fun scraps of paper and notebooks holding my thoughts and feelings. This one was worth sharing:

We may be tempted to think we can’t make a difference, or at least not enough of a difference, but because we know the teachings of Christ we can overcome this mindset. Christ was about the one. If we can help one who without us would be in trouble we have made a big enough difference. You never know how the person you have helped will help others. Your influence will affect eternity, your own and those around you, but it may be in the eternities that those effects are made known.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

What kind of waitress am I?

Years ago I heard a story that has always stuck with me. It goes something like this:
There were two aspiring writers who were working as waitresses at the same restaurant. One of the women was always complaining about her job and talking about how what she really wanted to do was to be writing. She went home tired every night with no energy to write and could see no end to her miserable cycle in sight.  
The other woman talked to all of her customers and often jotted down notes about conversations she had and ideas that the experiences of her customers inspired. Every night she went home excited and with new ideas and materials for her writing.

In my life right now, I'm asking myself which waitress I am more like. I know I want to be more like the waitress who goes home excited and inspired. 

Tonight, I was showing some friends some of the projects I've been woking on (a scarf for my brother, and cards to sell on Etsy) and one friend said, "how do you find the time!?" and another said, "I know how, she doesn't waste any time, she sits in the back of class and knits."

While I do waste plenty of time, I think this exchange is a good indicator that I'm at least trending towards the happy waitress approach to life – I'm working hard to make some of my dreams come true. I'm striving to find things to be positive about and motivated by. And, overall, I think it's working!