Have you ever made an assumption or judgment about someone, sure you know or understand the whole story? Sure you know exactly what they should have done or what you would have done in their place? Then, have you ever found yourself in a similar circumstance and realized you now understand why they did what they did? Maybe you even find yourself thinking the same way or making the same decision. It’s amazing how perspective can change once you’re faced with the same challenge and same decision.
There is a story, that’s not mine to tell, that happened 10-15 years ago. This woman made a decision that I thought was so stupid. So stupid! I couldn’t believe she had made this decision. It seemed unfathomable to me and just plain wrong. All these years later, and I have found myself in a similar situation—not exactly the same, but similar. And I suddenly understand this woman. I understand why she made the choice she did. I understand how she must have felt. I understand how hard it probably was for her, as I’m sure others told her she was stupid and wrong. And I’m ashamed of myself for being so judgmental. Because here I am, hoping for a similar outcome as the one she had because of the choice she made—the one I had thought was stupid and wrong.
I’m so grateful we have the opportunity to learn and grow—in so many different ways. I’m hoping that being able to see things from this different perspective helps me to become less judgmental. I do believe in consequences. But I also believe in love and forgiveness. Those things have brought me peace in difficult times, and I’ve learned through my life that peace is one of the most important things we can have.
Have you ever had a change in perspective? And how have you seen growth in your life?
I am not a goal person. In the past I’ve seen goals as a way to set myself up for failure. And failure is bad. But I’m trying to change my perspective.
In the last year I’ve discovered that I’m a perfectionist and tend to have a black and white view of myself. If I set a goal I had to achieve it perfectly. If I didn’t it meant I was a failure and that meant I was a horrible person. I could say I blame Yoda. His whole, “Do or do not, there is no try,” is really stupid. Trying is okay. Trying is worth it. Trying can be good enough. I’ve decided to look at goals through the lens of a Knight Radiant (from Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archives). One of the ideals of the Knights Radiant is, “Journey Before Destination.” Rather than expecting myself to perfectly achieve my goal I’m going to try, to do my best, and focus on what I’ve learned and how I’ve grown, even if I don’t achieve or meet it perfectly.
So, being the new year, I’ve decided to set some goals for myself. I’ve divided them into three categories—mental, physical and spiritual.
I wanted my mental goal to be something that would help with my mental health and happiness, so I’m making this year the year of birding. Birding brings me joy. My goal is to go birding at least once a week for the whole year. I’m hoping this motivates me to go new places to look for new birds rather than going to the same places I always go.
My physical goal is stop eating treats, snacks and soda late at night. My husband and I enjoy relaxing together after the kids have gone to bed. This usually means watching a show or movie and eating. I gained a lot of weight, and just felt bad physically. A few months ago I actually did good at not eating late at night, and I think it helped me lose some weight and feel better about myself. So I’m going to try to do this again, and see if it helps.
My spiritual goal is to have personal scripture study every day. I tried to have a more specific goal last year, and it didn’t work out. Having something general that can include any book of scripture or conference talk (from General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) and not having a specific time I have to study will help, I believe. Part of why this goal is important to me is not just to improve my relationship with God, but to be an example to my kids. We are good at having family scripture study, but that will only take them so far. I want them to have a desire to learn scriptures and religion for themselves. I want them to want a personal relationship with God. So I want to be that example to them.
While I’m trying to have a better perspective about goals and not beat myself up if I don’t do good at keeping them, I am setting them for a reason. I want to do these things that I think will help me mentally, physically and spiritually, so I asked my husband if he would help. He agreed to occasionally check up on me and my progress. I feel good moving forward. I feel good about the journey.
Have you set any goals? Is there a change in perspective that might help you along your journey? If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts!
A few months ago my therapist gave me a new perspective that really helped me deal with trauma that was triggered by yet another toxic person in my life. I’ve been in so many toxic or abusive relationships (family, friend, romantic) and had so many people treat me so horribly that it was hard, yet again, not to wonder if it was my fault or if I deserved it.
My therapist told me to imagine each of those people and their history, their upbringing and possible trauma they may have been through. She told me that it didn’t excuse them from the way they treated me—there is NO excuse for that, she said. But thinking of those other things could help explain why they treated me the way they did. It helped me see that it had nothing to do with me and nothing to do with me deserving to be treated that way. Shifting my perspective, being able to see it from a different angle, truly helped me move past the previous and current trauma I was going through. This is the power of perspective and the power of a great therapist.
My wonderful, amazing husband shared this with me not too long ago and I told him I would love to be able to share it on my blog, so he wrote it up. I hope you all find it as thought-provoking and inspiring as I did.
It’s interesting how images and photographs can sometimes convey so much more than is apparent at first glance. I have a series of three photographs hanging in my office. They were taken by a very talented friend of mine, Alli McPhail (@alli_eliz on Instagram), and are of Lake Michigan, a place with significant meaning to me. The photographs are stunning! The angle of shot, the moments captured, the framing and color; it all comes together so beautifully. Although I appreciate the quality of those photographs, it is the symbolism of their contents that immediately grasped my attention and drove my desire to display them.
All three photographs are of the water. Yep, just water.
The first image shows the gentle ebb and flow found on the surface of the water. Gradual lulls and slow drops with subtle ripples fill the frame. To me, this symbolizes day-to-day life with its slight ups and downs that gently rock and sway. The high moments offer a broader glimpse of the good in life, while the lows bring things closer and into focus. It is in these moments we live most of our lives. Not the super highs and triumphant joys we can (and hopefully) experience, nor the very difficult struggles we go through. Just the normalcy of an overall peaceful and content existence. We aren’t knocked around, there’s no fear or danger, just a movement in which we find peace and happiness in sync with the waves. In these times, it is easier to go about our lives. It is easier to appreciate the joys we have. It is easier to work through difficult emotions, slight conflicts, and disappointments. It is easier to be strong for others. In these moments, we feel at peace and recognize our worth.
The second image shows a different moment in the water. The gentle ebb and flow of a wave is being displaced by a crashing, tumultuous one that will completely rock the surface of the water. The two are at odds, pitted against each other in a beautifully captured moment. The peace of the gentle wave can still be seen, but the viewer knows it is fleeting and will soon be destroyed by the overwhelming crash of the raging one. To me, this is an image I know all too well. In me lives this moment far too often. Two sides of me fight over unbearable conflicts and disparaging situations. My gentle days are often disrupted in this brutal manner by situations and circumstances in my life which are both in and out of my control. I find myself at war; logic versus emotion, the past versus the present, desires versus needs, perception versus reality. This photo displays the warring parts of me in breathtaking beauty. In these times, it is much more difficult to see beyond the wave crashing upon us. It is much more difficult to focus on joy, on peace, on value and worth. Big crashing moments overtake us, causing fear, causing intensity, causing worry and doubt as they become all we feel and see. In these moments, I struggle to get through them, desperately seeking the gentle waves while finding it difficult to believe I deserve the peace it would bring. More often than not, my only course of action is to try and hold on, let it crash upon me, and wait it out while hoping it doesn’t leave irreparable wreckage behind. I find myself struggling to keep my emotions in check, struggle to see beyond the immediate heartache and difficulty, and struggle to even do the things which can bring me peace once again.
I will admit there have been times where I barely, barely held on. Where waiting it out seemed an impossible task. Where the crashing, tumultuous wave seemed too great to ever find peace in its wake. But it does pass. Even writing that seems difficult to believe, but I know it to be true. When nothing is causing water to have waves, the water will settle and be completely at peace. I believe our lives are meant to be at peace. I believe our default setting is to be at peace. Fighting through those dark moments and holding on to a broader perspective can help us see past the moments which thrash us about. Holding on, even to a rocking boat, can help us get through it.
This brings me to the third photograph. A photo of water stretching out before me and going much further than I am able to see. In the foreground of this photo are those gentle waves, but some of the highs are higher than others and some of the lows lower than hoped for. In the foreground, one can see clearly the broken surface of the water with its many ripples, shaping moments and variety. Moving our eyes up towards the horizon, however, the water appears to gradually smooth out until it becomes a flat, straight line separating water and sky. From this distance, we cannot see the ebb and flow, the highs and lows, the crashing waves and tumultuous moments. From this distance, the water appears to be completely at peace. The further the distance, the more peaceful the water appears.
To me, this image is all about perspective. When difficult things are fresh and up close to me, the waves seem greater than those in which I’m able to distance myself. When I have time to ponder, to heal, or to work things out, the difficult times are pushed away and become smooth. This may be done through physically distancing myself from the situation at times, or by allowing time and realistic thinking to smooth out my reactions. Over distance and time, moments of difficulty in life can be displaced by the broader perspective of peace which overlays our lives. Negative self-talk dissipates, worst-case scenario thinking dissolves, and the warring sides within me come to peace. When I’m able to broaden my perspective, I’m able to find peace.
Some may live in one photo more than the other ones. Many are blessed to live in the first image most of their lives, while others find themselves tossed about in the second photo for much of theirs. Every experience, much like every wave, can be different and beautiful and scary and peaceful and heartbreaking and joyous. But, especially if we buoy each other, the size or intensity of the waves won’t crush us. We can all find peace on the horizon.
Do you ever feel like you’re taking one step forward, two steps back? Lately I’ve felt like I take one step forward and a million steps back. Sometimes I wish I could go back and have a do-over, do things right this time. But it’s not that kind of “back” that I’m going to.
Every time I feel like I’m making progress I slide back through a tunnel of sludge and sharp thorns, ending in a heap of darkness and pain. Becky Craven, a leader in my church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) spoke about this from a spiritual perspective. (https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2020/10/32craven?lang=eng) She said when she was younger she visualized herself walking along an “upward, vertical” path toward her goal. Every time she felt herself sliding down she thought she had to start all over again, but in time she discovered that with each failed attempt she didn’t have to start over. She could keep the progress and change she had made as she continued to progress.
I understand this from the spiritual perspective, but can it really be this way in life and in our relationships? Can we keep the progress we’ve made even as we fall backwards? Can things ever truly be good again if we don’t make up what we’ve lost? I’m struggling to find or live the answer. And is that struggle what is actually holding me back?
I didn’t start, nor do I continue, this blog because I have all the answers. It’s about opening and having a discussion about mental illness and things many of us struggle with. I hope that through this discussion we can all help each other, even if it’s just to know we’re not alone.
The first day of Ancient World Civ my sophomore year of high school, my teacher, Mr. Dau, told us we were programmed. Of course there was an uproar of disagreement, but he persisted. He said we would have a discussion on it later. He told us to go home, talk to our parents, our seminary teachers (a religion class for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), our Bishops and other religious leaders. We had our discussion without a single person agreeing with Mr. Dau. Later in the year, I wished so much that I could go back to that first day so I could be the only one to side with him. See, the experiences I’d gone through suffering from severe depression had changed my perspective.
The word “programmed” has a negative connotation when applied to people. But I don’t think it should. I do think we are programmed. That programming comes from various sources—parents, culture, place, religion, socioeconomic status, etc. Some people may like the words “mold” or “shape” better, but it’s all the same to me. It doesn’t mean we don’t have choices, it just means those choices are based very heavily on our programming. However, as we get older, and especially as we go out on our own, who we are becomes more about our experiences than our programming. We outgrow the program, I guess you could say. Our choices, our perspective and perception of things and who we are as individuals is born through the individual experiences we have. That means we will all vary on those things because we all have different experiences.
Take the world today—dealing with this virus and quarantine. Some parents are struggling being with their kids 24/7 while I’m loving the extra time with mine! Some are struggling to help their kids with their schoolwork, while others aren’t because they’ve been homeschooling their kids for years. Some people, like me, are struggling with the isolation, while others are realizing nothing much has changed because they aren’t very social anyway. This time means something different to everyone based on our different experiences.
Mental illness is the same way. I’ve said before that the things that help with mental illness are different for everyone—because everyone is different. Some people have great experiences with medication while others don’t. I’ve had both! For some, therapy is the greatest thing ever. Others swear by natural remedies or changing their diet and lifestyle. It saddens me when I see people acting like what works for them is the only thing that works and trying anything else is stupid. I’ve seen people condemning medication and those who use it. I’ve seen people making fun of those who go to therapy. Just because your perspective is that therapy doesn’t work because it didn’t work for you, doesn’t mean it’s not going to work for someone else.
We can support and encourage what works for us while at the same time supporting what works for others. Just because medication didn’t work for you doesn’t mean I’m lying when I say it worked for me. Just because I’m loving the extra time with my kids during this quarantine doesn’t mean you’re lying or faking it when you have to take your own time out from your kids to keep from going completely insane! It simply means we are different because we have different experiences in life that have shaped our different perspectives.
Another thing to remember is that our perspective can change as our experiences change—just like mine did in high school. My perspective as a mother has changed through the years, as well. I’ve often told people that when I was married and was a stay-at-home mom it was all about getting time away from the kids. But now that I’m a working single mom it’s all about getting time with my kids. I hate the weekends my kids are away. I absolutely hate it. I hate the silence. I hate being alone. I hate missing them. The way my life has changed has changed the way I look at things, the way I handle things, the way I react to things. I think it’s important to realize that just because you believe something now, just because you feel something now, doesn’t mean you always will. Or it could mean that what you believe and feel will be strengthened even more. I always loved being a mom, but it means even more to me now because of being a single mom and because of this quarantine.
I’m grateful for my experiences in life. But I also want to do better at remembering that they are my experiences, not everyone else’s, and that’s okay. It makes it a whole lot easier to love and support each other when we can take off those narrow-minded goggles so many of us wear—when we can see the full spectrum of colors rather than just black or white.
We’re having a rare summer storm. Summer storms in the high desert generally consist of light rain that doesn’t last long and wind. I’ve been sitting on my couch, looking out the window at the globe willow in my front yard, blowing in the wind. It got me thinking, but I’ll come back to that.
Are you the kind of person who sometimes has a hard time keeping your mouth shut? Or, in this day and age, your fingers from typing responses on social media? It’s something I sometimes struggle with, mostly when it comes to hypocrisy or judgements or narrow, limited perspectives. I tend to be okay at first, to just ignore it, but when I’m constantly barraged with it it finally begins to wear, and I give in. I get annoyed, and I give in, and I write a response. Generally speaking, it never goes well. My experience has been that most people enjoy living in their bubbles, their tunnels, and don’t want to hear alternate opinions or be given the opportunity to see things from other perspectives. That’s not always the case, but it has been most of the time. Maybe the reason I struggle with that is because I’m not like that.
See, I enjoy things that make me think. I tend to get disturbed easily. Some books that have disturbed me greatly are Lord of the Flies, Into Thin Air and The Heretic’s Daughter. And yet, I LOVE those books! Why? Because they made me think. Because they opened me up to new perspectives. I never just dismiss something simply because it’s not what I believe or because it’s different than my own opinion.
Not too long ago, a friend posted a political article on Facebook. For the most part we have polar opposite beliefs when it comes to politics. But I read the article anyway. And I laughed my head off! It was the most ridiculous, hypocritical thing I’d ever read. However, I didn’t stop with giggling and move on, I decided to dissect it and see if there were any valid points to it. I like to be challenged. I like to think. In the end, I continued to think it was ridiculous, hypocritical and just downright funny, but it did give me the opportunity to think about why I believe what I do and only strengthened that belief even more. Out of it, I found even more reasons to believe what I do and validity for my own opinion. I’m grateful I didn’t reject it outright or dismiss it as stupid without actually trying to look at it from another perspective. And sometimes, taking that opportunity might change our beliefs or it at least might allow us to be more understanding and compassionate toward others. But not everyone sees that, and for some stupid reason I feel like I have be the one to show them, even though it rarely does anyone any good.
So back to the tree. I was thinking about how the tree blows in the wind. The trunk and the branches move, arc, bend, but they don’t snap or break. The roots of the tree hold it firm even in the midst of turmoil. It might be really annoyed at the wind for pushing it and making it so it can’t stand up straight like it wants to, but it doesn’t give in. So I want to be more like that tree. When those winds blow, tempting me to do something I know won’t make a difference, and will probably just make things worse, I’m going to attempt to think of my tree. Move, arc, bend, but don’t snap. Just hold firm.
Walking through that door makes the blue a little lighter. She holds space as I gently spill. We sit, we talk - we water, dig and bury. Nurturing a shoot. Aiding it in light - to find its path through thorns - Malan Wilkinson