Hindsight is 2015

Whenever I think about resolutions, there are the standard goals of exercising more and eating better, reading more books and eating out less, waking up earlier and writing more, but my greatest desires for improvement always lie in relationships.

Back in August, Reilly and I gave talks at church about the complementarity of gender roles. We had moved to a new area of town at the beginning of June, and this was a way for us to bear our testimonies and for our fellow ward members to get to know us better.

(This reminds me that we forgot to tell people we’d moved, so we’ve received a lot of Christmas cards this week with yellow stickers reminding us to tell people our new address. Sorry, guys. If you still need our address, let me know.)

When the day came to give our talks, we’d already been in the ward two months, and that gave me a chance to observe the members and relate my thoughts on gender roles to our ward, which consists of a large number of nontraditional family situations. We were specifically instructed only to use the scriptures and General Conference talks in our remarks. This makes sense because I’ve heard people say some truly outrageous things from the pulpit. I referred to this talk by Sister Chieko N. Okazaki and emphasized this quote:

Here are two quilts. Both are handmade, beautiful, and delightful to snuggle down in or wrap around a grandchild. Now look at this quilt. It’s a Hawaiian quilt with a strong, predictable pattern. We can look at half of the quilt and predict what the other half looks like. Sometimes our lives seem patterned, predictable in happy ways, in order.

Now look at this second quilt. This style is called a crazy quilt. Some pieces are the same color, but no two pieces are the same size. They’re odd shapes. They come together at odd angles. This is an unpredictable quilt. Sometimes our lives are unpredictable, unpatterned, not neat or well-ordered.

Well, there’s not one right way to be a quilt as long as the pieces are stitched together firmly. Both of these quilts will keep us warm and cozy. Both are beautiful and made with love. There’s not just one right way to be a Mormon woman, either, as long as we are firmly grounded in faith in the Savior, make and keep covenants, live the commandments, and work together in charity.

The ideas in this analogy include and not exclude, and I want to apply them not only to my family but to every interaction I will face.

I described ways in which Reilly and I are compatible. We love books, music, good television and movies. We’re both short. But is compatibility the same as complementarity? Being a complement takes effort, it requires work to observe and a desire to understand; deep and meaningful relationships go beyond what we have in common. Commonalities are a good place to start, though.

At the beginning of November, we attended a friend’s wedding reception. We didn’t stay long because Z was struggling with the big unfamiliar crowd. It was wonderful seeing the beautiful couple so happy, so fresh. I’d seen pictures that hinted at a fun courtship; I’d seen participation in a well-meaning but poorly executed web reality show. The culmination of their experiences together ended perfectly in a new beginning.

Reilly and I reminisce about our courtship and wedding all the time. This discussion has expanded to reflections on our continued dating and pregnancy and major milestones with Z. The past makes me hopeful for the future and grateful for the now. This process of thinking and remembering makes time seem not as relentless and life much more enjoyable.

The end of November presented me with attending a friend’s father’s funeral. He taught at the same middle school Reilly attended, though Reilly was not in any of his classes. I made it to the last hour of the funeral, where family members told stories that demonstrated the remarkable life of a good man. The chapel was packed, and it was obvious that he was loved and that he left the world a better place, at least for those who knew him.

As tears streamed down my face as I listened to these stories, I realized again just how beautiful and uplifting funerals can be. Mount Timpanogos backdropped the quiet and sprawling cemetery where I had a chance to see my friend and give her a big hug. She lives in New York, and it had been a few years since I’d seen her. While I’m grateful to connect to friends through social media, I’m especially grateful a huge part of the legacy a man left for this earth manifests itself in his phenomenal children.

There is still so much to learn in this life, and I only took a few experiences out of the past year to discuss. I look at my husband and daughter and wonder how my attitude and philosophy and convictions will influence them. I wonder about my friends and other family. I wonder how I will become better in areas where I am inadequate. I want to be more thoughtful, a better listener, to solve more problems. My imprint on this world needs to mean something.

The last song in Patty Griffin’s most recent album, Servant of Love, is called “Shine a Different Way.” Some of my favorite lines read:

In more ways than one
Shine a different way tomorrow

Tomorrow is a new year–2016: Olympics, election, other significant stuff. But more importantly, it’s tomorrow, a new beginning, a fresh start, a way to contemplate and become a better person. There’s no one right way.

Let’s be better together, bask in inevitable cognitive dissonance, lift each other up. Let’s solve and re-solve and resolve with civility and love and kindness and find all the different ways we can shine.

Happy New Year.

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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.

I Want to Ride Your Bicycle

While sitting at the park this afternoon, I managed to read, listen to music, take pictures, and people-watch all at the same time. I sighted a few runners, observed their form, thought about how much I miss running. Then I got over it and went back to whatever I was doing.

A while later I caught a bicyclist in my periphery. I usually notice the bike first – what kind it is, the pedals, the gears, the handlebars – and if I see the pedals are clipless, I try to see what kind of shoes are attached, then I can’t help but notice the legs that are attached to the shoes, etc. YOU know.

This guy rode a red mountain bike, which looked old, but sturdy. He was bald, and it crossed my mind how much he looked like Mr. Locke from Lost, but younger. He seemed a little older, but not too old. I guess like his bike, except more attractive.

Before I realized I was actually staring at him so I could quickly look away, he found my eyes and smiled at me, and we said hello to each other.

He rode past me and stopped to rest a few benches away in the shade. We looked at each other, and then I sent the following text to some friends: “A guy rode on his bike into the park. We said hi to each other. If he tried picking up on me, I might let him…”

I went back to my book, all the while acutely aware of the bicyclist ogling me. I took a drink from my water bottle and happened to glance at him drinking from his. I sat a while longer, pretending to read, watching people walk by me and adoring their cute babies.

The bicyclist remounted his bike and rode past me again, and he told me to have a good day, and I told him to take care, and I thought that was the end of it. I “read” for a little while longer and saw that he stopped at a fountain behind me, about 75 feet away. I could feel his eyes searing the top of my head.

I checked the time and decided it was time to go. I packed up my things and started walking toward the car. I ended up walking in front of the bicyclist, and I smiled at him, then all of a sudden I got really shy and turned away onto the path that led to the car.

As I neared the park entrance, I turned my head to the right and saw the bicyclist riding next to me. He asked what my plans were. I cleared my throat. I asked him to get off his bike, and I would tell him. We stopped at the gate.

He gently pushed me against the threshold, and before I could breathe, he leaned down and kissed me. The breeze from the river blew through my hair. His hands barely held me; it was his warm, soft lips that paralyzed me, except for my arms which pulled him closer.

Without breaking, we fumbled our way to a bench, and our mouths continued to work together. His stubble tickled my face. I liked his hands holding the back of my head, the small of my back. All of my senses drastically sharpened, except for my sense of time, and perhaps, my common sense.

Just kidding! We did chat for a moment when he pulled up beside me, then he just kept on riding.

And I went home.