Monday, November 30, 2009

You're Grounded!

Alright, so maybe you aren't grounded.  But I am.  And I love it.

A major road into and out of town has been closed for about a year for construction.  It was frustrating and inconvenient.  There were so many places that it was now incredibly difficult and convoluted to get to.  There has been much griping, moaning, and gnashing of teeth over the whole affair.

So when the road reopened a little earlier than expected, there was much rejoicing (Huzzah!).  Everyone was so excited to use the new road.  And it is a beautiful road, let me tell you.

But my joy was not full until I drove on the road back into town.  You see, I grew up here.  And that road has special meaning to me.  Year after year, trip after trip.  That road welcomed me home.  Crossing the overpass into town is like walking into a warm hug for me.

You see, I am grounded in Springville.  We are a part of each other.  Through all the chaos, the heart wrenching times, Springville was the strength beneath my feet.

As I drive through Springville, memories wash over me like a healing rain.  I see my old schools.  The houses I used to live in.  The parks I played at.  The ball diamonds where I felt powerful.

And better yet, I see the homes of those who touched my life.  I see my band director's home.  And I remember his love for me.  I see my bishop's home.  And remember his love for me.  I see the homes of relatives, teachers, friends, and so many others who made me who I am.  And most of all, I see my grandmother's home.  The most heavenly, welcoming place I've ever been.  I remember her love for me and my love for her and I am complete.  I am good enough.  In fact, I am wonderful.

So, I would like to say to my pioneer ancestors who chose to settle here, thank you so much!  Thank you for giving me Springville.  Because no matter how much it's changed or grown, it's still my home -- and it will always be in my heart.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Gentlemen, . . . Start . . . Your . . . ENGINES!

An ode to NASCAR.

No, not really.  I'm not sure I even know what an ode really is.

And I'm not going to write about why I like NASCAR or why you should.  But I do and you should.

I am going to write about what I learned in regards to human nature in my NASCAR conversion process.

I grew up playing sports:  softball, basketball, football, volleyball.  I tried a few others, but these were my staples.  I played them year after year as a tween and as a teen.

I also grew up watching sports.  This was a slightly wider range, all of the above plus golf and bull riding.

I like sports.

Then I got married.  He wasn't into sports -- except racing.  (You may have noticed that racing was not on my list.)  And I remember, as clearly as if it were yesterday, saying, "Racing isn't even a real sport.  All they do is drive around in circles."

For years I griped and moaned whenever he wanted to watch a race.  I mocked and belittled.  I saw racing and anyone who watched it as trailer trash.

And then one day, a little over ten years ago, I decided to try to understand what he liked about it.  Or at least fake it in an effort to bond with my husband.  I missed watching sports with someone on Sunday afternoons.

And guess what.  There is more to it than I thought.  I am a fan.  I have a driver (Tony Stewart, #14, Office Depot).  My NASCAR podcast (Rowdy) is my favorite one to listen to, the one I won't miss.  And we, as a family, had a NASCAR competition all season long (Sam won).

But what I learned, and have since been able to observe a lot in others, is that some of us tend to mock things that we don't understand.  We feel like we have to have an opinion, and since we haven't been converted then it must be stupid.

I've caught myself doing it many times since about other things.  Once I catch myself I try to understand why.  I try to learn more.  And usually I find that, just like with racing, there is more to it than I'm seeing.

The list of things I've judged prematurely is way too long.  Facebook.  Blogging.  Wrestling.  Therapy.  And people. 

That last one is the one I'm most ashamed of.  I have so often judged people too quickly.  Because they are a little out of the norm, different from me, or challenging to understand in some other way I have written them off as less than.  This is way more serious than mocking a sport.  And very hard to change.

But I'm trying.  Because it's worth it.  Just like with racing, when I've taken the time to understand it has paid off.  It has broadened my thinking as well as my circle of friends.

And if there's one thing I always need, it's a bigger circle.

*****
And congratulations to Jimmie Johnson for winning four championships in a row.  Amazing!

Monday, November 16, 2009

You Can't Handle the Truth!

How are you?

No, really.  How are you?

I would ask two questions in regard to the above inquiry.  First, how often do you mean it when you say it?  And second, how often do you answer honestly?

This questions bugs me.  It bugs me because it's another example of the sloppiness of the English language.  Most of the time it isn't an actual question as to how your life is going or how you are feeling, it is a way to say hi.  I don't like it when words are used in a way that they don't really mean what they say.  Clear as mud?

I try to mean it when I say it.  Partly because I like to be precise in my communication and partly because I think everyone needs a whole lot more listening ears and hearts in their lives.

So, onto the answering part.

This question has posed problems for me.  I would say that it got especially difficult when I started working with a bunch of therapists, and they meant it.  It was probably the first time in my life that I really felt like anyone around me wanted to know how I was out of true concern for me, not out of a desire to assess whether or not they could ask me to do something for them.

And then it got worse when I started seeing a therapist professionally.  And worse when I got my never-ending headache.  At this point I had no idea what this question really meant or how I should answer it.

Let me clarify by saying that I believe in being honest.  I try very hard to be honest in every situation.  (Partly out of the perfectionism issue.)

So suddenly people were asking me how I was and fine was no longer a default answer.  Often I wasn't fine, but I also wasn't sure who really wanted to know.  I confess that I erred a great deal here.  I tend to over-share.  I gave out more information than many people wanted.

I think I've improved some.  I think I fliter a little better.  But I still sometimes offer the truth even when I know people don't want it.

My favorite place is in the checkout line at the grocery store.  It goes something like this:
"How are you?"
"I'm really tired and cranky and trying not to kill people.  How are you?"

Now, some people barely notice and move on.  Others admit that it's the most honest answer they've heard all day.  And others say that they are, too, and we share a moment of bonding.  They have just been given permission to be honest, to drop the smile and be true to themselves in the moment. 

And then I am a little better.  Funny how sharing true emotion for just a second with a nearly complete stranger can be so cleansing.  You should try it.

So, how are you?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Humor Me

"You don't laugh."
"What do you mean?"
"You don't laugh.  No one in your family laughs."

This is a conversation from early in my marriage.  I was probably twenty or twenty-one and had never been told this before.  Suddenly my husband was telling me that I don't laugh.

I do not know how the conversation got there, but I believe we were watching a funny movie or tv show.  My husband had been laughing throughout.  He'd look at me when I didn't laugh and ask, "Didn't you think that was funny?"  I'd answer that I did.  "Then why didn't you laugh?" he'd ask.  "I didn't think it was THAT funny." I'd respond.

This had happened may times in the past.  I guess this was the day it finally dawned on him that I don't laugh.

Now, I could argue this point.  I went through a giggly phase in junior high and high school.  I've been known to have 2:00am laughing attacks.  I laugh.

But his observation made me curious.  Always one to examine my own nature, I chose to see if there was some validity in what he said.

And I found that when it comes to laughing, he and I are very different.  He's like a kid.  He laughs at everything that is even a little bit funny.  And I am much more conservative in my laughter.  Most things that are just a little funny get a smile from me, but not an actual laugh.  And I am not good at giving a pity laugh either. 

I have spent some time pondering what makes people laugh and why it is so different for each of us.

Picture a baby.  Peek-a-boo or a sudden funny sound can elicit rolling giggles.  As long as all is well otherwise, babies are an easy laugh.

Or a young child.  A simple potty joke or the oldest jokes in the book can have them laughing for hours, retelling the jokes to anyone who will listen.

And as we get older, I believe that our sense of humor evolves.  The things we used to find funny really aren't so much anymore.

Some people like slapstick.  Not me.  It just looks painful.
Some people like stupid humor, like in so many of the movies of the day.  Not me.  They're just stupid.

I like clever humor.  I like the joke with the punchline that I don't see coming.  I like it when someone does something silly that is totally out of character for that person.  I like jokes that don't make sense because they aren't meant to.  I like macabre humor. 

And sometimes it's just that the planets have aligned and in that moment at that time that thing is funny to me.  There is no rhyme or reason.

So as you ponder what makes you laugh and why, I leave you with one of my current favorite jokes:
Q:  What is green and invisible?
A:  This cabbage (holding out cupped, empty hands)

Monday, November 9, 2009

May I Borrow the Car?

DISCLAIMER:  I love teenagers, especially mine.  They are wonderful.  This post is in no way meant to be disparaging of them.

***

Please excuse me while I wax spiritual for a moment.

I'm wondering if, spritually speaking, I will ever progress beyond the teen stage.  Let me explain.

Life ebbs and flows.  Sometimes things are easy and I take eveything for granted.  Other times they are hard and it seems like nothing is happening like I want it to.  And sometimes I have to do something hard and need a little extra help.

Recently I found myself in this last category.  I needed to do something hard.  Hard enough that I knew I couldn't do it without a little extra help from God (as if I am not always receiving a little extra help from Him).  So I took inventory of my life and began working harder.  I tried to eliminate anything that may have been impeding my relationship with Him.  I tried to be more faithful in things that I've committed to do in the past.  And I just basically watched my life more closely to see what else I could put in order.  I worked hard.  And it paid off.  I was able to do the difficult thing.  Thank you, God.  Moving on.

And the next day is when I started to see myself as a spiritual teenager.  Some of my old habits returned, or at least tempted me in a way they hadn't while I was focused.  My dedication wasn't what it had been when I needed something.

So let me paint for you the image I have of myself.  My teenage self in relation to God, my father.

I have regular spiritual chores.  Things that I am supposed to do every day because they are my job and I committed to do them.  Sometimes I forget.  Sometimes I grumble.  Sometimes I consciously blow them off entirely.  And, to give myself credit, sometimes I willingly and cheerfully do them.  And often I forget that they are for my benefit.  I feel like I am somehow doing Him a favor by checking off my list.  I forget that He puts a roof over my head, food in my belly, and life in my body.  Not to mention all the wonderful people and experiences that He brings into my life.  He gives all of this freely, whether I do my chores or not, and asks so little of me.

But then I have something big that I want or need or think I need (I compare it to a teenager asking to borrow the car -- you know, back when teenagers didn't all have their own cars).  Now, in an effort to butter Him up so I can have what I want (not really my mind set, but it kind of works out that way) I work extra hard.  Not only do I do all of my regularly assigned chores, I look for extra things to help with.  I am the prize child who will help with anything, do anything, be nothing but bliss -- at least in my immature eyes.  He is pleased with my turn around and rewards my good behavior.  I get what I want.  And then go back to rolling my eyes and sleeping late.

I know life is meant to ebb and flow.  I know I probably can't keep up that pace forever.  I know that for everything there is a season.  But it still makes me sad.

Because too often I am still a know-it-all teenager who is entirely self-centered.  And I wonder if I will ever leave that stage entirely behind.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

A Pebble or a Pea?

Let me take you back to your childhood, the days of fairy tales. 

Remember the story of The Princess and the Pea?  Maybe like me, you remember it as told by "Kermit the Frog" reporting.  While the details change in the retelling, the basic story goes like this.  In an effort to determine if a young girl is a real princess, so that she is suitable for the young prince to marry, a bed is prepared for her as a test.  The bed has many mattresses.  And a secret.  Underneath the mattresses is a single pea.  If the girl is a true princess, she will be sensitive enough to notice the pea despite all the padding.  Morning comes.  The girl hasn't slept because there was something hard in her bed.  She IS a real princess.  Happy ending.  All is well.

Only, let's think about it.  Now that we have lived a little life and had our share of troubles.  How do you see the princess now?  I'm afraid she is now a joke.  Someone who has had such a blissful and pampered life that the smallest difficulty is so troubling that she cannot sleep.

And let us consider another difficulty of similar size.  A pebble.  On the path in front of you it is nothing; inside of your shoe it is everything.  It's about the same size as a pea, but few would argue that you were wrong to be troubled by it.  It would bother most anyone.  Of course it is a problem.

So how often do we confuse the two?  I think that sometimes I'm the princess.  Things have been going well and the smallest thing ruins my perfect picture so it becomes a big deal.  Other times I am so involved with everything else that I try to ignore the pebble in my shoe.  It just doesn't seem like that big of a deal.  But it does take it's toll.

Sometimes the pebble is an easy problem.  I take off my shoe, dump it out, put my shoe back on, and am back on my way.

Othertimes the pebble is disaster.  It was the thing that pushed me over the edge.  I sit down, take off my shoe, throw it, curse it, and cry.

I would like to be better at discerning between pebbles and peas in my life.  And since I have difficulty with my own problems it would stand to reason that I would have even more trouble judging someone else's.

I will try to remember this the next time I see someone I think is a princess wallowing over a pea.  Maybe it was really a pebble in her shoe and she has been walking with it a very long time.