Sunday, January 31, 2016

Be a REAL Friend


In my life I've had several friendships go the way of the audio cassette and the dodo bird. An overarching theme is "friends" who were only interested in being friends in the loose sense of the word. They wanted to be friends in that friendship consisted of hanging out without any type of emotional connection or any real meaning. Deep topics were off limits and forbidden. Emotions were frowned upon. In other words, they wanted to be friends in the Summer-Sales-Tools kind of way.

The issue with this is how unfulfilling, how shallow, how unstable this type of friendship is. Friendship for me has been at times the only thing that has kept me going amongst the maelstroms of life. How can I have a friendship with someone who only wants to be there for the fun times and not the mundane, the difficult, the sad, the frustrating, etc?

I've been pondering a lot on this topic recently. I've come up with beatitudes (Thanks Gordon B. Hinckley) of what it means to be a REAL friend as opposed to superficial one:

Be Interested.
There's the misconception out there that you have to share all the same interests and beliefs with another in order to be their friend; not true. We are all individuals with our own interests and identities. If we all liked the same things and thought the same way, life would be really vanilla. Be willing to learn about one another's interests. Ask about them. Be excited about them.

Be Aware.
This is a big one. More often than not we become so self-absorbed in our own lives, we don't realize that there's others around us going through their own storms. We don't realize that we could be the answer or relief that another is looking for simply because we're not paying attention.

Be Supportive.
Real friends don't have to agree with each other's choices or decisions. It's not our job to pass judgement. It's our job to simply love and let them know that you're there for them unconditionally. This can translate to going to a Broadway musical even though you hate show tunes, attending a football game though you hate sports, or something a bit more complicated like supporting them in their wedding even if you can't tolerate whom they've chosen as a spouse.

Be a Safe Place.
Real friends should be able to be completely vulnerable, completely emotionally naked with each other. Fears, doubts, insecurities, secrets should be able to be expressed without judgement, without fear of others hearing about it.

Be Spontaneous.
Spontaneity doesn't have to mean a last minute road trip to Vegas. Being spontaneous could be going for milkshakes randomly on a week day or having a Lord of the Rings marathon on a Saturday. Spontaneity means stopping to smell the roses; it means enjoying life, no matter what you're doing but whom you're doing it with.

Be Thoughtful.
Friendship is a two-way street. One friend can't continuously give while the other continuously recieves. Being thoughtful entails saying your "please" and "thank you's". Being thoughtful entails wishing a friend well before a big test, eating ice cream and cookie dough together after a particularly difficult day. Being thoughtful is thinking of what you would do for yourself in a situation, and doing that for your friend.

Be Present.
Nothing irritates a parent more than trying to speak to their child and have their child be glued to a phone screen not really paying attention; the same translates to friendship. Unplug while you're spending time with someone. Besides being rude, it's extremely invalidating to feel like one's company isn't enough or appreciated. When a friend makes time in their day for you, you should to the same.

Be Loving.
Love is complicated topic no matter if it's platonic or romanticized. Really loving someone means that it is unconditional and not based off if you like them one particular day or not. It's caring so deeply for someone that you want what's best for them, regardless if it's something that they want you to do or not. And sometimes that means doing what's best for a friend out of love even when it can make them really upset with you. It doesn't always make you popular, but in the eternal scheme of things they will thank you.

"Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." - John 15:13

Love,
D-Todd

Monday, January 18, 2016

You Are Enough


10 days. A little over a week. That's how long it's been since I've said goodbye to my beloved America. 10 days. That's the longest I've ever been outside North America. The longest I've been outside of the country.

It's often said that you don't know what you got till it's gone, and being separated from my modern, first world home, I can assure you that it's true.

Grenada while beautiful and located in the Caribbean, has been a major culture shock for me. It's an island country with a population of a little over 100,000. The culture is a mashup of English-French-Caribbean, soft spoken and easy going. 

Vehicles have the wheel on the right side and everyone drives on the left side of the road. When it comes to actual driving, the only rule is to use your horn and avoid hitting each other. There's no speed limits and only two stoplights (or so I've been told, I've only seen one). Occasionally you'll see a new car here but the majority are at least 10 years old.

AC is a luxury saved for businesses, schools, and bedrooms. Most people only own washers and hang dry their clothes. Dish washers are non-existent.

There's only two fast-food places on the entire island: Subway and KFC.

Currency is the Eastern Caribbean dollar which is best translated to $2.60 for every American dollar. Pretty much anything you buy here will be more expensive because it has to be imported to the island.

Propriety is of upmost importance here. Beginning a conversation with "Good morning" or "Good afternoon" is absolutely essential. It can make or break a conversation. Fun fact, it's against the law to curse here... No really. You can be legit thrown in jail for it.

Robbery and mugging are frequent issues here, so every private residence is gated or fitted with bars and barbed wire.

Dogs and cats roam free. It's not uncommon to see goats or a cow tied up at the most random places along the road.

When it comes to the Church, the branch is about 70 members. Half are students and SOs, while the other half are locals.

It has been extremely difficult for me to adjust to this new life that I've been thrust into. I'm a privileged white boy from an upper-middle class family who's been missing the comforts of the big city: fast-food, more options at the grocery store, having my own vehicle, Lifetime Fitness, a large ward family, friends, family, and my dogs.

I've been compelled to accept that things are different. This is a different country. This is not the United States. And that's okay. Different doesn't mean one is better than the other. I can't change things and it's not forever. I'll be here for four months and then I'll get to go home for the summer.

It's not just Grenada that I'm learning to accept the things I can't change. For anyone who knows me, I'm notorious for having an intense personality, especially when it comes to my friends. I will go above and beyond, I will move heaven and earth if I care for someone.

I also have had the tendency to take it really personally when someone is a sucky friend to me, or they don't really show an interest in being my friend despite everything I do to be their friend. I tend to focus on a lot of negative thoughts about myself and internalize them. The most common being "What's wrong with me? Why am I not good enough for them? Why don't they want to be my friend?'

I've had a recent situation in my life where it felt like everything had aligned for me to be really good friends with a person I'd known for a while but hadn't necessarily been close with. I'd been giving all I had and making an effort to be accepted when it seemed that the other party really had no interest in my efforts.

Heartbroken and feeling like the scum of the earth, I turned to my dear friend for consolation. I told her of my efforts and of the seeming rejection from the other individual. I asked "Why?" I shared all my internalized hurt and negative feelings about myself. 

My friend turned the tables on me and made me realize something. Things hadn't just seemingly aligned in my life to where I could/wanted to be friends with this individual, but had lined up in the other party's life as well. In her words: "What's wrong with you? You're a funny, smart, handsome guy. What's wrong with THEM?!"

I know this may not seem like some huge revelation to anyone from what my friend said. But it did wonders for me. It made me realize that there was really nothing wrong with me. It wasn't in my control that the other person didn't want to be friends with me. But it was in control for me to realize that their rejection of me is no reflection of my self-worth.

Just as I must embrace the Grenadian culture and not change it, so must I realize that just because another doesn't see my worth, doesn't mean that I'm worth nothing.

YOU ARE ENOUGH.

Love,
D-Todd

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Why I'll Always Answer The Phone


I've had an interesting week to say the least. Without going into details, I've gone from feeling sorry for myself, to completely hating myself, to re-learning to forget myself. Let me explain:

I made the decision long ago to go into healthcare because of my fascination with the human body, the draw of a comfortable income, and more so the opportunity to care for others, to give all I have to heal and better their lives.

I've been experiencing some very difficult things personally, mentally, and spiritually. That makes me no different than anyone else, we all experience the thorns of life. But for one reason or another, I've felt that my thorns have been bigger, worse, more difficult than everyone else's. It's caused me to make foolish decisions, as well as hurt those I'm closest to. 

I haven't been behaving like an aspiring caregiver in the least. I've been behaving like a child, a very selfish child. I know for myself, when I'm feeling selfish, I tend to ignore contact from those who I'm closest to because I'm angry and want them to know that and feel bad about it. I'm sure all of us do that to some degree or another, focus on ourself and our problems and end up ignoring or dismissing those around us.

I received a call tonight from a friend, a friend that doesn't regularly call me. This friend trusted me and counted on me to answer that phone. This friend needed my help and care, and by simply answering the phone (in turn forgetting about myself and my problems) very well may have saved this friend's life. I've dedicated the rest of my night to being with this friend and getting them the help they need. My doctor instincts took over and went on autopilot. Like my mission, I forgot myself and went to work. I felt more happiness, more satisfaction, more peace in talking to and seeking the appropriate care for my friend than I've had in the last couple of weeks feeling sorry for myself.

How often could I have looked outside myself, answered that phone call even if it's not convenient for me or I'm not feeling up to it? How many times have I missed someone who needed my help because I was so focused inwardly on my problems?

Life is gonna be hard, and difficult times are guaranteed to come. But if I've learned anything tonight, it's that forgetting myself in my times of hardship and turning to others brings happiness and comfort that can't be found mourning in my own trials.

Please to anyone who reads this, if you need help, ask for it. Ask from someone you trust. You can even talk to me. You're not alone.

Love,
D-Todd

Thursday, June 4, 2015

In Defense of Caitlyn Jenner: A Mormon Perspective


Ever since the debut of Caitlyn (formerly Bruce) Jenner's Vanity Fair cover I have seen mixed reactions in my social (media) life. There are those commending her for her courage and congratulating her. There are others doing quite the opposite, almost vehemently attacking her.

I have given a lot of thought on whether or not to write a blog post on such a political and religious hot topic. The increasing number of hurtful and ignorant posts written by many members of my own faith has caused me to carefully ponder and compose my thoughts in a way for people to love a little more, judge a little less.

I'll be the first to say that I don't understand the mental process or emotions that Caitlyn (I'm referring to Jenner by female pronouns per her request in the media) has experienced throughout her life. I don't understand it medically. From the gospel side of things-per The Family: A Proclamation to the World; I don't understand. It's not something that I can relate to, and obviously I wouldn't unless it was something I was experiencing as well.

I write not to condone or condemn Jenner's choice to fully transition from a man into a woman. I am here simply to defend her ability to choose. The same ability that we are all given as children of God here on this earth. You may not understand Jenner's decision, you may not agree with her decision. It may make you angry that the media is sensationalizing her story. But none of these things give clemency to ignorance, hate, or cruelty.

Elder Uchtdorf addressed this perfectly:

"This topic of judging others could actually be taught in a two-word sermon. When it comes to hating, gossiping, ignoring, ridiculing, holding grudges, or wanting to cause harm, please apply the following:

"Stop it!

"It’s that simple. We simply have to stop judging others and replace judgmental thoughts and feelings with a heart full of love for God and His children. God is our Father. We are His children. We are all brothers and sisters. I don’t know exactly how to articulate this point of not judging others with sufficient eloquence, passion, and persuasion to make it stick. I can quote scripture, I can try to expound doctrine, and I will even quote a bumper sticker I recently saw. It was attached to the back of a car whose driver appeared to be a little rough around the edges, but the words on the sticker taught an insightful lesson. It read, “Don’t judge me because I sin differently than you.”

"We must recognize that we are all imperfect—that we are beggars before God. Haven’t we all, at one time or another, meekly approached the mercy seat and pleaded for grace? Haven’t we wished with all the energy of our souls for mercy—to be forgiven for the mistakes we have made and the sins we have committed?

"Because we all depend on the mercy of God, how can we deny to others any measure of the grace we so desperately desire for ourselves? My beloved brothers and sisters, should we not forgive as we wish to be forgiven?"

Jenner was 10 when she started dressing in women’s clothing. She was “fascinated by it all” but felt “scared to death somebody was going to find out.” Caitlyn kept that secret from everyone save for those who discovered accidentally. She finally told her whole family and the world at the age of 65. I mention this purely to ask those who read this and reflect; How many people do you know that may struggle with this and have not told a soul? How do you think the thoughtless and harsh words being said make them feel?

The greatest people I know are able to have different thoughts and opinions... but for a time and place. They respond to something and someone different that they may disagree with in love, just as the Savior would.

Think before you speak (or type). Love before you judge.

Love,
D-Todd

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Why Seek Ye The Living Among The Dead?


Working in the emergency room lends you to seeing miracles on a daily basis. Advances of modern medicine have inabled healthcare workers to save lives more than ever. Patients have literally been brought back to life before my eyes after their heart has stopped.

However, it's called practicing medicine for a reason; patients are still lost and death is still very much a part of what I do.

This Easter morning I was reminded of the limits of my career field as a life was so needlessly and tragically lost. A family completely blindsided by the loss of one they love, the sorrow they must feel! The inconsolable grief that must fill their hearts!

"At the beginning of His ministry, Jesus took a text from Isaiah: 'The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound' (Isaiah 61:1; see also Luke 4:18)—a clear pronouncement of a divine plan to rescue the sons and daughters of God.

"But Jesus’s preaching in Galilee had been merely prelude. The Son of Man had always had a dread rendezvous to keep on a hill called Golgotha.

"Arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane after the Last Supper, deserted by His disciples, spat upon, tried, and humiliated, Jesus staggered under His great cross toward Calvary. He progressed from triumph to betrayal, torture, and death on the cross.

"In the words of the song The Holy City:

The scene was changed. …
The morn was cold and chill,
As the shadow of a cross arose
Upon a lonely hill.

"For us our Heavenly Father gave His Son. For us our Elder Brother gave His life.

"At the last moment the Master could have turned back. But He did not. He passed beneath all things that He might save all things: the human race, the earth, and all the life that ever inhabited it.

"No words in Christendom mean more to me than those spoken by the angel to the weeping Mary Magdalene and the other Mary as they approached the tomb to care for the body of their Lord: “Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen” (Luke 24:5–6).

"With this pronouncement, those who have lived and died, those who now live and one day will die, and those yet to be born and yet to die had just been rescued.

"As the result of Christ’s victory over the grave, we shall all be resurrected. This is the redemption of the soul. Paul wrote:

'There are … celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another.

'There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory.

'So also is the resurrection of the dead' (1 Corinthians 15:40–42).

"It is the celestial glory that we seek. It is in the presence of God that we desire to dwell. It is a forever family in which we want membership.

"Of Him who delivered each of us from endless death, I testify He is a teacher of truth—but He is more than a teacher. He is the exemplar of the perfect life—but He is more than an exemplar. He is the great physician—but He is more than a physician. He is the literal Savior of the world, the Son of God, the Prince of Peace, the Holy One of Israel, even the risen Lord, who declared, 'I am the first and the last; I am he who liveth, I am he who was slain; I am your advocate with the Father' (D&C 110:4)." (Thomas S. Monson, He Is Not Here, but is Risen, Ensign April 2011)

It was unthinkable, impossible, unfathomable, unprecedented. A single act that changed history, possibility, destiny. He was a carpenter, a teacher, an outcast, a leader. Yet he did what no carpenter, teacher, outcast, leader had ever done. Like all who preceded him, he lived, and he died. But unlike all who preceded him, he rose from the dead, he lived again. He lives and because he lives, you, you, and you, and she, and he, and they, and we all will live again. Because of him death has no sting, the grave no victory. We can start again, and again, and again. Because of him, guilt becomes peace, regret becomes relief, despair becomes hope. Because of him, we have second chances, clean slates, new beginnings. There is no such thing as the end because of him.

Happy Easter!

Love,
D-Todd



Wednesday, February 4, 2015

“Lord, Save Me.”


As Christ’s disciples had set out on one of their frequent journeys across the Sea of Galilee, the night was dark and the elements were strong and contrary. The waves were boisterous and the wind was bold, and these mortal, frail men were frightened. Unfortunately there was no one with them to calm and save them, for Jesus had been left alone upon the shore.”

As always, he was watching over them. He loved them and cared for them. In their moment of greatest extremity they looked and saw in the darkness an image in a fluttering robe, walking toward them on the ridges of the sea. They cried out in terror at the sight, thinking that it was a phantom that walked upon the waves. And through the storm and darkness to them—as so often to us, when, amid the darknesses of life, the ocean seems so great and our little boats so small—there came the ultimate and reassuring voice of peace with this simple declaration, “It is I; be not afraid.” Peter exclaimed, “Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.” And Christ’s answer to him was the same as to all of us: “Come.”

Peter sprang over the vessel’s side and into the troubled waves, and while his eyes were fixed upon the Lord, the wind might toss his hair and the spray might drench his robes, but all was well. Only when with wavering faith he removed his glance from the Master to look at the furious waves and the black gulf beneath him, only then did he begin to sink. Again, like most of us, he cried, “Lord, save me.” Nor did Jesus fail him. He stretched out his hand and grasped the drowning disciple with the gentle rebuke, “O thou of little faith, why didst thou doubt?”

Then safely aboard their little craft, they saw the wind fall and the crash of the waves become a ripple. Soon they were at their haven, their safe port, where all would one day hope to be. The crew as well as his disciples were filled with deep amazement. Some of them addressed him by a title which I declare today: “Truly thou art the Son of God.” (Adapted from Farrar, The Life of Christ, pp. 310–13; see Matt. 14:22–33.)

Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve said in his talk Free Forever, to Act for Themselves:

"God does not save us 'just as we are,' first, because 'just as we are' we are unclean, and 'no unclean thing can dwell … in his presence; for, in the language of Adam, Man of Holiness is his name, and the name of his Only Begotten is the Son of Man [of Holiness].' And second, God will not act to make us something we do not choose by our actions to become. Truly He loves us, and because He loves us, He neither compels nor abandons us. Rather He helps and guides us. Indeed, the real manifestation of God’s love is His commandments."

God will not force us to do anything. Agency is so important to him, that he lost a third of his children over it.

Just as Peter, we begin our journey in this life with our eyes fixed toward Christ. And just as Peter, we progress on our journey across the waves of life and we find that our faith may waver. We doubt, we sink in our lack of faith, in our sins, in our mortality.

The Savior though always there for us, will not act upon us unless we choose to do so by our own agency. He offered himself up as a sacrifice so that the atonement could be utilized in all of our lives. It is up to us if we want to take advantage of that gift of the atonement, if we want to act upon our faith and call on our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ to save us. 

One of the most difficult things that I've experienced is seeing someone I love dearly lose sight of the Savior. The winds and waves of life have caused fear and doubt. They've lost their way and they're sinking. And because of their agency, I can't force them to grab my hand, or call out for the Savior to help them. Accepting that all I can do is love and pray for them is impossibly hard.

If anyone out there feels like there is not hope, no winning, no solution, zero optimism, or feel like you're too far gone, know that NONE of that is true. The Savior is waiting for you to call out his name so he can save you and draw you near to him. He loves you so much, and knows everything that you are experiencing. He knows your sins, heartache, sickness, and disappointments. He atoned for all of them and because of that THERE IS HOPE. 

The Prophet Joseph Smith said:

"All your losses will be made up to you in the resurrection, provided you continue faithful. By the vision of the Almighty I have seen it."

Love,
D-Todd

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

I Feel So (Un)Pretty


I woke up early this morning and felt the left side of my nose and started crying. I had extensive reconstructive surgery on the inside of my nose and sinus' yesterday afternoon to fix parts of my nasal cartilage that had structurally collapsed and were causing me several health issues. The surgery naturally had caused one side of my nose to be swollen and unsymmetrical from the other.

My nose is something that I'm already super insecure about due to life long bullying from my peers (all of whom I can still tell you their names and what names they called me; fatty, ugly, big nose) starting in junior high and all the way up to college.

I cried to my parents telling them if my nose doesn't heal normally, then I have to get plastic surgery. My nose is already hideous to me when it's symmetrical, the thought of it being deformed is unbearable.

For me, the nose is just the tip of the iceberg. I've dealt with severe body image issues since I was 12 years old. My brother was diagnosed with bipolar disorder back in 2000. At the time, there wasn't much conversation going on medically about mental illness. My parents freaked out and sought treatment for me as well, not fully understanding how mental illness works. I was put on the same medication my brother was on and I gained 50 lb. as a side effect of the medicine. I am NOT bipolar we quickly found out, and as a result of being on medication I didn't need, it caused a spike in depression and irritability.

I battled weight issues through middle school up to my sophomore year of high school. I endured bullying from not only classmates, but my own siblings at times. I developed a very negative perception of myself and had a very distorted view of what I looked like.

I began a crazy crash diet/work out routine and dropped close to 40 lb. within a month. I would be on the treadmill or elliptical for an hour and a half a day burning at least 1,500 calories. I was anorexic and bulimic. It became an obsession that it took help from friends and family to overcome, and even now I struggle with extreme insecurities and body image issues because of it.

An interview I did a while back on my struggles with being a guy who suffered from an eating disorder:

http://www.localnews8.com/news/Eating-disorders-affect-25-million-people/19080682


In addition to my insecurities with my weight and my nose, I struggle with the way I look.

The first time I was ever told I was attractive or good looking by someone that wasn't related to me or an old lady in the ward congregation was by my first girlfriend at 18 years old. She told me and I literally thought she was messing with me because I didn't see how anyone could find me appealing or attractive at all. I've always felt like and been the nice guy that finished last. Never the "crushee" or "boyfriend", always the "great friend" or "crusher."

My insecurities have seemingly gotten worse lately and I literally have imaginary lines drawn all over my face with notes on what I would want to do to change and improve my looks such as orbital reshaping, ears pinned back, nose job, cheek revision, chin sculpting.

I can't tell you how many times I've been told that "David you're such a great guy, I'm just not attracted to you." There are things you get used to, and that is definitely not one of them. I've had my heart broken and stepped on so many times because it's been alluded to that I wasn't an option to someone because I wasn't better looking. It's the worse feeling in the world and just makes you want to climb into a hole and die.

I write this not to seek attention or obtain sympathy, but to raise awareness. Everyone has feelings and insecurities, guys included. Not only that, but viewing someone as unattractive or ugly does not take away their feelings or the fact that they are a human being. It hurts no matter who says it and where it's coming from.

Watch your words, you never know how damaging and hurtful they really are, even if you think someone is strong enough for them.

Love,
D-Todd