Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Wanderer

I tried explaining this feeling I have to a friend of mine.  I feel like I don't know what home is any more.  I come back to my parent's home or I stay at my brother's and there are people there that love me.  I know that they love me.  But for some reason that I can't explain, when I am there with them I feel like I am lacking.  I feel like I am missing a piece of me and without it I am out of place.  I long for a companion and a family of my own.  I know I must be patient.  I guess this is the loneliness that I was supposed to prepare myself for.  I must have more I have to do to prepare myself for my future.  All I know is now I feel like a wanderer going to and fro trying to help where I can and looking to both the future as well as the present.

In the past, I have learned a lot and experienced much.  I had hoped that it would never come to this.  I hoped I would never feel nothing for someone I loved so much.  I feared that if that ever happened then it may have been that I never loved her in the first place.  But even now, I still shed a tear or two hoping for news that she is okay.  Hoping that she is happy.  There is no way to change the past or to say exactly what the consequences of our choices will be, but we can determine the direction in which our lives can go.  We may have lost what could have been ours together but that doesn't mean we still won't each have those same blessings in our futures if we continue to direct our lives towards God.

There has been one more lesson that I still have to learn from my experiences of this last year.  I learned that I had to let go of everything and trust God that He would take care of those that I loved when I no longer could.  I had to to trust that God would keep them safe, that He would help them find peace, that He would heal them and make them whole.  Now I just have to believe that He will do the same for me.  Just like any prodigal son tired from his travels, I simply have to follow my feet home.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Power of Vulnerability

I saw a link to this TED talk by Brene Brown entitled "The Power of Vulnerability." I like the social sciences and trying to understand how people work and tick so I spent a few minutes watching and thinking about what she describes is our way to find true connections in life.  I thought I could certainly relate to this subject not only because I feel like I could personally connect to her discoveries but my greatest desire in life is for deep and meaningful connections with people.  It is what brings meaning and purpose to my life.  So before going into my thoughts on the various topics she brings up, here are a few notes that I took away from her talk that I have embedded below:

Shame is a feeling of not being good enough because of a sense of vulnerability of being seen in a certain way.  On the other hand, people that have a strong sense of love and belonging simply believe they are worthy of it. It is a sense of worthiness.  She describes a few keys to gaining this sense of worthiness. First, she defines courage as being willing to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart in your complete and honest imperfection. Compassion was described as first treating ourselves kindly and then treating others kindly. And lastly, connection was achieved by being willing to let go of who we think we should be and embrace ourselves in order to be authentic to who we really are. These kinds of people fully embraced their own vulnerability. What makes them vulnerable is what made them beautiful.  Embracing this allowed them to say I love you first, to do something where there are no guarantees, and to invest in a relationship that may or may not work out.  It was fundamental.  They stopped controlling and predicting the outcomes and parts of their lives but embraced the power of vulnerability.

Vulnerability is the core of shame and fear and our struggle for worthiness but it appears also to be the birthplace of joy, of creativity, of belonging, of love.  We numb vulnerability.  We are the most in-debt, obese, addicted, and medicated adult cohort in US history.  We try to selectively numb the bad stuff in our lives but it is impossible without also numbing joy, gratitude, and happiness.  It is a dangerous cycle.  We try to make the uncertain certain.  There is no longer place for discourse and discussion, just blame.  And blame is a another way to discharge pain and discomfort.  We perfect our appearance and try to protect our children but the beautifully painful nature of life is that our children are hardwired for struggle and hardship. It is just makes it all the more a difficult necessity to remind them that they are still and always worthy of love and belonging.  They won't make the tennis team by 5th grade and Yale by 7th.  Bail outs and recalls and oil spills our ways we continue to pretend that we can live life without affecting other people but that is not the true nature of reality.

If you put shame in a Petri dish; it just needs three things to grow exponentially: secrecy, silence and judgment.  This is a topic for a different post for a different day but one thing I have realized is that really the two most powerful words when we're in a struggle: me too.  It is easier to trust and be a hundred percent ourselves when we know that we can relate.  When we know that we are not alone.  Still, the only way for that to happen is to have the courage to let ourselves be seen, our whole selves, loving with our whole hearts with no guarantee. Take advantage of the moments when we can practice gratitude and joy when most others would have feelings of terror and catastrophe.  Be happy that you are alive.  But again, it is simply important to not only realize that you are enough but believing that you are enough.

I honestly found this talk to be very powerful.  If I had to put it in my own words I think that when we think about life, many times we compare it to a test.  A take-home open-note final that we are taking where the final grade is who we are when it is all said and done.  The catch is that there are rules that we and society place on how we take the test and there are certain expectations that we have to meet and certain ways to do it "correctly."  However, the greatest goal or commandment that we have is to love and many people are incapable of loving other people because they haven't been able to love them selves.  Loving yourself was never explained to anyone beforehand but it is understood by those who have felt true and sincere love as one of those unspoken unwritten rules of the game.  So there we sit at our desks with these extensive list of rules and expectations and strategies that are not only overwhelming but impossible to complete in their entirety.  So do we just throw in the towel at what appears to be a damning failure to succeed in our pursuit for personal perfection?  Well this is the nerd in me because our test is really our personal Kobayashi Maru.

It appears from the outside to be a no-win situation final where we have to accept our failure or our vulnerability in order to find true happiness.  The real catch is that what appears to be a no-win situation is really not the case.   In our final we can use our neighbor, one neighbor.  If we accept God and His sacrifice then we are able to see that although we will never be enough by ourselves, we are more than up to the task when we choose to play Him as a winning member of our team.  When we do this we are able to accept our vulnerability, our weaknesses, our mistakes, our continual failures, because we realize that these things do not define us!  We define ourselves.  We make the rules.  We are defined by our willingness to pick ourselves up after we fall, continuing to push forward when others are just trying to stand still.

Too many of us look at other people and try to be their perfect person.  We are trying to meet other people's expectations when really it is in the imperfection where perfection truly lies.  It is the way rely on one another.  It is our willingness to accept love and help when we fall short.  It is asking for more than what we deserve in our lowest moments because we know that in our heart of hearts we are better than that.  We shouldn't compare our behind the scenes to other people or even our own highlight reels because we will never win.  I can say that the hardest thing from personal experience is trying to regain this perspective of feeling that you are good enough again after accepting thoughts of self-doubt and hopelessness.  But I can also say that it is just as simple as making the choice and having the courage to continue to repeatedly make that same choice of telling yourself that you are worthy of love.

You are good enough.  You will never be someone's Superman until you accept that there is going to be kryptonite to deal with.  No one is completely bulletproof but we accept and embrace our vulnerability and suddenly it becomes a strength.  If we are willing to accept that we are not going to be perfect and that we are not going to be the best all of the time, we can make the choice whether our vulnerability will cripple us because of fear and shame or empower us to be our best.  It is just that simple... Stop comparing yourself and learn to embrace you and what you are capable of becoming.  Taking risks is being willing to accept failure when there is a possibility of success.  Happiness is not the product of outcome as much as it is effort.  Some of the poorest people in the world are the happiest not because of what they have or where they have gone but because they have a clear conscious from knowing who they are and knowing that they have done their best.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

No Resolutions... Just Reflections

I have been thinking a lot the last couple of days about the New Year and everything that entails. Sometimes I will comply with the whole New Year's tradition of resolutions and making goals and everything. It is good to have goals and things to shoot for and even though I kinda have some of those... This year is going to be different.  It is unavoidable. I have a college graduation in April when I will be getting my Bachelor's in Mechanical Engineering from BYU. The complication with that is my plans for this summer... There aren't  any.  Well, at least no firm plans that is.  We have a family vacation planned but besides that there are too many things that are still up in the air for my liking.

I am trying to get into graduate school and have finished my application to two dual Master's programs. This means that if I am accepted I will graduate from one of those programs with two Master's degrees: a MBA and a MS in Engineering.  I have applied to both BYU (3 year program) and to the University of Utah (2 year).  In all honesty, I would really like to go to either but currently I am leaning more towards the U of U.  I always like to have a little bit of change here and there and I think after 5 years in Provo I am ready for something new.  The quandary I have is that BYU would push up my enrollment if I was accepted from next Fall to starting immediately after my graduation in April, meanwhile the U of U would have me start in the Fall but I would need to spend the summer in Utah to get instate tuition.  I don't know what to do for a job situation to pay for that.  I think it would be fun to be a EFY counselor if I could so I will probably start looking into that sooner rather than later but who knows?  Outside of that, my only backup plan for this summer would be that I might move to my brother's home if money gets tight and jobs are scarce for a little bit.

When I think about this last year, there is a lot that I learned and a lot that I feel like I have left to do.  I am somewhere still at the beginning of my journey and I still feel so old.  I definitely have had many life experiences so far that I can look back on that help me appreciate what I have and what I hope to have.  There are also a lot that I hope to improve on, mostly in a spiritual sense.  Socially, I found a really interesting link that I will soon write a post about that I feel really describes me and why I think I am not really as odd as I sometimes feel.  I had been trying really hard this last semester to really stay on top of myself and keep going to the temple as much as I could but it slackened.  I tried to get my sister to come with me since she happened to be out at school with me but it never happened.  I should have gone by myself and I will end up doing that more next semester but I really was disappointed but I hope that will change.  Especially now that her boyfriend is coming out west for school too.  It is up to her but I need to step up my game for myself, as an example, and for my family.

But I was thinking about my sister and her friends a little bit today.  She had a group of them over for a little party she was throwing now that we are all back in New Hampshire for the holidays.  It was weird because some of them avoided me and I realized that they didn't really know me all that well.  It got me thinking that it is probably the same thing with my sisters. They probably don't know me all too well.  I was on my mission when my sisters were just getting into high school and then during the rest I was out at college.  So this whole last semester was really nice being able to just spend time with her here and there.  It is interesting though because as I was getting to know my sister, I was getting to know myself.  If there is one thing I know, it is that only on occasion is it a good thing for me to get lost in my own thoughts.

This last year was a year when I loved more stronger and deeply than I have in my own life. I have never been more hurt or cried as long as I have this year than ever before.  I have pushed myself to do things that I didn't think was possible.  I saw more miracles as of late than I have in a long time.  I have been more spiritually in-tune than I have in a long while and I have never been more low either.  It has been a year of ups and downs.  I was fired for the first time.  I was engaged to my first real love.  I traveled half way round the world and saw things I didn't know I would ever see.  I tried new things, met new people, and hopefully made lifelong friends.  I never thought it was possible to feel so loved and so alone at the same time.  It definitely was a year of ups and downs and the only reason I have been able to make it through with some reasonable direction and purpose is because of the gospel and my Savior, Jesus Christ.

If it wasn't for my faith, I do not think I would have been able to overcome the more difficult things I had to face.  The thoughts that fill my mind most frequently are how my future is unknown and how I must continue to focus on the present.  I have to trust that things will get better and that if I focus on the little things and on the people around me, God will guide me and He wants to bless me and my loved ones.  Don't give up.  Don't give in.  It is just as simple as learning to trust Him and have faith in His plan.  I have to do as I always have done and continue to push forward.  I am just grateful that I have good friends and good family behind me.