Man, This Day

This time last year I was in Australia. Becky, Karl and I spent the weekend in the Blue Mountains (after Karl voted in the Prime Minister election), then I spent the last four days of my visit doing really low-key things, like watching wonderful Australian television and having really nice dinners. My prospective boss and I exchanged a couple emails about scheduling an interview for the Friday before school starts, and my flight would arrive at Salt Lake City from Los Angeles Thursday close to midnight. If I remember correctly, we arranged an afternoon interview so that I could sleep a little. I don’t remember sleeping that much. Which is nothing new.

The rest is a bit blurry. I don’t remember buying books or other supplies; and I don’t really remember the first week of school. I totally blame jetlag.

Today feels crowded. Students are back to take over their campus. They look so . . . I shouldn’t say. I like an empty campus. I like solitude. I like small groups.

I’m just cranky. Campus is crowded and I don’t feel like sharing it. Only a week left before classes start, and I’m starting to feel a little overwhelmed, but that’s the way it goes every time. I’m just going to keep enjoying the quiet walks in the morning to work. I’m going to keep watching people and wondering what their stories are. I’m going to keep being a good friend. I’m going to keep listening and trying as hard as I can to understand.

I’m going to keep my peace.

So Some Friends Told Me A Story

It was about a certain stake and ward in Utah County. Not in Provo, but that town just north of Provo. It was one of those Young Single Adult Wards, which I have always thought are wonderful and have never harbored any complaints against. I love them so much.

These friends get ready to attend this ward. They might have been running a smidge late, but when they arrived, the congregation was singing the opening hymn. It wasn’t a crisis, by any means.

But the chapel was practically full, except for maybe the very front row of pews and the choir loft up on the podium. So my friends decided to hang out in the foyer instead of walking in front of everyone and disrupting the meeting.

Then came time for passing the sacrament. Bread and water. Symbols of the body and blood and Christ’s atonement.

Usually, one of the priesthood members comes out into the foyer to pass the sacrament to those who may have arrived late or had to leave the chapel for whatever reason.

No one came out.

My friends weren’t the only ones in the foyers.

After they passed the bread, they did the same with the water.

And the same thing happened with the water: the foyer people didn’t get any.

Which were maybe 20-30? I tend to want to exaggerate this number, but really, it was a sizable crowd.

Then after the sacrament was passed, a member of the bishopric asked if anyone didn’t get to partake of the sacrament.

I guess no one in the chapel raised their hands.

Then the bishop invited everyone sitting in the foyers to find a seat in the chapel.

He supervised the priesthood as they stayed inside the chapel, which means he saw them not passing the sacrament to the foyer people.

He knew that the foyer people didn’t receive the sacrament.

So, when people confronted the bishop after the meeting, he said that he was acting under the stake president’s directions.

It was important for the bishop to literally see the elders passing the sacrament.

But he also must have saw them not passing it to the crowd outside.

People were incredulous and sort of really angry.

Some people stormed off, declaring inactivity.

And the bishop said it was their choice.

So, what I’m trying to understand:

Does he mean to punish latecomers by depriving them of the sacrament?

How does he intend to fellowship and reactivate when he splits hairs with THE reason people come to sacrament meeting? How are people supposed to get married?

How can one be denied the sacrament? If someone in the congregation is sick and can’t physically make it to church, the priesthood can bring the sacrament to that person’s home.

Everyone should have that opportunity.

If someone can help me see benefits to the other side of this discussion, I’d greatly appreciate it.

I Should Love Abdoulaye Wade

This thought kept crossing my mind during church today, all three hours, in between wanting to pull my hair out and silently disagreeing with everything everyone was saying. And, in between texts. Yes, during church. Judge me already.

This thought surprised me, and I struggled with it.

I’m struggling with it.

The Company I Keep

Sometimes I’ll get up in the morning and go the entire day without wearing my glasses. My waking vision is at times considerably quite good. I can’t see far distances, but anything within a three-foot radius is surprisingly clear. But sometimes, my eyes will open while I’m in bed and I won’t need to see anything at all. I already know what’s there.

On several occasions throughout my life I’ve woken from a dreamless sleep, my throat dry, my eyes darting in the darkness; my heart thumping, my stomach tight from an unknown’s anxious clutch. It’s not that shadows lurk or doors creak, but something is in that room with me. Someone. More than one.

All my life, friends, family, people from church have reassured me that I am not alone. They’ve always meant it as moral support – someone knows how I’m feeling or understands what I’m going through. They’ve offered encouragement or a shoulder to cry on. I’ve received numerous blessings emphasizing how much God loves me and wants me to approach him at any time, for anything. If I’m being completely honest with myself, I can’t remember when I didn’t ever know this.

This knowledge is powerful stuff, and it’s useful, particularly when I’ve been in a room by myself, and I’ve definitely felt, in a nonassuring way, that I am not alone. The slightest brush that I wouldn’t have felt if I had been awake jolts me into consciousness, then I’m cold, and I’m sweating.

It usually happens between 1am and 4am. I’m scared to speak, and while I want to ask, “Who’s there?” I don’t, because I already know the answer. And, what if these nonmortals, while I’m wide awake, can actually talk? What if I could actually hear a voice, or voices, outside of my own head? What if we had a conversation?

I’m huddled under my blanket. I keep my eyes open, ears keen. Breathing fast, I throw the covers off and turn the lights on.

Then I kneel beside the bed and request security, which comes immediately. My quickest approach.

I don’t feel a constant or continuous presence hovering; ghosts do not sidle me, matching my stride. I don’t welcome these particular experiences, and these are the moments in my life when I have been the most afraid. I am not a visionary person, in fact those who know me would probably say I’m rather grounded. Or balanced. Which is probably why these visits occur when I am unguarded, unthinking; when the room is unlit. Whatever they are, they are not dead, exactly. They also haven’t lived. They can’t touch me. I have no reason to be scared.

I am not alone.

***

People.

I can’t believe I’ve been sitting at this computer almost all day, grappling with words and ideas that just wouldn’t flow. Maybe I thought this would be a good way to confront these kinds of experiences, but instead I realize only I don’t understand them enough; I haven’t let them process. Maybe I don’t need to, except in the way I deal with them, which is the only sensible way: prayer. 

Maybe if I had just started out writing about yesterday’s Primary program at church and the children singing with their whole souls, and how I caught some sort of vision of my future self reviewing my future child’s speaking part during the week and singing the songs with her to make sure she knows all the words, and how a small sob got stuck in my throat, how real it all seemed, how true it would be, and how the words to the songs would carry special meaning to me as I sing with her. Her. A little girl, around seven years old.

Maybe I would have found a way to tie in how sometimes in the temple I see my future husband, except he’s not among the men sitting in the room with me; how I think of him every time I go, how I can’t help but think of him since the very first time the notion of him entered my mind only a couple of years ago. I wonder how we’ll actually meet. I see his smile. And his kind eyes. He’s being patient.

Maybe I would have better described the conditions whereupon these palpable ideations occur – how I’m awake, alert; where a lot of light shines. Maybe I would have elaborated on the peace and the confidence and the calm excitement and the hope I feel; how I strive not to disappoint those I see. How, especially given what I know of God, my friends and family, I can take heart and increase the power of this knowledge. How I have no need to fear.

I already know what’s there. They wait. They don’t have to say anything. They live, or will yet live.

They’re around.

I am not alone.