Tuesday, October 26, 2010

In the service of love

"How's school going?"

That's a pretty standard question for anyone to ask. If someone knows enough to know that you're a student, that's one of the most commonly asked, if not the most commonly asked, default questions.

And why not? It's a good question. However, it's also one of those queries where, more often than not, the asker doesn't REALLY want a complicated answer. I mean, in fairness, I ask questions all the time that I really don't care for a detailed answer. "How are you?" If the cashier at the check out line started giving me a long winded answer, going into specifics about their work life, personal life, health, mood, etc....I'd probably be a. shocked, and b. likely to try and extract myself at the earliest opportunity. I mean, if they want to say more than "fine", I'm cool with that, but I'm not going to pull up a chair.

But I digress. (shocking)

Although it is meant as a simple and safe question....in my case you probably couldn't ask a more complicated question...

Many of you know that I am currently in my first semester in the Mental Health Counseling and Behavioral Medicine Program at the Boston Medical Center. This is a unique program in that it is housed in a medical school, and offers a scientific, neuro-psychology approach, and is more clinical that some other programs. It's a great program and I 1. love it and 2. am still waiting for them to tell me my acceptance letter was a mistake....

So how IS school? Well, as previously stated, I love it. At the same time? It can be a little rough. It's busy, and the course work can be a little challenging, etc but that's really not why. It's a program where you are encountering and facing things about the world that you don't like; where you are learning about yourself and you biases. You are re-evaluating the way you look at the world, what your opinions are, how you feel about people, social issues, etc. In many ways, you're basically getting to know yourself in an entirely new context.

Believe it or not...this can be a little emotionally taxing. You are consistently aware of your own shortcomings, the depravity of some, the indifference of others, the misconceptions and ignorance of many. In many ways I am very aware that I am just one, small, tiny little girl in a large world full of intense problems. It can start to feel very lonely and your work very futile. In addition to be only one...you start to become acutely aware that YOU are screwed up. I have my own issues. I am entirely imperfect. What on earth can I possibly offer or do? are you kidding?? I'm just lucky I got up and dressed in matching clothes that aren't on backwards this morning....

So for example. Today we watched a video on trauma. The stories these people told brought me to tears. I am...constantly amazed by how people hurt each other, and with what little regard they attend to some one's emotional well being. These people had gone through things I had never even considered as possible. Their authenticity and open demeanor broke my heart. As I sat in my class, unsuccessfully trying to hide my emotion, I had those feelings of "what on earth am I doing??" And then suddenly, one of the men in the video who had started working with other victims, offered some eloquent insight. He said, " In the service of love, only broken hearts will do."

At the moment I realized...the fact that I have been hurt in my life, the fact that I am often an utter screw-up...my very humanity is what will make me GREAT at what I do! When you are serving others in love, your heart has to be broken. You have to be REAL and genuine. You have to be a person- flawed, and ever-failing.

So school? It's breaking my heart. And I love it. :)

Monday, August 23, 2010

Game of Life

It has been awhile since I've written, which is ironic, considering all the fun new things going on in my life as of late. There have been many times that I have thought to write about an event or incident, but was so busy I never got to it, and then moved on to wanting to write about something else.

Therefore the next few entries will probably be a smattering of random thoughts and events that I have had since I started school again. But before I get into that, I want to share a story of something that happened right before I started my new program. An event that, I believe, was both symbolic as well as indicative of not only my past, but of things to come.

It started with a board game.

Yes. A board game. The board came called Life. You remember that one, right? You start off as a tiny pink or blue peg in a little car, you spin the wheel, and hope to end up at "millionaire acres". You can make choices about college, career etc but truth be told, most of the game is left up to chance and the spin of the wheel and/or draw of the cards. There are stops to get married, places you land to have children, and buy a house, etc. You can land on drawing "life tiles" which you keep face down. When you turn them over, there are various accomplishments on the back and an accompanying dollar amount. They range from things like the winning the Nobel Prize, to reading to your child. At the end of the game you get to turn them over and see all the many cool things you accomplished in your life, and collect the associated dollar amounts.

This past August I had gone home to my parent's house and we decided to play said game together. It turns out...that I am a disaster at Life. ( please avoid taking the easy shot. I'm about to say it for you anyways...) I kept landing on things that made me lose my turn like flat tires and car accidents ( how ironic....) and I was spinning more ones and twos than were statistically conceivable. By the time I finished school, both of my parents were easily half way through the game, and when I finally got to the "Get married" square, my parents were 3/4 of the way to the end. ( Again. Resist. Don't worry. It's comin'.) I lost my job twice, lived in the cheapest house that I could get, and had to take about a billion turns to finish off the game once my parents reached the end. I thought for sure I was in dead last place for the game.

However, when we finally added everything up, I had actually won the game. And not just by little...I had slaughtered them both. I was completely shocked. It might sounds stupid and corny, but I immediately thought of several analogies to the real game of life ( at least...MY game of life....)

Yes. Sometimes I am a disaster at REAL life, too. Did I say sometimes?...I meant...something else... like kinda always. ( phew. said it. you can now exhale.) Sometimes I feel like a total "mess in a dress". And I'm sure that that viewpoint is shared by many. I am STILL in school. I'm getting a SECOND masters. In order to accommodate an internship and an honors program, undergrad took me five years. ( Ironically, I did everything for the honors program except the final thesis...so it only made my coursework take longer because I had to do things like take an advanced math AND an advanced language...AND I voluntarily sold my soul to the HFAC by singing for BYU choir which was one credit but took the time of 5 or 6....) I have been engaged ( and not only once...but a little bit twice...) and I am still not married. To this point I've had very few good relationships, and no good relationships that lasted any considerable length of time... ( anyone getting depressed yet besides me? )

I metaphorically "stumble and fall" a lot. But my reaction when I was such a mess at the game was important...

I laughed.

I mean, come on...it's funny!! Of course there was a little pinch of "ouch. this is hitting a little too close to home..." and then I decided to shrug it off and to laugh. That decision was CRUCIAL to me enjoying the game- just like life. ( as in real life.) Now, I'm not going to pretend that throughout all the disasters of my life that I have always been able to laugh at my situation, but I think that my sense of humor helped me more than I can express, and that a general positive and optimistic attitude is vital to being happy. I might be a disaster...but at least I'm a disaster with a smile on my face who is laughing at herself. ( ALMOST as hard as everyone else....)

I also found it ironic that I was doing a lot better than I thought I was. This was partially due to the life tiles, but I think I also was being hard on myself and only recognizing when something bad happened, and only noticing the good things my parents were "doing".

Why are we so hard on ourselves? When I'm being honest I have to admit that I focus primarily on all the wonderful things that other people do- their talents, their accomplishments, their strengths, and then look at everything that I do wrong. I think that is in part because I don't KNOW what they do wrong, because I'm not always with them whereas I can't get rid of myself, but I also think that bottom line I'm hard on myself. I think we're ALL way too hard on ourselves. And at the end of the day...we're doing better than we think we are.

Also, I think there's something to be said for the fact that you don't get to see what you accomplished until the end of the game. I believe strongly that we are unaware of much of the good that we do, or at least the degree to which it impacts those around us, and that at the end of our life we will be blown away by all the good we accomplished and those we helped.

So yes. In many very real ways I am a total screw up. But overall? I think I'm winning :)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

My unpopular decision

Alright, this might take some background:

It's not a secret that I was engaged until this past February.

And yes. I am still very much okay with that. Beyond okay, really. What was ironic was that everyone's concern for me started when I was coming out of the woods instead of during the year and a half PREVIOUS to the break up. It took me about two weeks, of what I will admit was crazy insane emotional pain. And then, what felt like almost instantly, my blinders came off and I became incredibly grateful for things turning out the way they should. I have been very, very happy ever since. But I digress.

What might be less known is that I started dating someone pretty quickly after my engagement break- a guy in my Boston ward named Mark Bean. We had a great relationship. Mark treated me incredibly well, we communicated very effectively, and we were great friends in addition to dating. We split amicably and with absolutely no drama because he was moving away for two years, and I had gotten into my program that will be keeping me here for at least two years. Our relationship was exactly what I needed to help heal, process, and to have a good taste in my mouth concerning relationships in general. I am so grateful tor the interaction and time we were afforded, and for the chance I had to get to know Mark as a person.

Then came: My unpopular decision.

I decided that for the summer I would not date. I mean, not that I wouldn't go on a date, but barring a piano falling on my head, I refused to get into anything even remotely resembling a relationship. At least for the summer. And even then...we'll see. Like...we'll take the summer and then it'll be up for review.

This decision elicited quite a reaction. Some were just extremely surprised while others considered it quite an irrational, rather irresponsible and/or self destructive choice. Others thought it just plain stupid. After all, I'm not getting any younger, and why would I take myself out of the running for a relationship when I'm sooo clearly running out of time....( don't get me started).

On a slightly more serious note, not only am I not 19, but I love being in a relationship. I am really intensely loyal, fiercely monogamous, and I get a sick amount of pleasure out of doing things for a boyfriend or whomever. Meaningful personal relationships, romantic or otherwise, are where I get my joy and where I find purpose. Most people that know me well know that about me- that I love relationships in every form. I don't want fifty thousand acquaintances- I seek to build relationships. This is why, I think, a lot of people were surprised by this decision. While it doesn't seem like a huge deal, it did feel like an odd thing to do. Moving the opposite direction on the spectrum, almost growing younger is not something I generally would want, or consider it smart, or even natural, to do.

So I thought the reasons for disapproval for my choice, varied from...well...to put it bluntly, asinine and kind of insulting, to understandable. And I got it. I mean, it made sense, knowing me. But I felt strongly that this was the best decision for me at that time. So, I ignored everyone. Shocking, I know. (As a side note- believe it or not, I DO listen. And legitimately consider. I simply reserve the right to utterly ignore.)

But moving on: This decision? Best decision of my life. I absolutely needed this time. I feel it was incredibly vital for me to reestablish my independence.I realized after a few weeks that I truly felt SINGLE. The reason I could tell? It was a BRAND new feeling! I suddenly became aware that I had not been, what I would consider truly single in a long time- arguably since I REALLY started dating. For the last six or seven years of my life, I honestly feel like I have 1. Been in a relationship 2. Been getting out of a relationship 3. Been "complicated" with someone 4. Been getting into a relationship 5. Majorly hung up on someone and therefore unable to really feel like I was "free" or 6. Any numerous combination of the above. I was tired. And I needed a break. It was an amazing feeling to feel obligated to NO ONE.

I am so grateful to my Heavenly Father for knowing me better than I know myself- to know exactly what I need, and for guiding my life and decisions. It is times such as this that I realize how much I trust Him. The experiences I've had and the people I've been blessed to know could only have been so perfectly crafted by a loving Father in Heaven.

So. I'm single. And lovin' it.

This does not mean I'm going to become addicted to being single. All it means is that I'm really enjoyin' it. So if something or someone is going to drag me away? It's going to have to be good. Dang good :) :):)

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Morality and Compassion- they are NOT opposing ideas!!!

Look out. I'm feeling pretty feisty today.....

So I've been having several interesting conversations with people as of late, that had a common theme: The notion that I, as a religious person, have fairly cut and dry ideas and beliefs of what is right and what is wrong- of what will make people happy vs what is simply instant gratification. Many people seem to equate this personality type as someone who is judgmental- who has no room for others in their life who do not live by the same set of "moral rules", and who view themselves as near perfect and are therefore, intrinsically hypocritical.

Although I do believe that this description is true of some religious and/or conservative people, I feel like it is equally as true of those who are not. So many are screaming for tolerance so loudly that they are completely ignoring their OWN intolerance. Why is it not my right to believe as I do? Where is your tolerance of me, and my beliefs? And for heavens sake, calm down and stop screaming because THAT is oppressive...

Ironically, although I have many, many things in my life that I am not proud of, that I know I need to work on, and that I am woefully inadequate at, I would have to say that compassion is one of my greatest strengths. Morality and rigid personal rules are not a necessary precursor to judgment. You can judge an action without judging a person. As I have gotten older, I have NOT become more liberal in my view of what is fundamentally right and wrong, but I'm more broad minded with how I view those who try and fail, for those who see things differently, etc.

Examples: Infidelity? Wrong. Stealing? Wrong. Sexual promiscuity? Wrong.

However, I don't think that given the right set of circumstances that I would be above those things. I would hope I'd have the strength to say no, but I'm not assuming that I would. I don't understand everyone's circumstances. I don't know their thoughts, feelings, hearts, emotions, etc. It doesn't make their actions right, it means that I might do the exact same thing if I were them because I'm a weak human, too. I know that there are good, sweet, amazing people that have done things that are very wrong. I have done many things that are just plain wrong. that doesn't negate who they are or I am as a human being. It is our humanity that gives us this weaknesses, as well as the inner moral courage to overcome them, and the compassion towards other to display forgiveness and mercy. Therefore morality and compassion are not mutually exclusive characteristics in me or anyone else.

Also, as a fun little...feminism side note: Also in these conversations, the topic of "typical male behavior" came up and what you would just have to let go because "men are men". I'm sorry...but I don't accept that. Biologically programmed or not, men are completely capable of controlling themselves. We overcome a good percentage of what our "biological" impulses. Is it NORMAL for a 2 year old to throw a tantrum? Well...yeah...but they are supposed to mature and not do that eventually. Is it normal to WANT to key someone's car when they screw you over? Yeah...but you don't do it. If you're hungry and someone's eating...do you want to steal their sandwich when they're not looking? Yeah...but you don't do it, because that would be immature, selfish and wrong. What makes us humans, not animals, is our self control. Men have that ability, too. Expect it from them. They're up to the challenge, I promise.

Also....on the other side of that...I am getting a little sick of men talking about how manipulative women are; the complaints that women are so incredibly irrational, and that all that is possibly wrong with this world is that women are just too darn emotional and have ruined everything. I do agree that women can be a big, fat, pain, and I don't exclude myself from that. In fact, in general, I prefer being with men over women. However...I do just want to quote...a favorite TV show in closing because it's pretty much exactly how I feel:

"I love men!... But you cannot ignore history. History has shown that, in general, it has been the men who have done the raping and the robbing and war mongering for the past 2000 years. It has been the men who have done the pillaging and the beheading and the subjugating of whole races into slavery. It has been the men who have done the law making, and the money making, and most of the mischief making. So, if the world isn't quite what you had in mind, then you have only yourselves to thank."

Monday, February 22, 2010

Single....again...and it's OK!!!!

Single again...

Consider this a public service announcement: Ashlie Elizabeth Stitt and Reed Parkinson have called off their wedding. Yes. I am single. And more importantly...yes! I am okay!!

Okay...let me back up a bit...

For those of you who were unaware, I have been involved with a man named Reed Parkinson for about a year and a half. We have been "informally engaged" to one degree or another for...many months...and made it official- ring and all this past December. A few days ago, Reed and I made a mutual and joint decision that we would no longer be getting married.

soo...what happened??

That is an excellent question. The best that I can tell you is this: It just wasn't right. We love each other very, very much....we have a ton of respect for each other...it just wasn't quite right. We could really easily try and bring it down to all ONE, CRUCIAL, flaw, move, characteristic, event....etc...but the bottom line is, this isn't a fable or a cautionary tale- there is no simple answer. Something was missing, and we could both feel it. It broke both of our hearts, but we're very confident that we did the right thing.

As soon as we broke up, it was like this HUGE wall came crashing down. We could talk again. We could communicate and be there for each other in a way we hadn't been able to for a long time. I found myself thinking...."I remember this!!! This was awesome!!!" While it seems a cruel irony that we break up and then our relationship gets great, it was a great affirmation that we had done the right thing. We spend the next few days spending almost every moment together, working things out, etc. There was no desperate attempt to say EVERYTHING you have to say RIGHT NOW...because...we're still talking.

My best friend:

Reed and I are now BEST friends. Odd? Maybe. Can we always talk as much as we currently are or be as involved as we are now? No. We can't. But for now, this works. We're close. And that feels sooo right.

So...who do we blame and who do we hate?

As tempting as it seems to be for us as humans to blame someone or be mad at someone, while I appreciate the notion of solidarity, there is no one to blame and there is no one to hate. In fact, someone hating Reed at this point would really hurt me. So as appreciated as the immediate comment "eeewww!! what a jerk!!!" before even hearing what happened is.....it's not necessary. Both of us said and did things we are not proud of. Both of us did our best. We tried really hard. We reacted, we made mistakes, we fought feelings that it wasn't right..and...it just didn't work out. It's all water under the bridge. Let's all move on.

Thank you

So I'm single again. That thought is...to be honest...a little discouraging, but the confidence that I did the right thing helps a lot. There is something better in store for me and for Reed. We will both find something else that makes us so happy. Our Father in Heaven knows best, and we're willing to trust him. The support that I've gotten from so many already has been so wonderful. I greatly appreciate the love, the support, and the encouraging words I have received from so many of you. Thank you for your love. I feel so blessed to have such wonderful friends, family, and loved ones.