Monday, November 28, 2016

Post-Thanksgiving Confession

So this is the time of year when I'm supposed to say what I'm thankful for. To list all of the things that make me happy to be alive. And yet. It hasn't been an easy thing to do. Those of you who have kept up with my blog over the years have no doubt noticed two big things about it:
  1. I list something I'm thankful for at the end of each post.
  2. I blog regularly, rarely skipping whole months at a time.
This year has been different. Let me tell you why.

In June, I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder. It wasn't a surprise. I had been feeling worthless and hopeless and lonely for several months leading up to that point, and . . . What can I say, really, but the truth? There were plenty of times when I didn't want to be alive. When I daydreamed of scenarios in which I was rushed to the hospital, though everyone knew it was too late.

There's no way to describe the utter sadness that is depression. I thought I had an idea because I tend to be somewhat melancholy, but I didn't truly know how dark the world could seem under a cloud of depression. The darkness seems to come out of nowhere, too, and you think you're going crazy because one day you find yourself kneeling on the floor and sobbing your eyes out because again, you feel worthless and hopeless and lonely. Normally, you would "buck up" and go out with friends, pick up a forgotten hobby, or fill your life with busy-ness. Normally, you would have a strategy for finding a solution to the problem at hand. But this time––this time you don't want to see anyone, you lose interest in the parts of life you used to find joy in, and the most difficult part of the day is getting out of bed in the morning. This time, you find it nearly impossible to think clearly. For me, that meant no writing on my blog and no "Thing I am thankful for." It was hard enough just to be thankful for life.

Why am I saying all of this? Why am I admitting to this . . . awful thing? Because I've thought a lot about gratitude lately and what, exactly, I'm grateful for. Well, more than anything else––more than desserts and a home and a job and a car and clothes and family and religion––I'm grateful for people's attention. I'm grateful when someone asks me how I am and listens to the answer. I'm grateful when someone says, "How was your day?" I'm grateful when someone remembers something I mentioned a few weeks ago and follows up. I'm grateful when people take an interest.

Sometimes I tell people about my depression, and they say, "What can I do to help?" Here's what you can do––with me and with everyone, depressed or not:

Take an interest.

Take an interest in the lives of the people around you. Ask them questions and listen to the answer. Don't spend valuable listening time thinking of the next thing you can say. Just listen. Ask about people's hobbies and work. Ask them what they've been thinking about lately. Ask them if they've got any exciting vacation plans coming up. Ask them about their family and their world.

The world is full of people who don't realize that the most important things in life aren't actually things––they're people. People who are closely connected to you, as well as people who are not.

I am grateful for people who take an interest in me and who make me feel like I am an important part of their lives. That if I vanished, they would notice.

Addendum: The point of this post was not to subtly request praise or words of love––though I do enjoy both of those things. ;) It was, however, a request that you pay attention to the people around you and take an interest in their lives. If a friend tells you he had a bad day, ask him about it. Pay attention to the people in your life, and make them feel loved by showing interest.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Doing Happy Things

I don't want to get into the details here, except to say that I've had to work really hard at being happy and engaged with life lately. Mostly, I feel like I'm not doing a very good job of it, but in the last few weeks, one thing in particular has helped: rowing. That's right; I've picked up rowing again. It's so nice to be on a boat in the water.* I had forgotten how rowing made me feel. I had forgotten that it makes me feel strong and confident and focused on nothing but the rhythm of my oars.

I had forgotten that doing things that make us happy . . . Make us happy. Or at least suspend sadness for a little while. I think that as we get older, we forget what makes us happy. Or we remember, but we overlook those things because we have boring-but-necessary adult things to do. And I think what we don't realize––what I didn't realize––was that by making happy activities a priority, we fill our souls with lightness, so that we are better able to handle the boring-but-necessary adult things. The stressful things. The scary things and the sad things.

Once I remembered that rowing makes me happy, I remembered other things that make me happy:

  • Being outside
  • Being near a body of water
  • Baking
  • Spending time with family, especially my nieces and nephews
  • Making people laugh
  • Having conversations with David
  • Eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
  • Taking evening walks
  • Going to concerts
  • Appreciating art

My challenge to you, dear readers, is to remember what makes you happy and spend some time doing those things!

*The Great Salt Lake, to be exact.

Thing I'm thankful for: finding my Nalgene water bottle

Friday, July 01, 2016

Open Letter to Single Women

Dear Single Women,

If you are in your late twenties or beyond and you are interested in a male who is in his late twenties or beyond, call him what he is: a man. He is not a boy.* He may sometimes act childish (as we all do), but "boy" is a word reserved for males under age 18 and really––more precisely––for a male who is a baby to somewhere around 11 or 12. After that, he is a "young man" or "guy."

You can continue to use "guy" until a male is in his late twenties and maybe even into his 30s, but once he hits 35, you should start calling him a man. Especially if he has facial hair.

"But Sara," you may ask, "What if he acts like a boy?" Who cares? As I mentioned earlier––yes, he may act childish, but so do you. So does everyone. But maybe if you call him a man, he will act like one more often.

And let's get real, here: Calling a man a "boy" is not cute. I don't care how many times you've seen "Notting Hill." You are not the star in a movie, and you are not getting paid enough to say such silly things such as "I'm just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her." It's not romantic; it's embarrassing.


*Yes, I have heard women call men "boys" countless times. Here are some real-life examples: "Did you see any boys you like?" "She met this boy in the library." "I went on a date with this boy."

Friday, May 27, 2016

In the Quiet Heart

After talking to a friend tonight for a long time about a lot of things, this hymn came to mind: Lord, I Would Follow Thee. I especially love the second and third verses of this hymn:

Who am I to judge another,
When I walk imperfectly?
In the quiet heart is hidden
Sorrow that the eye can't see.
Who am I to judge another?
Lord, I would follow thee.

I would be my brother's keeper;
I would learn the healer's art.
To the wounded and the weary
I would show a gentle heart.
I would be my brother's keeper––
Lord, I would follow thee.

"In the quiet heart is hidden sorrow that the eye can't see." Those lines. Those lines express so much of what I'm feeling right now, and I'm in awe of the people who get close to seeing that sorrow and offer a gentle heart to the quiet one.

Thank you, Nick, for a gentle heart.

Monday, May 02, 2016


If you know me at all, you know that I think a lot about agency and decision-making and how God fits into all of that––rather, how God's omniscience fits into all of that. Without a doubt, it's the topic I think about more than any other in this world, and it's also the topic that I think more people should think about. I really do believe that omniscience is the thing that truly distinguishes God from everyone else. Yes, he's omnipotent, too, and the creator of mankind, etc., etc., but omniscience . . . That's the key. That's the trait that makes him God.

So. Last Sunday, Merriam-Webster's word for the day was "omniscient." Here's their definition:
  1. having infinite awareness, understanding, and insight
  2. possessed of universal or complete knowledge

It's difficult for me to put my thoughts into words, but something about this definition struck me. There is nothing in it about perfection.* There is also nothing in it about time. This tells me two things:
  • Anyone can be omniscient. It is an attainable thing. I'm sure it would take a long time to be omniscient, but I don't think it's impossible. Nor do I think it's improbable, especially as a Mormon who believes in some kind of eternal afterlife. Indeed, my idea of heaven is that it is a place of learning––learning to the point of complete knowledge and understanding. And it starts here, on this earth. Heaven is now, and it is all around us.

  • God cannot empirically see the future. He can completely understand all there is to understand, but he doesn't look at the future as if it were displayed in a crystal ball. One could argue that he can actually see the future because eternal time is non-linear, and while I agree that eternal time is non-linear, I don't necessarily think that the future actions of people can be seen. "Read," as in "reading the future" might be more on the mark, and I'll explain it like this: I was at my friend's house for dinner last week, and his toddler was playing with a ball near the dinner table. He lifted his arm up in the air and as the twinkle in his eye appeared, my friend said, "No––throw the ball over there." Why? Because without seeing the scene play out, he knew what was on his son's mind. His own experience in being a boy himself and knowledge of his son's past behavior and present developmental stage told him that what his toddler wanted to do––was about to do––was to throw the ball on the table, destroying everything that was dinner. It could be argued that he read the future.

    If God sees the end from the beginning,** then it is because he has infinite awareness, understanding, and insight of himself and others. He knows all there is to know about people and things.

Why does any of this matter? Why do I think it should matter to you? Because it's empowering! It gives life purpose! It also, however, puts responsibility on us––to be deliberate about life . . . to choose and to act and to be mindful. It's not okay to give everything over to God; it's not okay to make him do all the work or to blame him for everything that goes wrong (or right!) in life. Believing in an omniscient God isn't a pass to be ignorant. If anything, it's an obligation to learn.

*I'm working on a post about perfection because I don't think perfection––in a Christian sense––means what people seem to think it means.

Thing I'm thankful for: slumber parties with nieces

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

What's in a Hug?

Hugs have become very important to me as of late. Maybe it's something to do with stress or lots of life changes or just living alone, but . . . Hugs mean the world to me. I'd rather have someone give me a good hug than a 20-dollar bill.

I didn't always love hugs. I used to be very concerned about who came into my personal space, actually, and would rarely give hugs or let anyone hug me for longer than a second. (My sister thinks it had something to do with being in an incubator for the first two months of my life.)

Taylor Giddens changed all that. He was my best friend in the mid-2000s, and he hugged everyone. Everyone. Women and men, old and young. But he didn't just hug them; he held them. Through the power of touch, he somehow let people know that they were worth something. That they were worth holding. I don't know how long it took, but eventually, Taylor taught me how much it meant to connect with someone just by hugging.

Now, I notice good hugs. I know which of my friends are exceptional huggers. Here's a list (in order of appearance):
  • Taylor (obviously)
  • Brandy
  • Mike
  • Adam (a.k.a., "Ehdem")
  • Pete
  • Alana
  • James
  • David
I'm sure there are more, but those are the ones who immediately come to mind.

"But Sara," you say. "What makes an exceptional hug?" Here, dear readers, is what makes an exceptional hug:
  • Front hugs only. There is no place in the world for side hugs or semi-side hugs. If you absolutely do not want to hug someone, then don't hug them at all.
  • No time limit. Hold on to someone until it feels natural to let go, even if that means the hug lasts for a whole minute or more.
  • No patting. Do not pat someone on the back while you're hugging. If you must do something with your hand(s), give a short, light stroke on the shoulder blade or middle of the back.*
That's it. That's all. That's all there is to it.** Am I missing anything???

Now, go out and hug someone!

*If you're Ehdem, you put one hand on the person's neck . . . Now that is a great hug.
**If you're me, you talk to people while you're hugging them. It makes for a longer hug, but I personally think it also makes for the best kind of hug.

Thing I'm thankful for: Taylor Giddens, a master of human connection

Friday, March 18, 2016

Silver Linings, Pt. 2

I believe in God, but I don't believe God uses platitudes during times of tragedy and sadness. He doesn't say, "Buck up, buddy! Things are gonna be okay; just get up, brush yourself off, and work through this!" He also doesn't say, "Hey! Be grateful! At least you're not dead!" or something equally as ridiculous. Instead, he sits down and cries with you for a while.

Like this:

(See Silver Linings.)

Thing I'm thankful for: mint brownies