Thursday, November 21, 2013

When We're Not at Our Best

I have been pondering this post's title for a long time. The above title won't leave me alone, so today is the day I will write it into existence! ;)

When we're happy and we know it we, what? Clap our hands! Just kidding. ;) But in all seriousness, when life is going well for us, we let people know it. Our happy actions include things like: smiling, sleeping well, speaking kind words, being efficient, cheerfully supporting and encouraging those around us, serving others, laughing, being generous in every sense of the word, having a happy attitude, being absolutely there for others, etc.

Yet when life isn't going well for us, we let others know our feelings too—whether we intend to do so, or not. Our sad actions might include things like: saying something we later regret, tiredness, lack of concentration, frustration, inattention, snappy responses (And I don't mean in a good way, like a snappy dresser! Ha ha.), moping about, laziness, criticism of others, stinginess, focusing on our own problems, fear of the future, etc.

I've lived both of those previously described realities. Yes, I've had so many wonderfully happy times in my life (Yay for all of them!), but most recently—when I lived in Texas—I was not at my best. Oh, no, I was not. Sidenote: I dearly wish that Texas could have experienced my best self!

For those of you who don't know our family's story, here's a smidgen of it: We've moved multiple times due to my husband's employment changes. We've happily made our choices so Greg could be the main financial provider for our family, and I could be the stay-at-home-mom I've always wanted to be. Our family has always been able to make it through our moving transitions very well. After the first six to 12 months in a new place, things have always ended up on the bright side. :)

Yet when we moved to Texas, things did not go remotely the way we had planned. Our house in Utah didn't sell, so we couldn't settle down in Texas. (We ended up renting out our house.) There are many reasons our house didn't sell, and today I am so thankful that it didn't sell (because now we are back living in our same house!), but when we were in Texas, my reality was not complete thankfulness. Plus, our house issues created financial issues. Don't get me wrong, we consciously made our choices about the house and we owned them, but it was hard. All of that said, we had many many moments of thankfulness in Texas! We were so completely blessed, I can't even begin to describe all of our blessings. But the daily underlying current in my soul—we can't sell our house, so we can't settle down—felt closer to total anguish and severe frustration.

To help illustrate my feelings, please imagine the movie, "Groundhog Day." Do you have it pictured in your mind? Good. :) Now, imagine how Phil repeatedly wakes up to the same music, in the same bed, with the same dreary view, every day—for who knows how long! Well, that was my Texas reality. Okay, I wasn't technically repeating the same day over and over like Phil, but nearly every day I awoke, I thought, "What am I still doing here??!!!!"—with no more certainty of where we were headed than the day before. Yes, not knowing where my sweet and wonderful little family was going to live for two+ years moved my soul into crazytown! I felt trapped and wondered if I would ever escape! ;) *By the by, if we wouldn't have already moved so many times (10) previously, I think I would have dealt with it much better than I did.

Again, please don't get me wrong. During those two years, I genuinely tried to be happy, helpful, courteous, kind, understanding, thoughtful, cheerful, etc. But not being able to fully live our lives the way I desired for our family was unbelievably hard. Not knowing when or where our family would finally be able to settle down was torturous. Can you tell I like to plan?! Well, I do. Yet I can make-do with any situation or circumstance. I just need a little heads-up in terms of time-frame and place. I'm very flexible, compatible, and adaptable! :)

Anyway...having me live in that frustrated state (of being, not Texas) must have been quite tedious for those souls around me. Thankfully, even though I was a mighty frustrated lady, I had many family members and friends who buoyed me up. They didn't judge me—or at least if they did, they didn't show it to me. They didn't make me feel bad. They gave me hope. They lent a listening ear. They showed patience. They tried their best to see where I was coming from—even if they didn't understand what I was experiencing. I will be forever grateful to those generous souls. They know who they are. :)

Now that I feel all better (because we are finally settled!), life is so much easier. I am happy every single day!!! Even when I have little hiccups here and there, those mini challenges are the tiniest of trials compared to where my soul was just eight months ago—before our family knew where our path was heading.

Thus, with my recent two-year experience of not being at my best (Even though I sincerely tried my best!), my plea to the inhabitants of our world is this:
  • Please try your best to be understanding of others—even and especially when they're not at their best.
  • Be generous with your kind thoughts, sincere prayers, good words and helpful actions.
  • Don't judge others too harshly or quickly. *Even though we know we must judge some situations for our own safety/protection and for those we love.
  • Be forgiving and let others move-on when they have made amends.
  • Have true charity in your heart for others—including toward those souls you might not necessarily like.
  • Keep your criticisms at a minimum, and only reveal them if they are truly needed and helpful.
  • Don't gossip. Yet if you want to share happy thoughts or uplifting stories about others, go for it! :)
  • Never forget that every soul has value and is of great worth. Treat people the way you would want to be treated. Better yet, treat others the way you would want your precious, sweet, perfect little baby to be treated. :) You see, everybody is somebody's baby...we're all children of God.
This is my phrase and typographic design! :)
Lastly, there is a beautiful scene from the movie, "Ephraim's Rescue" that really hit home to me. (Spoiler alert!) Ephraim Hanks has just healed the gangrened feet of young Thomas Dobson by giving him a priesthood blessing. After a tender moment with Thomas and his mother, Alice, Ephraim asks,
"Thomas, the spirits in the camp are low. Do you feel the strength to now lift, as you have been lifted?"
Thomas thinks about it for a minute and then shares his happy dancing talent with the members of his camp. It's evident that Thomas and the rest of the pioneers are joyfully uplifted because of his cold-feet efforts. (Thomas traveled without shoes for much of his pioneer journey! Ouch!)

I can absolutely relate to Thomas Dobson's situation. No, I wasn't exhausted and close to death with gangrened feet, but my soul was very heavy, ragged and worn out because of my family's seemingly endless uncertainty. Now that my soul is light and free again, I dearly want to lift others as I have been lifted! I am also reminded of the scripture in Luke 10:37 when, speaking of the good Samaritan's merciful efforts, Jesus says, "Go, and do thou likewise." I 100% agree! :)

Friday, November 15, 2013

My Facebook Experiment

*By the by, after you read "My Facebook Experiment," you might want to read my latest update, "Farewell, Facebook!" Some might not believe my actions, but in March, 2015, I deactivated my Facebook account again—this time, however, I won't be going back.

On February 7th, 2013, I deactivated my Facebook account. I had no intentions of returning, except to download my status updates at a much later date—as part of my personal history. I had very legitimate reasons for deactivation. Some of those reasons were: privacy concerns; time constraints (I spent too much time on it); great annoyance with Facebook's constant advertisements and suggestions (I'll "like" what I want! I don't need someone telling me what to "like," thank you very much!); feeling bummed when my "friends" didn't include me in their lives like my heart wished, etc.

I was very happy with my decision. I stayed completely away from Facebook for exactly eight months and three weeks.

Why did I rejoin Facebook? There were several reasons, so let me share a few.

Over the many months I was off Facebook, I realized that society has changed. I truly believe that the creation of social media and social networking websites has fundamentally changed the way we communicate with each other. I naively thought that because I had all of my friends' and family members' email addresses and phone numbers, we would absolutely stay in touch. That was not my experience.

Yes, my immediate family and close friends stayed in contact with me, but that was about it. Even when I texted people or left messages for them on their voicemails or answering machines, people weren't great about getting back to me—unless it was for a specific reason. If I simply wanted to chat while I did the dishes and laundry, those phone calls were rarely returned. Sometimes there were late replies, but more often than not I never received a response. I guess I could take that as a sign that people simply didn't want to talk with me—I fully admit that could be the only reason! But I also interpreted it to mean that people are either (a) too busy, or (b) they just don't care for the in-person personal connections as much as I do. (I classify over-the-phone communication as in-person, since you can actually hear their intonations and get much more out of the conversation than you would via technology.)

For those of you who don't know me well, let me say that I truly love connecting with people! :) I love conversing and having discussions with others. I'm definitely an extrovert. To say that I'm energized by other people would be an understatement. Actually, I begin to feel withdrawn and on the sad side if I don't have human interaction for a couple of days. Call my need for personal connections a weakness or a strength, I don't care, I just know that's how I am. :)

I tried connecting with my friends and extended family members through blogging, but after several months of not many posts posted from everyone else, I realized that blogging was not where it's at anymore. Even though I adore blogging—because I feel it allows people to express themselves in a more in-depth manner than a Facebook or Twitter post—it appeared that not many members of my personal social circle agreed with me.

I was invited to join Twitter several times, but I never signed up because I've never been interested in it. Again, I like the in-depth connecting. 140 characters just doesn't work for my personality.

Obviously, I joined Google+ and that has been interesting. I like their program, but not many members of my personal social circle connect through Google+. I think that scenario is slowly changing, so I'll be interested to see what happens with G+.

I even sent multiple update emails to people I care about, but only received a few replies. Let me be clear: I didn't expect a reply. I was just truly stunned that I didn't hear back from more people—simply because I would absolutely reply to my friends/family if they sent an email like that to me. Sometimes the very people I sent those emails to would say to me, "I had no idea!" I realized right then and there that very few people were reading my emails—despite the time and effort I spent in not only composing those emails, but in deciding who should receive them.

After calmly examining my strengths, weaknesses, foibles and blunders, I decided not to take the disconnectedness personally. I knew I was loved by my true friends and family. I knew I wasn't that horrible of a person to be snubbed and slighted on purpose. I began thinking that maybe people just weren't connecting in the same way I thought they would—and should—before social media/networking came along.

Another reason I rejoined Facebook is because people would frequently say to me, "Oh, you didn't know (insert major life event)? I posted it on Facebook!"

I'd reply, "I'm not on Facebook anymore, remember?"

"Oh, that's right. Well, you should get back on Facebook! I miss seeing you there!"

I can't count the number of times that type of scenario happened to me!

I ultimately decided to rejoin Facebook after I heard at a family dinner that Greg's nephew was engaged and had been for several weeks! I heard the familiar phrase, "Well, he posted it on Facebook. Oh wait, you're not on Facebook." Yes, friends, that's when I fully internalized that if I really wanted to stay in-the-loop with our extended family members and friends, I would either have to accept the fact that I would live a socially quieter life—which is torturous to me(!), or get my hiney back on Facebook post haste! ;)

Thus, October 29th, 2013, I clicked on facebook dot com! (as my funny brother would say). My heart was racing! I was excited and curious to see how things had changed. I wondered if people would think I was a fool for my final post on February 7th that boldly declared I was leaving Facebook Land. I then realized that most people probably never read my bold declaration the first time! Ha ha. It was very interesting to note the people who unfriended me—I was surprised by some, but not others. I decided not to worry about the "whys," and just be happy with those who still considered me their friend.

I'm happy I decided to be more brave this time around in requesting friends, for I have already made some good connections that I would have missed out on if I hadn't requested their friendships. :) Yes, there are many good reasons for connecting on Facebook! It's just that this time around, I will absolutely remember to not spend too much time on fb, or it will become detrimental to my life. Indeed, I am much better at using my Facebook minutes wisely. I won't regress. :)

I've also decided to be more cautious with what I post on Facebook. During my last Facebook experience, I allowed my personal feelings to cloud my judgment. There were several times I posted status updates, or made comments, or sent messages that weren't indicative of my best self. But I'm not the only one. I've seen many status updates, and posts/messages between Facebook friends, that were very unkind and unnecessary. When I read those posts, I would think, "I can't believe they wrote that! They would never say that to the other person's face!" The same thought applies to me as well. Yet I'm determined not to worry about what my Facebook friends post. Previously, I had allowed some of my family and friends' status updates or comments to rile me, but I don't do that anymore. Yay! :)

To help me remember what I've learned and what I hope to accomplish on Facebook—which is staying connected to my family members and friends, I created this phrase and topographic design: "If you can't say it to their face, don't post it." I think my words are applicable to any social media/networking site, not just Facebook! :)

I'm truly happy to be back on Facebook! Connecting with my family and friends again is very satisfying to my sociable soul. It's nice knowing that even if I don't log-on to Facebook for a few days, I can instantly get back on and see what my loved ones are doing, thinking or venting about! ;)

Oh yeah, and in order to remind myself to be my best self on Facebook, I watch Studio C's clever Facebook friends video often. :)

P.S. I think I used to be like five of those annoying people! At least I never went on Twitter! Ha ha.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Love Every Breath

I am fiercely passionate about loving life. I have been this way for many years. When I was very young, I loved life so very much! As my birthdays passed, however, I became more aware of people around me and in the media.

With this growing awareness, my once-strong sense-of-self began to diminish a bit. I became overly concerned with my body's flaws and my personal incompleteness. My perceptions of other people's "perfect" bodies and lives increased. I felt like, "If I can look like ______, then my life will be awesome!" or, "If I can do ______, then I will be as good as ______." I didn't know I was thinking incorrectly.

When I was about 15-and-a-half years old, I developed an eating disorder. It wasn't technically what someone would call a bad eating disorder, but it was disordered eating, nonetheless.

There were many factors that contributed to my problem, but it initially began because I was gaining weight—because I was growing into a woman. It was a perfectly natural progression, but all I could see was the weight gain and that my body wasn't like it used to be. I didn't think about the hormones that change a girl's body into a woman's body—which naturally cause weight gain. All I knew was that I was gaining weight, and I didn't like my thighs—I thought they were too large. I was jealous of all the other girls who had slender, wiry thighs. I thought mine should be more like theirs.

Even though I should have been thinking,
"My muscular thighs are awesome! My strong thighs show evidence of my many years of dedicated and focused training in gymnastics! Those marvelous thighs helped me win first place in our entire school district's gymnastics championships on bars, beam and floor!" 
But I didn't think those happy thoughts. All I saw was the negative.

At first, my eating disorder (restricting calories and occasional purging) was just a random occurrence. It might have only happened once a month, or so—I only chose to do it when I overate. Eventually, I used the eating disorder not only to help with my worries about weight gain, but I also used it as a coping mechanism—except I didn't realize I was doing that. I only figured out that part later on. Yes, I used the eating disorder to cope with pressures at home, school and my social life. Still, it wasn't very often in comparison to other eating-disordered people that I've heard or read about. Thank goodness for that!

When I was 16, I auditioned and was chosen to be a member of my high school's drill team for the upcoming year—I would be a junior. It was a very big deal for me, I was so excited! I felt so good about myself. We danced every day, all summer long and into the school year. I was in heaven! :)

I don't remember exactly when this next event happened, but I know it was in autumn. Our drill team instructor had all of our body fat tested. She said something like it was just so we could see where we "were" physically speaking, and to help us make healthy eating choices. Looking back on it now, I see that it is a perfectly innocent idea. But at the eating-disordered state my mind was in, all I could see was that my body's fat percentage needed to be lowered, and I was determined to do exactly that.

Enter a serious eating disorder.

(Did I mention that I am extremely strong-willed? There is no stopping me when I put my mind to something. Thus, I want to make it completely clear that my drill team instructor is not to be held accountable for my drastic actions in any way. She had only our very best interests at heart. I'm the one who took my body-fat test results to the extreme. I'm the one to blame for my eating-disordered actions.)

For about five days after the body-fat test, I ate hardly anything at all. What I did eat, I threw up. I slept very little (four to five hours per night), danced about three to five hours every day, and was still attending high school full-time. It was the perfect recipe for a life-altering disaster. My disaster hit me like a brick wall.

*As I tell my story, please forgive any details I might have messed up, as it happened a long time ago. I also reserve the right to change this post at any time, to add or subtract details that come to me. :)

One morning (the fifth day I had been going on practically no food and very little sleep), I remember waking up and feeling very "off." All I wanted to do was stay home and sleep. Yet, the Holy Ghost (i.e., the Holy Spirit) told me very directly and strongly that I needed to go to drill team practice and that I should not stay home. Plus, I didn't want to miss practice because then I wouldn't have been able to perform in our high school football team's half-time show. So, I got myself up and went to practice. When I arrived, I couldn't shake how horrible I felt. I asked my drill instructor if I could sleep during practice. She said yes, so I laid down by the gym bleachers (I think) and went to sleep.

The next thing I remember was trying to wake up. I felt sooo hazy, foggy and s l o w. My brain wasn't able to make sense of anything. I remember a man (an EMT) talking to me, but his words were all a bunch of nonsense! He asked me questions that I couldn't form an answer to. (At least, I don't remember responding to them!) I felt like I weighed 1,000 pounds and could hardly move my body! I remember they put an oxygen mask on me and then locked the stretcher/gurney into place. As I was rolled out of the school's double doors, I saw many of my drill teammates crying. I felt like I was going to fall off of the gurney when they rolled me down the school's stairs, but then I realized that I was strapped-in. I was mighty happy I wouldn't take a sprawl all over the sidewalk!

I don't remember the ride to the hospital in the ambulance at all. The next thing I remember was being in a hospital room and seeing my mom's friend there. (I think I remember this simply because it was out of the ordinary.) I know we chatted for a minute, but I'm certain I didn't make any sense. I know my mom and dad were there, but my memories of them are very spotty. I was suddenly wearing a hospital gown, but I have no idea how I got in it—which was a terrifying thought to me for years! After birthing my three babies, that fear is completely gone. :)

I remember being put into a long white tube (an MRI machine), and being told to hold very still, which wasn't a problem for me because I was SO TIRED. I couldn't keep my eyes open! Then I remember being taken in a wheelchair out to my mom's station wagon and climbing into the back for the ride home. (I know, it was so illegal to ride without a seat belt! Ha ha.) After I got home, I remember having several visitors from my drill team and ward, but that's about the only memory I have for approximately one week after the incident.

The diagnosis I received was that I had had a seizure. From what I remember hearing back-in-the-day, apparently that morning, I started making strange movements—a seizure—in my sleep. Miraculously, my drill team instructor had just finished a CPR course and knew what to do for me. I remember hearing that I was blue from not breathing, and my mouth was foaming/bleeding a little.

I know many people have seizures all the time, live to tell about them, get on medication to control them, and live their lives very happily. But for me, my one-and-only seizure was a life-altering experience. It was a heavy wall of bricks crumbling down on me. I was terrified to know that I had actually stopped breathing. I have no doubts that if I had stayed home that morning, I possibly could have died. The other possibility is that my family might have discovered me in time, but I could have had brain damage from a lack of oxygen. The possibilities were frighteningly real.

My mind went over and over this experience many times. I couldn't believe that I had caused myself to be put in danger—over a few silly pounds and some measly fat cells! I couldn't believe that I had used a life sustaining habit—eating—to cope with my problems. It was truly the dumbest thing I had ever done. It remains the most foolish choice I've ever made.

After I realized what happened to me, I instantly and wholeheartedly decided that I would never withhold food from my body, or throw up, ever again—at least, not if I had any control over whatever life situation I found myself in. I also decided I would give my body the sleep it needed.

I loved my life so much! I did not want to cause harm to my body. I did not want to leave this earth prematurely. I had a lot of living to do! I wanted to grow up! I wanted to get married! I wanted to have babies—lots and lots of babies! And being the young innocent girl that I was, I simply didn't realize the damage that could be done from not eating properly and not getting enough sleep. I truly believe the seizure happened because of my lack of food and sleep—especially because I've (thankfully) never had another seizure.

I prayed intently to our Heavenly Father (God) and sincerely asked him to please help me get over my eating disordered ways. I knew the eating disorder could be completely taken away through the atonement of Jesus Christ. After my prayer, I truly felt so strong inside. I received the answer to my prayer that I needed to ask for a priesthood blessing, so I did. I received the blessing from one of our counselors in our ward's bishopric. I don't remember the words in the blessing, but I definitely remember it gave me the spiritual sustenance I was craving.

My lovely spiritual experiences continued as I prayed daily and read the scriptures. I knew—absolutely—that I was a beloved daughter of God. I knew I had great worth. I knew I had a definite and divine mission to fulfill on this earth. I was not to be tethered to an eating disorder. I also knew that I would be strong even when times got tough. I knew I had a long life ahead of me—one that included marriage and children. I'm grateful those feelings have come true! :) My spiritual experiences have only continued to blossom throughout my life, and for that I'm unbelievably grateful.

The other happy news is I literally never participated those eating disordered behaviors ever again. Yes, folks, the seizure kicking me in the head was all it took for me to wake up and fully appreciate my life.

Even though my teenage experience was frightening and possibly life-threatening, I'm truly grateful for what I learned. I'm so thankful I've never taken my life for granted since then. I'm still imperfect, but I'm so grateful for every day I have on this earth! I love every breath I'm given!

As the years have passed, I've had other medical conditions pop up, several ultrasounds given, and endless needle pricks and blood vials taken. I've endured many what if? moments of breath-holding nervousness while awaiting test results. Yes, I've totally had my fair share of medical scares. Each and every time I dodge a medical-disaster "bullet," I'm overwhelmed with feelings of extreme love and gratitude for every cell in my body! I truly love this body so very much! And I'm doing my very best to take good care of it. :)

I've also experienced tragically losing my youngest sister due to complications of her own severe eating disorder. If you'd like to know more of her story, please read the Church News' article, "Mackenzie's dance: A young woman's battle with eating disorders." Seeing what Mackenzie went through was heartbreaking. Enduring the loss of my darling baby sister brings me to tears nearly every day. Oh, what I wouldn't give to have her back in my life! I think of her daily and resolve to live my life even better for her—but you must know, she's not the only reason. Of course, I live my life better for myself and my awesome little family as well. I absolutely try to live my life better every day as a way to say "Thank you!" to our Heavenly Father, and our Savior, Jesus Christ.

I've also lost many other beloved extended family members. I've witnessed my amazing husband sadly lose his wonderful mother to colon cancer. Those life-altering moments continually reiterate to me that each one of us needs to love every breath we are given on Earth. We must truly love every cell in our bodies and take good care of them—for they are the ultimate gift from our Heavenly Father!

We may experience moments of frustration, sadness, ridiculousness, worry, etc., but we must enjoy what we have been given in our lives! No one is perfect. No body is perfect. No mental state is perfect. No emotion is kept perfectly in-check at all times. No financial experience is ideal. Yet, even with all of the imperfect, lacking and less-than problems we might encounter, there is a sweetness to living that needs to be recognized and appreciated. We can be happy! (Even if only for minutes a day.) We need to be grateful for every breath we're given and daily thank our Heavenly Father for every single one!

We cannot take one moment of our lives for granted! :)