Positive Ions

Sometimes it’s fancy cooking I enjoy; sometimes it’s chicken pot pies and applesauce.

Sometimes I love my acoustic music that expresses my feelings in words I can understand; sometimes my very own Pandora station is just whiny.

Sometimes I do good of eating by texture; sometimes white chocolate is all I can taste.

Sometimes I am full of joy and energy, taking delight in the experience of life; sometimes, when I am too invisible, I just want to hit the delete button.

It never works.

After a weekend with the family, including six kiddos, all I needed after a long day of driving and a late night arrive home was some time to curl up in my favorite chair with a favorite book… with no processors on my head and the unconditional love of puppies keeping me warm.

I dove into Rilke (the poet, not the dog), which my blog stalkers know by the quote-ey emails that hit their inboxes so late.

I <3 Rilke, and always have.

But the quote that really punched me in the gut last night was this one, which I did not share but spent the day pondering:

“Therefore, dear Sir, love your solitude and try to sing out with the pain it causes you. For those who are near you are far away… and this shows that the space around you is beginning to grow vast…. be happy about your growth, in which of course you can’t take anyone with you, and be gentle with those who stay behind; be confident and calm in front of them and don’t torment them with your doubts and don’t frighten them with your faith or joy, which they wouldn’t be able to comprehend. Seek out some simple and true feeling of what you have in common with them, which doesn’t necessarily have to alter when you yourself change again and again; when you see them, love life in a form that is not your own and be indulgent toward those who are growing old, who are afraid of the aloneness that you trust…. and don’t expect any understanding; but believe in a love that is being stored up for you like an inheritance, and have faith that in this love there is a strength and a blessing so large that you can travel as far as you wish without having to step outside it.”

This was so good for me to read!  I needed these words!

These Rilke words are familiar friends, but today I wrestled them to the ground, devouring them like I had never known them before.  It was a passionate battle, but sometimes a thunderstorm is needed to clear the air… and positive ions are restorative.

Therefore, dear Sir, love your solitude and try to sing out with the pain it causes you.

This has been a big part of my change.  The slowing down, the spending time at home, the being alone, the staying single long enough to meet me.  I know there are moments of my days, in this life of solitude, that many wives and mothers would give most anything to experience.  I truly treasure my times of study and pondering and meditation that I have access to as a woman without spouse or children in the home, and I know that I am accountable for this time and space and the wise stewardship of it.

But it is also very difficult, and it does also cause pain. Lonely is lonely, no mater how noble you are about it.  Self-reliance and self-sufficiency take on a whole new meaning and a whole new urgency.  The temptation to hide and isolate because you can, which is not the same as resting or home-ing, easily overpowers the choice to go out and give time and energy to others.

It is an illusion of an island, reinforced by closed blinds and locked doors that become prison walls without visitors, laughter, or fresh air.

Like the repentance work of the soul, it is a constant effort to fight those clouds.  Energy and will must be focused into forcing out the cobwebs of mood,  and it requires extensive motivation to breathe life into this space rather than letting it drain away.  It is hard work to keep out the distractions of noise, work, and entertainment in order to protect the peace and light of the Temple brought home here to me.

For those who are near you are far away…

This makes me think of the CS Lewis comment:

“creatures grow further apart as they increase in perfection. Good, as it ripens, becomes continually more different not only from evil but from other good.”

This is how “holy” means “set apart”.  Something, or someone, is holy because it is very, ripe.  It is so shiny that it is different than those to which you could compare.  Holy is not just different than “evil”; it is also somehow more than just mere “good”.

There is a difference between a licensed therapist, and someone who has never had any training.  But there is also a different between licensed therapists and really good (skilled) licensed therapists.

It is also the distance you feel when you make progress in an area that your loved ones have not, or, conversely, when your loved ones have made progress without you.  Either way it is the gap of canyons, and one can either fall into the pit or do the work to learn.  I think it is ultimately designed to push us forward, but in the first moment of recognition it feels like teetering on the edge.

and this shows that the space around you is beginning to grow vast….

This is as it should be, though there is a level of grief anytime things change from what they were into something new.  But as we grow, improve, progress in life, we do take up more space.  There is more of us than there was before.

There is a degree of solitude required for growing internally, for depth-ness being created.  And solitude requires space, so a specific and purposeful solitude requires a great deal of space and time “set apart” from the world around us.

be happy about your growth,

Do not get stuck in the teetering-on-the-edge.  The cavern is vast, but it is only a result of the moving of mountains; it is not for you to fall in.

This is the not-looking-back as Lot’s wife did; it is the metaphor of the little bird hatching from its egg.  The womb is always safe and nourishing, but you must at some point grow enough to move beyond it.

I learned this even when I was kicked out of the Temple.  I wasn’t actually kicked out of the Temple, but I mean to say that I have a full-time job, and part-time work, and my mission, and my newly-healing-family.  I cannot do all of those things, much less do them well, if I am at the Temple every single time it is open.  Going to the Temple is an important part of my life, of course, but it is only a piece. And part of going to the Temple is then leaving, and taking that Light with me.

I learned from President Kimball that I cannot “return and report” if I do not “go and do”.

I would never have become a therapist if only stayed in the classroom.

in which of course you can’t take anyone with you,

This one is maybe the hardest for me.

I want people to see the things I see.

I want people to know the things I know.

I am hungry to know and see, and I want people to be as hungry as me.

Many times, they are not.

Maybe because they are already ahead of me, or maybe because they are just starting.  We are in different places, or on different paths.  But I cannot drag people along with me.

The real reason, of course, is because each journey is an individual one, unique to each person.  Your life is designed especially for you, to help you learn what you are here to learn, to discover what you are here to discover, to do what you are here to do.  This life, your bounds of time and space (being alive, now, and here), has a purpose just especially for you.

As does my life for me.

So I can’t make my life lessons the same life lessons for someone else.  I can’t drag them kicking and screaming along my path, because it is not their path.

Not only is my path not their path, but living life is an individual responsibility.  I cannot live life for someone else no more than someone else can live life for me.  This is my life to live, and yours is your life to live.  It just is.

There may be many I can meet there, but I can take no one with me along the way.  There may be many whose path lie very near mine, but I still must walk my own path and they must walk theirs.

and be gentle with those who stay behind;

This makes me think of President Uchtdorf at the last General Conference (October 2010), in his “You are my Hands” talk when he said, “we condemn too quickly and with too little compassion.”

Because I can only walk my own journey, I have no right to condemn the journey of another.  I do have the responsibility to help point the way toward the destination of love and peace which we share.  But I must be gentle with those at their own pace, in their own process, making their own effort… just as so many have been patient and gentle with me along the way.

be confident and calm in front of them and don’t torment them with your doubts

Sometimes, I am my own mess.

Sometimes, I talk myself in circles.

Sometimes, I have thrown my own self for a loop that takes some untangling.

I don’t need to dump my mess on those overwhelmed with their own stuff.

and don’t frighten them with your faith or joy, which they wouldn’t be able to comprehend.

This makes me think of when I was little, and I would try to cheer up my brother by singing songs to him.  When he was little, that worked.  When he was a teenager, that was no longer helpful.  He just needed to feel what he was feeling, and did not need distraction from it.  He was old enough, grown enough, to deal with life even when it was hard.  He had a different life skill set than I had.  And that was okay.

However, this made my meager attempts at cheer more annoying that helpful.

And that’s why we poke holes in a chicken pot pie before heating it up.

Seek out some simple and true feeling of what you have in common with them,

This is the true meaning of tolerance.

Tolerance does not mean approving of the behaviors of others, nor does it mean putting up with behaviors with which you do not agree.  Tolerance is not a permissive attitude, or not being permitted to suggest positive change.

Tolerance is meeting someone on common ground to develop mutual understanding and love.

We are all human, and our experience on planet earth unites us.  We all have different eyes through which we see, but we do see the same sun and the same grass.  We can stand together on that grass to share how warm the sun feels in a summer breeze.

which doesn’t necessarily have to alter when you yourself change again and again;

This is good boundaries.

I am uniquely Emily, and my role in life is just being me.

Part of being me is caring for myself, including protecting who I am.

Even as I grow and change, I learn what is good for me and what is not, what is life-giving and strengthening and what is destructive.  Letting the good things in while keeping the bad out is good boundaries.

Good boundaries don’t change as I grow; rather, good boundaries help provide the structure and framework in which I am able to grow.

when you see them, love life in a form that is not your own

I don’t know anything about fashion shows, but when my friend’s dress shop provided the dresses for a local high school event… I loved life in a way not my own by learning really quickly how to pin dresses, bag dresses, and hang dresses.

I don’t have cable or watch TV at my house, but when my young friend had Spring Break, I loved life in a way not my own by having a Star Wars marathon with him.

There are no children at my house, but when I visit my brother I love life in a way not my own by enjoying the flexibility, spontaneity, and chaos that comes from six kids in a family.

All of it was a good time!  But it was loving life in a way that is not my own.  In the same way, I have friends who meet me where I am and love life in a way not their own.  Maybe they endure long blogs, sporadic postings, crazy working hours, or rambling speeches!

and be indulgent toward those who are growing old,

One of the things I love most about our church is that it has a specific plan and purpose for those who are growing old.  Not just a plan that takes care of them or provides for them, but also that gives them function and purpose and meaning as a very cherished and honored role in our community.  It seems this is often lost in western society, and I love that we are trying to protect it and continue it.

However, being “indulgent” toward those who are growing old requires more benevolence than just honoring their place in our lives.  It is more than just being grateful to them for our own existence.  It is more than being respectful of the place they hold, for the roles they played in our lives.

To be indulgent is to spoil them, cherish them, fill them to overflowing with love and service.  Being indulgent is to make sure they have what they want, not just what they need.  Being indulgent is providing more than what is required for comfort.  It is a letting them do things their way, at their pace, when they are good and ready.

To indulge those growing old takes far more compassion and effort than just respecting the elderly.

who are afraid of the aloneness that you trust….

Let other people feel what they feel; let them be in the space they are in.  If they are willing, you can enter that space.  If they let you, you can light a candle.  But not everyone has developed the same strengths and skills as you, just as you have not developed the same strengths and skills as they have.

and don’t expect any understanding;

This is a soul-depth kind of understanding.

Other people cannot understand exactly your journey because it is your own.

but believe in a love that is being stored up for you like an inheritance,

This is so Old Testament!  I love it!  Inheritances do not move from tribe to tribe, but are passed down within the tribe.  It was not enough to be born within the covenant of Abraham, but the children of Israel also had to live in such a way as to demonstrate they were  Abraham’s children.  Birthright is more than genetics.

In the same way, good boundaries mean living in a way true to who you are, while still interacting with the world in which you live.  We are at times called to solitude; we are not called to isolated monasticism.  We are called to love and serve those on planet Earth alongside us, in our lives every day, in our paths for moments or on parallel paths next to us.

Above all, there is love.  Love is bigger than everything.

Yet, even while being bigger than everything, Love still has a context, a structure, and a purpose.  That’s what helps it flow from noun to verb.  The pre-Frank Sinatra song said this:

Love is a many-splendored thing,
It’s the April rose that only grows in the early spring,
Love is nature’s way of giving a reason to be living,
The golden crown that makes a man a king.

Love is more than a feeling, and more than a motivation.  “Love” perverted can be one of the most dark and dangerous forces experienced, and Love cherished can be one of the most powerful and cleansing forces there is.

Sometimes love is hard work, because it must be demonstrated more than declared.

The purest love will honor the bounds in which it thrives, rather than selfishly seeking to obtain.  Love is not a possession; it is not ownership.

Love is life-giving and strengthening.  Love is creating.  Love is healing. Love is becoming.

and have faith that in this love there is a strength and a blessing so large that you can travel as far as you wish without having to step outside it.”

This made me cry when I read it the other night.

It resonates in our child-hearts, a love so pure and strong and blessing-ish as to be “enough” that we can exist without having to step outside of it.

Little toddlers wander off, and then back to their mothers.  Wander, back, wander, back.  They are like little ping-pong balls, and this is what they do because they are learning that they exist as a separate and distinct entity.  They can leave their mothers, and still exist as a person.

This lesson is so hard, though we overlook it and pretend we are tough, but mother-self relationships are so hard that there is not one country in the world with a fairytale that includes a mother.  Go ahead, try and find one.  There isn’t one.  Always, the mother has died or dies, has gone away, or there is a step-mother.   There is never a mother.

Because mother-relationships are that hard, for everybody.

This is not because mothers have failed, but because they are learning, too.  And just as they learn how best to care for us, we are learning how best to survive without them.  So it’s a conflict by design, and requires a becoming that is enough growth to demand a vast space around you.   If both mother and child do this, then they can co-exist together without being written out of the story.

This is the embrace of the prodigal son and his father.  The prodigal son (or daughter, in my case) has to do the work of coming home again.  But the parent – the parent was there waiting all along.  The father did not just welcome the son home, he saw him from a long way off!  He was already expecting, preparing for, waiting, hoping, and ready for the son to return home.

This is the embrace of the atonement, the at-one-ment, that welcomes us back into the presence of our heavenly parents… or earthly parents, if we need the practice.

But it is very hard work.

It’s the kind of work that prepares a person for marriage.

And like a marriage, it depends on both people doing that work.

But to think for a moment, that there is a love greater even than a mother’s love, or a higher kind of parent-love, so much that not only is it “enough” – enough to provide and protect as parents do – but I cannot go outside of it.

I can fight against it like a screaming toddler.  I can rebel against it like an adolescent.  I can ignore it like a passive-aggressive adult.

But that Love is still there, waiting, watching, expecting.

I still have to deal with my own consequences, still have to go through the process of learning, still have to make that long walk home.

But that Love is there, waiting, watching, expecting.

About Emily

I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since 2009. I serve as a Chaplain, and work as a counselor. I got bilateral cochlear implants in 2010, but will always love sign language. I choose books over television, and organics over processed. Nothing is as close to flying as ballroom dancing - except maybe running, when in the solo mood. I would rather be outside than anywhere else, especially at the river riding my bike or kayaking. PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy, and currently doing a post-doc in Jewish Studies and an MDiv in Pastoral Counseling. The best thing about Emily World is that it's always an adventure, even if (not so) grammatically precise. The only thing better than writing is being married to a writer. Nathan Christensen and I were married in the Oklahoma City temple on 13 October 2012, and have since fostered more than eighty-five children. We have adopted the six who stayed, and are totally and completely and helplessly in love with our family. Nathan writes musical theater, including "Broadcast" (a musical history of the radio) and an adaption of Lois Lowry's "The Giver". He served his mission in South Korea, has taught song-writing in New York City public schools, and worked as a theater critic for a Tucson newspaper. This is not an official Web site of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

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