Monday, December 30, 2013

Handing Over the Reigns: Not Taking Over God's Job


Lately, I have been trying to practice handing over the reigns. Most know that I have a hard time letting things happen as they happen, or rather, losing control. I always thought that having control made me more happy. 

Case and point: if I get to the movies 30 minutes before the show starts, I have a better chance of getting the best seats. I avoid crowds and thus avoid trying to find seats for my party amongst all other movie goers. I can get situated, and even go to the bathroom with plenty of time to spare. I don't like feeling rushed, unprepared, and don't want to inconvenience those around me. Having control over the time in which I arrive to the movie guarantees a fantastic movie-watching experience for everyone! Right!? 

Last week, I went to see Frozen with my family. We arrived 2 minutes before the movie started. We sat 2 rows from the screen. I hate sitting that close in movies. But, I decided to put aside the feeling that I was going to be blind by the end of the show, and really  embraced the experience. And you know what....it was fantastic! 

This experience is so minor compared to how I handle other more serious issues. This past Christmas week, I again struggled with handing the reigns over. I wasn't with my immediate family. I was with my new one. Things were different, not bad, just different. I felt out of place. I felt lost and confused. I could have treated this as an opportunity for me and my sweetheart to embrace one another and find out what we want for our future family. But instead, I whined and really struggled to see value in this Christmas experience. I wasn't willing to go with the flow. I fought and fought, and was miserable. There isn't one right way to be with family. I had a hard time handing the reigns over.

Looking at my life, I realize how even my Christmas experience is so minor compared to how I handle handing over the reigns to my Heavenly Father. 

In the book These High Green Hills by Jan Karon, the following passage about 'calling the shots,' was so profound as I struggle with my control issues. Another preacher in the town was up in the hills preaching about sin, and recalls the experience:

"I want this, I want that, and I want it right now. I want to run things, I want to call the shots, I want be in charge...

When we turn from our sin, and have the blessed forgiveness of the Almighty, then we can ask Him to run things, and let Him be in charge. But boys howdy, folks don't want to hear that either.

Nossir, they like to keep control, even if their little boat's pitchin' around in the storm and takin' on water and about to be swamped."

He's right, you know. We don't like to hear it. I don't like to hear it. Even when it is the best thing for me/us. What is it about control? Why do I like it so much? Is it a natural tendency in all mankind, or just some of us blessed few? I feel like the only way to let someone take the reigns is if I am not in the front of the wagon at all. The minute I slow down, I just stop. 

For example: I don't know if I am going to be employed at the end of January. I have applied and interviewed at a couple places in Idaho. Because I am so prone to anxiety, it was suggested to me that I also pray that if the opportunity isn't supposed to be that the door on the opportunity will close completely. There is nothing worse than interviewing somewhere only to wait and wait and wait until I don't hear anything. Heavenly Father has been very gracious at granting this request. I have interviewed at multiple places, and He has moved worlds in order for me to physically make it to these interviews, and the doors have been closed. On the flip side, my sweetheart and I know that making this move is what we need to do. We have prayed and spoken with Heavenly Father that His will and blessings will be revealed. And now, I think I have handed over the reigns, at least I feel like I have. I feel my faith being tested. Fortunately, my sweetheart's faith is strong and is holding me up as I am learning this very valuable and trying lesson. 

I just want to get it right. I find that as I learn these new things, I mumble. Most of my mumblings sound like, "Again, really!? How many times do I heave to learn this lesson? Didn't I get it right the first time?" That is when this passage from These High Green Hills struck me: 

"Must I remind you that your future belongs to God, and not to you?...trying to get it right is a dangerous thing, and He does not like it. I mean that getting it absolutely right is God's job."

It was a good reminder to me that while I am trying to drive the load down this swervy, curvy road of life, if I am open to it, Heavenly Father will drive and guide all along the way. If I did it all right the first time, there would be nothing left for me to do. The only person who did it right the first time was Jesus Christ, period

And while I have made that discovery before, I tend to forget it. And so easily, too. As one who has been knocked over the head with the same discovery over and over, nothing sums it up quite like this quote from the same book: "God spoke to my heart in a way He hadn't spoken before. No. Erase that. He made me able to listen in a way I couldn't listen before.

Not getting the best seat at a movie theater can be tough. Having new Christmas traditions with new family can be tough. Handing over the reigns can be tough. Doing this thing called life alone can be tough. Doing this thing called life in a marriage can be tough. Listening in ways I haven't listened before can be tough. Moving and walking, while letting God do His thing can be tough. 

But guess what!? I know that I was given the opportunity to come and experience this thing called life, and I have the feeling that I knew that it could be tough. And yet, I decided that it would be worth it, because I am here......and for that I am happy.
 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Gathering It In: Finding Joy in the Journey

I am reading a remarkable book. It is part III of the Mitford Series that I am so keen to write about. This book is called These High Green Hills by Jan Karon. It seems to touch the very fabric of the things that I have been anxious about, or have been thinking about the most.

In this book, one of the characters is thinking about his insight into his newlywed life. Side note: sometimes it is hard for me to read all the schmoopsy poo stuff that this man is feeling toward his wife. My schmoopsy poo moment didn't last very long before my sweetheart and I had to make some hard decisions, and I still crave what people call "the Honeymoon period." Did I have that? Maybe for a day.....but I want it back. I think that is why the next quote touched me deeply as this man reflected on his marriage:

"Every day, with what seemed to be no effort at all on his part, he received God's extraordinary provision of contentment - there it was, waiting for him at every dawn; all he had to do was gather it in."

The active part of this thought was that all I need to do is "gather it in". It really gets me thinking. Was I gathering it in? Was I being proactive in letting contentment in? Why do I have such a hard time feeling content?

This week I interviewed for a position in Idaho. During my conversation with the interview panel, I noticed a theme that digs far deeper than my professional disposition, and something I have referred to again and again in this blog. In both aspects of my life, I feel that there is always room for improvement, and if I am not constantly seeking it, then I am selling myself short on additional opportunities and growth experiences. For example, whenever I cook, I always look for ways I could improve the dish for next time. My sweetheart tells me to knock it off and enjoy it, but I always feel the need to think of what I could do to make it better. There have only been a couple of times where I thoroughly enjoyed my cooked meal and thought it was just....PERFECT.

But isn't this what progress is all about? I venture to say 'yes,' but at the same time, just because there are areas that can improve, doesn't mean that I can't be content in the process - the whole 'enjoy the journey' thing.

Progression for me is a fight. When I have a trial, I fight to the top. I can't wait until I can gracefully walk and be content with the journey.

My sweetheart pointed this out to me once without coming outright and saying it. One day, we went hiking with our friends. Before we began our journey, we planned on doing two hikes before the end of the day knowing our light on the mountain was limited. During our hike, we only stopped a couple of times because we set this expectation of doing two hikes.

As we began our way back to the car and on our way to the second hike, my sweetheart said, "Oh, just rush through because you want to do two hikes. Oh, just keep on going without looking around you," which essentially meant, "Why are we treating this like a marathon? We are missing out on how amazing it is out here! I am going to take this slow, and you should too!" Maybe trying to complete two hikes was too ambitious to be content during the journey. Regardless, we were missing out on on everything else just to beat the sun and meet our demands. I know that I typically run faster than I have strength and don't enjoy the journey along the way. 

I always feel the most content during the holidays with my family. During this time though, I get super, super lazy. I don't help out around the house, I laze around for hours on end. I only help when asked. Because for me, I am trying to gather strength to run fast when the holidays are over. I am realizing that this mentality is not very healthy. This is absolutely a repercussion of running faster than I have strength. The truth of the matter is, I still have responsibilities to my family and to myself. I don't know how to effectively spread out tasks of the things I am trying to accomplish in life. In the end, I wind up sleeping and being lazy for days, which actually makes me feel guilty, so I am not even content with that. WHAT AN INSIGHT!

At the end of the day, I need to remember my first commandment: It is what it is, embrace it, be grateful for it. There is a need for me to 'gather it in,' not only in my marriage, but in my life. I know in order for me to be happy, I need to set down the cooking and take in the better part (story of Martha and Mary). And I know that in order for me to be happy, I need to find joy in the journey, and realize it is still proactive, but shouldn't make me so exhausted at the end of the day.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Hope and Love: Revisited

I know I have highlighted this before, but it brings such comfort to me. And so, I revisit some of my favorite speeches and talks.

The Infinite Power of Hope: Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf

Hope is not knowledge, but rather the abiding trust that the Lord will fulfill His promise to us. It is confidence that if we live according to God’s laws and the words of His prophets now, we will receive desired blessings in the future. It is believing and expecting that our prayers will be answered. It is manifest in confidence, optimism, enthusiasm, and patient perseverance.

The things we hope in sustain us during our daily walk. They uphold us through trials, temptations, and sorrow. Everyone has experienced discouragement and difficulty. Indeed, there are times when the darkness may seem unbearable. It is in these times that the divine principles of the restored gospel we hope in can uphold us and carry us until, once again, we walk in the light.

An High Priest of Good Things to Come: Elder Jeffrey R. Holland

Even if you cannot always see that silver lining on your clouds, God can, for He is the very source of the light you seek. He does love you, and He knows your fears. He hears your prayers. He is your Heavenly Father, and surely He matches with His own the tears His children shed.

In spite of this counsel, I know some of you do truly feel at sea, in the most frightening sense of that term. Out in troubled waters, you may even now be crying with the poet:

It darkens. I have lost the ford.
There is a change on all things made.
The rocks have evil faces, Lord,
And I am [sore] afraid. 
 
No, it is not without a recognition of life’s tempests but fully and directly because of them that I testify of God’s love and the Savior’s power to calm the storm. Always remember in that biblical story that He was out there on the water also, that He faced the worst of it right along with the newest and youngest and most fearful. Only one who has fought against those ominous waves is justified in telling us—as well as the sea—to “be still.”  Only one who has taken the full brunt of such adversity could ever be justified in telling us in such times to “be of good cheer.” Such counsel is not a jaunty pep talk about the power of positive thinking, though positive thinking is much needed in the world. 

No, Christ knows better than all others that the trials of life can be very deep and we are not shallow people if we struggle with them. But even as the Lord avoids sugary rhetoric, He rebukes faithlessness and He deplores pessimism. He expects us to believe!

Conclusion

And now, I lightly tread. 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

October Happiness Project Updates

I remember the days being SO long when I was a child. It doesn't seem fair that I am finally getting a hold of this life thing, and the days speed up. And so, I am running backwards, trying to hang on to October, and December is in 4 days. With that, I have some reporting to do.

October Resolutions

Spirituality: Pray sitting up and study receiving revelation

The praying sitting up thing went and is going well. The whole point of making a goal to pray sitting up was so I wouldn't fall asleep in the middle of the prayer. It was like I was leaving God on hold an entire 8 hours...that's just not very nice. Beyond just sitting up, I discovered that when I pray before my nightly routine, I get better results. 

In my blog post, Receiving Revelation is Active, Anxiety is Not Happiness, I talked about 'receiving revelation' specifically for our future family. My sweetheart and I have been talking to one another and talking with the Lord about moving back west for school. When we were married, we knew this would be a possibility. After researching schools out here, trying online classes, and praying about potential jobs etc., we decided to move to Idaho so my sweetheart can complete his Bachelor's degree at BYU-Idaho.

I have never been one of those people where things 'just fall into place.' I have always felt that I work super hard to get where I get, with full support from God. I know my opportunities are open because of Him. On the other hand, my sweetheart tends to have the 'just fall into place' kind of experiences. In this way, he is great for me. He is teaching me not to freak out so much, or have unnecessary anxiety. That, coupled with prayers to ease my crazy, have been completely helpful for my ability to receive revelation and let things 'fall into place.' I also have to keep in mind my 12th Commandment: All in the Lord's time.

Being able to study about receiving revelation has made me do things differently and increased my happiness.

Marriage: Compliment my sweetheart everyday - must be genuine

This was actually really easy to do. I honestly do not think my sweetheart can have enough compliments, and I don't say that in a bad way. This is his love language and certainly needs to be enhanced during the It moments (It=depression). And you know what, it isn't a bad goal. I think I will keep this one up as much as I can. AND PS: Doesn't he look amazing with a beard? I think so too ;)

Perhaps I can even expand it to be, for every 1 thing I say that isn't uplifting to my sweetheart, I have to follow it up with 3 things that are.

Finances: Actually create a budget and stick to it

We did a budget and attempted an allocated spending plan based on our Dave Ramsey class. With the move in full swing, we are struggling to keep up with filling out our budget. It was also hard to do, seeing that we had different bank accounts and couldn't see where all the money was coming and going. We found ourselves having hour long budgeting sessions that often ended in tears (on my part). 

One other thing to keep in mind is my 13th Commandment: Everyone has agency. I can't force my sweetheart to come and do a budget with me, which is what I felt like most of the time. I could make up excuses for why we haven't completed this task, but I would have to say that we both agree having this down will make us happier. So, we will shoot for January.


Family/Friends: Find memorabilia and text/email/inform the finds to family/friends saying "remember when"

This has been super fun. I have been able to catch up with people I care about the most. I feel that with all the technology available and at my disposal, it has actually gotten harder to establish and maintain intimate connections. Connecting on deeper levels is something that makes me truly happy. I want to continue focusing on this goal and really reach out. 

I have isolated myself lately due to wanting to conquer It (as mentioned earlier), and noticed that isolation makes It worse. Going through memorabilia helps with It too as I remember all those who care about me, and all those I care about. I am more and more convinced that we as human beings are here to take care of others and help them grow.

Intellect: Continue studies on behavioral disorders

I didn't do this and tell you all about why in the blog post "It" Does Not Define Me. Now that the fear to start researching is over, and I really want to know more about it, I will start studying about depression and ADHD, two behavioral issues that I misunderstand as a person who is a caretaker of someone who exhibits them.

Health: Resume work out regime "do it now"

Yeah, this just didn't happen. I have no follow up on this. I need to keep in mind my commandment 8: It is part of life's learning experience to fail - what is failure anyway?

Time: Start throwing things away. Scan unnecessary but wanted paperwork.

A good friend of mine read my post Prioritizing Isn't Compromise, and saw that I was incredibly behind on scanning my documents. I started to do it at the beginning of the month, and the chores of everyday living prevented my progression, hence the blog post. She called me up and asked me to bring over my papers - you know the papers I have held onto since high school. As a self-proclaimed, unpublished on paper, writer, I refuse to throw any of my old creative writing papers away. 

Well, you will be so proud of me. I have thrown away more than 2,000 papers!! We had two full bags full by the end of one night. I can't tell you how liberating it is to not have to haul this stuff around, and can't wait to keep going!! I found myself saying, "What else can I trash!" Say goodbye to the pack rat in me! THANK YOU BOBBI!

Passion: Cook an experiment once a week. Finish one book other than intellect studies.

Did the cooking thing, and more than once a week. You can read all about my amazing dish in my blog post Experiment Sunday: I am a Social Cook. I love cooking so much, I am going to cook a little something something at a going away party we are having December 15 in VA. Holler at me if you are interested in seeing us off, and eating great treats, and I will send you the details for the party.

I finished the book The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon. 

Rating 4 out of 5*'s. 

I like reading books without knowing ANYTHING about them. I bought this at a book sale not knowing what to expect. I loved this book. Little did I know that this book couples nicely with what I am learning regarding behavioral disorders. This book is written from the view of a 15 year-old boy who exhibits some autistic behaviors, or has some other behavioral disorder...although I realize now it never sheds light to what it is exactly. 

I will let you read the background of the book on your own, but I will say I couldn't put it down, it was funny, dramatic, and made me fall in love with the character. It has the swears, and the story is kind of sad, so beware. I am a fan of the author. Since I hadn't or haven't done any research or read reviews on this book, I am still wondering what contact the author has had with persons who have autism. I felt that he was able to capture misunderstood or misinterpreted behavior through this mystery. I highly recommend this book.

Conclusion

So October came and went. In a way I am still struggling with not being able to do everything I set out to do (Commandment 8). But, my good intentions are there, and I have been able to focus on other things that are keeping my little family together in ways I couldn't imagine. The goal is still happiness. The way is rough. And secretly, I am hoping that my happy ending is more than just 10 minutes. 

While digressing a little from the conclusion, let me explain: I don't like watching movies  where the majority is all about doom and gloom, and the "happy ending" is only 5-10 minutes long. I am not encouraged by that brief amount of 'happy.' Even in the scriptures when Christ comes to visit the Nephites (don't know what I'm talking about, visit 3 Nephi 11), he is only there for 4 chapters, and the rest of the book talks about all the bad stuff with a little good stuff intermingled. In the end of all suffering, my hope is that the happy will far outlast the not happy. 

That is what I have hope in. And that is why I am working so hard to find the happy by the decisions I make, and trying to improve the relationship I have with God and those I care about. 

 At the end of the day, scanning an item might not be a big deal. BUT in the grand scheme of things, scanning that item will give me the opportunity to toss it out - and getting rid of clutter and doing all this other stuff makes me happy. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

"It" Does Not Define Me

I HATE depression. I hate what It does to my loved one's. I hate what It does to me. How do I make my HATE of this THING, this It, disappear? Do I educate myself on It? Do I cry and cry, and cry, hoping that my tears will heal It? How do I rely on Jesus Christ to fix what is broken? 

I ask these questions....and then I do it all, and in the end, I am exhausted - my hope droops, my heart feels like the Grinches' puny one before it gets big - I get angry, I feel weak, I feel faithless, I become someone I am not.
 
At the first sign of trouble, I wanted to educate myself on depression, but found that I was too far removed to do so. What was the point of educating myself on It if the one person I love the most is so deep in It to want out? What good will it do to have answers or potential solutions when the strain It wreaks of the feeling of inadequacy?

Just as the water comes up to take me down to its depths, things start looking good. The water becomes smooth as if there was never a storm. I begin to swim and to relax and play in the water. 

Then the storm hits, and I struggle against it and fight hard. Sometimes a lifeboat comes to rescue me. Sometimes, I am strong enough to defeat the storm and stay afloat. Sometimes I take quite a beating and wait it out until the storm is over. This time, the water almost won. That is when I decided it was time.

I begin my research. I want to destroy It....and I want to defeat the storm. 

The blog: Focus on the Family: How to Help When Your Spouse is Depressed, shares a story about a couple who managed to make it work, through It. The article tells the story of Sandra who went to see a doctor about her sudden and abrupt bought of depression, she shares,"Tim and I were both raised to believe that true Christians were happy, thankful people. I was convinced that my misery was caused by a lack of faith, not a medical condition. But truthfully, I wasn't sure which option scared me more. I couldn't even bring myself to tell Tim that the doctor had called my mental health into question."

Over the next few months, Sandra tried to bury her secret — but her sorrow was too pervasive to hide. Their frightened children began asking what was wrong with Mom. 

In the meantime, Tim admits his concern turned to frustration. "I'd ask again and again what was wrong, but she never had an answer," he says. "Not only was I aggravated by my feelings of helplessness, I was angry the life I'd worked so hard to provide wasn't enough to make her happy." 

"And the more angry he got, the more he'd withdraw from me," Sandra adds. "Then I'd feel guilty and withdraw even more. We just kept drifting further apart." 

Despite her efforts to pray during that time, Sandra admits she found it almost impossible to muster the strength or the words. She felt she was not only losing her mind and her family, but now even God had abandoned her."

Then the article then states these beautiful words, BEGIN QUOTE:

 
Preparing Yourself to Help Your Loved One

Flight attendants always tell you to put on your own oxygen mask before helping someone next to you. In the same way, it's important to prepare yourself before attempting to assist others when a spouse is depressed. Deep sorrow can be infectious, and it's not uncommon for caregivers to develop symptoms of depression themselves. Guard against this possibility by eating well, exercising, getting enough sleep, and staying in the Word.

Also keep an eye on your kids. Children are often vulnerable to a parent's anxiety. One study indicates that 20% of 10-year-olds whose mothers suffered from depression were themselves victims within five years.

Don't underestimate the value of caring friends and family at times like this. Let loved ones help you with day-to-day tasks, and allow them to listen to and pray with you. The surest way to intensify your struggle is to isolate yourself and your immediate family from those who love you. 

 

Reaching Out to Your Spouse

When a care-giver understands that clinical depression is a genuine medical condition, he or she may actually feel empowered. It's encouraging to realize there are a number of tangible ways to help a spouse who is depressed:

DO

  • Pray fervently with and for them.
  • Share meaningful Scripture verses.
  • Help them see that the family needs them to get well.
  • Listen; give credibility to their feelings.
  • Seek help for yourself and offer to see a therapist with them.
  • Encourage them to consider medication; research shows that 80% of those suffering from depressive disorders can be treated successfully with modern medications.
  • Show affection; encourage them to get out and do things with you.
DON'T

  • Tell your loved one to just pray about it or make them feel like healing would come if they'd simply trust God more.
  • Make them feel guilty for the impact of their illness on the family.
  • Blame or criticize them.
  • Imply that they need help because they're weak. Also, don't immediately exclude other family members from counseling. Sometimes, complex relational issues involving several family members can spark depression.
  • Expect medication to solve everything. Also, don't discount the need for prayer — and possibly therapy.
  • Let them continue in a pattern of sleep and isolation.
END QUOTE

While It does not define me or my sweetheart, the experience certainly does and will. Now you know....and now you can share what you have learned with me. 

Maybe this article and your advice will be the floating device I need to win over the storm this time. With helpful Do's and Don't's maybe, just maybe things will get better. Maybe that will be us sitting on the porch swing holding hands. Thinking about the future like this again gives me joy, even if only fleeting. It gives me hope, even if only a sliver. 


 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Anonymous Thank You's

I have been sitting here almost all morning reading and crying, reading and crying. I was recently exposed to this amazing website where people can write their experiences receiving kindness. Remember my post Finding Happiness When I am Overwhelmed With Humanity? I am so grateful to have found this outlet that I can turn to when I am in my search for goodness in this world.

The website I am talking about is called Anonymous Thank Yous. Thank you to the "conceptualizers" of this website. And Thank You all for your stories that touch me to the point of tears.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Laughing Improves Happiness

I have become transfixed on the idea that laughing improves happiness. In one of my favorite talks by Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, called Come What May and Love it, he talks about a time his daughter was supposed to go on a blind date that he and his wife weren't super excited about. An older gentleman came to the door to pick her up. She made introductions to her family, and they got in the car. For what seemed several minutes, the car didn't move. He shares his account: 

"We watched as she got into the car, but the car didn’t move. Eventually our daughter got out of the car and, red faced, ran back into the house. The man that she thought was her blind date had actually come to pick up another of our daughters who had agreed to be a babysitter for him and his wife.

We all had a good laugh over that. In fact, we couldn’t stop laughing. Later, when our daughter’s real blind date showed up, I couldn’t come out to meet him because I was still in the kitchen laughing. Now, I realize that our daughter could have felt humiliated and embarrassed. But she laughed with us, and as a result, we still laugh about it today.

The next time you’re tempted to groan, you might try to laugh instead. It will extend your life and make the lives of all those around you more enjoyable."

I recently read an article talking about the health benefits of laughing. From the online website, Helpguide.org, the article Laughter is the Best Medicine states: 

"Laughter is a powerful antidote to stress, pain, and conflict. Nothing works faster or more dependably to bring your mind and body back into balance than a good laugh. Humor lightens your burdens, inspires hopes, connects you to others, and keeps you grounded, focused, and alert.

With so much power to heal and renew, the ability to laugh easily and frequently is a tremendous resource for surmounting problems, enhancing your relationships, and supporting both physical and emotional health."

I always heard that when a person smiles, they use less muscles than when they frown. I didn't know how true this was, but I liked the idea. I decided to see what Snopes.com said about it. Just in case you didn't know, Snopes.com is all about getting to the bottom of rumors, spam, and untrue social media circulation. 

Here is what they say on the theory, "The saying's age is not its only mystery; there's no real agreement as to how many muscles have to be worked in the face to produce a smile or a frown. And, given that even what constitutes a smile is up for grabs (some avow the muscles around the eyes get involved; other discount that and look only to those necessary to lift the corners of the mouth), it's possible this is one of those questions for which there will never be a definitive answer. YET whatever medical science ultimately decides about how many angles are dancing on the the head of this particular pin, we would say the resultant numbers would be immaterial because it's the homily's underlying message that matters not the raw facts of it."

I started reading Bram Stoker's Dracula for the first time. I LOVE it! There was one chapter where after a traumatic experience Dr. Van Helsing starts crying then laughing, then crying, then laughing. The person who was with him during this episode,and who knew the history of the occasion, was confused by these outbursts thinking them inappropriate or rude. 

When asked how these outbursts came about, Van Helsing said some magical words, "...King Laugh, he come to me and shout and bellow in my ear, "Here I am! Here I am!" till the blood come dance back and bring some of the sunshine that he carry with him to my cheek. Oh, friend John, it is a strange world, a sad world, a world full of miseries and woes, and troubles; and yet when King Laugh come he make them all dance to the tune he play. [Excerpt continues] But King Laugh he come like sunshine, and he ease off the strain again, and we bear to go on with our labour, what it may be."

I too have experienced laughing fits. They are certainly harder to come by when stress is the rue of the day. But once had, it is not hard for me to want and to crave after laughter. I like surrounding myself with people who are quick to laugh. I am often jealous of those people who make others laugh with such ease. At first, I was bothered by not being that person, but now I just seek the company of those who make me laugh, and LOVE it. 

While I haven't necessarily been able to prove that laughing improves happiness through data or research, I can attest to how it helps me alleviate stress, improves my personal morale, encourages those around me, breaks down barriers, and helps me "ease the strain," all of which contribute to my happiness.

What do you think? Does laughter affect you the way it does me?

And just for kicks, I have included one of my favorite videos that gave me one of the best laughing fits. Enjoy!


Monday, November 18, 2013

Misconceptions on "Disorders": Educating Myself

I have been reading up on behavioral disorders. To be honest, people who have behavioral issues frighten me. Fear contributes to my unhappiness, and one way to combat this is to educate myself on what I am afraid of. I have not been able to dive fully into it yet, but I found some pretty awesome videos that helped me understand this disorder a little more.





I found this particular video through a blog called: Time to change.

I also watched a series of videos following a family whose daughter was diagnosed with schizophrenia. It was very interesting to see what accommodations the family made for their child and the struggles they go through to understand the issue. I found the whole process amazing, and really value the parents for wanting the best things for their daughter.










I don't know that I was looking for any definitive answers when doing research on these areas, so I haven't provided anything conclusive. However, I do think it is important for me to educate myself about this to try to eliminate any fear of something I don't understand.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Finding the Good Stuff: Part II

Finding the good makes me feel oh so good. I saw a couple videos and articles today that touched me deeply. It gives me great confidence to know there are amazing people in this world, those who give, and those who are humble enough to receive and turn humbling situations into life-building experiences.

Video #1: Deborah Cohan, diagnosed with breast cancer goes into treatment and makes one request before going under the knife. Huffington Post covers the story, but here is the video.



Video #2: Secret Santa goes out and gives away close to $100,000 of his own money a year to strangers, and finds Thomas Coats, a heroine addict who hasn't spoken to God since he was a child. Coats was given what he needed to change, the love and selflessness of a stranger - he received an answer to his prayer...it became more than just receiving the gift of money.



Article #1: While you were at Preschool was featured in the Huffington Post. It shows what a creative mother did while her daughter was at preschool. I love this idea.

Video #3: Moms talk about how tough it is being a mom, and then they get a surprise that changes their perspective.


And let's not forget this....because it made me laugh out loud.


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

November Resolutions

October flew by, and I was able to accomplish various happiness project resolutions, while I still need to hone some others. For the month of November, I have updated my resolutions, and have kept some the same but added a little spark to them so it creates a noticeable difference, yet produces the same outcome. It is my way of tricking myself into thinking that I did not fail to meet all my resolutions last month, but that I wanted to improve them for this month. Maybe 'not lying to myself' would be a great resolution.

My resolutions for November are:
  1. Spirituality: Start attending the family history center
  2. Marriage: Sing the words to my sweetheart when I am stressed. Come up with slogans or funny liners to help diffuse the tension when annoying habits enter the room.
  3. Finances: Combine and join accounts. Start living out of one account.
  4. Family/Friends: Schedule time to be with friends instead of going home to be on my own. Start a FB page with memorabilia.
  5. Intellect: Start writing about behavioral issues on the blog to develop awareness and record understanding/growth on the subject.
  6. Health: Meditate at least 30 minutes per day.
  7. Time: Continue throwing things away. Scan unnecessary but wanted paperwork, photos, and memorabilia.
  8. Passion: Go to the art museum. Go for a hike. Finish one book other than intellect studies.

I am excited about these resolutions and can't wait to report on them. If you feel like you want to make your own, here is a copy of my spreadsheet that I use. In addition, Gretchen Rubin, author of the Happiness Project also has a start-up kit free on her website.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Marriage Isn't for You

I read this truly inspired article about marriage that I feel everyone should read.

I am impressed with the author's ability to capture something so profound. I remember my dad offering a similar opinion stating that before a couple is married, they are only really given a glimpse of what it would be like to be with that person forever. That the 'love' we feel for them is only a snippet - a snippet enough to get you married. After that, you discover what being truly in love really means. 

Most often it is not romantic or whimsical, but built on the challenges you overcome together - even if that challenge is surviving the first year together. Don't misunderstand, it can be romantic and whimsical, over time.

I hope you enjoy the article as much as I did, and don't let the title fool you: Marriage Isn't For You in the online blog Forward Walking.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Receiving Revelation is Active: Anxiety is Not Happiness

This past month, I have been studying personal revelation, particularly "receiving revelation.

First, I must explain that revelation is something that anyone can receive through the Holy Ghost. In the talk, How to Obtain Revelation and Inspiration for Your Personal Life, Elder Richard G. Scott said "The Holy Ghost communicates important information that we need to guide us in our mortal journey. When it is crisp and clear and essential, it warrants the title of revelation. When it is a series of promptings we often have to guide us step by step to a worthy objective, for the purpose of this message, it is inspiration."

Understanding the definition of revelation is not something I typically struggle with to understand. However, I do struggle with the 'receiving' part. I often times pray for answers to prayers - whether trying to figure out the next life event, or praying for the health of persons I care deeply about. I try hard to listen because I know the Holy Ghost is soft-spoken. And when I can't hear the Lord, even after waiting for a while and trying to exercise patience, I get deeply frustrated. That is when I have to remember the promise: God hears and answers the prayers of His children.

In the talk, The Spirit of Revelation, Elder Bednar said, "As you appropriately seek for and apply unto the spirit of revelation, I promise you will “walk in the light of the Lord” (Isaiah 2:5; 2 Nephi 12:5). Sometimes the spirit of revelation will operate immediately and intensely, other times subtly and gradually, and often so delicately you may not even consciously recognize it. But regardless of the pattern whereby this blessing is received, the light it provides will illuminate and enlarge your soul, enlighten your understanding (see Alma 5:7; 32:28), and direct and protect you and your family." 

Sometimes I am confused about what it means to have faith to receive answers/revelation. I feel like I need to do the best I can in order to be open to the Spirit and the revelation from God. I often get stuck with 'how much is too much.' 

For example, my sweetheart and I have been praying about our next life steps. We know that staying in the Virginia area is most likely not in our immediate future. As we contemplate a big move, there are several questions we need to answer: where do we want to go, where does the Lord need us the most, would we be able to secure jobs so that we can take care of ourselves financially, what moving company would give us the best rate, do we sell everything we have and just go for it...the list goes on and on. Thinking about these things is overwhelming at times, and trying to plan something that we are not super sure about freaks me out and I get major anxiety about not knowing what is beyond "the now." I also realize that asking questions and not doing research about any of them, does not help us receive revelation - receiving revelation is not LAZY.


Just with almost everything faith-related, ACTION is required in order to receive revelation. In the talk Ask, Seek, Knock, Elder Russel M. Nelson said, "To access information from heaven, one must first have a firm faith and a deep desire. One needs to “ask with a sincere heart [and] real intent, having faith in Jesus Christ to follow the divine direction given.

The next requirement is to study the matter diligently. This concept was taught to leaders of this restored Church when they were first learning how to gain personal revelation. The Lord instructed them, “I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right."

For each of you to receive revelation unique to your own needs and responsibilities, certain guidelines prevail. The Lord asks you to develop “faith, hope, charity and love, with an eye single to the glory of God.” Then with your firm “faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, brotherly kindness, godliness, charity, humility, [and] diligence,” you may ask, and you will receive; you may knock, and it will be opened unto you."

At the end of the day, I have to remember that God intends that I am happy - that if I do my best, and have an active faith  in Him, that things will work, and not necessarily in any way that I could have imagined.

Elder Scott continued, "Our Heavenly Father did not put us on earth to fail but to succeed gloriously. It may seem paradoxical, but that is why recognizing answers to prayer can sometimes be very difficult. Sometimes we unwisely try to face life by depending on our own experience and capacity. It is much wiser for us to seek through prayer and divine inspiration to know what to do. Our obedience assures that when required, we can qualify for divine power to accomplish an inspired objective."

Studying this topic has really helped me understand those things that typically give me anxiety, and as you may recall, anxiety does not go hand in hand with my happiness. I know that revelation is real, and that I can receive it when I do my part to receive it. Receiving revelation is active, and happens a lot more than I tend to think. I loved this youtube video* I received in my inbox. It is a good reminder that I am a recipient of revelation all the time, and sometimes forget what that looks like.


 

*This video is included for the sole purpose of inspiring others. I do not encourage forwarding emails to long lists of people unless it is a Christmas card, moving notifications, party invitations, or wedding/baby announcements. 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

When Prioritizing Isn't Compromise

It is almost the end of October. I haven't accomplished nearly enough items on my Happiness Project October Resolutions, and you know what....I was a little surprised at my reaction. Instead of getting down on myself for not accomplishing my goals, I was a little relieved. 

This past month has been a whirlwind for my sweetheart and me. I have filled my calendar with things I love to do, and things WE love to do. Keeping up with these events sure puts a lot of my other goal-setting behind. BUT, I have to say, I am completely and utterly happy. I have been able to maintain a balance of things that I should be doing to find my ultimate happiness (my October resolutions), and doing things that really make me happy, and that need to happen. 

I realized that sometimes other things that make me happy SHOULD be put on hold for those other things that make me happy - the more important things. For example, as much as I want to complete my scanning project so I don't have massive amounts of paper around the house, I found that being with people I care about trumps this project. Most often, I find that the time I set aside for my scanning project is interrupted. Typically, I don't like interruptions, but the interruptions I am talking about include a little quality time with my sweetheart, going out with or calling great friends, talking with family members on the phone, etc.

During my Happiness Project, I have also had to learn to put some things on hold in order to meet the basic needs of my home. Just because cleaning isn't part of my happiness project resolutions for the month, doesn't mean that it isn't important to my health and happiness. Sometimes I groan inside to think that I need to do the dishes AGAIN instead of completing my scanning project....and you know what, it is ok. 

There are some things that take priority, and I don't feel like I am 'compromising my happiness' by paying attention to those other things that are necessary for my overall happiness.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Finding Happiness When I Am Overwhelmed with Humanity

Last week, I experienced some "off" days driven by my perception of humanity. I was tired of the news. I was tired of mean people. I was tired of hearing depressing things from the media. I was tired of people always complaining or arguing about what would be best for our country. I lost faith in government. I questioned goodness of the human race - where are all the good people? Pretty intense, huh?

After I was done having all these negative thoughts, I started to think about why. Why was I reacting this way to all this doom and gloom? How could I drum up my happiness by avoiding doom and gloom, and how could I be happy in spite of it? 

While I am not still experiencing these feelings with as much intensity, the feelings of last week are lingering, and I know I have experienced them before. Over the course of this week, I have come up with ways that I can defeat these thoughts should they happen again.

Actively Seek the Good Stuff

I work in an atmosphere that is intimately connected with the media. Last week, the televisions were blaring all the 'bad news' and I felt like I couldn't escape it. In a way my perception about the world/humanity is influenced by media because I am surrounded by it. That is when I realized that in order to defeat media, I needed to search for the happy in media. Searching for the pearls before swine is active. The danger of this attitude is the overexposure of the 'bad stuff' in order to find the 'good stuff', but I had faith I could find something....anything to restore some of my faith in humanity.

And then I saw this: Students Recount Terror Amid Nevada Middle School Shooting, and Nevada School Shooting Victim Was Trained to Help by USA Today. While the details of the shooting are horrific, I was tearfully grateful for a couple things. 1. In the first story, the boys crouched in front of the girls to protect them. 2. There are people out there like Michael Landsberry who stepped in front of the gun to protect students - heroes - just like the school bus driver who protected his school bus kids from a shooter. 

We are surrounded by heroes...who mostly go unnoticed because of all the other 'noise' in the media. I recognize that actively seeking the good stuff is not just media-centric, but last week I had to be creative in how and what I could do to drown out the negative world news I was surrounded by.

Writing Life Down

In the talk O, Remember Remember by President Eyring, he talks about writing things down as a way to remember. Perhaps for him at the time it was something that helped him document his daily activities, but he explains that it became so much more saying, "My point is to urge you to find ways to recognize and remember God’s kindness. It will build our testimonies. You may not keep a journal. You may not share whatever record you keep with those you love and serve. But you and they will be blessed as you remember what the Lord has done."

I recall having similar gloom and doom feelings when I first began this blog. In my post Crossing to Safety I wrote about how hard it was for me to find good things in everyday circumstances. I had an incredible experience where my faith in people was restored. I said, "I happen to know that no matter what surrounds us people are innately kind in nature. BUT this kindness is soft-spoken and doesn't boast. This kindness does not stand out the way unkindness does. This kindness is hidden until one day we look up at the stopped traffic and realize that even the most random act is full of goodness and life." 

I have no doubt that being able to recall times of frustration and how I was able to get over it then, will help me overcome my feelings now. Recalling those times and reading about them to see what I did then, made me feel better.

King's Council

I recently had an enlightening conversation about involving others in order to make decisions that contribute to overall happiness, and about the basis of common ground. Because I was in my "mood", I explained my theory that people like to commiserate about bad things in their life - meaning, people like to complain - in order to find common ground. I shared that being surrounded by whiners and complainers all day only contributed to my loss of faith in humanity.

Example: I live in diverse neighborhood. Most of my neighbors speak limited English, but we are still able to communicate. All of my neighbors are SUPER friendly and amazingly nice. I can tell they are the kind of people who would do anything for anyone. I also noticed that their conversation revolves around everything that is "wrong" at our apartment complex. Just by saying, "Dryer broken" shaking their head or tutting their tongues, I understand and reciprocate by nodding my head thinking, "I can't believe the dryer is broken for the fifth time this year."  These small complaints have allowed me to connect with my neighbors. It is a shame though that our one way of connection is about what isn't working as opposed to what is. Hence my theory that misery loves company and people like to commiserate about bad things in their lives.

My coworker had another thought. As I shared in an earlier post, sometimes talking about things that aren't working is super important, and we should mourn with those that mourn, and therefore express our 'not so awesome' life stories.

I do think there is a balance though between commiserating too much. I have a rule at work: if my employees come to me with a complaint they also have to give me three solutions - otherwise I don't feel like their complaining is an effective use of time. Some of my employees hate this exercise, and most really don't observe it since I don't strictly enforce it. But if I could, I would.

Just like the adage expressed earlier 'misery loves company' I also feel like it is important to be careful about our goal of expressing our concerns. If our goal is to whine, we are most likely to continue to be down. 

The NBC News article Quit Complaining - It May Make You Feel Worse, talks about how venting to friends is unhelpful and unhealthy. The article gives an example of a woman who when faced with a problem vents to her friends. It states, "Her goal is to get it off her chest and feel better about the issue. But often, Merydith finds that venting about her problems has the exact opposite effect. “It makes you more amped up about the problem,” says Merydith, of Charlotte, N.C."

I realized that the goal of venting, expressing, or sharing should be about trying to resolve the issue, or else it just turns into a whine session that makes me feel worse.

After thinking about this for a while, my coworker told me something about the King's Council. He said that instead of complaining, whining, or genuinely trying to figure out what to do to be happy when we are in the dumps, we should establish our own personal King's Council. He suggested that I write down a list of persons who I trust and who I can go to for various troubles. 

For example, if I am having having issues with trying to understand how to be better to my sweetheart, and really feel like I need advice, the best person to chat with might be someone who has perhaps experienced similar situations in their own life. It is also important that my King's Council is made up of those persons who know me best, and who motivate me to be a better person. 

Having limited people on the King's Council can also be challenging. I remember only having one person on my King's Council before, and ended up exhausting them with all my problems and forgetting the main goal to only complain if I have a solution. But I also noticed that even if I had solutions to my problems, I was still causing emotional drain on someone else. We have to be careful not to overload our council members with too much or they won't be able to help.

Conclusion

What a great opportunity share life experiences with a coworker and hear what works for him when he is feeling overwhelmed by life and pessimism. By completing some of these exercises I realized how much I have felt overwhelmed like this in the past, and what I can do to when it hits me in the future. I am still trying to figure out how it can be prevented. 

In general, I think it it is quite normal to lose hope. When it hard for me to find solutions to my problems, I know know that if I want to be happy, I have to be active in making it so. Happiness is more than a choice, it is a way of life (and can be a fantastic journey), and if anyone has ever tried to change life habits, they know that it takes a lot of work. I am just glad I get to keep working at it!


Monday, October 21, 2013

Experiment Sunday: I am a Social Cook

Yesterday was experiment Sunday! I love experiment days! My experiment days typically go something like this:

  1. Remove all jewelry
  2. Wear something that I don't mind getting oil splotches on just in case my skillets spit. OR wear an apron. Yesterday, I wore an apron...one with pockets. Oh, how I love aprons!
  3. Pull my hair back
  4. Turn on classical music or jazz 
  5. Get out all my ingredients
There was a lot riding on these experiments because we invited some family friends to eat with us, so I couldn't mess up ;) 

To improve the process flow for this amazing experiment, one thing I did differently was I measured out all my ingredients, and put them in separate bowls/dishes. Typically I would just throw them in per the instructions, but the recipe had a lot going on, and with a limited amount of time, measuring was essential.

Here are the two dishes I made:

Butternut Squash Skillet Lasagna: 5 of 5 *'s

What I did: I love cooking with gas, but sometimes it is so hard for me to gauge how HOT it really gets. This transition has not been easy, but I am definitely a gas lover all the way! Mid-way through my process, I had to switch it up, and ended up using most of my dishes (something my sweetheart gives me a hard time about every time I cook). Oh well, deal with it! 

First things first, I didn't have an oven-safe skillet, so I used my amazing ceramic coated dutch oven for roasting the squash. This is where the comment above kicks in. After leaving the gas on to continue simmering all the ingredients, it started to burn. I switched to a regular frying pan to complete the chicken and onion ingredients.I also used a sauce pan to make my butter/flour/milk mixture, but after boiling for a while, it didn't get the thickness I needed, so, I washed my dutch oven and tried that again. It worked perfectly. I combined the squash and the mixture and topped it with my fried chicken and onions and then packed the dish full of noodles.

It turned out amazing. I highly recommend this dish and wouldn't change anything about it. With a little innovation, I was able to make this dish work...and it turned out 5*'s


Turmeric Toasted Cauliflower with Cherry Tomatoes and Cannelloni Beans: 4 of 5*'s

What I did: I followed the recipe as best I could. The only changes I made was covering my dish when in the oven, and using whole onions (because I didn't have shallots). I also couldn't find the nigella seeds anywhere, and didn't include a substitute.

What I recommend: This dish tasted amazing. However, I would change some other things including 
  1. Boil the cauliflower and get it semi-soft first. I don't know if this was supposed to be a crunchy dish. I personally like my cauliflower soft. 
  2. Use a different dish. The oven dish I used did not allow the dish to marinade in the sauce, so next time I will use a bigger pan so that all the cauliflower is touching the sauce.
  3. Add a little spice. The flavor of the cauliflower was good, but it was missing a little zest. I would either add lemon juice for a citrus flavor, and some type of hot sauce. I was thinking roasted peppers or cayenne might work well to bring out some spice, but I wonder how Tapatio would fare in this case.
Otherwise, this was a fabulous dish, which I also totally recommend. 

I love being in the kitchen and cooking. It makes me incredibly happy. What makes me even more happy is when people make yummy noises when they are eating my food. And what makes me even happier than that is cooking for people so we can experience my experiments together. I guess you could say I am a social cook ;)