Monday, December 28, 2015

A Letter to My Friends

Dear Friends,

I have made this image for you. Just in case you needed some validation today.

I have a friend who, when suffering through a transition in her life, decided not to call me  or see me, saying "you are SO optimistic; sometimes I want someone I can whine to who I feel will let me be in the muck."

I was thinking about this in the shower, where all the best and most brilliant thoughts are born.

And as I was imagining my friend walking through the muck, a few memories came to mind:

1. My Life Coach telling me years ago that sometimes, when someone is suffering or complaining, the only right thing to say is: "Yep.  That sucks."  (I never used that expression before, and had feelings about using it at all.  But it turns out, there are times that is the only thing a person wants to hear.)

2. Liam walking on a muddy island in a stream even though I told him not to.  He was confronted by an angry goose and as he fled, the mud sucked his shoe off.  I had to go retrieve it because he was too dirty and scared to face the goose who was now holding the shoe hostage. It's a story we still tell today with great laughter, though at the time there was nothing funny about it. Except me confronting the goose. Caleb says that was pretty funny.

3. As a young girl walking in 2 feet of snow to our elementary school to go sledding, I came upon a gully so filled with snow it looked like flat ground.  I stepped into it up to my waist, and while climbing out lost my snow boot. John saved the day by crawling on his belly, digging into the wet, sucky snow and getting my boot out for me.

Analogies and all that, I'm thinking that for me, emotionally speaking, the boots are a protection or coping mechanism. They work for almost every unfortunate situation.  Rain, snow, dirt, we are covered.  But sometimes life combines in such a way - our choices converge in such a way - that we get thick, sticky mud. And life just sucks the boots right off of our feet.

I get that.  I've had the boots sucked off my feet, too.  It's dirty and messy and cold and wet and uncomfortable to the point of misery.

As a journal keeper, a life chronicler, a hind-sight recorder, I have learned about myself that wallowing only does good in small, short doses.  Somehow I guess that translated into me thinking that was the same cure for everyone. Maybe it's not even a "cure" for me, just simply how I do it, for better or worse.

So I've discovered through this self-exploration, that if and when you are looking for someone to help you heal with laughter, help you fight off the angry goose with comedic and compassionate flair, someone who will offer you a "ra-ra!"or walk you home barefoot, I'll be there.

But there is only one guy who can save our boots, if the boots are worth saving. You know the one I mean. He will even offer a piggy back ride to safety if we are too tired to go on, booted or barefoot.

I'm not saying or implying that any of you don't know about Jesus, only that perhaps I didn't know it about me.

Cheering and Comforting, that's my thing.

Sharing simple joys.

It's what I do still.  It's how I roll with it. So, yep, I'm optimistic. I can validate. I can acknowledge the muck. But I will, sooner rather than later, change the subject to lighter, brighter, warmer fare.

I hope this letter finds you well, because I always hope the best for you. May you always remember that I have a pair of rose-colored glasses you can borrow anytime you may need them.

All my love,

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

From a Savior Complex to the Simple Savior

Last week an old friend drove me to a party.

We waited in line for a buffet dinner and a couple friends were passing out chips and salsa to us as we slowly inched our way towards the food. They came to me, happy with party energy and said something along the lines of "We want people to take a plate and have some chips and salsa.  Chelsea, show them how it's done!" I didn't want any salsa and really didn't want chips. I said so and then the next thing I knew, I was holding a plate of a few chips and some salsa. I didn't eat it. I didn't want it.  But I had dished up because I wanted to help them.

This is a very small illustration of a common action.

My friend drove me home and I mentioned the curiosity of my behavior.

" you think you have a Savior Complex?" She asked

"No - it was just chips!" I laughed, "I don't think I'm going to, like, eternally SAVE someone.  I just want to help. I want to use my talents and abilities to help others feel better, live better, be better, be happier. It's pretty normal."

She nodded, taking me at my word. She dropped me off and I went to bed.

The next day I was grumpy. I just couldn't seem to shake it. The next day my feelings and behavior were even worse. I tried music, I tried service, I wrote in my journal and I sang, I tried "going outside myself" and it just made me upset until I was honestly furious.

I finally put on my husband's boots, took his keys and said, "I'm going to the Field."

It was dark, it was snowing, but it wasn't that cold. I wore a light coat and a scarf as I found a snowy, muddy field not too far from our house and with a pen light walked my way out as far as I could before the mud tried to swallow my shoes.

I took a deep breath and threw a sizable tantrum.  Screaming, cussing, crying, you know the drill. Tantrum.

I can't even tell you what I ranted and screamed about, because I left it in that field and I don't remember it now.

But there is something I do remember ...

There was a moment when I was complaining/shouting that I was exhausted.  I was so tired of trying to do everything and be everything for everyone. Furious that somehow it was my job to keep my energy up, keep my mood up, to power up my family.

"I have to be a source of light and love for my family!" I complained.

And then these words came to me, clear as day:

"But Chelsea, I AM the Source."

All these pieces clicked together in my head:

Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.  - John 8:12

"I want to be a messenger, a conduit; clean myself out so the good stuff can come through faster." - Kirk Duncan
"Don't dump your cup." - Ann Washburn
"I want to be a window to His love, so you can look through me and you'll see Him.
And some day shining through my face, you'll see His loving countenance,'cause I will have become like He is" - Julie De Azevedo 

"Therefore, hold up your light that it may shine unto the world. Behold I am the light which ye shall hold up—that which ye have seen me do." - 3 Nephi 18:24

"You will reflect to others the Light of Christ in your life." - Henry Eyring

"He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water." - John 7:38

I DID have a type of Savior complex: I thought I had to be the source of goodness, light, energy, and love. I thought I had to be like: 

But the truth is more like this:

Of course! No wonder I was so tired ...

Embarrassed,  humbled, relieved and answered, I started laughing.  Tears still on my face, I laughed and laughed.

I laughed for probably a full five minutes. I kept thinking the laughter was over, but no; it kept going.  It was that funny.

I'm serious, those of you know who know my laugh, can you imagine how insane that must have sounded if anyone could hear me? My stomach hurt for two days afterwards.

It was wonderful.

I am fascinated to see where this learning takes me as I allow Jesus to love me. You read that right: as I allow Jesus to love me. Because He has lots of love and to spare. If I let Him, He'll love the garbage right out of me.

And then that love will spill out onto others, who - suddenly wondering what that is - will turn to Him for more. That will be so awesome.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Don't That Take the Rag Off'n the Bush?

As it turns out, I'm not alone.

And I don't mean that I just now realized that I live with a husband and three children.  No no, this is different than that.

I mean I've discovered over the last 8 months that very little of what I feel and/or think is singularly unique to MY BRAIN. That's a big deal pour moi.

While we were on vaca, my husband was by the pool, trying to get a book to load on the Kindle. Neither he nor I could see the apps or words very clearly. The screen was super dark, even though we were in the shade.  He was sure the thing was broken.  He went to settings and increased the brightness.  He powered it off, waited for five minutes and powered it back on.  He tried everything he could think of short of calling tech support.

Then he started laughing.

"What?" I asked

"I had my sunglasses on!"  When he removed the polarized lenses, the screen was crystal clear and bright. I took off my glasses (which were tinted with Transitions) and he was right, the screen was fine.

This illustrates my recent learning experience perfectly.

I used to think that I was the only person who ached  to write and felt that if I didn't it betrayed something deep inside.  I used to think I was the only person who felt a captive by her obligations and responsibilities. I used to think I had a great responsibility to use my many talents to help and that I was - by extension of those talents and abilities- the only one who could help certain people.

I guess that last one is a bit of a Savior complex, but it's not really what I meant. I didn't think I was the way, the truth, or the life.  I just bought into the idea like "Maybe you were born for such a time as this," stuff.  "You never know the life you can change." or "To the world you may be one person but to one person you may be the world."

Well then I was pretty pissed when I wasn't "the world" to ANYONE. Someone else can sell a book as well as I can, or even write a book as well as I can. Someone else can smile as pretty a smile as mine or a voice as interesting. Someone else can also be good. But then where did that leave me?

"Everyone is special, Dash."

"Which is another way of saying no one is."

Basically, I thought I was broken. Because no matter my talents, choices, help, service, love, humor, hugs, work, or beauty I didn't seem to be good enough to be "the world" to anyone. I wasn't needed. Not especially. It made my ability to be a Jack of All Trades really look like just a Master of None. I wasn't special, so I wasn't enough.

To me, being SPECIAL meant singular, unique... the word special carried so much weight in my mind. I had to be special to matter.  My experiences had to be singular to Chelsea for them to "count" in my account of my life. (I mean, sure, Robert Redford said I was cute.  But he's very likely said it to hundreds of people and puppies over the course of his life. So it doesn't count because it wasn't a phrase said only to me. It's a dismiss-able moment in time.)

So to that end, I've become a sort of dare-devil or thrill-seeker.  Except I was seeking exceptional. Anywhere I thought I could get recognition for it. The privacy of my mind or my heart wasn't validation enough. I wanted my achievements, my talents, my sharing, my love, my writing, my singing, my service, my magnifying of callings,  my participation to be something so unique and so special that I would become necessary.

I wanted to matter. This even extended to my relationship with God and Jesus Christ.  If I wasn't in especial pain or unique circumstances or dire straights, or exceptionally righteous and valiant, I couldn't justify the idea that They would make time for me.

Ah...I was trying to be the squeaky wheel, but in a good way. Not by doing bad, but by striving so much to do good - and in so many areas! - I wanted my good works to shout "Here I am!! See me!!" It might actually be that this method just shouted "I'm overwhelmed and prideful; I don't need help because it's not bad enough yet..."

But good news!  The point is that I'm shifting my thinking.

Look!  I don't even have an exceptional mess!  All the messes are basically the same as someone else's somewhere!  That's why they can be messages!  Because every mess will ring true to someone and the message will come through!

Awareness makes me insightful. I have become aware of my previous need to be seen and my previous need to be a LONE example of (insert talent or way of being here). It was a filter through which I saw the world and I'm removing it. Like the sunglasses. I'm not broken, I just couldn't see clearly.

I matter.  I am enough. I am not alone.

Monday, November 2, 2015

No-Regrets November

The concept is simple, and born of the functionings of my adorable brain. And it has alliteration.  I LOVE alliteration.

Truly the need for No-Regrets November began when we got in the car to drive to Seaside, OR (an adventure that would be followed by our jaunt down the coast to the ever magical Disneyland) and I fought feelings of regret.

We had won the trip to Disneyland in January.  Soon thereafter I put an image and a phrase on my Vision Board that I would "Weigh 200 in Disneyland!"

Now it was September...and I had not come anywhere near my goal.  I can't even honestly say I tried, physically speaking.  Yes, I went to a therapist and he identified that I had a binge-eating disorder.  I went to get help. He told me to change my thoughts and that would change my emotions, which would change my actions which would change my results.  Like this:

So I kept a "Journal" of sorts and tracked my thoughts, emotions, actions, and the result was that I didn't binge.  In fact, since March I have binged only twice.  That's a vast improvement over multiple times a week.  (YAY!!)

After 30 days binge free, my weight hadn't budged. That was rough. But the therapist said that if I stopped the behavior, I was fine. Just exercise and eat well.  He sent me off on my way, though I had hoped he would help me with something more like this:

But, he didn't.  He said I was fine.  So I rode a bike with my kids and loved it. But I really didn't improve my eating.

I could go on with the sad story, but I'm adopting a new creed.  No More JEEBS.  Here is what I mean:
So long story short, there I was in the seat of my van- lovingly called Duchess - regretting most of my actions over the last nine months.  NINE MONTHS. I kicked myself all the way to Seaside as I shifted my uncomfortable weight about and slept heavily on uncomfortable beds.

It was on the first morning in Seaside that I decided I needed to forgive myself or I was going to be miserable, and then regret my actions when I returned home.

That wasn't going to work for me. So: new plan.  No regrets. Regretful action stopped that morning.  I looked myself in the mirror, my real self, and said "I like you.  I trust you.  I believe in you.  And I forgive you for not losing weight.  Now go be happy."

I did and I was and I don't regret anything on my trip (except not eating the fresh seafood or buying that one necklace. but I digress). I was a blast and I had a blast. 

We returned home happy. The weeks came and went quickly as we caught up in our lives. Before I knew it, Halloween was about. And I regretted - again - not loosing weight so I could really dress up the way I wanted to.

You know what? I'm tired of this cycle.  And it occurred to me that I can change it. I'm declaring that November I'm just going to do what's good for me.  I'm not even going to tell you what it is, because I don't need anyone's opinion or permission to live my life.  I know what's good for me.  And I'm going to do it. And since words are my pals, I'll even name it.  

I know I'm not going to act or be perfect.  But that's the beauty of No Regrets November.  What it really means is that I'm going to act in my best interest and forgive myself quickly if and when it doesn't go as planned. I'm going to practice and do and my goal is to reach the end of November and not regret any day in the whole month.  And if I do happen to know of a day that I regret an action or a food choice or something... well then I'll forgive myself and keep moving on.

Thursday, October 29, 2015


I've been writing on a book for about two years now.  It began after I finished reading all 14 Wheel of Time Novels (by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson).  I left that world behind and couldn't imagine reading anything else.  Nothing else could measure up.

So I thought, "What kind of book do I want to read?  What story interests me?"

Well then I was joking with my kids what would have happened if the Disney telling of fairytales went hilariously wrong.  Couple that with a lyric from Stephen Sondheim's "Into the Woods" and I found the book I wanted to read.

"What if he knew who you were when you know that you're not what he thinks that he wants?"

So I began writing during all the times that I used to spend reading. And by March 15 I had filled three notebooks and typed out a first draft.  I let people read that first draft and then... well then writing got hard.

It wasn't just "Oh, I can write whatever I feel like" anymore.  It was...scary.

But NOT writing is also scary...and lonely.  And I really want to have a book on the shelf with MY words in it and MY name on it.  I just do.  I want it.

So why is it so hard to write?

I'm sure it has something to do with my ingrained psyche or something yada yada yada... And I get real tired of trying to dredge up my past fears and fix my filters and find my light all in order to just write a flipping story!!

JUST WRITE!  That's what I tell myself.

And it doesn't help.

I keep hearing people say that writing isn't that hard.  Just write. It's easy.  Just write the story.

Well, guess what.  It's freaking hard!  It's work!  It's me trying to squeeze certain parts of my brain and heart onto a page in a way that makes sense, tells a story, inspires, entertains and enlighten others!

Because I've lost the wonder of "What story interests me?  What do I want to read?"  I'm really so worried about whether it will be "good" when it's done that I'm just leaking my feelings (aka crying) and hammering on the keyboard.

How lovely and dramatic I am.

Look, the point of this story is this: I just spent an hour writing.  Yay.  And I can see that it is EXACTLY like exercising:  the more I do it, the easier it will become. And I can't just do it willy-nilly.  I need to warm up and cool down.  And I need to keep doing it.  It's good for me.  It doesn't matter if anyone else benefits from my exercises.  I will benefit.  Can't that be enough?

Well, it better be.  Because it has to be. Because that's all there is in the end.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Be ye not zombies of the word only...

In honor of Halloween, I think I can share a thought with this little metaphor.

Preface, for those who don't know this aspect of me: I am an active and believing member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  I live in Utah, but "grew up" in Wyoming. I'm a sassy, questioning kind of person, as is evidenced by the couple of times I've been asked to leave a Sunday School or Seminary Class.  I believe I am like this because I have an innate and very pure belief that God, Jesus and the Holy Ghost exist and communicate with me.  So all I have to do is ask and the answer is there.

On to the metaphor!

I'm thinking that the Letter of the Law is like a body.  It is solid, it has definite, see-able boundaries.

The Spirit of the Law is like, well, the soul or spirit.  It is eternal, not see-able and not truly measurable.  It is the essence.

With just the Spirit, there is no form. It cannot truly affect change. It's like a Ghost.

With just the Letter, there is no understanding of WHY. Basically, it's Zombies of the Law. Unthinking consumption.

Judgement views others by the Letter of the Law.

Love, however, views others through the Spirit of the Law.

Um...we're humans.  That means that we are are meant to literally house both.

So how can we use this to our advantage without being Ghosts or Zombies?

As members of an organized religion, members of my church commit to follow commandments. We are held to that commitment by fellow humans who are called to be our leaders, though they have no greater training in being human than we do. We also choose to follow rules in order to maintain order within the structure of the church.  The finite rules and commandments are the Letter of the Law. 

Subscribing to the Letter of the Law alone may leave a person feeling...well, like a zombie. Empty. Unfulfilled. Always hungry.

That is why Christ, who was WAY better at being human than anyone else on the planet - ever - phrased the commandments the way he did in the Two Great Commandments: 

"Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all they heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. ... Thou shalt love thy neighbor as theyself."

This is the true Spirit of the Law.  Love. 

But sitting in a room all day just loving the dickens out of everything is fairly ineffective.  Not only for ourselves, but for others.  It is a Ghost, a haunting. 

Action alone is zombie. 

Intent alone is ghost.

Love, in my opinion, requires Intent and Action. 

I believe that a fulfilling membership in the LDS church and belief in the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ requires both.  It requires us to be Human.

How can we be both? Especially as we attempt to balance love with law? Well,  if we lead with the Letter of the law, we are leading with judgement. And yes, we all got the same commandments, but in the definition of the Word of God, it is included that "God's children may receive his word directly by revelation through the Spirit."

Basically, we don't know everyone's business.  And it's not our business to. 

My hope in sharing this thought today is that we decide and make an effort to marry the two, the Letter and the Spirit, the Action and the Intent, maintaining our membership in the church with a balanced marriage of both.  

But when it comes to interacting with our fellow members,  my hope is that we lead with the Spirit of the Law.  Lead with love.