16 October 2013

The Art of the Fade

Anyone who follows me on Facebook knows it has not been a good year. To be honest it has, for the most part, thoroughly stunk. I have spent more of it discouraged than in recent years. Part of it is that I feel trapped by life circumstances, which I'll save for a future post. Part of it is all the things I feel I can't or don't say in the moment. I don't have a journal, so I have made a goal of sorts to say the things I want or need to say here, to feel that I am doing something to express myself at a time when I increasingly feel too busy or emotional to do so. Plus, I was always better at writing my thoughts than speaking on the fly.

The idea of a person's essential-ness has been on my mind a lot. As a single person, there is a very small list of individuals to whom I am essential. And even those family members would not have a drastic alteration to the ebb and flow of their lives if I moved to Fiji or disappeared into the TARDIS on an extended trip with the Doctor. They would miss me and there would be an empty space that I use to occupy but they have their spouses, children, step-children, grandchildren etc. to take up the day-to-day space. This not a statement of desolation or that I think no one cares about me. It is acknowledgement that I am, in fact, not anyone's first priority (nor should I be).

This notion of nonessential-ness is not something I mourn over on a daily basis but I have noticed it affecting my current friendships and my thinking about future relationships. I find myself expecting people to move on, fade away, or disappear because they have before. Career opportunities, family issues, marriage, babies, etc. have a way of physically and emotionally separating people. Even those who are really good at maintaining friendships post-marriage and baby are still, rightly, operating with a different set of priorities. Priorities that shift where I'm at in their lives. I don't begrudge them that, however, it does mean I'm putting less effort into making deep, best friend-y sort of relationships because it never lasts. This probably has a lot to do with my whole issue of feeling unable to express my experiences. It is a lot of work to build and maintain the types of friendships in which I trust people to that extent and I'm tired of starting over. I don't really know what this means for the future or if it is just a phase everyone goes through at a certain age, regardless of life circumstances. I just know I've unconsciously gone a long time perfecting the art of the fade as a self-defense mechanism.

09 June 2013

Seeing Things As They Really Are

Last week (or maybe two weeks ago, my days and weeks tend to blur together) I reached the point in the year where the weather has turned warm enough, and I'm busy enough, to be truly lazy about my hair style. Every year, around this time, I stop doing anything with my hair. I comb it out, throw in some curl-enhancing goopy stuff, and call it good. To be perfectly clear, I do this because I am lazy. I do not especially care for my hair when it is au natural, mostly because it feels out of control and always in my face and stuck in my lip balm. In fact, I generally find the wavy/frizzy mess to be annoying, just not annoying enough to pull out the blow dryer, flat iron, or curling iron. Eventually, I reach a critical mass of annoyance and I go back to styling it on a regular basis.

The irony of this whole exercise is that these weeks of hair laziness are when I get the most compliments about it. Everyone but me seems to love the wavy/frizzy mess. They, apparently, do not see it as a wavy/frizzy mess. They see something completely different. Something that I don't, can't, or won't see.

During the first week of the laziness, I was speaking to a friend and coworker who told me to stay where I was, ran and got her phone, and took a picture because she thought the wavy hair and the sun shining on it through the window looked great.

When she showed me the picture, I couldn't see what she was talking about at all. I immediately saw the messy hair, the lack of make-up, the signs I need to be more diligent about my diet, the way my smile is all upper gums and no bottom teeth, the decades of difficult-to-bad skin, the sausage fingers, the dark circles under my eyes, all the flaws on which I base my mass of insecurities.

This, along with the multiple posts/articles people keep sharing on Facebook about it, got me thinking about how I see myself versus how other see me.

I see the flaws; they are usually all I see in myself. I don't see them in everyone else and they don't see them in me but I operate under the assumption that they do. I assume that they must see the laundry list of things I see, small and large every time they look at me, and are judging me for them. Nearly all my insecurities rest on this list, the things that make up why I don't date, why I can't get a job in my field, why I'm not married, why things don't seem to ever go my way. 

I need to find a way to stop my way of seeing and find a way to see myself the way my friend and coworker did. I need to stop feeding the insecurities, starve them into submission by refusing to fixate on what I see as flaws, when it is readily apparent they aren't the neon signs I believe them to be. Because if I'm even a little bit objective, this is not a bad picture.

02 June 2013

Mothers and Daughters

Six years.

Six years is both a lifetime and a fleeting moment.

Nothing is the same and everything is the same.

My life is different. I am different, changed by the ups and downs of six years, by the ebb and flow of mortal life.

The ache, the longing, the sense of loss, and the constant wish to pick up the phone and talk to her is the same; the never-changing constant in my up and down, ebb and flow mortal life.

Around the time we found out my mom was dying, I discovered a book by Joan Didion called The Year of Magical Thinking. It is a memoir of the year following her husband's unexpected death, an explanation and written exercise in grief. A year that also coincided with the repeated hospitalization of her only child, a daughter, because of complications due to an illness.

I read The Year of Magical Thinking at least twice the fall before my mother's death and again, at least once, after it. Not only am I fascinated, as a wannabe writer, by Ms. Didion's writing, her structure and syntax and ways of stringing words and sentences into coherent thought, I was drawn to the subject matter. Ms. Didion's way of explaining the experience of grief, of sorrow, of loss, and of the pain of being the one left behind brilliantly captured and put into words what I was feeling and experiencing. Despite our circumstances being different in all respects, Ms. Didion could say what I wanted and needed to say about my experience of my mother's death.

Shortly after The Year of Magical Thinking was published, Ms. Didion lost her daughter as well. Five years after her daughter's death, she wrote another memoir Blue Nights, about both the extended experience of that loss, of the one left behind, of aging, and of the relationship between mothers and daughters.

Again, despite our circumstances being different in all respects, Ms. Didion has said in writing what I have been needing and wanting, but unable, to say about the experience of being left behind, of being a part of a mother/daughter relationship that has been fundamentally altered by death. What Ms. Didion ultimately says is that it is a relationship central to our beings, complicated beyond measure, and haunting in its impact once the relationship is altered by death.

The same fall I was devouring The Year of Magical Thinking, my brother was being much more productive and forward-thinking and asked my mother to record her story of her life on video. For various reasons, none of us actually watched it until after her death. Shortly, maybe a day or two after her funeral, my brother suggested (or perhaps insisted, my memories from those days are hazy and incomplete) we watch the video. It was difficult to watch. Even in my numbed and shell-shocked state, there were moments that made me flinch. I don't remember why but I do remember that she had structured it so that the video seemed like an extended conversation with my brother, a private conversation in which things were phrased in a way that seemed to exclude me from the conversation. I was not the center of her universe.

I was far too old for that to have been a surprise to me. But it was. My mother was amazing at making people feel like they were the center of her universe.

I have not watched the video since.

Not long ago, my brother asked my father to make a photocopy of the few journals of my mom's that remained (my mother kept notebooks of writing, especially during difficult times, but they seemed to disappear, either lost or repurposed or destroyed). I haven't read it from front to back, but as I skimmed pages, I had the same reaction.

I have not looked at the journal since.

Exactly a week ago, an email notification from YouTube popped up in my inbox, informing me that my brother had uploaded the video to YouTube. An image of my mother, the first part of the video, was the only thing I could see. I closed my inbox immediately and have kept junk mail, offers from Land's End and ThinkGeek and a myriad of other online retailers, in my inbox on top of it so it is not the first thing I see every time I open my inbox.

I assumed it was because I was selfish, vestiges of sibling rivalry, of remaining displaced anger that I should have to live the rest of my life without my mother.

But, as I contemplated my reading Blue Nights, new and different reasonings for my reactions came into play. The whole book is a personal exploration of how perception in the moment and subsequent perception of the past in the leisure of the present can cast doubts on memories, on experiences, and definitely on the understanding of who you thought someone was. It is a secondary sort of loss, the realization that the person you have been mourning and grieving for might not have existed in the precise form for which you have been mourning and grieving. It is a reopening and an expansion of an old wound because the one person who could answer the questions and make sense of it for you is not there to respond. All that remains is a gnawing question to which the only answer available is that you have somehow misunderstood something. Something you can never put right.

I am not a crier. It is rare for books, movies, television shows, etc. to make me cry. Real life can occasionally make me cry. But, as I read the final passages of Blue Nights, I cried. Cried because I understood why I cannot revisit my mother's written words, cannot revisit the last images and spoken words I have from her.

I will quote a portion of that passage here. Hopefully no one sues me.
   "The familiar phrase 'need to know' surfaces.
     The phrase 'need to know' has been the problem all along.
     Only one person needs to know.
     She is of course the one person who needs to know. . . .
     I imagine telling her.
     I am able to imagine telling her because I still see her. . . .
     I know that I can no longer reach her.
     I know that, should I try to reach her -- should I take her hand as if she were again sitting next to me. . . -- she will fade from my touch.
    Vanish. . . .
    I know what it is I am now experiencing.
    I know what the frailty is, I know what the fear is.
    The fear is not for what is lost. What is lost is already in the wall.
    What is lost is already behind the locked doors.
    The fear is for what is still to be lost.
    You may see nothing still to be lost.
    Yet there is no day in her life on which I do not see her."
                 ~ Joan Didion, Blue Nights, New York: Vintage International, 2011, 186-88
There is no day in my life on which I do not see my mother.

23 April 2013

The Parable of the Clogged Toilet

My office building is actually an old converted house, built in the 1910s or 1920s. As such, some of its systems do not work as well as a building built in this century. The furnace can't hope to keep the draughty place warm in the winter, even with new windows. The plumbing doesn't stand a chance. The downstairs bathroom serves both the downstairs employees and any clients who might need to use the facilities. Unfortunately, the system doesn't seem equipped to handle that kind of traffic. Because of this, it has a pretty steady habit of becoming clogged (usually for no apparent reason) about every two weeks. 

In general, the system acts up at the end of a day. Which means if you are the one closing up the office, you will have to deal with a finicky toilet. I have absolutely no patience for the toilet at work and try my very hardest to not use it at the end of the day. Of course that doesn't always work.

Last week, whilst dealing with yet another inexplicable clog that required twenty minutes of hard plunging and amidst all the name-calling and creative non-cursing running through my head, I had an epiphany.

Some trials and tribulations are exactly like a clogged toilet. They are unpleasant, inexplicable, in no way a result of your actions, and, yet, an issue or problem that you alone have to resolve. The most frustrating part of these clogged toilet-like trials is that there is no time limit that you can see. You know eventually, with enough plunging and flushing the clog will eventually disappear, the toilet will resume normal functioning. You just don't know when. It could be five minutes, it could be an hour. You just don't know. You start out energetically, thinking that if you work hard enough and fast enough, it will be cinch, you'll be out of that situation in a snap. And then it doesn't get fixed. 

As the minutes tick by, you get more and more frustrated. You are doing all you possibly can and still the water doesn't drain. You get frustrated, angry even. You work harder only to give up and walk away from the problem for a little while, hoping it will just resolve itself. You come back to it, full of hope, looking forward to the miracle of a fixed, functioning toilet only to see that nothing has changed, that all that is ahead of you is another long, exhausting slog of plunging with no end in sight. You have to choose between picking up where you left off or simply beating the toilet to death with the plunger. You are a responsible person, so you choose to work harder. Frustration and stress and exhaustion after an already long day kick in, maybe tears are shed as you plead with the toilet or the universe or God to just fix the problem already. You irrationally envision being found in the morning by your co-workers still plunging away at this stupid old toilet. You can't take this interminable, repetitive cycle any longer. You want to be done, to be free, to have a view, an aim, a purpose outside this small, dank space. 

And then suddenly, you hear that tell-tale gurgle, the water starts to drain. You flush, mental fingers crossed, hoping against hope that the clog has worked itself out. Sometimes, it doesn't. Sometimes it is a false hope, a respite, a surge of renewed possibility. And so you set to work again, with tears and more pleadings, and maybe another angry walking away. But sometimes, it isn't false hope. Order has been restored. Sometimes the clog is gone as inexplicably as it came. You are free, consoling yourself that you've got a great arm workout, and can go enjoy the fresh air and evening sunshine with an intense satisfaction you might not have had if you hadn't just spent thirty minutes fighting old plumbing. 

18 March 2013

Because We Need All the Prayers We Can Get

This is my adorable, amazing 4 1/2 year-old niece, Bug.

She has grown a lot since she made this face:

However, her attitude remains quite unchanged. Which is good, because this little girl has had to go through a lot in her very few years. She already conquered and bounced back from open-heart surgery. Now, on to brain surgery. She has what is known as a Chiari I malformation. To fix it, and keep her from developing all sorts of unfortunate problems, the doctors have to perform an operation. If you have a thought or prayer or two or five to spare, if you wouldn't mind sending them her way tomorrow, I would be forever grateful.

14 March 2013

My Two Cents . . .

are not going to Scouting.

On Sunday, at the beginning of the Relief Society meeting, it was announced that class would end early to make time for a special announcement. I felt this was an odd announcement, seeing as how the time it would take to talk about the special announcement could just as easily be taken at the beginning of class. I decided it might just be something they were leading up to with the lesson or that it was supposed to be super inspirational and they wanted to end on a high note. Imagine my surprise when the ward's Scouting specialist got up to make a spiel about the Friends of Scouting program and to ask for donations because Scouting is expensive. 

Now, I think Scouting is a fine program. My brother liked it, my dad is his stake's go-to Scouting guy, and I think it does a lot of good. However, as I listened to the continuing plea for funds by this woman and, ultimately,  her testimony of the Scouting program, I got angry. I realized that even if I had more than two cents to spare, I would not be giving it to the Friends of Scouting. Initially, I was not going to publicize my decision, but then I read this entry at the Tumblr site AmenAlready (which is a site guaranteed to make me laugh daily and also make me think about my assumptions. For reals.) and decided I needed to say something.

I got angry listening to the extolling of Scouting's benefits and the plea for funds not because it isn't a good program but because as a girl growing up, and as a woman in the Church today, it often feels that the Scouting program is run at the expense of the girls and young women of the Church. For example, have you ever tried to get permission, organize, or participate in a fundraiser for Girl's Camp? It is a nightmare. You have to do something big, it can only be once a year (please correct me if I am wrong), it has to be in exchange for something (not just soliciting donations), and you have to strong arm people into helping. I speak from personal experience as someone who went to camp 7 times, who had to get people to buy cookbooks filled with ward recipes after having to beg them for recipes to put in the cookbooks, who had to convince people to buy homemade pizzas. What do the Scouts do? They have an individual get a calling to go around to ward meetings and straight up ask people to whip out their checkbooks and write them a check. Which people do. That tells girls and young women that the people in their ward do not value their development as much as they value the boys' and young men's development, that the limited funds of the ward and the individuals in it should be given to the boys and the young men, and that whatever is left over will have to worked for and scraped for by the girls and young women themselves.

I got angry because the unequally funded programs are also unequally recognized. I can't speak for the Primary Activity Days because I have no experience with them. However, I have never heard of an equivalent recognition night for Activity Days achievement for girls like the Cub Scout pack meetings that recognize the achievements of Cub Scouts and mark advancement through the ranks on a monthly basis. I do have personal experience with the differences between Personal Progress and Boy Scouts. I'll share the most glaring. When I was in Young Women, Personal Progress required that from the ages of 16-18 that I do multiple projects, two each year, one of which had to be specifically focused on service. Each were expected to take at least 30 hours to complete. This was on top of the other Personal Progress goals required in the previous four years for each of the, then, seven values of Young Women (Faith, Divine Nature, Individual Worth, Knowledge, Choice & Accountability, Good Works, and Integrity). Time-wise, if a young woman did Personal Progress right, it was roughly equivalent to the time required by Boy Scouts and the Laurel projects were roughly equivalent to the time required for the Eagle project. The expectations were similar, but the recognition was vastly different.

I received my Young Women's medallion the same year my over-achieving brother received his Eagle Scout. The work we had done was equivalent, his was just packed into a shorter amount of years (which you couldn't do as in Young Women when I was in it lo these many years ago). I was given my award over the pulpit in Sacrament meeting, without advance notice, on a Sunday in which both my parents were in other wards for their respective Stake callings. I didn't even think it was my place to ask that maybe the Bishop wait until a Sunday when my parents could actually be there. It wasn't something you did. You just went up when your name was called, shook the Bishop's hand, said what one of your project was, got the medallion, and sat down. It took all of 30 seconds. Now compare that with an Eagle Scout Court of Awards. The Court of Awards is a separate meeting that can include multiple Eagle Scouts or be held for one Eagle Scout. It is a night dedicated to the Eagle Scout(s). It is a special event in which people are specially and specifically invited to come recognize and celebrate the Eagle Scout(s) achievements. There are large displays of the project(s), time dedicated to ensuring that everyone have a chance to look at, understand, and comment on the project(s). There is a whole ceremony dedicated to recognizing the accomplishments and achievements of the Scout(s). My brother had the night to himself. My parents ordered a cake with an image of the award and my brother's name on it. Family members traveled to attend the event. Even though I knew that my parents loved me as much as they loved my brother and that they would have done the same for me, there wasn't the opportunity to do it. It wasn't, and isn't, done. 

I don't fixate on this discrepancy, I don't let it influence my testimony or my faith. However, it does send a clear message that the girls and young women of the Church should just get used to not being recognized, that their work, their achievements, and their progress spiritually, emotionally, physically, and intellectually is of less importance than that of their male counterparts to their families, the members of their wards, and the Church as a whole. 

And that is why I will not be donating to Friends of Scouting. And why I will definitely be supporting my ward's Young Women's fundraiser this spring, even if it is only two cents.

08 March 2013

I Felt Like One of the Women in Annie

And unfortunately it wasn't Grace Farrell.

A few nights ago, after a particularly long, chaotic, emotionally exhausting day, I was lying in bed trying to get my brain to turn off. I needed something to relax the insane speed and disorder with which thoughts were racing through my head. Usually I would listen to one of the playlists I have created for just such occasions, however, my iPod was already docked in my alarm clock cued to play my wake up playlist that ostensibly motivates me to jump out of bed and get moving but never really does. Additionally, it seemed like a lot of work to find my headphones, listen for a while, and then re-dock and re-cue the iPod.

Another great way of getting my brain to calm the heck down when it is at DEFCON 3 is to listen to something equally soothing. That equally-soothing something being Mr. Benedict Cumberbatch's reading of "Ode to a Nightingale" on YouTube. His voice is mesmerizing and the poem's rhythm and subject are nicely suited to lull one to sleep. Despite my best efforts I have been unable to find a legal way of getting the mp3 or hard copy of the disc of poetry for which he read this. So YouTube it is, even though I can't watch the video that accompanies the reading without feeling like a stalker.

So, as I pulled my laptop up onto my bed next to my pillow, I had a flashback to that scene in Annie, right before the "Little Girls" number, in which Miss Hannigan is curled up in bed whispering sweet nothings to her radio.

On the plus side, I dress better and have never brewed bathtub gin.

08 February 2013

It Isn't What You Would Think

There is a look some people get when they realize I am single.  It is a mixture of curiosity and pity. They want to ask about my life, about what it is like, about what I feel. It isn't really their fault. Even outside of LDS culture I'm becoming a social outlier. 

From comments I have heard and questions that have been asked, it seems like a lot of people assume I am lonely. That can't be farther from the truth. If I want social interaction, I can find it. I am probably a lot less lonely than a stay-at-home mom whose children determine their daily schedules and don't allow for a lot of social interaction. Loneliness isn't the issue. 

Additionally, I don't suffer from a longing ache for a husband or children. I wish they were part of my life, but I know from experience that I can live a happy, fulfilled life without it. It won't be the same as if I were married when most of my peers were, but it won't be filled with despair and bitterness like some people assume. I do, occasionally, dream of being swept off my feet by a tall, lanky, British man, not from loneliness or despair but because everyone needs a bit of romance in their life. Even if it is fantasy-based.

The secret that people don't grasp, or don't want to grasp, is that while I am not lonely or despairing or bitter, there is an emotional darkside to my continuing singleton status. Envy. A particular sort of envy. I don't sit around staring covetously at women with babies in church and I don't envy individuals their particular spouses or children. It is more to do with envying situations and blessings that I haven't got and then getting very angry at how unfair it seems to be.

I look at people I encounter at work or out shopping or on Facebook and get cranky. I see parents who don't treat their children as they ought in that snapshot of a moment at the checkout line and think "Why do they get to be parents? They are rubbish at it! I would be a much better parent." I watch friends and acquaintances who have regularly flouted the Law of Chastity for years get engaged and married and procreate (not necessarily in that order) and I get jealous and petty and angry that I have to sit on the sidelines, seemingly punished despite following the rules. I look at people from high school, who weren't very nice to me and were downright vicious to some of my friends, now living seeming picture-perfect lives and I'm livid at the injustice of it.

I don't like feeling this way. I try extremely hard not to feel that way. To be charitable instead of critical. To be happy at another's happiness. To forgive and forget and be glad that high school doesn't define us for life. Most of the time I am successful. Sometimes I'm not. Sometimes I'm stuck in the moment, mistaking the fleeting second of transient mortality for the finality of eternity. My battle is not against loneliness or despair or bitterness. Maintaining a clear vision, recognizing the difference between the mortal transience of becoming and the eternal finality of being is my battle. 

I think it might be everyone's battle, regardless of the challenge, trial, or tribulation. Everyone struggles with perspective when it seems like it will never end, when it feels like a permanent state. Very few things are permanent in this life, good or bad. We just have to remember to remember that.

13 January 2013

I Had to Give Another Tallk

Only this time, instead of the coziness of speaking in a ward Sacrament meeting, I was asked to speak at the evening session of stake conference last night. Also, I got a stake calling.* It was a fairly nerve-wracking week, to be honest. Several people mentioned they would like a copy of the talk, so I am posting it here. 

            I started planning my life at a very young age. By grade school I had sketched out a rough plan as to how my life would go. I would be living in a bustling metropolis, New York, Boston, D.C., London, it changed depending on my mood, working in some fascinating occupation, which also changed depending on my mood. I would live a sophisticated life far removed from rural Eastern Washington, see the world, amass a spectacular shoe collection, and finally settle down at the age of 28 by marry an interesting, sophisticated man four years my senior and buying the perfect home. That was the narrative I crafted year in and year out as I slowly made my way from grade school to junior high to high school and on to university. Not to spoil the story, but that isn’t exactly how it turned out. In fact, very little of it has gone according to plan. Aside from amassing a fairly large shoe collection. 
            How far has reality diverged from my life plan? Well, I currently pay the bills by working in property management while trying to find a full-time teaching position. I am still single and home-ownership is a distant, improbable dream. However, I do know, despite the drastic difference in youthful daydreams and adult reality, that I am where the Lord wants me to be. His plan is vastly different than mine. By the world’s measurements of success and achievement it may look like something has gone wrong, but in His merciful wisdom the Lord has led me along a path infinitely better. 
            Being laid off from my administrative job in Salt Lake City six and a half years ago and having to move home a few months later felt, at the time, like a colossal failure. However, it meant being able to spend every day with my mother for the last four months of her life. It meant being called to teach Mia Maids and realizing a) I really like teaching and b) I really like teaching middle schoolers. It meant regaining my Washington residency and being able to attend Western Washington University to obtain a teaching certificate and a Master’s degree. It meant ending up 70 minutes away from my brother’s family and being able to spend every major event in my nieces’ and nephew’s lives with them. In hindsight, losing my job and moving home was the kindest, most merciful thing the Lord could do for me. 
            I am, unfortunately, slow to learn. I came to Bellingham with a plan. I was going to attend graduate school, get a part-time job while in school, and then start a grand new adventure as a first-year teacher in some previously undiscovered part of the country. That was my plan. It will probably not surprise you to hear that it was not the Lord’s plan. A month after I moved here and started school, I was called to serve as a counselor in the YSA ward’s Relief Society presidency. A few short months later, following the weddings of both the other counselor and the president, I was called to serve as the YSA Relief Society president. This was really NOT part of my plan. But it was part of the Lord’s plan. I didn’t end up getting that part-time job, but I received a very specific promise from the Lord that if I magnified my calling, that He would take care of me. This promise didn’t come when I was set apart, rather in His infinite mercy, it came a month before I received the calling, while sitting in this very room during Stake conference four years ago. The Lord knew what I needed and when I would need it. 
            That property management job I am not particularly fond of started as a temporary summer position the week after I graduated from Western and miraculously transformed into a permanent, full-time position that pays all my bills and includes a boss who allows me to take days off to substitute teach and I recently started an online teaching job to add experience to my resume. The Lord has taken care of me. 
            I came to Bellingham to pursue a degree in education. I also received an education in submitting to and waiting upon the Lord. 
            Submitting and waiting are not things that I am particularly good at. However, I have learned a few things about it. First, submitting is not throwing one’s hands in the air and giving up. It is not dejectedly moping in the corner like Eyeore. It is actively pursuing to your fullest extent the righteous desires of your heart and looking forward with hope to the fulfillment of the Lord’s promises. It is following the promptings of the Holy Ghost while working as hard as you can to progress in your life. Submitting to the will of the Lord is understanding that when difficulties arise, when all your righteous efforts seem to fall to dust, that the Lord is not punishing you nor has He forgotten you. Rather, He is leading you to something infinitely better. 
            Waiting upon the Lord is not sitting in our metaphorical or literal recliners waiting for the Lord to deliver. A friend of mine, who is currently serving a mission, and I have been discussing what it means to wait upon the Lord. The conclusion we came to, with help from Elder Perrell’s mission president, suggests there are two aspects of waiting upon the Lord. In the grand tradition of the wonderful and frustrating English language, wait has multiple meanings. The first meaning denotes patiently enduring the passage of time while looking forward to something. The second meaning of wait involves active service to something or someone. Both are inherent in the idea of waiting upon the Lord and integral in our becoming perfected beings. To truly be waiting upon the Lord, we must follow His timeline while serving Him by serving His children. 
            Brothers and sisters, the Lord has not forsaken us as we go through the trials and tribulations that are common to all human experience. If we cheerfully submit and wait upon the Lord, as difficult and impossible as that may seem at times, He will bless us. In Doctrine & Covenants 123:17, amid the horror and persecution of Missouri, Joseph Smith gave this instruction to the early Saints from Liberty jail : 
 “Therefore, dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed.” 
This promise also applies to us now. Submitting and waiting are not meant to be easy. They comprise our covenanted sacrifice to the Lord. They are our paths to following the example of Jesus Christ and they are a key to sanctification and salvation. Despite the trials, the difficulties, and the sorrow that is part of my continuing education in submitting to and waiting upon the Lord, I am grateful for the goodness, mercy, and love I have already seen and felt in the Lord’s plan for me. I know that by following the Lord’s plan, submitting in obedience, and waiting upon the Lord, I will continue to be blessed. I know that as we all continue in the path of submitting to and waiting upon the Lord we will be worthy to receive all His promised blessings and that “All that is unfair in life can be made right through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.” As we each prayerfully seek Him out and grow in our use and application of His Atonement, we can find joy and consolation in submitting to and waiting upon the Lord. He is the Balm of Gilead to take away the pain, sorrow, and discouragement of our hardships. Depend on Him and He will take care of you.
*For the curious, I was called to serve as the first counselor in the stake Relief Society.