Saturday, March 15, 2008

Creating Happiness when Life doesn't bring it Naturally

By Christine Thackeray

A few months ago we went to a "Bunko" party. Bunko is a lot like Yahtzee- it is all luck. The luckiest people at throwing dice move up and the unlucky ones move down. It should be a totally random process but surprisingly its not. The same people including my husband seemed to be constantly at the front table and I with a few other pathetic individuals spent the night at the dregs. It was humbling but enlightening.

As we left for the evening some of the people at the last table had great fun, no pressure, only felt they could go up from there, where as one woman was truly upset and felt like she was a total loser. (I'm not going to tell you which was me.)

Too often life is like that night playing Bunko or like the parable of the talents, the lucky people get everything. Why did the Lord give the one talent to the guy that had ten and not to the one who had five. It's like some people just get all the luck- you know?

Last week I lost at the "Bunko" game of life. Our house was supposed to sell, but the buyers walked away last minute. I had a manuscript rejected for copyright and the work to fix it is going to be emotionally wrenching and physically exhausting, and some people yelled at me because I was late to an activity. My feelings were hurt and I was publically embarrassed. The next day I was totally "dish-rag woman"- depression oozed from my heart in its silent blanket of apathy. I couldn't force myself to smile or cry, I just didn't care. I didn't answer the phone and I didn't act responsibly. Knowing myself, I could stay in a "funk" like this for days if I didn't do anything. I was an empty well and it was time to fill it.

SO- (I'm proud of myself because I don't always do this) I did fun stuff all day long! I played Literati on the computer and won like five times. Then I called four of my sisters and gabbed about kids and life and I laughed! I took my son to lunch and then came home and watched a movie with my children slouched all around me. By the end of the night I was so much happier and felt I could at least begin to conquer all the mountains that had defeated me the day before.

The next morning I rolled up my sleeves and called my sister Marianna (who is practically perfect in every way.) We are writing this book together and I wanted to see how she felt about the rejection since I only emailed the info to her (and was putting off facing her because if she blamed me, I would have crumbled into nothingness.) When she answered the phone, she confessed that she was so upset about the rejections that she had spent the day reading the book, "Eclipse" to get away from it and give her brain a rest.

I thought that was totally unfair. She had figured out that sometimes when life is too much to handle, you just need to step back and feed yourself. Wow, she had figured that out and didn't even have to deal with the grumpy monster that lives in my brain. Maybe that's why she doesn't have a grumpy monster in her brain.

Hormonal shifts, neurological injury or illness aside, when our depression is triggered by externals, we need to remember we have the power to change our input. We are not trapped in a single position, being force-fed life. We can sometimes choose what to participate in to bring us back to center, where we can deal with life. If I could do that one thing better, I may never get to the point where I fall apart. That's the hope anyway.

Back to the parable of the talents in the Bible, the interesting thing that does make me happy is that the guy with ten talents and the one with only half as much both got the same reward. It is OK if we do less, as long as we do our best and sometimes that best means taking a little breather now and then.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Why am I here?

When I started this blog back in August, it was a way for me to gripe and complain about my life. Basically it was a pity party blog. I really didn't want to do that in my main blog, because who would come back to read it? So I started this blog and didn't tell anyone. But making it a blog kept me from being too graphic about my life, but it still allowed me to wallow.

Then one day someone found the blog and commented. Soon after that I decided I didn't want to wallow so much anymore, but I did still want to acknowledge that sometimes life is just hard and maybe even unfair. But I also wanted to acknowledge that I could overcome the yucky parts of life, or at least make it through them with my head held high. More people came and commented.

I then thought that maybe I could use my college degree as well as my life experiences to help others going through the same muck. That maybe we could all stop wallowing and hold our heads high, put our hands out to each other and get through this life in the best possible way. But you know how life is, I got overwhelmed with everything and my posting was hit and miss whenever I was so moved or time permitted. I started thinking that perhaps I should find someone to help me. But that is all I did, think about it.

One day as I was reading my e-mail, I had a note from Christine. I had commented on her blog and for some reason it connected with her. She checked out my blogs, saw this one and wanted to contribute. What did I think of that? I cried. The Lord had sent me a blessing and I had not even asked for it!

I told her yes, yes, yes I wanted her help and contributions. I also asked her for time to pray about exactly what our objectives should be. This is how I knew I needed to add her- as soon as I sent her that e-mail and then prayed about it, I did not have a single moment to just sit and be quiet and contemplate the purpose. Every single moment that in the months before were filled with boredom and thumb twirling were all of a sudden filled with stuff I had to deal with right then. This went on for 5 days! This is usually a sign to me that Satan is trying to sidetrack me and stop whatever I am considering. I added Christine and figured I would sneak the purpose contemplation in when he least expected it, then he couldn't stop it with trivia.

So here we go:
Purpose of this blog
To acknowledge that life is not always beautiful, it has some ugly parts to it
To acknowledge that life is sometimes hard, sometimes not what we envisioned
To acknowledge that you are not the only one going through whatever you are going through right now
To lend a hand to pull you up
To lend a hand to support you when you think you are going to fall
To help ease your burdens
To help you find a place to turn to
To help you learn to lean on the Lord or even to learn how to want to

That will do for now.

Are Your Friends Making You More Miserable?

By Christine Thackeray

Last night I was talking with a group of teenagers. Although they were focused on a single activity, there were three who refused to participate. They sat in the corner and then in the hall and eventually ended up outside. I went out to talk to them and asked why they didn't want to play. They felt that they weren't accepted and no one liked them. I know these girls well and each comes from a very difficult home, wrought with substance abuse issues, neglect and instability. After bribing them, the girls agreed to come in for five minutes. We entered the gym and the game stopped for them. Teams were changed up so they could be included and for those five crazy minutes it was great. But when the time was up, they hurried out the door to listen to a new CD in another leader's car- that was the bribe.

What really got me is that my daughter was sort of upset on the way home because she felt these three girls had pushed her and her friends away. She had asked them to play earlier and their reply was something like, "fat chance!" She thought they considered themselves too good for her.

Often when we have been hurt we become more cautious of new relationships and build up barriers to protect ourselves. We sometimes surround ourselves with people who understand us because they are equally broken. A recent study was done of 170 pairs of roommates and 153 dating couples over a three month period. The conclusion was interesting. Emotional contagion is is real. When someone has a severely depressed roommate, their mood is more likely to decline. Luckily, it is short-lived. When they change their situation, their feelings often lift. So our associations can greatly affect the way we approach life.

The scary part of the study was to find out that long-term relationships mirror each other. Often people that are negative are with another person that is negative or positive people are with someone else positive. Chris Segrin said, "I was surprised by how similar the partners' moods remained over time. I thought there'd be much more fluctuation." It would seem when a group of people living with negatives stay together, they do not change but weigh each other down.

Although it is important to have people in our life who we feel can understand our perspective, if our goal is to heal and improve, each of us must look carefully at our associations. Do we have friends that we consider healthy, who are lifting us emotionally? If not, we need to reach out or we could get stuck in our rut for a long time.
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Saturday, March 1, 2008

A Great Place To Be

by Christine Thackeray

It is amazing how we are "guided" to some people. I recently moved to Oregon and within a few weeks felt comfortable with a circle of new friends. But then this woman who seldom comes to church accosted me in the grocery store. I had been wanting to go walking and she mentioned it and before long we began walking together every morning. It was an odd match because our backgrounds and personalities were as different as two could be, but we have become the best of friends- I just love her. We really exercise our jaws as much as our legs every morning and laugh that we have become each other's therapists.

One morning I was telling her about an old friend that I had met unexpectedly. I honestly felt like I had been guided to find her. That's when Sonja laughed and told me how we really met. That morning that I was shopping, she had noticed me almost an hour before we spoke but didn't want to talk to me. She thought I was one of those perfect "Molly Mormons" and tried to stay out of my way, but every time she would turn down another aisle I would be there. She said that she even tried to go out of order and I was still there. Finally she said to herself, "Okay, Heavenly Father, I'll talk to her once, but that's it." Now we see each other every morning and it's great.

Meeting Sandra was like that for me. I recently started a blog and often check my few comments. Sandra visited and left a brief note but something in it touched me. When I checked her profile, I was really impressed- and then I read this blog and really wanted to be part of it. I'm so looking forward to getting to know Sandra better and to sharing my experiences in facing challenges, healing from emotional and systemic physical wounds, clarifying the extent of our personal power for change and sometimes simply surviving until "the thorn in our side" is removed.

Just so you know where I'm coming from, I'll tell you a little about me. I grew up in a loving home. My parents had twelve children and I was in the middle. I had an older brother who tortured me with the typical annoyances of an older brother, nothing horrible, but hurtful. As a teenager we moved to a ward where I was blacklisted partly because my brother didn't want me going to the same parties as him and partly because I had become friends with a girl whose best friend was terribly jealous. When my only friend moved away, I spent the next two years as the brunt of everyone's jokes at church and it still hurts to think of it. We moved but the family of the girl that had been so unkind moved down the street. We were civil and spent a lot of time together but it was difficult. When I got ready to go to BYU, her mother came to me and begged me to be her roommate. I felt obligated to say yes (AHHH! I was a total spineless victim- never be that!) Within a few weeks everyone on the floor of our dorm thought I was Methusala based on the gossip sessions of my roommate and I flunked out of my first year of school.

The saddest part is that I think I brought out the worst in a wonderful girl. It is like when you meet a child that is really ticklish and has a funny laugh, so you love to tickle them because the response is so satisfying. But if you tickle them too much, it is torture. Well, I think I had too many irresistable buttons that upset me and it was so easy to get a response that neither one of us improved by our relationship together.

What is tragic is that the emotional injury of that relationship haunted me for years. I always felt that no one really accepted me and were saying things behind my back because for so many years they were. I always related to the abused and outcasts because that is how I identified myself. And the worst part is that my parents thought those feelings were ridiculous because I had been raised in a wonderful, happy family and been given every privilege.

Today I'm grateful. My heart is filled with empathy and my life is filled with joy. I married a Rancher turned Engineer who is my emotional rock and puts up with all my quirks. He endures the laundry mountains and dirty dishes that get stacked up because I choose to fill my life with creative pursuits or silly expeditions. But with all of that, the Lord keeps sending me challenges. I've had to deal with loss, grief and numerous health issues like CMV, PFS (bad knees), chronic fatigue and fibro myalgia. Yuck. Through friends and those I've served I have been deeply involved with anxiety, depression, suicide, severe abuse and addiction.

So women's health issues have become my hobby and I had hoped my post-baby career. I planned on attending medical school as soon as my youngest went to kindergarten but got called as Relief Society President the day I enrolled in pre-requisite classes. Then I moved and got a part-time job at a local university so I could get free tuition as I pursued my doctorate in Psych, but again I went to the temple the day before I was to begin and felt black inside. When I told Greg, my husband, he encouraged me to listen to the Spirit. I quit and a few days later my sister approached me with a manuscript she was working on. I editted it and it was accepted for publication. She convinced me to send in an old novel that I had given up on and it was accepted too. So I suppose this new path was meant to be and that path has taken me here.

Sandra, I'm thrilled with the opportunity and can't wait to meet all of you.