Friday, May 28, 2010

"The Art of Journaling" as learned from Nephi

I haven't written in a while. Not a long while, granted, yet I have felt the separation from myself and the written word quite keenly. A plane seems to be flying low over Antelope Island. I can see it because I have the great pleasure of sitting on my deck, which although technically is in the backyard has a fantastic view over all of North Ogden, clear down to the Island. A few cars may drive by in the course of my morning, but all in all it is just me the birds and the breeze.

We have four lilac bushes now. Our garden has begun growing. Soon we will have a harvest of radishes, corn, salad greens, peas and green peppers as well as other veggies. We have spearmint growing the shadow of the main house and hornets trying to build a home in the eave of the playhouse. What a wonderful life!

The children have been sick. Rivulet has been sick for nearly two weeks, Lemur caught his just in time to miss the last three - and most fun - days of school. Summer is approaching, as is evidenced by being able to take Rivulet outside in the rain around midnight last night. It was not too cold, and just wet enough to wake her out of her bad dream stupor.

I have pictures that document all the things and events that have happened over the past few weeks, but I have few words. Perhaps it is the opinion of some that I have a good deal too many words. I noted something in my journal the other night, "I wish I wasn't so tired; so I could record some thoughts and not just events." I felt - and still do - that I and my children might be missing something having a record of events only.

In reading Nephi over the past few weeks, I have had my mind opened up in refreshing ways. I have taken for granted that I know the stories backwards and forwards and in fact have taught the stories, sometimes to my teachers. How glorious the chance to learn that there is more to learn!

Such as the event of Nephi coming to retrieve the plates from Laban. The final time, when Laban was passed out from drinking and lying alone, unconscious in the street and Nephi just happened upon him - something else took place. Nephi was instructed to do something that went against his then-current understanding. Did he do it? Not at first. He - in effect - spoke to the Spirit, and the Spirit spoke back. He "shrank away" from the deed. The Spirit offered more information, knowing that the law forbade the action he was now prompted to take. And then! Nephi, constrained by the Holy Spirit, employed reason. He opened his mind and the Spirit guided his thoughts that Nephi and the Spirit could be on the same page.

And how is that applicable to us?

Reading further, I get to the part where Lehi is murmuring in the wilderness and Nephi - after Nephi's bow had broken. LEHI was murmuring. The prophet!! And it was his child that called him - by action and word - to humility where he regained his footing as the patriarch of the family. I don't ever remember knowing that Lehi had murmurings. It spoke to me of difficulties ANY parent may have in their lives, and how we as their children can be comfort to them by living the truth at all times. Being a witness of God, showing our own faith can help even the people who taught us in the first place. Of course, here I was thinking of my Mom. A perfect example is the experience we had last summer changing the Shakespeare. There came a time - which I recorded in great detail - that Mom went kaput. I stepped in, and then stepped back out when she - for lack of a better term - came to her senses. Doesn't it make Nephi and Lehi more real to know they experienced this dynamic as well? It does to me.

Last week in RS, we were discussing how we could maintain our spirituality as we "grew up." It is no easy thing, quite honestly. Once we hit a high, we rest on it assuming the high is solid. I'm pretty sure it's more of an eternal escalator than a mountain. Once we reach the top of a mountain - you're there. But an escalator that is always going down, while we are striving to climb up; that seems to fit better. The world being the escalator, and each of our steps being the desire and action to rise above. Holding still will actually bring us down.

Now, for most of us, we have a solid foundation - a place we may never pass below. The problem is, I have met so many who believe either that a solid foundation is all you need or that there is actually a place you reach where you can never ascend above! That is not what the scriptures have taught us, so why do we embrace it?

To shake things up, I set aside my old scriptures: the Book of Mormon I had received at my baptism at the age of 8, the BOM I had used all through seminary and Institute and marked with all manner of pencils, markers, pens and personal notations. I set that aside an opened a new copy of the BoM, one I had bought when Muad'Dib and I were first married, and began to read the BoM as if for the first time.

And that's exactly what it feels like. Other bits of knowledge and learning that I have acquired over the past ten years are like a different lens to read the words through. I read the account of the Tree of Life much differently than before. I hear the voice of Nephi in my head with age appropriate timbre so clear it is disconcerting. I see similarities not only in spiritual understanding but in social settings.

And through it all runs a testimony of journal keeping. From Nephi to Moroni and Mormon, I am led to realize that their advice their words, were truly meant for our time. They knew it when they were writing it. And it was when reading Chapter 6 that I wondered whether what I was writing about was of worth: "Wherefore, I give a commandment unto my seed, that they shall not occupy these plates with things which are not of worth unto the children of men."

Writing the Book of Sayyadina began with my first journal at the age of 10. I have since filled over ten journals and countless other computer documents, random notebooks and scraps of paper tossed into a folder. No doubt, my words need an editor just as badly as those prophets of old; particularly because not all that I have written was intelligent by any strain of the imagination.

But I will say that throughout my journaling, I have taken opportunity to write guidences of the Spirit, and testimonies of the Gospel. Such things were the basic principals that occupied the entries of King Benjamin, Nephi, Jacob, Enos and others. I have the advantage of only needing to make a record of myself and an accounting of my actions in my day. Well, and perhaps a record of my children until they can themselves take up the pen. I hope that my testimonies may someday be of worth to someone. I know, on occasion, they have at least been of worth to me. And maybe that is all that matters.

Friday, May 14, 2010

I found the square hole.

Remember about a week ago when I was riffing on a compost metaphor? It wasn't right, but it felt true . . . and now I know why.

It was incomplete and was basically being a square peg in a round hole. I just had to find the right home for it. Talking to my sister the other day, we discussed Depression. I can easily list more than five people in my family alone that suffer with this dis-ease. I am one of them.

I have been told and understand that Clinical Depression is chemical. I, myself, have gone the route of pills and medicine. In my experience (which does not negate the experience of another person) these things were much like muffling a gun-shot or wearing noise-canceling headphones: the gun and the noise is still there, you are just a little separated from it. Unless of course you had the misfortune to miss a pill, in which case the feelings overcame you in a mindless rush. For many, medication is the solution to their problem.

For me, it was not. Or rather, it was a short term band-aid on a wound that would not heal.

For me, and for many who I speak with, Depression and Anxiety go hand in hand. Depression is more of a "What's the point?" approach to life experiences. This leads us to find no joy in activities, in people or in the day to day events that spice the human life. Is is a give up attitude.

Anxiety compliments the big D, but is different because the Anxiety-ridden mind is ravaged by thought: ALL THE TIME. "What if this" and "What if that" and other misuses of imagination keep the afflicted persons from seeing and handling joy because they expect an awful, startling"BOO!" around every corner. They expect things to go wrong, likely because they have had that experience more often than not in their lives. The one condition could be illustrated by a tiger kept indoors, de-clawed and virtually toothless: laying there waiting to be acted upon, knowing he has no power to alter his life. The other condition could be characterized by just about any animal in a cage that once knew how it felt to roam free: pacing, fearing capture, fearing the unknown.

Simply said: Depression is fear coupled with despair. Anxiety is fear coupled with panic.

And both stem from fear.

A few years ago I was taught that the foods I eat contribute to my "chemical imbalance." To answer that, I changed my diet and periodically shake things up in regard to my vitamins and minerals. By doing so, I can today mentally cancel out what I perceive to be an emotion by going over what I have eaten that day. So: progress. I learned to understand the difference between "emotion" and "sensation." Sensations I can release, knowing they require little more than the passage of time to re-balance.

Around the same time, I began uncovering and examining my fears. Then I took steps to de-fang my fears. Frank Hurbert said it best in Dune: "Fear is the mind killer." I arm myself with the question posed by Wildman: "What's the worst that could happen?" And, so armed, I face the fear mentally and dance around it, negating the primal response of panic.

I have learned through much introspection which of my past experiences formed the reaction of Depression, and which formed the reaction of Anxiety. From that lesson, I can predict which experiences in future may trigger D&A reactions. Marry that information with what I know about me and food, I can either sidestep the situation altogether or handle it with grace as it happens.

Okay: So what does this have to do with Composting?

Life experiences pile up on our souls whether or not we want them to. They do. They pile up in our memories, the emotions pile up in our subconscious and become a heap of life weighing down our souls. Right? Or:

Could we compost?

If we imagine that each experience is tossed onto the pile of our past experiences, we have the choice to let them rot or to turn them over - mull them over - with the future in mind, with use, with learning in mind. Then we can take the experiences and spread that learning, that nutrient rich mass of knowledge around our current choices and be wise. In that way, our past nourishes our present and grows a healthy future!

As Moneo observed of Leto "I fear the unknown . . . You see everything that we know: the unknown . . . must be something new for you to know."

And it is!

The Depressed, the Anxiety-ridden: we are set apart by our seeming inability to change our lives, change our feelings or control the way we think. We cavort about as victims of our past actions, even our past in-actions haunt us in a most crippling way. We become hobbled versions of our true selves.

Now I say to you with what power I posses: It does not HAVE to be so! The idea that we are unable victims is false. We are able! We are accountable! We are powerful! We have the ability to take our past and choose to make it rot or compost, poison or antidote, fear or hope.

Is it easy? At first, no. Does it take work and focus and time? The answer to that is always yes. There are those who may read this post and decide within themselves that medication is right for them. Great. I'm not downplaying the good that drugs do for some. They gave me a much needed break. Choices are awesome and I am all for them.

This post is for me. It is to better understand where I have been and what I have learned from it. This post is so that I may remember this lesson when I feel over-run with emotion again: because it is inevitable in my nature. But this knowledge can keep me from hitting that bottom rock named "despair."

And hey, if someone out there learns something or thinks to themselves, "I'm as cool as Sayyadina; I bet I could use my powers of sensitivity for good instead of evil." (good being progression and learning while evil is cyclical self-loathing and self-damnation) Well, then I say: "You're right. I have the names and numbers of a few fantastic Life Coaches, should you require assistance." Because although I may be cool and I may be smart, beautiful and funny, I was not always so: (Okay, I was always beautiful.) I learned these truths from and with those who were kind and patient enough to guide me through the tangle that was my Self.

Now I function 97% of the time, not as a tangled mass of emotion and unconnected thought, but as a well strung Cello. And that other 3%? I work to keep it in perspective and don't give it any room to take root. Or leave rot.

I choose to compost. How about you?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Cramped week, open spaces.

Has it really been six days since my last post? We've had a busy week.

My Uncle had blood clots and was flown from Wyoming to McKay-Dee where he was treated for a week, and we visited him nearly every day.

I attended a NAIFA conference for two days aided by DreamPacker and my mom as babysitters. I heard many kind and true things said about my father and learned ever more about the importance of insurances of many sorts. Not convinced there are any? Come talk to me or my dad (or my brother in law, for that matter) and we will teach you what we know.

I accompanied Lemur on his field trip to the Ogden Nature Center (Rivulet in tow) and learned about Pond Ecology. Directly from there, we drove to SLC and arrived at Kingsbury Hall via shuttle bus just in time to tape my sister receiving her Masters in Instrumental Conducting. Then we got on the wrong shuttle bus, getting us lost in UofU traffic for over 45 minutes before finally making it back to the car and down to Chili's for lunch with the fam.

My sister and I drove further into SLC to visit my Grandma for Mothers Day.

We then went to IKEA so Lemur and Rivulet could play in SmallLand for an hour. Why? Because last Friday, Rivulet decided to potty train herself. She had been potty trained for a whole week, and her reward was a trip to SmallLand, where only potty trained children are allowed to venture. She loved her reward! And I loved the chance to visit with my sister over a soda in the cafe.

Rivuleta potty trained herself! She has only had two accidents, one at DreamPacker's house just as the horses were led to the gate, ran and won/lost the Kentucky Derby. And the other was basically my fault. STILL! I was so worried she was behind others her age. Turns out, it's a lot less problematic if I just let her decide when she wanted to. YAY!

What else . . . Went to Mountain Road Ranch to watch the Kentucky Derby. Congrats to Super Saver, though I missed the win cleaning up the aforementioned "accident." I saw it on the replay, though. :)

I tore out grass in places it didn't belong and in it's place planted Irish Moss, Creeping Thyme and multicolored petunias. Also, we filled and planted our Square Foot Garden with everything from radishes to corn to tomatoes and onions. I'm excited to see what happens next.

I tore out the thicket behind the house and found (amoung other nameless shrubbery) a Viburnum Bush. YAY! They are so fragrant and beautiful. It hasn't blossomed yet, but is definitely on it's way. The lilacs are blooming too. I love our new house!

I drove to and from The Ranch this morning (6 hours in the car total) to return my Uncle to his home, and helped clean up a bit.

I'm sure there's more that I'm missing. I know I have pictures and videos galore to document it all . . . and hopefully I will post them sometime in the near future.

In the meantime, I'm alive. SUPER alive. I'm sitting on my back porch listening to the many birds that tweet and twitter (as nature intended) as the sun begins its descent behind the western mountains. Rivulet is seated next to me, dipping her finger into her peanut butter sandwich, and licking off the peanut butter - leaving the bread whole but empty.

I think everyone should have the chance to sit on my porch as I do now. Happy and tired and happy.

It's an odd reversal in my soul to be excited for all that is to come, not even knowing what it is. I'm excited for the roses to bloom. I'm excited for the geraniums to creep. I'm excited to smell the viburnum, to sit lazily on my porch for many an evening come June and all summer eve's. I'm excited that I am finally reading again! I'm excited to see what will occupy my summer, seeing as it feels wrong to plan anything. So that must mean something is coming. I hope it's what I think it is. And I'm okay if it's something else.

I remember realizing that depression was living one's life afraid of the future: living one's life backwards. Realizing that doing so was against nature, and that was hy it felt so terrible. It amazes me to find that gardening is one of the things that turned my brain forward.

A Bit of Earth, indeed.

Contributing is my role to help my children understand their feelings. We are finally at the stage when Rivulet is feeling so much and doesn't have words to identify or describe what she is feeling. So she often says, "No," "Nothing," "Never mind," or "I don't know." Having learned how important validation is - and seeing how much it has helped Lemur to be able to give name to his many feelings - I have had the great opportunity to focus on Rivulet and help her figure out what is up with her.

It amazes me that words have connotations before they have denotations. Rivulet can intuitivly know "angry" isn't the right word for her emotion, but "upset" or "frustrated" or "scared" is. And it is up to me to help her cultivate that sensitivity and clarity.

In this vein, Lemur's teacher said something to me the other day: "You told me Lemur has a temper. But I've never seen it. He always communicates very clearly with the other children, and with me." I don't remember telling her he had a temper. I remember saying he was emotional. Anyway: At the beginning of the year, I had "warned" her of Lemur's tendancies toward emotion, and advised her that he would calm right down if she asked him to take a deep breath. And as it turns out, he hasn't had a single problem at school. Then she expressed a bit of sadness that Lemur would be transferring schools for next year. We discussed that the second grade rooms had no windows. I told her that although Lemur was distressed about that at first, I told him that it was like a super-hero's hidaway lair. She smiled and said, "Ah, so that's where he gets it. From YOU!"

As it turns out, my kids get alot from me. When I was angry, they got anger. When I yelled all the time, they did too. When I found my balance and my center, they were able to stop protecting themselves from my volcanic emotions enough to flourish.

Again I am grateful to my Life Coaches and my Tuning Fork for teaching me so much so that I may now be a better mom and guide for my babies, who are swiftly turning into children.

Well, now it's cold. The birds don't seem to mind. But my fingers do. Rivulet has abandoned me for the warmth of the house and the hope of hot chocolate. Yet I cling to the moment just a little longer. Looking over the yard, slurping up every last view of this day until I am as full as I can be.

How wonderful to discover that I always have more space in my soul for beauty and love!

Thursday, May 6, 2010


The practice of taking raw ,cast-off and mulched organic material, putting it in a shady spot and letting micro-organisms break it down into one great big pile of useful stuff where only garbage existed before. I've read that you must mulch, moisten and move. Cut up the garbage into "digestable" pieces. Not a whole branch, but chopped up bits of branch, for example.
There is supposed to be browns (wood, branches, twigs) and greens (grass, veggie leftovers, leaves) and water.
The water helps with digestion. And then there is the moving. Taking what is on the outside, scooping it up and adding it to the center, letting the center fall to the outskirts.

Why exactly did thinking about this process today try to become a metaphor for my mind? I don't know. Now that I'm writing about it, I see almost no similarities. In fact, I can't think of ANY similarities.

My thoughts . . . I do just let them pile up like garbage; most of them I even throw away without examining them for their complete worth. And maybe if I kept them in a concentrated area - a concious effort to keep them from being strewn willy-nilly about my backyard of a brain - perhaps they could . . . uh . . . feed off eachother and grow together to form something useful?

Nah. Because the purpose of compost isn't just to have good compost. You can't eat compost. It doesn't even smell good. it has no flowers. It isn't pretty and it doesn't recieve accolades from passersby . . . It's purpose is solely to nurture something else to grow. You compost to not waste organic matter and then to add nutrient elsewhere when it can no longer contribute in it's original form.

That is nothing like thoughts. Or writing. Or my brain.

I guess this goes to show that you can't make a metaphor out of a compost pile. And yet, I tried.

* I've now re-read this post 3 times. I'm not entirely sure I've failed at the metaphor entirely. . . or succeeded entirely . . . or just gone a little mad. At least I typed it very quickly. And that I can be pleased with.