What About…Mortality?

This morning as family members fussed over my 88-year-old mother who has just been placed on hospice, she made the comment, “Is this what it takes to get a little attention around here?”  We all laughed—my family deals with grief through humor—but the comment stayed with me and became connected to other conversations I’ve recently had. 

For instance, just a few days ago I called my mom to ask about perceived growing pains.  I noticed that my children were becoming stronger peers to each other, and their sibling bonds were growing in positive and healthy ways.  Even as I observed that growth, I also observed a feeling of exclusion within myself.  My mother validated that feeling as a normal course of life stages and assured me that my children would come back to me in new and different ways, but her validation did not lessen the feelings of exclusion.

Then, in talking with daughters and daughters-in-law, we were laughing about various articles in which older women counsel young moms to “enjoy it while it lasts,” and that the days of young children pass all too quickly.  I know many young mothers (myself, included, at that stage) that just want to punch the woman who says that to them!  My daughters and I decided that young mothers are so overwhelmed with the dailyness of raising young children that there is no time to bask in the pleasure of having those tiny, busy bodies around.  Even if they do, on occasion, love the busyness that does not lessen the busyness.

Another conversation with my mother included her reminisces of her own mother, Grandma Sperry, who lived with my mom until she (Grandma Sperry) passed.  My mom was very busy with 3 children still at home, heavy church responsibilities, and the recent marriage of a daughter (me).  My mother wondered if she had spent enough time with her mother as Grandma Sperry lay incapacitated and dying—yet where would the time have come from? Now my mother is somewhat overwhelmed with her own stage of very old age and dying, while also counseling me in my current life stage as well as remembering all the stages she has passed through.  I know my mother experiences great loneliness for her children and great longing for past stages of life—as evidenced in her aforementioned comment about getting attention. 

A friend of mine recently speculated that although mortality is a time of great learning, it is also just a time to have experiences, and we may not know any of the why’s until we get to the other side.  I wondered if our post-mortal life will begin with one very in-depth debrief of mortality!

Putting all these thoughts together, I am more readily accepting that life is challenging, we don’t always get what we want, dealing with advanced age is quite difficult, grief is part of love, and many things are only understood in hindsight.  Life stages happen to everyone and we rarely appreciate each stage until it is long past.  Mortality truly is an experience of growth and learning to be gleaned from for eons to come.  If I can accept that with equanimity, hopefully I’ll grow more compassion for my fellowmen, more patience in my own challenges, and more appreciation for Christ’s counsel to love our neighbors.  We’re all in mortality together.  Extra love for our neighbors would surely help overcome many challenges of our day.

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Studying Grief

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I’m back in school again, this time getting an additional master’s certification in grief and bereavement. I’m appreciating studying what happened to me over the past 8.5 years. I wish I’d know then what I’m learning now, but I don’t know that I would have been able to absorb it all back then. One of the weird things about grief is that sometimes you don’t realize you’re in the midst of it. Sometimes you don’t want to be any different that you were before grief struck. Sometimes you deny that you’re in denial!

This course of study includes examination of death and loss and the resulting grief from pretty much every angle–sudden, expected, suicide, drugs, old age–I’m amazed that there are studies on all the different kinds of grief that people might experience. There’s even an article on the difference between the grief of an immigrant as compared to that of a refugee. People are amazing creatures containing vast reservoirs of emotion. When those emotions come welling up to the surface connected to loss, we often don’t recognize what is going on. Grief. That’s what’s going on.

Loss is a part of daily life. Loss of teeth, loss of toys, loss of pets, of friends, of jobs, of dreams…children go off to college, parents move to retirement centers, grandparents die. Grief is individual and varied, but it’s a part of our lives as we grow and learn about mortality. Seasons change and bring new growth. We mourn what’s gone while welcoming what’s new. Rarely do we label our daily losses as grief. But when death comes unexpectedly, then grief strikes hard and fast, and is unavoidably evident and obviously labeled. That, and more, is my current course of study.

I wish there were another word for scar. I feel like I’m definitely carrying visible and invisible evidence of grief in my daily life, but I don’t want to label that evidence as scars. That feels too vulnerable…too disfiguring. I still look the same, but I’m, oh, so different. More. Deeper. Knowing that I’m capable of feeling so deeply almost makes me afraid to love again. Almost. Like I said, people are amazing creatures containing vast reservoirs of emotion. Feelings are what life is all about. Loving deeply is worth every stripe, scar, trace, or evidence of grief.

This I know: hindsight is 20/20. Aging has the advantage of hindsight. Studying grief is helping me connect dots in my past, understand the present, and prepare to better love others in the future.

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Confidence and Personal Revelation

The Do's and Don'ts of Receiving Personal Revelation | Third Hour

As President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Russell M. Nelson, a living prophet on the earth today, has encouraged each person to learn how to receive personal revelation from God. (https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/liahona/2021/01/grow-into-the-principle-of-revelation?lang=eng) I have run into personal situations over the last 6-8 weeks that have made this counsel very important to me. If I am capable of discerning the Lord’s communication to me, personally, then I can move through life with confidence. When friends or family disagree with me, or challenge my point of view or beliefs, I can still love and associate with them despite our differences because I have received my own witness from God that I’m on the right track. I believe that charity for all men includes allowing all men to make their own choices whether or not I agree with those choices.

When those I love make very different choice from my own, or choices that seem to create rifts and disagreements, I have a tendency to doubt myself for a moment—to examine what I know and how I know it to see if I need to make a change. Personal revelation allows me to either stay the course I know to be true, or make appropriate changes in my own behaviors. By staying worthy of personal revelation, I can stand firm in the face of opposition, knowing that I’ve prayed, studied, and received my own answers to my own life questions. I can then evaluate those answers along side the revealed truth of canonized scripture and modern day revelation given through God’s chosen servants. If my personal feelings agree with those additional sources, then I’m good! I have engaged the system of checks and balances, the law of witnesses, and I feel secure in my answers and choices. I may not be comfortable in daily life—I may endure ridicule or persecution from those who view life differently—but I can stand with confidence before God. I figure that the more I stand firm in what I know, despite opposition or ridicule, the stronger I’ll get. Strength from God is the best kind of strength, and is worth the required hard work and daily effort.

To daily stand with confidence before God, whatever effort that requires, will be my goal for the New Year of 2021, and for always.

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Interwoven Purpose

One of the life concepts I both discovered and struggled with since my husband’s passing is that of purpose. My purpose for living was intricately connected with my love for John and our life together. Without John, purpose pretty much disappeared. In my widowed years, I’ve been active in doing good and industrious things, but the motivation behind those activities was severely lacking, and I’ve shed many tears of loneliness while fighting apathy and lethargy. I’m now developing a foundation of purpose to stand on that is interwoven with those I love, and all with whom I associate. I’m seeing the fabric of my life in a new light.

I am emotionally affected by the losses inherent in mortality—death, disease, disappointment, strain, etc—whether those things happen to me, personally, or to someone I know. When news of hardship strikes, I feel my life waver. When that hardship involves someone I love, it is as if a thread of my life’s fabric was pulled out. When the hardship is the result of an unwise or hurtful decision, I even feel a little vulnerable, as though my life’s fabric was sliced despite my careful exertions. In a tightly woven fabric, one missing thread does not really affect the integrity of the cloth, but it is noticeable, and depending on where the thread was located, could affect the overall appearance of the cloth. A slice in the fabric involves intense repairs, many of which are forever visible.

I do not want to be the cause of a slice or snag in someone else’s life fabric. As I’ve mulled over this “life’s fabric” analogy, I have been delighted to acknowledge the breadth and depth of my fabric! I have a wonderfully large family, and many, many friends, neighbors, and associates. I don’t presume to think that I have the same place in their fabric as they have in mine, but on the chance, and hope, that I am a part of someone else’s fabric—someone else’s security and foundational strength—I have found purpose in living so as not to snag or slice anyone’s fabric.

Pope Francis has the following quote accredited to him:

“Rivers do not drink their own water; trees do not eat their own fruit; the sun does not shine on itself and flowers do not spread their fragrance for themselves. Living for others is a rule of nature. We are all born to heal each other. No matter how difficult it is…Life is good when you are happy; but much better when others are happy because of you.”

I believe that’s what Jesus Christ was trying to teach when He said, “He that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.” (Matthew 10:39)

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My One Life

Silhouette of hiking man jumping over the mountains

Twice this past week I have run across a statement by the Chinese philosopher, Confucius. He said, “We each have two lives; the second begins when we realize we only have one.” I am claiming my one life.

When I married John, I purposefully chose to set aside my single self in order to become one with him. I willingly gave up certain behaviors and sacrificed certain wants. I became a very-much-married woman. I have absolutely no regrets about that. I became one with my husband and grew in ways not otherwise possible.

John’s death was not my choice, and I was not nearly so willing to move forward through the resulting devastation. I existed. I breathed. I resisted. I lived life because I felt there was no other option. I also healed, studied, and internalized many incredible lessons and experiences. Now I am ready to tuck all those lessons and experiences on marriage, death, and being single into my older and wiser self and live consciously, alone and on my own.

This past week I also read an article that changed the phrase, “Endure to the end,” to “Enjoy to the end.” The new phrase struck a chord in me because I’ve been realizing that I, and I alone, am in charge of my life. The genetics in my family portend another 35 years for me, and I’d much prefer to enjoy than endure. I don’t know what the future holds, but I know God lives. I have put God to the test, and He has blessed me with knowledge and sureness of the truth of His ways, and the joy that comes through obedience to His commandments.

Several years ago I posted a quote on my fridge from a prominent women’s leader. The quote said, “Observe, then serve.” Service has become key to my survival and happiness. This fall I will be starting a graduate program to obtain my Masters degree in Psychology so that I can improve myself and better serve others.

I am a little intimidated at the sole responsibility for my life and well-being, but I have a great team of family, friends, and neighbors backing me up. I am moving ahead in my emotional health coaching and teaching. I am improving in health and fitness. I am claiming my one life. Daunting? Sometimes. Exciting? Mostly. Strenuous? Always. Possible? YES.

I now joyfully choose to live forward.  Thanks to all of you for your support in getting me to this moment.

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Celestial Equations

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How wondrous and great thy works, God of praise,

How just, King of Saints, and true are thy ways.

Years ago I wrote a post called Sharing is Loving. Today I am witnessing the same thing, but from a new place. I am seeing the reality of obeying the commandments in order to be happy. I have discovered the need for service in my life. I need to serve. Service is an outlet for love. When I am filled with gratitude for all that I have and am, I am inspired to reach out to someone else, to do some specific thing. Those things that I do to serve enhance me deeply and give me joy and happiness that allow me to continue on another day. The service I do fills my heart so full that I can overflow into more kindness and love. I can’t force anyone to see things my way, or give anyone the sum of my experiences and learning, but I can radiate love and kindness and lift others as they go through hard things. I love the Lord’s math. His side of the equation, His sum, is always way more than my paltry, though sincere, efforts in the math of service. I am dancing in an upward spiral of gratitude, and an outpouring of testimony that God really lives and is aware of me each day. I receive all of that through serving others.

I’m still so mortal, though. When I feel grouchy, I stomp around thinking, “WHO CAN I SERVE??!!” I think most people would fear that kind of service. I selfishly serve in an effort to lift my own spirits. And it works! Then I am humbled and filled with gratitude and joy once again. Celestial algebra wins the day.

 What do I know? I know that God lives, and His ways are perfectly just. I know that if I follow the Savior, I will always have peace and happiness, even in the midst of trial and tribulation. I know that God is the perfect teacher and mentor, even for a theater major struggling to understand math. I know God loves me because He is teaching me in language and methods I understand and can take to heart. I sing, “My God, how great Thou art.”

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The Winter Coat of My Mortality

In the scriptures, the doctrine of mortality is rarely, if ever, taught without a quickly following reference to immortality and our final accounting to our God and Eternal Father.

Job 19:26 And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God 

1 Cor. 15:53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 

Alma 34 :32 For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors. 

As I studied the topic of mortality, trying to find comfort on a day when this life seemed a little overwhelming, I was struck by the eternal perspective I encountered at every turn of the page. More and more I saw mortality as a step in eternal progression, with an eye always on the prize of eternal life so that we can all claim, with Paul, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim. 4:7) My scripture study brightened my outlook and gave me new perspective, as well as a new analogy.

When I was a young mother, I sewed a winter coat for my toddler son. I used very nice wool fabric, and was careful in my efforts to line the coat and attach the correct closures providing maximum warmth for my child. The hood had a drawstring to help keep out the cold wind. If I sewed something wrong, I quickly unpicked whatever was amiss in order to have the final product be strong, warm, and durable. My goal was clear, and I willingly worked toward a well-finished product. I was very proud of that little coat, satisfied that I had done my best, and John was suitably admiring of my efforts.

What if mortality is like that little winter coat. Do I daily live with the final accounting in mind? Do I use the best materials available? Do I apply myself with whatever skill I possess? Do I hasten to undo incorrect acts and make them right? Am I grateful for the talents, materials, and tools given me to make a nice winter coat?

When I meet God again, I’m aiming for it to be a loving reunion when I can present my winter coat of mortality and say, “I sewed a straight seam. I finished my edges. I did my best.”  With humility and gratitude I will offer my earthly efforts, knowing that it is only through the grace of God and the Atonement of His Son, Jesus Christ, that I had the opportunity to experience mortality at all. If I can keep an eternal perspective, and always see the end from the beginning, I can face each day with patience, a thankful heart, and the determination to conquer whatever comes next.

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Peace in the Struggle

 

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I wonder if it’s possible to stay in that place of peace that allows me to allow others their life struggles. If, instead of trying to conquer trials by making them go away, we could support and sustain each other in going through the trial and gaining all the life experience possible from said trial. How do we distinguish between that which can be conquered/overcome and that which must be endured…and are they often the same? To endure until a way is found to overcome?

I witnessed a young couple go through endless heartbreak as their baby developed childhood leukemia. They endured many different treatments in an attempt to beat the disease and keep their boy. From my perspective, they journeyed from cancer as the bad guy to be defeated to a place of such great love for their boy that they could let him go instead of making him suffer more in the hopes of a cure. I saw them grow in testimony and faith to the point of accepting God’s will. Is there no other way except through extreme heartache and pain? Could there be acceptance from the beginning? You can’t just let a baby die when there’s a chance for a cure. The babe was in remission periodically, allowing for family growth and fun times—building memories. How do we develop gratitude for the journey when the journey rips our hearts out?

I think of Heavenly Father watching His children try to help each other avoid pain, and all the weird personality challenges that result: codependency, martyr energy, helicopter parenting, etc. Then there’s the other extreme: avoidance, super independence, heart walls, over achieving, etc. And the middle ground of victim-hood, giving up, kicking against the pricks, “poor me,” etc. How do I put into words the belief that all of the previously listed struggles are a part of the magnificence of mortality? How do I rejoice in each person’s path without seeming unfeeling or masochistic?

Is there an eternal perspective of the eternal perspective? Can I step far enough back to see that each person has a carefully handcrafted life-plan as well as a loving and guiding Heavenly Father? I think I’m missing a piece that has to do with the necessity of a veil and how that relates to agency. With the Atonement of the Savior in place, virtually all hardship can be overcome/endured/conquered. I see bits of eternity in man’s struggle to comprehend life and progress therein.  Situations like discovering that helping a baby chick out of its shell is not really helping at all—the chick will die without that beginning struggle to build strength for life. How do we absorb all we see/hear/experience, and then categorize it as to receive the most insight possible? Maybe that’s part of the struggle as well, and we each need to go through our individualized struggles to gain necessary strength.

Another challenge of mortality is to allow each person his own struggles without judging. Just observe, then serve…by loving and supporting and accepting and helping in whatever way possible. Some of our attempts to help may actually be unknowingly harmful, but we don’t find out until we try—like learning not to move someone who has taken a horrific fall. That was only learned through trial and error, but the error probably cost someone their life, or at least their mobility. The knowledge gained was priceless; the process of gaining the knowledge was incredibly painful. Can we have enough gratitude for the sacrifices of others that help us avoid the same painful mistakes? Can we view our own paths as examples for others and turn evil/bad into good? My nephew is doing that right now as he engages in a speaking circuit telling about his journey through addiction, overdose, near death, jail, and worse, to get to a place of health and freedom, loving and marrying a woman who has experienced much of the same and supports him/speaks with him of her own journey.

The Lord can turn anything to His good. Anything. But I don’t think He wishes us to experience all the horrific bad in order to learn. That’s why we have scriptures, books, journals, modern- day prophets and revelation—to avoid the pitfalls that cause such intense pain at the possible expense of our salvation. Yet there is incomprehensible mercy in the saving grace of the Savior. We just have to follow God’s laws.

Mortality is pain. That’s all there is to it. Not only pain, though…these bodies have an intense capacity for feeling. Feeling joy as well as pain. Feeling a vast spectrum of emotion and physicality. Feeling with intensity unto death. Feeling with intensity unto amazement that I didn’t die! Even those who are continuously righteous experience pain as they watch loved ones go through trials, or experience hardships themselves. We ache for our children as they learn hard lessons. We mourn and grieve for the loss of those we love. We yearn to lift the burdens of another…but then we’re back to intruding on God’s plan with co-dependency, helicoptering, and micro-managing. I see further the magnificence of God’s plan for families—to understand His great love for us as we love another.

Mortality is learning and growth…or rather, an opportunity for learning and growth. With agency thrown in, that’s a big wild card we have to handle. We are to bridle the natural man and become living souls, with bodies and spirits united in the service of God, which is our own immortality and eternal life ensured. What a miraculous circle of grace being viciously combated by the adversary. I think I have been hesitant to give Satan credit for being as deviously intelligent as he is—which is probably one of his tools: deception. Yet, no matter how bad the minions of Satan become, the Light of Christ banishes all darkness! I need to find a way to acknowledge my enemy, to know and guard against him and his ways, without freaking out over his power. I have Christ on my side. I have countless angels in my defense. I can focus on God’s ways and God’s plan in order to have peace.

So now I’m back to peace. The Lord’s peace. Peace not of this world. Almost incomprehensible peace. The peace that comes of faith and righteous living. Acknowledgment that God’s promises are sure. Satan wants us to focus on the pain of the here and now. God assures all that He has to those who follow Him. Satan is in our faces. God is in our hearts, and we have to be still and clean to hear Him. Trust in the Lord with all [my] heart…

Peace. Just like every other character trait or talent or skill, I think peace comes with practice. Satan does not want us to see progress. He only wants us to see how far we are from perfect. God wants us to feel loved and supported, and He waits for us to come to Him for that support. Satan shoves stuff down our throats. The Lord allows us to choose. Agency, then, becomes the evidence of God’s love and trust in us, and ultimately, in His Son. What do I know?  I know that because I have agency, I can have peace.

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Piano Analogy

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Yesterday, as Heidi was leaving after my massage, I commented to her that I couldn’t believe it had taken me nearly five years to get to the point of being willing to handle my life—to be in charge completely. Heidi, in her blunt way, said, “Well, you resisted it so much! ‘That which we resist persists.’” She’s right. I did not want to be alone, I did not want to live without John, I couldn’t believe that he was really gone, I didn’t want to shoulder all his responsibilities, I didn’t want to do life without him…and I tried very hard not to. I sluffed things off to others, I ran away to do fun things, I spent money, I distracted myself. But life still happened. Maybe I just got tired enough to give in to fate. Maybe I just got frustrated enough with not being my real self that I’m finally willing to take on reality. Maybe my pretense at being okay and capable got to be too much. Maybe my desire to be me finally overcame my anger/pain/frustration at living without John. Maybe I’ve healed enough on some atomic, or sub-atomic level to take another step forward, and that step is recognizable to me as major progress.

But the grief still hurts so badly! I’m sure that’s why I resist. Why would I willingly jump into soooo much pain? The grief is overwhelming. It’s formidable. It’s daunting. It threatens to flatten me. So, I’ve come up with yet another analogy. The piano analogy.

When I took on a brand new young piano student, I did not start by putting Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody in front of them. We started with the basics. Middle C. Hand position. Super basic. We built from there. Years of diligent practice are required to reach a level of proficiency to even start on the Rhapsody. (Huh, interesting side note—about 5 years of exacting practice are required. It’s been almost five years.)

I tackled the Rhapsody in my years of piano. I even conquered a part or two, but was never willing to put in the effort to really achieve proficiency at the rest. When I would look over the whole score, I would give up because I knew what would be required and I wasn’t willing to put in that much work. That’s how I feel now. Facing life without John was like being required to perform the whole of Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody. Too daunting and overwhelming. I wasn’t willing to take on such a task. Even though I really love the piece, and would totally revel in being able to perform the whole thing, it has previously felt like too much. I was content to dabble at the parts that I could already play.

Five years later, I’m faced with pulling out the whole score and planning a strategy for conquering said piece of music. I’m taking stock of weak fingers, and fully realizing the extent of practicing my Hanon exercises that will be required to regain strength, mobility, agility, and technique. I’m reading over the score to see which parts are most challenging. I’m recognizing the enormous task in front of me, but also acknowledging the possibility of success. Tough? Very. Am I capable? I will be. I know the steps necessary. I know the time involved. Daunting? Totally. However, instant success is not required. Constant and steady practice is.

I’ve been mulling over the art of practicing life in the past few months. I’ve been more charitable to myself and my efforts at living a Christ-like life. I’ve given myself credit for practicing, and have developed a greater love for the Savior and His atonement. I’m thankful for daily repentance.

When a piano student comes for his/her lesson, we take stock of what progress has been made with the previous week of practicing. We acknowledge challenge spots and develop of plan of action for conquering those phrases. There is praise for achievement and effort. There is often a need for buoying up the student’s spirits, and reassuring him of his capability. There is encouragement. But, there is always the task ahead and a plan for further progress. I used to tell my students that perfection in performance was a realistic goal, and that’s what we were working for.

So, I’ve pulled out the score for Hungarian Rhapsody with my mind’s eye on the ultimately satisfying ability to perform the piece with skill and gusto. To truly enjoy playing the piano with proficiency and expression. To perform! I am a performer, after all. To perform well I need practice…rehearsal…repetition.

My analogy isn’t perfect. Living life successfully and with gusto without John was never on my list of desirable things to do. At least with the Rhapsody I had a desire to perform. In my daily life I still have to work on some positive attitude and eternal perspective aspects. I have to trust that the Lord sees the whole score and knows that I will love it—that it will be just what I always wanted to achieve. That’s a hard one for me…to trust that what I’m working for, what I’m practicing so hard at is truly worthwhile and enjoyable. I honestly feel that perhaps the Lord has asked too much of my capabilities. Maybe He just wants me to practice forever, and never perform. I have to live with that.

Practicing forever—for the rest of my earthly life, doesn’t sound particularly fun or satisfying. When will I get to perform? I have to trust that God’s ways are ultimately wise and loving. He knows best. All things will be revealed in the end, and perhaps even a little along the way. So, I’m back to my piano analogy. Practice, take stock of progress made, tackle the next challenging phrase. I need to rejoice in each measure conquered, each phrase that comes together, each movement mastered. I can’t think about how I’m not able to play the whole piece right now. My little students were thrilled to master each new note and song—to hear recognizable melodies coming from their fingertips. No looking beyond the mark—that just results in frustration and discouragement.

Occasionally, I can’t help but look at the number of pages still to be mastered, and then the tears start. I am very aware of the extent of my talent, and how far I need to go to truly become proficient at Liszt’s Rhapsody. But how I love that song!! I love it!! I love envisioning myself playing it. I love the idea of my fingers flying up and down the keyboard and pounding out the dynamic, expressive notes.

This is my life. Five years ago I had the luxury of saying, “Nah, that’s too hard. I’ll do something else and be satisfied with only a part of the Rhapsody.” I no longer have that choice. Conquering the rhapsody of my life is before me in all its challenging, daunting, formidable glory. This is my path. It’s taken almost five years of healing to be willing take on this task.

Back to my conversation with Heidi, I commented that I must have some incredible strength to resist so fully for 5 long years. Heidi said something along the lines of, “Just think what you could do applying that strength forward!”

Here’s to practice and progress.

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Case Study

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If my life were the case study for a group of human behavior Master’s degree students, what conclusions would be drawn? What behaviors would be noted as indicative of progress, and which would be labeled as obstructions to progress? What personal attributes would cause some students to become my defenders, my advocates? Which actions would bring other students to argue that I was on the path to trouble of a particular nature? What kind of trajectory could be predicted from the occurrences and inhabitants of my circle of existence? Which habits would be marked as positively affective, and which as deterrents to forward motion?

If this Master’s study project involved defending my life as best efforts given, what kinds of examples would be used in my defense? Which circumstances would be listed as explanations for various behaviors and missteps? What information could be used to give a positive overall outlook for my future?

I believe the Savior, Jesus Christ, is the Ultimate Advocate in my behalf. If I were to look at my life through His eyes, I think I could be more merciful to myself. Perhaps I would be more inclined to allow for practice time of various character traits, and not be so quick to condemn imperfections. Examining my life through the Savior’s eyes would also be a study in forgiveness. I believe I would more readily repent and strive for improvement if I maintained a conscious awareness of Infinite Mercy and Grace.

My children, (and John,) say I think too much. I know that I have a tendency to paralysis through analysis, but I also believe that some thoughtful introspection and self-examination could be a means for propelling myself forward and upward. I believe introspection, along with mercy and compassion, will help me see what was previously hidden and make course corrections accordingly. I also believe that Satan is real in his efforts to distract in multitudinous ways to keep me from sessions of meditation, prayer, and stillness where revelation can flow and enlighten. Perhaps a little soul-searching—my own case study—is exactly what I need to effectively evaluate, recalculate, and move forward with a positive outlook and attitude. I believe that same soul-searching will also remind me of my eternal nature and worth, and help me keep the necessary eternal perspective.

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