If You’re Not Doing What You Love, You’re Probably Just Like Everyone Else.

Can I just talk for a second?

I see a lot of headlines (mostly ad headlines) telling me to stop what I’m doing, drop everything, and start doing what I love! Because if I would just stop for a minute and think about it, I would realize that there’s absolutely nothing between me and my dreams! Just do it! Forget your fears, and leap!

follow_your_dreams____by_cryingsoulgirl-d5cpoep

Here’s the thing. I am 100% in favor of following your passions and pursuing your dreams. And I think everybody should be happy. I also think a lot of us (myself included) need to do some spring cleaning in our lives, and get rid of the stuff, ideas, and obligations that are holding us back from becoming who we want to become.

But you can’t be thrilled all the time. It’s not an option. We’re human beings—we need a wide range of emotions in order to maintain stability, and that includes some negative ones. It even includes the boring ones. You can go pursue your dreams all day if you want, but eventually you’re going to have to find a place to take a dump. Eventually, you’re going to have to wash the dishes. Whether or not you love them, it is illegal to just ignore your taxes.

paperwork

And those are just the “taking care of me” ones. Now plug in the “relationships” part of the equation. My marriage brings me a lot of happiness. But that means that sometimes I have to take care of a sick husband. It means putting up with him when he’s hungry. It means admitting when I’m wrong (which might be more difficult than putting up with him when he’s hungry.) My son brings me a lot of happiness, too—but he’s in diapers. And they don’t change themselves.

I would love to just drop everything and go pursue my crazy dream… except I don’t really have a set-out “crazy dream.” When I envision happiness, it’s usually a motorcycle, a long highway, and a really hot sun overhead. But somehow, I would have to pay for the gas—and the motorcycle—and even motorcycle riding gets boring after 16 waking hours. Most people don’t have one specific passion that surpasses everything else. That’s the advertisers talking. (Hint: the “one passion” they want you to have is the thing they’re selling.)

bike-ride

I literally had a dream like this.

And here’s the thing: even once you find something that makes you happy—even if you’re the sort who can do the same thing for years, and it will still make you happy, and it will never get boring—eventually, somebody’s going to die. Someone you know will die. And it will be sad. And it isn’t healthy to expect to be happy while you’re sad.

Society screams at us that we’re supposed to be happy. I agree (but without the screaming.) There’s a scripture in the Book of Mormon that specifically states, “Men are that they might have joy.” It doesn’t get much more explicit than that: God wants us to be happy. We usually want that for ourselves. But there’s a difference between being a happy person and feeling happy all the time. That’s where the advertisers are lying; no product will make you happy all the time. No job change will solve all your problems. No relationship will make all the bad days disappear.

We aren’t supposed to be manically happy. We’re supposed to find a way to become happy people. That means doing some things that you don’t like (like the dishes I’m avoiding at this very moment.) And a lot of the time, it means working through the hard stuff to get to the good stuff (like the clean kitchen.)

being-miserable

This doesn’t mean that being miserable is a good thing. If something makes you miserable, you need to do something about it. It’s probably not necessary. You can get a new job. You can communicate better with your spouse. You can get a nanny for one or two days a week. Even the most unavoidable of problems can still be addressed; I have Seasonal Affective Disorder (which basically means I find winter really, really depressing.) So every year around February, Ethan takes me down to the Arizona border for a couple days to get some sun. If you’re an unhappy person generally, change something. Start looking for the positive things you have. Start eliminating or changing the negative things.

I was lugging my infant son around shortly after he was born, trying to get into the bookstore to talk to my husband. I walked around the mini-van and pulled out the baby carrier, then the diaper bag, then my purse, then realized I didn’t have enough arms, so I put down a few bags to adjust…

And then it hit me. I was that mom. The mom I had always made fun of. And I nearly cried. But then I realized something else: I’m only going twenty feet into a bookstore. I don’t need the diaper bag. Or my whole purse. Or the infant carrier. In fact, all I really needed was my wallet and the baby. So I got the kid out of the car seat, got my wallet out, and carried him on my hip while I wandered through a bookstore. Then I took him through the Asian market, just for kicks and giggles.

And then he blew out a diaper and peed the floor at the Asian market.

But you know what? The diaper bag was still just around the corner. We survived. And more than that, I started parenting differently, because I had realized I didn’t need all that baggage.

I’ve been out of shape for years, and I finally just started working out. Lo and behold, my depression, anxiety, and PMS have become easier to manage. Oh, and also, I’m in better shape. I’m not thrilled with my body yet. I’m still not a joy to behold during my period. But it’s better, and I’m happier. You can’t expect instant solutions, but you can expect improvements. That’s what I think we should all be working toward.

You shouldn’t be miserable. But you’re going to experience some serious discomfort in life, and you need to be okay with that. Learn from it. Grow from it. And use it to learn about yourself. Don’t drop everything and do something that makes you happy. Do things that shape yourself into a happier person. ♦

Advertisements

Give More Than You Take

So I was thinking just now about how much people expect out of life.

I mean, some of it’s good. We expect some basic respect, and an end to discrimination, and human dignity and living space and enough food to eat. But I think we also expect some weird things: we think sexual gratification is a right, so the porn industry skyrockets. We think our food has to taste good, so restaurants make gads of money. (Technical term: gads.)We expect people to listen to our thoughts, so we write blogs (cough) and Facebook posts and comment on other people’s thoughts when we really want to get somebody’s attention. And how many of these things are really “rights”? More importantly, what are we missing while we’re screaming for them?

happy

Storytime: I went to eat sushi a while ago with my dad. We had a great time, and when we got back, my mom asked how it was. “They never brought our soup!” I said immediately.

The sushi was all-you-can-eat. And my dad paid the check. I got free, unlimited seafood – cooked for me and delivered to my table while I chatted with my dad – and my first reaction was to criticize the experience. What?

If you told your kids they were only getting a $20 gift for Christmas, how many people would have epic tantrums to deal with?

In comparison, I know a homeless guy who was offered a free meal, declined on principle (because he already had enough), then changed his mind, picked up the meal, and gave it to another homeless guy. This man has needs like I’ve never had, but he didn’t feel them – at least not as much as he felt the responsibility to help.

I’m not advocating everybody live on the street, stop giving Christmas gifts, or throw out the Thanksgiving turkey. I just think we’d all enjoy our lives a little more if we put things in perspective and realized that we’re living the high life. (If you’re reading this, you have access to a computer. Think about that.)

There are still things wrong with the world – but I think we’ll all have more to be grateful for when we start being grateful for the things we already have. If we recognize how many things we have, and don’t need, we’ll feel a little less needy. And that puts us in a better position to recognize and help the needs of others. So take a few minutes to notice. Thank your dad (thanks, Dad) for the free meal instead of complaining about the service. Read a book, and point out the parts you like to your neighbor on the train. Wear your favorite perfume, instead of hoarding it for a “special occasion.”

You’re alive! It’s a special occasion.

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody! ♦

6iyXxERAT

Happy Tuesday!

Lest I should only use this blog for venting and book reviews, I think I should point out a few things that make me happy.

  • It’s sunny today. Not just like, “Oh, look. The sun.” It’s a genuinely sunshiney kind of day. I went for a walk (to the end of the block, which is about as far as my baby belly will allow at this point), sat on a low stone wall and read a book, soakin’ up some rays. It felt great.
  • I’m nearly finished with a manuscript for a full-fledged book! That means I could actually get this thing published or something!
  • Know what I had for lunch today? Thanksgiving. In a tortilla. Stuffing, potatoes, gravy, turkey lunch-meat, and cranberry sauce, all rolled up into a tortilla. Thanksgiving taco.
  • Jurassic World is coming out on my birthday. I’m so excited for these dinosaurs.
  • This baby will be here in a month!
  • I don’t have to give birth to this baby for another month!
  • We have an apartment with ample room for this baby!
  • This picture has been my computer desktop for the past few months or so:
    hamster in a sweater
    Just look at this little guy. He’s adorable! He’s got that little sweater. I feel like the Hamster in a Sweater is probably my spirit animal.
  • Ethan will be done student teaching this week. Also, he got an extension on some of his homework, so he shouldn’t be keeling over dead anytime soon. I’m quite happy about this.
  • Nobody – I repeat, nobody – in our house is deathly ill right now. I am fine. Ethan is fine. Baby is wiggly.
  • There’s Christmas cookies everywhere!
  • Oh, right – Christmas!! ♦

A Quarter-Life Crisis

Happy birthday to me! I just turned 25! And since I intend to live to be a hundred, that means I’m a quarter of the way through my life!

So, what does this mean, exactly?

Well, I thought about it. It should mean – I mean, if I’m tracking my “progress” here, that I’m about a fourth of the way through my life goals. Awesome!

I started thinking about books I should read, and started looking up “100 greatest” lists. Then I realized there aren’t really any book critics I trust with that decision. Some of those books, I’m just like, “Why would I read that, when I can read… anything else?” So I don’t have the patience (or literary sense) for that measurement.

Grandchildren? I feel like grandchildren are a pretty common indicator of “life well lived.” But I’m 25. So I’m just gonna say, I’m married, and that’s close enough for now.

Retirement? I’m planning on being a stay-at-home mom, once I have kids. Which means retirement only happens for real when the kids move to New Zealand. Maybe. Assuming all the grandchildren also move.

So, what exactly am I supposed to measure?  It depends what I’m trying to accomplish.

By the time I’m dead, I want to have lived a good life. What makes a good life? Friends. Family. God. A happy attitude. A few small adventures. Check, check, check, usually, and check. I think I’m doing pretty well, to be honest.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m all for progress. I’m gonna keep moving up. But if life’s this good for the next 25, I’m excited. So thanks, friends and family. And God (although I don’t get stats on how often He reads my blog, I’m sure He gets the sentiment.) Thanks to my husband, Ethan.And thanks for the adventures. ♦

Expecting Adam

expecting adam

So, I’m writing a book about growing up with my brother. And, having never written a memoir-style book before, I thought it would be good to do a little research. I picked up a copy of Expecting Adam from the Provo City Library, remembering my mom telling me about it years ago. She said it was about a woman who used to be Mormon (which I am), talking about giving birth to a boy with Down syndrome (which my brother has). Great! This will fit perfectly!

Or not. In fact, within the first fifty pages or so, I found myself just kind of staring at the book thinking, “Who is this woman?” Don’t get me wrong – it’s incredibly well written. And I was expecting this pregnancy and diagnosis to be a real change of perception for Martha, the author. I just don’t think I was prepared for a perception change of this magnitude.

The problem was, she started off so confoundedly ignorant. And not in the “I don’t know much about Downs” kind of way. More in the “I didn’t know Downs people were capable of intelligent thought” way. And I sat there, completely stupefied by it all, and it slowly dawned on me just how abnormal my childhood was.

My brother has Downs. (He also has Autism, but we didn’t realize that until much later.) He was born when I was three years old. I grew up thinking Down syndrome was about as “different” as red hair. Uncommon, yes. An actual problem, of course not! So when I picked up this book, I was looking for ideas about the organization and style of my own book. By the time I was halfway through, however, I realized the gaping hole I would have otherwise left in my writing: I assume everyone is familiar with special needs.

And if Expecting Adam showed me anything, it is just how uncomfortable some people can be with the idea that a child is imperfect. I’ve always assumed that every child is imperfect; I was born perfectly healthy, with a reasonably high IQ, and I still managed to shut myself into my own locker in junior high school. I take for granted that everyone understands that we all have different strengths and weaknesses, and some of those – like Down syndrome – are more visible to others, while others – like a short temper or an anxiety disorder – can be hidden a little longer. But Martha Beck has pointed out to me that many people go their whole lives suppressing this, putting on a good face, and pretending to be perfect. And for some inane reason, they think they’re succeeding.

This book frequently made me want to throw things across the room. (See “short temper,” discussed above.) And then it made me just want to sit down with people and talk, and tell them about my own experiences. It made me want to tear down the walls people put around themselves and just talk to the real person inside us all, the one that’s so terrified of getting eaten alive that it never comes out to see the sunlight. And as angry as I was at all the people in Martha’s life telling her to get an abortion, or ignoring her new baby, or at Martha’s own doubts – which made zero sense to me, because I never went through this paradigm shift – I mostly just wanted to find all those people and give them a copy of this book.

I’ve frequently read the phrase, “If you’re offended by this, I’m offended by you.” And even though I wanted to throw eggs at the homes of some of the doctors and nurses and Harvard professors in this book who thought that Martha’s son Adam would never amount to much, this book has taught me that that phrase is ridiculous. I propose replacing it with, “If you’re offended by this, please tell me why. I’d like to share my own experience.” If you’re uncomfortable around people with special needs, that’s where you’re at. You don’t have to pretend otherwise. But please read this book. It will help answer questions, break down fears, and resolve confusions. And at the same time, you’ll end up with questions you never even thought of.

Well, there’s my soap box. Expecting Adam is a beautiful book, a sacred journey through the author’s soul, and a life-changing read. ♥

Is The World Really Getting Scarier?

My fiance found this article about a week ago, and we’ve been discussing it for a while. Basically, it talks about how there are some pedophiles who are calling for sexual “rights”, on the basis that if homosexuality is a sexual orientation, then so is pedophilia, and pedophiles ought to be entitled to the same rights. I tend toward the conservative side, but I’m pretty sure most of my friends – gay or straight – would agree with me that the argument is ridiculous. The thing that bothers me about the article, however, is that it doesn’t seem to be written for the purpose of informing or even inspiring the public to action; the main point seems to be scaring the reader into being afraid of their own society. It’s written from a perspective of “Well, doomsday’s here.” The very fact that the article is entitled, “It Begins…” makes me wonder, “What begins?” And whatever “begins” with legalizing pedophilia certainly makes me look forward to the future of my children not one bit.

I’m getting married in a week. (Yes, I’m excited!) And we want kids. A strong family is really important to both of us, and that includes raising our children to be thoughtful, intelligent, and moral people. It also entails protecting those children from harm. Which means it’s a little off-setting sometimes when people remind us that the world is “getting scary”.

But what does that actually mean? From a Mormon perspective, we frequently hear that we’re living in “an increasingly wicked world”. And in religious terms, that means that the world no longer follows the commandments of God. (Read about Moses lately? Look up the 10 commandments. Seriously. Not followed.) Back in the old days, life was good and everybody took care of each other and nobody hurt anybody. So, from a religious standpoint, it looks like the end of the world must be near, because we’re at apocalyptic levels of wickedness.

Except that, in Old Testament times, people were still killed and cursed and raped and robbed and sometimes even sacrificed to idols. Cain killed his brother within two generation of human society. Jesus himself was killed – by the chosen people of the Lord. The world has never been pretty.

Now, lest you should think that I’m here to spread doom and gloom, let me tell you why I’m not scared. Because the world has never been pretty. People have always hurt people. People have always done stupid things. And guess what? I turned out okay. My husband-to-be turned out okay. My parents and his parents and our siblings and a whole lot of family and people we know turned out okay. And not just okay – I know some phenomenal people, who are amazing examples of upright citizenship! And a lot of those phenomenal people grew up in rough circumstances or poor homes or bad neighborhoods or what-have-you. People will always do stupid things. But just because people now do stupid things differently from people then doesn’t mean I need to be scared that my unborn children have no future. I intend to teach my children not to be stupid.

Will they still do some stupid things? Of course they will! When I was in middle school, I locked myself in my own locker, just to see if I would fit. (I did.) Was that intelligent? Of course not! But as long as my children know how to stand up for what’s right and fix their mistakes along the way, they’re going to be just fine. I had friends in grade school who drank and smoked. I didn’t. That’s what I chose. I knew people who slept around. I didn’t. I chose that. So why do people keep telling me that the world around me is going to decide who my children become? Nobody can choose that except my children. My husband and I are going to teach our kids how to tell what’s right. And then we’re going to let them live. And while we’re going to encourage them to be careful out there, we’re not going to teach them that the world is a horrible, scary place where they’re going to get hurt. We”ll teach them how to pick themselves up and dust themselves off and keep going. In the words of Kid President: “It’s everybody’s duty to give the world a reason to dance.”

In an “increasingly wicked world”, I introduce a remedy: an increasingly awesome child. Teach a child they can do it, and they’ll prove you right. ♦

10021023-happy-children-in-a-meadow-in-summer

A Shout-out to Mom

This is my mom.

Clearly, she’s fantastic. She encourages me to do things like study, clean, run with scissors, and cover the neighbors’ car with monkey vinyl clings. I consider her an excellent influence on me.

Last week (and really, for most of this winter), I was kind of bummed. I wanted sunshine. And I think she could tell.

So today, I picked up a package from the office, only to find it packed with as much sunshine as my mother could fit in a box. Sun detergent. Sunchips. Sunflower seeds – chocolate-covered and otherwise. A can of baby corn that had the word “sun” somewhere in the brand name.

And, you know what? The sun came out today! Coincidence? I think not!

Thanks, Mom. You always know what to do.