Sunday, May 18, 2014

Creativity, energy, love, and kindness

Church is one of the best things that happens to me. It's a set time every week for me to go and have three hours where I can look inside myself, set right the things I've let get crooked and skiwampus during the week (and sometimes that's a lot) and let the higher power and energy of the gospel and God fill my soul. I feel like a better person when I leave church, and maybe someday I'll be able to carry that feeling with me each week from Sunday to Sunday- that deeper fulfillment and sense of being more grounded, more sure, and (usually) more interested in those around me.

And that's something worth spending three hours a week for. I realized at some point during college that I was subconsciously upset with myself for not living up to the level I knew I was capable of all the time. My subconscious response to this was, "I hate feeling the inconsistency of not always being kind, good, and considerate like I want to be. So in the interest of consistency, I'll just live at a lower level all the time" Guess what. I wasn't a really happy person when I figured out this was how my mind was operating. But after more deliberation, I concluded that it was better to be inconsistent than to consistently live below my privileges and below my highest ability for love and goodness. I don't always hit the mark, but I'm better for hitting it sometimes than I would be for never reaching for it.

In a way it's reminding me of the parable of the talents. I've long thought that if the third servant, the one who buried his single talent, had tried to invest the talent and had lost everything, the lord would have given him the same reward he gave to the first two servants. I don't think it was the money at all that the master cared about. I think if the third servant had been bereft when the master returned because he dared to reach out and dream and be involved in the world, the master would have given him that "well done, my good and faithful servant" tribute. Because the master didn't expect perfection from his servants. He expected them to work, to make a valiant effort, to step forward and do what they could in the world.

Being the science nerd that I am, I also tend to find myself thinking in terms of the natural world. In nature, everything takes the path of least resistance. A river flows along the lowest point in the land, and towards the lowest point in the land, because that takes the least energy. An electron sits in the lowest orbital that it can around a nucleus because that's where it can exert the least energy. Chemical reactions will not take place without a catalyst of some kind unless the products will be at a lower energy state than the reactants, because that's how nature goes- from a state of high energy to a state of lower energy. And guess what. There is a natural woman inside of me who really likes to not waste energy. She likes to take the path of least resistance. It's easier to not reach out and serve people, to not go out of my way for people, and when all's said and done, it's easier to not live the gospel. It takes less energy. But do you know what happens when the electron gets kicked into a higher orbital? All kinds of magic. In some cases, neat chemical reactions take place. In some cases, the electron emits light. And do you know what happens when I get kicked into a higher energy level? I want to do things, to touch peoples' lives, to serve and comfort and make people feel good about themselves, to draw nearer to God. There's a different term for higher energy when it takes place in humans rather than electrons. We call it love.

And know what the first and great commandment is? It's all about this very concept- loving God. Living at a higher level. Not falling to the path of least resistance. So this is why I love going to church each week. And I hope that although I feel the effects don't last a full seven days, they are changing me in ways that are slow but sure, making me more consistent, stronger, higher than I was. Because the higher I get, the more amazing the view is. And the more amazing the view, the greater the sense of love. Interesting, no?

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Mothers' Day

There are a million posts on Facebook today from a million people who had the best mom in the world, whose mom is their best friend and who sing other praises of their mothers. That's wonderful. I am so happy for them and for all the maternal and filial relationships of strength and love in the world.

My relationship with my mom was very complicated. You can probably guess that from some of my blog posts. I do love her very much, but for the last several years of her life, our roles really switched and I was the one mothering her. I took care of my mom in ways that most people don't experience until they are about twenty years older than me. And it became hard to differentiate the woman from the disease that ravaged her body. So I've been working slowly on rebuilding my relationship with her now that multiple sclerosis doesn't create such a huge barrier between us. Granted, the fact that she's on the other side of the veil does create a barrier, but it seems so much more surmountable than the disease did.

I wish I'd had the opportunity to get to know my mom as a peer. I feel like my big growing-up years of high school and college were the years that she slid down a huge hill in her health and never recovered. But I do have many sweet memories that should be cherished, especially on Mothers' Day.

Although my mom and I are similar enough that we butted heads often in my childhood and youth, she was a source of comfort and strength to me. If I was scared or concerned or anxious, I wanted my mom. I wanted her to make things better, and I knew she could. I went through an extended period of time where I was terrified of dying (and it seemed to come on every night, when I didn't want to go to bed for fear I wouldn't wake up). My mom was always the person I wanted to hold me and give me comfort. When I was a teenager with assorted medical problems, she took me from doctor to doctor, and eventually sat through my five surgeries- I didn't have any comprehension at the time that it might be hard on a mother to wait outside an operating room while her child was under anesthesia, even for very low-risk operations like mine.

And later still, when I was a college graduate with a master's degree, starting my first job in a city that was new to me, and experiencing a major depressive episode, I remember kneeling by my mother's bed one night, my heart heavy and full of terrible emotions and unnamed dread. She couldn't walk, could barely talk coherently by that point, but I needed a mother so much to hold me and tell me that things would be okay, and she could do that.

So, happy Mothers' Day. May we all work to improve relationships with mothers, children, and everyone else, regardless of whether they are with us still or watching over us.