Monday, June 25, 2012

Thoughts on Owning our Choices...

I think I speak for a vast majority of the human race when I say that we don’t like to hurt physically or emotionally.  It is one of the most basic instincts we have. Most of the time, it only takes one time of experiencing a particular kind of pain for us to figure out what we need to do to avoid it. There is an industry worth billions of dollars dedicated entirely too alleviating physical pain. People become addicted to drugs, alcohol and compulsive behaviors trying to avoid feeling pain. Mostly, we just want to stop hurting. And we are willing to do whatever it takes to avoid hurting in the first place.
For me, right now, it’s all about looking forward and considering how choices I made in the past that caused me pain can be kept from repeating themselves.  I’m interested in moving forward, but feel trapped by my past. Specifically I worry about choosing another husband. I do not want to go through what I have been through previously. I had 2 men in my life whose poor choices caused me to suffer.

And I hereby proclaim that I am too old for suffering. I won’t have any more of it.  At least not that type… since I can so accurately pinpoint its origins to two poor choices on my part, right? And so I have been analyzing most thoroughly those two rather significant choices and what it was I did wrong that caused me to hurt so much. There are so many questions.What signs did I miss? What whisperings of the spirit did I not pay attention to? What did I do wrong that caused this and how can I avoid it in the future?

Okay, now before I go on, there are few things you need to understand foundationally about the way I believe things work.

  1. I think our ability to choose is one of the most important things God gave to us. It is the key to his plan of bringing happiness and salvation to all people. We get to choose. He will not force anyone. 
  2. Even more importantly, we are responsible only for our own choices. We must own what we choose. But we do not have to own what others choose, even when they are as close to us and their future is as intertwined with ours as a spouse. We are not responsible for their choices.
  3. I think God knows us. He knows what choices we are most likely to make, and can see then end from the beginning.  He knew Paul would do what he did, that Dave would be what he was.  He also knows me and how I would most likely react to these situations. 
  4. I think that pain and suffering is, unfortunately, the only way we grow and learn. A great quote, “It is when we are at our lowest point that we are open to the greatest change”. Therefore, trials and tribulation are an absolute necessity in this life if we are going to become anything or anyone of consequence or value. 
  5. Back to the potential thing; since God knows what we CAN become, He also knows what experiences it will take for us to change those parts of ourselves that we need to in order to become that. Does that make sense? It’s like a master sculptor who sees a block of granite and knows instinctively what work of art is hiding in that gray, hard mass. And since he knows what he is creating, he knows where to chip, where to cut, where to carve, where to sand… It’s the same with us. If we permit it, he will sculpt us. It will hurt, but it will be worth it if we let Him bring out the masterpiece in each of us.

Summary: God knows us. He loved us enough to allow us (ALL of us) the freedom to make choices. Since he knows what we can become, he allows trials and tribulations to be part of our lives and we experience pain and suffering as a result. None of like to feel pain and when we define an experience as painful, we will do whatever we can to avoid having that same or a similar experience again.

Okay…so now we’re are all on the same page.
So I keep wandering what choices I need to make differently next time in order to avoid pain. Because obviously, if I experienced pain, I made a bad choice…right?
Actually, for the first time pretty much in the last 15 years I can say this with some kind of conviction.


What? What is that you say? But you CHOOSE to marry two people who ultimately made bad choices. You could have avoided that pain and suffering if you would have been wiser and made a different choice for yourself!

Well consider this… when my grandparents got married in 1951, I’m pretty sure God already knew that my grandfather would die at the age of 53. That death and the illness that came before it caused a lot of pain and suffering for my grandparents…for our family. My grandmother has been alone for 26 years. It’s hard. So, since God knew that this relationships would cause suffering, my grandmother should have listened to the spirit closer and made a different choice that would cause her less suffering.


Our answer would be… of course not! Why not? Because the choice to get cancer and ultimately die had nothing to do with my grandfather’s freedom to choose. It just happened.

So why is that type of suffering more acceptable and we own the pain of it far less then suffering brought on by the choices of others? Isn’t pain always pain, and suffering always suffering regardless of the source? If the pain we suffer is as a result of someone else’s choices while they exercise their agency…somehow we the sufferers should have known better and it becomes our poor choice.

Because someone exercised their freedom to choose, we should have been warned. If we subjected ourselves to that, it obviously means we simply weren’t listening. The fault for the suffering becomes ours.

No one, not a soul, blamed my grandmother for her suffering (which no one should). But if the idea was to avoid suffering, shouldn’t she also have been warned and perhaps have made a different choice?

So as I was processing these thoughts, something rather revolutionary occurred to me.

I didn’t make bad choices. I can honestly say I felt right about making those choices. They seemed right for me at that time even though they ultimately led to suffering. This particular suffering looked like the garden variety of abuse and living with a person who was mentally unstable. But it could have looked differently. It could have been suffering brought on by illness or other factors. But it wasn’t.

And do you want to know why? Because those specific experiences are what I needed to be sculpted properly.  Because of those trials, I have a rather extensive list of things that I am, things I know and things I understand because of them.

By saying I should have been wiser and made better choices and that those choices were the direct result of my suffering says two things. First, that I am somehow owning the choices made by that person (that somehow my involvement made them do what they did). This is ridiculous. I did not make either or those men do what they did. And second, that all of the good that came from that, had no purpose or meaning and those lessons and that growth were an accident.

I don’t believe either of those. But I do believe this. If I stay as close the spirit as possible and focus on my personal righteousness…I will make the choice that will be for my ultimate good. And I will be responsible for that choice only and no one else's.

Diary of a Single (Child-less) Mom

So the past 7 weeks, I have experienced something unlike anything I have ever experienced before. For the first time ever in my life, I have been alone.

And it kind of weird.

I am, by nature, a social person. So being alone isn’t necessarily my favorite thing to be.  

Don’t get me wrong, there have been many times as a single mother that I have YEARNED to be alone. Just for a day. Just for an hour. For 10 minutes so I can go to the bathroom.

I had dreams of what it would feel like to be alone. I imagined constant peace and tranquility. Oh, the sweet, sweet freedom that would be mine if I was alone. The things I could do! The places I could go! The food I could eat without fear of it being devoured by a teenaged son when I turned around away from it for 10 minutes!

It was my perfect vacation. Alone time.

When I moved into my condo the beginning of June (I had previously been living with Garrett and Mandy) my dream vacation became a reality. And for the first 4 or 5 days, it was as amazing as I had hoped. I did what I wanted, when I wanted to.  I went places that I felt like going to when I felt like going to them. The couch was mine, my bed was mine, my room was mine, the TV was mine. I didn’t have to do anything I didn’t want to. There was no whining. No arguing. No Spongebob Squarepants in the background. No one standing outside of the bathroom door asking for something or complaining about someone. 
Actually, there wasn’t much of anything.

Except an exceptional amount of silence. 

That got old real fast.

Suddenly, there wasn’t any reason to come home because there was no one there. No one to greet me, to smile at me, to hug me. There was nothing to do because there wasn’t anyone to do anything for. No one needed me. And I was used to being needed.

And it was during this time that being alone started to get on my nerves that something became very clear; I wasn’t meant to be alone. I wanted to be a mother. I loved being a mother. Even more, I loved being THEIR mother. I needed my kids. My life was not the same without them. I would not be who I was without having them in my life. Not having them felt empty.

It was an epiphany. And part of the reason I am writing it down and preserving it on my blog is because I know that at some point in the future I will NOT feel this way. And on those days when I am overwhelmed and frustrated and tired, I want to look at that paragraph again and remember how it felt to be without them. Maybe I can be renewed in my conviction to be as good a mother a possible if I can remember.

Okay, so part one to the story is I want my kids and I want to be a mother. Part 2 of this story, however, is that even once I realized it, and acknowledged the emptiness…I decided to take advantage of the situation instead of wallowing in the loneliness. 

And so I decided to have adventures. They are simple adventures really, but they kept me occupied. And they mostly rotate around people that I love and have had the chance to connect and reconnect with. So that mean they haven’t been meaningless experiences, but rather enriching ones. 

Here’s the list…

  • Go to the temple with Grandma Thacker and Garrett. Met a 95 year old man who goes every Friday, and was walking faster than the rest of us.
  • Dinner with my dear friend from high school in Evanston, Brenda Smith. We had a wonderful time at Zuppas, reconnecting and talking like we’d never been apart. It was really great.
  • Dinner at Cheesecake Factory at City Center with my friend Emily Anderson. She’s trying to finish a divorce up, and it’s nice to be able to spend time with her and talk through things both of us are dealing with.
  • Dinner with Emily at Thanksgiving Point at the Harvest Restaurant and the movie “Brave” afterward.
  • Midsingles Talent Show with my cousin Susan. Dinner at Kneaders beforehand.
  • Also spent the night at Susan’s and went to her Midsingles ward with her the next day. That was…interesting.
  • Dinner at Zuppas with Susan and my new friend Amy Beenfield (from Ohio!) and then a session at the temple with Susan, where we saw my dad’s brother. 
  • Volunteered at an event associated with a program at United Way. Great time chatting with a couple of interns who are very nice indeed. Connected with a nice black lady from Cleveland who joined the LDS church and then moved here where she met her husband. We exchanged numbers.
  • Spent an afternoon with my grandparents and another evening. Enjoyed a chat with them.
  • Went to Heber with my Grandma Thacker and Aunt Joyce to get flowers off of the graves. Interesting history lessons ensued.
  • My Grandmas Thacker’s 80th Birthday Party!
  • Temple Session with my cousins Ethan Gale and his wife Hillary. Dinner afterwards at Golden Corral.
  • Met Dave’s parents at his grave on Memorial Day. Did you know Polynesians hang out all day their loved one’s grave and play games and have a BBQ?
  • Stopped for an afternoon in West Valley and visited with Erma, Dave’s mom.
  • Several fabulous Sunday dinners at my aunt and uncle’s house (Pam and Gary)
  • Davey Glove’rs missionary farewell in Morgan. Lovely visit afterward with my Grandma T.’s brother Lynn and his wife Eileen.
  • My cousin Kade’s pre-wedding dinner (Hawaiian theme!)
  • Kade’s wedding and reception.
  • My cousin Dixie’s wedding. Dinner at Maddox in Brigham City afterward with Grandma T, Pam and Gary, my cousin Mandy and her 2 kids and Susan and her mother Donna.
  • The Avengers with Garrett.
  • The Avengers with Garrett and my friend Brian. We walked into a restaurant beforehand that was serving everyone for free that day. I had already paid for the movie tickets. The boys ended up paying for nothing.  Seriously?
  • Papa Murphy’s and an evening of visiting with my brother Bryant.
  • My sister Amy’s birthday with a Twilight cake.
  • Temple session with Brian and then dinner with my Grandma T., dad (who was here for her birthday), Bryant, Garrett, Mandy, Amy, Ben and Sara.
  • The Farmer’s Market in SLC and the Chalk Art Festival at the Gateway. Oh, and” Iggy’s” for lunch, Orange Julius just because, and “Men In Black 3”. All in one day!
  • Lunch with Hayley Bisseggar (used to be one of my young women) and lunch with John Lenahan (because he’s fun and random and I needed me some Ohio).
  • Game night with Kerry (Lenahan) and Tim Flanagan. John was “sick” and couldn’t join us.
  • Brazilian food night with my cousin Casey Broderick and his wife Becky. Becky used to teach Home Economics in High School (although it’s called something else now) and the food was fantastic.  We also played games, which was fun.
  • Just the week before Kade’s wedding, we had a girl’s game night with Angela, Michal, Grandma D., Amy, Mandy, Becky and me. It was fun!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

"Do or do not. There is no try..."

Okay, everyone...seriously EVERYONE, who has literally breathed on this planet and not been living under a rock should know that phrase.

If you don't...well...then you have no business being on my blog.

Begone I say!

Just kidding. Come back. I'll help you out a bit. 
Here's a hint :

So just to make sure we are all on the same page here (O ye under rock dwellers!), this line is from The Empire Strikes Back. Luke is under the tutelage of the minuscule yet remarkable Yoda. He's been working hard (or so he thinks), he thinks he's better then the task and is getting frustrated with Yoda's methods. They seem pointless to him. He feels like the little things Yoda asks him to do are beneath him and he wants to get to the meat of the situation and get this training started! Well, one day while training, Luke's frustrations boil over into anger when his starship airplane thingy is sucked under the muck of the swamp and seems gone forever. Yoda tell him to use the force and get it back. Luke "tries" and then because he lets his emotions overwhelm him loses focus (FYI, this is a continual problem with Luke)...he ultimately fails. Since he fails, he declares it is "impossible" then goes and sulks on a rock saying he's "trying". Yoda makes the clear and very relevant statement above. Then,while Luke sulks, little tiny Yoda reaches out his hand and does what Luke had already determined was impossible. 

So what, you may ask, does this have to do with learning to sing in the lifeboat?

Let me tell you. 

This little phrase came up as part of conversation with a rather wonderful friend of mine. We were talking about not being perfect. More specifically, I was lamenting how I make mistakes. I really don't want to make mistakes. I try not to make mistakes. But I do. And so often, I make the same ones over and over again. And I get frustrated with myself. Sometimes I even go sulk on a rock. 

My friend pointed out. "But you try."

I shrugged my shoulders. Yes. I guess. But "trying" for some reason, seems so passive. And noncommittal. Like the pre-planning stages of thinking about doing something.

That's when he brought up this phrase (I speak geek, so I caught it right away.)

"Maybe, its not just about the trying. Maybe its about doing. I think the right word is 'striving'."

He's pretty smart that one.

There was something wonderful about the thought, but I still wanted some clarification. I felt like it was on the edge of something very useful and applicable. So I did the only thing I could...I became cliche and looked the words up in the dictionary.

Turns out he was even smarter then I thought.

It turns out "trying" is an attempt. Another definition gives an interesting twist to the idea..."to taste." So trying is more of "tasting" change. Even though it is effort, the effects are intended to be very short term. Its very noncommittal. Its dipping your toe in to see if the water is the right temperature.

Striving, on the other hand, is "trying" taken to the next level. It turns out "striving" means to make great efforts to achieve or obtain something. AND to struggle or fight vigorously.
Now THAT's commitment. Its effort with vision and intent. Its jumping in all at once no matter how cold the water is. 

If what I want to see in my life is change (even the little ones that seem to be hovering around the edges), I have to commit to act with purpose and promise...I should be able to focus, letting my emotions (anger and frustration) slide away so I can accomplish my goal.

I may get that starship out of the swamp yet.

What if I love him?

"Since it requires the extension of ourselves, love is always either work or courage. If an act is not one of work or courage, then it is not an act of love. There are no exceptions." 
M. Scott Peck

Maryn had been asked to babysit for this family in our ward with 2 little boys. This family is particularly special, because they have a 4 year old boy who is autistic, and they were just informed weeks ago that he has a very aggressive form of Muscular Dystrophy. The prognosis is that he will be wheel chair bound by the time he is 7, and leave this earth by the time he is 12. He is the sweetest, cutest little boy. His eyes are bright and he always has a smile. A spirit just emanates from him that is astonishing.

The night before the job, she came to me in my room. She was nervous. I thought maybe she was nervous about meeting his needs, or afraid she wouldn't know what to do. I counseled her to ask his mother detailed questions so she would have tools to manage any situation.

I was surprised when she responded "I'm not worried about THAT mom."

Me; "Oh. Well then what are you worried about?"

Her eyes filled with tears and she spoke softly. "What if I love him, mom? What if I love him, and then have to watch him die?"

My eyes also filled with tears.

I took her hands, "Sweetheart, it is never a waste to love somebody. People you love change who you are. And even if you only get to love them for a short time, it's worth it. Go ahead and love him. He's going to need people who love him."

Maryn has experienced first hand the pain of someone you love leaving you. She knows how it hurts. But I also knew that I never wanted her to go through life afraid to create relationships out of fear of pain. I hope she always has the courage to love.