Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Choose To Love

Life is about the choices we make. What and where we decide to dedicate our time. At the end of my mission, President Moldenhauer sat me down in his office for my exit interview. He counseled me to go home and move forward with my life, but to be sure not to settle for only good things. He explained that there are good things in our life that we dedicate our time to such as school and work. But then there are the best things such as temple attendance, home teaching, etc.

At this point in my life I am in a very selfish state. I'm on the precipice of graduating from college. All my time is spent focusing on me, what I need to accomplish, and where I want to go. I see it among many of my peers as well. We become so absorbed in our own lives and what we are doing, we forget about those around us. Our priorities are ourselves. 

Jesus Christ spent his entire mortal life being selfless. The King of Kings, the Lord of lords was born in a manger in a stable, not surrounded in a castle with unimaginable wealth. He taught and led by example. He served, he healed, he mourned, he comforted. His love was so great for his fellowman, he offered up himself and performed the atonement. He broke the bands of spiritual and physical death so that we as imperfect mortals could overcome the heartache of this terrestrial life. 

“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:34-35).

We are instructed to love one another. It is a commandment. If we are his disciples we will love one another with charity - the pure love of Christ. 

How many people around us are going through something that we know nothing about? How many people are struggling with something and we don't know because we simply never asked because we were so caught up in our own life and priorities. 

Though are pursuits may be valid and worthwhile. We must notice those around us. We must do those things that allow people to know that they are important, that they as a person are worth it. 

I know that I've always been really perceptive of people (due to my highly sensitive personality). I can read people really well, even if I just met them. I would call it a gift of the spirit. I've known what its like to be alone and feel like I have no one who cares about me. I often contemplated if I died who would show up to my funeral. I've made it a point to let people who I'm friends with as well as my family members know that I care. I don't want anyone to ever feel alone, feel like they have no friends, or feel like they aren't loved. I will drop everything for someone if they need me to. I'm very proud of that fact. 

Mitch came over to my apartment on Sunday night and we had a good hour long conversation about friends while he helped me study for kinesiology. Mitch expressed to me that he has kept mostly to himself this semester because he's tired of being burned and taken advantage of by people. I completely agreed with his sentiment. I've found myself withdrawing from a lot of friends because I haven't felt like they cared about me. 

Last night Kate texted me and asked if she could come over. It was almost 9:00 o'clock and I wasn't anywhere near finished on my homework. I literally had a million things to do, but I said yes because I enjoy Kate's company and I needed a break. Kate came over and I played the piano for her first. (I just learned Say Something by A Great Big World). Kate wanted to know if she could ask me a question. I said yes, and we ended up talking about priorities and friendships for the next 20 minutes. 

Kate has someone that she really cares about in her life who is not treating her like a friend or even a decent human being. My advice: their actions demonstrate where their priorities are.

I write all this not to brag about myself but to demonstrate what I mean. Kate felt bad about taking studying time away from me but I told her not to worry about it. What I was doing was much more important, SHE was more important. Kate felt she could trust me and she felt comfortable enough to come over and speak to me about things she was dealing with. I was able to help her with her struggles, the spirit was felt, and our friendship became closer.

My point; Look outside yourself at those around you. You may be neglecting people in your life and not even realize it. Even if you don't have a lot of time, little things to let someone know that you care make all the difference in the world. Write a little message to them on Facebook. Like a picture. Drop off some ice cream at their apartment. Pick them up for a study break and go for a drive around town. Tell them that you love them just because. It makes all the difference in the world.

You never know what impact your simple words, or little actions may have on a person's life. Maybe you talked them off the ledge, away from a bottle, to put down the knife, or maybe something as simple as saving them from a night of crying in their room with the door shut, or sobbing in the bathroom with the shower on. 

Make people your priority, not things. The school work will end eventually. Don't let your relationships with people do the same. 

“A friendship can weather most things and thrive in thin soil; but it needs a little mulch of letters and phone calls and small, silly presents every so often - just to save it from drying out completely.” - Pam Brown


Saturday, March 22, 2014


Earlier this week a friend posted a link on Facebook to a page from The Huffington Post entitled 16 Habits of Highly Sensitive People Despite my skepticism (IT IS The Huffington Post), I clicked on the link and read on.

All my life I have felt different. Different from any other person and completely different from any other guy. I've always been so emotional and sensitive and have never been able to pin point why. My inability to manage my intense feelings has often led to misunderstandings, hurt feelings, and burned bridges.

Surprisingly this article helped me much better understand myself and what makes me tick as a person. As the title mentions, it lists 16 things that are characteristic of individuals that would fall under the category of "highly sensitive."

1. They feel more deeply

I process things much differently than other people. When I ask someone how they're doing, I genuinely want to know. When someone has a problem, I want to be able to listen and help in any way that I can. It's one of the reasons I want to be a doctor. I like to get to know someone and help them. I love hugs. I love feeling physically close to those I love. I love being told that I'm loved and appreciated.

2. They're more emotionally reactive. 

This morning my car wouldn't turn over and what was first thought to be my battery turns out is probably my alternator. The repairs are going to be expensive and I hate that I have to get help from my parents because I'm too broke to pay for it. I feel guilty taking any money from them, especially when they've already done so much to help me. The auto repair shop is closed till Monday and if any of you know my schedule, I'm freakin' busy. I'm going to have to rely on other people which I hate doing because I'm the most impatient person alive and I don't trust anyone enough to rely on them. I spent the better part of this morning wanting to scream, cry, and suppressing an anxiety attack.

3. They're probably used to hearing, "Don't take things so personally" and "Why are you so sensitive?"

Every conversation that I've ever been upset with someone they've told me this. Whenever someone tells me this it cuts me. I feel like it's a personal attack on who I am as a person. It's not something I can control or better yet even understand.

4. They prefer to exercise solo. 

This one I register with for the most part. Exercise for me is a time that I like to think, decompress, and let out emotions. Occasionally I like to exercise with someone else for the companionship, but for the most part I like to get my routine done without interruption.

5. It takes longer for them to make decisions. 

I analyze decisions for much longer than the average person. I will spend hours even days thinking about a decision, analyzing every angle to make sure it's right.

6. And on that note, they are more upset if they make a "bad" or "wrong" decision. 

I tend to rake myself over the coals if I make a decision that I deem as "bad" or "wrong." I will berate myself for days, sometimes even months over something. I will tell myself things like "You're stupid," "You're a loser," or "You're a terrible person."

7. They're extremely detail oriented. 

If you've spent any time getting to know me, you know that I'm extremely organized and extremely OCD. I'm a neat freak. I like my things kept in a perfect and exact order that I only understand. Making lists is calming to me. I schedule my entire life. I straighten the pillows on my bed several times in the morning while making it just to be sure I achieve perfection.

8. Not all highly sensitive people are introverts. 

This rings true for me as well. I am an extrovert. I love people, I love being around people. I love to invite people to do things, I love to be invited to do things. My dad is an introvert, so I grew up in a household where people didn't come over too often. I'm the exact opposite. Once I'm established with a family of my own, I want my home to be the place where my kids and their friends hang out. I want there to be an open door policy where anyone can come over anytime and always feel welcome.

9. The work well in team environments. 

I had to laugh at this one. In a work setting this is true. In the hospital a surgeon needs an anesthesiologist, the nurses, the tech, and he orderlies just as much as they need him. They all come together to work as a well oiled machine that brings the best care possible to a patient. I'm all for that. When it comes to a school setting though, I don't like putting my trust in other people when my grade and future is on the line. I'm convinced group projects are a child of hell created by professors specifically to punish students.

10. They're more prone to anxiety or depression (but only if they've had a lot of past negative experiences).

I've actually been clinically diagnosed with anxiety and depression. I take medicine for it which works the majority of the time. I'm approaching the end of the semester which means que the daily panic attacks and reevaluations of my life. Mental illness runs deep on both sides of my family, so considering what I could have inherited, I don't think I turned out too badly.

11. That annoying sound is probably significantly more annoying to a highly sensitive person. 

The right side of the room in my Organic Chemistry class has this problem where they cannot shut up while Sister Stowell is talking. Not only is it rude and distracting, but it annoys me so much. I literally seize up and Sister Stowell attempts to speak over them. I can't focus on what's going on and I get angry about it.

FUN FACT: The sound of pouring liquid bothers me. I don't know why, it just does. It always has.

12. Violent movies are the worst. 

A couple weeks ago I saw a YouTube video of a prank gone wrong that a friend had posted. This guy scared his friend and she ran out of the house, into the street and was run over by a car. I couldn't sleep that night, every time I closed my eyes, the video would play over and over in my head. Just thinking about it upsets me.

Disaster movies are the worse. I can't stand all the destruction and death. It gives me anxiety and makes me sad. It gives me this terrible feeling that takes a while to shake off.

13. They cry more easily. 

I don't cry in public. But when I get extremely angry, frustrated, or upset, the tears come. If the meaning of a particular song resonates with me, I will cry. Acts and words of love and kindness from those I care about will cause tears to fall. I've actually always been super self conscious of this, feeling like I'm a girl because I cry. That unfortunately is the result of growing up in a chauvinistic world where emotion in men is seen as weakness. I gave it some thought and came to realize that the men that I really respect and look up to DO CRY. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, President Thomas S. Monson, & Joseph Smith. Valiant men of God. They all shed tears, express emotion, and are all men worth striving to be like.

14. They have above-average manners. 

I've always been a polite kid. My mother taught me my "please" and "thank yous." For the last 5 years my family has had the privilege of living in the Southern United States where manners are a way of life. It has a had a tremendous impact on me. "Yes Ma'am" and "No Sir" are forever integrated into my speech.

15. The effects of criticism are especially amplified in highly sensitive people. 

I have such thin skin. I like to pretend that nothing affects me and that I don't care what other people think, but when someone says something critical or mean to me it cuts me to my core. I hurt, and I think about it over and over and over again. It often makes me upset towards the person who the criticism is coming from.

16. Cubicles = good. Open-office plans = bad.

This one I don't relate to at all. Cubicles make me claustrophobic and depressed. Open-office plan is much more inviting because I can socialize and see what's going on.

Reading this article made me realize that I'm not crazy, I'm not weird; I'm sensitive. There's others out there just like me. I have my struggles and things that make life a bit more difficult being this sensitive, but it also gives me the ability to help and understand people in a way that many others can't. It is a blessing, not a curse. 

Elder Uchtdorf in his talk Four Titles from the Priesthood Session of the 2013 April General Conference said

"While the Atonement is meant to help us all become more like Christ, it is not meant to make us all the same. Sometimes we confuse differences in personality with sin. We can even make the mistake of thinking that because someone is different from us, it must mean they are not pleasing to God. This line of thinking leads some to believe that the Church wants to create every member from a single mold—that each one should look, feel, think, and behave like every other. This would contradict the genius of God, who created every man different from his brother, every son different from his father. Even identical twins are not identical in their personalities and spiritual identities.
It also contradicts the intent and purpose of the Church of Jesus Christ, which acknowledges and protects the moral agency—with all its far-reaching consequences—of each and every one of God’s children. As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are united in our testimony of the restored gospel and our commitment to keep God’s commandments. But we are diverse in our cultural, social, and political preferences.
The Church thrives when we take advantage of this diversity and encourage each other to develop and use our talents to lift and strengthen our fellow disciples."
We are all different. We all have strengths and weaknesses. One is not better than another because of a trial or lack of one. We are all loved equally and perfectly by our Heavenly Father and our Eldest Brother Jesus Christ. It is our differences that make us beautiful, our diversity that brings us together. We're all on the same road just in different vehicles. 
I'm grateful for my ability to love and understand people so deeply. I hope that y'all can love me as I am and understand the crazy parts of a person that is highly sensitive.