Checklist for Clarity

It’s been a rough morning. Want to see the list? Of course you do.

  • I have a headache.
  • The pile of laundry I need to fold covers a space on my living room floor approximately the size of a Volkswagen.
  • In a moment of profound weakness, I gave in and let my children adopt a kitten that our neighbor found. I actually like her a lot more than I thought I would, but I took her in for initial shots and exam yesterday, and let’s just say I was not prepared for that kind of investment. This morning I got the notice-of-overdraft email from my bank.
  • We had our family picture taken last night, and my children were suddenly possessed by demons. Keep in mind that I do not have any more toddlers or even preschoolers, and yet… YET… I found myself asking them to stop flopping around on the floor and ignoring every bit of instruction offered by the photographer. Here is a photo I snapped with my camera phone during the studio process.
  • We are headed out of town (which is a great thing), but the process of getting everything ready is stressing me out.
  • I keep remembering last-minute tasks that I should have finished before we go.  (When?? will I get them done?)

So while all this stuff was swirling around in my head, I had to stop myself and change the list. I had to look for and recognize the reality that’s happening alongside my stress list.

  • Natalie is putting up Halloween decorations and singing Christmas songs. ?? Whatever, she’s festive.
  • Clark is curled up on the couch reading a book.
  • I still have some leftover caramel sauce that I made for a Relief Society activity.
  • Grant has been helping me switch over the laundry loads.
  • Some parts of the house are mostly clean.
  • We all kind of like each other, and everyone is pretty much content (if you ignore my own personal bad attitude).
  • Our home is warm and cozy, and we’re all enjoying decent health.
  • In less than 48 hours, I will be taking that cruise I WON over the summer. [You do not need to tell me to shut up already; I am at this very moment in a process of self-correction.]

Anyway, that was my clarity checklist. My stress (and probably my headache) is the result of looking at my life in an unbalanced way.  President Uchtdorf JUST said last weekend (I’m a slow learner):

Brothers and sisters, no matter our circumstances, no matter our challenges or trials, there is something in each day to embrace and cherish. There is something in each day that can bring gratitude and joy if only we will see and appreciate it.

So as I hung the picture on the wall today, it struck me as funny how we always look at family pictures and make all these assumptions about how lovely and put-together that family is. We can’t see the behind the scenes meltdown at the photo studio, nor can we see the laundry piles and headaches at home.  But despite all that, I look at it on the wall today and think, “You know what? It really IS a beautiful family.” Because even though I know every single detail of the back-story, I can still see it for what it truly is– the whole package, the gory and the glory all wrapped up in one.  My day will still be busy, and I’m bound to handle things more stressed-out than I’d like to, but I feel my eyes just a little more open to things as they really are … and there’s plenty there that’s better than fine.

Advertisements

Just keep swimming…

I pretty much overbooked myself the last couple days, and I survived, and it’s all good.  I’ve discovered I can handle high-stress days in small increments (like maybe 2-3 days max), but not over a sustained period of time.  It’s nice when it passes and you can sit back and breathe again.

It feels a little indulgent, but several of you have asked about the notes from the fireside I taught last night, so I’ll work on a blog post in the next few days (after I breathe).  I saw one young woman recording the whole thing on her iPhone, so I wish I would have just asked her for a copy of it, but oh well.  Despite the nerves and the self-induced pressure to just get it right, I felt like it went well.  I’m satisfied when I can walk away from a teaching opportunity and say, “Well, that’s the very best I could do.”  You just hope it’s enough.  For those of you who expressed curiosity, this is what I wore.  (I know it was silly of me to post about that, and I really knew the right answer — which you were all so kind to share–, but you have to admit you’d feel the same way if you were going to stand up in front of a group of people as some kind of “beauty” expert.  Ha!  Even typing that made me laugh.)  Anyway, voila:

I know, I know.  “[Insert name of real beauty expert* here.], eat your heart out.”

*I couldn’t think of one since I’m so in touch with the fashion world and all.

In the meantime, if any of you are dying to study some great reference material about beauty, modesty, self-image and virtue, here’s a link to a list of things I studied in preparation for the talk.  There’s a lot of great direction available to us.  It made me realize that our leaders have given us a lot of clear direction, so it’s surprising that there’s still so much confusion.  I guess Satan does a good job of scrambling signals.

In other news, after several failed attempts to communicate to Clark my complete dissatisfaction with finding his recently-washed clothing back in his dirty clothes basket instead of put away, I finally decided to take a more practical approach.  I informed him on Sunday that he is now in charge of the laundry for a while.  I’ve spent the last couple of days teaching him the system.  They’ve always sorted their dirty clothes and put away their clean clothes (in theory), but I decided to let him actually wash them all, switch loads, dry them all, fold them all, etc.  This photo I took tonight shows you how happy he is about the new arrangement:

Well, that’s about it.  I’ll finish up with one of my favorite quotes I found while preparing for the fireside (thank you to my friend Velda for making it look pretty for me):

 

Botox and Prozac and Diets, Oh My!

When my brother was in the hospital, I got to drive up and down the freeway many times. I soon became familiar with all the billboards. This was one of my favorites (and by favorites, I mean it made me want to beat people up.): A lovely, buxom woman smiled down upon us shapeless freeway drivers through the huge words, “All I want for Christmas is my two front … .” The meaning behind “…” became clear as you read the name and number of the Plastic Surgery Clinic that she was referring you to.

When we were house hunting in Utah, we tried to make an appointment for a second showing of a house we were interested in.  The Realtor informed us that we could not come until after 3 p.m., because the homeowner was hosting an eyelash extension party.  Excuse me, a what? I had never even heard of such a thing in my life.  I have since seen and heard about this phenomenon many, many times.

I read this article this morning, and I found it really interesting.  I recommend it.  It reported:

Though no religion-specific data exists to show rates of eating disorders or body image issues, numerous accounts from diligent parents, priesthood and auxiliary leaders of struggling girls, and women speak for themselves. And one of Forbes magazine’s annual rankings may indicate that our quest for perfection took a wrong turn somewhere along the way: Salt Lake City, home to the worldwide headquarters of the LDS Church (and where an estimated 50 percent of the population is LDS), was ranked the “Vainest City in the Nation” in 2007 and 2008, and was in the Top 5 in 2009. This ranking is due to the city’s record-breaking amount spent on beauty products and treatments like Botox, an amount that is ten-fold the amount spent in cities of comparable size. If you’ve looked at the billboards along any Utah freeway, you won’t be shocked to hear Salt Lake City has the most plastic surgeons per capita, at six per 100,000 residents, trumping New York City and Los Angeles.

Why?  I don’t get it.  Of all the people in the world, we should be the most embracing of our God-given selves.  Though the LDS doctrine does teach us to strive for perfection, with an emphasis on following the example of Jesus Christ, it absolutely does not teach or endorse that we should make our bodies measure up to society’s definition of perfection.  In fact, Elder Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said the following:

I plead with you young women to please be more accepting of yourselves, including your body shape and style, with a little less longing to look like someone else. We are all different. . . . In terms of preoccupation with self and a fixation on the physical, this is more than social insanity; it is spiritually destructive, and it accounts for much of the unhappiness women, including young women, face in the modern world. And if adults are preoccupied with appearance—tucking and nipping and implanting and remodeling everything that can be remodeled—those pressures and anxieties will certainly seep through to children. At some point the problem becomes what the Book of Mormon called “vain imaginations.” And in secular society both vanity and imagination run wild. One would truly need a great and spacious makeup kit to compete with beauty as portrayed in media all around us.

You may have heard before that Utah also leads the country in the use of anti-depressants.  This is, again, a mystery.  There are some who argue that it’s probably a product of the high expectations of the LDS church culture and people feeling like they don’t measure up.  I don’t buy that, because a careful study of any of the counsel that comes from the general leadership of the church never has that kind of tone.  On the contrary, there are consistently messages of love, encouragement, and acknowledgment of our goodness and power and influence.  This is especially true for women.  Not anywhere else do you find more empowering words or praise for womanhood than you do from our own pulpits.  There are also myriad talks about adversity, challenges and tribulation, and how to deal with them, which clearly eliminates the expectation of living enchanted, perfect lives.  So what gives?

I’m obviously not an expert on these sociological matters, but I think I can see where some of this struggle originates.  LDS women are like other women throughout the world; we have struggles and sadness and insecurities.  There are also rampant mental health issues throughout our society, to which we are not immuned.  As I have become more and more of an adult, I have begun to see how many people, including many friends and family, struggle with depression, anxiety and consistently high stress.  Life is a pressure cooker that seems to take a great toll on our mental health.  We often need help.  It is safe to say that we all self-medicate.  When pressures are high and our ability to deal with them feels low, we turn to something to help us feel better.  Within the LDS faith, because of our doctrinal principles, we do not turn to the same things that many, many other people turn to in times of stress– drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, pornography or self-serving sexual behaviors, for example.  Perhaps our anti-depressant numbers are seemingly skewed because of this.  Other people with the same struggles self-medicate differently.  (I want to make clear that I do not have an anti-medication stance.  At all.)  Perhaps this also explains, in part, the obsession with beauty issues.  When women feel overwhelmed and empty, they look for ways to make themselves feel better, and for LDS women, fake eyelashes is not “against our religion.”  Whatever the reasons, which I really don’t know, I think we all need to do a better job of turning to the right place for help.

“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” — Matthew 11:38

I am not advocating throwing out your mascara or your Prozac and just dedicating yourself to scripture study.  That would be naive.  I do think that no matter what level of struggles we face, we can find much more relief the more and more we learn to rely upon the Savior.  We will find more sense of self-worth.  We will find forgiveness for our imperfections.  We will find strength in our trials. We will find love and acceptance and be filled in the places we feel empty.  A careful study of all those Your-Life-Will-Not-Be-Perfect-So-Be-Prepared talks that come from the general leadership of the church will point us in the direction of Jesus Christ.  So this is basically a war cry to LDS women everywhere:  When life hurts, and it will, you are not alone.  Turn to your Savior and let Him share your burdens and remind you how beautiful you are, just as you are.  As a completely average, A-cup, almost 20 pound “overweight,” frazzled mother of young children who’s still wearing my pajamas, I give you my word that it works.  It really does.  Let’s get a few billboards for that.

art credit

Post-holiday detox

Isn’t Christmastime lovely?  And doesn’t winter really stink once Christmas is over?

Here are a few myths that are planted in children’s minds during a holiday vacation that are very hard (yea, even painful) to extract once the holiday is over:

1.  Everytime you turn around you will have a new present.  (Before you judge my parenting, please know that while I am a contributor to this and the other myths, it’s not all my fault.  There are generous family and friends everywhere, and things just get out of control!)

2.  You can eat whatever you want, whenever you want it, and candy for breakfast is fine.

3. We will spend our days thinking of fun things to do together.

4.  All chores and routines are pretty much out the window.

5.  There are lots of grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and other loved ones available anytime you want to play a game or otherwise need assistance.

I’m sure there are other myths too (feel free to add your own to the list), but these are the ones that haunt me the most now that we’re back to real life.

My children are convinced that I am the Grinch, Scrooge, and the Snow Witch combined because I will not let their mythical expectations continue unchecked.  It’s like they’ve completely forgotten how to put clothes in the hamper, clear their dishes, put everything they need in their backpacks every day, do chores and homework, entertain themselves, OBEY, and speak to me without complaining about how unfair their life is.

Someone tell me this will get better soon because I’m thinking about canceling the holidays next year.  Do they make Christmas rehab?