Elizabeth Gilbert on Criticism

30 October 2015

This is an article I recently read on how Elizabeth Gilbert, arguably one of my favorite minds of this time, has to say about criticism.  I didn't cut and paste snippets.  I just posted the full text below.  Happy reading!



Dear Ones -

The other night at a book event in Kansas, a woman asked me how I deal with criticism about my work and about myself — particularly online criticism. It's a question that comes up a lot, so I thought I would take on the subject today, with the hopes that my words might help some of you — no matter who you are, or what you are doing with your life.

The simplest answer for me, when people ask me how i deal with criticism is to say, "I don't."

I don't look at it, and I don't look for it.

I avoid criticism about myself not because I DON'T care what people say about me, but because I DO care. I am sensitive and easily bruised. I know that critical words can hurt me, and I am not in the business of hurting myself on purpose.

There are major reviews that have been written about my work in serious, important newspapers that I have never even read. For instance: I know that I got a really bad review of COMMITTED in the New York Times several years ago by the legendary critic Janet Maslin, but I have absolutely no idea what she said about me, and I have no intention of ever finding out. (If you want to Google the review, go right ahead — but I sure won't!) People told me that the review was bad (some of my kind friends warned me, and some of my not-so-kind friends just sent me the link — thanks, pals!) In all cases, I said, "Thanks for the info — see ya later!" and I turned my head the other way, the same way I turn my head when I pass a car accident on the road, or when the TV news is showing footage of a grisly murder.

I will not put those words in my head. I will not put those images in my head. To do so is an act of violence against myself, and I do not commit acts of violence against myself anymore.

I think it was the novelist John Updike who said that reading your own reviews is like eating a sandwich that might have some broken glass in it. I have nothing to gain by eating shards of broken glass. It doesn't benefit me or anyone else to digest something that will cause internal bleeding.

If the review is nice and kind, on the other hand (and pre-screened by a loving family member) then I will read it. Because guess what? It's really nice to hear people say nice things about your work! And it's rare! So when it happens: Treat yourself! Enjoy the nice review! Which is to say: when that same Janet Maslin revewied THE SIGNATURE OF ALL THINGS in the New York Times and loved it, I treated myself to her review, because there's nothing wrong with treating yourself to a nice sandwich with no broken glass in it. Because we all need to eat sometimes.

There are people who might say, "But how can you keep yourself honest as an artist, if you only listen to the good stuff, and don't pay attention to your negative critics?"

I say in return: "It is MY own job to stay honest as an artist; it is not the job of the critic to keep me honest."

The critic doesn't work for me; the critic works for the newspaper. The critic has her own responsibility to keep herself honest, but she is not required to help me out, or to be a midwife to my career, or to have my best interests at heart. That is not the nature of our relationship. I do not resent that critics exist; this is a natural part of the creative landscape. But I do not listen to criticism from people who do not have my best interests at heart, because it does not serve me or make me a better person.

I DO listen to negative criticism about my work, however — but only from certain people, and only at a certain time.

The people who I listen to about my work are people who have earned the right to offer me criticism. There aren't many of them, but they are precious. They are a few of my closest and most trusted friends, family members, and colleagues. Here is the test, to see if people are allowed to criticize me:

1) Do I trust your opinion and your taste?

2) Do I trust that you will understand what I am trying to create, and therefore can help me to improve it?

3) Do I trust that you have my best interests at heart — that there is no dark ulterior motive, and no hidden agenda in your criticism?

4) Do I trust that you can offer your criticism with a fundamental spirit of gentleness, so that I can actually hear it without being mortally wounded?

Gentleness is very important.

Because let's talk about "brutally honest". You know that friend of yours who proudly advertises herself as "brutally honest"? Yeah, well I know her, too. We all have a friend like that in our lives. Listen to me, dear ones: NEVER let her see your work; never ask her opinion; never show her your vulnerability. When somebody tells you that she is brutally honest, what she is actually telling you is ,"I am brutal." What she is communicating to you is this: "You can trust that I am waiting for a chance to brutalize you. Now please give me an opportunity to hurt you."

I don't volunteer to be brutalized. Again, I don't hate myself that much. Brutal honesty is no virtue. Honesty without kindness is not worth the price you pay for it. I can listen to honesty, but only when it comes from a whole-hearted person, who is not trying to draw blood.

As for WHEN I listen to criticism? I only listen when there is still a chance to fix or change the work. After the book is published, THERE IS NOTHING MORE I CAN DO ABOUT IT — so why would I go digging for criticism after the book is already printed, and it's too late?

The age of the Internet has made it easier than ever for us to find out horrible things about ourselves. Anything we put online or into the world is subject to attack, derision, insult. But this doesn't make the Internet an evil place. (Look how kind we are to each other on this Facebook page, for instance!) The Internet is also a glorious playground, where you can put yourself out there in ways humans have never been able to enjoy before. So enjoy that playground, and put your work forward. But don't read the COMMENTS, you guys. Just don't.

And don't Google your name, unless you are looking for further self-injury.

(While we're on the subject of avoiding self-injury, let me just throw this out there: Don't Google your ex's name, either. STEP AWAY FROM THE BURNING VEHICLE.)

Sometimes, of course, you can't avoid seeing nasty things. Stuff pops up on Twitter and Facebook that is mean and harsh. Block it, mute it, move on. Don't feed the trolls. Don't engage. And never let the trolls stop you from using the miracle that is Internet. You have a right to speak, and a right to put your work forward, and a right to find your audience. Just keep putting yourself out there, and then — whenever possible — turn your head away from the reaction that may result.

Most of all, I beg you not to do this:

DO NOT put something out there into the world, and then go searching for an evil reaction to yourself or to your work.

DO NOT sit wide awake at 1am (usually with a pint of ice cream in your hand) and start digging until you find a horrible response.

DO NOT sit there all alone in a darkened room with the blue light of the computer shining on your face, scrolling and scrolling and scrolling through all the nice things people have to say about you (and ignoring every single kind and generous and supportive comment) until — VOILA! — you finally find what you were looking for. Don't go excavating until you finally find that one wickedly cruel comment that proves what you have always suspected in the darkest nightmare corner of your mind — that yes, you are a fraud, you have no talent, you are fat and ugly and worthless and pathetic.

DO NOT go digging, as I have seen my friends do so many times. Because if you dig long enough, you will find it. You will find the pain you were looking for.

Scrolling through the COMMENTS about yourself is like reading your roommate's diary: It's so tempting, because it's sitting right there! But if you read long enough, eventually you will find something about yourself that will break your heart. Don't do it. Put it down. Resist the temptation. Show the self-discipline that is necessary for self-care. Walk away.

I've watched creative friends of mine do such harm to themselves and their work, by digging through all the nutritional output about themselves until they finally find the one shard of glass in the sandwich, and then they take that shard of glass and cut themselves deeply with it. Sometimes those wounds last forever. And then they wonder why it's so hard to be creative again.

Meanwhile, the asshole who wrote that nasty comment about you hit "send" on his evil message, then turned his attention back to watching porn and drinking beer and scratching his butt, and he never thought of you again...but you have put his words into your mind forever. And when you sit down to create the NEXT time, those words will still be echoing in your skull. ("You are talentless, you are worthless, you are garbage.")

I refuse to do it. I refuse to hate myself that much. It's hard enough to be creative, but I refuse to fill my creative space (my skull) with cruel and taunting words that will just make it all the worse.

Refusing to read nasty things about myself is not denial; it is AFFIRMATION. This is how I affirm my own life and my own creativity. This is how I protect myself, because I am the only one who can protect myself. This is how I keep the inside of my mind clean and fresh and ready to play again.

I said it the other day, and I will say it again: God gave me a soul to take care of, that soul is my own. I am the only one who can keep that soul safe. I am the only one who can protect my creativity so that my imagination can run and play freely in the world.

I want you all to put yourselves out there in the world — especially all you women! We need your voices, we need your creativity, we need your courage, we need your output. But do understand this: If you put yourself out there in the world, everyone has a right to respond to you however they want to — that's the contract. They can attack you, they can insult you, they can undermine you.


Turn your head from the violence. Find people to trust, and listen ONLY to them. Once you put your work out there, your work is finished. Let it go and walk away. Keep doing your work, keep putting yourself forward, and then turn your head from the darkness.

Take care of yourself. Create freely. Share bravely. But never go digging for broken glass.


link to actual article

Upward and onward (we are very much alike, she and I),

image source

The Scuff on my Boots

28 October 2015

I like that scuff on my shoe.

 Was my thought when I looked down and saw it during a meeting with a client.  I haven't worn these boots in awhile, and I remember when I first discovered the scuff, I was mildly sad.  I had just bought these ankle boots.  But I told myself that the memory that created it was worth it and instead, I'll just use the scuff as a reminder for the memory.  And also, the only place in my house that gives evidence contrary to love of minimalism is my bucket of boots.

It was a year ago, exactly to the month.  I drove down to Moab with Ryan for his sister's homecoming.  It was the first time I met his family in full.  And one evening, Ryan pulled me out of the house bustling with people, and nudged me towards his dirt bike for a private little sunset ride.  And the dirt bike only had one set of foot pegs, so Ryan urged me to place my feet on them, and then he placed his feet on mine.  Then I scooted in close and wrapped my arms around him, and off we flew.

We drove west through the red rock, chasing the drowning sun.  Everything was red and orange and all aglow.  We were snuggled in so close, and I could feel the pressure of his feet on my toes.  Everything felt so secure.

And now as I help these two business owners, who are in the industry of selling health supplements but don't look the part, I feel soothed at the memory of orange and red glow and riding through the big Moab canyons with Ryan.

Upward and onward,

image source

My Thoughts on Marriage

23 October 2015

What do I think about marriage? 

To have the best marriage  - sacrifice sacrifice sacrifice.
And when you do things wrong - accountability accountability accountability.
Sometimes marriage puts my most inferior self right in front of me - not something I want to see or claim.

But what do I know about the baptismal covenant, and how does this help me understand the sealing covenant?

You have to fold your ego to be accountable.

But we were raised to have strong egos - that was our survival instinct as babies - "I, I, I."  And even as young children, you understand everything in reference to yourself.  You are the center of the universe.  Your universe.
It's the brain functions developing.  We are all ego.

But then, suddenly at age 8, a psychologically split happens with our egos, and we become more self-aware.  Also, this is the age by which God feels our accountability has ripened enough to think distinctly enough to fold our egos and claim our behaviors.  We enter the baptismal covenant and promise to be accountable.

And now in marriage, we take that one step further, promising to again fold our egos and claim our behaviors.  This time not just to God.  But also another human, our beloved spouse.

It's a stair step of covenants building upon covenants.  And it all magnifies our progression as we learn to:

sacrifice, sacrifice, sacrifice.

be accountable, be accountable, be accountable.

Upward and onward,

I Married The Smart Guy

What I love about Ryan is that his intelligence is quick.  He takes only seconds to think of the best way to handle situation and carries out the most smart response.  Smart in thought and in action.  That has always made me feel more secure in hitching my wagon to someone of the sort.  My honest fear - the yoke in marriage being undistributed, and after awhile, I'm pulling that whole handcart by my own. 

Once I remember going on Ryan's boat and one side of the waist tie of my sweat pants had become undone and was lost in the back of the waist band.  Ryan took the pants and immediately got the waist tie out, lit a match using the floor of his boat, and ensured that the recovered waist tie would not come undone again.  Then, handed my pants back to me as though as it was nothing.  I mean, it was kind of nothing - a very small act.  But to me, it was everything - a very big message.

Upward and onward,

Hands clasped tight

21 October 2015

Ryan and I drove up to Salt Lake after work to meet with our realtor. His office is above one of the former yogurt shops we used to frequent a lot in downtown Sugarhouse. As we walked across the street to his office, I pulled Ryan's hand towards the yogurt shop:

"Wait, look at this sign on the window really quick. Oh my gosh look at that chocolate-topped yogurt!!!"

Ryan tugs my hand.

"Wait, oh look, Ryan!  Inside the window - a sign with all the new flavors!"

Ryan peels me away and then says, "I had to.  Otherwise you would have said,
'Let's go inside to just smell really fast.'
'Let me just give a quick little lick to the yogurt nozzles.'
'Actually, some sample cups please?'
'Nah, a regular bowl.'
'Perhaps, is there a bucket in the back I could use?' "

Laughing hysterically, we keep walking down the sidewalk to our intended office building. 

The unstinting, uncomplicated simplicities of a young marriage.

Upward and onward,

image source

Book Review | The Husband's Secret

I LOVED this book.  Secret lives.  Lots of sub-stories.  It was captivating and full of amazing character development.  And because I love words and incredibly formed thoughts, here of plenty of book passages that left my heart nodding:


“You’ve been here before. It won’t kill you. It feels like you can’t breathe, but you actually are breathing. It feels like you’ll never stop crying, but you actually will.”

“Marriage was a form of insanity; love hovering permanently on the edge of aggravation.”

“Perhaps nothing was ever “meant to be.” There was just life, and right now, and doing your best. Being a bit “bendy.”

“It seemed to her everyone had too much self-protective pride to truly strip off down to their souls in front of their long-term partners. It was easier to pretend there was nothing more to know, to fall into an easygoing companionship. It was almost embarrassing to be truly intimate with your spouse; because how could you watch someone floss one minute, and the next minute share your deepest passion or tritest of fears? It was almost easier to talk about that sort of thing before you’d shared a bathroom and a bank account and argued over the packing of the dishwasher.”

“All these years there had been a Tupperware container of bad language in her head, and now she opened it and all those crisp, crunchy words were fresh and lovely, ready to be used.”

“You could try as hard as you could to imagine someone else’s tragedy—drowning in icy waters, living in a city split by a wall—but nothing truly hurts until it happens to you. Most of all, to your child.”

“It was like she was thinking, How far can I go with this? How much more can I fit in my life without losing control?”

“It wasn’t logical, but the better you knew someone, the more blurry they became. The accumulation of facts made them disappear. It was more interesting wondering if someone did or didn’t like country music than knowing one way or the other.”

“Why did she give up wine for Lent? Polly was more sensible. She had given up strawberry jam. Cecilia had never seen Polly show more than a passing interest in strawberry jam, although now, of course, she was always catching her standing at the open fridge, staring at it longingly. The power of denial.”

“This was how it could be done. This was how you lived with a terrible secret. You just did it. You pretended everything was fine. You ignored the deep, cramplike pain in your stomach. You somehow anesthetized yourself so that nothing felt that bad, but nothing felt that good either.”

“Polly had arrived in the world outraged to discover that her sisters had gotten there before her.”

“Nobody ever told you that being a mother is all about making what seemed like thousands of tiny decisions.” 

“She was a far better mother when she had an audience.” 

“Their uptight concerns about what other people thought seemed like such a waste. Why had they been so careful and contained with their love?”

“But women like Tess didn’t seem to have that need to share the ordinary facts of their lives, and that made Cecilia desperate to know them.”        

“This Thursday night felt like adolescence: exquisitely painful and sharply beautiful.”

“And once the waves passed, there would still be the love. It was an entirely different feeling from the uncomplicated, unstinting adoration she'd felt as a young bride, walking down the aisle to that serious, handsome man; but,she knew,that no matter how much she hated him for what he'd done, she would always still love him. It was still there, like a deep seam of gold in her heart. It would always be there.” 

Upward and onward,


The Beauty of Alaska!

17 October 2015

I arrived after three red-eye flights. 

Ryan had been away in Alaska for half a week.  And after several days, one of the men on the trip offered to use his sky miles to fly me up.  Of course Ryan and I eagerly accepted his offer, and within hours, Ryan had booked me a flight.

I finally arrived in the one-room Kodiak airport at 7:30 am, hardly oriented to my surroundings, let alone to my own fatigued mind.  I mazed my way through the room, stepping into the spaces between people, unsure of where the exit door even was as I couldn't see past the mob of people waiting to leave the island.  I only concluded that the way of exit would be opposite of the door of entry, so I pushed hopefully towards the opposite wall.

Suddenly I felt a hard tug on the handle of my backpack - the backpack that is my front-row company to every adventure I've had around the world.  I whiz around in total startle, and I see Ryan's smiling face.  His beard, his eyes - it has felt so long since I've seen him.  We embrace for a long time, and he feels so good.  He takes all my bags, and guides me out to the car that his possey has rented for the week.  A giant white 17- passenger van.  He opens the passenger door for me, as he unfailing always does, and helps me climb up inside.  "FISH!!" I shriek, "Oh my gosh this smells SO strongly of fish."  He laughs as he climbs in the drivers seat.  "It sure does."  And the fish smell only makes the moment more endearing.

We drive through the streets of Kodiak, chatting endlessly, and I'm trying to take everything in.  The forests, the rivers, the sunrise, the coastal houses, the boat docks, the fisherman's ports.  It's all so expected for a tiny fisher town in Alaska, and that makes it only more desirable.

I look over, and Ryan keeps looking back at me smiling.  "You are so beautiful," he says.  "I have missed you." I lean over and kiss his cheek, beaming back at him.  "I have missed you too!"

We arrive at the house they are renting, a perfect coastal house.  The fishy smells, the sandy humid air, the slats on the house, sitting right on the river with the fishing boats passing by.  Ryan takes me inside and begins showing me around.  The house is completely silent as everyone is out fishing, save one man and his wife who are upstairs - the one's who generously flew me here.  Ryan and I reacquaint ourselves after so many days apart with endless giggling, flirting, and touching.  After Ryan has made sure I'm fed and comfortable, he heads out fishing.  I spend the morning catching up on work, and then Ryan comes back with all the men to pick me and the other wife up for lunch.  Two wives, six men.

We eat at a dive diner, and I love being with Ryan and all these men as they share their passion.  I accompany them out to the lake for more fishing for the rest of the afternoon.  I watch Ryan fly fish, and I walk around the little trails, admiring the such beautiful scenery.

After hours of relaxing in this beautiful, secluded place, we begin the drive back to town for dinner.  Then Ryan and I are dropped off at a hotel on the side of town, where we will be able to share a bed and be more comfortable.

The next morning, Ryan leaves early to go fishing, while I sleep in and relax in the hotel room.  He comes back for me when the men are ready for breakfast, and then I walk back in the Alaskan sun to the hotel room.  I spend the day hunkered down in perfect solitude, completely tasks that are in my top queue - switching my email address in every online account, cleaning out my old email inbox to total emptiness, writing a heartfelt thank you card for all the wedding gifts from friends and family, and finishing up the documentation of my Philippines trip.  I spent the next couple days in this same pattern, focusing on my tasks, taking walks through the town when I desired fresh air.  And there, the air is the freshest.  Each evening, Ryan and I would go out with all the other men for a meal.  I loved listening them talk about their days and their passion of fishing.  I loved the other wife who was their who served as the mother and doer of the group.

Finally the morning arrived when we were dropped off at the airport with boxes and boxes of freshly caught fish.  Ryan and I flew home, filled with sweet rejuvenation.  It was the perfect tucked away half week for me.  Exactly what I needed.

I continually look forward to my life with Ryan, where each adventure with him is so restful to my soul, and each moment is so happy.

Upward and onward,

On the way out of the fishing spot, I was looking at Ryan's instagram, because he had just posted a picture.  And I found myself dead center:  It was so representative.  He lives with such passion and hobbies, but I am always the center of his life.  I LOVED this, so I screenshat it.  Makes me feel so surrounded and protected by this super talented and incredible man.

The hotel that I burrowed into, burrowed into the side of a mountain.
Finally home with BOXES of fish!!

I call back my serenity, my restfulness, my joy


Meditation was a slow awakening for me.  One that I had to fast about in order to get a foot in the door.  My mind was like a child who had gone undisciplined for so long, that willing him to spend some time in perfect serenity yielded a more exhausting outcome.  But I sought after the intense peace of so many enlightened thinkers that I've read about.  I completely believe in painfree, heightened living.  But it takes dedication and time.

As I kept up with my practice of meditation, it became easier and easier for me.  I began meditating daily while sitting in front of a sun lamp.  The effects became so distinct that I began meditating twice a day.  Sometimes up to an hour a day.

And one Monday night, I engaged in an extremely strong meditation before bed.  Then I drifted off to sleep, after targeting areas of my body that felt pain - or were perhaps, to my best guess, the areas of me that were holding pain - endless frets, haunting memories, the deeper cuts - and I chose a color so I could clearly see them in my body.  Then I was guided to remove all of the parts of my body in that color.  Then I was to think about words such as: appreciation, security, tranquility, acceptance, and I was to give one word a color.  Then fill all of those gaps of removal of myself with that new color.  Then the meditation ended, and I drifted off to sleep.

I will never forget that Tuesday morning.

I awoke in a rush, because of my early morning meeting, and I darted out the door.  But I noticed this intense and extremely radiating light and energy charged inside of me.  I felt no pain.  Only acceptance, resilience, inspiration.  I wanted to go and do.  My energy and power and desire felt limitless!  I remember thinking in my meeting that I needed to plan, really plan my life, because with this level of awakening and peace, I could kick up the capacities of my life and live even more richly.  I thought about how often so much of my life is the pursuit to soften or cope with the stresses and pains of life.  I run after my hobbies as an escape or intense recharge.  But what amount of time would I have if I wasn't constantly recalling pieces of myself?  If I wasn't spending so much time trying to be re-whole, re-healed- re-safe, re-calm.  If I just woke up with no ounce of pain or worry anywhere in my body and was fully recharged in every moment.  The entire day I lived within a force of such elevation and serenity that the joy within me was so exquisite.

Wednesday arrived and I was back to the life I'm used to.  Happiness, but sights of pain.  Peace, but sights of worry.  Hard work, but recoiling into exhaustion.

But now I know that level exists.  I've experienced it.  Life can be the most expansive and joyous thing, if our minds can be trained for such.

I continue on with my meditations.

As Chelsea taught me to begin each day:  I call back all parts of myself.  The whole, the healed, the inspired, the uplifted.

And at night:  I leave the pieces within me that I have picked up throughout the day.  The things that are not mine or do not serve me.  I call back my serenity, my restfulness, my joy.

Upward and onward,

We see as we are

 We don't see things as they are.
We see them as we are.

The yellow crumpled post-it note, with those word written clearly across the top, floats around my car.  Sometimes in a place I can readily see it; sometimes tucked away if I've cleaned out the console cup holders for guests.  But the yellow never goes far against the dark grey interior, like a starkly lit reminder of the real reality.

And then this truth hit me again.  In a new way, causing more understanding and a jolt.  I was showering in a condo in Vegas, an airbnb trip that Ryan and I were really enjoying.

Everything is only a perception of our own identity.

The people around me, the experiences I encounter.  The way certain situations or ways people ground me, or the way they really repel and exhaust me.  I enjoy some people so greatly because they reflected magnificent pieces of myself.  And I find others to stir me up because of they they reflect my traumas back to me.  And once I identify the piece of me that is reflected, it becomes a moment of very clear awakening and gratitude, or a moment of learning what thorns within me need some unraveling.

So instead of living as though life and people are just happening TO me; I am living as though life is happening within me.

Upward and onward,

Silly happy goons

07 October 2015

Let's start here:  I don't really have full permission to share this story.

But, this story isn't very long so if sins are counted in duration, then I'll take a risk on quickly sharing this one.

Next, it must be noted that all participants in the story stay fully clothed the whole time.  Well, except for a small change in costuming.

And with that, we shall begin.

I have been one happy gal since this marriage began.  The joy I have over Ryan is borderline obsessive.  Most witnessed in the way I follow him around everywhere.  Doesn't matter if he's headed for the closet to get his shoes, I'm dead on his heels.  Granted, I used to do that to my roommates who I really liked as well (Leslie, Krystal...ha!) ... I love being around the people that I love!  I probably have a bigger obsessive harassment issue than I thought.  

With that, another part of me that has flared is my laughter.  I laugh all the time these days.  And I would have it be known for my own proof of sanity that Ryan is a very funny gentleman; he has astonishing wit, so he makes me laugh all the time.  But Ryan would also have it be known that I have a giggling problem all my own that is borderline disturbing.  Which started in the beginning of our courtship, so he can't say he didn't know.  But sometimes, I just giggle for no reason for nearly 20 minutes, and Ryan just has to sit and wait, usually patting my knee and saying, "It's okay.  Just let it out."  I'm the silliest person he's ever known, he tells me.

So marriage has intensified these problems for me.  I'm jolly and giddy like a fool.  (And I can say that Ryan is plagued similarly as well... ;) )  This insanity slightly sets the stage.

Okay, so this story starts with no giggles.

Ryan and I were sitting on the couch together after eating our dinner.  After awhile, I go to clean-up the kitchen, and he disappears into the bedroom.  Noting he is gone, I give up on the dishes and go to find him.  Even our one bedroom apartment doesn't keep us in tight enough proximity for my liking. 

I find him lying on his back on the bed, just relaxing in his underclothes.

Oh fun!   So I slip into some more comfortable bottoms, and I crawl across the bed towards him.  He's watching me and smiling cooly, and I'm smiling back at him.  We're both keen on the setting mood.  As soon as I'm up next to him, I pause for momentThen I lean slowly down to kiss him.  Just as I do, he looks slightly away from me and says, "Is that what I think it is?"

I look down just as he pulls a withery, soggy full strip of lettuce from my left boob - a remnant from our dinner a couple hours earlier.

I fall onto my back next to him, and we howl for eons, repeatedly glancing at each other and breaking into hysterics all over again.

You know it's a worthy laugh when your legs are kicking up in the air, and you sound like animals.

That's about how our marriage goes.

Upward and onward,

image source

Grounding priorities with discipline

This morning I woke up and really missed all of you friends that I interact with here through my blog.  I thought of all of you that read and then contact me in some way and share your own feelings and thoughts.  And I thought about the irony that I feel like you are some of my closest circle of connection, despite that I'm posting in a public forum, compared to the connections that I have when I'm in more private settings with other people.  Needless to say, I value all of you, and I picture you in my mind's eye at my Board of Director's table (written about here).


Last week, Ryan and I decided to slot a specific time for scripture study.  It seems that without a proper holding place for it, scripture study becomes like the last person running for the closing elevator doors of the day.  Just as the day's doors are about to close, he wedges between them and smooshes into the other crowded elements of the day.  All of the days' other thoughts and feelings and experiences are already top-offed and show only a mild interest for the newcomer.  There's no more room and no one cares.

"How about 7:30 am?"  Ryan says, after we silently think about our own schedules for a moment and determine when a time to study the scriptures together would best suit us.  I'm in the bathroom brushing my teeth, and he's in the kitchen putting away dinner supplies.

"Mmm.." I respond, "That's my workout time.  That means I'd have to bump that up even earlier."

"Then we'll get up earlier and both work-out before we sit down to study."

"Okay, that sounds... like something I never want to do."  But I pause the conversation, and we silently complete our tasks while I think about it.  I have to mentally commit beforehand.  I can't just say the words, "yeah I'll do it" because on a well-rested Sunday evening I feel like I can do anything.  But then once the time arrives, weakness and fatigue are so powerful that it overpowers dedication and I'd pull out.  Commitment to me means you recognize there will be massive resistance at times, and you dedicate to being undaunting in your actions regardless.  Puuushing through the pain, even if you have no strength to muster in the moment.  And getting up at 6:45 every day, for weeks, months, years is going to take a toll on me.  I DO NOT handle sleep deprivation with any degree of grace.  I hate being tired, more than I find discomfort with any other weathering of my physical senses.  And the first couple days are okay with residual rest, but dang it, by the third day of a heightened effort, I feel like I belong in a morgue.  

"Okay, I'll do it."  I say.

Ryan looks over at me.  "Great, then we'll give it a shot.  Tomorrow morning."

And then I basically grab him and run for bed to salvage my impending approach of depression-by-exhaustion.

The next morning, the alarm clock goes off.  Ryan heads out for a run, and I go to the living room where I usually greatly enjoy Jillian Michael yelling at me as my first encounter for the day.  My morning work-outs with her were an easy habit to set up long ago.  Oxytocin and I pair really well together.  But on this day, I'm already SO exhausted that I just lay back down on the floor and moan about how horrible my life is.  And this is it now!  This is how the rest of my life is going to feel.  Just TIRED ALL THE TIME!!  Because I always think life is permanent when in it's hard.  But I get up and give my work-out a solid go.  Punching out my anger with heavier hand weights.

Ryan comes back from his run, and I say over the top of my heavy breathing.  "I HATE THIS!!!!!"  And suddenly the actions of the people on the evening news make sense to me.   

We sit down to read scriptures. We had decided to read separately for 15 minutes, and then pick a topic to study together for the next 15 minutes.  While I was up working out and expending all that energy, I was doing okay, but now that I'm just sitting in a camp chair, that we accidentally stole from Julie when I moved out, and that's the only sitting arrangements we have, the fatigue sets in heavy.  As I read the Doctrine and Covenants - my current committed study -  I'm growing more and more frustrated that my life is going to suck from now on. 

After our personal study ends, Ryan comes over to sit with me, and I'm like:

I whine again, "I REALLY hate this," and softly fake whimper.

Ryan is THE MOST patient and even-killed person I've ever known.  He is never irritable or moody.  ONE TIME, he was having trouble connecting to the internet on his laptop, and he said something with a slight tone of impatience.  I immediately threw my book across the room and jumped up, landing right in front of his face, and shrieked, "OH MY GOSH!!!  Are you a little bit annoyed right now!????  THIS IS AWESOME!!" And I gloated about it.

So Ryan seemingly ignores my mulling and grabs Preach My Gospel off the shelf to study.  By the time he begins reading, my forehead is on the desk and I'm moaning again.  "This is MY LIFE!  TIREDDDDDDD.  And I'm going to have a terrible day every day, and I'm going to binge eat on chocolate and salt, and I'm going to scratch things."

Ryan patiently keeps reading.  "RYAN!  What about CHILDREN??  Can you imagine doing this while we have little things all around us, hovering over our beds at night, and jabbering away while we try to sleep?  I will never have a full nights rest again.  Ever in my life."  And I'm willing myself to cry.

Ryan nods sympathetically and keeps reading.

I'm sobbing inside my brain.

Finally, our 30 minute study is up, and Ryan kisses me and says his goodbyes before he heads off to work.  Shortly after, I take off for my day as well, still convinced that everything is horrible and I will never have happiness in this life again.

My work day is halfway through, and I notice something.  My ability for patience with clients is endless.  I feel so blessed with my work, and I have to temper my upbeat attitude to not be freaky for people.  I take silent note of it, but I don't let it trump my conviction that I will suffer in exhaustion until I die.

The next day, (Tuesdays are modified because I have a 7:30 meeting up north so I have to leave really early), Ryan and I arrive home from work, and I'm still feeling the trauma of the morning before.  "We can't do this."  I tell him. "I will need heavy medication, caffeine, and a therapist if we continue.  And we'll probably never be intimate again.  Just so you know upfront how this will affect you."

He hugs me tight, and says, "Sure.  I know that sleep deprivation is so taxing on you.  We can decide on a new plan, and I am here to make this better for you."  Then we busy ourselves the way newlyweds do, and we fall asleep early.

So because a new plan wasn't yet decided, next morning at 6:45, I feel Ryan come over and wrap his arms around me and kiss my forehead.  His tender love sure makes it really hard to rage.  But, as I roll out of bed, I notice my steps aren't drudging.  My energy is awake.  Jilian Michaels is my best friend again.  And I'm laughing and smiling and poppies are sprouting in the grass outside.

We sit down for scripture study, and I LOVE what I'm reading.  The strength and testimonies of the early saints - all their sacrifices so clear and striking to me.  Then I join Ryan on the couch to our chosen book - Teaching by the Spirit by Gene R. Cook.  We take turns reading aloud, and I'm loving it.  How settings of conversation can change with the presence of the Spirit, and how our insides shift so deeply through a Spirit speaking to Spirit - I really dig those concepts.  This book is powerful to me.

Ryan and I head off to work, and I notice how I still feel an element of patience and stillness that is different from before.  I don't feel tired at all.  Rather awakened from the inside.  I feel a deep joy.  I feel like I just want to looooove people.  What can I do to make people just feel happy?  And usually, 40 hours of work makes me feel like that's all I do with my life, but after studying scriptures, I feel far more balanced with the other pillars of life.

So I tell Ryan that evening, after rock-climbing with Sharla and her husband, "Actually, this is good.  I can do this."  And we climb in bed at 9 pm.  That is our bedtime now to make this work, and also because we need some time together before sleep, ya know.

And so it has been, every day since.  Except Sundays.  (And Saturdays Ryan sleeps in, but my body is like 6:45 PARTY!!  But because I hold a personal Saturday Morning Miracle Hours tradition - like here - I'm okay with it).  But really, the Spirit I can feel in my life is abundant.  I am loving it.  I LOVE the time with Ryan in the morning, each reading our scriptures separately, but near each other.  I LOVE getting to the bedroom with Ryan so early.  There's no "oops we stayed up too late being hyper" - okay that's just me, and then overcompensating with work-out drinks in the mornings.  We are calm, loving, connected, rested, alert, happy, and feeling really connected spiritually.  

And, I bought an beautiful office chair on KSL to replace the camp chair.  That has made me happy too.

Here's to making scripture study one of the prominent stones of the day, and letting the sand of everything else fill in the cracks with more light and happiness.

Upward and onward,

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