Thursday, February 18, 2016

Reduce, Reuse and Recycle...My Responsibility or My Reward?

Reduce, Reuse and Recycle…
My Responsibility or My Reward?
On a balmy summer afternoon five years ago a young German girl walked off an airplane at the Salt Lake International airport.  Accompanying her were two suitcases and boundless enthusiasm for a foreign exchange experience in our home.  That subsequent school year would be one that neither she nor our family would ever forget.  

Knowing Salt Lake City was the home of her host family, Jenny considered it likely that this family was Mormon.  After a quick, but frightening Google search about Mormons, she was not quite sure if her wardrobe would consist of an Easter egg colored long dress or if she would be able to wear her hair in anything other than a long french braid.  With very little information about the place she would call home for nine months, her courage ultimately overcame her apprehension.

When it was all said and done, we had more in common than we had differences. Yet, a significant difference was quickly apparent to me between our American lifestyle and her German one. That difference was in the level of personal consumption.  Germans don’t have Costco, they actually have very few big box stores, they don’t drive 80 miles for a birthday party, they don’t decorate their homes at Christmas-time like Clark Griswold and they certainly don’t buy powdered sugar in 25 lb. bags…just to name a few!

Everything is disposable in America - a single use and into the trash it goes. For the first time I became quite self conscience of how much plastic and packaging we use at every turn.  My explanation was that although we may use a great deal, we always recycle - Gulp!  Our garbage cans that we haul to the curb each and every week are just slightly smaller than many German automobiles and the “more consciences” Americans have two cans; one for refuse and the other for recycling.  Well, aren’t we something!  

As we tried to represent our American ways with our best foot forward, there were many things that were truly impressive; but how we treat our planet was not one of them.  Our level of consumption is excessive and so is our waste.  Not only did we pretend to eat a large variety of vegetables instead of sweets, but those same vegetables became the garbage we threw away each week because we just didn’t get to them.  Eating out, of course - we are busy people!  As Americans, we overindulge, overspend, overeat….just to name a few!

Because of this numbing and embarrassing situation, I was shamed into making a few changes.  The notion to leave a smaller carbon imprint landed solidly on my radar.  The differences between our disposable world juxtaposed against cultures with very little actual waste is staggering - even in other highly developed countries. Americans have not always been like this.  Is the “God of convenience” our new master?  Have we lost our common sense making “urgent things important” rather than “important things urgent”?  Have we dismissed responsibility altogether? 

A devotional given back in 1983 at BYU by Ruth E. Brasher asked very pertinent questions for our time. 

“Am I rich?  The answer depends on the comparative   basis I choose to use - but in my heart I know that I have enough of this world’s material blessings and that I will be accountable for my use of them.  Are you rich?  Do you have enough and some to spare?  How can that determination be made?  When we use more than our share of the earth’s resources, are we rich or are we greedy, or are we both rich and greedy?  Are we greedy in our demands?  Are we accountable?"

The Pope recently published his new encyclical, Laudato Si where he admonished all of humanity, and not just those of the Catholic faith, to focus on “intergenerational solidarity…and reflect on our accountability before those who will have to endure the dire consequences” if we continue to overuse and abuse the world’s diminishing resources.  

Did you know that the average American dinner table contains food from five different countries?  A great deal of energy is used to bring that food to our tables.  Is this putting energy to its best and most effective use?  Just because “we can” does not mean “we should” continue to use more than our fair share of earthly treasures.  What will we leave for our children and grandchildren?  Will we be able to say that we have been good stewards?  Have we been greedy?  If we have, and I would say that most Americans have (by the world’s standards), is it too late to do be redeemed?

For the first time last year our community offered a green can for yard trimmings and compostable items.  Europeans have composted for years and even levy fines if you don’t.  My curiosity provoked an experiment to see just how little waste we could generate using our new green can.  My husband and I started out with the obvious yard clippings and grass; graduating to table scraps and all those vegetables we continue to buy with optimism and good intentions. 

While I am not necessarily proud that the two of us living in this home have three garbage cans; I was surprised at how much of our trash was in the green and blue cans.  Imagine what a difference it would make if most families cut their real garbage by one third?  My experiment turned into a bit of a personal challenge to see how little rubbish I had left over for the black can.

Our family has made some strides - not perfection, but progress.  However, I feel incensed every time I pull my energy report from my mailbox showing me that I consume 70% more than all my neighbors.  Greedy, irresponsible gluttonous members of humanity!  Really???  Who are they comparing us to - the multiple apartments in our area?  

How is this possible?  We are empty nesters, we only run one of our two furnaces, we watch very little t.v., and don’t even listen to the radio.  We turn off our lights and use those ridiculously ugly spiral lightbulbs that make us appear ten years older than we really are.   Does our 35 year old freezer push us over the edge of glutinous energy consumption?  It is hard to justify replacing a trusty appliance with a new appliance that is only made to last 5 years or so.  Where do all those appliances go?  Don’t they fill up the landfill just like everything else?

Conservation is ultimately left to individuals.  Unfortunately, we are not required to take many measures to insure the health of this planet.  The reminders are not consistent, nor do they provide us with enough beneficial information.  That energy report could list a few different things each month to help to educate me in ways to improve.  While inadequate, there are enough reminders.   I can and will do better!  A little research produced many ideas of small things we can do to improve.  Never underestimate the power of many people engaged in small ways.  

“…that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass…”
~Alma 37:6

A recent interview with a New York City woman (who adopted a lifestyle that produces absolutely no waste) offered a brilliant solution - or at least a place to start.  She suggested that you look through your garbage and see what is actually there.  What clues can be found in your very own trash can?  

Could washable rags or microfiber cloths be substituted for mass quantities of paper towels?  Would air drying your hands in a restroom rather than drying with paper serve the same purpose?  How about eliminating paper plates and plastic utensils?  Terminating junk mail by emailing   Reusable shopping and produce bags?  Installing dimmer switches to customize need?  Refills instead of a new paper or plastic cup with every drink purchase?  This is my personal walk of shame.  I could probably circle the entire planet twice with cups lined end on end. 

Below you will find several links with a great deal of information to help customize a plan should you choose to jump on this bandwagon of going forward with kindness toward our planet.  I am not suggesting that we can all live making our own deodorant and brushing our teeth with bamboo toothbrushes, but I would venture to say that we can all do better.  How?  A little effort, a little commitment, a little progress, a little responsibility…just to name a few!  

Image credits:

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Knowledge, Skepticism and the Gift of Faith - The Faith Crisis in America

Knowledge, Skepticism and the Gift of Faith
The Faith Crisis in America

My father spent his entire career working in the Aerospace industry.  In spite of various federal space contracts and military type security, during the mid to late 1960’s, his company had a “bring your family to work day.”  It was the only time I remember the public being privy to tour that working facility. 

Just prior to this visit, a significant acquisition had been made of a new computer; catapulting them into a new and modern age of technology.  To this day, I remember nothing about my father’s work or his office, but I do remember that computer.   Over a million dollars worth of spinning reels stacked in glass and metal boxes coughed out a steady stream of cards punched with tiny holes.  This futuristic paper spewing dragon took up an entire large room and my dad’s colleagues were nothing short of giddy as they explained all it could do. 

Just to give you the down low; computers in those days had approximately 512 K of storage.  Today’s ordinary android phone has 300,000 times more storage and an ordinary MacBook Air has more than 1,000,000 times more storage than computers from that era.  Computers in 1958 had a single transistor per circuit compared to 9 million transistors per square millimeter in today’s world. The cost of our modern devices range anywhere from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand. This exponential growth in electronics has doubled every two years or so and the explanation of how that happens is way over my head!  Google it!

If someone had told those computer scientists that in forty short years one or more computers would be in most American homes, would they have believed it? Would it have scrambled their brains to know that phones owned by children would have 300,000 times more capacity than the single million dollar computer that filled their small gymnasium? Could they have comprehended such things? Would they have said it could not be done?  Or, would they have been open to the notion of “possibility” of things believed but not seen?

A crisis of faith exists in America. Approximately 8% of the population between 2007 - 2014 (mostly youth) have left ideas of faith and God behind while striving to understand their place in the world. The postwar era of the 1920’s and 1930’s saw a similar downturn; where cynicism and disillusionment overcame hope.  This recent national crisis of faith spills into the LDS faith as well.

For many faith is being challenged and edged out by secular learning minimizing the need to be drawn to spirituality and prayer.  I think we can all agree that science plays a crucial role in our understanding of our world and universe.  Yet, many rely on the notion that if you can’t see it or prove it, it doesn’t exist - evidence is necessary to believe.  Why is this so?  It seems like an open mind would also be open to possibilities of things not yet seen or that do not yet exist.

For example, with no vision to see beyond established scientific theories, mankind might still believe that the world is flat or that California is an island.  We might still be convinced that the universe is static; neither expanding or contracting.  Wouldn’t we be wise to entertain all possibility of things we cannot presently see - to truly have an open mind regardless of whether it is based in science or in faith?

Science is only one reason that some are departing from God and religious notions.  Some are disillusioned with the imperfect nature and conduct of man; be it modern man or historical record of man.  History is not finite.  Historical facts have more clarity as we study context for the times in which they were written.  So often events are skewed when we overlay our current understanding onto a historical situation. 

Prophets beginning with Adam were flawed and many of them lived through periods where their behavior is not what we would expect from a leader; let alone a prophet of God.   “Mere men” have been asked throughout the ages to lead God’s children and point them back to Him.  All the prophets have been on their own mortal journeys as well.  What a tremendous amount of pressure!  The most humble servants seem to understand their responsibility and express inadequacy in their roles.  To expect in them perfection from man or from God, would be intolerant of allowing them their own earthly test.

“ When God makes the prophet, He does not 
unmake the man.”  ~ David O. McKay  

Moroni himself asks readers of the Book of Mormon to “condemn me not because of mine imperfection neither my father, because of his imperfection, neither them who have written before him.”  Joseph Smith wrote of himself in his history that at times he engaged in behaviors “not consistent with that character which ought to be maintained by one who was called of God as I had been.”  (Joseph Smith History 1:28)  From prophets down to the lowliest of followers of Christ, we all strive, fall short and use the Atonement of Christ to fulfill the Plan of Salvation.  

The sword of tolerance cuts both ways for followers as well as leaders.  I would assume those least tolerant of the Prophets of God are often loudest when it comes to insisting on tolerance for individuals whose ideas and lifestyle vary from societal and cultural norms.  Tolerance begets patience, patience begets forgiveness and forgiveness allows for charity - across the board!  Period.

Living in the information age is epic and my head spins almost every day when I realize the golden egg at my fingertips. Not only do we have an ability to look with a great detail at any subject, but also to delve deeply into historical events.  We find much more than mere historical accounts focusing on the good, the positive and the inspiring - the side of ourselves we want the world to see.  There continues to be much more disclosure.  We now have access to the good, the bad and the ugly.  Journals and historical accounts bring very authentic struggles to light for us to examine like never before.  

Real life feelings and experiences can be, at times very raw and unsettling.  Yet great lessons can be learned from authentic accounts of those who came before us devoid of any omissions.  As such, they more closely parallel our own real struggles.  We are not alone in our trials, our imperfections or our ability to overcome.

Neal A. Maxwell, an LDS Apostle admonished us that we need not shy away from difficult issues.  “As religious people we should create an atmosphere where questions can be aired and discussions held about important issues without shame, condemnation and alienation.” 

In helping us ground our Christian beliefs, blogger Christopher Hutton wrote “Doubt becomes the catalyst to a proper questioning of anything and everything. This questioning acts as a sharpening stone, allowing us to test and reveal whether or not our beliefs about things hold up to logic, to the physical world, and to general and special revelation.” 

              'Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?  Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?’ - T.S. Elliot

With so much available information, don’t we need to learn to sift through it with an appropriate level of discernment?  Have you ever consulted Dr. Google?  If we believed everything we read, we would all have one foot in the grave with no remaining hope for a future.  It is only with a keen and careful eye that we can take the best from what we find and examine how it dovetails with what we already know.  It is only then that we can apply the information to make it useful, positive and productive.

Although useful at times, skepticism and doubt can also be an enemy to faith.  Pres. Dieter F. Uchtdorf suggests “there is nothing noble or impressive about being cynical.  Skepticism is easy - anyone can do it.  It is the faithful life that requires moral strength, dedication, and courage…just because we cannot see something with our physical eyes does not mean it doesn’t exist.”  

As thinking people, how do we navigate the need for a healthy dose of questioning while preserving the faithful path we desire?  How do we teach our children to develop critical thinking skills and learn to walk in faith?  Are these two ideas really oppositional?

Absolutely not.  We can handle the truth.  We can accept the shortcomings and failings of real men and women.  Doubting, questioning and even a little skepticism need not be debilitating.  We do not need to be incapacitated as questions arise.  Rarely is anything in this life all one way or another.  The truth often lies in the middle.  Looking at extremes in anything does not usually define the whole.  

As more information is brought to light our perspectives will continue to change over time.  To be open to that notion helps us to have vision, to believe in possibility, and to ultimately develop faith as we exercise patience in the process.  Eternity is a very long time.  Isn’t it worth doing right?  

In a fascinating read by Patrick Q. Mason, Planted: Belief and Belonging in an Age of Doubt, Mason suggests that doubt is essential in our contemporary spiritual condition. “Doubt can therefore operate as faith’s partner as much as its enemy, depending on our response to it.  People can (and most do) hold both faith and doubt in their minds and hearts simultaneously.” 

“In this Church what we know will always trump what we do not know.  
And remember, in this world, everyone is to walk by faith.”  ~Jeffrey R. Holland

In a talk to the membership of the LDS church, Pres. Dieter F. Uchtdorf so eloquently reassured those who question and doubt,  “It’s natural to have questions—the acorn of honest inquiry has often sprouted and matured into a great oak of understanding. There are few members of the Church who, at one time or another, have not wrestled with serious or sensitive questions. One of the purposes of the Church is to nurture and cultivate the seed of faith—even in the sometimes sandy soil of doubt and uncertainty. Faith is to hope for things which are not seen but which are true.” 

“My dear friends—please, first doubt 
your doubts before you doubt 
your faith. We must never allow 
doubt to hold us prisoner and 
keep us from the divine love, peace, 
and gifts that come through 
faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.” 
- Dieter F. Achtdorf

We are not powerless in juggling skepticism and faith.  We have been given tools.  These tools and approaches to finding truth will be as varied as the individual that implements them.  The trick is in the balance with an ample dose of patience and compassion with ourselves and others in that supernal search for truth.

The older I get, the more I appreciate and the less threatened I am with diversity.  Varying perspectives and ideas make up a rich tapestry of life experiences to cloak humanity with wisdom and reflection.  Extrapolations from authentic and sometimes gut-wrenching experiences lift me from my own struggles giving me quiet inspiration and abounding hope.  Any compassion I show for those who fall short of the mark will hopefully come back and be offered to me as I continually fall and stumble in my own mortal journey.    

Let’s end where it all started with James 1:5 “if any  of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.”

Additional reading:

Planted: Belief and Belonging in an Age of Doubt, Patrick Q. Mason

“Come Join With Us,” by Dieter F. Uchtdorf

“Lord I Believe,” by Jeffrey R. Holland

photo credits;

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Cape Horn, Shoe Horns and the Art of Purging

Cape Horn, Shoe Horns and the 
art of purging

Ten Ways to Declutter for the Slightly Sentimental

If getting rid of everything you have not used or worn in the last six months sounds absurd, this blog is for you.   Do all these so-called "organizational experts" live in 800 sq. foot apartments in Manhattan?  

The most recent litmus test I have read about for keeping your stuff is, “does it bring you joy?”  I get their point but who can really do this?  My exercise bike does not bring me joy, panty hose does not bring me joy, neither does my foam roller to roll out sore muscles after running.  Joy?  Hardly!   

I will admit - joy is freedom from stuff.  Joy is simple.  Yet, not all  things can be joyful all the time.  My whole hearted desire is to reduce, reuse and recycle.  Cross my heart and hope to die;  I want to be minimalistic.  Simplicity is refreshing and unencumbered.  My soul longs for that freedom.  

An ominous and ever present battle currently exists.  The world wants us to have stuff.  The conspiracy seduces us into believing we must acquire, buy, sell, make, manage, and finance stuff.  Television sells stuff.  The internet force feeds us stuff. It will make us richer, thinner, younger, happier.  Really?  

Stuff is the true robber of Joy.  Not only do we pay for stuff, we maintain it, inventory it, protect it, insure it, clean it, organize it, store it, rotate it.  I feel exhausted already and for the record, I am not richer, thinner or younger.

Other than never buying it is the first place, purging is the first and necessary step to win the war against stuff.  Obviously, the word purge has some additional meanings, but these are my two favorites and one I made up.  

  1. to rid, clear, or free
  2. to clear of imputed guilt or ritual uncleanliness.
  3. to win the post consumer war against the thief of joy

"Opportunity knocks" is a mantra in our home and when it comes to travel, we jump.  My husband was recently invited to fill a last minute cancellation on a trip to Antarctica.  To reach the continent of Antarctica, one must travel by boat around Cape Horn; officially known for the roughest water in the world and nicknamed the “sailors graveyard.”

Cape Horn marks the entrance of a narrow passage where the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans collide. Due to the winds coming off both bodies of already turbulent water; it is not uncommon to have 50 foot swells and occasionally a rogue 100 foot wave.  

My husband is the quintessential “boat guy.”  Even with a good set of sea legs, we have teased him about the probability of purging as he travels through the rough waters of the Drake Passage.  Considering his potential for misery, I decided, if he can purge - I can purge.

In spite on numerous remodeling projects over thirty years, we have never painted our closet.  No kitchen; no problem.  Using another bathroom for six weeks; do-able.  However, moving out all personal belongings from our closet for several days has been a disruption we apparently have not been willing to endure.  Like most shared walk-in closets, it is where the southern ying and the eastern yang of turbulent oceans collide.  Ours is no different.

After emptying our closet of its contents, I was overwhelmed and full of regret.  I had a flashback of once trying to get an air mattress back into its ridiculously small box and wondered how I would even finish what I started.  However, there was no turning back.

“When  something or someone no longer serves a positive influence in your life, it may be time for a PURGE.”

This is the time of year that Americans reorganize and after all, it is not only about bringing yourself joy but finding peace in your surroundings, right?  That place of balance is different for everyone and the challenge is finding where your personal equilibrium lies.

I needed ideas and solutions for decluttering.  There had to be a better way.  If we really want to get down to brass tacks, there is often more going on than merely redistributing and organizing our stuff so that it fits “better”.  There can be some underlying reasons why we hold on to our stuff in the first place.  

“Clutter is nothing more than postponed decisions.”  - Barbara Hemphill

In a blog entitled, "The Why of Clutter", the suggestion that our clutter tells us quite a bit about who we are and why we hang on to what we keep.  It is an fascinating read if you are ready to understand or listen to the wisdom trapped in the odds and ends we accumulate.

Real purging and the fine art of letting go must be accompanied with a firm commitment that we will not regret!  Let me repeat, NOT REGRET!  We simply can’t languish next summer over the jacket with sequins we donated that we could have used to make a handbag.   Instead, it becomes more about a sense of gratitude and appreciation for the things we keep.  Our choice is to look forward - and resist the temptation to look back.   

With a little research under my belt, here is my list of the "best of the best" for purging.  It is a list I can live with.

Decluttering for the slightly sentimental:

1. In your decision to purge - be brave, be resolute and be strong!  No regrets!

2. Have a plan or a motto and stick to it.  My motto - Do I need it, use it, or does it bring me joy?   If I can’t answer yes to one of those questions - Bye, bye.  Five multi-colored shoe horns?  Does anyone still use those?  My exercise bike - I still need that, darn!  Panty hose, Ugh!

3. If you can’t see it, you won’t use it. Find ways to make things visible and accessible.  If you have five bins stacked on top of each other in the garage, you won’t get something out and you certainly won’t put it back if you do.

4. Allow yourself some special and sentimental things but decide how much space you will devote to them.  Each of my kids got a “special bin” for their treasures.  Don’t worry, they change over time so giving them each one bin was never a problem. They rotate out their treasures and wonder why they kept some of them in the first place.

5. Make your space happy.  Use quotes, plagues, sentimental family items, and trinkets picked up on vacation to lift your spirits and remind you of wonderful experiences.   

6. Even while purging, put things away as you go.  You can go through those spaces when you get to them.  Otherwise you just move stuff around and make little progress.

7. Tackle the paper dragon - Photograph papers, business cards, receipts or use apps such as “Scannable” and save to the cloud.  Create a paper file for the most important documents as backup.  Try to only touch paper one time and deal with it as you get it. Then - Toss it!

8. Make a commitment to stay on top of things. A place for everything and everything in its place.  When well organized, it is just as easy to put it where it goes as on the floor. 

9. Allow yourself a junk drawer, stash shelf or space.  We all need a place to put things in a hurry.  When it is full, tackle it.  Don’t allow it to spill over into more space - unless someone died.

10. Realize this is a process.  Tackle one space a day, one room a week, or an area every six months.  You decide.  This is a journey to bring us more joy; not to create more stress.  Do it at your own pace.

My closet is newly painted, my stuff has all been assigned a new place and I feel a pretty good sense of accomplishment.  I bravely sent many items to Goodwill and know they will find another good home with people that can use them.  Life is good.

Two days later, I find myself getting ready for the day and wish I had that wide belt I just gave away.  NO REGRETS, remember!  Sheesh!

photo credit: quotes;

Friday, January 1, 2016

Through Small and Simple Things New Years Resolutions 2016

Through Small and Simple Things
New Years Resolutions 2016

“The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little extra.”  
~ Jimmy Johnson

Another Christmas season winds itself down as another cultural surge pushes forward.  This surge is as relentless and cleansing as an incoming tide on a sandy beach leaving little or no trace of prior human activity.  Like those restoring waves, retailers everywhere waste no time clearing aisles of holiday wrappings, trinkets and bows only to roll out colorful containers, bins and organizational paraphernalia almost erasing the holiday season before it comes to its predictable conclusion.   

If ever there was a soul that thrives on organization, it is mine.  There is no shortage of products available to organize every possible aspect of one’s life.  The irony of all of this is that I am not amazingly organized.  I am a compulsive organizer “wanna be.”  I want to LIVE at the Container Store. My inner classifying, categorizing, codifying “nerd” fights the impulse to hyperventilate as I walk down aisle after aisle of beautifully constructed boxes, files, and compartmentalized products.  I almost believe that these products can and will change my life.

Organizing is only one aspect of a process of renewal that happens at the beginning of each year.   There is something about this human desire to start anew.   Whether myth, ridiculous fantasy or, for some, absolute reality, the notion that each January presents another chance to right the wrongs, refocus the confusion, simplify a life that has (once again) gotten away from us.  Thus, the notion of New Years resolutions is alive and well in the twenty first century.  

My personal preference for making resolutions is to craft a “theme”.  A theme is a focus or an attitude for change rather than a list of resolutions that are quickly forgotten by February.  This busy holiday season has worn me out and the resounding notion rattling around in my head is to focus on “the small and simple things” in my life.  Sure, we can get caught up in the minutia of small things and lose sight of the big picture or the ability to dream big.   That is not what I am talking about.  I am talking about the little details that take something from good to exceptional.  J. Willard Marriott, Founder of the Marriott hotel chain, knows a little something about dreaming big and having a grand vision and yet he said, “It’s the little things that make the big things possible.”  Winston Churchill had a tremendous impact on our modern world and the outcome of World War II and yet he claims that “success is in the details.”  Other noteworthy quotes suggesting a narrow trajectory separating good from great are:

“The difference between something good and something great is attention to detail.” 
~ Charles R. Swindoll. 

If there is anything, as right brain oriented person, I have learned over the years it is that beauty and art are made in the details.  The details are where unique design brings personality and panache to all that we do.  Details are the difference makers - the add-ons, the perks, the creme de la creme.  For some reason it feels like I have focused on big things for quite some time rather than the refreshing details. I am a bit of an overachiever and my nature has always been to run faster than I am able, except, of course, when it comes to actually running.   There are so many small things that I have overlooked that need my attention.  I run marathons, but have overlooked the supporting muscles that would actually assist me in lifting a bag of groceries from the car.  My body gets plenty of exercise but what of my aging mind and my ability to stay on task?  Day in and day out I complete project after project, but am I giving my body the rest it needs as I flop into bed after setting the alarm for another ungodly hour?  Perhaps I need to take a deep breath and slow it all down just a bit and focus on improving what is already available to me.  

Without question, I can be more resourceful in recycling, repurposing, and reconstructing things around me.  Deliberate and careful thought can go into the way I spend my time and my money.  Stacks of books that have already been purchased for me to study and discover just await.  It wouldn’t hurt me to drink more water, eat more vegetables, stretch more after my morning run.   After all, we are only given one life and one body and this body is getting old.

“Is our journey sometimes impeded when we forget the importance of
small things?  Do we realize that small events and choices determine the direction of our lives just as small helms determine the direction of great ships?”  ~ Russell M. Ballard

I borrowed an illustration of how big differences can come from small things from

“Consider this.  If you’re going somewhere and you’re off course by just one degree, after one foot, you’ll miss your target by 0.2 inches.  Trivial, right?  But what about as you get farther out?
  • After 100 yards, you’ll be off by 5.2 feet.  Not huge, but noticeable.  
  • After a mile, you’ll be off by 92.2 feet.  One degree is starting to make a difference.
  • After traveling from San Francisco to L.A., you’ll be off by 6 miles.
  • If you were trying to get from San Francisco to Washington, D.C., you’d end up on the other side of Baltimore, 42.6 miles away.
  • Traveling around the globe from Washington, D.C., You’d miss by 435 miles and end up in Boston.
  • In a rocket going to the moon, you’d be 4,169 miles off (nearly twice the diameter of the moon.)
  • Going to the sun, you’d miss by over 1.6 million miles (nearly twice the diameter of the sun)
  • Traveling to the nearest star, you’d be off course by over 441 billion miles (120 times the distance from he earth to Pluto, or 4,745 times the distance from Earth to the sun.)
Over time, a mere one-degree error in course makes a huge difference.”

Just as changing the course of a ship five degrees or ones own steps just one degree will make a huge impact over time; making course corrections by improving my daily routine with some level of consistency might do more for me in the long run than many more ambitious goals. 
No time is better than the present to change things up a bit by shifting focus to the small and lovely details of love and life through redirecting some energy of making complicated things more simple.  Of course, this will mean I accomplish less.  (This sentence is even difficult to write, let alone to consider for me.)  But in another way, it could ultimately mean accomplishing more because I think real joy resides in small things - the extra touches; the embellishments.  

“Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your
 strength lies.” - Mother Teresa

Would it be too bold to say I have high hopes of big outcomes from my new plan of focusing on small changes?   After all, an overachiever can’t change completely in one year.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Tears of a Clown - Repost

Tears of a Clown

“It is such a secret place, the land of tears.”  ~ Saint-Exupery

The words “tears of a clown” provoked some curiosity and reflection after hearing the phrase mentioned in a news report about the suicide of actor, Robin Williams. While his acting abilities were undeniably diverse, he was forever the comedian. Whether on camera or in real life, his manic, impromptu style revealed a kind of unrivaled comedic genius.  It seemed inconceivable that someone who made everyone around him laugh, did not have a personal inner peace.

Curiosity prevailed and I discovered the phrase “Tears of a Clown” is actually the title of a song sung by Smokey Robinson.  The lyrics read “keeping hurt and sadness hidden from the public eye - just as Pagliacci did.”  

Who or what is Pagliacci?  Pagliacci is the Italian plural word for clowns.  Pagliacci is also a famous opera of a play within a play.  The main character Canio (dressed as a clown) literally stabs his cheating wife and her lover while they are performing onstage and turns to a horrified, yet unsuspecting audience and utters the famous closing line as they lie dying  “The Comedy is finished.”

The irony of this notion of outward hilarity covering an inward and unrelenting sorrow is indicative of a huge number of current contemporary issues frequently dealt with on very personal levels. 

Emotional pain manifests itself in so many ways: aggression, bullying, suicide, depression, addiction and self medication, eating, cutting and self mutilation, shopping, gambling, infidelity, excessive work, sex or exercise, as well as a variety of other self-destructive behaviors.  

This is not really just about depression and suicide, nor is is about addiction, or any other compulsive behavior  Isn’t the bottom line of all these behaviors simply the various ways we run from and mask emotional pain?  

Instead of having conversations about each one of these destructive behaviors individually, shouldn’t the conversation be about teaching about, identifying and assisting with emotional pain in a straight forward, direct way?  Why is this not our focus, since unresolved emotional pain seems to be the crux of so many of these issues?  

“People need loving the most when they appear to deserve it the least.” ~ John Harridan

While it seems so obvious to me that we are missing the proverbial boat, I examined my own personal resources in dealing with emotional pain as a person, parent and a former board member for the Mental Health Association.  Am I able to give a quick rundown of ways to work through emotional pain in the same way as for a fever, a cold or the flu, a pulled or strained muscle?  No, not even close.  

Sure, I have some ideas and suggestions, but a well rehearsed list of options, sadly - no.  How in the world did I ever raise children?  Suddenly, I feel completely inadequate in how I equipped my own family to deal with the unavoidable stress, hurt and disappointment of life.  Are we overwhelmingly getting a failing grade in arming our society with coping strategies in dealing with life’s disappointments? I would have to say, unequivocally, yes! 

The internet is full of information about physical health.  Granted, information quite often is conflicting, but there is plenty of self-help advice to be found.  Try looking up emotional health.  Why is belly fat or high cholesterol so much more important than anxiety and depression?  

Unfortunately, I had to look long and hard to find any type of list of how to work through emotional pain.  I am not so naive as to think there is a “one size fits all” list, but certainly we can start with some effective suggestions for everyday disappointments.  

Serious depression and suicidal thoughts should be considered a medical emergency and can be as life threatening as a heart attack or stroke.  In less dire situations, there are healthy and effective ways to deal with emotional pain.   Below is a condensed version from WikiHow on “15 Ways to Cope with Emotional Pain.” 

  1. Don’t try to cure what is normal.
  2. If you have emotional pain, there is a reason for it. 
  3. Don’t pretend you don’t feel it.  Allowing yourself to feel rather than denying or masking will help you process the pain.  Pray or meditate to work through it.
  4. Identify all your feelings.  Identifying exactly how you feel will be helpful in processing your emotions in the wake of a traumatic or disappointing life event.
  5. Endure it.  Like any other body part that is broken, giving it a few days - the pain lessens, but healing can take a little time.  
  6. Talk to someone.  Knowing someone is there for you is more important than being understood.
  7. Don’t let anyone tell you your feelings are not real.
  8. Get your mind off yourself and how bad you feel.  Healing takes time but it won’t help you or those around you to wallow in it.  Even grief needs a break.  
  9. Allow time to heal.  This too, shall pass.
  10. Don’t let your pain define you.  You are better and stronger than this episode.  It won’t last forever.
  11. Write a letter.  Putting your feeling on paper can help you sort them out.  Don’t try to justify - just get them out and see what you can learn from them.
  12. Stay away from any statements that blame yourself or others.  Take responsibility for your part in what went wrong but resist the urge to blame.
  13. Develop a learning orientation.  Trying times can help us develop better coping skills, learn wisdom and develop perspective.
  14. Write a thankfulness list.  Being thankful is naturally healing and will help balance the injury.
  15. If you’ve lost hope or you’re thinking of suicide, you’re either suppressing your pain or you have deeper unresolved issues that you need to complete.
For those willing to embrace faith in God, there are ways to enable the power of the Atonement to take from us the pain and suffering which catapult us far beyond our limits to cope and anguish we cannot begin to endure alone.  This is not an either/or list.  

As a woman of faith I agree with every suggestion listed above.  I wish I had possessed that list as I taught my children to process hurt and disappointment.  However, using my faith and my belief in God gives me additional coping strategies that enhance the above list.  

Elaine S. Marshall, the Dean of Nursing at Brigham Young University gave an exceptional address to a group of students in 2002 on this very topic.  She equates emotional healing to the physical healing from the medical field and gives five very practical lessons that facilitate healing of spirit.  
Healing Hurts - I have learned that healing hurts.  Life hurts.  Healing really begins only when we face the hurt in its full force and then grow through it with all the strength of our soul.  For every reward of learning and growing, some degree of pain is always the price.”
Healing is Active - You have to participate.  No one else can do it for you.  To begin healing, you must acknowledge and feel the hurt.  Only those who don’t feel, those without conscience, cannot heal.”
Healing is Private - Private healing is not healing by abandonment.  Healing is not only private, it is sacred.  There is something so sacred about partaking of the power of the Atonement to overcome suffering, disappointment, or sin that it happens in the privacy of that special relationship between the mortal and the divine.  Healing involves a private, personal communion with the Savior, the Master Healer.”
Healing Teaches Us - We will never be the same.  Pain changes us but not in the same way healing teaches us.  Healing can help us become more sensitive and more awake to life.  Healing inspires repentance and obedience.  Healing invites gifts of humility and faith.  It opens our hears to the profound complexities of truth, beauty, divinity, and grace.”
Healing is a Divine Gift - The last and greatest lesson of healing is that it is a divine gift always available from a loving Heavenly Father.  If you have a pain or sorrow or disappointment or sin or just a grudge that needs healing, the Savior simply says, ‘Come unto me.’”
President Gordon B. Hinckley reminds us as servants of Jesus Christ of our responsibility to ease the pain of those around us who suffer.  “Every day someone in your path is hurting, someone is afraid, someone feels inadequate, or someone needs a friend.  Someone needs you to notice, to reach out, and to help him or her to heal.  You may not know who that is at the time, but you can give encouragement and hope.  You can help heal wounds of misunderstanding and contention.  You can serve in the cause of the Master Healer.”
When it is all said and done, “At the final day the Savior will not ask about the nature of our callings.  He will not inquire about our material possessions or fame.  He will ask if we ministered to the sick, gave food and drink to the hungry, visited those in prison, or gave succor to the weak.  When we reach out to assist the least of Heavenly Father’s children, we do it unto Him.  That is the essence of the gospel of Jesus Christ.” ~ Joseph B. Wirthlin
Certainly we can’t change this problem overnight.  Yet, we can all do a better job in our own circles;  to actively reach out to those who are isolated, who seem withdrawn, those without apparent friends.  Everyone needs to feel important and needed.  There is a power in a smile, in kind words and encouragement.  Helping others feel gladness, belonging and friendship may eliminate the need for a the self destructive masks camouflaging sorrow, pain and buried tears. 

WikiHow suggestions signs types diagnosis treatment.htm,  and  Eight Ways to Actively Fight Depression