Saturday, December 8, 2012

Little Lonely

I'm probably being shallow and/or just a baby. But I guess one thing I miss about being single is having lots of friends around. I love Z to death and beyond, and wouldn't trade my life with him for anything. But being married means I have 1 roommate instead of 5, and old friends are either busy, live far away, or are single men who don't associate with me anymore... The first two groups are definitely the majority. My family ward is much less social (and much more transient) than my singles ward was, so it's hard to make friends there too. Since I don't see friends much anymore, I've been relying on getting hits on my blog and checking facebook for any kind of validation through social interaction, which is really lame and pathetic. I probably need to make new friends, but that's scary, and the best friend I have in my new neighborhood has 2 kids and is moving this month... It's hard for me to make friends in my classes because I'm shy and most of my classes are so big that I'll only see the same person a few times during the semester. My dance classes are usually my best option; this semester though, I'm not making any guy friends because I'm married and guys don't want to have fun dancing with married women (guys were the people I had put most energy into befriending before getting married, so they reflect the biggest change); the best class I have for making friends in is my country dance class because 2/3 of it is women, and it's a really relaxed, fun class. I think I've made a few friends in that class - even some guys who are willing to laugh with me and aren't afraid of asking me to dance - but I'm afraid that none of the friendships with anyone are deep enough to survive past finals; I took too long to stop being shy and didn't take time to invest myself in those friendships (the fact that I've hardly seen any of them outside class doesn't assure me much). Z and I see his friends on campus sometimes, which is fun and lifts my spirits; my friends are all gone though. Sometimes when I'm in a hyperbolic mood I feel like I have no friends and that Z is the only person who cares about me. I'm not sure what to do yet, but I really hope things will get easier somehow.

--I don't feel like this every minute of every day, but it gets to me fairly regularly, usually when I feel a lack of things to do or things that are immediately interesting.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


Love this video. To paraphrase a quote, "There would be no Christmas if there were no Easter. Christ would have been just another baby born one night if it weren't for His divine mission in mortality that culminated in the events of Easter morning." I like that although this video doesn't show the crucifixion or resurrection, it does portray other parts of Christ's mortal ministry, reminding us why His birth was such an anticipated and monumental event. Merry Christmas, and remember the reason for the season.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Score! Hallelujah! Joy!

I have an awesome life.

I have Christmas lights up in my house.
I have a wonderful-beyond-imagination husband.
I'm listening to the Christian Contemporary Christmas station on Pandora.
I'm eating ice cream.
I made an awesome dinner tonight. And there are abundant leftovers.
Husband loved said dinner.
I'm making good progress on the biggest Christmas present.
I've got a direction to go in my family history.
I've got some busy but exciting classes to look forward to.
My calling is making more sense now.
I have good friends.
I have an awesome family.
I'm feeling a lot better than I have in a long time.
God still loves me.
I got a fun, new haircut.
I have a warm apartment.

Life feels really good tonight.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving: Days 29-30

Day 29: I'm grateful for free haircuts and pleasant company!

Day 30: I'm grateful for opportunities, and I hope that I get better at taking them.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving: Days 27 and 28

Day 27: I'm grateful for the gift of the Holy Spirit, conferred on me when I was 8 years old. I'm grateful for its guidance to and confirmation of truth. Even when my mind is swirling with questions and doubts, the Spirit nudges me in the right direction, and I'm really grateful for that.

Day 28: I'm grateful for technology to communicate with my distant family. I'm grateful that I can ride my bike with my husband to class. I'm grateful for cute clothes that make me smile. I'm grateful for stores so I can buy things I can't make. I'm grateful for the variety of friends I have, and especially for the time I get to spend with them (which has become much less frequent, unfortunately). I'm grateful that my husband is my best friend and fantastic for inspiration and counseling. I'm grateful that I was raised in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and know where to go for truth and reassurance of my value and purpose in life. I'm grateful to be feeling better today than yesterday.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving: Day 26

I'm grateful that I finally listened to my mom this year and saw a doctor about my ankle; I learned today that if I hadn't seen a doctor and gotten surgery, I would have needed my ankle joint fused for arthritis before I was 25 years old. 8 months post-surgery and 20 months post-injury, I have an estimated date of complete recovery - about 4 months to go.

(For readers who are unaware, I got a 3rd-degree sprained ankle 20 months ago and didn't see a doctor until a year later, when I learned that I had broken as well as sprained my ankle. Because it didn't heal right, I had surgery to fix it, and I'm still healing.)

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving: Day 25

I'm grateful for the little miracles every day, especially when we're doing the Lord's work. Writing in my personal journal and our family journal, healing some old wounds, and discovering ancestors that I feel connected to today.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving: Days 21-24

Day 21: I'm grateful for Z's zeal in keeping our sink clear of dishes and organizing the rest of the house. It's a great blessing for our home.

Day 22: I'm grateful for my big family and the fun we have.

Day 23: I'm grateful for perspective that tells me there's more to life than the present moment.

Day 24: I'm grateful for creative endeavors, and the fact that many Black Friday sales continue through Saturday, after the initial madness has died down ;)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving: Day 20

I'm grateful for a job that helps pay the bills, that challenges me, and that gives me a chance to interact with so many wonderful people. I've definitely stressed about it more than once or twice, but it's a good place to be.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving: Day 19

I'm grateful for "second chances." I had a professor be very kind and nonjudgmental with me today when I forgot something silly, and in talking with Z about this new blog, I feel hopeful that I'll have a second chance with sorting out my education and career goals; it feels really humbling and peaceful.

I started another blog today that I'm using as a tool to sort of turn my academic life around. I started looking at post-graduate plans and it didn't look so hot with my current skill set, so I'm enacting plans to change that.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving: Days 16-18

Day 16: I'm grateful for opportunities to serve.

Day 17: I'm grateful that laundry only took 2 hours while I was distracted by a good book.

Day 18: I'm grateful for the extra time that Z and I had today to work on our family history; we played around on the new Family Tree website (ultimately going to replace New Family Search) and found some really cool names and connections. There were a lot of obvious inconsistencies and a few jumps, but Z found some of his genealogy lines that went back to the Biblical patriarchs and back to Adam. Following genealogy is a good way to learn history!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving: Day 15

I'm grateful for doctors and medicine. I can't say enough about this doctor that Z and I have each visited once now; Dr. R is the kind of doctor and advocate everyone should have. Hopefully getting the prescription will work out and this 3-week cold will be better soon! I am seriously impressed with this man's skills.

Seriously... He listened to my breathing, looked at my throat, and looked in my ears, and was able to assess what was going on and give me a prescription for some antibiotics. No fluid or tissue samples, no lab tests - just looking at generic symptoms. Maybe it's just been a while since I went to the doctor because I was actually sick... But I think it's so awesome that that's possible. Irregular internal noise while breathing = bronchitis, but not pneumonia, red and angry tonsils in my throat with a kind of nasal drip that rules out allergies, fluid but no infection behind my eardrums, and a duration of illness that rules out viral infections. How cool is that, that after non-invasively examining only three parts he can figure out from the thousands of options how I'm sick and the best way to treat it? Admittedly, I'm also glad for the diagnosis partly because it means that I'm not just being a wuss with a drippy nose. But additionally, he was very friendly, plain, empathetic, understanding, open, flexible... He also promised to help us if any of the treatments were expensive or inconvenient. What a physician! THAT is what every doctor should be like. Seriously.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving: Day 14

I'm grateful for the Atonement - Christ's suffering and intercession on my behalf - that makes it possible for me to change; the number or degree of times I mess up doesn't change His willingness to bring me back. I'm still learning what it means, but I'm grateful for it.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving: Day 13

I'm grateful for the extra sleep I got this morning when someone accidentally showed up to sub for me at work, especially because I've been feeling sick and the extra sleep was wonderful, and because she still wants to cover me next week!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving: Days 9-12

I went for a weekend without internet, so here are my catch-up days.

Day 9: I'm grateful that I got practice driving in the snow and that we traveled safely.

Day 10: I'm grateful for the opportunity to visit another temple, especially because I got to see my cousin married in the same room as my parents and grandparents were.

Day 11: I'm grateful for learning from older generations; I attended church in a fairly homogenous group of older, conservative, white descendants of pioneers, and we had a discussion about how we need to drop labels and see each other as Americans and children of God.

Day 12: I'm grateful for our bodies miraculously working nearly-perfectly nearly-all the time; I'm more aware than usual of my body's weaknesses today.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving: Day 8

I'm grateful for the fortuitous timing of events that will enable me to see my dad this weekend!! That news came as a surprise a couple days ago.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving: Days 6 and 7

Day 6: I'm grateful for fortuitous tender mercies, like Z and I falling asleep on accident after a stressful evening.

Day 7: I am SOOOOOOO grateful for the temple and how it centers me, calms me, and boosts my faith; LDS temples are a great place for learning who I really am and what I have to look forward to.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving: Day 5

I'm grateful for awesome music. Mormon Tabernacle Choir pandora station gave me some good peace tonight.

And can I just say how EXCITED I'm getting for Christmas?? When I start thinking about putting up Christmas decorations, I try to remind myself that it's not even Thanksgiving yet.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving: Day 4

I'm grateful for extended family, especially when they live close by, and for the extra love, friendship, and role models they offer. Thanks for letting us visit.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving: Day 3

I'm grateful that Z and I don't need to worry about going hungry and that our cupboards are full.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving: Day 2

I'm grateful for my husband. I wanted to save this for our "x-month-iversary," but today I'm especially grateful for how consistently supportive he is. I never thought I would end up with someone who believes in me more than I believe in myself, and who loves me and makes me feel like a princess every day. He respects me, works alongside me, washes almost all the dishes, comforts me, and laughs with me. Z is more than I could have hoped for in a husband, and will certainly help me get the places I want to go. I'm grateful for our life together, and for the indescribable blessing it is to be his wife.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving: Day 1

One of my old roommates is doing a "30 Days of Thanksgiving" series on her blog for the month of November, and I thought it was a great idea! Here is today's entry:

Today, I'm grateful that my brother got home from his mission safely, and I'm grateful that I have such an awesome family. I can't wait to be with them at Christmas! Even though we're growing older and spreading out across the country, we're still finding ways to be close to each other. And this is true of my in-laws as well as my born-into family.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

This Blog's Purpose

There are a couple reasons I haven't written much for this blog lately. The first and most obvious one is that life has kept me fairly busy for the last few months (it's great, I'm finally learning how to use my time effectively, but it means I have less time on here). The second and more subtle reason is that I've failed at the very thing I started this blog for - focusing on the good things in my life and sharing the happiness with others.

I think it's been simmering under the surface for a while, but here are some of my symptoms:
- A recurring focus on disappointments
- Comparing myself to others, in that I think they're fine and their faults are fixable, while mine somehow aren't
- Doubting God's ability or willingness to forgive me and heal me
- Generally doubting my ability to do anything significant or meaningful individually
- Generally doubting my ability to make a difference in other people's lives
- Being afraid of going outside my "bubble" and doing new things or interacting with other people

My husband, Z, loves watching TEDtalks, and I've listened to a few with him. One that we listened to last week that I thought was super interesting talked about a "happiness hierarchy," if you will. The speaker broke down happiness into three types: pleasure-happiness, get-lost-in-your-work-happiness, and my-life-has-meaning-happiness. The curious part of it was that pleasure-happiness (the more fleeting happiness, like from savoring a chocolate-glazed doughnut) only makes a difference in overall happiness when it's in combination with the other two; by itself, it can't sustain a person. So when you feel hollow and depressed about life, the solution isn't more of those amazing doughnuts, the solution (when you have normally-functioning brain chemicals and chemical receptors) is to become more involved in things outside of yourself.

Thankfully, I'm coming out on the upside of this experience. Slowly, one tiny experience at a time, I'm getting better. A cozy, uplifting conversation with my husband. Sincerity in praying for someone else. Expressing genuine gratitude in prayer. Feeling accomplished after cooking a creative dinner. Getting a good night's sleep. Feeling appreciated by someone at work. Talking with someone who is happy to see me. Focusing on the positivity of these brief, scattered moments is rebuilding my patience with myself and my relationship with my Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. Frustrating things still happen, but as I dwell on them less and return my thoughts to at least midline, life is getting better. I'm feeling happier and more confident. The Atonement of Jesus Christ makes it possible for us to try again - because of Christ's love, I can have hope. The possibility is always there - Christ is always willing to receive me - but I have to choose it. I'll never be happy until I'm willing to work for it and adjust my attitudes; I need to be the one to "make happy" in my life.

Here is the TEDtalk, via YouTube. Martin Seligman, "The New Era of Positive Psychology."

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Fall Update

Hopefully this won't be my only update this fall, but Fall semester has started! It's certainly a new start in many ways. The end of my undergrad schoolwork is nearly in sight, living farther from campus means I'm packing lunches and spending most of the day there, and being married is certainly different from being single. The fun parts for me are wifely duties - working on thriftiness, frugality and sustainability, and developing my relationship with my husband.

I'm having so much fun in the kitchen, it's ridiculous. I have noble aspirations for other housekeeping things like cleaning and organizing, but I get frustrated or overwhelmed by those more easily. Z and I have been extremely blessed to have generous family members and access to farmer's markets and the excess harvest from neighborhood gardens, so we've had a wonderful abundance of fresh fruits and veggies lately. Some we have to use quickly and others we're freezing to use when veggies get more expensive at the store. Either way, a lot of it is food that I haven't cooked with much before (and often I don't have all the ingredients that various recipes suggest), so there's lots of room for creativity. One recipe I quickly fell in love with was for zucchini muffins. Pinterest - the online clipboard website - has been a great tool for me when cooking. I can collect recipe ideas, link to helpful sites, and find graphics to learn what food is in season when or what substitutes I can use in baking. We bought a bread maker at a garage sale and I've been playing with that as well (I would love to switch to homemade bread, if the loaves would last longer than 2 days before they're gone!).

Getting to know my spouse better has been the happiest thing in my life. I value his happiness, which means that I need to take care of myself, and that I need to actively love him. Love really is a verb, not just a sentiment or feeling. He is better inspiration and motivation than anything I had before. We have so much fun together, and together, our lives feel more meaningful. I could go on, but being married to Z certainly is changing my life for the better.

Bottom line is that God is certainly working with us and blessing our marriage. Life is pretty awesome right now.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

I'm Married!

The reason I haven't posted in over a month is because I went off and got married. I thought I'd share some of the things I've pondered and learned in the meantime.


- On one hand, being legally and religiously bound to each other and spending all of our time together growing even closer than before feels perfectly natural. On the other hand, introducing each other as "husband" and "wife" sure takes some getting used to!

- Z and I have talked about how being married has changed our relationship. There's the added security that even if one of us screws up and is a jerk sometimes, we'll never leave each other. We're able to love each other in new, fulfilling ways that bring new opportunities for problem-solving together and enjoying one-ness together. We're even more of a team than we were before.

- Being with my immediate family before the wedding was also interesting. I love them to death, and that's never, ever going to change, but my relationship with them is evolving. My family members felt that too, and dealt with it in a variety of ways. My youngest sister hung out with Z and I most of the time, which I'm super grateful for; I think it was really good for both of them to deal with the adjustment and to become more integrated into the family. My brothers don't talk much about feelings, but they seemed pretty chill. My other sisters talked to each other about it, and my parents requested more hugs than I can ever remember them initiating. Z and I spent time with his parents much more frequently, so I think they got a head start on adjusting to a new family member.

- There's been a lot of love associated with the wedding festivities. Z and I feel so grateful to all of our family and friends who came to the ceremony and/or the reception/open house. We're humbled by the outpouring of love and generosity with the cards and gifts from people who couldn't attend but who still wanted to remind us of their love. I feel touched by the effort that went into the planning and execution of the reception, in helping everything look beautiful, run smoothly, and keep people well-fed. I can't wait to get back to our apartment, put our home together from all the gifts we've received, put up some family photos, and eat some of the leftover reception treats.

So, being married is great. I love how much more Z and I can share our lives now, and I'm excited for the increase in our creative potential, for working together to help people and build the lives we want more than we were able to singly. Let the married adventures begin!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

How to Love a Fiance (even when it's hard)

This topic requires careful consideration and discussion, but I think the principles involved are helpful for anybody and everybody in their relationships.

Figuring out how to balance regular life with wedding planning has been a struggle for Z and I. I'm more focused on the immediate deadline of the wedding celebrations, and Z is more concerned about our long-term sustainability, which two goals are sometimes at odds with each other (for example, when I take work off frequently to work on wedding details). Meeting both of our goals has been a logistical and emotional challenge in our relationship, and we're making some meaningful, happy progress on it; these are some of the principles that have been led to our success.

Be willing to sacrifice.
Prioritize together.
Respect and love each other's differences.
Be selfless and compassionate of your partner.
Focus on the positive and remember your progress.
Be willing and quick to forgive.
Realize that you will naturally have some friction with everyone you're close to; your relationship depends on how you handle that friction.

Continue reading if you have the energy for a longer-winded how-to expansion of the preceding ideas. :) And feel free to comment if you have any additions to this list or similar experiences!

All of these work together and overlap in their applications. If you are selfless and full of love, individually and in your interactions with each other, the rest will follow. Making sure that you communicate honestly and be patient with each other also makes a significant difference. If you want to be happy and satisfied, do things to make your partner happy. Make sure that they know that you love them even when you disagree with each other; learn to speak their "love language" so that the message gets across. My dad's advice was, "Make sure you agree on the important things; if it's not something important, then it doesn't matter if you disagree." For me, it helps to remember that both Z and I are full-fledged human beings, each with a full and complex history and with nontrivial opinions and desires; if I want my desires to be respected, then I need to offer that same respect to Z (be willing to sacrifice and compromise!). An important lesson that Z learned during his time as an LDS missionary was that there are often many ways to be right (a "my way or the highway" approach most often results in lonely failure and selfishness).

Here's a great quote from LDS President Gordon B. Hinckley in 2003:
I have long felt that the greatest factor in a happy marriage is an anxious concern for the comfort and well-being of one's companion. In most cases selfishness is the leading factor that causes argument, separation, divorce, and broken hearts.
It's a great talk, and he says this in talking about loyalty to your spouse. If you consider it all together - love, loyalty, sacrifice, selflessness - it paints a very doable, happier version of marriage than we often see. So these are my ramblings and thoughts as Z and I work together to build a happy engagement-almost-marriage. Getting close to wedding day! And we're growing closer and more harmonious every day.

Monday, May 7, 2012

A Glimpse of Love's Journey

It's really cool for me to see how the love between Z and I is growing. To think how far we've come over the years, since we met... it's pretty amazing to me. A couple songs that have been significant to us as a couple have been by a group called The Icarus Account. First, it was the song "Favorite Girl":
I said oooh, I think I love you... My favorite girl. It's funny how love takes you by surprise, and I just didn't know what was missing 'til you opened my eyes... Don't you know she is my favorite girl, I want to run away for days with her. And if you promise not to say a thing, I'm gonna buy that girl a diamond ring.
We really liked that song for a long time, and it's still special to us for that reason. Now, the song "Keeper of Your Heart" as become more appropriate as we've fallen more deeply in love.
Love has its seasons and reasons for leaving; love takes its chances and leaves answers that we don't understand. I'll be the keeper of your heart so even when love goes, you'll know that I'll walk with you along this road... And love will take until you give more, and hearts will break until we restore. So ain't that what love asks for? No, this love, it always gives more.
For us, it just says "Life is going to be hard together, but we'll always be together and love each other." (Jason Mraz's song "I Won't Give Up" is another that does the same for us). I just love how much we're growing together and teaching each other. One of us is always strong when one is feeling weak, we're constantly increasing our sensitivity to each other, and we're building a life and philosophy of service together. When we're actually married... I can't yet imagine how much closer we'll feel, and how much more love we'll feel for each other. It's hard to think of more than what we have now.

We're getting married in an LDS Temple, which includes a ceremony to seal Z and I as husband and wife for eternity. That means that if we keep our promises to God and to each other, then our marriage will continue after death. Z and I are both intelligent people who could probably choose any career in the world, but the one we're most excited for is parenthood. Not only does a temple sealing unite husband and wife, it also connects parents with their children forever. Being married in the temple means that we get to be parents for eternity! I can't think of anything more blissful than being with my family (the one I was born into, the one I'm choosing, and the one I'm creating) forever and ever and always :)

Monday, April 30, 2012

Faith, Works, the Atonement

Joseph Smith, the first modern prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, went through the Bible and through the power of the Holy Spirit and the authority of his assignment, retranslated parts of the Bible that had been inconsistent or confusing. Here is one example:

Yea, a man may say, I will show thee I have faith without works; but I say, Show me thy faith without works, and I will show thee my faith by my works.
My bishop (equivalent to minister or pastor) shared the story of a lesson he taught a children's Sunday School class to illustrate this principle, that we need faith and works together.

With the class full of children, he turned off the light and said, "Ok guys, I need you to use your faith to turn the light back on." Many of the kids bowed their heads and concentrated, but the room stayed dark. He repeated, "You must not be using enough faith. Try harder!", and more of the kids concentrated and he could tell they were praying hard. When that didn't work, he asked one child, "Can you walk over and flip the light switch?" He explained that even though we can't see electricity, we know it works. We have faith that the light will turn on, but we need to act - to flip the switch - to make our faith effective.

For me, it also helped to refer back to the proverbial image of faith as "taking a step in the dark." If someone is standing at the edge of what they know, they may have faith that Christ will be there to take care of them when they don't know what's next. However, unless they take a step forward - an act of faith - they don't make any progress, and their faith isn't taking them anywhere. Thus, for our faith to be useful, we have to act on that trust we have and move forward.

That's one way that I can try to use the Atonement more in my life. Often there isn't tangible proof that "now I've used the Atonement and I'm forgiven," so I need to use faith. For me that means that when I've done what Christ has said is necessary for repentance, that I really am forgiven - I'm clean again. If I keep beating myself up over a mistake I've made, then I'm not showing faith in Christ's ability to redeem me. If I have faith in what Christ says, then I'll trust that doing what he says is sufficient, and I'll be willing to move on.

Just some cool thoughts from the weekend; I hope they're useful.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Best. Prank. Ever.

So, my fiance and I are friends with the people who did this video (Z more than me), and it is AMAZING!!! Everyone should watch it and have the best day ever afterwards. The video's called "Girls Get Easter Pranked With Live Animals."

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Ballroom Dance: Worth It?

Saturday afternoon, my fiance and I went to the annual ballroom dance concert. It was a good show, but as we drove away in the heavy traffic, I silently cried on Z's shoulder. Why? Emotional tiredness was partly responsible, but mostly I had a tangle of thoughts that culminated in the heart-wrenching question: Has it been worth it to be involved in ballroom dance?

I took my first ever dance class in my second semester of freshman year because I felt socially inept and thought that social dance would be a good class for me. I enjoyed the class even though I didn't think I was very good at dancing, and for whatever reason, I signed up for the next level in social dance. It was in that class that I was really inspired by the advanced dancers and first thought, "I really like this, and more than that, I think it's possible for me to become a competent dancer, and I want to work for it." That was life-changing, and I started identifying myself as a ballroom dancer from then onward.

So I signed up for technique classes and started training myself. I practiced pressure steps at home, I sought dance experiences outside of class, and I slowly built a network of dance friends who I could work with during class, hang out with at socials, and just be good, supportive friends with. At my teacher's urging, I started auditioning for the teams after only two semesters of dance experience.

10 classes and 7-9 auditions later, here I am: engaged (to a non-dancer), never had a successful audition, feeling like I'm losing my friends, unable to advance into more challenging classes, and without hope that I'll ever be part of the Ballroom Dance Concert.

I think that's what made the concert painful this year - the magic was gone. Last year, I was thrilled to watch my friends and teachers perform and I hoped that next year would be the year I would make it onto a team and be able to perform in just one number. But while I could still appreciate the beauty and dynamics of the dancing, I felt somewhat detached, like "I'm not part of that world anymore." Dancing is a magical thing, especially when you're single and looking for someone to connect to, but I'm not single anymore (I have my man, and who wants to dance with a girl who's taken?). I'm in one dance class now instead of three, and I don't see most of my dance friends anymore. I've tried out for the dance team so many times and never gotten so much as a callback, and that's heartbreaking! I've put a lot of heart, soul, tears, work, hopes and dreams into ballroom dance, and it all seems to be for nothing.

The thought process seems to come with every ending of a chapter: was it worth it? If the answer is no, then it's accompanied by despair for lost time and rejected love, and a desire to never invest again. If the answer is yes, then it takes more active soul-searching and optimism to remember why. I have to answer "Yes, putting so much of myself into dance was worth it," because I know that with Christ leading me, all my experiences have a purpose in improving myself and perhaps in influencing other people. So what has ballroom dance done for me, if I haven't achieved the defined level of "success"?

Ballroom dance gave me friends. Most of my friends aren't dancers, but having friends in my classes makes a world of difference in how committed I am to the class and in how much I enjoy it and learn from it. Ballroom dance gave me a goal: I have seldom found things that inspire such passion in me as dance has, and that's been hugely motivating (especially for someone who often struggles with finding motivation). Ballroom dance gave me an opportunity to develop talents. Dancing gave me opportunities to build social skills (especially when I became able to help others) and to become good at something; even if I don't know all the steps that some of my more talented friends do, I've learned so much, and I'm not a bad dancer (even though there's clearly room for improvement). Ballroom dance gave me a new appreciation for what the human body - and my body - can do. I'm inspired by the athleticism of really good dancers, and I love getting a workout from something so demanding, so beautiful, and so much fun.

Ballroom really has given me a chance to grow and push myself, and I've learned so much from teachers and friends who I wouldn't have known if not for ballroom dance. Dance has been close to my heart for the last few years, and it really, really hurts to think that I'm losing it. But to know that all this effort and love hasn't been in vain makes it much easier. There have been many times when I've wanted to give up on ballroom, because I felt like ballroom was giving up on me. Whether or not that's the course I'm now taking, I feel much more peaceful with the perspective that it's been worth it. I still have faith that Jesus Christ is involved in my life, and I can trust Him that everything will be ok, with or without dance. We'll see what happens this next year, and I'll just keep chugging along.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Surgery Blessings

Some cool and wonderful things associated with my ankle surgery, just in the first few days:

- I had an annoying cold last week after I accidentally mixed some bad chemicals during cleaning checks, and it completely went away the night before surgery! No gross runny nose!

- God is perfectly capable of instantaneous healings, as we see recorded in scripture and have occasionally heard miraculous stories of. In the hospital I had the thought that if God were my physician and we were sitting down to discuss treatment, I would object to such an instantaneous healing. If I were given the opportunity to choose, I really think I'd prefer to tough it out, undergo the surgery, and have the full recovery experience so that I could learn. That was a cool thought process that made me appreciate the way that God is custom-shaping my life to my needs and desires.

- I was able to get the IV without crying, jerking, or doing anything wrong! I've always had a really hard struggle with doctors' needles that has frustrated me, my mom, and many nurses and doctors over the years. My breathing shifted, I got the familiar panicky tingles, I tried not to bolt, and the nurse got it in without a problem!

- I requested a priesthood blessing from my home teachers a couple days before going into surgery. I was worried that I wouldn't be able to have surgery because of my cold, and I was anxious about the IV, and just not knowing what was ahead (plus school and work and wedding stuff that still needs to get done). It was a really tender experience that reminded me that God loves me and has a personal relationship with me, and the promises I received were an anchor I could base my faith on and move forward calmly.

- The right leg of my favorite pajama pants had slowly been growing an obnoxiously long rip for a few weeks, and it turns out that the rip is perfect for accommodating my cast! Now I have 1 pair of pajama pants, 1 pair of jeans, a few different shorts and many skirts or dresses that I can wear for the next month while my usual pants won't fit.

- The color of my cast (blue) is perfect. I wear blue a lot, and it complemented the iodine orange on my toes right after surgery quite well.

- I've had really good experiences with this doctor, the imaging center (for the MRI), and the surgical center, so I'm picking my other doctors from the same medical system for the other checkups I need in the next few months. Super friendly, super nice, and super professional.

- This didn't happen because of my ankle, but the LDS General Conference was this weekend! (click here for summaries of the various talks). Normally I have to miss at least part of General Conference for work, but because of surgery and convenient scheduling, I was able to spend the whole time watching! That said, Saturday wasn't as enlightening because the pain meds made me barely conscious, but I learned a lot from what I heard and I'm excited to reread the talks when they come out.

- I got started on my pain drugs before the initial anesthesia wore off and took them on schedule for the following day and a half, which I think made it really easy for me to get off of them quickly without a problem! I had been worried about getting addicted to medications, and I've been lucky to not have any issues with them. Since then, I've hardly even been uncomfortable.

- I have an AMAZING fiance who is here supporting me at every turn. Seriously. He is one of the busiest people I know with so much on his plate, and he always takes time for service. (It's probably true what he says, that he wouldn't be able to do so much if he didn't take time out to serve people). It's probably quickest to just write that I love, admire, and appreciate him a lot. <3 <3

I've got a big, fat, hard, blue thing on my ankle that can't get wet, that makes it hard to get dressed and go down stairs, and makes it so I can't get around on my own much, but life is AWESOME! There's so much to be thankful for (cue Josh Groban lyrics).

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Family History! Wow...

I've been on an especially powerful and productive family history kick lately. It's awesome!! I've had these "kicks" and spurts on and off over the years; once I spent 15 hours on a Friday downloading genealogy files... Talk about a family history burnout! Haha, I could hardly stand to look at a computer after that.

This one has been building up for a few weeks, but now I've started using family history work as an effective distraction from and check on wedding planning (I'm ahead of schedule, but it's hard not to think about "what else can I get done"). It's really more than just a hobby though. Keep reading, and I'll try to explain why.

As far as I'm aware, most of the genealogy has been done on both sides of my family. And at current, it's impossible for me to rectify incorrect submissions to my family tree online (apparently that part of the system will be changed in the next few months!), and I don't have much access to original records myself, so I don't feel like there's much I can contribute to genealogy for now. So I'm working on collecting family history!

The way I see it, genealogy is connecting links of names and vital places and dates (birth, death, etc) in a family - forming the skeleton - and family history is the meat of the matter - the stories and traditions of a family that are passed across generations. That's what I want to work on collecting. Just because I have my great-grandpa's name and birthday doesn't mean that I know anything important about him. If there were 3 important things that you want your descendants to know about you, what would they be? And how will they learn it?

Working on family history has several dimensions: I can form my own footprint, and track down the footprints of others. For years I've collected tickets and mementos from things I do so I could remember them later (I still have yet to organize most of them into a sharable format). I've also been feeling the importance of keeping my own journal, so that's something I've been consist at over time (my most verbose periods are when I'm stressed or have a lot to think about, or I specifically want to write about important events), and I write on this blog as well. For others, I'm trying to track down their stories and learn the details of their lives.

It's hard stuff, trying to discover the lives of people who've been dead for a while, but I'm finding resources. I've visited the Church History Library and Family History Library in Salt Lake City, UT a couple times now, and would love to take a research weekend there sometime. The superficial understanding I gained was that the FHL deals mostly with genealogy and the CHL deals more with the history aspect. I've found some helpful leads already, and can't wait to explore them more!

What am I going to do with all this information? I want to make it available to my family. Some ideas I've had include: creating a "wiki" database of ancestors with helpful links and as much information as I can find on their lives, creating children's storybooks with pioneer and farm/frontier stories from their own ancestors, and organizing binders of sacred experiences my ancestors have had for family reference.

When my great-grandma died last month, I realized that although I had more recent interaction with her than I had with other family members who have died, there's a lot in her life I don't know much about, and no one after me will know about her unless I preserve her memory and pass it on. I am the link. I guess that's what it comes down to. This is my family - my people; they're part of who I am. What else matters more? My faith and my family both tell me who I am and where I come from. Heck, if you want to make a difference in the world, what better place to start than with your family? I suppose that's why I'm doing this, because I love my family: the family I come from, the family I'm in now, and the family that is yet to come. So let's do this!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Keeping Life Exciting

I'm sure I posted a few times last year about my ankle sprain in a dance class; it ties with my work injuries (contusion on my toe and temporary loss of its nail, and laceration of my arm requiring stitches I was too afraid to get) for "the-most-severe-medical-issues-I've-had".

It's seriously been a year... And it's still giving me problems. So I finally went to a podiatrist, which I really should have done right when I got hurt. Found out that it was a high ankle lateral 3rd degree sprain, got a few x-rays, and got a prescription for an MRI later in the week. The doctor said that my ankle clearly hadn't healed, or hadn't healed correctly, and it should have by now. So last week I had my first MRI and went back to the doctor today.

Today we learned that it was not my anterior talo-fibular ligament that was in trouble, it was the posterior talo-fibular ligament that had torn (or maybe the calcaneo-fibular ligament, I've already forgotten which). More problematic than the ligaments though was the bone. Apparently I broke off a piece of the bone and it reattached in the wrong place, and is now threatening to give me arthritis by grinding the joint in places it shouldn't (the tarsal sinus). So in a couple weeks I'm going in for surgery to clear out the bone and scar tissue. My ankle doesn't hurt too much or very often, but it'll clearly give me worse problems down the road if we don't fix it now. The doctor said his goal is to prevent me from needing the joint fused 10-15 years down the road.

[Now I feel a little silly, because after seeing the athletic trainer on campus, my impression was that the muscles around my ankle needed strengthening, so I've been trying to shift my weight onto the ankle more frequently to exercise it. Turns out that the pressure of using my ankle is pushing the misplaced bone into my tissue, which is causing the pain and emergent arthritis. Oops... I wonder if I accidentally exacerbated it over the last 12 months]

So I'm not really in much pain right now, but I'm having the most dramatic health issues (aside from menstruating, because that tends to get dramatic once in a while) I've had so far. It'll be a same-day surgery, so I'll be in the hospital for about half a day. I've managed to get an IV once (I have a thing about needles) so hopefully I'll handle that ok. The doctor said I'll probably be in a cast for 2-3 weeks, which will be a new experience for me too. My dance teacher said I can take the final early, I'll have to let work know, and my fiance and I have begun thinking about how to navigate the 5 flights of stairs to my apartment if I'm on crutches.

How do I feel about all this? I feel somewhat repentant, because I didn't see a doctor right away like I should have; I feel like my little ankle pain/discomfort has become a bigger deal than I thought; I'm a little nervous about the surgery because I don't know what to expect, and I don't like doctors' needles; and I'm not sure how much recuperation I'll need afterward, since I clearly didn't give myself long enough when I was first injured, or what the consequences of that disability period will be. So I've got a couple weeks before surgery to get stuff done, and I'll have to hope for the best! Any advice is more than welcome, since I sure don't know what I'm getting into! One plus side to all this is that I get to broaden my life experience so I can better understand people's situations who are going through the same thing.

Haha: in my most challenging academic semester yet, I'm planning my wedding and undergoing surgery. No excuses for being bored!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Engagement Pictures!

It's been important to me to keep a sense of anonymity on this blog, not so that people I know could say "Oh, you mean so-and-so is the author of that blog? I had no idea!", but rather to prevent strangers from identifying me from my blog. I figure it's a safe precaution for a blog that's so open to the public.

That said, we got our engagement pictures back! And one of them, conveniently, is an artsy shot that doesn't show our faces.

I like the energy of this photo, with my legs in the air, Z on his tiptoes, and us hugging. 
Haha, to be absolutely cheesy-romantic, this is a good metaphor for our relationship, how he holds me close, keeps me safe, and lifts me up so I can fly and accomplish my goals and dreams. Z's pretty awesome like that.

Photo credits go to Jennie Rae Photography.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

In Spite of Trials

With billions and billions of people on earth (or who have been, or ever will be on the earth), and the truly infinite variety of experiences that make up each life, trials are a common factor. They come in many forms, but the bottom line is the same for everyone - they make life hard.

So much of our life is spent avoiding trials: we do homework so we get good grades so we get good jobs so we have financial security so we don't go hungry or naked; we socialize with people who have common interests so we have acquaintances and friends so we feel connected and don't feel lonely; we eat a variety of foods and do things to get out of the house so we stay relatively healthy and don't get bored. Sometimes, though, these negative things happen anyway, without our desire or consent. That can affect our self-esteem - because a common emotional trap is the idea that "if I were better, this wouldn't be happening" - and place limitations on achieving our goals. Those are things that no one enjoys, and their association with trying circumstances colors those circumstances with a negative light.

That's been my attitude for most of my life. But it started shifting in the past year or so. When I've taken time to think about it, I've come to be genuinely grateful for the trials I have. Believe me, it's not because the trials in my life have gotten any easier; the gratitude has come because I like the changes I see in myself that only could have come because of going through the trial. It's been a very interesting conundrum to simultaneously acknowledge both "This is really hard right now" and "I'm glad this is happening right now"; when those two words occur together when having a hard time, it's usually along the lines of "It's really hard to be glad right now." 

For me, it comes down to this. Trials make life more challenging by giving us a situation where we have to work harder to achieve our goals and feel good about ourselves. Learning how to work hard is a valuable lesson that benefits us through the rest of our lives, and learning to become resilient to discouragement gives us the tools to be happy in a wider range of situations. Learning requires us to be humble, open to new ideas, patient with ourselves, and accepting of help from others. From trials, we learn how to learn, we gain more potential for empathy with others, and we gain increasing insight into how capable we really are. While I don't always appreciate or enjoy the hard situations I find myself in, I do appreciate the end results of the journey. That makes trials a little more bearable for me, and I can then have faith that things will work out for the best. 

The only way I can get through trials is by having faith in Jesus Christ. The quicker I remember that He's there, that He loves me, and that He knows what He's doing, the quicker I can feel at peace, be patient, and be happy. My feelings tell me that it is impossible to survive this life without happiness or hope, and those both come from Christ. Because of Christ, I know that when I mess up, I have another chance without being condemned to failure. Because of Christ, I know that there is more to life than what is immediately in front of my face. Because of Christ, I know I'll always have a friend who understands me perfectly, and is perfectly suited to help. Everything good in my life goes back to Jesus Christ. I'm grateful for Him and all He's done for me. Because of Christ, I have the opportunity and certitude of being happy in spite of trials, if I choose to listen to Him. 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Engagement, Creativity, Inspiration

Once again, it's been a while since I've written here, and I don't feel like there's too much new to share.

- Being engaged gets better every day. I love the opportunities to learn how to struggle with, support, and love my fiance better. I didn't become engaged when I found my dream man or ideal situation; I decided to become engaged with someone who I knew I could have that with [(potential + desire + work) x him x me = success]. That was my experience, at least. It took a step of faith in the face of fear, but I love the chance now to create and write my own "happily ever after" story. Z and I go really well together. 

- I've been getting the creative bug lately. With the prospects of planning a wedding, getting married, setting up a house, and preparing for a family, there's plenty of opportunity for creativity in recipes, decoration, budgeting, etc. With my great-grandma's funeral in the last couple weeks, I started thinking of ways I could pass on the stories and lessons from her life to my children. My idea now is to buy these "Bare Books" (here's what looks like the official manufacturer/vendor's website) and fill them with stories from ancestors' lives. It's one idea. Z and I also have fun getting creative with recipes: last night's dinner was a stir fry with green cabbage, green pepper, pineapple, asparagus, and canned chicken over white rice. We just looked at what we have and put flavors together. 

- There was a forum address today on campus that I really enjoyed. I don't know any of his biography, but Dr Benjamin Carson was the speaker, and the university wasn't allowed to broadcast his address (requiring us to go in person). When he concluded, he received 3 standing ovations from everyone present. I particularly enjoyed how he talked about education in society and its importance. It hit home for me, because reading is how I came to enjoy learning as a child, and getting that desire back into my education will ensure that I learn for more than just passing the midterm and final. Dr Carson seemed to suggest that being educated is both a personal, civic, and even religious responsibility, and that to go on and share that is also a responsibility. It motivated me to do better for myself, and to think about how I can pass on those values to my children.

That's kinda my life now: trying to keep up in school (anatomy is really hard...), planning wedding stuff, and thinking about the future. Every day is a new adventure. 

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Lands of Promise

Some thoughts I wrote about in my journal this week, and have now revised for publication: mentions the blessing of living in this promised land... and I wondered why America/the US is a promised land and a blessing to those who live there. Then I had the thought that it became a land of promise because of the promise of the events to transpire there. It isn't because of a superiority hierarchy which makes the US special. It's special because of its heritage with the Book of Mormon and its people, and because of the Restoration and establishment of the Latter-Day Saints that took place here. Other countries can be, and I'm sure are, blessed and promised to their inhabitants on the condition of coming unto God, like for us. If the Abrahamic Covenant is renewed with each individual or married couple [including blessings of a promised land of inheritance], then why would other individuals not also be recipients of a covenant of righteousness and prosperity with God, even if we don't have records of a formal agreement with a particular ancestor? God loves each of His children, and will bless and prosper them as they come unto Him, be it from whatever circumstance they may be in.
In the scriptures we read about various "promised lands." For Moses and the Israelites, it was the land of Canaan. For people who read the Book of Mormon, we read a LOT about how for the Jaredite and Lehite people, it's the Americas. Combining native patriotism with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints being restored in America as well, sometimes people get fixed on the idea that the United States of America is THE promised land for all the righteous in our time. Since my experience getting out of the US last summer, the thought of America's superiority has been thrown into question, and I think this epiphany is my answer.

Here's a couple scriptures from the Book of Mormon:
For none of these iniquities come of the Lord; for he doeth that which is good among the children of men; and he doeth nothing save it be plain unto the children of men; and he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile. (2 Nephi 26:33)
Behold, the Lord esteemeth all flesh in one; he that is righteous is favored of God. (1 Nephi 17:35) 
Living in a certain place or belonging to a particular family is no guarantee that we'll get to heaven or merit all of the possible blessings. We're all given various life circumstances that will best promote our growth and potential for happiness, but ultimately, where we end up comes down to what we decide: are we going to make the individual choice to follow Christ, or not.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Prophets Are People, Too

I really like the places in scriptures where you see raw feelings and interactions of the author, like Enoch and God in Moses 7 (verses 20-67, in the Pearl of Great Price) and what's been called "Nephi's Psalm" in 2 Nephi 4 (verses 15-35). One of these moments where you get a glimpse inside the real person writing is found in Ether 12.

Moroni, the son of Mormon, is going through and abridging these records. Just a few verses into this chapter, he takes a break from the historical text to go on a tangent about faith and its relevance, and he lists many examples of faith preceding great miracles that he's read about in the course of abridgment. After this, Moroni breaks down:
And I said...Lord, the Gentiles will mock at these things, because of our weakness in writing; for Lord thou hast made us mighty in word by faith, but thou hast not made us mighty in writing; for thou hast made all this people that they could speak much, because of the Holy Ghost which thou hast given them; and thou hast made us that we could write but little, because of the awkwardness of our hands. Behold, thou hast not made us mighty in writing unto the brother of Jared, for thou madest him that the things which he wrote were mighty even as thou art, unto the overpowering of man to read them. Thou hast also made our words powerful and great, even that we cannot write them; wherefore, when we write we behold our weakness, and stumble because of the placing of our words; and I fear lest the Gentiles shall mock at our words.
Sometimes that happens to me too. Usually when I see a great art piece, or hear a beautiful song played or sung, or whatever, I appreciate their great talent. Once in a while, if I'm already inclined to be discouraged, I see the great things others can do, and I feel like next to them, I'll never amount to anything. I know that that isn't true, but I still occasionally feel that way.

That's why I think this passage in Ether is so significant, because Moroni feels the same way too! He sees the great things done by others, and specifically compares himself to the brother of Jared, and puts himself down because he doesn't have the same talents. Moroni was a great man and a prophet, and he still felt lame sometimes by comparing himself to others. Something else that I thought was important to note is that Moroni still acknowledges that he does have strengths ("thou hast made us mighty in word by faith, but thou hast not made us mighty in writing"), but he isn't focusing on them - he's placing more importance on the things he lacks.

Here is God's response:
Fools mock, but they shall mourn; and my grace is sufficient for the meek; that they shall take no advantage of your weakness; and if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them. Behold, I will show unto the Gentiles their weakness, and I will show unto them that faith, hope and charity bringeth unto me--the fountain of all righteousness.
I've probably written about this before, but I've had something cool about this pointed out to me: that God says "I will show unto them their weakness." God shows us how he sees our weakness: not how we view our weaknesses, not how our friends see our weakness, or how our enemies see our weakness. God is perfectly just and perfectly loving, as well as the source of all truth. As I've posted before, the gospel of Jesus Christ is an optimistic one. Yes, the reality of our weaknesses hurts, and it's not fun. But, the miracle of the gospel is that Christ accounts for all of these pains, weaknesses, and mistakes, and with His help, we can conquer them.

The next verse, containing Moroni's response, reads:
And I, Moroni, having heard these words, was comforted, and said: O Lord, thy righteous will be done, for I know that thou workest unto the children of men according to their faith.
Even though Moroni's weakness wasn't removed from him at that time, he was able to receive comfort from God because he relied on his faith that things would work out. If it works for Moroni, it'll work for me and you too.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Taking Away the Fear in Promises

I've noted before that I've been somewhat "commitment-phobic" over the past year, even when considering things that I really want. If I commit to something and fail, I'm more accountable for that failure than if I never made the commitment, and that can be a scary thought. However, committing, covenanting, binding and promising are really important, not just because it's a commandment or societal expectation, but because doing so builds us into better people.

A lot of times, it's tempting to put off a commitment until we can be sure that we won't fail in fulfilling it. I often do that. But something I'm learning (which I can't take any credit for) is that oftentimes, we don't get the strength to do the task until we've committed to do it. We see all over in the scriptures that God first requires us to be humble and take a step in the dark before He grants us additional power to do what we need to. Thus, commitment requires a leap of faith that making promises activates God's grace and power on our behalf. If I'm afraid of failure after making a promise, I either think I'm doing it alone or I think that God's power is insufficient. Since neither option is true, the logical choice is to exercise faith, make the commitment, and then trust that God's hand is/will be in my life to guide me and make my weaknesses perfect in His strength.

Thus, making commitments fearlessly requires faith, and gives us the opportunity to work with God. These consequences are quite beneficial to us, and as we use our decision-making power in this way, it makes us into stronger, more confident, more capable people. We can establish integrity within ourselves and in our relations with other people. We can become dependable and trustworthy. Who doesn't want that?

So when my boyfriend proposed to me, I could use my faith in Christ and push for faith in myself and answer him, "Yes" :D I can't wait, because marrying him will be AWESOME! It's a big decision, but since I've made the commitment, I've felt my ability to stick to it increase. I love seeing how God works in my life.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Hope as an Anchor

Wherefore, whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, which hope cometh of faith, maketh an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God.

It's interesting how the (rather cynical) world informs you that to be hopeful is to be carried away by a flimsy wish or fantasy. Someone who is hopeful for something they can't see is naive, childish, and misguided. I think that opinion is inaccurate. This scripture from the Book of Mormon teaches just the opposite: that hope (based on faith) acts as an anchor, rooting a person in solid ground. Though it might sound counterintuitive, I've seen its truth in my own life.

I've experienced distinct periods in my life flavored by either hope or despair, hope's opposite. Despair for me often comes when I've failed myself when I know I'm capable of better. When it's particularly bad or generalizes to more parts of my life, I feel restless, doubtful, unsettled, withdrawn, and dissatisfied, and I go to bed late because I feel unfulfilled, and I tend to ignore regular mealtimes or revert to anxiously nibbling on comfort food. I feel like I've failed, and no matter how much I try, I can't do better - my situation won't change. That's what a lack of hope feels like to me. I'm dragged down by my past, and feel adrift, unstable, and fearful about the future.

The times when I feel like I am truly hopeful are completely different. I feel at peace with myself, that even if things aren't great now, that they'll get better. I feel more confident and trusting now and for the future. I feel more capable and optimistic. I feel stable, or anchored. Those feelings enable me to move forward and live more daringly and securely (odd combination, huh?). Thus, having faith in the present helps me have hope for the future, because I trust that it'll work out, and I'll be ok. It's like a self-fulfilling prophecy - by choosing faith, you choose to be hopeful and be happy (and even occasionally excited!), and make it happen.

Most of the time, I feel pretty middle-of-the-road. I have some doubts that come when I make mistakes or face decisions, but I know how to judge between which doubts are important and which are irrelevant. If I have to pick, my heart and spirit want to err on the side of hope, because hope gives me a chance to live, while despair kills the chance before I can take it. Living that way - choosing hope (and love, and faith, its companions) - makes happiness possible and invites it into my life.

Hurray for Hope! Hurray for Love! Hurray for Faith! And Glory to God in the highest! All things are possible through Him.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Shopping Around: How to Choose?

With the way that the world has grown, nationally and globally, our options for many things have dramatically increased, and we have more opportunity to make choices.

In education: In the US, there is mandatory public K-12 education, and many opportunities for schooling beyond that. We have community colleges, universities, trade schools, home schools, private schools, public schools, etc. Even within a specific university, you can have hundreds of combinations of majors, minors, and emphases.

In retail/shopping: It's nice to have options! If you want to spend money on higher quality (or just trendy) stuff, you can. You can also find good quality things for competitively low pricing. I like going grocery shopping and being able to survey the variety of brands and products and choose which is best for me (it reminds me of the description of a virtuous woman purchasing a field in Proverbs 31).

In my social life: When I came to college, I discovered some life-changing facts that have taken years to sink in. 1) That I'm awesome, worth a lot, and can be valued as a person, quirks included, and 2) that intelligent, attractive, chivalrous men do exist and can actually be interested in me sometimes. With a wide variety of friend- and dating-candidates, I could be more selective and develop some great relationships.

However, there are some sneaky, unforeseen issues that can arise with having so many options. How on earth does one make an exclusive choice? It took me 3 years to finally declare a major. I guess commitment isn't too much of an issue in grocery shopping... but in dating? Yeah, that's important.

The past year has been an interesting one for me. I started realizing some things about myself - goals I wanted and challenges I had - that I wasn't sure how to reconcile. Getting married and having a family has always been really important to me, and I felt I was reaching the age/maturity where I wanted to date for keeps instead of just to have fun. But at the same time, I was scared. That's a big life choice, a big change, and one of the most important commitments to make in a lifetime. How much love for one person will I need in order to feel comfortable closing myself off to other potential options? With so many available and attractive options, it can be frightening or disconcerting to make my choice. A permanent choice that I don't want to second-guess or mess up on.

My great-grandma collaborated with my mother to write her biography, and when she died, a copy of the book was given to each of her descendants. It was cool to read through it and learn the history and personality of a woman, my progenitor, with whom I wasn't very familiar while she was here. She and my great-grandpa had been neighbors growing up, and while she dated a few other men in college, she ended up marrying her neighbor boy, and it seemed to be a very natural choice for her. She wrote,
I was outside weeding Mother's flowers and he asked me for a date for Saturday night. I thought he was just kidding so I said, 'Oh sure!' We'd grown up together and were more like brother and sister... A few days later he called me on the phone to check and see if we really had a date, and I told him I thought he'd been kidding me. He said, 'Well, I'm not!' We went together for six weeks before we were engaged and we were married in three months. It wasn't as if we'd needed to get acquainted, we'd known everything about each other all our lives...
My great-grandma could have married one of the guys she met at the small college she attended (saying that she wasn't completely limited to her hometown), but she still married someone she knew from her small hometown. Almost 80 years later, I'm pretty far from my hometown, and I'm in a much larger university than the one she attended. I don't think I'd be very happy marrying anyone I knew from back home, so I'm definitely glad for the wider array of options here, but it makes me wonder... Is choosing a spouse, someone to love forever, any harder now than it was back then? In some ways I think it's definitely more challenging, with the need to narrow down from so many more options. But the core issue - making a decision for life (for eternity, really) - maybe hasn't changed as much as I thought. I'm going to be digesting this idea for a while.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Growth and Relationships

Yikes, I hardly have time or things to post about on here anymore. (That said, I have 5 drafts still pending that require more research before posting).

About a year ago, I made a lot of personal decisions about my romantic relationships. No more sharing the personal happy moments on my public blog. Related to that, I also want to remember that my relationships are about me and the other person - the details are on a need-to-know basis, and we can label and specify our relationship as we see it. I wanted to slowly ease into relationships naturally, instead of a stop-and-go "official this and official that" approach, and to build a strong friendship base before seriously dating. Some of these resolutions and ideals have been more effective than others. All of them were well-intentioned, but many of them contributed to a bigger problem that I didn't fully see at first or understand - these became part of a protective wall that I built around myself against forming vulnerable (romantic, in particular) relationships with another person.

I have been very aware of how the relationships I have - romantic or not, official or not - have affected me and influenced my growth as a person. With every acquaintance I become close to, I learn ways to improve myself and see the world through yet another lens. I have been very blessed and lucky to have known, loved, and become intimately acquainted with some fantastic people over the years and in varying circumstances; it's impossible to name or number all the ways I have grown because of them.

I'm just feeling really grateful. I am such a people person, and I love the infinite variation between people's choices, personality, circumstances, and the way that they all interact together. I love coming to know individuals for their unique individuality, and I often come to love each of them in different ways and degrees. I often think about how I couldn't have become the person I am today if I didn't move where I did after high school, but now more importantly, I think that I couldn't have become who I am without the people I met in the time that I met them. Even if I've grown distant from these people with the passage of time, there are still multihued threads of memory and affection that connect them to my heartstrings in some way or another. My hope, prayer and faith is that someday in heaven I'll have the chance to reel all these threads back in, and relive the joy of association with all these wonderful people.

I guess this is all another testament of God's love for me. He knows my heart, my needs, my preferences, and my fears. He is a Grand Architect in coordinating billions of lives together in ways to maximize their growth and opportunities for happiness. I see the ways that I have been blessed through the people in my life, and I thank God for His mercy, benevolence, love and wisdom. I should take time more often for reflection, because looking back leads me to gratitude for all I've been given (and gives me a point to move forward from). Praise the Lord, amen :)