Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Thursday, October 25, 2007
As part of my recent fit of openness and vulnerability, I've decided to share with my hopes and dreams for myself. This is a document I mainly composed in December of '06 but re-discovered and finished tonight. It was inspired by some darling co-workers of mine (you know who you are!) who discovered "The Secret" and created vision boards for themselves. Being a word-oriented person, my vision board is not visual; it's verbal.
a. This is a complex thing. It’s frightening to commit wholly to a Self, fearing that that Self might be fundamentally flawed. I fear that if I become too self-assured, I’ll cease to progress and improve myself. However, insecurity is a horrible motivation for improvement. Self-love is probably a much greater motivation. A child who is told that she is horrible and no-good is not going to suddenly leap into a frenzy of self-improvement. She will probably become more horrible and no-good. A child who is loved and nurtured and encouraged is more apt to become a happy, well-adjusted, contributing human being. That isn’t to say that she doesn’t need to be directed; the directing just needs to be done in a positive way.
b. Another challenge presented to me by the idea of submitting to self-assurance is the fear that self-assurance will lead to closed-mindedness and pride. But closed-mindedness and pride aren’t usually derived from self-assurance; rather, they arise from insecurity. Someone who is truly self-confident is not afraid to consider different ways of being and thinking.
c. Self-assurance is fundamental to happiness not only because of the above reasons (it gives us the ability to improve ourselves and opens us up to new and different ways of being), but also because it gives us the ability to overcomes fear, helping us to do things we would otherwise not be able to accomplish. Living without fear gives us the ability to love everyone, to give freely, and to take risks, three essential components of what I have deemed to be The Good Life.
2) Limitless love
a. I believe it is possible to cultivate a deep and meaningful love for all human beings and essential to nurture this love for every person with whom we come in contact. Part of developing this love, I believe, is learning to become mindful (in the Buddhist sense) of each person we encounter. It’s learning to forget all of the Tasks That Must Be Performed and turning all of your focus onto the other human being standing before you, making them, their thoughts, their needs, and their very existence the most interesting and most important thing in the world. This is not an easy thing to do, but it is the enlightened thing to do.
b. I love the aspotle Paul’s description of the greatest sort of love: ““Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."
3) (Inner) Serenity
a. Internal unrest separates us from happiness. For me, at least, constant fears prevent me from being happy. When I am alone, I wonder if I “should” be with people; when I am with people, I wonder if I “should” be alone. When I am working, I worry that I “should” be still; when I am still, I worry that I “should” be working. I worry, worry, worry, worry constantly that whatever I’m doing, whatever I’m thinking, whatever I’m feeling is the “wrong” thing to be doing, thinking, and feeling. There’s a nagging fear inside that whever I’m going is a place that is not as good as wherever else I might be going, that I’m going to miss out on something essential, that everything I’m not doing is better than what I am doing. To cast this all away, to simply be happy with what I have and feel and think and do, to trust myself enough to know that whever my purest self takes me will be a good place, would be serene indeed.
b. I believe another component of serenity comes with relinquishing any attempts to control other people: what they think of you, how they feel, and what they do are all choices of their own. To center one’s happiness around the thoughts and actions of others is to build upon a sandy foundation indeed.
4) Connection with Divinity
a. The ultimate source of love in the universe—perfectly kind, patience, abundant, and forgiving—sits and watches and waits for its little children to open themselves up to boundless grace. I want to open myself up.
The next few considerations are things I hope for, which do not create happiness, but would certainly enhance it.
1) A happy marriage.
2) Loving friendships.
3) Healthy, happy children.
4) A modest, clean, and tidy home; a modest, clean, and tidy car; money left over for family vacations and charitable donations.
5) Success and happiness in a career as a writer.
a. Success here is defined as actually creating works of literature, not necessary publishing them and/or becoming wealthy, though I certainly wouldn’t object to such perks.
6) Physical health.
7) Lifelong learning.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
My life dream has long been to be a writer (I'm talking since at least the first grade), but fear has always held me back. The notorious Inner Editor often keeps me from even attempting to write, telling me before I even sit down at the keyboard that whatever words and ideas and characters and situations are inside of me are unoriginal, dumb, insipid, embarrassing, and/or poorly put together. So the idea of just sitting down and crapping out a whole bunch of unfiltered and loosely tied together thoughts and ideas with a press-forward-and-don't-look-back attitude appealed to me. So I signed up. And wrote, oh, about 30 double-spaced 1-inch-margin pages before collapsing into a heap of shame and giving up on the whole endeavor.
But a year has passed, and the sweet scent of rotting foliage is making me want to try my hand again at writing a novel in a month. And, for extra motivation, I've decided to go public with the goal. Would you all be my cheerleaders? I'll even buy you dollar-store pom-poms. Please? Pretty please?
To meet my goal I would need to write at least 5 pages a day. This I could do after Soren retires for the evening, though it would mean neglecting other aspects of my life, such as my marriage, housework, reading, documentary night, relationships, and church callings. I'm so scared. I think that there is nothing scarier in this world that pursuing the dreams that mean the most to you, especially when you feel so completely inadequate. My worst fear of all time is not remaining unpublished, but of producing the sort of mindless drivel that abuses adverbs, speaks of "honey-blond" hair, and tops the bestseller list at Deseret Book. I don't fear not writing; I fear bad writing. But fear only restricts and never frees, and so, by way of working to overcome my fear of myself, I have decided to post the first paragraph from my last year's attempt at novel-writing.
Here it is:
"The enormous hostility Sara felt toward the two ladies standing in the check-out line was mostly inexplicable. There was nothing wrong with the women, per se-- they weren’t saying anything even slightly offensive-- but there was something about the way they pursued their lips and lilted of their voices and leaned on their hips that just…irritated her. To the point of raising her blood pressure, even. She examined them, studied their faces and mannerisms for clues that might unlock the mystery of her great distaste. They both wore their hair in the way expected of middle-aged women: short curling-iron sculpted layers, hair-sprayed into place. And they both wore their jeans in the way expected of middle-aged women: pulled up high over slightly pooching bellies made round by years of having babies and eating hot white rolls on Sunday evenings. Their make-up was tastefully applied, obviously there, but not classless in quantity. They wore dressy blouses and matching jewelry and the one with the graying blond hair had to pull out her gold-rimmed reading glasses while she signed the receipt for her credit card purchase. They were cute. Chatty. Personable. But every word that came out of their mouths made her stomach churn and her jaw tighten."
Saturday, October 20, 2007
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
PAY IT FORWARD: i will send a handmade gift to the first three (3) people who leave a comment on my blog requesting to join this PIF exchange. you may not receive it tomorrow or next week, but you will receive it within 365 days! the only thing you have to do in return is pay it forward by making the same promise on your blog. (so, you must have a blog to participate.) i can't wait to see who I will be giving to. to join, just cut and paste and comment away. so get posting.
My poor little noodle.
In just a matter of four days, he's managed to contract yet another bad cold, whack his eye against a cement block, and bloody his nose on the side of the bathtub. That child is an accident waiting to happen. He's all exuberance and no forethought.
Yesterday Abe, Soren, and I were driving up town and we looked back to see Soren sitting in his car seat, looking sadly over the cloth of his gray hoody into the cloudy scene passing by. A single tear (I kid you not) streamed across his bruised eye socket; snot trickled into his open mouth. He was staring bleakly out the window as though life no longer held any meaning for him. If anyone had noticed that little face peering though our Honda window, they probably would have called child protective services. Abe and I decided he looked like a hardened street kid who had recently been in a fight. Using a raspy manly voice, Abraham narrated Soren's thoughts: "It hasn't been an easy life, but I've gotten by. Never asked nobody for nothin'. Just made a living for myself with my own two hands, sometimes working, sometimes fighting. But I've done it alone. And I don't need nothing or nobody. I can get by just fine."
(I wish desperately that I'd gotten a picture. Soren's got such an expressive face. For illustration purposes I've taken a non-smiling picture of him and doctored it in an attempt to make him look as sad as he did yesterday. It doesn't even come close to capturing the sheer melancholy.)
Friday, October 12, 2007
The big thing, of course, is that Abe, Soren, and I recently spent 2 whole weeks in sunny New Hampshire (believe it or not, it actually was sunny most of the time) visiting his parents and their dwindling flocks (they're down to only two cats, three dogs, six at-home children, and two chickens. And I'm not kidding. That really is dwindling. Welcome to the land of milk and honey).
All in all, it was a very lovely trip. Every time I visit my in-laws I grow to love them more. I spent most of my time at the Skousen home relishing my lack of responsibilities (no church lessons to plan, no uncles to buy cookies for, no statistics to count for work), drooling over the endless delights to be found in the family library, and pulling Soren away from the drip-catching tray under the fridge. We also visited with friends (the Irwins and the Mailhots) and family (Nana and Aunt Sandra and Uncle Bob), took a little trip to the Maine Coast, and discovered a library in St. Johnsbury, Vermont that sent us spiraling into a fantasy about someday opening a Library Retreat.
Here are some pictures from our back-East adventures:
We started and ended our adventures at the Snuffer household in Aurora, CO, where Abe's sister Lara and her husband, Nate, were kind enough to let us stay. Nate even made us delicious food, including the most fabulous vegan pancakes I have ever have the pleasure of consuming. Soren was intrigued by his newfound cousins, though they were less than enthusiastic about him. Chase, in particular, seemed to find his presence threatening. And Maya? Well, her face in the picture below says it all:
(Notice the enormous amount of snot dripping out of Soren's nose. He took serious issue with my wiping away of such painstakingly produced boogers, so I mostly just let them hang. The entire Snuffer family became sick shortly after our departure. This was mere coincidence.)
Sadly enough, this was about the best picture of the family that was taken on our camera during the duration of our stay. My mother-in-law was constantly snapping lovely shots of every family member and each memorable event on her own camera, lulling me into a false sense of memory-saving security that forced me to procrastinate the day of taking good pictures until it was everlastingly too late. (From left, clockwise, Abe's dad's nose and forehead, Quentin's black-and-white striped shirt, Briar's hand, and Aunt Sandra's pixie haircut.)
Soren LOVED having animals around who would very passively subject themselves to his vigorous maulings. Freddy, pictured above, was a particularly good subject, as moving as little as possible is more important to him that being entirely physically comfortable at all times. Soren, spotting me with the camera, is trying to look innocent. "Who, me? Pulling the dog's ears? Never!"
One of the delightful things about this trip is that Abe's brother Tanner, his wife, Holly, and their son, Ethan, were able to visit at the same time. This meant that all five of the Skousen sons were together in the same place for a brief period of time. There are adorable photos documenting this occasion...on my in-laws' computer.
Soren's favorite thing about the beach in Maine was that it was full of many rocks for him to put in his mouth. I tried keeping him contained in my lap, but the baby hand is quicker than the mommy eye and he still ended up tasting the Atlantic Ocean in many different mineral varieties.
Here are Abe and Soren in Cincinnati, Ohio, catching some Zs during our layover on the way back home. It was a long, long day.