Create

“The desire to create is one of the deepest yearnings of the human soul.” — Deiter F. Uchtdorf

Life is redundant. Patterns and cycles emerge as we grow older. Whether positive or negative, the patterns do shift, grow, and change with each new experience, but they are always there.

I have always been one to look around me and wish that the gifts, talents, and abilities that I admire in others could somehow magically be part of  me.

When presented with something beautiful I find it difficult to initially see the hours of devotion required to bring that thing into existence.  Instead, my own creative deficiencies are made even that much more apparent by the wonderful art, music, literature, or performance that I have just been blessed to observe.  After the moment passes, I remind myself that, “the only reason you can’t do those things is because you have not dedicated the necessary time to the craft.”  This thought is quickly followed by a rather scathing lecture about all the time, money, and opportunities that have withered away due to my neglect and irresponsibility.  Occasionally I’ll mentally re-commit to spending more time on study, practice, and self improvement.  In the end I usually just resign myself to feeling like a huge failure, allowing the depression to just take control.

I believe that this pattern is one of the most self destructive to emerge in my life. I also believe that this pattern is a social plague, threatening to consume our society. For me, this pattern manifests  in my artistic failures. For others the culprit  could be professional, family, school, or even substance related.

In grade school we  are taught to compare and contrast.  Look at two things.  What is similar? What is different? Is one better than the other?

As we grow older we take this lesson, throw in a few cups of  twisted, unrealistic cultural standards,  add an unhealthy dose of poor self-esteem, shake it up, add a garnish and drink it down like a co-ed trying to impress at her first frat party.  Before too long we aren’t invited to the parties; we’re alone and drunk on our own self-loathing.

Recognition is the first part of  changing the pattern.  The hardest step is finding the desire, courage, and motivation to act on that recognition. All change takes work, and lots of it.  I find that the choice to act is always there.  While the work required may not get easier the choice to act always does.

A new pattern has begun to appear in my life.  I call it different things depending on the day, but most often the pattern is Happiness and Hope.

Action brings a feeling of accomplishment and an increased understanding of who I am and who I’m going to be.    The hope and potential of who I will be is so far beyond my most daring imaginations.  That knowledge alone is enough to make me everything I want to be and more.

“Don’t let the voice of critics paralyze you. You will make the world a better place… The more you trust and rely on the Spirit, the greater your capacity to CREATE.”

— Deiter F. Uchtdorf

Houdini Habits and Happily Ever Afters

I am an escape artist.

At least, for the last 15 years or so I’ve tricked myself into thinking I am one.

I am a romantic heart, and I have spent much of my life believing in ideals.  As a child I loved the Disney Princesses, and I grew up reading about ‘the Anne-girl’ and Jo March. Later I grew into Elizabeth Bennett, Emma Woodhouse and Drew Berrymore’s Cinderella story. I spent life looking for Diana Berrys or the occasional Laurie, and, admittedly, had young dreams of Prince Charmings and Gilbert Blythes that turned to idealistic lists of Darcy and Knightly-ish traits.  Life for my heroines fit so nicely into what I wanted for myself.

Most days I know that I have it good. I have found my Dianas, my Lauries, and I even know a few Mr. Darcys.  However, when life gets bumpy, uncomfortable, and overwhelming I usually immerse myself in books, movies, or the music that mirrors what I want or how I feel in the moment.

Over time, the habit has morphed into an unhealthy addiction.  When I feel out of control, I find what I can to help me forget about my responsibilities for an hour or two, be they literary, audio, or visual in nature. I create an emotional band-aid by covering what I am feeling with the feel-good nature of whatever media I’m consuming.  Eventually this isn’t enough.  I do whatever I can to forget what I want to ignore. I waste time on youtube and facebook, or I find any excuse to spend all day with other people or things that keep me distracted.

What I am learning is that these things I call ‘an escape’ are effectively burying me alive under ignored and forgotten responsibilities.  I cannot expect for life to be what I want unless I am willing to work to get it, and work VERY HARD.

Life has fairy tale moments, though they are few and far between. In movies and books we believe the manufactured ups and downs that lead to the happy ending. We forget that after the credits roll, the hero and heroine do not persist in the state of bliss in which we left them.  Work still has to be done, problems must be attended to, there are days when the prince behaves like a beast, and Prince Charming will not be quite as, well, charming as he was the night of the ball.

Houdini spent years perfecting the art of escaping his self-imposed prisons.  Every time he trapped himself to prove that he had the ability to escape in the nick of time.  Each exhilarating escape led to the next more dangerous attempt, and eventually he stepped into a trap that he could not get out of.  He wasted his life perfecting the art of fabricated freedom.

Our society perpetuates this Houdini ideal. We all want the high life, the easy fix, the fast answer, and our own happily ever after. We think that we have to live on the edge of sanity and thrive on the rush of crisis living. When we are presented with people who are actually free and happy, we stand in awe of what they have achieved and envy the lives that they live. We tell ourselves that “we want to be just like them”, but are we willing to do what is required? If we were to ask  them how they did it, we would find that they do not expect anything to be easy or quick. They never treat work like a four-letter word and they understand and strive to live the golden rule.

Learning to become free and happy requires accepting that it will take hard work and an open-minded willingness to make all necessary changes. ANY change requires that you live every second with the end goal in mind, repent of each mistake as it happens, and commit again to the path you have chosen.

It is in this that each real ‘Happily Ever After’ is found.

The Smell of Rain

The solitary rainy nights like tonight always lead me down memory lane. There is a scientist somewhere that will want to start telling me all about my olfactory whatchamadigit that is linked to my brain’s limbywhoozit system, and that’s why certain memories are always recalled when I smell rain. They’d be right, of course, but all I know is that I probably have more memories associated with the sound and smell of rain/water than I do for any other scent. Here are a few.

# 1

For anyone who has grown up or spent any decent amount of time in Texas it is hard to not remember the swelteringly humid late spring/early summer days. They say that everything in Texas is bigger (chuckles to self) and it’s true, especially when it comes to the thunderstorms. When I was still looking forward to having a double digit age, our yard was my whole world. Due to an exceptionally imaginative younger sister, it was transformed on a daily basis into fantastic worlds of wonder and mystery that we would explore until dinner time. On the days when the air was so heavy with moisture that you could cut it with a knife, we’d look up, with ringlets clinging to the nape of our necks, and scan the seemingly endless horizon for any hint of the rolling towers of grey and black that would bring blessed, if only momentary, relief. When the clouds were there we could sit on the porch or the trampoline or up in a tree and wait eagerly for the storm to break. We’d count the seconds between each lightening strike and distant crash of thunder as we swatted at mosquitoes and gnats that were the product of the previous storm. As the storm got closer everything would get quiet and the earth would hold it’s breath in preparation. Sometimes the whole world would turn a peachy color that made it all look like a dusty, washed out old photo. The temperature would drop 1 or 2 degrees, and then we could smell it. We could actually see the gray wall moving toward us beneath the thunderheads that seemed to threaten our very existence. Every once in a while we would watch our road turn back to black and see the color rush into the world on the other side of the distinct line of advancing rain. The rich smell of the life giving water rushed in and consumed us only minutes before the waves of rain arrived. Then, all at once, we were in OZ. The heat and the dust had vanished and all the colors were saturated and bright. The warm water would fill the ditches and there were puddles EVERYWHERE. We’d run around with umbrellas, or without, and ‘pretend’ to our hearts’ content. Sometimes, when it was a colder rain, we’d both sit under a huge umbrella and become runaway orphans (a particularly favorite theme) hiding from an EVIL headmistress. Storms usually blew through in an hour or less, and when they were gone we’d splash around for a little longer then run inside before the returning heat would make our wet clothes unbearable.

# 2

I LOVE the ocean. My family lived in Hawaii when I was a toddler, and I only have vague snippets of memory from that time. I wasn’t able to get back to see the Pacific until high school. I was a member of the school band, and we took trips every other year to compete in out of state invitationals. My freshman year we went to San Diego. The climate right after rain always reminds me of California’s cool night air, and the smell of the ocean a few miles away. I remember sneaking into other people’s rooms and staying up way too late, laughing and being young. I remember palm trees, and thinking that everything was so much greener than it was back home (It was.) I remember the dinner cruise in the bay and heartaching over some dumb boy. I remember the night we went to the beach. The sand was white and the boardwalk looked like it did in all the movies. We had an hour or two to kill before dinner, and we spent the time shopping for souvenirs that were overpriced and tacky. The sunset was golden and perfect, and my best friend and I sat on the beach and dared each other to get into the water. (Being late April, it was still pretty frigid.) I remember walking in the sand, listening to the surf, and thinking that the night would be perfect if I had a boy to share it with. Mostly I remember what it felt like to know that my potential was limitless, that I could do any and everything that I wanted to, all I had to do was reach out and take it.

#3

During the span of my life, I have had the opportunity to enjoy the company of good people on some pretty awesome porches during some fun storms. In most cases, I don’t even remember the porch. The best feeling in the world is the one that you get when you’re sitting with friends and/or family, watching the storm rage. The doors to the house may be thrown open, daring the wind and the rain to do their worst. All you see is the beauty of God’s creations, as a cool breeze filters through the house and lifts everyone’s spirits. All you know in that moment is friendship, love, laughter, and good times.

On nights like tonight I find myself most like the ‘Anne-girl’ than I am at any other time in my life. I’ll walk out onto the porch or balcony, step up to the railing, and fling my arms open wide and breathe in all the memories that make up my core. I let all the hope and energy of my present youth fill up my soul and give me the courage to create new memories for the now that is my future youth.

It’s cheesy… this I know. I am surprisingly unapologetic about it. These romantic moments of silliness are my little oasis… what’s the plural of oasis?

Yep, I looked it up online. It’s oases.

o·a·sis
noun
plural: o·a·ses
1. A fertile or green spot in a desert or wasteland, made so by the presence of water.
2. A situation or place preserved from surrounding unpleasantness; a refuge:

lol. Nice.

My refuge, made possible by the presence of water.

I like it.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

This blog link popped up on my facebook this morning. It reminded me of a talk given by Elder D. Todd Christoffersen in October last year. Below is the response that I sent. I shared some of the ideas that Elder Christoffersen presented. I believe that something as simple as changing the language we use with people can change our ability to respect them! I also know from personal experience that giving a person the gift of respect, whether they deserve it or not, has the potential to change them for good every single time.

I suffer from the same casualness with inappropriate and degrading labels, and I know that it would be difficult for me to go an entire day without saying, ‘That’s retarded.’ It would even take some effort to not refer to someone in a negative way, even as a joke. Prejudicial sarcasm has become okay because, ‘hey, I’m just joking.’ What is worse is that it has become okay to crack jokes at the expense of those we love.

A little while ago I was with a friend at a family event, and I heard her father call her nephew a looser. As a matter of fact, many of the adults cracked jokes at this young boy’s expense, and, while he laughed and made a few feeble jabs back, you could see the pain in his eyes. What hope does this boy have of reaching his potential if all he has heard his entire life is that he is worth nothing in the eyes of those who’s role it is to lift and encourage him?

Our willingness to dispose of our common decency has created a huge hole where chivalry and courtesy used to exist. It is no wonder then, that we now have to rely on lawyers and lawsuits to protect us from slander, harassment, and abuse. What laws will our children have to create to protect themselves from things that are now covered by what is left of our society’s decency and courtesy?

Would I be able to make a difference if I made a concentrated effort to speak with respect to and about every individual? I don’t know if it would change anyone but me, but that’s not a bad place to start.

“Two Principles For Any Economy”

“That’s the thing about work. If we simply keep at it—steady and constant—things certainly will improve.”

“During challenging times, it is even more important to learn. [Joseph Smith] taught, “Knowledge does away with darkness, [anxiety], and doubt; for these cannot exist where knowledge is.”

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf from Nov. ’09 General Conference address, “Two Principles For Any Economy”

Well, I’m home. What’s next?

My sister gets married this month. I don’t believe I’m expected to do much more than show up and help here and there where it’s needed. I might do a small informal party for her the night before the wedding, but since her fiance will be here too, it won’t really be a bachelorette party because I’d feel bad forcing him to just chill with my dad and brothers while we go and play. Anyway, that won’t require much time to put together, and I don’t really have anything else going on, so I have to decide what I’m going to fill my time with.

I have 2 things that I feel like I HAVE to focus on right now. I must become more financially stable/responsible, and I cannot put off my education any longer than is absolutely (aka: financially) necessary.

I don’t have any official employment right now. I’ve been trying to figure out what I want to fill my days with, and what God wants me doing right now. I have enjoyed not having to answer to a 9-5 in the last month or so, and I would like for that to continue because I enjoy the flexibility that it affords me. I am able to choose what I want to do, and I like that. So, how do I balance what I want and what God wants? I believe that the answer is to actively seek for opportunities to work and serve.

Here’s how I figure it. If I choose to say yes to the first service/work opportunities that come my way each day, making sure that I start my day with an appeal to my Heavenly Father for guidance in this, then I will be doing what HE needs me to do. I also know that, because He is aware of me and my needs, He will provide for me as long as I am seeking to be an instrument for His work. I have faith that, if I approach work in this way, things will get better. There are already several opportunities that have come along that will fit right into what I want to be doing.

With my education… I am still at a bit of a loss. There is, however, one sure thing; if I continue to seek for work and service opportunities that serve God’s purposes, he WILL provide the way for me to afford whatever educational route is best for me. I have no idea how it will work out, I just know that it will. I also know that I will be learning and growing in the work and service that I do. I will gain experiences and knowledge that I would never find in a classroom. My education continues no matter what I’m doing, and almost every time, the knowledge gained in the ‘real world’ is more valuable than anything you learn from books or a professor.

What this all boils down to is that I really have no idea what I am going to do besides pray every morning and night and have faith that the Lord will direct me to where I need to be and what I need to be doing.

Am I crazy?

Probably.

Guess what… all the best people are!

Curiouser and Curiouser

Alice laughed. “There’s no use trying,” she said: “one can’t believe impossible things.”
“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

— excerpt from Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass

I saw Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland tonight. I’ve always been a fan of his work, and this was no exception. The adaptation was brilliant. I liked the spin he put on things, and most of all, I love that this movie did for me what movies should do. It inspired me to be better than I am.

In this mad world, I spend much of my time feeling like I’m playing a game of catch up. I look around and feel like I’m falling short of the mark. Society has outlined the path that they believe will lead to achieving the ‘American dream’. Do well in school, graduate with a 3.5 or above, score high on the ACT/SAT, get into the best school, graduate with a 3.5 or above, get into grad school, graduate, get a good paying job, get married, have 2.5 kids, a dog, a cat, a house, 2 or 3 cars, a boat, work, save, and if you play your cards right, retire in style. I would like to know the percentage of people today that are actually able to do this and be happy and secure at the end of it all.

Like I said the other day, there is no such thing as the real world. Life isn’t set up for us to live within the parameters that society, or even our family and friends set for us. Life is meant to be lived individually. Each journey is unique, and while we all exist on the same chunk of rock, we all see it just a little bit differently.

I do believe that we all have something we are meant to do. Figuring out what that is… well, that’s a tangent for another day, but, once you know what you are supposed to do, well…. how do you respond? Do you say, “I can’t” or “That’s impossible”? Do you run away, or do you make a choice to stand and become who you were always meant to be?

Making that choice is never easy. In fact, it is the single hardest thing that you will ever do in your life, I know because I’ve done it. The most daunting thing is that it won’t be a choice that you only make once. It will be something that you must continue to choose every day of your life.

If you see who you can be and say, “Oh, I am not THAT Alice”, keep going. One day you will find that when the caterpillar asks, “Who are YOU?”, your response will be something like this,

“I am Keely. I am a child of God. I am a daughter to Chris and Marie. I am a big sister to Mikaela, Brianne, Johanna, Caleb, Joshua, Zachary, and Eme. I am a woman. I am a friend. I am stronger than I was, and not as strong as I will be. I will change the world one day.”

Impossible?

“Only if you believe it is.” — The Mad Hatter

Singles’ Awareness Day

As I have no specific valentine this year, I want to just send this out to everyone who has, does, or ever will love and support me.

“Sometimes, when we lose ourselves in fear and despair, in routine and constancy, in hopelessness and tragedy, we can thank God for Bavarian sugar cookies. And, fortunately, when there aren’t any cookies, we can still find reassurance in a familiar hand on our skin, or a kind and loving gesture, or subtle encouragement, or a loving embrace, or an offer of comfort, not to mention hospital gurneys and nose plugs, an uneaten Danish, soft-spoken secrets, and Fender Stratocasters, and maybe the occasional piece of fiction. And we must remember that all these things, the nuances, the anomalies, the subtleties, which we assume only accessorize our days, are effective for a much larger and nobler cause. They are here to save our lives. I know the idea seems strange, but I also know that it just so happens to be true.” —– from ‘Stranger Than Fiction’

Thank you for being MY bavarian sugar cookies. I love you, and I am grateful to you for all of your support, prayers, advice, sympathy, empathy, laughter, music, time, and most of all, your love.

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