Sunday, August 26, 2007

(untitled 182)

Things have been stressful for me lately, and I find myself snapping at people far more often than I would like. Even if I don't come out and say something rude to someone, I catch myself thinking snarky and rude thoughts about people a lot. It's disconcerting to me, and so I'm working very hard on preventing it. Treating an illness at its source is nearly always more effective than treating symptoms, however, so I've spent some time trying to figure out what exactly is bothering me so much lately. It seems a bit of a cop-out to blame my irritation on stress, so I've searched deeper. Today at church, however, a realization hit me: not everyone has the same values as I do.

This may seem self-evident to many of you reading in the tubes, but to me, it was a revelation.

I place a high value on friendship. More often than not, I am willing to go out of my way to do something for a friend, or even just to avoid inconveniencing them. In my mind, this is a common courtesy. I would expect my friends to do the same for me. Recently, however, I've been on the short end of this stick. I've watched as friends have, in my mind, left me out to dry, and I've been irritated about it. As it turns out, though, they simply don't place the same degree of value on friendship as I do. They value me as a friend, sure. That doesn't mean that they would go to the same lengths as I would to maintain the friendship.

Lest I equivocate, this isn't a bad thing. It's simply a different thing, and it's only now that I'm beginning to understand that those aren't synonyms.

Little things make a big difference to me, as tired and cliché as that sounds. Just today, Angry Block and his girlfriend were about to leave the apartment to head up to church. Clearly, I was headed to the same place, but they just up and left without asking if I wanted to come along. It's not a big deal, really. I'm quite sure I could have made it up to church on my own without becoming lost or injured. To me, however, it hurt that they wouldn't value my friendship enough to ask if I wanted to come along or to wait for me. It took some thinking and soul-searching to realize that they didn't mean that at all. If it were me, that's what I would have meant by that action, but, clearly, it wasn't me.

I have a hard time separating my thoughts and motivations from those of others around me. I tend to assume that everyone thinks the same way as I do, and it gets me into trouble sometimes. It's only when I take a moment to step back and try to understand how someone else is thinking and why they are acting the way that they are that I start to see the bigger picture.

Still, though, it's not easy.

Friday, August 24, 2007

(untitled 181)

An actual summary of what I did today:

7.00 - turned off alarm clock
7.05 - got out of bed
7.15 - breakfast
7.40 - left for work
8.00 - cleaned grounds of Gordon B. Hinckley Alumni and Visitor Center with leaf blower
9.00 - swept up piles of leaves, grass, and dirt
10.00 - retreated to basement-level shower in said building with two NYT crosswords and three sudoku puzzles
10.45 - moved to upstairs closet to complete sudoku and second crossword
11.45 - found doorstops for construction worker
12.00 - went home
12.15 - started watching "Jeopardy!"
12.30 - then "Family Feud"
1.15 - played Mario Kart: Double Dash
2.30 - read Wikipedia
3.00 - took a nap while watching ESPN's "Around the Horn"
3.30 - spoke with Genuine Draft while watching "Pardon the Interruption"
4.00 - then "SportsCenter"
4.30 - more Mario Kart: Double Dash
5.45 - shower
6.00 - watched "The Simpsons" while eating half a sleeve of Keebler Townhouse crackers
6.30 - blogging while watching Seinfeld

Now that I look at it, I don't suppose I would have had time for a teaching job.

Monday, August 20, 2007

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While driving back from taking Genuine and M-Lite the airport, I heard a report on NPR saying that Utah school districts are having problems hiring enough teachers to meet their needs for the coming year.

I offered a gesture of solidarity by proudly extending my middle finger at the radio.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

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Until fairly recently, I thought I knew what it meant to have faith. If you'd asked me what I thought it meant, I likely would have responded by quoting the following to you:

"Behold, I say unto you that whoso believeth in Christ, doubting nothing, whatsoever he shall ask the Father in the name of Christ it shall be granted him; and this promise is unto all, even unto the ends of the earth." (Moroni 9:21)

Sounds pretty good, doesn't it? As long as you believe in Christ, anything you ask Him will be given to you. That's the way I understood it, and it sounded to me like I had a ticket to anything I wanted, so long as I asked in faith.

This led to some confusion on my part when I asked for things in what I believed was faith recently. I've been searching for a job as a high school teacher lately, since I've just graduated from college. Getting a job is the next reasonable step. I did what I felt was my part. I searched through school districts. I filled out applications. I made phone calls. I networked with people in administration. I created attractive resumes. I felt like a pretty attractive candidate. Yet I never got any further than an interview. Six times I drove out to meet people for a job, and six times I was told to wait for a phone call in return. That phone call never came. I spent entire days staring forlornly at my phone, begging the display to light up with the glow of an incoming call. (Fun fact: it's difficult to hold a conversation when most of your brain power is spent training your ear for the cheerful ring of your phone.) Nothing ever came.

I couldn't understand it. I'd prayed for a job. I believed that the Lord could give me a job. Why wasn't it coming? Wasn't this a righteous desire on my part? Wasn't it a good thing I was trying to do? Why on earth would I not be rewarded? I found myself doing some pretty serious soul-searching, struggling desperately to figure out what I was doing wrong. After my sixth interview and sixth rejection, another faith-related scripture came to mind, illuminating my problem somewhat. This comes from the Old Testament book of Daniel, when Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego are to be cast into the fiery furnace at the hands of King Nebuchanezzar for not worshiping him.

"If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.
But if not [italics added], be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up." (Daniel 3:17-18)

But if not. In those three little words are found a treasure trove of faith. These three men has faith that the Lord could deliver them from the furnace. He could. He absolutely could. As an all-powerful being, he was in no way less than capable of doing so. The question lay in whether or not He saw fit to do so. But if not. Even if He chose not to, they would still be loyal and true to Him. Therein lay their faith. They did not believe in Him contingent on His providing them with a reward. That would be somewhat like a child agreeing to play a game so long as he or she was guaranteed to win. No, these men were God's men through and through.

I thought about this, and compared it to my own situation. I believed that God could give me a job, but I hadn't given any thought to what might happen if He, in His infinite wisdom, should choose not to. It's entirely possible that He, seeing as far as He does, knows that I don't need a job in education right now. Part of faith, then, is trust in a higher power. I may not know where my path leads or what lies ahead, but He does, and I simply need to trust in Him. Developing that trust, however, is something else altogether, but I think this episode in my life is helping me to cultivate that trust.

Now, if you were to ask me in five years if I thought I understood faith, I'm sure I'd have a lot more to tell you. For all my prattlings on about the subject, I'm sure I'll be wrapped back up in a blanket of false assumptions before too long.

Friday, August 10, 2007

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The concept of an afterlife terrifies me, and for a member of the LDS Church, that's pretty unusual, I think. LDS doctrine states that members who have striven to follow Christ in their lives will be rewarded with exaltation - essentially, assuming godlike powers and having the opportunity to create worlds of one's own. Sounds like a pretty good deal, right?

For some reason that I cannot for the life of me figure out, it terrifies me. I lie awake in bed at nights, breaking out in cold sweats and having panic attacks. The notion that I will endure forever - absolutely, unequivocally, irreversibly forever - scares the daylights out of me. The trouble is that the converse scares me just as much. I cannot fathom nonexistence. If possible, that scares me even more than living forever. There aren't any other possibilities - one can only exist or not exist - so I'm stuck between a rock and a hard place here. I've tried everything I can think of to solve the problem, but nothing's working. I've prayed, fasted, studied the scriptures, all without improvement. Then, a few nights ago, something amazing happened. I was worrying about what I would do for a job in the fall, when I had an image of myself flying back, back, back from the Earth. I could see the timeline of my life, and I was struck by how small and insignificant (eternally) events here on Earth were. It disappeared quite as quickly as it came, but it did wonders for my perspective.

Everything looks different out here.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

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Elder Carp got his glasses fixed this morning without any problems. It turned out to be a simple repair, and he got into the MTC on time. God lives and answers prayers.

Seeing him leave for his mission was very different than when I left for my own. I remember being anxious, nervous, and excited, but primarily nervous. Elder Carp seemed enthusiastic and ready to go. Nothing seemed to faze him. When the obligatory missionary video ended after about six minutes, he said (uncomfortably loudly), "Is that it?" My mom responded, only half jesting, "Don't embarrass us."

He gave everyone a big hug, even Genuine Draft, who isn't technically part of the family just yet. Especially touching was watching him hug my youngest brother (whom we'll call "Matt"), who he was especially close with growing up. They shared a room for maybe eight or nine years. Matt is terrible at remembering the birthdays of even his family members, but he never has any trouble remembering Elder Carp's. (It's May 31, in case you were wondering.) Elder Carp walked to Matt, looked at him, and said, "Happy 18th, 19th, 20th, and 21st birthdays," since Matt will hopefully leave for his own mission just before Elder Carp gets back. This sent poor Matt over the edge. The two of them held each other for probably a full two minutes, Matt bawling. It's been years since I've seen Matt cry. It was a tender moment.

Elder Carp quickly shattered the moment by attempting to run off through the missionary exit without his suit jacket. Only him. Once fully robed, he headed through the door, only to turn around, look at us with the glint of the promise of a young man in his eye, and form the Weezer sign with his hands.

Look out, Florida. Hurricane Carp is coming your way on August 28.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

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Elder Carp enters the MTC in about twelve hours, and I just got a call from my mom informing me that he shattered his glasses in a freak soccer mishap. For one heart-stopping second, I thought she was going to tell me that he shattered his leg or something, which would have been terrifying. As it is, it's nothing more than an annoyance.

Still, though. Only him.