Tuesday, February 10, 2015

We're all pretty much the worst

We live in a culture of extraordinary. Let me show you what I mean using the following quotes from some well-known and not-so-well-known voices of our day:

“I’m intimidated by the fear of being average”
          Taylor Swift

“I'd rather be weird than ordinary. Ordinary is so boring.”

“Common people are often enough; that is why God made so many of them. Your job is to be--- EXTRAORDINARY.”

“I don’t work at being ordinary.”
    Paul McCartney

Looks like being ordinary = bad. Which is really a shame considering that by the world’s standard most of us will grow up to be ordinary people

When I initially began thinking about this idea, I didn’t want to go to the worn out Mormon (p.s. I’m a Mormon) conclusion I've heard my whole life that we’re all children of god and as such we are of a divine heritage and have a literal spirit father in the all-powerful, all-knowing, unconditionally-loving God. Although, I do believe that. However, since that applies to every person on earth, I wanted to set it aside in this case to explore the idea of extraordinary people. I wanted to find ways in which extraordinary means different and apart from others. We are all from the same spiritual origin, so that wasn’t what I was looking for. Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the extraordinary as, “going beyond usual, regular, or customary.” If everyone is extraordinary, then no one is by mere definition.

I also didn’t want to come to any certain conclusion to my answer. I don’t think there is a one-right-answer-which-trumps-all-other-answers to most questions in life. I fear that for too great a portion of my life I have regarded a moment of inspiration about a topic as the full extent of what I needed to know about it. Or even worse, that there isn’t any more to learn because “I totally get it now.” I consider this now and see so many opportunities gone by to dig deeper and unearth new knowledge. There is a lot to be learned in the gray areas of life.

Having said that, I did think of a category of behavior which sets apart an extraordinary person from an ordinary person. A couple weeks ago I spent an evening with my sister and her daughter who is almost two years old. She is a single mom. That is the best description I could give her situation. You get it. It’s not a walk in the park. The whole night I caught myself sticking my foot in my ignorant mouth time after time. Here I am a young, single, childless working professional with seemingly no perspective or tact saying stuff like, “it seems like she is always congested and hoarse-voiced, is that just how she sounds?” only to get a response about not being able to do much for it because of x,y, and/or z. Cool move, Shelly. That’s pretty cool. Might as well become best friends with this girl:

About an hour ago as I was driving home I turned off the podcast I was planning to finish from the ride up and left my thoughts to do their thing. Ordinary vs. Extraordinary popped up and started to swirl around and collect little pieces of memory from the evening. And you’ll never guess what happened next! Click here to find out!

Anyway, knowing that her struggles are real, it makes a great impression on me the attitude that she has through it all. In spite of the difficulty and worry that is ever-present in her life she is so loving to her daughter and I’ve maybe seen her lose patience with her once or twice, if that.  She doesn’t complain or blame others and is teaching me a lot about motherhood. She is an example of a truly extraordinary person. Someone who rises to the challenge in a tough situation and does so with grace, kindness, caring, and love. I just came across this article and this is what I’m talking about.  It seems you can’t be extraordinary without a hole to climb out of or a mountain to summit. You can’t feel the triumph of getting to the top without first making the climb. Looks like the pre-twerking Miley Cyrus knew what was up.

Maybe we are all just ordinary people with extraordinary moments. Maybe everyone is extraordinary in their own way and even on a regular basis, but we don’t stick around long enough to find out how or why. Maybe extraordinary is in the eye of the beholder. It could be none, all, or some of these considerations. Perhaps the extraordinary is sprinkled in with the ordinary and like Ferris Bueller said, “If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

p.s. it's my birthday. go me.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

I'm 50!

Knowing things before they happen. We wish we knew what was ahead so we could plan for it now. I live in the hub of young single people in Provo and I've heard many times the phrase, "if I just knew when I was going to get married, I would feel better and I could just have fun until then." I don't think this is a surprising notion to my fellow singles. Outside the sphere of singledom, the same struggle exists, but in a different skin. The unemployed looking for work or couples dealing with infertility, for example. We all yearn for certainty in the future so we can feel good about the present.

I was plopped on my roommates bed just an hour ago regaling the evening's events and not sure how we got onto this subject, but we started talking about meeting our past, present, and future selves. Oh, I remember how. I was thinking about how fascinating/embarrassing it would be to watch myself from within another human. We talked about what we would say to our 4, 12, 50, 60 year-old selves. Would we be friends with our current selves? Would we have the same thoughts because we are the same person, or would it depend on the mood we're in? If we came from totally different backgrounds, would we understand each other? Would we recognize each other? So crazy, right? Whatever room you are in, look at the door and imaging yourself walking in. How would you feel? What would you say? Would you welcome it or reject it?

I had emotional reactions to the ages 4 and 50, so I'm going to talk about those two a little bit.

What would I say to my 4 year-old self?
I would tell myself that I am of great worth. I would hug me and and kiss my cheek and tell me how loved I am. Right now as I close my eyes and imagine it, I feel so much love for this cute, chubby-cheeked, bubbly (that's how my mom describes me) little girl. How is it that I struggle to feel that now? Why does my age change the way I feel about myself? It is my strongest desire that she know her potential. I don't want her to hold back because of fear and I don't want her to be intimidated by hard things. She is so capable and I want her to believe it.

Me in kindergarten

What would I say (or rather, ask) my 50 year-old self?
This is where things come full circle. My initial instinct is to ask her to tell me everything happens from now til then. Do I get married and have kids? Am I happy? Do I have a career and if so what am I doing? What have I learned? What have I become? Is it gonna be hard? All these things.

As appealing as it sounds to know the end (not that age 50 is the end, but for the case of my argument we'll go with it) from the beginning, Imma have to pass on that one. Uncertainty. Discomfort. We need them. Terryl and Fiona Givens discuss the concept in their book, The Crucible of Doubt, like this:

"The grand project in which we are engaged is one that moves us away from stasis, ease, comfort, and equilibrium, and toward an end that is yet to be determined--precisely because our choices are yet to be made. . . it is the tension itself, the irresolution, the ambiguity and perplexity of our lives, the very feelings of alienation, estrangement, and dislocation, that are our rescue from the complacency and stasis of an eternal Eden. Like the sand in the oyster shell, the torment of uncertainty is at the same time the spur to our spiritual vitality and growth."

A-freakin-men. I love that. If someone had told me at age 20 that I'd be single at age (almost) 29, my little heart might have shriveled up and died.  I would have seen that as such a horrible circumstance for myself. I didn't get it. However, being 29 (nearly) and single is not terrible. It's actually great. Unexpected, but great. I like who I have become and the role of marriage in my life's play hasn't made an appearance in a single scene.

I'd say the overarching theme of my young adult years so far has been the quest to understand myself and the discoveries have been absolute gems. Sometimes it's real hard and lots of times I'm real confused, but I understand myself so much more now than I did nine years ago. I could never have known at age 20 what a delight it is to have gotten to this point. Y sin esposo.

Uh, on second thought, maybe I do want to meet me at age 50.
I'll be looking pretty fly.

Life, you guys. LIFE! Sometimes you want to kick it in the face because it's so frustrating, but other times you want to kiss it all over because it's just so awesome! To experience is a beautiful thing.

(A little help with the title of this post if you didn't catch the reference)

Did I mention that I met Molly Shannon?

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