Thursday, September 24, 2015

Perspective Shift

I've had a bad attitude lately.  Doug said something last week about me whining a lot, and "whining hasn't generally been a problem for you in the past".

I was diagnosed with epilepsy this summer.  Which, in and of itself, hasn't felt like a huge deal.  It seems to be pretty manageable, so other than being on house arrest all summer while time passed to prove that I could safely drive on my new medication, sans seizures, it hasn't felt like a big imposition.

But then school started.  The side effects from my medication suddenly felt like a much bigger deal.  I struggle with attention--it take nearly all of my energy to focus on a lecture, or reading a textbook (or even having a conversation).  My brain wants to hop somewhere else nearly every 2 1/2 minutes.  I am frequently tired.  Even going to bed at 10pm, I have to drag myself up at 6am, and still have trouble with nodding off during class.  My short term memory has decreased, so my brain is constantly insisting that I've forgotten something, but won't tell me what it is.  The list goes on, but most of it fits in these rough categories.  It makes doing my school work successfully much more challenging, right during the semester with the heaviest course load of my entire program.  I have let the frustration get to me far too often.  I began to resent my medication quite a lot.  It became the necessary evil preventing the trap door at my feet from being opened under me at some random, unpredictable moment.  But it didn't actually seal the trap door, and so these side effects hung around me, without actually removing all the anxiety stemming from that uncertainty.

And then a few mornings ago, I got a much needed attitude adjustment from my scriptures.  I was reading about the troubled father who comes to the Savior begging him to heal the man's son--or do anything to help him.  He relates wearily that his son falls into the fire, he falls into the water, and they are constantly worried about his safety.  The Lord tells him that all things are possible if he believes.  He responds quickly, "Lord, I believe".  Most modern scholars interpret this passage to mean that the boy of whom they speak had frequent seizures.  The Lord rewarded this family's faith by reaching out to the child, who was whole from that moment on.

And it dawned on me that sometimes healing comes in stages, and that is a miracle, too.  In a different time and place, I would likely be utterly unable to conduct a normal life.  But all I have to do is swallow a little pill twice a day, and my life goes on more or less uninterrupted, just as it has always been.  Instead of being grateful for that incredible, miraculous blessing, I was resentful of a few mild side effects.  The Lord didn't remove this hurdle entirely, but I am generally safe;  the father in that story got his healing miracle, but he was asking for help, for anything the Savior could do to bring their family a bit of rest, a portion of peace--how gloriously grateful would they have been for a simple medicine to remove the symptoms?

But the Savior offered complete healing.  And I trust that he will give me that as well--eventually.  In the mean time, I will strive to be more grateful for the portion of peace and healing that I can enjoy now.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Names and Connections

When I was pregnant with Keira, an individual who grew up an only child expressed to me bewilderment in trying to imagine life in a big family.  I responded that the best thing my parents ever did for me was have all of my brothers and sisters, as they have been my best friends and the most amazing support system.

But that didn't start with my generation.  My mom is one of 7, my dad one of 8.  And a lot of those people have been a regular part of my life since I was a baby or little girl.  They are a network of love and support--not there every day, but readily available when I need them, and a connection to some of the best parts of my life.

Now that my grandmas are gone, I appreciate them even more.  We are for each other a living connection to some of the people who loved us most and best.

When I was little, nearly everyone in my life called me "Boo"--it was far more my identity than was "Becky" or "Rebecca".  When my mom (who had had multiple 9+ pound babies) first held my little 7 1/2 pound self, she apparently made some "little boo boo" remark, and it stuck.  I was Boo, to family and friends, many of my teachers at church, my older sisters' friends, etc.  Almost no one calls me that anymore, and no one really has for a decade and a half.  Except one uncle.  And every time he does, I smile.  No matter the specific context, the very use of the name is full of tenderness;  its a reminder that this person has known me since I was a small child, watched me grow and change, and still loves me just as much as that quiet, timid little girl who hardly felt safe in the world if she wasn't holding someone's hand.  It ties me not just to him, but to the rest of the family who used to call me that, and to the person I was when I was called by that endearment.

Today I was reminded that another uncle still calls me "Becky Sue";  and in that same moment I was suddenly keenly aware that, now that Grandma is gone, he is the only person in the world that does.  She was his baby, and he tended to call her grandkids by whatever name she addressed them.  Something that I noticed about Grandma was that she rarely called her kids and grandkids by nicknames, even when everyone else did.  Ken was always Kenneth.   Laura was always Laura Susan.  Christa was always Christabel, Gwen was always Gwendolyn (to be fair, it does almost seem a crime to shorten such beautiful names).  Except Jim.  She named him James, and always called him Jim.  And she never called me Rebecca--I can't recall a single time.  But I was never Boo to her, either.  I was always Becky Sue.  She was the only person in my life who ever really used my middle name.  Except Jim.  Jim was Jim, and I was Becky Sue, and now Grandma is gone, and Jim is the only person in the world who calls me Becky Sue.

I have had many nicknames over the years, but none will ever tie me to my memories and the people I love most, none will ever evoke the same kind of tenderness, that "Boo" and "Becky Sue" do.

Thursday, September 17, 2015


This Saturday would've been my paternal grandma's 87th birthday.  She passed away just over a year ago, and I've missed her every day.  I knew I would.  My maternal grandma passed away almost 11 years ago, and I'd become accustomed to missing.

What has caught me off guard is how much more acutely I miss one now that I've lost the other.  They are both on my mind constantly.  Tiny things--smells, objects, colors, places--remind me of them throughout the day.  The mall at school has large brick planters running the length of its center, filled with blooming petunias.  Every time I walk past them and the smell hits my nose, I am sitting on Grandma Lettie's sidewalk soaking up the sunshine in one of the few sunny spots in her well-shaded yard.  I see a handful of marbles on the floor in the playroom, and suddenly I'm sitting on the floor of Grandma Elda's living room, playing Chinese checkers with Michael and listening to Highway to Heaven on the TV.  Its constant, all day long.

I miss them both--and all the parts of my life that are so wrapped up in them--with an ache that is somehow both fierce and dull, persistent.  It is a constant reminder of how grateful I am to have people in my life who are worth missing every moment of the day.  A reminder of how grateful I am that separations are temporary.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Believing the Good

I am not generally someone who needs a lot of external validation.  Like everyone, I have my insecurities and a great many flaws, but I try to see my strengths and be humble about my failings and move forward with confidence that the Lord will make up the difference.

But once in a while, I get into a terribly sour mood. . .about myself.  This last week was one of those times.  The medication I require to prevent my brain from betraying me has made it feel as though my brain has betrayed me.  One of the side effects (which are very few and minimal--I am grateful for that) is that I have decreased verbal dexterity.  I often find myself at a loss for a particular word;  not a nuanced, specific word from the large vocabulary in my mind, but rather, something along the lines of trying to give the kids very simple directions for chores and suddenly can't find the word "bed" or "plate" or some such.  Or I am trying to get out a simple sentence, and the right words come out but in the wrong order, so I have to repeat myself three times before it all comes out correctly and makes sense.  When I'm being logical, I know it isn't severe and probably isn't even noticeable to anyone but me, but I end up occasionally thinking to myself, "As if I weren't spastic and socially awkward enough, let's throw this in to the mix."

Several times on Friday afternoon, people complimented my handwriting:  its so beautiful, its so neat and even, its so small.  I had noticed my writing more myself in the previous few days, but in a different light.  I had been thinking how sloppy my notes were, because I have to write so quickly during class to record everything I need, and had been fighting the urge to rewrite them to make them neater (I really, really don't have time to be rewriting notes).  And in looking at them and getting that urge, I know in the moment how insane it is--how very neat and even they are on almost anyone else's scale.  Those around me look at it admiringly, and when I see it,  small and even and neat, it reminds me of things I struggle with about myself:  the anal-retentive, perfectionist streak that is always lurking just below the surface threatening to give me an ulcer (I had spent the morning internally pouting because I had earned a 91 on my exam, which was an A-, not a full A);  the tinyness, the result of a tremendous desire to hide that I have to constantly fight in order to enjoy my life (I was just thinking that six days in a row interacting with people every week was about five too many).

And as my friends complimented me, I had a moment where the better part of my nature managed to shove all that aside and sincerely accept the compliment.  Its such a petty thing, which is exactly why in that moment it made me realize that in being so hard on myself, I was being completely dismissive of the good that these individuals--classmates and friends--saw in me.  I was a little embarrassed how flippantly I was dismissing the value they saw, even if in something that is ultimately trivial.

And in the midst of all that, I thought of my grandma.  She had terribly sloppy handwriting.  I used to assume that that was because she had arthritic hands that had spent too many years swelling after a full day of working with cattle or horses.  But then last year I was able to spend a lot of time immersed in old family treasures, including the letters that my grandparents had been exchanging when they were about my age.  It turned out that Grandma had always had terrible handwriting.  And every page of that writing delighted my heart.  Even seeing her writing on things like old receipt books or phone notepads gives me joy, because in those wide, scrawled letters I see years of birthday cards, letters that came to me when I was far from home, checks I kept insisting she not write for lawn mowing.  Because I loved her, my Grandma's handwriting was never anything but a treasure to me.

She had actual flaws.  But I didn't care.  I loved her so much, and she loved me so much, that the flaws never mattered much to me and I readily saw all the tremendous amount of good there was in her.

When someone who loves you compliments you, believe it.  If you strive to see the good in others and mirror it back to them, they will see the good in you, too, perhaps in moments when you may have temporarily forgotten it yourself.  That's how we help each other get better as human beings: we reflect the good we see in each other, and strive to be worthy of the love of the good people who bear our burdens with us.