Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Contingency Plans and (hopefully) Good Advice

Today while driving along 84 east, I saw a mattress on the side of the road. It is not normally there, which might explain why it caught my eye. My first thought was much along the lines of "Nice. What moron would not only fail to secure a mattress to their car/truck but then not at least stop to pick it up off the road after it attempted a run as a kite?"

My next few thoughts were more like mental flashes.
A mattress in the middle of the road; what maneuvers would I take to avoid hitting it and/or the other cars around me.

A mattress on a truck in front of me, the wind whips it up and off the bed. Then, after making a shallow and terrifying arch in the air, it lands squarely on my windshield. What do I do then? I assessed the images in my head and came up with a plan or two.

First of all, it would be important not to freak out and swerve like a crazy.

Then - going with the mattress/plywood on the windshield thing - I would quickly but gradually slow down and pull to the right side of the road, using my passenger window and mirror to gage how quickly I was coming up on the shoulder. Then I would stop and possibly start crying.

Now, if the mattress were in the middle of the road, all I would really have to do is maintain control of the car, making a wide sweep, while slowing down at a reasonable pace, to the nearest shoulder and around the mattress. There was once, when I was driving to SLC with my mom and we happened upon a ladder in the middle of I-15 just before Beck Street. In what seemed like simulcast, I looked in the rear view, side view mirrors and turned on my left blinker; then I swept to the left and avoided the ladder. Granted, I was within about four inches of the car behind me, but I should also point out that I sped up to get that four inches between us.

Wow. Just describing it gives me a fear induced adrenaline rush.

These sorts of "Bad Scenarios" often then lead me to think, "Okay, what would I do if so and so in the car died?"

Mixed with those thoughts is an odd sort of self training. The last couple of times I've been in a relatively near miss, I have not shouted, "Oh come on you pile of @%&*!" No, instead I have said, "I love you kids!"

We have not yet been in a life threatening accident. Hopefully my mental Worst Case Scenario preparation will continue to keep us from it. And still I have taken the time to make sure that if I die in a car crash, the last words my kids will hear me say are, " I love you kids."

This may be morbid. But it's how I cope. It's how I roll. I also have mental plans for if an intruder breaks into our house armed with a variety of weapons or intents. I know how I'm going to get the family out of our house should it catch fire, and have a different route based on where the fire starts. Muad'Dib and I have discussed a meeting place should there be a disaster.

I have even talked myself into a bit of emotional preparation should any of my loved ones exit this life.

Why do I do this? Not sure, really. It began long ago. I play out my fantasies, dreams, plans and fears in great visual and emotional detail - just in my head. And I have a superstition. That is: "If I plan for it, it won't happen." I deep down hold to the belief that if I am prepared for it, "it" will not happen. And if I haven't thought of it, that's the "it" that will come out to play.

For instance: I never prepared to gain a ridiculous amount of weight while pregnant. I had planned for a perfect pregnancy, and five children all in a row. Hmm.

I didn't prepare to play Lily Craven in Secret Garden. Yet that's who I played.

I never planned on visiting Japan, yet that is the only place I've been outside the U.S.

I had an understudy for every bride but one in Seven Brides. And guess which one got hurt? You guessed it.

What interests me right now is that seeing the mattress and the subsequent tendency to plan for the very worst and most gruesome is the topic that rose to the top of my thoughts this evening when I sat to the blog.

My life coach, Wildman, once asked me, "What's the worst that could happen?" He meant it in a specific context; and yet I cope with seeing " the worst" and then deciding how I would meet it.

Okay: Swordfish thought: I was speaking to a friend today that I have not seen in a month or two. She was going on about how a particular first grade teacher yelled at her and demanded that her son be in the show today; downright attacking her mothering.

I listened patiently the first time she told the story, though the descriptions did not even remotely match the woman that I knew. So then the third time she went through it, I stopped her with, "I'd like to play the devil's advocate for a moment."
She looked concerned.
"Knowing what I know of Mrs. Teacher, couldn't it be possible that you perceived her as yelling, when in fact you might have been feeling guilty and like a slacker-mom anyway?"
Her eyes went wide. "No. I don't think so."
"So, you had your son out of school because he was sick for four days. This teacher, who has a reputation for being an absolute sweetheart, just plain has it out for you? She has picked you out of the sixty other parents she could yell at? Are you really that important?"
My friend laughed, and ran her hand through her hair, "No. I'm probably not. But then why did she yell at me?"
"Did she yell or did it just feel like she yelled? I do that sometimes. I remember what I was feeling and then when I retell the story to others, or even to myself, the person takes on characteristics that I assume they must have been exhibiting to get me to react the way I did."

Well, you would have thought I sprouted purple feathers from my head and bellybutton.
"Um . . ."
"I mean, if you were her: would you be really stressed out right now?"
"Yes . . ."
"And wouldn't you be a little snippy with a wishy-washy parent who was trying to make you decide whether or not their sick kid should be in the play today?"
"Well I hadn't thought about it like that."

Now that's a sentence I like. I like to hear itand I especially like to say it. I love to facilitate that in others, and even more I like the times when my brain is expanded just a bit; enough to utter those words myself.

What do these two commentaries have in common? I have no idea. But I did say I was going to post/blog more. So, take what you get. Unless someone would like to place an order. Anyone want me to review a book, movie, actor, song, picture, or gospel principle? Hey, I'll take suggestions. I'm just getting started here, after all.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

I take upon myself this challenge.

Did anyone notice that in 2007, I had 101 blog posts? Well, I did. I also noticed that in 2009 I had 39. That says something to me, especially in the light of my last post.

It seems that in 2007, I did A LOT of whining. Well, whining, complaining, venting, and so forth; mostly negative things.

Today before we left for church I found an old notebook of mine that I haven't looked at in over 3 years. Inside I found a bit of a treasure, for on about seven pages was a very basic rundown of my life, as written by the 2004 me. This outline was preceded by a diet/weight loss plan and objectives. It is obvious that I was trying to talk myself into action. And then I wrote this:

"I can ask myself 'important questions' all day long - but it changes nothing. Let's instead recognize the times that changed my life."

Then I began at birth and did numbers, letters and bullet points for various people and events in my life, often footnoted by comments like "poetry began," or "@ 8 saw Mom as Guenevere." I pinpointed the very age when I began to dream of writing and publishing my very own book. "True exaggeration for attention began" when I was 9. I noted that catching a lizard was important to my development and growth. Event listed as #11: "First sign of fear," followed by "True anger came out." Yoda was right: fear leads to anger.

I have recorded when I first heard and felt the difference between the Spirit and those who would impersonate the spirit. I figured out why my first real relationship failed and summed it up beautifully: "Why did J.R.R. fail? I held back."

And then I read the line that deeply spoke to me today. At # 31: "Developed 'introverted creative melancholy.'"

It was around that time in my life that I figured that there were more ways to describe sadness, and that sadness had a sort of accessible beauty to it. So many people could read my sadness and say, "Yes, I felt that way too, once." I also feared that I didn't know happiness well enough to write about it.

What I didn't understand was that happiness in my life is like oxygen. It's always everywhere. It exists for no other reason than to be taken in by me. If I hold my breath, hold on to one particular happiness: eventually I suffocate myself. If I exhale a happiness and never want to replace what I just let out, I will suffocate myself. And on the other extreme, if I breath it in day in and day out and never acknowledge it, whose fault is it that I do not see happiness? I totally get that now, because every day I employ my agency and take in my happiness, savoring it's sweet flavor!

I have past said that "I am essentially a happy woman," or "I am content." Those comments seem to have the caveat that I have not been or will not always be so. No more of that garbage. I will just come out and say the truth: I battle depression. I have a tendancy, spurred on by sugar and food abuse, to over-react to bodily sensations and misinturpret them as sadness or un-happiness. But if you ask me "Are you happy?" My answer will be "Yes." because even though I may not feel happy, I AM happy.

I'm not sure why I gave up writing after I got married/after I finished with school. I have not yet pinpointed what drove me to share and create less and less with the written word over the last two years. But I am deciding NOW that I will open myself up to the random creativity I enjoyed years ago. Random creativity that produced my heartbreakingly honest short story "What She Deserved," or random bits of verse like this:

"Down the page columns go
hopes and dreams come and go
Here today, tomorrow gone
What will stay number one?
Ev'ry day changes come
once a child - then a home
Love or fame, beauty bloom
Safe above sorrow's doom
Darker days where goals will change
open wide the shifting range."

Did anyone say I have to be Auden or T.S. Elliot? No. I have made similar declarations before. Perhaps some of my readers are tired of hearing me sing the same songs, as it were. So I am going to challenge myself.

I will begin writing the Book of Sayyadina. I will leave pieces of paper in my wake, scribbled and inked with my thoughts and creations. In fact, I will blog a blog twice a week. Wow. That is scary to put out there. I can do it though, right? Heck yeah. Bad, good, happy, sad . . . I have risked these emotions before and carry no fatal wounds for the sharing. Okay. I'm going to do this. Here's to more than 101 in 2010!!!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

It feels like a squirmy-wormy. In my soul!

Something is not quite jiving. Hmm.

In thinking over my last blog, I have recognize in myself a habit of self-deprecation. Not when it comes to singing or acting or even dancing, really. I can see my worth in those areas. Yay. However, while policing my thoughts the past few days I have noticed a trend:

"I should write today. But So & So told me she already has 326 pages of her manuscript done. She's so far ahead of me. Maybe the world has enough authors and I should find something else to do . . ."

"I'd like to go on a hike. But I'm not as fast as *sister-in-law* or as strong as *brother-in-law.* I'd slow everyone down. Remember Subway?" And then the memory of my behavior on Subway pretty much shuts me down.

"I wanna take a dance class. But I'm not as thin as Thus 'n' So, nor have I been dancing for as long as most of the people there. They'd have to spend too much time on me. I'll dance in my kitchen." Which I don't do because:

"I'll dance in the kitchen. But what if someone sees me? I don't look cool like people in the movies . . ."

"I want to go for a run. I'm too bouncy. And I can't run a marathon like Pretty Lady in the ward. She ran six miles yesterday, and it was like nothing. Leave the running to the runners."

"I feel like doing Yoga this morning." *image of adorable sister-in-law at a particular SU lake enters my mind, full of grace and form* "Well, maybe after everyone goes to bed or something. I don't look like it's supposed to look."

"I should pick up the Tobie story. But when I told that lady about it, she did say that my premise was common. I should just leave that one alone."

"I want to host a party! I'm not as well off as SomePeople. And my house isn't as big as theirs. Maybe I'm not a very good hostess after all. I wish someone would invite me over to their house . . ."

I'm sure the idea has been got. Yikes. I just wrote a big old blog about compliments. About being grateful for what and who YOU are. And I totally missed the point of being grateful for what I AM. And to do so without comparison.

None of these people said I wasn't as good at the activity as they were. I did. I said I wasn't as good or talented or fast or thin or flexible or whatever else. ME!

So . . . how can I rephrase these in my head to leave only the compliment to them, and make it not about me?

Um, I just took a minute aside and tried to re-write the above self-depricators. It's hard! I'm really struggling. How does one re-frame one's own thoughts so as not to shut one's self down? The best I came up with was straightforward, "So & So is totally focused. How could I learn from that?"
I'm thinking that could apply to all of these. "What could I learn from them/that/him/her/it?"

That is the key! I must be humble enough to accept that there is always something we can learn from everyone! Even the people we feel we have no threat from, "I'm easily a better mom than her." (Sometimes I think people think this about me . . .) It goes back to asking yourself, "Is that true? Can I absolutely know it is true? What does that say about me? Who would I be without that thought?"

My brain opened up and I am pleased with the result. No wonder this has been itching around inside me for long. I was about to learn something! And I have. I have learned that pride is counteracted by humility, and humility is the attitude of being consistantly grateful and employing a willingness to learn from situations and my other brothers and sisters.
Awesome, Father in Heaven; simply awesome. Thank you!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

I wish I could speak on THIS in church . . .

Last Sunday Muad'Dib and I sang and gave talks in church. We shared our talents with music as well as our aptitude/talents with the written and spoken word, hopefully inviting the Spirit in the process. We received a wonderful response and outpouring of positive feedback from the ward. And intermingled with those compliments I began to notice something. It became prominent enough that I commented on it at a Relief Society activity this week. But first, let me say that through this experience I have had something clarified to me. There are three kinds of compliments.

1. The Sincere Compliment. If done well, all this does is build up the person you are trying to compliment. "Your eyes are beautiful!" "That was fantastic!" "You dance like a gazelle!" "You have such beautiful calves!" "Your hair is like wet slick rock." "I love watching you on stage: you sparkle." etc.

2. The Backhanded Compliment. In a nutshell, this is a compliment that also backhands you across the emotional face with a dis. Such as:"You did so well for a girl of your size." "It's interesting to hear that song sung by an alto." "That was great considering how tired you look." "That was so well done, I'm sure no one will remember how flat you were on the high notes." etc.

3. The Self-Deprecating Compliment. This was the one that was recently brought to my attention, although this week is hardly the first time I've been ambushed by it. These might sound like, "You sounded so beautiful that I'm sure no one wants to hear me!" "Watching you dance is so moving. I feel like a cow." "I wish I could write like you. I'm so scatterbrained." "What do we need a choir for when we have the Nelson's in the ward?" "You were such a perfect Milly I don't think I can ever compare." etc.

I have figured out the problems with the last two types of "compliments." They cannot be responded to politely or without adroit skirting skills. A true compliment leaves a few humble possibilities such as: "Thank you." or perhaps, "I'm glad you enjoyed it!"

What on earth am I supposed to say when people Backhand me or tear themselves down during a compliment?! I mean really:
"I'll just mouth the words while you sing so no one has to hear how bad I am!"
"Oh, thank you."
Come ON!

"You guys were amazing. If I had known you were going to sing that well, we would not have gotten up to sing after you!"
"Thank you for acknowledging that you aren't as welcome to share your talents as we are. It's the first step, really."
Had she just stopped after the first part . . .

"No one wants to hear me talk after listening to you in Sacrament meeting. Will you do my talk for me?"
"Thank you. I'd be glad to help you bury your talents and insight."

Over half of the comments we received on our talents shared were of the Self-Deprecating type. I was getting very tired of dancing nimbly over the exposed feelings they set out for me every time they did this; trying to avoid hurting them, even though they had just said something very hurtful about themselves. One of these happened the other night, as I mentioned. We were about to sing the opening hymn.

A very funny and likable lady sitting next to me pulled out the hymnbook and said, "Now that we have Sayyadina at the table, everyone, just mouth it." To this I replied with some exasperation, "If sharing my talents causes everyone else to bury theirs, I will not be singing again in this ward any time soon." She just looked at me for a moment. Then a lady across the table made a comment to her and all was laughter.

Now, I'm not naive enough to think that she meant that they would not sing. I know it was supposed to be a compliment to me, but it's just getting stupid, and I was tired of it.

It reminds me of that quote by Marianne Williamson:

"Our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond imagination. It is our light more than our darkness which scares us. We ask ourselves - who are we to be brilliant, beautiful, talented and fabulous. But honestly, who are you not to be so?
"You are a child of God. Small games do not work in this world. For those around us to feel peace, it is not example to make ourselves small. We were born to express the glory of God that lives in us. It is not in some of us, it is in all of us. While we allow our light to shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. When we liberate ourselves from our own fears, simply our presence may liberate others."
I know that we as a church and even as a culture are warned against pride. I can understand how the two crappy types of compliments have stemmed from fear and misunderstanding not only of themselves but of pride. That understanding doesn't keep me from disliking it though. I have learned that good pride is okay, such as being a good steward and thankful for all we have. Bad pride is thinking we are "better than."
I'm a talented lady. I haven't hidden that fact for quite some time. My father taught me that if you are asked to share your talents, do it and you will be blessed with even greater talents/abilities. My mother taught me to always be grateful and remember that all talents/abilities come from Heavenly Father and that everyone has something to offer. The Nelsons have taught me that comparison can be hurtful and dangerous. This ties in to being grateful for what I have and also being grateful for the talents OTHERS possess. I have hoped and acted upon the belief that sharing my talents unshackle others. It's frustrated to think I'm wrong about that.
It's bothersome when sharing my talents flares fear in others, that they choose not to share and grow with me, but to crawl under a bushel and stay there until they rust.
"STOP COMPARING!" I want to scream, "There is no comparison. Talents are talents. They are all good, they are all worthwhile and they are all needed!"
*Deep breath*
Okay; because I cannot control how others compliment me - if and when they do - I will concentrate on how I can best respond. Also from this experience, I will be more careful in HOW I compliment others. I will not cut myself down while building up another. As if I was going to offer a compliment to Bryce Canyon, or Niagara Falls or a sunset. I would not compare myself to the wonder and majesty of that great arrangement of rock and sand, water and stone, cloud and light. So, too, will I not compare myself to the talents of others.
In this way the compliment will be true, sincere, honest and will not be about me. It will be a way to offer love. I must also remember that some people do not accept compliments well. I was taught that if given a compliment, no matter how YOU thought you did, or what flaws YOU see with what you have accomplished, the correct and polite response is "Thank you," possibly followed by "I'm glad you enjoyed it," or "Thank you for coming." Because a sincere compliment is an expression of gratitude, and must not be disregarded rudely. Had they handed you a rose, would you throw it to the ground and step on it? I should hope not.
I like what Trailblazer said a few years ago: "I never turn down praise." Amen, father-in-law. That bit of wisdom also implies that I should be grateful the Backhanders and Self-Depricaters spoke up, no matter that the form is hurtful to one or both of us.
I'll just take a deep breath and say, "Thank you for the compliment." And move on.