Third Time This Year

I have to give yet another talk on Sunday. That’s three in about four months. So, I’m not going to put much thought into today’s post. I’m simply going to cut and paste the beginning and end of the last talk I gave. Maybe at least looking at it will motivate me to prepare Sunday’s message with a better heart, because it’s so incredibly rotten to the core right now. Well, maybe not to the the core, but maybe the pericardium and mesocardium and the outer layer of the endocardium. Anyway, I guess the assignment couldn’t have come at a better time. This one only has to be 5 to 8 minutes long, so it forces me to be concise and non-word-mincy. I’m always up to that challenge.

Without further ado:

I have a confession. Sometimes during sacrament meeting, I get distracted. Maybe I don’t feel the Spirit as strongly as I should, and my mind wanders. During one such sacrament meeting, the speaker’s voice droningly transmitted from the microphone to the congregation. It was monotone and it kept going and going, and occasionally I could tune in, but it was one of those situations that took a great deal of effort to focus on what was being said. Usually, if I try, even with any kind of distraction, I can really channel the speaker’s words and intentions to my mind and heart, and I can usually find something useful or edifying from the talk.

This wasn’t one of those instances. The temperature was fine; I wasn’t falling asleep. There wasn’t much in the way of noise or commotion that I haven’t ignored before. But the speaker’s voice just blended into the background and I might have started daydreaming. I don’t know for how long.

I’m not sure exactly how I snapped out of it, but suddenly I was present, and I became very keenly aware of my surroundings. I was standing behind a podium, in front of a congregation, hands resting on the varnished oak surface. My eyes followed typed words on white paper. My mouth moved, dictating my reading and forming words into the microphone with a droning, monotone voice. My voice. A sinking feeling grew in the pit of my stomach. It occurred to me that one of my worst nightmares had come true: I had checked out of my own talk.

Has this ever happened to you?

It wasn’t as if I didn’t prepare, because I did, and I tend to put a fair amount of thought into my … thoughts. Maybe the writing was off, maybe I was too nervous and I tried too hard not to show it. Of the possible causes I considered, the one reason that kept my stomach sinking was the state of my heart. Where was my heart? If in delivering my talk I wasn’t getting through to myself, how was I coming across to the congregation?

[anecdotes and experiences I pulled from this blog to make the talk last 15 minutes]

I could go on, but I won’t. I confess: Teaching seminary has been one of the greatest, most tiring, most humbling, most joyful experiences of my life. I’m grateful to all the students who have blessed my life. Our hearts are in a better place. I’m grateful for my co-teachers and friends and parents and church leaders for their amazing support. Because of seminary, the students learn that all scripture is given by inspiration, to feast on the word of Christ. They know to go and do the things the Lord commands. They know to pray always and come off conqueror. They are not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, and they know wickedness never was happiness. They are the light of the world, whose immortality and eternal life are God’s work and glory. They know the Book of Mormon is true. That Joseph Smith restored the gospel. That Thomas S. Monson leads the Church today. That Christ’s atonement is for everyone. They know it, and I know it. Nothing can distract me from that.

All Right Then

So, I delivered my talk at church this morning. I think it went all right. I cried and stuff. I mean, considering I used a lot of what I’ve posted on this blog as material for the talk, people seemed to respond positively. That makes me glad.

Also, someone who really intimidates me and whose approval I’ve always wanted approached me and said that I wrote the talk and presented it well.  He said some other stuff, but I was rather shocked and surprised that he was talking to me, so I forgot what it was. We talked about teaching a little bit. I thanked him for his kindness. He thanked me. He. Hee.

It might have helped that I looked pretty cute. Not tooting my own horn. Just an observation.

The boat party last night was fun. I mean, I had a good time because I couldn’t get over voluntarily confining myself on a boat for three hours with hundreds of other church singles. There were lots of people to meet, lots of people to avoid. The music was great. The weather and the scenery were amazing. Sitting in a corner, telling stories. Fidgeting. Enjoying great company. Watching people kinda sorta fall in love. Hilarious.

Today is a glorious day. Enjoy it. 75 degrees, sunshine. Seriously.

Oh, I curled my hair last night. A friend of mine actually did it. She used a flat iron and turned my board-straight hair into a bouncy mane of springy ringlets. I didn’t take pictures, but other people did.

I thought it might be nice to have cute, curly hair for my talk this morning. But after three hours on a boat, surrounded by water and the wind rushing through my hair, and after sleeping on it, and after looking in the mirror, I decided to pull my hair back. Yeah, there was no way I was going to subject my fellow churchgoers to that. It kind of looked like a small beast was attacking my head. Maybe a cross between a tasmanian devil and a poodle. Yes.

Got a priesthood blessing today. All I gotta say is, Wow.

Nap time!

Two Ways

I am pretty easy to talk to. I’ve noticed it especially lately. And this seems to go beyond quietly listening. Sometimes all it takes is eye contact. Sometimes, just a guiding question. Sometimes, acting goofy. Growing up, I never talked a lot.  I was always the one listening to and observing everyone else. I remember trying to make a conscious effort to be more of a conversationalist. Before then, I would listen, take sometimes up to a day to process what I heard, then respond much later after the conversation ended. It has taken me well into adulthood to figure out how to communicate. It’s not easy for me. At the same time, I don’t feel a huge need to fill every silence with talking. Let the pauses lie where they fall.

Take, for instance, this past month with the dating. Growing up, since I didn’t really know how to converse, I wasn’t much of a date, except for those guys who liked to hear themselves talk. But in the past however many years, I’ve learned to let my mind associate my own experiences with the words streaming from whoever’s mouth and give timely responses. And then, he does the same thing to me, and before I know it, I’m getting to know a person better and more quickly than ever before. And the better I get to know a person, the sooner I can tell whether I like him or if I should like him, or if he might like me.

Here are a few tools that help me get keep a conversation going (these examples can be used beyond the dating scenario):

“What does that mean?” Sometimes the other party will make some assumptions in his recounting. I won’t have any backstory, or my vocabulary bank might be closed for the evening, or a word might have a different implication that I’m just not getting. Plus, asking this question reinforces to him my attention. And of course he wants to make sure I understand, because I want to understand. And once I understand, I can respond properly. Even if I don’t understand, I can say as much, and I will let him know breaking up isn’t a sensible thing to do.

“Have you used any big words today?” This is a new one that I tried out on my roommate yesterday. I have to ask it in a way that doesn’t require that he answer with a specific big word he used, but invites a more open answer such as a big word he heard, or a bunch of small, overused words that annoyed him. Plus, this is a question that kind of sticks around. The next day, he’ll be keeping an eye out for big words, or he might plan to use a big word, and he’ll be excited about returning with a report. That’s one of my favorite things: continuing a conversation that might stretch over the course of a few days, a season, a few years, even after you’ve broken up.

Raising an eyebrow, or the furrowed, knitted brows. This is a natural response for me. I definitely don’t plan on the facial expressions I make, but I’ve become more aware of them. Again, this shows my efforts to understand the guy, and it may prompt him to ask what I am thinking. If not, (if he’s paying attention) he knows he’s got me thinking and might be getting ready for my response. He might even be wondering if I’m mad enough to yell at him for even thinking about breaking up.

Divert eye contact occasionally. I don’t know about you, but I get a little uncomfortable if someone just stares and stares and stares while I’m trying to talk. What I’ve noticed myself doing is looking away just for a second while he’s still talking, especially if my mind is formulating a thought related to what he’s saying. Again, he may notice this behavior and see that you’re actually paying attention, and this will help him more actively listen when you tell him why he shouldn’t break up with you.

Hand gestures. Sometimes I speak with my hands. Sometimes I playfully shove. Or I open my eyes wide during an exciting story. Sometimes I fidget while I listen which I need to stop doing, but I’d rather not because fidgeting is how I know my mind is starting to wander. Hand gestures are my way of re-engaging myself in a conversation. Eye contact does help, but to stimulate the mind in other ways to help nudge the listener can’t hurt. One hand gesture that might not help, though? The middle finger. If he would have broken up with you anyway? Totally worth it.

Touches to the arm. Again, bringing to the talker an awareness that you’re listening. You’re paying special attention. You want to bond. While I am somewhat of a tactile conversationalist, I don’t hang all over the person I’m trying to talk to. It’s too distracting, and it may give the other party the impression you want to do more than talk. If you do want to do more than talk, go for it. Touch his arm. Grab his arm. “Accidentally” trace your finger over his flexed triceps. Ask for a piggy-back ride, then hang on to both arms.

Smiling coyly. This is most effective with “flirty eyes.” It involves turning your head slightly to one side and smiling while looking down with a very strategic pause before bringing your eyes back to his. And sometimes you giggle. I have friends who are really good at this.

Biting your bottom lip. This brings blood to the surface of your lip and makes it look redder and fuller. This will make the guy forget about wanting to break up with you.

Whispering in the ear. This says, “I really want you to understand me, but I also want you to feel my warm breath tickle your ear so that perhaps we can make out soon.” And it doesn’t really matter what you whisper, even if it’s something like “The little puppy danced with the mako shark.” Anything is romantic when it’s whispered in your ear.

I have learned SO MUCH about communicating! I have learned to participate in a conversation, not just sit there and nod without giving any feedback. The more chances I get to talk to people, the more I improve my talking skills. Other skills might get better, too, given the list above.