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.

Blogosphere Inquiry

I posted this on Facebook, where I will probably get more responses, but I’ll post it here, too, in case there are people who aren’t on Facebook who know me and would like to respond. I hope by appealing to a people with whom I have worked in groups I can zero in on areas of teamwork that I need to improve. Because there are always things I want to improve.

Self-inventorying here and asking a huge favor of those who want to help. Please list ways I have been a team player. In your examples, identify strengths and weaknesses in my group work. Go back to elementary school, girls camp, whatever your experience with me has been. Be as specific as possible. You may send a private message or email if you’re more comfortable responding that way.

Thanks, I owe you a cookie.
Love, May

Your responses can be very useful to me, as I am more naturally introverted and work hard to find different ways to make it look easy to go beyond myself. Maybe I will list responses as part of another blog post and the introspection will deepen and I will reemerge better than I was before. We’ll see.

The Culture of Heart Muscle Memory

I recently read a Facebook discussion thread about a sensitive topic. It seemed that someone disagreed with the majority opinion in that conversation. Then many people in the majority zeroed in on the lone dissenter and poked holes in his argument, very … pokedly. There were accusations and assumptions and underlying hostility all around. The thread’s originator even asked the others to back off, but no one really did. The dissenter didn’t respond. By the end of the thread–some 20 comments later–someone observed that he simply took his comments and left the discussion.

I do not know a few things about this discussion:

1. How the dissenter presented his disagreement

Well, I guess that’s the only thing. I’m probably ignoring other things, which shouldn’t matter, because if people were really willing to have a conversation with two perspectives, I would have been able to read the actual opposing opinion.

The dissenter could have been a bona fide jerk. But his withdrawal doesn’t quite indicate that.

It could be that the dissenter’s argument was particularly specious and he felt embarrassed and removed his comments, but since I only have the remaining less kind comments to use as evidence, what other conclusion am I supposed to draw other than “we will marginalize your differing opinions”?

I mean, the prevailing views in this conversation are held by people who already feel marginalized; they are in a distinct minority. They have felt op-/suppressed and question many things about the culture and traditions that helped form their character. They feel vulnerable and scared and insecure. And I guess this particular conversation felt like a safe place for them. And when they felt threatened–maybe by someone who felt just as insecure and vulnerable–instead of reaching for understanding, they pushed away.

What has changed? To oversimplify the idea, what really has changed from feeling that “If you don’t agree with the Church you can just leave” to “If you disagree with my opinion there’s no room for you in this conversation”?

Can someone help me understand?

On Facebook This Morning

I posted an article whose headline was: “Mormon stake president gets political at church, laments election results.”  Assumptions emerged and a few comments followed. Six.

  1. Oh dear. Stake president FAIL.
  2. I read some of his talk, but then just couldn’t read any more. So awful.
  3. The lines quoted in the second paragraph are the only ones from the talk that I found inappropriate. I don’t agree with his pessimistic viewpoint, but I think that headline is incredibly misleading.
  4. Abortion and using tax dollars to do so, same sex marriage, take God out of the Goverment, leagalization of pot, forces alighning to stop school prayer, but allowing the handing out of birth control etc…Yeah…that sounds like something I want to fight for. Jesus would stand right beside me right?! … Matthew 24:24 Have you read his entire talk…He is quoting past prophets…. and you are offended?!
  5. The Church has made a statement that it is politically neutral, so going against that by sharing your political viewpoints over the pulpit in church is always inappropriate, whether or not you think their political party is right or wrong. There’s nothing wrong with quoting prophets, unless you’re using them toward your own personal agenda. It’s unfortunate is all, because even though they shouldn’t take it personally, some of the church members will probably be offended and turn away 😦
  6. noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooope

The article doesn’t necessarily represent me or demonstrate that my testimony is crumbling. I hadn’t read the article when I posted it. I put it on my timeline to remind myself to read it later.

This afternoon, I read the article and the talk that the author referenced. Then I reread the comments from the Facebook thread. Then I reconsidered my initial responses to the comments.

1.

  • Before: This sounds like a heavily political talk.
  • After: The stake president could have left a few statements out and still have given a powerful talk.

2.

  • Before: This sounds like the stake president is ignoring any sort of neutrality in his talk.
  • After: The stake president could have left a few statements out and still have given a powerful talk.

3.

  • Before: I’ll have to read the second paragraph of the article and read through the talk.
  • After: These are the statements that the stake president could have left out. The headline made the talk sound way more politically charged than it felt to me.

4.

  • Before: Knowing my heart, Jesus would have talked to me in complete sentences and with a lot less interrobang. He probably also would have given me a hug. Basically, I find your typos offensive. Also, thanks for your condemnation.
  • After: The world does seem to be taking a turn for the worse, the divide between good and evil is definitely more distinct, and I understand the stake president’s frustration. He could have left out a few statements and still have given a powerful talk.

5.

  • Before: The Church has taken a politically neutral stance, and I can’t stop thinking of how I was accused of being offended in the last comment.
  • After: It’s a shame that people get offended either way because of a talk. In a leadership position you really have to make matters more about the Spirit and less about politics. In a leadership position, you often find it hard to separate your politics from church. I’ve definitely heard much worse from the pulpit.

6.

  • Before: I can tell you have something articulate and inspired to say.
  • After: Without even saying anything else, I know what you mean.

Two Sundays ago a guy gave a talk in Church and he said he’s majoring in communications and political science so that one day he can have his own conservative talk show like Brother Glenn Beck.

He went on to tell stories about Bible bashing on his mission. He brought up the scripture about casting your pearls before swine (Matthew 7:6). He kept saying, “Why NOT cast your pearls? You’ll never run out of pearls.”

He made it quite clear that he referred to those against whom he Bible-bashed as swine. And then he pretty blatantly compared pearls to ammunition. You’ll never run out of pearls. You’ll never run out of ammunition. You can just keep shooting at the swine.

His talk was about studying your scriptures with faith.

The aforementioned Matthew 24:24 is about being deceived by false Christs and false prophets. Much of the chapter uses apocalyptic language to describe the world before the Second Coming. I would guess that my friend, commenter #4, attributes the decline of morality in the world to these falsities.

I was bothered by the politics in both talks, not so much because I disagreed with them but because I knew there would be people in each congregation (and now among those who have read the article) who would cling to those few statements and use them as an excuse never to come back to church.

It’s definitely easier to say to hold strong in a church regardless of its imperfect members. But part of the reason the Church has a stance on political neutrality is to protect its imperfect members from themselves, to help us to use our hearts, to look past politics and into souls. Our souls are bigger and worth way more than the limits this fallen world puts on them.

There’s definitely a lot more to say. I’m tired.

The Degree of Like

Facebook is such a great way to keep up with friends. I like being able see what my friends’ opinions are on all sorts of subjects. I can tell political stances, movie/music/book preferences, games people play. I love when people post interest pictures or clever little memes. It’s actually pretty fun getting to know people this way without actually taking off my hermit hat and making an effort to interact with them. Especially if they live far away or if you can tell by their preferences that you wouldn’t get along with certain people in person. I can appreciate a healthy and occasionally overwarm discussion, but if I had to argue with certain people every day in real life, my head would probably explode. And then I wouldn’t be able to decide if I “like” things. Which would make me sad.

I enjoy being able to use Like on just about anything my friends post. I can “like” as many comments, photos, and status updates as I want. But I also understand the power of Like. And its nonpower. I have tried to be consistent in the ways I have liked or not liked certain things on facebook, but the more I use the process, the more I can see the nuances of its influence. Maybe the following doesn’t list nuances as much as my mere whimsy.

likefb

 

 

 

  • I have read the comment/article/whatever, and I understand it.
  • I have read the comment/article/whatever, and I agree with it.
  • I have read the comment/article/whatever, and I appreciate the point of view.
  • I am acknowledging this post on my newsfeed, but I haven’t read it.
  • I don’t want to be too imposing on the conversation that involves the post, especially if the post doesn’t directly include me.
  • I do not want to participate in a conversation, but I have read the comments.
  • I’m about to unlike the post.
  • I don’t really like the post, but I don’t want you to think I’m ignoring you.
  • The post is clever, and I will most likely comment and/or share.
  • The post is beautiful.
  • The post is cerebral or literary or strikes a chord with one of my interests.
  • The post acknowledges me in some way.
  • The post made me laugh.

likeyetfb

 

 

  • I do not like the post.
  • I do not understand the post.
  • I’m feeling particularly snobby.
  • I have read too many posts, and my clicking finger is tired.
  • I missed the post.
  • I am ignoring the post and may like it later.
  • I do not want to like the post because I don’t want to have to unfollow or unlike the post later.
  • I do not want to participate in a conversation, but I have read the comments.
  • I disagree with the post.
  • I do not like the person who made the post.
  • I don’t feel close enough to the person who made the post to like the post.
  • The post is not relevant to me.
  • The post is not clever.
  • The post has something to do with genuinely liking Fifty Shades of Grey or Twilight.
  • The post is gross/crass/most likely rednecky.

The Like link has gone expanded from facebook to blogs, news sites, music sites, to just about everything on the internet. It’s a fascinating power to have and exercise, and it’s interesting to observe how people respond to what they like or don’t like. Just know if I Like or choose not to Like a post, it can have any meaning or a number of meanings at the same time. Or no meaning at all.

How do you like that?

Because No One Knows How to Spell

No one’s going to get my response to a friend’s recent Facebook status.

Friend: Is it wrong that I want to put up my Christmas tree before I find our forks, knives, and spoons?

Me: The tree has to go up before the utinsels! Also, I love groaning and rolling my eyes at my own jokes.

And I just feel like I’m betraying myself to explain the wordplay between tinsel and utensils.

I’ve said too much already.

All in All, A Very Good Day

Clickr the photo to  get to flickr.

Matt and Karissa got to come to Utah for the very first time, and Moab was a good place to start. I’ve lived in Utah a while, but I hadn’t been to Moab, so we agreed that this would be a good place to meet.

It only took seven or eight years since the last time. And the landscape was totally different last time. Last time was New York City. Little Italy.

But we overheard some Italians during one of our hikes today. So maybe it was almost like last time. I mean, there were skyscrapers, sort of. And we walked Park Avenue.

It’s late, and I’m tired. As you can tell from the photos, the day gave us a lot to do and look at and talk about. The park was relatively busy, but everyone was friendly. Except for the foreign people in the rented RV who said in a rather severe accent and attitude for Matt and Karissa to move their rental car out of the way. I mean, why would you want to bully anyone in one of the most beautiful places on the planet?

It’s great when Reilly’s so willing and excited to meet my friends. And it was wonderful seeing those guys again, catching up, being in nature, seeing pretty stuff. Let’s hope the next time we get together will be a little sooner.

Some Randoms

The whiplash is mostly gone, but new and weird pain has shown up in my knees. And my scabs are starting to itch, which in some ways, is so much worse than the pain.

After we came out at the end of the trail on Saturday, we loaded our bikes onto the doctor’s truck, and we headed back up to the trailhead where the other car was parked. People started transferring bikes from the car to the SUV. It was barely a 10-minute ride and I thought it was funny how we spent three hours on a trail for such a short return. It was definitely worth it.

People were chatting, and all of a sudden I felt dizzy. And the back of my head tingled. And everything was washed out in white light. And I thought, [bleep], I’m about to pass out.

I didn’t faint, though, but instead squatted where I stood and lowered my head and closed my eyes. I began to wonder if this was a result of the fall, if hitting my head had to do with the dizziness. It scared me a bit.

People kept on chatting, and I stayed seated. Then someone might have looked at me–he must have–and then he asked if I was okay. And I told him that I was dizzy. And the other stuff I was feeling. And he said that I had altitude sickness and that I should take two aspirin and drink a lot of water. That the aspirin would thin my blood and allow oxygen to travel more easily through my body blah blah blah fishcakes.

Someone gave me two ibuprofen and said it would do the same thing as aspirin. I dropped the pills from my palm into my mouth and drew some water from my Camelbak.

We boarded the white SUV and the driver blasted the air conditioning and I positioned the vent next to me to blow on my head. Someone told me how to recline my seat, so I leaned back and closed my eyes for a bit.

Within the first five minutes of the drive back to Duck Creek Village, some nausea sneaked up on me. I began to think how I would tell the people in the car how I was going to throw up at any second: could we pull over please, I’m about to vomit. Or that I’d just roll down the window and blow chunks and hope not to ruin the paint on the car. But, I continued to lay back and focus on the conversation around me, and soon the nausea subsided.

The sensation of the entire experience came back only one more time, and I worried that I would have to drive for four hours to Provo in this condition. Yet, my body adjusted to the altitude, and once I drank more water and had something to eat, it wasn’t so bad.

The drive to Provo was great. Thunderstorms booming and tumbleweed rolling across the interstate. Playlists and Radiolab podcasts. Mountain biking that morning and 8 hours of hiking the day before worked me hard, but maybe adrenaline kept me alert. And pain rode with me the whole time. Soreness had begun to settle into my joints and muscles. Mostly my shoulders.

I didn’t interact with very many people today. Maybe a total of two lines in Google Chat, and one response in facebook. All this morning.

I began rereading Atlas Shrugged. When I opened to the first page of Ms. Rand’s tome this morning, a familiar-weird-bad taste returned to my mouth. I was 18 or 19 when I read it the first time. I was only 17 when I read the Fountainhead. It’ll be interesting to see if my opinions have changed over the years. Writing: fine. Story: fine. Propaganda: whatever. I mean, it’s hard for me to understand how this woman could hate women so much; how her philosophy was JUST SO COOL once upon a time. If I take everything she says with a grain of salt, then I will also need a good prescription for high blood pressure. Or I won’t have to wonder why I’m retaining so much water.

I want scones. Real scones from England.

I Have Secret Good News

And, of course I’m not going to tell you.

Good fortune.

Tender mercy.

Blessing in disguise.

Call it what you want.

I’m grateful, all the same.

***

Oh, in other news, my reading for the BYU English Symposium is on Friday. Not to be overshadowed by Senator Orrin Hatch and a certain Mark Zuckerberg speaking the following hour. If the billionaire will go out with me one time, I will forgive him for stealing my thunder.

“Come Thou Fount”

When I type, I sometimes let my thumbs take turns at the spacebar. It depends how fast I type, which depends on my train of thought. Am I raring to go, or do I have to pause every few words? See, my right thumb is used to dominating the spacebar. If I’m typing quickly, my right thumb involuntarily, reflexively taps the spacebar. If I have to stop and think for a second, my left thumb gets a turn, and it generally feels pretty good, like I’m ambidextrous, because my left upper limb and its digits are practically vestigial, and the slower, meditative push with my thumb is different than the tasks I usually give it, like helping hold things when my right hand is busy. It might also be good for hitchhiking – I haven’t tried that yet. Also, thumb wrestling, but no where near as adept as Righty. Yet.

This evening after Institute class, quite a few of us stayed after to play volleyball (and this was after I rehearsed with the Institute choir because someone asked if I could sing, and I said “alto” and I was basically the lone alto until the girl with the solo joined me in the chorus of “O Holy Night” because I can be social when I feel like it but I also knew I wouldn’t be able to perform because I have a prior commitment but it was nice singing anyway and I wanted some physical activity which also happens to be a convenient way to observe people and get to know them without actually having to talk much). We rotated players in for each time teams changed servers.

So I was on the court sometime during the third or fourth game, left net. Volleyball is not my sport of choice, mostly because, well, it favors tall people. I can set and bump just fine, and I can hustle and dig, but I am definitely not the most comfortable at the net. I laugh when I put my arms up in blocking position, because I know that’s not me, and I just don’t have the ups. So when the serve lobbed over and back and the ball arced its way in a wonky parabola to my part of the court, and when my elbows weren’t bent just so, putting my thumbs more vertical than in a proper setting position, the ball landed hard on my left thumb and jammed it.

And now my left thumb just sits, hesitant, distrustful. It hurts to put any sort of pressure on it; it hurts to stretch my fingers to see how big my hand is. As I’m typing, my right thumb gets carried away,virtually dancing on the spacebar, almost mocking Lefty. Occasionally I reprimand Righty and give the left thumb a few chances to push the spacebar ever so gingerly. I should hope full-functionality returns, albeit slowly.

Sometimes I feel like my left thumb: bruised, a little less confident, therefore a little less valued. As I’ve sometimes set my left hand aside so my right hand could do the more “important” things “correctly,” at times I’ve resigned to aloofness, giving others the spotlight, the attention they deserve so much more than I. Then, even given simple tasks, my left thumb still gets hurt, as I do in my shortcomings, and the pain often feeds into greater weakening, lesser self-esteem, deeper not-good-enough-ness.

But, sometimes, I feel like my left thumb: hopeful, fixable, healable, lovable – deserving love; eager, ready to serve in any capacity, regardless of relative skill or coordination. Building sureness, boldness; ever determined, grateful, and indebted for whatever help comes my way. A continually waxing belief that I have worth, a great price.

“Come Thou Fount” finishes that list of songs I began back in April – the ones I can’t live without.

To recap the previous nine:

Samuel Barber, Adagio for Strings

Indigo Girls, “Galileo”

Bee Gees, “Stayin’ Alive”

Arvo Pärt, Spiegel im Spiegel

10,000 Maniacs, “These Are Days”

Ennio Morricone, “Gabriel’s Oboe” – The Mission Soundtrack

Kermit the Frog, “The Rainbow Connection”

Patty Griffin, “Mary”

Black Eyed Peas Featuring Justin Timberlake, “Where Is The Love”

“Come Thou Fount” fits. Everything about it appeals to me: that itself is an appeal, a prayer, a supplication, a testimony; that the simple melody builds to the same part of every verse before it descends as it began. It’s brilliant, inspiring. It radiates hope and optimism. It attests to and embodies the Atonement.

I hope the thumb analogy works, especially as it correlates to the hymn.

Enjoy.

 

Come, thou fount of every blessing,

Tune my heart to sing thy grace;

Streams of mercy, never ceasing,

Call for songs of loudest praise.

Teach me some melodious sonnet,

Sung by flaming tongues above.

Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it,

Mount of thy redeeming love.

Here I raise my Ebenezer;

Here by thy great help I’ve come;

And I hope, by thy good pleasure,

Safely to arrive at home.

Jesus sought me when a stranger,

Wandering from the fold of God;

He, to rescue me from danger,

Interposed His precious blood.

O to grace how great a debtor

Daily I’m constrained to be!

Let thy goodness, like a fetter,

Bind my wandering heart to thee.

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,

Prone to leave the God I love;

Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,

Seal it for thy courts above.