Monday, January 28, 2013

Refresh Button

One of the reasons that I love fast and testimony meetings is to count how many times people say "The last (insert varied amount of time here) have been pretty hard for me." And I'm just wondering how many of them are thinking about the rest of us. Do you realize that most people are going through a hard time as well? I don't remember the last period of my life when it wasn't hard, when I had no problems, or when the future seemed clear and straight-forward.  Never.

It made me think of when my family had the old dial-up internet connection (or even the internet at our current place) where it would take almost as much time to load my hotmail account as it is for me to know access gmail, googledrive, facebook, pandora, and maybe "". I can remember as a kid, and I'm sure many other people did it as well, clicking refresh every 30 seconds to see if the connection had become any better. Every time I refreshed, there was maybe another inch loaded in the browser (maybe). It was frustrating to say the least, but I remember a couple of times when I refreshed and I saw the whole page I would just sit back and enjoy the moment. A full internet page...loaded. Wow. Modern technology.

Usually I don't like little sayings like this,
 but this illustrates my point
I don't even know if this analogy will completely work, but it seems sometimes we need to refresh our life. Just a little click. Just take a step back from everything we think we know and gain some perspective. We probably won't get very far in understanding the grand plan, but we will hopefully gain a little glimpse of a greater purpose. Each refresh will give us the joy in knowing that there is something larger than what we are going through and an anticipation for a greater screenshot of our life.

Recently, I've taken the opportunity to refresh and gain just another couple centimeters of understanding my life. And you know what, things aren't always as bad as they seem. Despite my troubles and trials over the last couple of weeks, I've learned SO MUCH about who I am and what I want my life to look like. Mistakes can cost you a plethora of problems and guilt unless you take it in a positive way. There is no need to look on life with regrets as long as you are gaining a little more perspective along the way.

I mean, we make wrong value judgments all the time. Case study: We all hated Snape, even if we knew he was going to be a good guy, all along the road with Harry. And then during the last book, we all cried because his oh-so-tender heart: thank you J.K. Rowling for playing with our minds and giving us little refreshers along the way. Finally, at the end of the book: we loaded the whole page and everything worked out. (Well, not really for Snape. His life seemed kind of miserable.)

So, just some thoughts on what my refresh button has shown me and the little "goodies" that I've found in my life the last couple weeks and months: I am a people person. As much as I love writing on my computer to unknown faces and people, I love being with people. The days I am alone without being to others are the days that I make my biggest mistakes out of boredom and loneliness. I tend to carve my identity from being with them. Some people say I haven't "found" my identity yet. Well, I say: others are my personality and selfdom. It is just ingrained in who I am.

Next: I need to determine what makes me happy and live for it. Enough of this blind following of what people tell me to do, how to act, or secrets to success in life. I appreciate the advice and will gladly consider most of it, but I can no longer simply live my life the way others dictate. It is time for my choices to define my path. One of the things that I know makes me happy is ... being with people. So, since I'm such a people person, know I need a job where I am in the thick of ... people. Teaching seems like a good fit. Human Resources also is a great fit. Either way, I'm closer to understanding who I am and what will make me happy.

Last: I have good things going for me. I've met some awesome people recently who I have a lot of fun with. (Out of those: a special shout-out to my soc peeps: you guys make school a blast). I've got some great opportunities at work and school right now. I'm playing in the collegiate premier of Phantom of the Opera (I mean...woah. Right?). Why muddy it up with concerns of trials and hard times. Why complain of an inability to see the whole picture when what I've got is pretty sweet already.

And you know, even though I've realized this, the next refresh might show me a larger part of the puzzle that slightly modifies this. You never know.

So, take a step back, y'all. Look around and see what you have going for you. And don't fret about an inability to see the whole page. Just wait with a little anticipation for that day when you've discovered you. Try loading other pages as well a long the way to understand the world around you. Whenever you are discouraged, depressed, or confuddled: refresh. It will make more sense in a second.

Peace everyone. I hope the sappiness of this didn't show my true inner weaknesses. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Social Movements and the Church

Don't hate on what I'm about to say. I'm just giving some thoughts that I've found recently and I'd like to see your opinion on them. Yes, the big one is feminism. I'm sorry to beat this over the head, BUT, maybe the only other social movement that is pressuring the church as much is the push for homosexual rights.

Here's where the thought came from:

I was reading in the Doctrine and Covenants (Section 85) when they referenced an Old Testament story about Uzzah and his mistake in "steadying the ark". Read verses 6 and 7 of 2 Samuel 6 to get the text. Here's the background: the Ark of the Covenant was one of the most, if not the most, sacred objects to Ancient Israel. It held historical objects such as the 10 commandments, the rod of Aaron, and a pot of manna. In addition, it was also called "the Mercy Seat" with the belief that when Jehovah would visit His people, He would sit on the Ark of the Covenant, or the Mercy Seat. Because of this, it was prohibited that anyone touch it besides those who had been set apart and cleansed to do so, generally the great high priest or prophet. The institute manual says the following: "Only the high priest, a type of Christ, could approach it, and then only after going through an elaborate ritual of personal cleansing and propitiation for his sins." When they weren't travelling, the Ark was kept in the Holy of Holies in the back of the tabernacle where only the high priest would enter. It was a powerful symbol of the Lord and was not to be "tainted" by unclean hands.

Uzzah made a mistake, despite his good intentions. King David had just retrieved the Ark from the Palestine people who had stolen it. They had placed it on a wagon, pulled by oxen, to return it to the temple. On the way, the oxen "shook" it and it seemed as though it would tumble. So, Uzzah, probably somewhat instinctively, reached up and tried to "steady the ark". And then God killed him, just like that.

Now, you are probably thinking: say what? He was trying to save the ark. Good idea, right?

Wrong according to the Lord. In my understanding, Uzzah was not relying upon the grace of God to protect His symbol here on earth and instead, decided to take things into his own hands. Again quoting the Institute Manual: "However well-meaning Uzzah's intentions, he approached casually what could only be approached under the strictest conditions. He had no faith in God's power. He assumed that the ark was in danger, forgetting that it was the physical symbol of the God who has all power. We cannot presume to save God and His kingdom through our own efforts."

Then, in D&C 85, the Lord chastises one of his bishops because he wasn't strictly following the instructions regarding the law of consecration. He was trying to, in my mind, fit the commandments to the people instead of fit the people to the commandments. He tried to counsel the prophet in "better" ways to live communally, and then decided to follow his own intuition despite the prophet's decision to not follow that counsel.

Ok, so where am I going with social movements and what I've just talked about? The Institute manual briefly mentioned feminism as a movement that is trying to "steady the ark": "In modern revelation the Lord referred to this incident to teach the principle that the Lord does not need the help of men to defend his kingdom. Yet even today there are those who fear the ark is tottering and presume to steady its course. There are those who are sure women are not being treated fairly in the Church...or those who would change the established doctrines of the Church. These are ark-steadiers. The best intentions do not justify such interference with the Lord's plan."

It seems that sometimes people are stepping out of their boundaries in an attempt to improve upon the Lord's kingdom, but are they doing it in a way that is not consistent with the Lord? I feel that sometimes there is a lack of faith in the Lord's prophets and His gospel. To cite a recent event, the "Wear Pants to Church" initiative, the leaders of the movement published this paragraph to explain their reasons:

The creators of this event are feminists who recognize pants are a symbol of much larger issues that require addressing. This event is the first act of All Enlisted, a direct action group for Mormon women to advocate for equality within our faith. We do not seek to eradicate the differences between women and men, but we do want the LDS church and its members to acknowledge the similarities. We believe that much of the cultural, structural, and even doctrinal inequality that persists in the LDS church today stems from the church's reliance on – and enforcement of – rigid gender roles that bear no relationship to reality.

Doctrinal inequality??? Are you trying to say that the Lord, even Jesus Christ, came down to teach us that men and women are unequal? Have you read the scriptures? The doctrine of the Church is that Christ died for all, without respect to individual persons or groups of people. What is the doctrine you are claiming is perpetuating inequality?

In the essence of what is being explained by the Lord in 2 Samuel and the Doctrine and Covenants, this action against the Church's structural and doctrinal stance is "steadying the ark". It is a misunderstanding of the Lord's power to protect His kingdom and His people. I'm not going to pretend to be a an expert on LDS feminism, but could this be a flaw? Maybe LDS feminism isn't "steadying the ark", but I felt that this movement to "Wear Pants to Church" was definitely crossing that line. So, in terms of the broader picture: Could someone enlighten me on what the basic tenets and goals of LDS feminism is and how it is not steadying the ark?

In other situations, I think it is important that we look at our lives and see how much we are trying to correct the Lord's church where it is not within our authority or responsibility to do so. He has given us a stewardship over our callings, families, etc. But He does not expect, and it seems that He prohibits, that we take matters into our own hand to counsel others or change our own responsibilities despite our best-interests. Leave comments below, I'd like to hear some thoughts.

Friday, January 18, 2013

The Mysterious Case of the Lost Wallet

Some of you may be familiar with my frustrations of the last weekend in dealing with my wallet. For those unfamiliar with the story, let me start from the beginning.

I know I look like this, but this really isn't me.
Last Friday, after my roommate and I worked out in the morning, I decided that I wanted to go get some equipment for our workouts that would be helpful. This was going to be perfect because I didn't have classes on Friday and could easily go to the store real quick without having to worry about being late. So, I start grabbing everything I need and realize: my wallet is not in my room. Anywhere. So, I'm hyperventilating a little bit, but then realize that I had taken it out of my pocket while I was in the car last night and maybe I just didn't put it back in. So, it would be in the car.

So, I go to the car, and if my terrible memory serves me correctly, I did find it on the seat and I put it in my pocket again. I drive, rather uneventfully, to Wal-Mart and go to the sports isle and start picking out what I need. After a couple of minutes, I had this feeling in my it was mysteriously too light. So, instinctively I check my pocket and I don't feel the wallet. Uh, what? I go deeper. Still not there.

Check the cart? Not there.

Check the floor? Nope.

Check the shelves of every item I looked at? Nada.

It wasn't there. So, I figure: oh, I just left it in my car. I go back to the car, almost positive that I put it in my pocket this morning. I get to the car...under the seat, on the seat, passenger seat, dashboard, under the passenger seat, driver's seat again for good measure, in the trunk?, back seat, floor of back seat, in between cushions....uh...nope. Ok, let's do it one more time.

Still not there.

I'm a little worried by now. And freezing. No one wants to search for a wallet in a car with the doors open and standing in slush. I finally decide that it is not in the car.

Well, then I must have dropped it. I'm pretty sure no one stole it, because it was before 8am and I would have noticed someone getting all fresh on me in a quite deserted Wal-Mart. So, I start retracing my steps. I go from the car, past the jewelry stand, past the notebooks and 5$ DVD's. I even stop to check, again, at the resistance bands at the start of the aisle where I discovered I had no wallet. Nothing. Well, why not walk back and try again. On my way back I'm checking under the pallets, on shelves, between isles, etc.

Nothing. I go all the way back to the car. One more car check. Zilch.

I'm trying really hard at this point not to completely HATE the world and the universe. So, I go to the Wal-Mart desk. Nothing has been turned in. Well, of course not. Only sketch people (like myself) shop here. Why would I expect a predominately Mormon population to turn in a lost wallet when I'm in one of the most lawless stores in America?

Good question.

I leave Wal-Mart after giving them my number so they can call me if they find it and I continue to demonize everything on my way home. This spiteful thought process is only broken once or twice with a vague hope that I may have not really put it in my pocket and it is really at home. But, who am I to discredit my own memory? I mean, really?

But what's the harm in searching my room one more time. So, I tear it apart. Clothes are flying, chairs are thrown, bedding shredded...well, no. But really, I demolished my room. Philosophically I'm thinking: for what? folded leather with plastic cards. We humans are stupid creatures! I should break from all this limiting bureaucracy! I don't need any of that! Then I start thinking realistically:


or in the words of a good friend:


Well, I call my mom, and she is quite calm and pretty much tells me what I already need to know: call the credit-card/debit-card companies and cancel everything. Then I needed to order new cards, license, etc. So, I call them up and ask if there is any way they can just block the card for a couple hours until I know for sure it wasn't stolen: nope. It is either cancelled or nothing. So, I cancelled them.

At this point, I have no money. I just sold a textbook for cash, so I have 40$. I have no license. I'm driving illegally everywhere. I hate my life. I'm angry at everyone. I email my students and tell them I'm not coming in for office hours today because I was not having a great day. So, what do I do when I'm stressed and can't think of a solution to the problem? I sleep. Took a 4 hour nap. It was awesome, but completely unproductive. Good thing this was on the first week of school.

Yeah, I feel ya.
Well, later that day I figure everything out. I order a new everything. License, credit card, debit card, etc. But due to balance issues, they said it might not be there for up to 10-14 days. WHAT THE FLIPPER?! So, 40$ ... for two weeks. Totes screwed.

Thank heavens I'm pleasantly surprised with a credit card on Saturday morning. It cost me almost 20$, but I thought I had money. I activated it, but found out it still didn't work on Sunday or Monday. Grr... I used some of the money on gas, then the rest on food on Tuesday. Tuesday I'm freaking out because the credit card isn't working and I have no more cash. Screwed. I had to mail in my rent money and since BYU's service is more reliable than our apartment, I take it to school. Oh wait, I have no money. And oh wait, I have no BYU ID. So I start rushing over to the ID office, oh wait. I didn't shave today. They won't give me one. Guess I can't mail rent. (They even emailed me hinting at eviction.)

I should have bought this book....
But, then I go to the bank and have them fix everything. I immediately go to the bookstore and buy myself a book to compensate myself for my troubles and to make sure the credit card works. It does! And I have a new book: Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes. Yes, I just bought that book. Leave me alone. I then shaved and got my BYU ID. Finally. I have something telling people who I am. That's fortunate.

Well, I've started to finally laugh off everything that is going on with the lost wallet. I even got a replacement wallet from my roommate. I had been complaining about how I feel naked and he comes up the stairs and says he wouldn't want me to feel uncomfortable and chucks a wallet at me....sweet. Now I just feel awkward because I only have a credit card and BYU ID in this huge wallet...but it's better than nothing.

This morning the adventure concluded. I go outside to find the most interesting snow I've seen in Provo falling on my car. I go to the backseat to find my snow brush/scrape. I randomly grab the tissue box to move it aside in hopes the scraper is behind it. I hear a funny sound. Like an uncharacteristically solid object is in my tissue box. So, I dig inside....

My flippin' wallet. Just sittin' there hiding from the cold in a tissue box.

What the heck?

What happened? Apparently, when I put the wallet in my pocket, I must have leaned over to the left and it forced it out of my right pocket. Then, my wallet decided to travel down the side of my seat, bounce off the middle section between the seats (where the e-brake and cup-holders are), and fall under the driver's seat and into the tissue box.

What sick trick was the cosmos trying to play on me!? I just left it there because I'm not talking to it. But I did take it out of the tissue box so that it would have to freeze in punishment. Next time it should probably think twice before exploring my car and hiding in sneaky spaces.  I'm going to teach this wallet.

So, there it is. Check the tissue box next time.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Restlessness and Relationships

This is awful. I went to bed at 10pm, took some Melatonin to try and help me get a good night's sleep since my sleeping habits over the break were not conducive to a school schedule. Plus my roommate and I are supposed to be up at 6a to start our first round of P90X. However, I wake up at 3am for no reason...and after an hour, I couldn't go back to sleep. So now it's 4am, and what am I to do?

At first I thought about what might be keeping me from sleeping. Was it school? The first day is tomorrow, so usually that is supposed to be somewhat nerve racking, right? But no, I've had so many first-days of college, it really doesn't bother me. Plus, I have friends in all of my classes and in some of my classes we are pretty much all friends. It's not too scary. Plus, I know most of my teachers too. School's not a problem.

Work? No, everything should be pretty straight forward. I'll talk with my teacher tomorrow and get everything straightened out for my duties, and then I just sit in an office and wait for people to ask questions. It's nothing terribly difficult.

So, what is it in a young, LDS kid's life that could possibly be keeping him awake at night? ........ Relationships. Gosh darn it. I don't think this is what initially woke me up, but since I was trying to identify a possible cause for my restlessness, I started thinking about this one and mulling it over in my head. Probably not a good idea as now I have to write them down or I won't be able to get them out and I'll never fall back asleep.

I think I've discovered something about myself: I'm a "pleaser". Especially for people I don't know so well, I try my best to "please" them or make their life easier and more enjoyable. Take my job, for instance. As a TA, my duties were to answer questions, grade papers, do review sessions, etc. It wasn't supposed to be too consuming. However, I found that the students that I was supposed to work with almost became my life. I would think about them constantly and what I could do to ensure that they all did well. I would email some of them when they would miss assignments to see what I could do to help them get it done. When they came with concerns about their grades or wanted to challenge something, I usually gave them the extra point. I don't feel I ever went over the top and was too easy, looking back at the grades, most of them probably got a just grade. However, I felt that I was too involved. It didn't matter who the person was or how much work they put into it. I just wanted to help them out.

In relationships, this can be more of a problem. Since I tend not to judge who I spend my time with or who I'm trying to "please", I can end up "pleasing" the wrong people. It's so hard for me to say "no", even if I'm uncomfortable with the situation. What makes me happiest in life is seeing other people being happy. I live off of the laughter of others and their enjoyment of life. While that probably isn't necessarily a bad thing-as I believe it is a strength-at the same time, I don't know what I want out of life or what I want in a relationship. Rereading that sentence, I just realized how selfish that sentence sounded, but a guy's got needs as well, right? This is where it gets to be a problem:

I don't know what my needs are! I sometimes come out of relationships a little unfulfilled because it wasn't what I wanted. BUT I DON'T EVEN KNOW WHAT THAT MEANS! This isn't for lack of trying on the part of those who I have taken on dates or even dated. Some have even asked me what it is I look for in relationships, and due to my own confusion, I just repeat what I hear is "appropriate" to seek: someone nice, smart, funny, conversational, athletic, blah, blah, blah. Who doesn't want perfection, right? But how is someone supposed to feel like they are having a relationship when they can only receive. I mean, thinking about it, that would be pretty uncomfortable for me, to have someone dote on me all the time. Maybe for a day, but not forever....weird.

So, I don't know what I'm looking for. This drive to "please" has put me into a lot of sticky situations, where I'm sorry to say that what was "right" for the two of us was overpowered by what others wanted. This is also why it is so hard for me to break-up with people. If my sole desire is to please people, yet all they want is to be with me, and then I have this inclination to break up with them....holy internal conflict. It just doesn't quite work right.

I'm terrified of relationships. I can't seem to figure out what to do to make them work, and they all seem to fail for different reasons...all of them ending up with me. This confusion is all but preventing me from going on more dates and trying to get myself out there. How can I find someone that I want to spend the rest of my life with when I don't even know what I'm looking for. If it was just making someone happy, I'd be married. Obviously there is something more to what I "want" that I can't figure out. So, next time you have the inclination to ask why I'm not dating or not married I can save both of us the pain of that question: I don't know.

I could start a whole other post on how terrible "doubt" or "not-knowing" is, but I'll let you ponder that for a bit so that you can realize how frustrating this is right now. Summary of the post: sure, I'd like to be in a relationship. They are great. I like making people laugh. I don't know what I want in relationships, otherwise. I'm confused....

Really, I'm just a lost and troubled soul :p

Well, it's been 25 minutes of typing, and I should probably go to sleep. Peace y'all, and may you all know what you want in life.