letters from pain

prelude: i am thinking about this concept tonight in the midst of my migraine. this post came as a sort of stream of consciousness, stemming from only the idea of "letters from pain". i'm not much of an allegory writer, and this is mainly unedited. take from it what you'd like. 

dear human,

i know i can be cruel.

it has been said that you are exhaustible; i am inexhaustible.

this is true.

but if i were exhaustible, you could conquer me
and there your progression would cease.

from me, you may gain bitterness
and perhaps cynicism
and you may put up many walls.

but you would lose the chance to gain empathy
and sincere humility
and invalidate any need to search for strength.

there is a parable* that has been spoken -

a man asked his son to push a boulder.
the son, an obedient child, pushed and pushed an pushed. 

day in and day out. 
still, the boulder did not move. 

years unfolded. 
the son was determined and obedient.
still he pushed the boulder, 
but to no avail. 

finally, in a fit of ever-increasing frustration, 
the son decided he was finished. 
the boulder would never move. 

a man now, he tread back to his father
weary, frustrated, but above all, angry.

"father," the son exclaimed, "this boulder will. not. move.

"day after day, year after year i have pushed the boulder. 
still, it does not budge.
why would you make me push so hard, father, for an effort so fruitless?"

the father looked at his son, 
his eyes also weary,
but wise beyond the years of his son. 

"son," the father patiently spoke, 
"i never asked you to move the boulder, only to push it." 

his words were gentle but firm. 

dumbstruck, the son looked away, the shame of misunderstanding flushing his face. 

"but son", the father said, gesturing to the back window, "there's a different boulder out there. that is the one i want you to move." 

the son's eyes flashed up. 
this is the last thing he'd want to do. 
yet he was still obedient, almost beyond his will. 

without another glance at his father, he stomped out the back door
toward the second boulder, and pushed his shoulder against it,
almost in protest to prove he couldn't. 

he was surprised when the boulder moved with less strength than he had anticipated using. 
he looked back toward the window, 
and saw his father, 
a soft but knowing look on his face. 

you see, his father had never wanted him to move the first boulder; that boulder was a training ground to gain the strength required for the second boulder. the father knew that if the son would have known that the first was never to move, he would never have worked so hard to move it. it wasn't the movement itself, but the effort exerted in pushing the rock that gained the son the strength to move the second boulder. 

and so you see, i hold a use for you.
i am despised among most and am the downfall of many.

however, i am secretly the strength behind those who are strong.
only from fully exerting against me, the strength of pain, can they earn the strength to be strong.

*editor's note: this "parable" was extrapolated from an analogy my brother jonathan told me years ago. like many analogies he's told me, i've never forgotten it and it seems to come back at the most pertinent times. 


i woke with these words on my mind

sleep got up before i did today,
and slowly slipped out the door.

he thought i'd not notice,
but how couldn't i?

because now i just think of him more.



i come to this screen already knowing that words will be irrelevant to convey the awe i've been feeling in these last few minutes of reflection.

but i'm just so amazed and happy; i have to attempt to document something.

i had incredible sharing experiences this weekend.
i got to prepare for and teach relief society, have a good discussion about teaching, and also had a few really, incredibly good one-on-one conversations with incredible people.
like, mind-blowingly good.

i just got back from the most recent one.
i had a bad headache all day.
bottom line: i came back home from our chat with the most excruciating migraine i've had in a long time.
every time i get these i forget how bad they hurt.

but tonight, i can't even be bothered by it.
because it is an absolute testimony that God is in control.


the things that my friend and i discussed needed to be discussed.
currently i must acquiesce to some of the physical conditions placed on my body has right now,
but tonight God needed me to be stronger than my body would naturally physically allow
to relay a few things.

my mind was not working as hard as it would normally be during any other intellectually and spiritually stimulating conversation,
because it physically couldn't be
(or i would most likely vomit, or feel the need to as i do now).

instead, He just sort of took over and spoke through me.
when i needed to say something, the words flowed easily and naturally and effortlessly
like a stream flowing down a mountain.

i wasn't sure if any of it made sense,
but from what my friend expressed to me,
it was a perfectly matched conversation
which we probably both needed for different reasons.

and the cool thing is,
part of my contribution in this particular conversation was made up of parts of so many other conversations i've recently had.
conversions where i did have to strain to think and decidedly choose and craft words to convey thoughts, because i had the physical and mental capacity to do so.
which prepared me for this conversation.

and oh! oh, how others thoughts have become my own.
none of this was just "me".
i love when someone provides me words for something my soul has been trying to say.

i am convinced that on this earth, we create each other.

God has put us here to learn together,
to live together,
to teach each other--
because we are vessels through which He speaks
and because we provide each other the opportunity to become more
--more Us --
every day.

goodness, life is beautiful.
and so, so delightfully clever.


everybody dance now

if anyone's wondering, 10:49pm is an excellent time to have a dance party by oneself in one's room.

and hey, there's still time for like a 10:53pm dance party in whatever room you're in, if you're quick to find a good song.

for that matter, whenever you read this is probably a good time for a personal dance party. probably. i wouldn’t even mind if you commented and told me what time you danced and to what song(s).

also, various derivatives of “dancing for no reason” are probably the only new years resolutions i have remembered and kept.
...so far.

and honestly i think it’s one of the most important ones.

also this may be the most literal blog post title i've ever written.


psa: vulnerability apparently dwindles when you don't use it

you should be proud of me.
i have written a lot lately.
in fact, i have written eight complete blog posts.

...they're all tagged as "drafts" in my post queue from january 29 til now.
where has my courage gone?


what's in a name

last night i purchased something pretty big.

in doing so, i had to sign my name to a lot of papers. i joked with those whom i was signing for that my signature certainly didn't get better as i kept signing. but when you're buying a car, your signature is nothing more than saying that you are responsible for what is being signed.

i legally agree to specific terms and conditions. i agree to the consequences laid out if i fail to meet those terms and conditions. 

it doesn't really matter what it looks like.


a little later last night, i had the opportunity to go to my college alma mater and saw a painting of mine hung in the gallery there, amidst other paintings from my friends and heroes. 

it was interesting -- in that context an artist's signature is clout; if i were a famous artist, my signature would be worth a lot. here, aesthetics matter and signatures are more than agreeing to binding terms. 

but then i started thinking -- the signature hasn't changed; the context has. but don't they essentially mean similar things? 

i painted this. therefore i claim it to be mine. i will agree to the consequences of whatever comes from creating this piece and putting it into the world because it is mine. 


as scary as it was to sign for that car and its accompanying responsibilities, sometimes it's more daunting to sign a painting and claim it as my creation. 


the human experience

we found it.

our friend matt usually hosted dance parties at his place.

but driving to this party, tali and i realized it was in the lounge of some apartment complex close to campus.
but i mean, the ambiance was cool; there was a sort-of deejay and a decent lighting setup and a lot of fog machine smoke.
okay, cool.
buuuut it turned out to be filled with sweaty super-dooper young undergrads, just like i feared when i realized it was this particular apartment complex.

but we walked in and greeted matt.
then i scanned the medium-sized room.
nope, didn't know anyone.

------- 1.5 hours earlier, 7:30pm -----

it was called the "i love humans party" and i had no idea what to expect.
but talisa always hosts good parties, so i figured this would be great.
honestly though i was feeling atypically antisocial.
so while the small group talked and laughed and flirted,
i grabbed my sketchbook and continued a drawing i had started earlier today after work,
waiting to go car shopping.
my first drawing of 2015.
(if you're an artist, you'll know this implies my total artistic slackership thus far....)

as the party progressed, i remembered it's national handwriting day.
as customary in much of my art, i figured i'd throw a few words in there.
(thanks, blog, for creating this need....)
so i started to add interesting phrases i overheard while everyone talked.
it was actually pretty fascinating to see how all these mid-late 20-somethings interacted with each other.

------- 3 hours earlier, 4:30pm -----

i had been car shopping last week as well, but this afternoon i went with a friend who is an experienced car-shopper, to meet another a friend who works at a car dealership and wanted to show me some of the vehicles they had.

honestly, i was wary. i didn't want to stress a friendship over a car deal, and last week i got another car dealership guy breathing down my neck. as in, calling and emailing me more than i talk with my parents.

------- 3 hours later, 7:30pm -----

soon after i started to add words into my drawing,
the group started a game:
someone pulled a question out of a hat and asked someone else in the room to answer it.
simple enough.
i figured with everyone being inundated with trivia crack recently, it'd be some sort of live action version of that.

but one of the first questions caught me off guard.
as this was a "i love humans" party, it was:

what makes humans, human? 


someone answered,
"i think what makes humans, human -- is our imperfection."

that was...strangely comforting, as well as the short discussion that followed.
kind of cool.

next question,

what scares you the most about humans? 

answers surfaced like,
"our ability to choose" and
"the fact that we can hurt each other".

as i continued to draw, my ears perked like i was some sort of golden retriever.
(do golden retrievers ears perk? i don't even know).

next question:

what fascinates you most about humans? 

suddenly this started to sound like a party to fit my somewhat pensive mood.

and the discussion ensured:
"we are connected to each other."
"the complexity of the body."
"the resilience of the human spirit."

on and on we discussed these salient points, and i started to get excited about something.
life, maybe?
the joys of being human?
maybe just general excitement because these are perhaps my favorite conversation waters in which to swim.

time went by and i drew some notes and contributed when i felt.
by the end, i felt a little more full,
like i do at the end of all really good heart-to-hearts.
and i had already had one earlier today, surprisingly at work, so i felt happily intellectually satiated.

------- 15 minutes later, 9pm -----

on the way to the dance, 
we saw the moon. 
just for a few minutes, 
but it was incredible. 
a tiny, redish orange sliver. 

i was so glad to have someone there to experience that sight with me. 

------- 1.5 hours later, 10pm-----

not knowing anyone has never stopped me from dancing before. 
so of course, talisa and i went wild.

we had already warmed up, actually, inside her car before we walked in.
which was actually a really important primer to the experience which happened next,
and just as important was the human conversation just previous.

really quick,
an aside:
i love dancing. i think i've established this.
and sometimes i'm okay at it, because i've decided to not have as many inhibitions as i dance.
but usually i'm at least somewhat thinking of how to make the moves i do look...sort of cool.
(this is like...awkward confessions, round one.)

but as i started to move with the music in that dingy little room,
i was reminded that i didn't know anyone. and everyone was just....so super young.
but as i continued to dance, it really hit me:
i. didn't. know. anyone.

and quite honestly there was 0% of the people i was hoping to impress.
i mean, they were all closer to my nephew's age than to mine, let's be real.
usually i'd feel kind of old and try to enjoy it anyway, even though i know i can still easily blend in to this demographic.

but tonight, i was like,

and you know what that made me do?
dance like a fool.
no, seriously, like an absolute fool.

and you know what?
it felt incredible.

at one point, a kid danced up to me and said,
"so you dance facing the wall?"

indeed, my back currently happened to face the crowd bouncing to the thumping beat.
i smiled and shot back just as fast,
"sure do! when i dance for myself, i do!"

that's when i realized: for me, that's exactly what this was night was all about.

------- 3.5 hours earlier, 5:30 pm -----

to me, car shopping is complicated, and overwhelming.
i mean, so overwhelming that i was going to write how overwhelming it is and got overwhelmed just thinking about it.

but there were so many features that the two friends i was with were so impressed with so i was thinking,
uh...do i need to be impressed with this feature? 
oh yeah. probably so. they are, and they're pretty experienced.....

------- 3.5 hours later, 9:30pm -----

i found myself relieved that none of my friends had showed up to the dance party.
usually dancing is fun for me as i love to help liberate others of their innate shyness on the dance floor,
or i try to make some awesome moves and even though it really is therapeutic it's usually fun to watch others and deviate off of what they do. it's sort of a really fun creative challenge for me. and it's usually about social connection as well.

but not tonight.
nope, tonight this was just for me.
i didn't even want to talk with anyone else.

in fact, i found myself intentionally letting my body respond however it felt according to the music,
and i encouraged it to dance more stupidly than normal -- by a ton, but naturally -- because then:
people wouldn't have the physical space to judge,
wouldn't have a chance to talk with or try to hit on me (c'mon, it just happens at dances, you know?)
and wouldn't have a chance to try to compete with me.

because i didn't notice them.
i was too fast, too wild, or too in my own world for all of those things.

in fact, most the time my eyes were closed
or i was looking toward the ground.
it helped me stay grounded; it helped me connect with the music more.

when i looked up,
i would get distracted by other people's moves
and forget to focus on my connection with the music.
and man, i was grinning.

it helped to have talisa there
because she was doing the exact same thing.
and halfway through the dance,
we both noticed we felt the exact same things.

it was liberating. so liberating!

------- suddenly, in my head -----

the features my car-savvy friends thought were cool are totally cool. 
does that mean i need to be impressed by those particular cars? 

do i have some cool dance moves?
sure do. 

do i need to dance those moves at dances when i kind of don't feel it, because it's sort of expected of me? (really because i expect it of myself)? 
sure don't. 

do i need to prove myself to anyone else? 
actually no. 

do i know some pretty cool people? 

do i need to compete with them? 

------- back at the party -----

facing-the-wall boy was back, and he had some pretty funky moves. probably. i never really looked up to acknowledge them. i didn't need to compete with him. 
i did notice that he danced closer and closer to us, and the closer he got, the further i got. 

partially because i had become adamant about not letting this night be about impressing people...or being impressed. 
which sounds absolutely jerky. i know. 
but i just needed this for me. 

and partially because i was thinking all the above thoughts in my head and processing. it was so great. 

tali and i decided that we'd pick one last song and then dance on out. 
as we quickly, stealthily gather our things (only a jacket each; we'd left our phones and all else in the car), 
wall boy gathered his. 

so we danced out at a random time during the song, 
then completely booked it outside, laughing the entire way out.

we hope that wall boy knows his moves are great
but we just both desperately needed this for us. 
besides, if he wanted to mingle, ifyaknowwhatimean, we'd just have to tell him we're 6-8 years older than him, soooooooo......

------- the car, 10pm -----

we raced to the car and blasted music. 
i mean, blasted. 

and we continued our dance party of two, and sang and danced our little hearts out. 
rather, our upper bodies -- our feet were kind of stationed where they are, being in a car and all.

on the way home, there was a great song that came on, 
so we stopped the car and danced on a somewhat deserted road overlooking our entire city. 
just because we could.
and then we hopped back in the car and continued. 
just because we could. 
and because we were cold. 

back at talisa's, 
we talked about how liberated we felt. 

how lucky we are
to have these experiences. 

these discussions and these dances.
really, by letting ourselves just let go, 
we're learning to love all of ourselves. 
and that's so important if we can ever open ourselves up to love someone else, 
or let someone else love us. 

------- 45 mins before -----

as i danced, i thought, man. 
i'm freaking 26 years old. 
i could have been a mom by now. 
and what kind of mom would be dancing so stupidly at a college party? 

then i thought, 
um....a cool one, duh. 

i absolutely want to encourage my children to dance all the time. 
if they like dancing. 
i'm not going to force it upon them as punishment 
(though that'd be kind of fun....). 

i want to have dance parties with my kids. 
yeah! i can do this.  
when it happens.

and as i focused on making sure i was true to my high-spirited, dancing self, i thought, 
someday i'll have someone who won't judge me, 

someday i'll find someone who will catch up to me. 
someone who won't compete with me, but will dance with me. 
someone who won't ask me to slow down* but we will run together.
someone who won't just deal with and ALL of my sides (as introverted/exhilarated/extroverted/ridiculous), but will love and encourage them! and encourage me to develop them. 
someone to whom i can do all that for as equally.

tonight i was too fast, too wild, or too in my own world for all of those things in a literal sense.
and it felt good just to be me

in general, i see myself as too much and other times not enough, too fast or too slow, too wild or mundane, too in my own world or too concerned about the worlds of others for things to balance out.

but i'm working on it.
and i'm living a very human experience. 

------- 11pm -----

on my way home from talisa's, 
i saw two deer, just still against the mountainside. 
i also turned up the music 
and i sang as loud as i could. 
i mean, really loud. 

with the owl city dude,
i'm trying to make myself believe that planet earth moves slowly. 

but man, it moves. 
i parked. walked to my door. 
and before i did, i stopped to admire the stars --
i love that i can see them so clearly where i live. 
this earth is incredible. 

------- now / 3 hours later -----

i think i will just look at the floor and focus on being where my feet are. put my head down and go to work. and then dance like everyone's watching (because they probably are). and i won't care, and it'll feel great.

*by "slow down" i don't mean i shouldn't slow down in my life or on my calendar. i promise you i am very aware my schedule is overbooked. i promise i know, and i'm working on it.