Sharing News

One of my favorite things in the world is to be happy for other people. I love to hear of your good news. If I’ve been to your wedding, my overwhelming happiness for you spills through abundant tears. If you’ve told me about a promotion, a new pet, good grades, a book deal or publication, I’ve cheered for you. I will listen to you all day about your process, your goals, the roller coaster of emotions as you worked hard. I will hold your new baby or see your name in print or go to your concerts and be excited for your life and proud to be your friend. I will do my best to imagine myself in your situation, to understand your delight, your elation. Mostly I will be happy for you simply because you are so happy.

On the other hand, I’ve also been a sym/empath for many of your sadnesses and struggles. I have friends who still wait for the right person to marry. A woman in my ward has experienced eight miscarriages. Others who are dear to me experience difficult trials of infertility and have even faced devastating challenges within the adoption system. These are friends who have lived well and achieved much; friends with kind hearts and truly righteous desires. It’s hard not to ask, “What gives?”

I have wept for friends who have lost pets and loved ones. On my honeymoon, I received a text that a friend’s rabbit had died. Not long after, I received another text saying that a friend’s little dog had to be put to sleep. Most recently, a friend whose dog I had known for ten years also had to be put down. I cried for them all.

Sometimes people my misinterpret my crying. Once I was at a friend’s wedding where the couple gave hugs to the attendants after the ceremony. I was single in my 30s at the time, which is nothing to be ashamed of. When it was my turn to hug the couple, the new wife looked at me after I congratulated her and told her how happy I was for her and told me that I would find someone. While it was nice of her to think outside of her happiness in that moment, I sensed the assumption that I was not happy as a single person. It felt like they felt that I was miserable, which wasn’t the case at all.

Within the past decade, I observed a situation where a friend was telling another friend about her first truly viable pregnancy. She had experienced several miscarriages and was excited that her most recent pregnancy had gotten past the point of her previous miscarriages. The friend with whom she shared this news was having trouble getting pregnant, and she felt hurt that this friend would dangle the good news of a pregnancy in her painful void.

People are definitely entitled to their space to grieve. They need time to process, and one of the greatest efforts I’ve made in my life is to understand the sadness and sorrow of friends, family, and people in general. Because I respect and deeply love them, I want to show my support in the best way. I have observed people (myself among them) offering condescending advice and platitudes that, while well-intentioned, do not help.

Do I offer perfect advice all the time? Hardly. Have I been insensitive to others’ situations? Often. Too many times I’ve commented on pregnancy or adoption or marriage or other touchy topics to friends, and those friends have gotten quiet, and I’ve realized too late that I said an immensely stupid thing. And then I try to apologize and they continue to withdraw and I don’t know what else to do or say. Maybe the timing was bad; maybe healing wasn’t complete. Maybe certain adversity is just hard, and no matter how hard I try, I can’t fully understand or make it better or say the right thing.

There are tons of people who aren’t married, or can’t have children, or have had other horrible things happen to them. Do we tell them to get over it already? We need to see that our experiences are unique to us, and there seems to be a fine line between offering advice that could apply to general, unknown masses, lessening the significance of the situation and encouraging the individual soul you deeply love. There also seems to be a balance between overcoddling and trusting in a friend’s faith and resilience.

A couple months ago, a friend’s family shared some wonderful news on Facebook. The love and support poured in from this family’s community, and the anticipation that came with this news thrilled everyone.

In the past month, this same family’s good news took a turn and became sad news. The same love and support rushed in and flooded this family’s life. It was truly touching but hardly a surprise. When these people commit to “mourn with those that mourn and comfort those that stand in need of comfort,” they go whole hog. It’s one of the greatest blessings walking the earth with the rest of humanity.

So when I shared my good news this past Tuesday, I was especially grateful to those of you who took a moment from their adversity to show their support for me. Reilly and I are very excited for this new journey, and I debated for a while when would be a good time to make the announcement. Your examples of strength and faith have reminded me how to count blessings and find happiness amid even the darkest circumstances. You believe this; you live it. You share it. That means more than I can say.

Guns, You Guys

I don’t even know how to formulate a decent argument about this, you guys. You would think I would learn what not to do by observing all the sloppy, lopsided “discussions” out there. I think I know a good argument when I see one. I try to consider opinions I disagree with; I try to understand why I disagree with certain opinions.

I recently watched this appeal by Senator Gabrielle Giffords. They gave her the floor, they let her make her powerful point in 13 sentences, but I wonder if her efforts are futile. I wonder how many people dismissed her or even the idea of her once she finished speaking.

I recently read this essay by Stephen King, which felt like a pretty even argument and a realistic perspective on what to expect with gun legislation.

I recently saw that David Mamet recently published his opinion about the gun issue. I haven’t read it yet, but I plan to, probably tonight.

ETA: I read Mamet’s essay, and it definitely provides contrast to Stephen King’s perspective.

It’s impressive that the gun conversation has lasted this long. More children have died in the meantime. It won’t be as impressive if nothing ends up getting done about it. I wish I could argue this decently; I wish more that I felt that I didn’t have to argue this. I wish I understood those who insist on doing nothing. I wish the argument could lead sooner to a real solution than to more of an argument.

I’ll quote my high school friend Brian who perfectly expresses my frustration: “It bothers me that this argument always boils down to ‘I could kill a bunch of people at a school no matter WHAT you do.'”

Of Bonds

Next Sunday is the Super Bowl. People gather together in different parts of the country to watch the top teams from the two divisions face off against each other. There’s food and laughs and yelling at the television. Sometimes there’s trash talk. Sometimes there’s betting. Many families have the tradition of watching this yearly event. It’s a big deal who gets to sing the National Anthem and who gets to perform at halftime. Often fathers and sons bond over the sport.

My brother and I watched a lot of sports when we were growing up. We learned names and stats; we executed plays with the nextdoor neighbors. When we played inside, I was the quarterback and Frank was the wide receiver. I’d throw his teddy bear toward the couch and Frank would make a diving catch and land on the couch for a touchdown.

Last year Reilly and I watched the Super Bowl at one of his friend’s house. There were burritos and other finger foods and a general lightheartedness within the group. The game went on as scheduled.

As I try to recall details from a year ago, the only thing I can remember is seeing a news ticker run at the bottom of the screen while the game continued playing. I was reading that Josh Powell had retrieved his sons from their grandfather. He locked his children and himself in their house in Washington state. He caused the house to explode, killing himself and his sons. He destroyed any knowledge of the truth of the disappearance and death of his wife, the mother of their sons.

If I think hard enough, I can remember who won the Super Bowl last year. It doesn’t matter who sang the National Anthem, who performed at halftime. Many families and friends had gathered together to enjoy each other’s company, to relish relationships. As much as I try to understand what kind of bond Scott Powell thought he had with his sons, I can’t.

Neighborhood Sad

This past Sunday at church, the bishop announced from the pulpit that the son of a family in the ward was playing soccer last week and suddenly collapsed. The boy’s family took him to the hospital. The bishop said if anyone spoke Spanish in the ward, the family would appreciate a visit.

Wednesday nights, I go out with the Relief Society presidency to visit women who have recently moved into the ward. We introduce ourselves to these ladies, and we welcome them to the ward and reassure them of our desire to be their friends.

Tonight, while we were getting into the Relief Society president’s car to make some visits, the second counselor reminded me of the bishop’s announcement and said she received an email saying that the boy had passed away. She also said that because the family had spent so much time at the hospital looking after their son, both of the parents lost their jobs. It’s bad enough to have bills you can’t pay for, but for that to add another layer to a pile of grief and sorrow just breaks my heart.

The boy was 11 years old. It’s so much harder to get through sadness without answers or explanation. But I guess that the family isn’t really thinking about getting through it right now so much as feeling it. Feeling helpless, alone, crushed. Feeling angry, lost, numb.

I want to do something for the family, and going to the funeral doesn’t even seem an earnest effort at anything. Donate for the funeral or to a fund until parents can find work? Make them dinner? I want to show support.┬áThere has to be something more, something demonstrative, something that really matters. I’ll have to pray and ask for inspiration, an outlet for compassion or a way stretch out a hand; I need to see how One knows exactly what this family is feeling right now would do.

He Came Back on the Skybridge After Going Home

When I first saw this news report last night, the tears came suddenly. I watched footage of a grief counselor (or teacher, or maybe another parent) say that he was going to go home and hug his kids, and he assured the students that they are loved, that if they’re feeling depressed, there are people they can talk to. The grief counselor (or teacher or another parent) looked overwhelmed. His voice strained to control his own tears, sadness weighed in his face and on his shoulders and he seemed to hold his breath throughout the interview to keep his composure until the camera cut away.

The junior high in Taylorsville is about 40 minutes away. News reports say that the teenager went home with his mom after school and then he came back toward the school on the skybridge that crosses a main road. He pulled out a gun on that skybridge and shot himself. Other students watched it happen.

This morning I watched the footage of the candlelight vigil that other students and his friends held. Many of them said that their friend was bullied. Many of them were trying to understand why bullying happens, why their friend was gone, why their friend was sad. It’s hard to understand because it’s complicated and often can’t be explained.

The news report states that a friend talked with him yesterday, joked around with him, and he seemed happy. Students will ask grief counselors why this happened. They will wonder why he felt so lonely and depressed. Friends will cry and say they miss him. Some may be angry and hate themselves, and even curse God. The witnesses will have those few slow, helpless seconds replay in their memories over and over again. They’re probably going to wonder if there would have been a way to stop him.

His family will also cry and wonder. They may pray for comfort, for answers, for solace to their pain.

Pray for the family, for Bennion Junior High, for the Taylorsville community.

It’s hard to understand a sorrow so deep and engulfing, a grey so overcast that it swallows the horizon.

I can only cry.

I Took A Nap This Weekend, and I Called It Sunday

I’m looking out my bedroom window, and a mountain is looking back at me. It’s green and rugged and I’m in a valley, and I’m not very green anymore, though maybe I’m still a bit rugged. I’d hardly call myself refined.

So, there were pioneers. Many of my friends have ancestors who crossed the plains in crazy weather conditions and under the order of God’s prophet, in addition to being run out of the Midwest by state governments.

And they settled in Utah.

This is the place.

Apparently some of my dad’s relatives came on that trek, I think. I would need for him to retell the story. He was born in Salt Lake City. His parents were LDS, and he has a stepmother who’s a member of the Reorganized LDS church.

My mother was born and raised Catholic, in the Philippines.

I was born in the Philippines, and my birth certificate says I have a Catholic mother from the Philippines and a Mormon father from Salt Lake City.

I talked aloud to one person today, my roommate. I told her I wouldn’t be going to church, so she didn’t have to worry about giving me a ride. Then I read and slept. And read and slept.

There are people in Africa who populate remote areas of continent. Why do they roam, where do they wander, and how do they decide to settle in certain areas?

And, why are other people stuck? Is it a matter of pride? Survival? Circumstance?

What are frontiers, anyway? What goes unexplored in realms physical and metaphysical?

Now, I’m thinking about Norway.

How do we understand what and where people are trying to explore?

Who are the pioneers, anyway? Do we always agree with or understand what they discover?

Heartache

I made some mistakes when I was 20 and a student at BYU.

I had help getting through the crushing guilt and other consequences.

The same Honor Code that was in effect then is the same one that’s making national headlines right now.

Apart from suspension or probation, there’s a girlfriend. And, supposedly, a kid on the way. I can’t find a single legitimate source to back that up.

It really complicates things. And I know I wouldn’t be able to handle that very well as a 19-year old, on top of media coverage. And the whole world blogging about it.

Ahem.

Judgment, compassion. It all comes down to a choice, really. My heart hurts on so many levels.

I defer to one of my favorite bloggers, Dooce. I agree with what she says about this.

Mistakes, consequences, redemption. He’ll rise above this.

Chin up, Brandon.