Friday, September 30, 2016

What??!! Two posts in one month? Preposterous!!

Well, what can I say?  Finding my voice back in the blogsphere.
copyright:  Karen Larsen photography
Today I just wanted to recount an experience I had lately (within the last two months) and recognize and celebrate my growth :-)

A few months ago, I was pulling out of the parking lot of my local Costco.  The weather was great, I had the window down in the car and was driving my husband's little Chevy Prism.  As I neared the stop sign, my husband's brakes aren't as tight as mine on the van, so it took me a little longer to stop and I coasted past the limit line, but stopped the car well before the intersection.  Another driver was turning left onto the street where I was stopping.  We passed each other rather tightly, as I under anticipated the time it would take my vehicle to stop and he cut the corner.

He took the occasion to stop his vehicle in the middle of traffic and started yelling at me for not stopping.  Now, remember, I did not hit his car, nor did he hit mine.  They didn't even touch each other.  He berated me and swore at me for several minutes.  I was so dumbfounded by his behavior, I couldn't do anything but laugh.  That was not the right answer by the way.  It made him angrier.  Then he was yelling at me for laughing.  Finally, he said, "I'll bet you're just one of those stupid women who is going to vote for Hillary!!  You stupid Hillary voter!!!......" and he drove off.  All I could say in response was, "I thought that's who YOU were voting for!"  And I drove away laughing.

Sun was in the car with me.  She was hot!  I have never seen her so upset for such a random occurrence.  She was more upset that I was laughing at it and I wasn't mad.

Now, you need to know, this is about the fourth time some random person has felt the need to publicly criticize me when I have not done anything wrong.  The first few times it happened, my feelings were really hurt.  I came home and questioned my behavior....did I do or say something that could have been interpreted offensively?  Was I mean in some way I didn't recognize?  Did I cut him off on the road?  It didn't take me days to get past it, but it did take hours.

This time, it was obvious to me that I hadn't done anything wrong.  He was being ridiculous and he couldn't have been feelings good.  Everything he did, even though it was directed at me wasn't because of me and I didn't have to take any responsibility for his attitude, emotion, or behavior.  It was so freeing!!  And it didn't even bother me in the moment, let alone for the rest of the day.  In that moment, I recognized that I had grown.  I was no longer taking responsibility from other people that belonged to them.
copyright:  Karen Larsen photography
It has been a huge jump in my emotional development!! Growing up in my home, I was taught and trained that I was responsible for other people's emotions.  Guess what?!!  I'm not!  And neither are you.  The things they feel, or don't feel.....they aren't your job to create or fix.  Feelings belong to each of us.  Those things that happen in our hearts because of the things we think or the meanings that we attach to them, they belong to us and not to anyone else.  No one else is responsible for them, only us....and we are not responsible for theirs.

Now, I know some of you are saying, yes, but your behavior affects me.  And that is true.  It does.  But how I feel about it, or the meaning I attach to it, that is me, not you.

This entire line of reasoning started for me in the 9th grade.  We were required to read Viktor Frankl's book, Man's search for meaning.  His book is about his experience in a Nazi concentration camp. The basic premise is though all of these horrible things happened to people in the camp, those who were able to survive kept some part of their mind free.  They had a place in their psyche apart from their experience.  The guards of the camp could do whatever they wanted to their bodies, but they couldn't control how the prisoners felt about it or reacted to it.  Those prisoner who could keep a sovereign place in their mind, apart from their experience, fared better than those who could not.  It was a fascinating read, even at 14.

Though I had the intellectual understanding that was possible, I really didn't develop the emotional capacity to put it into practice until the last couple of years.  It has been a slow process, but I am finally able to have experiences where I can listen to some random stranger berate me for something that I didn't do and not get angry or hurt by his behavior and can actually laugh at the ridiculousness of the situation.  It is still more difficult for me to navigate in relationships that are close to me....mostly I believe because I still want to help others be happy and feel some shared responsibility for making that happen.  I know this is one of my weaknesses, that my Father in Heaven is trying to make one of my strengths.  And it is working.  S....L.....O.....W......L.......Y....... like a sloth over time.

But it was so refreshing to see my growth!  So I just had to share it with you!
copyright:  Karen Larsen photography
Have a great weekend!!!  I cannot wait for General Conference!!!  Watch it here!!!

Friday, September 16, 2016

Ruminations and revelations......

I know, I know......where have I been?!!

Well, the truth be told, I have been managing some very deep and personal emotions over the last year or so and I have not been and am still not ready to process them in public.  Life of course, has carried on.  We have done many fun and important is still good.
copyright:  Karen Larsen photography
The processing however, has been super slow.  Its not a bad thing.  It just is what it is.  I can't make it go any faster, even though I would like it to be done and over with.  It is a process and I am in the middle of it.

I have come to a few revelations they are really not new, but my understanding of them and ability to apply them....that is new.  Here they are:

1.  I am not responsible for other's feelings.....not their reactions.....or the meanings they attach to my behavior.  If they really want to know what is going on in my head and my heart, then they should probably just ask me and not make assumptions and allow those assumptions to hurt their feelings.  Their hurt feelings are not my fault, even if their hurt feelings are attached to my behavior.

2.  When I respond with Christ-like love, compassion, and kindness to their misunderstanding and hurt feelings, things work better and I am more in control of my emotions.  When I let my anger, hurt and frustration rule my response to their ridiculousness, we all lose and it gets ugly.  Kindness is the key.  My husband gave me a necklace for Christmas.  It is a simple silver key.  I wear it and remind myself that kindness is the key particularly when I am feeling vulnerable to respond in the 'natural Carin' way instead of the Christ-like way.

3.  Christ focuses on others, even when He himself is hurting.  Today in seminary we studied Matthew 14 where the Savior learns of John the Baptist's beheading.  Did you know that was his emotional place when he performed the miracle of the five loaves and two fishes?  Did you know that there were five thousand MEN that he fed with those five loaves and two fishes---that there were women and children there too?  He probably fed over 10,000 people......when he himself, just wanted to be apart from everyone and mourn the loss of his beloved cousin and the forerunner of His ministry.  This particular story touched my heart more than I knew was possible.  So many times as a mother, I just want to run screaming from the room and say, "I am sorry you have all of these needs....I need a moment to attend to my own sorrow, or stress or whatever."  Christ would not respond that way.  He looked on the multitude with compassion and when the disciples said, "It is late, let us send them away...." Christ said, no....and then took care of them, regardless of His personal pain.  I want to be able to respond like that.

4.  The Savior is patient with us.  He waits for us to figure it out and then gives us further insight or something else to think about.  I have come to a place recently where I, in a small measure, recognized emotionally what I gave up when I left my parents and siblings to go to BYU.  It is a normal thing for college aged kids to go off to college after graduation right?  Well, things were not normal at my house when I left.  My mother had just left our family and left all six of us kids with my dad.  My dad wanted me to stay home and take over for my mother and help the family in this time of crisis.  I knew however, that their ship was sinking and no amount of effort I could put in was going to save it or keep it afloat.  I knew that if I didn't leave when I did, I would spiritually sink with the boat.  I left them, children and all, to save myself spiritually.  In order to do that, I had to distance myself so far emotionally just so I could survive in my new environment and not mourn the people and things I left behind.  I chose God, over my family.  Most of them have still not forgiven me for making that choice.  They likely never will.  I am finally looking back at what I left behind and mourning for those people and relationships.  Now, I am not reliving that, just recognizing the sacrifices that were made and mourning those losses, so I can allow my Savior to heal me, instead of having them buried underneath 30 years of life.  Functionally, I am cleaning out the closet and finding some nasty stuff in there.  As I came to that realization, the Spirit's gentle whisperings were "I need you to see what you have done in the past and recognize the strength you have within...."  I have the feeling I am going to need that knowledge in the near future.  I am not excited.......

copyright:  Karen Larsen photography
5.  The Savior asks us to do really hard things, but waits patiently until we are willing and able to do it.  I have been trying to drop 30 pounds for about 10 years......  I try and try and try but seem to have these emotional places that get in my way. (I think I have gained and lost the same 10 pounds 10 or 15 times.)  I have not been able to break through them to figure out the psychological reasons why I eat the way I do and cannot seem to maintain proper food intake to have the results I want.  Today during my scripture study, I had a major emotional breakthrough.  I think I understand why it has been so hard and I can see that without my new understanding of today, I have not yet been successful in years worth of effort.  I think I am ready and now I believe I am capable of actually dropping the weight and keeping it off.  Theory is always different than application and my new knowledge is theory.  There will still be some 'falling off the wagon' as I learn to apply the new knowledge.  I will struggle.  I will make mistakes.  I will have some failures.  But as I keep moving forward, I will also have more success than I have in the past.  I need to be patient with myself and not beat myself up because it is a process and it is hard and it is new.  I can do it, with His help.

6.  Each of us has to learn to rely on our Father in Heaven.  I recognized this morning that in all of my life, my Father in Heaven has put people in my life who have been able to provide me with the emotional support I need.  I have always had someone there who fed me emotionally.......until recently.  In the last few years, all of those people have moved away from me.  I have not really been able to talk with anyone regularly about the deep troubles in my heart.  I have had to learn to pour them out to my Father in prayer.  It is never usually one great big long prayer.....but lots of teeny prayers throughout the days.  It is hard sometimes when I do not feel supported or fed.  But He never leaves me hanging.  Like Peter when he was walking on the water, every time I get to the point where I just can't do it by myself and I am starting to sink, I call, and He reaches out to me.  He pulls me close and lets me cry and gives me enough encouragement to dust myself off and try again.  Which leads me to my last point......

7.  I can trust Him.  I do not trust anyone.  I allow people to participate in my life to an extent.  But I have never trusted most of them with all of my heart.  I have been hurt emotionally too many times by people who are suppose to protect me and love me.  It is an every day work and effort for me.  Every Day!  He wants me to share my best self with people.  I don't yet.  Because I know people are going to hurt me.....He is asking me to let others in.  I am afraid they will ruin the curtains and jump all over the furniture and graffiti on the walls of my soul.  I keep them at a distance, so they cannot do that to me.  He reminds me that even if they do those things to me, He will heal me.  He will always come.  He will never let me go.  Only I can let go of Him, but He will not let go of me......EVER!  He is God.  He cannot lie or He would not be God.  I can trust Him to take care of me, even when no one else will.  This has been the hardest doctrine of all to apply.  I forget it daily and need to be reminded.

I cannot believe I am writing.  I have not wanted to look that deeply into my soul but these things have been running around in there for quite a while.

I love teaching seminary!!  My class is GREAT this year!  We went from a class of six to a class of 16---pretty regularly!  We have 21 on the rolls and only one student has not shown up at least once.  I feel that is a huge success!  And we are at the point where the class talks together and communicates with one another.  We have seven sets of siblings, which provides its own unique challenges.  But we are working on it.

Now that I have ventured into my soul, maybe I will update you on real life in a few days.....maybe not.  I may still have more things to think about without putting it out on the blog.  But we will see.

Until then, just know that I know Jesus Christ heals.  He is real.  He knows you personally, all of you---heart, sorrow, sin, thoughts, beliefs......all of it.  You do not have to hide from Him.  He knows where you are anyway, so you might as well just face yourself in the mirror, acknowledge where you are, and decide to do what you need to to be who you want to be.
copyright:  Karen Larsen photography
It is so freeing to be true to yourself, especially when that truth is in line with His Truth!  Have a great weekend!