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Monday, August 9, 2010

Creating Moments

I recently attended a George Winston concert. I sat on the edge of my seat when he played one of my favorite pieces, “Variations on the Kanon by Johann Pachelbel.” I’ve listened to it countless times so the tune is familiar to me. That’s why, when George started to play around at the end of the piece, I sat back, folding my arms tightly against my chest. He was definitely hitting the wrong keys. By the end of the song he was so obviously playing around on the piano like my children that I found myself laughing at his antics. As I listened to the concert I had the amazing realization that these songs, this music I loved, all began in this man’s mind. It was created inside him before it ever tinkled across a keyboard. He owned the music in his mind.

The same realizations come to me when I wander
The Gardens at Thanksgiving Point. Alan and Karen Ashton had these acres of heavenly beauty in their minds before they were a reality. As you walk the gardens it’s hard to imagine the cow haven and alfalfa fields they used to be. "We wanted to create something for the people around us," says Alan. "We had been blessed financially and with a large family. We wanted to give something back to the community and the families in our area. Our vision for engaging educational activities was constantly expanding; line upon line, precept upon precept. Each time we got an idea there were additional things that complemented that idea, so it has grown. It has been exciting for us to think about the beautiful and wondrous things that gladden the heart and enliven the mind."

In both cases something more was created from something less; music from silence, beauty from cow pastures. Though we may not have trilling music running through our minds on creative torrents of thought, and we may stand in cow pastures and think of only cows and pies we still have the same abilities as Winston and the Ashtons. We can create elements of our lives through what we choose to think.

The awakening moment will be the one where you realize you have a choice about what you’re thinking about. I recently ran across a woman twice in the same day. She was an old acquaintance who did not like me. I thought of her for a whole week after that, a crease in my brow, stewing over why she might not like me. The truth of the matter is it’s none of my business what went on in her head years ago. The mind is a brilliant, private sanctuary. It’s no one’s business what goes on there except the owner’s. With that simple truth in place we should never worry about what other people think of us. It’s none of our business. Our business lies within our own minds. I digress. The point is, without realizing it, I was wasting valuable thoughts for a week. I could have been thinking of pleasant things, creating better moments in my life.

In our relationships, especially the contentious ones, we tend to dwell on imperfections. We can stew over these imperfections, replaying contentious moments in our minds for hours. If I sit down to draw a rainbow and continually think of a raincloud my paper is going to have a raincloud on it when I’m done. If you wish you had a better relationship with someone but continually think of the imperfections in your relationships, the imperfections of the people you associate with, that’s what you’ll always have. You need to practice in your mind, creating the relationship anew. Imagine yourself having happy relationships with the people around you. This doesn’t mean the people around you become more perfect. Rather you begin to accept them for who they are. You begin to take power in your relationships by refusing to be offended. You begin to value them for their potential and the potential of the relationship you can create with them.

Dr. Stephen R. Covey teaches about your
circle of influence. The basic concept is, as you master your circle of influence it will grow. You may look at your family situation and feel helpless, thinking you can’t make a difference. Where is your influence? It grows like a ripple in pond water. Begin by influencing where you can. It may begin with a sock drawer but you have control over it. You can own that sock drawer and create order out of chaos. You can choose to own your words, your moods, your actions, and interactions in the relationships you value. You’re exactly half of every relationship you have. You have control over half of every relationship. It is a rare thing indeed to extend kind, sincere words and have yuck returned.

Granted there are occasions where the other person in your relationship makes it as impossible as possible to have pleasant interactions. There’s a way to survive these people too. I highly suggest the book How to Hug a Porcupine: Dealing With Toxic & Difficult to Love Personalities by John L. Lund.

I exercised this circle of influence concept years ago with my grandmother. She was very dear to me but she never hugged me. In my teenage years I decided I wanted to hug my grandmother. The first time I hugged her she explained she wasn’t a hugging person. “Yes, but I am,” I said simply. Over the years as I chose to hug her she began to choose to hug me back. At first it was a one sided hug. I chose not to be offended. I accepted her for who she was, a loveable non-hugging Grandma. By the end of her life it was an embrace of sincere emotion on both sides.

One day when her daughter was visiting, my grandmother and I embraced when it was time for me to go. As I left the house my aunt said to me in unbelief, “She doesn’t hug anyone.”

I smiled sweetly, enjoying the moment. “She hugs me.”

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Weight Wait

The Deseret News has published this post.
We’ve heard the story dozens of times from dozens of women. In my case I heard it because I chased my skinny friends down, demanding, “How did you lose all that weight?” Years ago, after baby number three, I came into my own thirty pound story.

I’d been nursing or pregnant for years and the inches crept on, making themselves comfortable. Like most women sporting a little chub, I wasn’t happy. Every time I saw a mirror my countenance would fall. But I would be happy! It was inevitable. When I weighed thirty pounds less, I’d really be the smiling, cheerful angel everyone thought I was. and I worked very hard to shed those thirty pounds. Learning that our Sunday dinners had enough calories to feed a family of five for a week helped a lot. Soon I was at the point where the pay-off moments began to trickle in. There was only one that wasn’t disturbing on some level. I was shopping for new clothes when a sales clerk chastised me like I was the silliest creature in the world, saying, “You’re too small to shop in Women’s. Let me show you our Misses section.” That felt good. It felt good as I hid behind a rack of blouses, wiping a happy tear. It felt good all the way home. It felt good as I wore my new clothes on Sunday… And that’s just about all the feel good mileage I got out of it.

The problem was, I’d spent fifteen weeks losing thirty pounds, thinking that at the end the happy fairy would come tap me on the head and all my dreams would come true. As I stood in front of the mirror I realized, it was still me. I may have looked a little different, but it was still just plain old me in the mirror. I was living the same life, with the same wonderful people, day in and day out.

It hit home when a neighbor came by to drop something off. She jokingly said, “I hate you. You and your skinny butt, your perfect house, your perfect children. You make me sick.” I laughed it off nervously, not knowing what to say to that. When she left, I sat down and had a good snorting chuckle. If she could have seen past the entryway that day, she would have seen the laundry piled in the hall and my usually stud-muffined kids, in their rag-a-muff glory at two in the afternoon, wondering why lunch was two hours late.

If I wasn’t getting that warm, fuzzy happy feeling from people noticing my new weight, where was it going to come from? It dawned on me that I did live with a wonderful little gang of people, in a nice home, surrounded by a lot of friends. I had wasted fifteen weeks waiting to be happy. I could have chosen to be happy every moment of those fifteen weeks. I could have chosen to be happy thirty pounds ago. Doh! I collapsed onto the one clean couch in the house and rubbed my hands across my face. Happy wasn’t about size. It was about choice, (not that I minded being thirty pounds lighter).

My husband and I had hammered out this whole concept on a different level, years before. We’d even named the phenomenon “The As-Soon-As-es.” We’d be happy as soon as I had this baby or that one, and could stop waddling. We’d be happy as soon as we were in that new home. We’d be happy as soon as the car was paid for. We’d noticed somewhere along the way, that if we were together, that was plenty of reason to be happy. Happy was something to feel on the journey, not just a spurt of emotion to revel in at the destination. Besides that, what do you do after reaching a destination? You start another journey.

I promise you, wherever you go in life, whatever goals you reach, it will be the same old you that you’re seeing on the other side of the mirror. You’ll reach those goals with the same disposition you journeyed there with. Your disposition can color the moments of your life happy. Your disposition is the most valuable thing you own. The awesome thing is that you can choose that disposition, moment by moment, thought by thought. Choose happy. Don’t wait.