Saturday, June 29, 2013

Reading for Fun!

My parents should be grateful that I buy books instead of drugs. That's really all I have to say about that. I mean, there are worse things I could be spending my money on. 

Anyway, this is my summer fun reading list. I love all the books!

The Great Gatsby -- F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Perks of Being of Wallflower --Stephen Chbosky
The Gifts of Imperfection -- Brene Brown
Daring Greatly -- Brene Brown
Long Walk to Freedom -- Nelson Mandela
Conversations with Myself -- Nelson Mandela
I Thought it was Just Me (But It Isn't) -- Brene Brown
Teaching As Leadership -- Steven Farr (Teach For America)
Man's Search for Meaning --  Viktor Frankl
A Chance to Make History -- Wendy Kopp (Teach For America)
The Road Less Traveled -- M. Scott Peck
How Children Succeed -- Paul Tough
The Brothers Karamazov -- Fyodor Dostoyevsky
The Audacity of Hope -- Barack Obama
The Little Prince -- Antoine de Saint-Exupery 
The God Who Weeps: How Mormonism Makes Sense of Life -- Terryl Givens
The Complete C.S. Lewis Signature Classics -- C.S. Lewis

Some of these books I have read before, some I'm already halfway through (or at least into), some of them may take more than the summer (see The Brothers Karamazov), and others I am reading for the first time. Might as well keep the imagination busy! Reading for pleasure is the best! 

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The World's Too Big

Before you read any further, watch the first 40 seconds of the video. Listen to the conversation that occurs between Clark and his mom. That's what I want to talk about.

The world's too big, Mom. 
Then make it small.

Do you ever feel like that? Like the world is just too big and you can't do anything about it? You don't know how to make it small or every attempt to do so ends poorly? Maybe not. I do. Almost every day as of late. It's kind of scary, to be honest.

I feel like the world is too big, like I am losing control over everything that I once had in control. Clark experiences this in a way a child with autism may experience sensory overload. Everything just comes at him all at once and he can't do it. For me, while it's not a audio-visual sensory overload, I feel a sense of emotional and psychological overload. There are too many things flying at me at the same time and I can't handle them all; I can't dodge them all. I can't control everything, and that scares me.

I end up freaking out as a result, going crazy wondering why the world is so big. I can't just do one thing, but I can't do everything. I don't know how to make the world small because I've spent countless amounts of time trying to process and take in everything.

I can't think again. Not ever again. I don't know if you've ever felt like that. That you wanted to sleep for a thousand years. Or just not exist. Or just not be aware that you do exist. Or something like that. I think wanting that is very morbid, but I want it when I get like this. That's why I'm trying not to think. I just want it all to stop spinning...It's getting that bad again. 
-- Charlie, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, pg. 94.

That's pretty much how it feels when the world is too big. That's kind of how it feels right now.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Every Man and Superman

In a recent New York Times article, Henry Cavill, who plays Superman in Man of Steel, expressed his feelings that Superman is, "a hero who has spent his whole life hearing that he is special, while being told just as often that he must conceal the things that make him unique."

Kind of an interesting perspective, no? This is where I get this idea that Superman is a lot like all of us. Cliche? Deal with it. It's my blog, so I do what I want. As if you didn't already know that. 

I love Superman. A lot. He's been one of my heroes since childhood. This is the guy who looks just like everyone else, holds low key jobs, falls for an intelligent and gorgeous woman (played by the beautifully talented Amy Adams), and saves the people he cares most about. Yes, he's from an alien planet and his weakness is a rock. That's not the point. At some level, I think that we are all kind of aliens having a shared experience on some weird place we call Earth. And, at some level, our weaknesses are just as crippling (and as curious) as Kryptonite was for Superman.

Superman came to Earth to remind us of ourselves, to remind us that we are inherently good, that seemingly ordinary people have the capacity for extraordinary things, and that each life is important and filled with a purpose. Superman is told that he would "give the people of Earth an ideal to strive towards." We are to learn from Superman what it means to be human, what it means to be entirely selfless, and what it takes to achieve the greatest of the greater goods. 

We love Superman because he inspires us to lift our sights. He is like a god to us -- the embodiment of all that is right, and good, and powerful, and just, and kind. Through all kinds of crumby costumes, red briefs, and poorly done movies, Superman prevails because we want him to. We will Superman into perpetual existence because he gives us something to hope for, to reach for, and to run wholeheartedly towards. We want to be saved, and who better than Superman to do so. 

How disheartening, then, it must be when Superman is no longer real, when the realities of life strike with a force greater than we can withstand. To know that Superman cannot and will not come to save us from our impoverished, imperiled, vulnerable, and often violent selves must tax the human mind beyond its capacity for hope. And yet, the mythology of Superman persists. It persists because we want to be saved. We want something to hope in, to hope for. That's what the "S" stands for -- hope. Despite the soul crushing reality that is (at times) life, we want hope. We want to believe that life will somehow get better.

I want to return now to the idea that Henry Cavill expressed in his Times interview. Superman was always told that he was special, that the world needed him. At the same time, he was told that if the world ever found out who he was, they would reject him. Why such contradiction? For Clark Kent to be Superman, he put everyone he loved at risk. To stay Clark Kent would have been to leave the world to its ruin. There are great intimations here into our lives, into my life. I am not claiming to be some alien life form that has super strength and the ability to leap tall buildings in a single bound. Unfortunate, I know. But, ask yourself how this dilemma is reflected in your own life. What is the greater good? To risk the ones you love to save others? To risk others, complete strangers at times, to save and protect those nearest to you? Which do you choose? How do you make or justify such a choice? Do we keep to ourselves our deepest parts in order to maintain the status quo? Am I true to every part of my being?

"I have to believe you were sent here for a reason," Jonathan Kent tells a young Clark. "And even if it takes the rest of your life, you owe it to yourself to find out what that reason is." That is all. Give the people of Earth something to strive for. Every man and Superman. 

Friday, June 14, 2013

Fulghum Fridays

In high school, I had an incredible English teacher named Mr. Gardner. This man epitomized what and who I wanted to be as a teacher, and as a man in many respects. In my mind, I could see my Teach For America self being a Mr. Gardner-esque English Language Arts teacher in some Kansas City middle school. That vision is gone for now, delayed by a redirection that gives me angst even though I know it is the right thing to do.

Anyway, Mr. Gardner was in love with Robert Fulghum. Perhaps it was his writing style, his tongue-in-cheek (but honest to God) way of pointing out life lessons, or perhaps it was just a personal indulgence. Whatever caused Mr. Gardner's love, I am grateful for it. The best days were Fulghum Fridays, when Mr. Gardner would use the last five minutes of class to share a bit of Fulghum wisdom with us. The worst days, by the way, were the nights before and mornings of the days that papers were due. True story. Since today is Friday, I'm going to share some Fulghum with you. Two years in that classroom convinced me of the greatness and inspiration that comes from such a man. Mr. Gardner knew his stuff. Robert Fulghum knew his stuff. It was a perfect combination.

If you want to read more Fulghum, simply go to Buy all his books on Amazon. You won't regret it. Here's a little sample from a post entitled, "In the Middle of the Middle."

Being alive is not a destination, it’s a place on a moving bus.
You will always have more questions than answers.
You will never get yourself or the world all figured out.
You will never ever really know what other people think about you.
You will never ever really understand what you think about yourself.
And -You are not as alone as you think, but it always seems that way.

In the words of Mr. Gardner, "Have a great weekend! Don't do anything stupid!" Happy Fulghum Friday!

Saturday, June 8, 2013


Anxiety: Distress or uneasiness of mind caused by fear of danger or misfortune. In psychiatry, a state of apprehension and psychic tension occurring in some forms of mental disorder.

Anxiety puts you in a dark place, a nervous place. A place where I can't breathe, can't focus, and can't be still. I get massive attacks every time I go to my parents' ward. True story. The people there stress me the junk out. Mostly just Elders' Quorum, actually. Holy Moses. Not healthy.

Anyway, anxiety destroys my ability to maintain a level head in a lot of situations. Couple anxiety with depression, and life gets all kinds of messy. 

Anxiety is a sense of foreboding bad; depression is a feeling of saddened reflection and contemplation of the past. Both can hit at any time, even simultaneously. Talk about a double pile-drive to the sense of self. 

Anxiety makes it hard to keep and maintain close relationships with others. This in turn makes living in Mormon culture about 1000 times worse. You want to talk about unhealthy, anxiety inducing pressures? Try talking to a single Mormon who isn't married, engaged, or dating about any combination of those things. That'll sure as hell launch someone into an anxiety attack. 

Interestingly enough, Mormons have unusually high amounts of reported anxiety and depression. We are not mentally stable people sometimes. Why? Because we have this idea of perfection and being saved by grace, "after all we can do." So, we go crazy! We forget what grace means! That'll be another post. We do 3 hours of church, fulfill church assignments, run kids to piano/violin/dance/German lessons/tutoring, try to do home evenings, home teaching, visiting teaching, and then still leave feeling that we haven't done enough. So, we cook 10 casseroles for the 5 ladies in our ward who just gave birth, throw extravagant book club or weight loss parties, and try every bit to look like we have everything together. In reality, a lot of us can barely keep things together for a day. And so, we self-medicate with Women's Conference, porn, or over-religiosity. Anxiety. Freak.

As a result, my newest life goal is to write a book called All My Friends are Emotionally Unstable.