Sunday, April 30, 2006

Everything looks perfect from far away...Part One

About six years ago, I was walking down a little side street in Logan, during the scorching heat of the summer -- a street that I'd walked many times before on my way to and from work, when I once again looked upon a large tree in the distance, surrounded by lush, soft-looking grass...shade...wildflowers. It beckoned to me this day as it had everyday -- to leave my hurried, sweaty, asphalt-paved path behind me and "go the distance" to reach something better. It seemed the perfect place to rest from the hot summer sun, write in my journal, eat an apple, break away from the street and cars and houses and take the world in a breath. Everyday, it became more romantic and idyllic -- the little world that awaited me across the field, if I'd only take the time.

Finally, I did it. I pushed my way through knee-high wild grasses and crept ever closer, but on arrival found that the wildflowers had a strong (not really pleasant) smell, the grass was more spiky weeds than the soft lush greenery I thought awaited me, and the ground was bumpy and uncomfortable. In addition, there were bits of cinderblock disrupting the scene (hidden by the knee-high scrub-brush), and a decent helping of gnats and other bugs enjoying the shade with me. Disappointed that the reality was far less perfect than I had anticipated, I almost turned back to my walk home, back onto the street in the hot sun, the cars rushing past. But the walk back was long, and something small inside of me said "You made it here. Just do what you came to do."

The spiky weeds and bumpy ground made it so uncomfortable that I finally found a more comfortable "chair" in one of the broken pieces of cinderblock, rested my head against the tree, brushed the bugs from my face, and pulled out my journal. The disappointment faded gradually as I slowly began shifting from the dream I'd imagined to the the reality I was being offered.

With this shift in the tide, new things to appreciate began to float up to the surface: a cool, sweet breeze would occassionally burst from the north -- taking away the bugs, the strange smell of the flowers (which I was gradually growing accustomed to), and bringing the tantalizing whisper of change and motion. The most pleasant surprise came as the winds released tiny delicate white flowers from some nearby tree which swirled around me, settled into my hair, brushed across my shoulders, a few of them resting on my bent knees and the lined pages of the journal in my lap, the rest dancing in the swirling breeze in front of me, and skipping off across the field.

I found something beautiful and mysterious -- something worth being there for. Not what I expected, but worth the journey, nevertheless.

Accepting the whole reality (that is in everyone and everything in this earth) opens a door which welcomes the unanticipated flaws as well as the unexpected beauties -- the "secret garden", if you will. This lesson repeats itself in man and nature...

Friday, April 14, 2006

random thoughts from a wedding

I heard this advice today: "People give advice to married couples: 'Don't go to bed angry'...but I think that's crap. Are you kidding me? Go to bed angry! It'll look better in the morning. You'll have a better perspective."

I had a great time tonight. There was great company there -- funny and friendly and intelligent and interesting...and this family (the Grooms family was huge!) they really loved each other, you could tell, and I saw a couple of good friends from Logan I hadn't seen in a while, and both families were so nice to me / complimented me a lot / sent me home with some great food and a gorgeous flower centerpiece, and I even danced for a bit. But I feel sad anyway. All day I had to try and explain to people why I was single, and tell them about my life, and it was nice because what they were saying was, "I think you're nice and smart and pretty and I can't understand why you're not married, so let's get you married, etc, etc" but it was also painful, too.

I played games with a little girl. She was a sweetie: she followed me to the me all her special powers along the way. I almost started crying. It's so lame, but the friendship of a 6 year old was affecting me pretty hard(a special needs 6 year old) -- I guess I just feel so incredibly alone - and she didn't need anything from me except my love and attention, and I didn't have to be careful about anything, or hold back anything -- I could just be her friend, and it was so nice.

And she's saying as she follows me out: "I'll give you all my powers...because I want you to have all the special powers...I give you everything you have the diamond powers and the water powers and the fire powers and the straw powers...everything!" They aren't even real, these powers...but I felt so grateful anyway. She was giving me everything she had to give. I barely made it to the elevator: I felt like a jerk for leaving her standing in the hall calling after me.

Why am I crying? Everything,'s all too much. Maybe I'm just tired.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

"I never said it wouldn't hurt you. I said it wouldn't kill you." The Great Divorce, C.S. Lewis

I entitled my blog "A Road Less Traveled" after one of my favorite poems, and one that had become a bitter-sweet part of my life. The words of Robert Frost are a great comfort and a voice of warning. I love that he does not tell us which path to take; nor which is the "right" path -- just that the choices he made have made all the difference. Some choices are bigger than others, and you feel as if your life hangs in the balance of that choice. To quote a favorite movie, Spanglish: “I’m sorry. If you feel you’re at a crossroads…you are.”

I have recently passed through many heart-wrenching crossroads, and in desperation, I have wanted to cry out to God or someone else to take this choice away from me – either to choose for me or to make the problem just go away. But that didn’t happen. Maybe it cannot happen: God's work is our growth and agency is central to that. That is one of his greatest gifts to us, and is the only thing we can give back. To relinquish it is to become less than human.

Making choices. I have made so many lately. I have made heart-breaking choices to follow God, and heart-breaking choices that have lead me away from him. I have made choices to help, to be kind and loving, to be strong…and I have made choices that have hurt those I love, including myself.

I have been helped, though. Despite feeling very much alone, and feeling the burdens of all my choices crashing down upon me, I know that God is there…knowing, watching, understanding, holding me up.

I watched General Conference today and yesterday. Yesterday, all of the talks seemed to be gearing me up to make what was perhaps the hardest choice yet in my life. Today, feeling broken, alone, scared, feeling the terrible consequences of the choices that were right, though hard…and the terrible consequences of the choices that were so easy, but wrong, these were the words that came to me out of the darkness, spoken by Elder Holland of the Quorum of the twelve apostles:

(this is not an exact quote, but the best I could do, taking notes as faithfully as I could)

“I speak to those facing personal trials, to those trying to hold back the floodwaters of sorrow like a tsunami of the soul, to you who feel your lives are broken, seemingly beyond repair. The Savior said to those who believe and to those who are not so sure alike: ‘Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden and you shall find rest to your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.’ He is saying: trust me, learn of me, do what I am doing…if you will follow me, I will lead you out of darkness. I know of no other way for us to carry our burdens or to find happiness.”

“Whatever else you need to do, come first to the feet of Christ. He lifts us from the burden of our sin, our heartache, and our despair. Christ is the reason and the means to improve. You will find strength beyond your own. He has ‘graven [us] upon the palms of [his] hands.’ I promise you, after the price he had already paid – he will not turn his back on you now.”

“Please don’t give up. Please don’t give in to fear. Mark 5: 36 ‘Be not afraid, only believe.’ When the apostles found themselves in the midst of great tempests at sea, Peter called out to the Savior, whom they saw approaching the boat: “Bid me come unto thee…” He then, by the power of God, was able to walk on water. (My insert: Look at what was overcome through the power of Jesus Christ and faith on his name. What gulf lies between you and the savior that you must cross to come to him? Does it seem as impossible as walking on water?) However, when he began to look at the waves and the gulf beneath him, instead of looking at the savior…he began to sink, and called out to God: ‘save me’.”

There are times when we ask for miracles, assert our faith, and do our part in coming to him (though he makes it possible), and there are times when we are sinking, and we can do nothing, not even walk to him, except to plead, “save me”. I think that’s where I am.