Friday, October 22, 2010

What Love is Not

He loves me. He loves me not. She loves me. She loves me not.  The notion of love can be so confusing.  Nonetheless, many people throw the word around without regard for its true meaning. In an environment where the word love is used to describe feelings of lust, attachment, and infatuation, you may be wondering how anyone can possibly identify pure love. The easiest way is to first identify what love is not.
Love is unconditional; whereas, attachment comes with many conditions.  When you’re attached, you may require a person to remain accessible at all times, to meet your expectations, to provide you with physical pleasures, to tell you what you need to hear, “fix” their flaws, or to change their ways.  When they oblige, you may feel that they are “showing their love.” However, when that person is no longer meeting the conditions, you feel distraught or claim to be “falling out of love.”  This isn’t really falling out of love, because love exists despite circumstances.  Instead, this is the typical dissatisfaction that stems from unhealthy relationship attachment.
This is not an issue that is limited to romantic relationships, as it often shows up in relations with family, friends, and others that are close to us. Attachment creates a sense of anxiety about what is to come—a fear that something is going wrong or will go wrong. Whereas the purity of love allows peace of mind with what is. Here are a few examples in case you’re not sure how to identify attachment disguised as love:
The feeling that you can’t live without someone
Feelings of jealousy, anxiety, or worry regarding your partner
Inability to let go of a person without falling apart
Depending on a person to make you feel loved
The feeling that a person’s actions or words control your happiness
A need or desire to control
A need to keep your partner around so that you aren’t lonely
Inability to feel peace of mind when your partner doesn’t comply with your wishes
Desire to manipulate with phrases like, “If you loved me you would…”
Don’t be alarmed by the list above if you noticed that you have an attachment to someone.  This doesn’t necessarily mean that you do not love them because it is possible for attachment to exist with someone that you love. The key is to distinguish between the two, thus allowing love, if it exists, to flourish and create a healthy relationship.
Many people grow addicted to the feeling of what is referred to as “new love.”  Most of us are familiar with it.  The thought, smell, or touch of your new lover puts you on cloud 9.  You feel “butterflies” in your tummy, your heart skips a beat, your body temperature seems to rise, or you get goose bumps.  You think about him or her constantly and can’t seem to get close enough.  You want to be near this person every chance you get, to enjoy the natural high that comes from your interaction together.  And before you know it, you’re saying those 3 words: I love you.
But what does any of this have to do with love? Nothing.  The “new love” feeling is nothing more than infatuation.  And I’ll be the first to say that it feels great.  I’ll also say that I believe you can have some level of infatuation with a person that you truly love.  However, it is important to recognize the distinct differences between love and infatuation. There may be hot and heavy sexual attraction with someone that you love, but the relationship isn’t defined by it and pure love won’t subside without it.  There may be a feeling of butterflies in the stomach when seeing the face of your beloved. But the butterflies are a cherry on top of the pie, while real love is the pie itself.
When lust and infatuation are present in the absence of love, it can be disheartening to watch the relationship’s demise.  With time, the frisky new mates find themselves faced with real life.  And oftentimes those real life issues cause the butterflies and hot sex to die down, leaving behind two confused people who have no idea why their “love” fell apart.  Well, what really fell apart is the lust and infatuation.  And there’s very little to salvage if the relationship was built on a weak foundation that had nothing to do with love.
When relationship commitments are built around something other than pure love, it becomes tempting for many people to seek partners outside of the relationship.  After all, unconditional love isn’t a factor in such unions and the conditions that were set are not being met. This can lead to both emotional and physical cheating as partners  choose to experience that “new love” feeling outside of the relationship, thus  satisfying their cravings for lust and infatuation while maintaining an unhealthy attachment to the partner that they’re “falling out of love” with.
It’s nice to remind ourselves that love is more than just an emotion.  The word is also a verb, and the action should coincide with what’s in the heart. Love is not painful, selfish, anxious or demanding.  Instead, it is gentle, patient, boundless, and free. Love does not seek to deceive, belittle, or manipulate.  Instead, love uplifts, cherishes, and respects. Knowing this, it is helpful to ask ourselves before making decisions in matters of the heart, “What would love do?” The answers won’t always be what you want them to be and you won’t always follow love’s guide.  However, having the answer will help you to realize if it is truly love that motivates you at all.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

16 things I wish they had taught me in school

1. The 80/20 rule.
This is one of the best ways to make better use of your time. The 80/20 rule – also known as The Pareto Principle – basically says that 80 percent of the value you will receive will come from 20 percent of your activities. So a lot of what you do is probably not as useful or even necessary to do as you may think. You can just drop – or vastly decrease the time you spend on – a whole bunch of things. And if you do that you will have more time and energy to spend on those things that really brings your value, happiness, fulfilment and so on.
2. Parkinson’s Law.
You can do things quicker than you think. This law says that a task will expand in time and seeming complexity depending on the time you set aside for it. For instance, if you say to yourself that you’ll come up with a solution within a week then the problem will seem to grow more difficult and you’ll spend more and more time trying to come up with a solution. So focus your time on finding solutions. Then just give yourself an hour (instead of the whole day) or the day (instead of the whole week) to solve the problem. This will force your mind to focus on solutions and action. The result may not be exactly as perfect as if you had spent a week on the task, but as mentioned in the previous point, 80 percent of the value will come from 20 percent of the activities anyway. Or you may wind up with a better result because you haven’t overcomplicated or overpolished things. This will help you to get things done faster, to improve your ability to focus and give you more free time where you can totally focus on what’s in front of you instead of having some looming task creating stress in the back of your mind.
3. Batching.
Boring or routine tasks can create a lot of procrastination and low-level anxiety. One good way to get these things done quickly is to batch them. This means that you do them all in row. You will be able to do them quicker because there is less “start-up time” compared to if you spread them out. And when you are batching you become fully engaged in the tasks and more focused. A batch of things to do in an hour today may look like this: Clean your desk / answer today’s emails / do the dishes / make three calls / write a grocery shopping list for tomorrow.
4. First, give value. Then, get value. Not the other way around.
This is a bit of a counter-intuitive thing. There is often an idea that someone should give us something or do something for us before we give back. The problem is just that a lot of people think that way. And so far less than possible is given either way. If you want to increase the value you receive (money, love, kindness, opportunities etc.) you have to increase the value you give. Because over time you pretty much get what you give. It would perhaps be nice to get something for nothing. But that seldom happens.
5. Be proactive. Not reactive.
This one ties into the last point. If everyone is reactive then very little will get done. You could sit and wait and hope for someone else to do something. And that happens pretty often, but it can take a lot of time before it happens. A more useful and beneficial way is to be proactive, to simply be the one to take the first practical action and get the ball rolling. This not only saves you a lot of waiting, but is also more pleasurable since you feel like you have the power over your life. Instead of feeling like you are run by a bunch of random outside forces.
6. Mistakes and failures are good.
When you are young you just try things and fail until you learn. As you grow a bit older, you learn from – for example – school to not make mistakes. And you try less and less things. This may cause you to stop being proactive and to fall into a habit of being reactive, of waiting for someone else to do something. I mean, what if you actually tried something and failed? Perhaps people would laugh at you? Perhaps they would. But when you experience that you soon realize that it is seldom the end of the world. And a lot of the time people don’t care that much. They have their own challenges and lives to worry about. And success in life often comes from not giving up despite mistakes and failure. It comes from being persistent. When you first learn to ride your bike you may fall over and over. Bruise a knee and cry a bit. But you get up, brush yourself off and get on the saddle again. And eventually you learn how to ride a bike. If you can just reconnect to your 5 year old self and do things that way – instead of giving up after a try/failure or two as grown-ups often do – you would probably experience a lot more interesting things, learn valuable lessons and have quite a bit more success.
7. Don’t beat yourself up.
Why do people give up after just few mistakes or failures? Well, I think one big reason is because they beat themselves up way too much. But it’s a kinda pointless habit. It only creates additional and unnecessary pain inside you and wastes your precious time. It’s best to try to drop this habit as much as you can.
8. Assume rapport.
Meeting new people is fun. But it can also induce nervousness. We all want to make a good first impression and not get stuck in an awkward conversation. The best way to do this that I have found so far is to assume rapport. This means that you simply pretend that you are meeting one of your best friends. Then you start the interaction in that frame of mind instead of the nervous one. This works surprisingly well. 
9. Use your reticular activation system to your advantage.
I learned about the organs and the inner workings of the body in class but nobody told me about the reticular activation system. And that’s a shame, because this is one of the most powerful things you can learn about. What this focus system, this R.A.S, in your mind does is to allow you to see in your surroundings what you focus your thoughts on. It pretty much always helps you to find what you are looking for. So you really need to focus on what you want, not on what you don’t want. And keep that focus steady. Setting goals and reviewing them frequently is one way to keep your focus on what’s important and to help you take action that will move your closer to toward where you want to go. Another way is just to use external reminders such as pieces of paper where you can, for instance, write down a few things from this post like “Give value” or “Assume rapport”. And then you can put those pieces of paper on your fridge, bathroom mirror etc.
10. Your attitude changes your reality.
We have all heard that you should keep a positive attitude or perhaps that “you need to change your attitude!”. That is a nice piece of advice I suppose, but without any more reasons to do it is very easy to just brush such suggestions off and continue using your old attitude. But the thing that I’ve discovered the last few years is that if you change your attitude, you actually change your reality. When you for instance use a positive attitude instead of a negative one you start to see things and viewpoints that were invisible to you before. You may think to yourself “why haven’t I thought about things this way before?”. When you change your attitude you change what you focus on. And all things in your world can now be seen in a different light. This is of course very similar to the previous tip but I wanted to give this one some space. Because changing your attitude can create an insane change in your world. It might not look like it if you just think about it though. Pessimism might seem like realism. But that is mostly because your R.A.S is tuned into seeing all the negative things you want to see. And that makes you “right” a lot of the time. And perhaps that is what you want. On the other hand, there are more fun things than being right all the time. If you try changing your attitude for real – instead of analysing such a concept in your mind – you’ll be surprised.
11. Gratitude is a simple way to make yourself feel happy.
Sure, I was probably told that I should be grateful. Perhaps because it was the right thing to do or just something I should do. But if someone had said that feeling grateful about things for minute or two is a great way to turn a negative mood into a happy one I would probably have practised gratitude more. It is also a good tool for keeping your attitude up and focusing on the right things. And to make other people happy. Which tends to make you even happier, since emotions are contagious.
12. Don’t compare yourself to others.
The ego wants to compare. It wants to find reasons for you to feel good about yourself (“I’ve got a new bike!”). But by doing that it also becomes very hard to not compare yourself to others who have more than you (“Oh no, Bill has bought an even nicer bike!”). And so you don’t feel so good about yourself once again. If you compare yourself to others you let the world around control how you feel about yourself. It always becomes a rollercoaster of emotions. A more useful way is to compare yourself to yourself. To look at how far you have come, what you have accomplished and how you have grown. It may not sound like that much fun but in the long run it brings a lot more inner stillness, personal power and positive feelings.
13. 80-90% of what you fear will happen never really come into reality.
This is a big one. Most things you fear will happen never happen. They are just monsters in your own mind. And if they happen then they will most often not be as painful or bad as you expected. Worrying is most often just a waste of time. This is of course easy to say. But if you remind yourself of how little of what you feared throughout your life that has actually happened you can start to release more and more of that worry from your thoughts.
14. Don’t take things too seriously.
It’s very easy to get wrapped up in things. But most of the things you worry about never come into reality. And what may seem like a big problem right now you may not even remember in three years. Taking yourself, your thoughts and your emotions too seriously often just seems to lead to more unnecessary suffering. So relax a little more and lighten up a bit. It can do wonders for your mood and as an extension of that; your life.
15. Write everything down.
If your memory is anything like mine then it’s like a leaking bucket. Many of your good or great ideas may be lost forever if you don’t make a habit of writing things down. This is also a good way to keep your focus on what you want. 
16. There are opportunities in just about every experience.
In pretty much any experience there are always things that you can learn from it and things within the experience that can help you to grow. Negative experiences, mistakes and failure can sometimes be even better than a success because it teaches you something totally new, something that another success could never teach you. Whenever you have a “negative experience” ask yourself: where is the opportunity in this? What is good about this situation? One negative experience can – with time – help you create many very positive experiences.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

after midnight

So it's a Wednesday night and I have another precious block of time by myself in my dorm room. I just finished the last bit of homework for the rest of the week. I printed out this week's music for voice lessons, and I organized my laundry. My life is put together pretty well anymore. It's funny what college does to a person. Before I left, I was home all summer, and I was fairly responsible - I did my family chores and took care of my dogs, but I didn't take care of myself. My room was always a mess, I didn't pay attention to my sleep pattern (and consequently ruined all of my mornings), and my hygiene was just, inconsistent. I don't know, maybe it said something about how I viewed myself. Maybe I just had low self esteem. But I know that I never fully knew how to take care of myself, and being here at Utah State, I suddenly feel like I can do this. I'm taking 20 credits and keeping up with institute, my church calling, practice hours on my flute, laundry, friends, and the ever exciting love life. Not to say that I was perfect once I got out here, or that I'm perfect now, but I don't remember having to seriously struggle to stay on top of everything. Even if a problem has come up, I have so many people to come to and talk to, it's so nice to have all of this support. I feel like I'm on top of the world sometimes! This is truly heaven to me. Or maybe this is just how life is supposed to be. Sure, there are trials. Life is hard. And I am so blessed to be in my wonderful situation of a successful first semester in college. But I honestly never knew that it could be this good. I was so used to constant heartache and discontent growing up, that I didn't know any differently. I didn't know it was possible to have it any better. I remember fighting to make my life better, fighting for the greater good in the household and in the relationships I developed. The human dynamic in the east coast was so cutthroat and, almost hopeless. Like, it didn't seem important to people to get along all of the time. But that has always been so important to me! It's so important to communicate as much as you can with others, with friends and family and loved ones. It's so important to smile and laugh and hug and give and love on a daily basis. My whole life long I was wondering why these things weren't prevalent. Now that I have the communication I've always wanted, now that I have this affection and streaming positivity, I couldn't ask for more. I'm so excited for the future! I hope that I won't wake up from this fantastic ongoing dream any time soon. But even if I do, I'll always have this to look back on.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

room 416

Maybe it's wrong for me to post my address on the internet. But I need to talk about my living situation! I go around campus and talk to different people, and when I tell them I live in the towers, most people say "I am Sorry". There's a good deal of animosity towards the way the towers are set up. But I don't have a problem with it. I live in Valley View Tower on the fourth floor and I have it so good. 

Leslie is my roommate. Can I explain just how much I love Leslie?! She is so beautiful and smart and funny and caring and adorable. I love how I can tell her absolutely any thought or secret, and I love listening to her stories too. Walking into our dorm room, her colorful side always cheers me up. Our beloved Aggie Avenue sign hangs on her wall, from the first week that we spent together. We went to a concert! And they were giving out free stuff, and they called the first five people to come to the table from out of state! I ran over there, but she beat me to it :) Our first week together, we shared every detail of our lives. I trust her more than I've ever trusted another person before. We can talk seriously and laugh and cry together. We can talk about the Lord and about boys and about our insecurities and I always want to be there for her.

People are pretty much jealous of our dorm room. We have the room directly across from the elevators, we have awesome curtains that no one else can compete with, we have a garden surrounding our doorway. We also have more food in our room than either of us can handle! Especially since we all have meal plans and don't need all that is stored on the top shelf, it's fantastic. We keep our door open and one of my favorite part of the days are when our neighbors come and stay awhile. The girls on my floor are amazing and I am so lucky to be here and to have them in my life. There has been several microwave fires in the towers since the start of the semester, and whenever we're kicked out and are forced to wait for the fire marshall on the soccer field, you can see all the occupants of the floors altogether, and it's fascinating to see the different social interactions. Most girls are to themselves and don't really talk to each other; not us. Catherine and Skadi and Kira and Sherece and Becca and Mackenzie and Leslie and Tori and Taylor and Kayla and Reem and Michelle and Jessica and Bryanne and Laura and Marie and Tiffany and Ari and Hannah and Whitni and Katie - it feels like a family. I've never felt so healthy before, so happy and stable and close to Christ. 

On Saturday morning, Leslie and Michelle left for Farmington to visit with Michelle's family and to go to General Conference in Salt Lake together, since Leslie's never visited temple square before and such. It was sad when we said goodbye; I said "Give momma hugs!" And it really felt like I was parting ways with my family. I thought that the rest of the weekend was going to be lonely. Much to the contrary, I got back up to the fourth floor and a dozen people came over and watched conference with me on my itty bitty macbook. Kayla brought over her boom box and connected the speakers and we turned on all the fans and gathered on the beds and chairs. The spirit was so strong that day. I have such a testimony of friendships and the importance of time spent with loved ones. It's hard for me to tell others that I LOVE them. I talk about things and ideas and loving that sort of thing is natural, but loving people and telling them so is serious to me. And even though I'm still struggling with saying it out loud, I really love these girls, and I know that I have them as lifelong friends

Sunday, October 3, 2010

a dozen roses

I feel as though my heart is being wrenched from my chest. My head gets hot and my knees are weak. My mouth gets dry and I lose my train of thought. I feel like a failing ringbearer over my emotions.


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