Sunday, October 21, 2012

What being sober might actually mean, and my new obsession with King Arthur

Today I started the Book of Mormon.  As in the book that comes right after 4th Nephi, not the entire set of scripture.  Is it just me, or is that one of the most depressing places to be in all the Book of Mormon (the set of scripture, not the individual book)?  It's the start of a whole lot of war chapters, but unlike the awesome war chapters in Alma where you have super cool heroes and spiritual giants like Captain Moroni, Lehi, Teancum and the stripling warriors, lots of great strategem and evil bad guys who get defeated in the end, the beginning of the story of the complete downfall and destruction of the Nephite nation is just depressing.  While every one would love to be a Captain Moroni, a brave, victorious, causing the very foundations of hell to shake sort of guy, I never hear anyone comment about their desire to be Captain Mormon.  He was, I'm sure, just as brave, just as spiritual, just as talented a warrior.  But oh the heartbreak he must have had.  Oh the horrors he must have seen.  To watch your entire people destroyed, knowing only your son will survive long enough to bury your records, records you would have stared out compiling hoping it would bring your people back to their God, but now realizing your own people will never repent and turn back but will willfully continue towards their own destruction.  Your hard work of compiling records is now for the sake of your greatest enemies, that maybe one day, hundreds of years in the future, they may change their hearts and come unto God.  But as I was reading the first chapter in Mormon today, a phrase stuck out to me.  "Thou art a sober child, and thou art quick to observe."  Usually when I hear that phrase, I concentrate on the "quick to observe" part, mostly because I have never really understood what it means to be sober.  Ironically, the past couple weeks I actually have made it a goal to be quick to observe, quick to observe the needs of others and provide service.  It seemed like every single message of this past General Conference was about that subject, and I knew I needed to improve.  But despite every good intention, I feel I have never been so slow to observe in my life.  And this is why:  Merlin.

The BBC TV show Merlin has become my latest obsession.  I cannot get enough of it.  I usually have time every evening to watch one episode, but this TV show is so addicting that even though I don't watch more than one episode, I spend the entire rest of the day thinking about the next episode, and what's going to happen, whether or not someone will find out that Merlin really is magical, whether Morgana will finally go evil or not, whether Arthur will some how mess up his secret courting of Guinevere or not, etc., etc.  I'm of course mostly enthralled with the adorable love story between Arthur and Gwen.  But I digress.

Realizing that this obsession was conflicting with my ability to observe, yet not actually becoming willing enough to remove the temptation from my life, I asked God that if I was going to spend my time thinking about this show, at least could I gain some sort of increased knowledge or understanding of some gospel principle through the stories of continuous battles of good vs. evil in this show.  Well, if ye ask, ye shall receive.

So, back to the phrase I read this morning, about being sober and quick to observe.  This time the Holy Ghost said: "Forget the quick to observe part.  You can't quite handle that part right now.  Let's focus on being sober."  And my response, of course: "What the heezy does sober mean?" states that sober means "not given to excessive indulgence in drink or any other activity; sedate or rational; free from exaggeration."  Alma also mentions to his son Shiblon to be sober, and uses other phrases like "bridle your diligent and temperate in all things...use boldness..."  While pondering all of these various words and phrases and trying to imagine what this actually looks like in someone, I realized that they were all good descriptors of Prince Arthur in the TV show.  He of course isn't always serious, he takes time to laugh and joke, but when he is doing his duties as prince, or acting under the orders of his father the king, these words describe him perfectly.  He knows his duty, and cannot be persuaded from it.  He doesn't let his emotions get in the way of fulfilling his responsibilities.  Even when he doesn't understand why his father would ask him to do something, he trusts his father enough to give something a try.  And, as is often the case with King Uther, when his father is in fact very wrong, Arthur has the courage to stand up for what is right.  But even in these situations, he is humble.  He is bold in his decision, but still shows his father honor.  Arthur also spends a large chunk of time every day training.  He's already proven himself the best knight in the kingdom, but he still realizes the importance of being diligent in preparation.  I can learn so much about what it means to be faithful in fulfilling your duty from Prince Arthur.

Another good example that I've been learning from in this show is the example of Gwen.  The TV show made a little twist with her character.  She starts off as a servant girl to the Lady Morgana in the castle.  At the point in the TV show where I am at now, Arthur has made his affections very clear to Gwen, even telling her that perhaps one day when he is king he will be able to change the rules and they will be able to marry and she could become queen.  But even with this kind of knowledge, Gwen is still very humble and knows her place in the castle.  She doesn't boast or brag that one of the most powerful men in the land is in love with her, but she continues to serve and do her menial day to day tasks, all with a kind and grateful attitude.  Her's is definitely and example that I need to learn from!

Friday, October 19, 2012

We Are Such Stuff As Dreams Are Made On

For the first 25 years of my life, I had AWESOME dreams at night.  They were always super vivid, full of color, and almost always full of my celebrity crushes, fun games, dazzling adventures, exciting places, etc.  I've had many moments of waking up laughing and smiling from dreams, so very many of which I could remember for days afterwards.  Very few made actual sense of course, like being able to fly around town to save the animals from the opera, or running away from Michael Jackson with Josh Groban while riding a motorcycle (Josh would be the celebrity crush, not Michael, in case anyone was wondering....), but what fun are dreams if they make sense?  Only very rarely would I have a dream that wasn't fun.  I can remember only a brief handful, like my sister getting kidnapped, my brother dying in a car crash, or my dad getting eaten by crocodiles.  Only once when I was a little kid did I have a reoccurring nightmare, where I was fleeing a drive-by shooting only to get trapped in a large building that was filling with water, and I would try to escape before drowning.   But that was it.  Mostly nights of super awesomeness.

Now however, post car accident and traumatic brain injury, my nights are full of bad dreams.  Some of them are super scary, most of them are just disturbing.  Like eating lunch in a building that I knew for sure was an Argentine hospital.  Nothing scary happened in the dream, Argentine hospitals have just always given me the creeps, and for my brain to drag that image out from years of being filed away just to creep my out in a dream is kind of weird.  Or last night I had a dream that my Grandma, who has been dead for like 17ish years, had my car towed because she didn't like where I parked it while I was arguing with my mom over whether or not my sister had turned into a terrorist (don't worry Ju, I was on your side).  While trying to chase down my car, some sketchy dude in a old, bright jade convertible asked me for money because he was poor.  Again, nothing scary happened, but it was just creepy.  Many of my dreams now involve huge buildings full of secrets passages and stairways, which in a normal setting would be one of the coolest things to explore ever, especially if there were fun secrets and treasures to discover.  But in all of these dreams, I'm usually being chased by ghosts or murderers or something like that, running through all of these trap doors and secret places trying to hide or run away.  Or if I have any dreams with my secret crush, he's always about to be hurt or killed or deported (because you know how dangerous the British are....) or he gets really angry at me for no reason, or just leaves forever, things like that.  I also keep having an increasing amount of dreams where I'm  not actually involved in the dream, I'm just watching it happen, and all of the people in my dream are strangers.  Many of these would actually make awesome movies or books, if I ever bothered to write them down more often.  There is always lots of action, and dramatic things happening, but so far no happy endings.

I wish I knew what was going on in my brain.  Alas, dreams are the one thing the internet doesn't know anything about.  Except for that one random psychic webpage that claims to have solved the mystery....

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Communication = Relationship

I have a few jumbled thoughts on this topic, and I was waiting until my thoughts became less jumbled so my blog post would be a little cohesive, but that never happened so I'm writing my jumbled thoughts anyway.  This is based on a few things I've observed lately, and I've come to realize, once again, that in order to have a functioning relationship, you need functioning communication.  Not to imply that my relationships are dysfunctional (especially since the following experiences are mainly from my family, and I feel we have quite a strong relationship in general), but in reality it's much easier and less frustrating to maintain a great relationship with great communication.

Point #1--  Over the years my sister and I have been fairly good at communicating, despite not having lived in the same city for about 10 years.  She is one of my best friends and I always felt connected to her.  Our relationship definitely strengthened this past summer as she lived with me for 3 months.  Now, however, she's involved in a study abroad in Australia, and basically doesn't communicate with anyone ever.  You might suggest "Oh, she's just out having way too much fun".  Whatever.  I did a study abroad too, and had oodles amounts of fun, and still managed to write daily to at least someone in my family.  Now, obvious to anyone who actually knows my family, I am the only one who actually is decent at keeping in contact with people (just ask me how much I enjoyed letter/package/email days in the mission...or better yet don't).  I definitely didn't expect her to write everyday.  But once a week perhaps? Or if that was too much to ask, a few short lines once a week, and then every other week a more detailed account of life in Australia.  Or at least pictures posted to facebook.  But alas.  Nada.  Which is uber unfortunate, because to anyone I have ever talked to that has gone on a study abroad (including myself), has mentioned their study abroad experience as one of the most life changing experiences of their life.  So there my sister is, out becoming a different person, having amazing experiences, growing, trying new things, learning new points of view, etc, etc, and no one in my family will ever know.  Because she is out there changing, she is becoming more and more of a different person everyday, and without a steady flow of communication, she is becoming more and more of a stranger ever day.  Of course, in 3 more months when she comes back, we'll have all the time in the world to talk, but still, I feel like there are so many opportunities to grow together now, as these changes and marvelous experiences are happening.

Point #2--  In this past General Conference, while Elder Perry was talking, he mentioned that we should have more spiritual conversations with our families.  Clearly in my family, we all live so far apart from each other that this really never happens.  But as I was thinking about this, I realized that while there are limitations to communication based on our living situations, we still can have family spiritual discussions.  Every single one of us live alone (except for Taylor and Jessi of course), and none of us probably have the opportunity to have very many spiritual conversations.  So I decided to start a once a month email discussion where if one so desired, they could share an experience they had in the past month that strengthened their testimony.  I thought I was being especially clever because I CC'd my inactive father on the email, so therefore he would also get all of these emails from the rest of the family and maybe eventually he would start to ponder spiritual happenings in his life.  So, in response to my first email, where I explained what I wanted to do and then shared my own experience, I got silence from 3/5 of my family.  Not even, "That's an interesting idea, let me think about it for a minutes".  The first to respond with a spiritual experience they had?  My inactive father.   So, does the rest of  my family hate the idea?  Do they like it but are busy at the moment?  Are they uncomfortable sharing with others?  How the heezy should I know???

Point #3-- I've been applying to graduate schools in England.  And while it's still too early to hear back about any final decisions, the various schools and centralized applications systems have been excellent and keeping me updated.  They all sent me at least one email, if not more, or even a couple letters in the mail, saying they got my application, etc.  Every single time I get an email or letter, it thrills me to no end even though I already know it's just a basic confirmation letter, which really isn't necessary because I already know they have my application.  But still, they know I exist, and have communicated the fact to me.  And it thrills me.

Point #4-- The Bible Dictionary states, under the heading of prayer, that “As soon as we learn the true relationship in which we stand toward God (namely, God is our Father, and we are his children), then at once prayer becomes natural and instinctive on our part.  Many of the so-called difficulties about prayer arise from forgetting this relationship.  Prayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other.  The object of prayer is not to change the will of God, but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant, but that are made conditional on our asking for them.  Blessings require some work or effort on our part before we can obtain them.  Prayer is a form of work, and is an appointed means for obtaining the highest of all blessings.”  Prayer, or communication with our Father in Heaven, is natural when we understand our relationship to Him.  It is when we become casual in our communicating with Him that we distance ourselves from Him. 

We can only maintain a proper relationship when we have proper communication, no matter with whom we are trying to form or strengthen a relationship with.  Communication has definitely been a weakness of mine in the past, so after pondering these few experiences in my life, I’m going to try to be better at communicating with all people in my life.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Sometimes You're Actually NOT Allergic To Gluten

Tomorrow I'm starting a 2 month experiment of not eating any gluten, soy, or dairy.  I saw a nutritionist who is dead certain I'm going to die in 2 years from something akin to diabetes or cancer if I don't eliminate such toxins from my system (ignore the fact that my blood test for gluten sensitivity was almost as negative as possible (and yes, I did do a lot of research in peer-reviewed scientific journals to make sure I was interpreting the result correctly), or even that any diabetes related blood test I've had recently is also not only within normal limits, but on the low end not even close to being borderline, or even that I don't think gluten allergy and diabetes are even remotely related.  But who knows.  I haven't taken the time to look up any research on that one).  *Warning:  It turns out nutritionist are much like chiropractors ...some of them are great and fabulous people based in real scientific principles and help benefit peoples lives greatly.  Others are just hippies with bad ideas and cost a lot of money that I never had to begin with.  (No offense to my family members/friends/old roommates whom I love dearly and are hippie-esque.  Hippies in and of themselves don't bother me, and I'm glad you enjoy your lifestyle so much.  I just can't stand when others try to force their lifestyle that I don't agree with on me.)

Why is everyone so keen to jump on the gluten-free fad?  Obviously some people really do need it.  Others of us however, plan on spending grad school in England eating scones every afternoon with tea and eventually retiring in Italy with the food of the gods, and if I don't need to be gluten-free, I sure as heck am not going to be gluten-free.  Realistically, I think the few symptoms that I have that overlap with the symptoms of gluten sensitivity are really caused by my lactose intolerance, which I do know I have, and which I still don't control very well (cheese is my last big weakness.  You'd think ice cream would be the hardest to give up, but luckily froyo exists so it ends up not being a big sacrifice.  Most of the time.....)  But regardless of what I may think, I decided to do the 2 month experiment anyway.  If nothing else it's a good lesson in self control.  I'll let you know what happens in 2 months when eat a bit of gluten again.

Friday, October 5, 2012

The Music of My Soul: An Addendum

I have a friend who often posts her current Top 25 list, and I realized that this would be a good view of the current state of my soul.  Unfortunately, this will not be an accurate Top 25 according to iTunes, since I no longer have my old computer (long story).  So here it is, a more or less semi accurate Top 25, in a slightly biased order:

1.  Shake it Out by Florence and the Machine
2.  Si Chiama Liberta by Sonohra
3.  The War Inside by Switchfoot
4.  Souvenirs by Switchfoot
5.  Geisterfahrer by Tokio Hotel
6.  Television by Jack's Mannequin
7.  Beethoven's 5 Secrets by Piano Guys
8.  Awake My Soul by Mumford and Sons
9.  Kids by MGMT
10.  Due Ora all'Alba by Lost
11.  Amy, I by Jack's Mannequin
12.  Needle and Haystack Life by Switchfoot
13.  Moonlight by Piano Guys
14.  Someone Like You by Adele
15.  All This Time by OneRebublic
16.  Waiting for the End by Linkin Park
17.  You Are a Tourist by Death Cab for Cutie
18.  Eet by Regina Spektor
19.  The A Team by Ed Sheeran
20.  Call Me Maybe by Carly Rae Jepson (Don't judge...)
21.  Give Your Heart a Break by Demi Lovato (Ditto)
22.  Hidden Away by Josh Groban
23.  After the Storm by Mumford and Suns
24.  Eleanor Rigby by The Beatles
25.  Probably a Coldplay song should go here...Don't Let it Break Your Heart, Charlie Brown, or Paradise perhaps.  Or maybe Restless Dream by Jack's Mannequin.

The Music of My Soul: An Analysis

I was listening to a couple of songs the other day which I have adored for quite some time.  As I was listening, I realized that these 2 songs seem to describe the very fiber of my soul.  Not as in a "This is my favorite song of the moment" type of way, but that these songs seem to capture the very essence of who I am and who I have always been.  This also got me to pondering different songs that were important in certain instances in my life, and have a very specific meaning for me.  So here it is, my autobiography in musical form:

The two songs that describe the very fiber of my soul are Beethoven's 5 Secrets and Moonlight, both by the Piano Guys.  Also very fitting of my soul is the Mulan Suite of the Mulan soundtrack and the Riders of Rohan melody from Lord of the Rings.

The rest of these songs, while unable to capture my entirety, do capture a piece of me.

The screensaver of my mind for whatever reason, has been Come Thou Fount ever since my mission.  If I stop thinking, I immediately start humming this song.

Dream On is my theme for any great sports acheivement.

Song For Sienna describes perfectly my time in Siena, Italy.  Also Italian and also of great import to my future music listening career is L'amore by Sonohra.  I can literally still see in my mind the details of restaurant where I first saw the music video and heard the song.

Switchfoot's Faust, Midas, and Myself is a perfect metaphor for any big desicion in my life.  And for any Doctor Who fans out there, the answer is always turn left.

Fin by Anberlin comes from the end of summer and beginning of fall of 2007, perhaps the darkest time in my life.  It might have been the first time I realized that a song could put feelings into words better than I knew how, and was comforted in the fact that at least one other person in the world (presumably the writer of the song) knew what it was like to have those sorts of feelings.

Tokio Hotel music is a perfect description of my emo moods.  I like Geisterfahrer the best, though not technically the most emo.

Salvami reminds me of Kristin, Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again always makes me think of Nisha and the violin, while this version of I Know That My Redeemer Lives is Camilla and a crazy Argentine vegetarian.  The Hallelujah Chorus is also a Camilla song, representing a fabulous inside joke from our time as roommates, which will probably never not be funny, nor untrue....

Swim by Jack's Mannequin came to me in the middle of a prayer when I was sure I couldn't go on through my hardest trial anymore in Boston.

Time of Your Song by Matisyahu is baseball.

Red and Black from Les Miserables is my song I sing on the way to any opera.

And no matter how hard I try, whenever I hear More Than A Feeling on the radio, I can not get this scene out of my head.  I will be 80, and still have this association.

That's all I can really think of for now.  So there you have it, my soul/life in music form.