Monday, August 27, 2018

The power of "could" (A.K.A Stop "shoulding" all over yourself.)

7th grade me, at the start of my educational decline.
Sometimes I feel really smart. Other times not so much.
I didn’t graduate from high school. I skipped classes, got bad grades, and hid behind humor. I got my GED two years later. I’ve gone to bits of college here and there but no degree. I’ve had jobs here and there throughout the years but no career.

For a long time I felt unsmart--stupid.
Writing has made me feel smart, made me realize I actually have something in my brain.
Most times I am okay, really. I understand that formal education doesn't translate directly to intelligence. I've met plenty of college graduations that can't think for themselves.
But, still, there are times when I feel dumb. And I HATE FEELING DUMB.
Case in point, a while ago I went on a job interview. I was nailing it. Eye contact, solid answers, confident smile. I had it in the bag.
Then, right in the middle and out of the blue, the interviewer says the worst possible thing could say, "We are going to have a math test."

Huh? First of all, what's this we? Is he going to take it with me? And second of all, a math test? Who gives a math test in an interview?

That guy does.
I felt sick. I never made it past Algebra 1 in school. Math is my kryptonite, right next to liquid eyeliner and cleaning the bathroom.
He smiles and says, “If you receive an invoice for $3248.56, which includes a tax of 0.917%, how much would the total of just the bill be?"
People. I froze.

I didn’t know how to do it. 
Not only was it a dumb question, but I felt like a dumb person. 
Time slowed down.
I stared at the calculator in my hand, then to him, then back down to my calculator. 
My mind was blank. Nothing. 
I punched some random numbers hoping the answer would magically appear, but nothing came.
I felt embarrassed, ashamed. Humiliated.

That wasn’t his intent. Numbers are a big part of the job.
I wanted to cry right there.
I really wanted to slide out of my chair and sneak out the door. Though, he may have noticed a skirt-clad woman doing the army crawl across the floor.
The was another gentleman on the interview panel. I glanced up at him, hoping he couldn't see me dying inside. 
My nearly tearing up eyes rested on the calculator in my hand one last time as I prepared myself for what I'd have to say next.
I looked up at the interviewer, breathed in courage, swallowed a huge slice of humble pie, and with a wide said, “I’m sorry. I can’t recall the specific formula. But that’s okay, because this is the perfect time for me to show you how honest I am when there is something I need help with, and what a fast learner I am as well.”
He laughed and offered to write the problem out for me. Once the equation was in front of me, the old brain kicked in and I knew how to solve it.
Now, I could stop here and talk about how we can take difficult moments and make something good out of them. Or I could talk about how our "control room"--that place we go in the time between what happens to us and how we respond, that I shared in my second book.

But I'm not. Not yet.

I wasn't thinking about any of that stuff. In fact, I cried the entire way home.

I’m 46. And I felt like a 15-year-old in high school again. Embarrassed. Stupid. Small.

And it stung.

The next day I received an email from the guy. He invited back for a second interview. His manager wanted to meet me.
I was stunned. I thought my embarrassingly obvious ineptitude had sealed my fate.

But it didn't.

I never found out why they wanted me back because I never went to the second interview. I took another job offer instead which, luckily, had me teaching special needs children--something I love doing that, luckily, doesn't require algebraic skills.

That moment in the interview, for me, was a seminal moment in my life. It was a moment I faced deep shame and regret and didn't give it power over me.

I took the power away from shame and regret.

I took the power and changed it into something good.

Even if I'd never been called back for another interview, I feel like I succeeded.

I still harbor some negative feelings about my educational past. I know I made mistakes. I wish I would have made better choices. But I cannot let regret keep me from progress.  You know the saying, "life is full of should-of-dones", right?

Well, I think I am tired of shoulding all over myself.

I loved that moment in the interview--the moment courage stepped past fear and doubt. The moment I could be confident when all the "evidence" proved otherwise. The moment I took control of who I was and want to be.

Yes, I should have taken school seriously. I should have had more confidence in myself. I should have gone to college after high school. I should have gotten my degeree.




See, shoulding on myself is easy.

But, I don't want to do that anymore. I need to stop shoulding all over myself. It stinks.

In that moment in the interview, I had to walk past should and grab hold of could.

I want to keep doing that.

I could go back to school now and get a degree. I could study worldly topics at home. Or I could simply realize I am really smart, even if I don't.




I like could. It's a nice word, filled with possibilities.


No regret or shame.


It's hope and choices and potential.

I could do so many wonderful things if I leave my should where it belongs: in the outhouse with the rest of the crap.

And I think I will.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Lucy's hands: Why God sometimes allows us to suffer.

(Excerpt from "Does This Insecurity Make Me Look Fat?")

Photo of Lucy’s hands courtesy of Kimberly Robinson

Do you ever wonder why we must endure some of the burdens we are asked to bear?

             I used to ask, “Why?” until a young mother’s example answered the question for me.
One Sunday, I was walking down the hallway to teach my class of five-year-olds when a sister in the hall stopped me. She told me that Lucy, the sweet, almost one-year-old daughter of a friend of mine, had been taken to the hospital. No one knew exactly what had happened, only that Lucy had been hurt.
By the end of our Sunday meetings, most of the congregation had been made aware of the situation. Meals were scheduled to be taken to the home. Care for Lucy’s older brother had been arranged. Prayers had already been whispered. Some tears had already been shed.
Through phone calls and visits, we learned what had happened. Lucy had been playing on the floor as her family had been getting ready for church. They had just moved into a new home, and Lucy was exploring the new family room. She was just beginning to walk and would often hold on to furniture and other things to help herself stand. This particular morning, Lucy crawled over to the gas fireplace and pulled herself to a standing position, leaning her full weight on her small hands as they pressed into the hot glass. The heat was intense, but Lucy was too young to realize that the palms of her hands were burning. She simply stood there, leaning against the hot glass pane for several seconds until her mother saw her and ran across the room.
Lucy’s quick-thinking parents immediately sought medical care. It was a long day of tears, doctors, praying, and waiting.
After a few days in the hospital, Lucy was able to come home. My husband and I paid the family a visit. Lucy was already in bed, and we sat with her parents, Matt and Stephanie, who were understandably exhausted. As we listened to them retell their experience, I was moved by their faith in the face of this adversity. My heart ached when they told me of the pain and suffering Lucy had experienced. I thought to myself how grateful I was that the ordeal was over—Lucy was home now, safe and warm in bed.
Then her mother told me about Lucy’s recovery process.
The doctors had performed skin grafts to save her hands. Then, to protect them as they healed, her hands and arms were wrapped up to the elbows.  During the healing process, the palms of Lucy’s hands would need to be stretched to prevent the skin from healing too tightly. Stephanie smiled through tired, moist eyes as she explained to my husband and me that this stretching had to be done not once or twice a day but every hour.
“Does it hurt?” I asked.
The answer was a tearful “Yes, but it’s the only way for her hands to heal correctly.” If the palms weren’t stretched, the skin would not heal with enough flexibility, and Lucy would not be able to open her hands fully as she grew older.
Oh, this poor little girl! was my first thought. To endure not only such initial pain and trauma but to have to experience pain over and over again—how heartbreaking!
The following Sunday, I saw Stephanie and Lucy in the restroom at church. It was time for the hourly stretching of Lucy’s hands. I watched as Stephanie set her smiling little girl on the counter and talk softly to her. Then she gently took Lucy’s hand. Lucy recoiled and began to whimper, knowing what was about to happen. Calmly and gently, Stephanie bent Lucy’s fingers back to stretch the healing skin. Lucy cried.
Stephanie spoke the tender words of a loving parent: “I know it hurts. I’m sorry. We are almost finished. You are doing so well. Mommy’s right here. I love you.” I turned my head and looked at the floor, feeling that I was invading a private moment between mother and daughter. I was also trying to hide my tears. I was watching a painful, yet tender exchange between child and parent. But it struck me that I was also witnessing a profound representation of the relationship between me and my heavenly Parent.
There have been many times in my life when I have struggled, when I have felt tired and stretched. My prayers in my younger days had often included this plea: “Heavenly Father, how can you let this happen to me?” It was difficult for me to understand how feeling so much pain could be for my benefit. I thought that if God loved me, He would save me from such pain. But most of the time that did not happen.
Little Lucy hurt herself—even though she was not fully aware of what she was doing. She had loving parents who helped to her heal. Even though it hurt, they knew that stretching her hands would lead to full use of them in the future. Temporary pain now would lead to full recovery later. Her parents knew this, so they stretched her hands for her benefit, even though it broke their hearts to do it. Out of their deep love for their daughter and their understanding of how necessary the stretching was, they not only allowed Lucy to hurt but they willingly and lovingly acted as the instigators of the pain. It took great courage and emotional strength on their part to administer this therapy, but they did what was hard now in order to help Lucy in the long run.
It might have been easier for them to say, “No, we don’t want Lucy to hurt anymore. She’s been through enough. We want to protect her. We will not stretch her hands.” But they were looking at the situation through the eyes of loving parents. They were looking at and loving not just the little Lucy but also the Lucy of the future: Lucy the future piano player, Lucy the future mother, Lucy the future artist, Lucy with full use of her hands. They understood the difficult truth that Lucy would have to endure pain now to reach a greater potential later.
We are told that the purpose of our mortal existence is that we might have joy (see 2 Nephi 2:25), but our lives in mortality are also punctuated with all manner of trials and tribulations. During these difficult times, we might feel stretched; we might feel pain and even suffering. We might cry as Alma did, when he was bound, imprisoned, and beaten, “How long shall we suffer these great afflictions, O Lord?” (see Alma 14:26).
When we feel stretched and are suffering, we might find ourselves wishing that our Heavenly Father would say, “No, I don’t want you to hurt anymore. You’ve been through enough. I want to protect you. I will not stretch you anymore.” If that wish were granted, we would momentarily be free from pain or discomfort. We might feel relief and happiness. It might seem to be an easier way to end the trial—but we would not grow.
Alma had faith, even in the midst of his afflictions. His plea to know how long the suffering would last was followed by, “O Lord, give us strength according to our faith which is in Christ unto deliverance” (Alma 14:26).  Alma understood that faith was imperative in the face of adversity. He knew that the Lord had a purpose and a plan for him, and he looked to God for guidance and help.
Our Father in Heaven loves us dearly and perfectly. He does not find any joy in our suffering. But He is not looking at and loving us just for the present. He is also looking at and loving our future selves. He knows that sometimes healing hurts.  He knows that for us to grow, we need to be stretched. He knows that for us to become like Jesus Christ, we need to change, and sometimes change comes only through adversity.
As a loving parent himself, Alma later testified of this principle to his son. He said, “I have been supported under trials and troubles of every kind, yea, and all manner of afflictions; . . . and I do put my trust in him, and he will still deliver me” (Alma 36:27).
What a powerful example Lucy’s family was, to me and to the entire congregation, of the influence of the love of good parents—and our Heavenly Parent. It reminds me there is purpose to my suffering. It also helps me to understand that my Father in Heaven allows me to suffer because He loves me—and that it is not an easy thing for Him to allow. It gives me hope that I can be healed, that pain is only temporary. And it helps me know that my loving Heavenly Father is there for me throughout the trial and the healing.
I am reminded of the gentle words that Lucy heard from her loving mother during the painful stretching: “I know it hurts. I’m sorry. We are almost finished. You are doing so well. Mommy’s right here. I love you. You will be okay.”
Now, when I am hurting, feeling stretched, and growing, I imagine those words as an earthly echo of my Heavenly Father’s loving message to me: “I know it hurts. I’m sorry. We are almost finished. You are doing so well. I am right here, and I love you. You will be okay.” We know we are loved not because our life is easy but because He is there to help us when it is hard.
That’s the power of my favorite word: perspective.
Perspective helps us find solace in the truth that God will not give us more that we can handle with His help. Perspective helps us understand that even though we see only a piece of the big picture we can still have faith in the One who created it. Perspective assures us that we are not alone in our trials and enables us to find the purpose in our lives and in our pain.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Yoda lied. But not really.

Yoda lied.

My father is going to disown me for saying that.

He loves Yoda and thinks he's brilliant. Probably because he is. He is a master of emotion and force, knowledge and will. Aside from the Clone Wars where he, uncharacteristically and in poor CGI form, fought from a place of rage, he was typically spot on with the nuggets of wisdom he handed out.

I've heard one of his most famous quotes tossed around for years:"Do or do not. There is no try."

It's usually accompanied by a motivational speech about never giving up, putting forth your full effort, or succeeding at all cost. Here's a hard thing. Now do it. Don't try. Don't fail. Just do it.

That's a lot of pressure.

I really don't like these interpretations of this quote. I get the whole, "do or do not". Indecisiveness is not a strength. Do it or don't. Hot or cold. Make up your mind. God doesn't like it either. "So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold or hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth" (Revelation 3:16)

So yeah, I get the "do or do not part."

The part that I cringe at is the "there is no try." What the wha?

Of course there is a try.


Even when I do or do not, my TRY matters.

Don't believe me? Take Elder Holland's word for it:

"With the gift of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the strength of heaven to help us, we can improve, and the great thing about the gospel is we get credit for trying, even if we don't always succeed."

Oh, sweet relief. Because I don't always succeed or do. In fact, if I'm being honest, I unsucceed more than I succeed. (Failure is such a negative word. I've decided to nix it from my vocabulary. That and kale.)

I understand that Yoda most likely meant that you should go into a scenario with confidence, with the intent of succeeding. That it was probably more about the mindset rather than the outcome. I'm sure he was trying to teach whiny Luke that our attitude can determine our altitude (that sounds like an Elder Uchtdorf analogy...)

Still. I wish Yoda would have had said something different Why couldn't he have said,  "Try or try not. You, it's up to."

That's what it boils down to, for me. Am I willing to try? And try? And try?

Because IF I am, then it counts.

I want my tries to count.

Perhaps Yoda wasn't lying, but was simply misunderstood. I think a new meme should clear things up. Because if it's in a meme, then it's true.

I love that I get credit for trying.

Yoda and Elder Holland are on same page as the Amulek. (It's a good page to be on.) When teaching the Zoramites, a rebellious and prideful bunch, he said, "I would that ye would come forth and not harden your hearts any longer. . . therefore, if ye will repent and harden not your hearts, immediately shall the great plan of redemption be brought about unto you."

There are so many things I love about this verse. I love that Amulek let's them know that

1- It's their responsibility. It's up to them to come forth and harden their hearts.

2- Just by trying, IMMEDIATELY the Atonements begins to work in their lives.

He didn't say, "after three weeks of perfect performance, you'll be blessed." No, he said immediately.

The Zoramites got credit for simply trying to have a softer heart and repent allows the great plan of redemption to affect them.

And so do we.

The theory that we get credit for trying (and do I really need to specify that it is trying to do GOOD things with GOOD and HONEST intent?) is pleasing to me.

If perfections was achieved by perfect performance, I'd be in petrouble.

I'm the first to admit that I am faaaaaaaaaaar from perfect and never will be perfect, not in this life. I will never do that. If my only choice was to "do" perfect I would epically fail. But, I don't have to give up and "do not" perfect. I simply have to try.

And not even try to be perfect. According to Amulek, I simply have to try to have a soft heart and repent. That's what trying is.

Trying is the direction we face, a step we take, a choice of light over darkness, and the getting up after we fall down.

Trying is hope and kindness and love.

Trying is choosing to grow rather than wilt.

Trying is choosing is casting your eyes on Him.

Trying is our perfect desire in imperfect action.

Trying is the reflection of the contents of our hear.

Trying is the way we get to and become like God.

Trying is everything.

I love that we can try and try again. And then try and try again.

As long as I try to keep on trying, I'm going to make it, if we want to.

So, Yoda, I get what you're sayin. I'm gonna do. I won't do not. But, in the mean time, there have been and will be about a million tries to get me there.

And every single one of them counts.

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