Sunday, August 23, 2009

Getting the Glow

Metaphor of the Day: Women are like sunflowers -- they reflect the brightness that they follow.


Lately, I've been considering the influence of women for good in the lives of those who surround them. I'm essentially receiving a scholarship based on my ability to be a good example. I taught Relief Society recently and we talked about, well, Relief Society. I've been doing a lot of thinking about what it is to love people for exactly who they are, weaknesses and all. The cover story of the most recent Ensign (September issue, actually) is a article from President Uchtdorf on -- get this -- The Influence of Righteous Women. Needless to say, it's been pretty constantly on my mind.

I think what really sealed the deal was an observation from a friend of mine. He basically said that a lot of girls are pretty, and nice, but with the really quality ones that he would actually date, there has to be something extra...something that has nothing to do with attraction and everything to do with how in tune she is with the Spirit. Christ's-image-in-her-countenance kind of thing.

At first, I thought this statement was simply to his credit -- that he's looking for a girl with that "something extra" that means she will be an excellent mother in Zion. But then I realized: his statement could also be to my discredit, if I don't measure up. He's far too sweet to criticize me, so I know he didn't mean it like that, but still, it made me wonder. Do I have that glow? Can people -- worthy priesthood holders included -- tell just by looking at me that I deeply love the Savior?

I suspect not. There's so much more I could be doing to bring the Spirit into my life. Once upon a time, I read my scriptures and wrote in my journal every single day. I worked really hard to build that habit, but where is it now? Things like that. My life is off-center, so to speak.

So, in an effort to recenter my life on the Savior, I spent some time today brainstorming what I can do to be better...

Study the scriptures
Pray always, with sincerity
Write in my journal, especially with gratitude
Go for a walk -- be outside -- find God in nature. (Very transcendentalist, I know.)
Sing / listen to excellent music
Serve! There's a thousand little ways to do it; I just need to be alert.
Keep my apartment clean. You'd be amazed how much it helps!
Exercise. Just something small every day -- enough that I can get to sleep at night!

Go to the temple
Prepare for Sundays by reading the lesson, etc.
Create something -- write or something. Just allow God to show me what it's like to be Him.

Ask Heavenly Father tough questions -- "what do I need to change?" etc. Ask for forgiveness.
Silence what I want because of a need to know what
He wants. Stop whining!

Here's the thing though. To quote the aforementioned article from President Uchtdorf, "I invite you to rise to the great potential within you. But don't reach beyond your capacity. Don't set your goals beyond your capacity to achieve. Don't feel guilty or dwell on thoughts of failure. ...Do the best you can, and the Lord will provide the rest."

In other words, I may know that my ideal day involves an hour of reading the scriptures and my ideal week involves going to the temple 3 or 4 times ... but I also know that it ain't gonna happen any time soon. With this in mind, I'm contemplating some realistic goals for "getting the glow". Some things are naturally going to be easier than others, and don't seem like such a stretch to picture in the normal course of my life.

There's only 18 days left of the 7 week break (I'm not used to calling it Summer Session yet.) I promised myself I would take this break one day at a time and I think I've done a pretty good job of that. But I also think I need to take that idea to the next level and bring Jesus Christ deeper into my life one day at a time -- instead of just sitting around thinking about it.

Hearing: really old EFY music. Like, '97.
Feeling: chastened, but determined

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Changes, Pt. 3: Single

Metaphor of the Day: "Hope" is the thing with feathers / That perches in the soul-- / And sings the tune without the words-- / And never stops--at all--
Emily Dickinson


This blog is a resource for how I can be happy in spite of the stressful things in my life. Looking over the things about which I've written, I realize that so much has changed.

Even in just the last 3 months, I've learned an incredible amount -- particularly about forming healthy attachments. Due to some hard childhood stuff, I spend a lot of my time "emotionally snacking" in relationships, because not asking for a lot is much, much safer. On the other hand, when I finally feel safe with someone, I tend to "emotionally gorge". It's exhausting in its intensity, and unhealthy. My homework assignment: find the middle ground. I need to realize, essentially, that people aren't automatically going to be completely unreliable, and therefore it's OK for me to take risks. And even if they are unreliable, that's OK, because I can be emotionally satiated, not starving.

Sometimes, being single is hard. It's easy to blame a lack of dates on my body type, or my introversion, or what-have-you. It's easy to want a boyfriend because he would be a convenient, reliable resource of love. I'm learning, however, that I have a lot of resources for love: all of my roommates, many of my neighbors, my family, a handful of awesome guys, etc etc. So not only can I be single, I can enjoy it, because I am emotionally satisfied and not clamoring at one person to fill those needs. It's fabulous to realize.

On the other hand, I have this internal debate going about whether or not it's OK to need people. I try really, really hard to be a strong person; I try not to "need" people, whether that effort is subconscious or otherwise. When it comes down to it, yes, people just need people:

God does notice us, and he watches over us. But it is usually through another person that he meets our needs.
Spencer W. Kimball mean I have to rely on other people to help me, even though they may have no interest in doing so? What happens if I get used to them helping me, and then they stop? Where does that leave me? leaves me with a whole lot of other people who are willing and able to fill in the space. However, someday, aren't I supposed to learn how to love someone enough that they can't be replaced?

I took a close look at my soul the other day. Do I think I'm loveable? Do I really believe that someone is going to love me forever and ever, for just being me? The honest answer was -- no, I don't believe it. I think he'll leave before he gets a chance to see who I really am, deep down, flaws and all.

I hate thinking it's impossible to have that kind of love in my life. So I'm trying to do something about it. It feels a little like flailing around in the dark for a lightswitch that may or may not be there. Maybe the best I can do is a flashlight, or a candle. Whatever the case, I trust that the way will be made clear. Maybe it will be like being introverted -- it's something that never really goes away, but I found coping methods. Or maybe it will be like a sin, repented of, where I shed it like old skin and a new person is exposed, stronger, better, more like God.

I guess we'll just have to see?

Hearing: not a lot to lean on, I'm looking for a light to find my place in this world
Feeling: weary

Monday, August 3, 2009

Changes, Pt. 2: Measure of Beauty

Metaphor of the Day: Being around a beautiful girl is like having a pet boa constrictor: a bit dangerous, but it's fun, so who cares?


This blog was to be a searchable, categorized resource for how I can be happy in spite of the stressful things in my life. Looking over the things about which I've written, I realize that so much has changed.

Some things, though, don't change that much.

The Long and Short of It

I still feel most like myself when I look in the mirror and see short hair. For one thing, I just have the face for it. For another thing, I've had short hair ever since I started thinking of myself as an adult. When I cut it short for the first time, I had recently acquired my first full-time job and was in the process of fading out of the Young Women's program and into singles' ward. I left home for the first time not long after that, to come to school in Idaho. My college friends have no concept of what I look like with long hair.

In short (no pun intended), a pixie haircut has become a part of who I am over the last three years. But at the same time, I have become who I am over the last three years. I'm a little scared to grow it out again, in the same way I was a lot scared to cut it short. What if it's just not me? I don't really have an answer to that.

I Could Not Ask for More

Another thing that hasn't changed very much is my concept of my body shape. Let's face it: I am not a tiny person. And sometimes, that's hard. I look at myself in the mirror sometimes and have to close my eyes. The mirror we keep in the hallway of our apartment stretches you just enough to be flattering, without you really noticing that it's doing it. You just feel attractive. There are days that I hate that mirror. I feel pretty when I look in it, but we all know it's lying. So am I not pretty?

I don't say this to throw myself a pity party. Every day I have to firmly say, Sara, stop comparing yourself to them, yes, but that doesn't mean I don't feel pretty a lot of the time. I try to take good care of myself. I could do better, be better, look better. But it could be a lot worse, too. I'm very healthy, so I have a lot to be grateful for. I just have to remind myself of that a lot.

To See or Not to See? That is the Question.

In addition, I discovered a couple of years ago that I simply have Really. Big. Eyes. It's mostly the whites of them that are big, but whatever the case, it's earned me a long-standing comparison with lemurs. I don't find the comparison to a lower primate to be particularly flattering, but I do enjoy that other people notice that I have big eyes. It's part of the Disney Princess standard of beauty.

It annoyed me for a long time that I wear glasses. Sure, they frame my eyes, but since I'm nearsighted, they also make my eyes look smaller. Why on earth would I want that?! Plus, I have no concept of what I actually look like without glasses. I toy with the idea of contacts for about two months out of every year ("toy with" here meaning "tell everyone I know that I am DEFINITELY going to get them this year").

This year is no different in that regard, but in another way, something has changed. Firstly, Cindy was a doll and did a photo shoot with me here in town; a few of the pictures included me without glasses. I like these pictures -- mostly. Secondly, I've met two particular girls. One is in my relief society, another was in a class. They, too, have ridiculously large eyes, but neither of them wear glasses. Looking at them, and at myself in these pictures, I'm not sure that Huge Eyeballs are the way to go. It's a little weird to look at the thing that you rejected out of vanity, and wonder if they might actually contribute to your appearance. I'm over contacts -- ask me again in a year.

What (Not) To Wear

When I first arrived in college, my personal style was a disaster. I was tired of hiding, so believe me, I didn't! My typical attire involved messy short hair, bright mismatched layers, drawn-on Converses (and jeans), the works! Cindy was wonderfully patient with me and my fashion choices, and so I gradually got over it. Then I worked in a very professional job for a year, and for a long time just really enjoyed collared shirts, skirts, slacks, neutral colors, and high heels.

My current style is a combination of the two extremes. I currently favor skirts with Converses, collared shirts, bright colors, and slightly messy hair. However, I also acknowledge that my personal style is not so personal at all; it is very much affected by the tastes of whomever I happen to be hanging out with most. This annoys me, but 2 Christmases ago Cindy wrote an entire short story for me to remind me that the people around us are just as much a part of who we are as the choices we actively make. So I try to be OK with it, and try to keep figuring out what I like best.


On my bathroom wall, I have a picture of Jesus. As silly and incongruous as it sounds, I made a speech bubble for him, written in marker:

"You are always beautiful to me."

All this post really says is that I don't know how to be happy in regards to my physical appearance. However, Christ's love for me is never unsure, never changes. So this is what I keep coming back to, in the end.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Affirmation: I Did Something With My Week

I can just see it now.

"Sara! How was your week?"
"It was great!"
"Yeah? What did you do?"
"Ummmm. Nothing?"

In order to avoid this embarrassment, this is what I did this week, for my own reference as much as for anyone else's curiosity:

Sunday: Church. Particularly, I got to see how church is going to work for the summer session: our stake is split in half, and each half is consolidated into one ward. Next week (as in the 9th), I get to teach Relief Society to a bunch of people I don't know. I'm not really bothered by this. Well, maybe just a teeny tiny bit.

Monday: Way fun FHE @ Brother Marshall's house. Just a barbeque and chatting -- including everyone there sharing their most embarrassing moment. Mine? First Sunday of ever being away to college, I bore my testimony in a Southern accent even though I don't really have one because the guys would think it was cute. Barf.

Tuesday: Wedding shopping with Ann and her mom in IF. We spent like 8 hours there, but we got a TON of stuff done, including finding Ann's dress! She is SO beautiful in it! Even more so than she is ordinarily, which is saying something. :)

Wednesday: Fasting. I learned amazing things that I'm trying to put into my life. Optimistically speaking, you can expect a post about it later. Pessimistically speaking, I might as well tell you know it's about love -- both giving and receiving.

Thursday, Friday and Saturday: A little bit of everything...

  • Helped tie bows on Ann's wedding announcements which was kind of a pain, but Ann is worth it!
  • Read Book 1 & 2 of Paradise Lost, which is astoundingly good, but also disconcerting since Satan is cast as this really cool epic character who you want to like.
  • Also watched a couple of movies, one of which is this allegorical kid's movie narrated by Ringo Starr. Random, I know! Oh, and I figured out what was wrong with the VCR all by myself. that was pretty cool.
  • Katelyn saved my life by hanging out with me instead of letting me talk to the walls.
  • Cleaned my apartment, which is always easier to do when you're dead bored.
  • And, as usual, goofed around on facebook.

Sunday: Church, of course. I gave my blog a makeover, as you can see. Also, the carpet cleaners are coming, as previously mentioned, so I relocated my entire living room into my tiny kitchen. Cindy, thank you for letting me hang on to your little fridge. It's the only reason I'm going to be able to eat tomorrow, since the big one is totally blocked off now.

Oi Vey.

This WAS my living room. (Trash can for scale.) And this WAS my kitchen, until I moved everything all by myself. The carpet cleaners are coming...but I think I'd rather have dirty carpet.

Changes, Pt. 1: Introversion

Metaphor of the Day: Introversion is like having to ask the participants of the Running of the Bulls to take a number and form an orderly line.


The original purpose of this blog was to be a searchable, categorized resource for how I can be happy in spite of the stressful things in my life. Looking over the things about which I've written, I realize that so much has changed. For example, introversion was once a huge part of my self-definition. Now, it has all but faded into the background.

Two years ago, I rejoiced in knowing that God made me an introvert on purpose, no matter how hard that might be for me sometimes:

"O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken until thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue."
"Who hath made man's mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the LORD?"

Now, I relate better to John Mayer:

My stupid mouth / got me in trouble; / I said too much again / to a date over dinner yesterday...

There are still days when I'm "peopled-out". It's still not easy for me to meet new people, or strike up a conversation with mere acquaintances. And there are people in my circle of friends with whom I will probably never deeply connect, because we are both more inclined to listen than to talk.

The biggest change, then, is that all of this bothers me so much less than it used to. I firmly believe that we can overcome weaknesses. This isn't to say that someday our weaknesses will -poof!- cease to exist. Rather, we can learn methods to get around them, so much so that our weaknesses just don't matter anymore.

If men come unto me, I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble, and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me, for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.

You don't have to knock down a wall to get to the other side. You just need the Savior.