Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum’s Reasons for Admissions, late 1800s
I found the above picture a fair while ago, snared by the bewildering reasons people were put into insane asylums. Asthma? Novel reading? Really? I stopped counting after 20 possible reasons I could admit to, and I wasn’t even halfway through the list (there’s about 90). Maybe “insane” meant different things back then, or the existence of asylums created different behaviours or needs? It seems human nature to put definitions on things, both sleek and clunky. There’s a quote that often makes the rounds on Facebook that I can’t stand. It says something along the lines of “depression/anxiety/crying isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign that you’ve been strong too long.” I think that’s a load of stupid piled onto a mountain of useless. The first part I know and believe – depression (or the others) is not a sign of weakness. Far from it. But it certainly is not a sign that you’ve been strong too long. We’re all mad here, we just may not know if we’ve gotten there yet.
Nearly two years ago, a tower was built way down the bottom of a mine shaft in my mind. Of course it doesn’t make sense – it was depression and that is one slippery, sly sucker punch of sneaky jerkitude that has the superpower of making the nonsense seem totally rational and acceptable. I found myself spending longer and longer in the tower, noticing distantly that part of it was being walled off. Within months, there was a section totally blocked off from light, from peace, and while “I” would be going about my day hanging out laundry or baking a cake or attending classes or work or praying, I could hear the broken, constant sobbing of myself on the other side of the wall. Nonstop. All hours of the day and through my nights. A noise more constant and way louder than my own heartbeat, my conversations, my common sense. I couldn’t outrun it, drown it, ignore it, do anything about it… except accept it. Depression sure messes with your senses and ability to make sense of anything, let alone what you’re feeling.
Turns out, my ovaries has mutinied. Continue reading
Last Sunday the 5-year-olds in my Primary class started to argue about who had the most beautiful eyes. I don’t know how they got started but they each claimed that their eyes were the prettiest. One of the girls with almost black eyes decided her eyes weren’t the nicest but her hair was. The kids then went off, each stating what made them better looking or somehow physically superior. Their idea of physically superior, though, is pretty hilarious: someone was proud of having the biggest feet and another child beamed about being able to burp super loudly. After about ten minutes I couldn’t help but laugh. We adults are so different than children. No grown-up would ever claim they had the most beautiful or best anything. Part of it is modesty and not wanting to brag, but part of it is the fact that somebody will always have better eyes/testimony/living room furniture.
That’s a sad statement: that we are too insecure to state what we like about ourselves; that somehow it’s improper to speak up and admit that there are things that we are proud of. It’s so easy to feel like we got the short end of the stick and somebody else has it better than us. But we need to resist that way of thinking. You don’t have to have the most beautiful eyes in the world to think your own eyes are really pretty.
We all know the importance of gratitude. There is not one of us, I believe, who thinks that gratitude for the gifts that we’ve been given is pointless and silly. The more gratitude we feel, the more we will be able to feel. And, of course, the happier and more content we feel. So in the spirit of my little Primary class, let’s express some gratitude for our bodies and our selves! Forget your insecurities and tell me some things you like about yourself, or something you’re good at. I’ll go first: I’m grateful for having big teeth because it translates into a really pretty smile (and I’m thankful for braces!). I’m thankful for feeling happy pretty much every day. I have sad and angry episodes but for the most part I’m happy most of the time. I don’t know how I lucked out with that but I did. Lastly, I love my ankles. They’re the only part of my that stays thin no matter what.
What about you? Are you brave enough to tell me what you like about yourself?
I dreamed I was in an open meadow with a blanket of wild flowers. The light from the distant sunset made them glow like colored sea anemones. I was walking through them carefully, not wanting to break a single stem, when a pain hit my heart. It was so strong I fell to my knees and started wailing. I cried out her name over and over. I could not stop. The pain came in waves and my jaw ached from letting out the cries that only a bereaved Mom could understand. I woke up terrified and bawling, aching to hold my daughter.
There was only one slight problem with this dream…I never had the daughter I was crying for. She never showed up. After a short two years of an infertility scare, I was blessed to have three sons and a daughter. Then, we decided to try again. I knew there was another girl waiting to be with us. I felt her everywhere. I saw a vision of her in the temple. I knew the color of her hair and those soulful eyes. I would glance at my children around the table and feel her absence. I was impatient. We tried. We waited. We prayed. We considered adoption, but it never seemed right. My youngest is almost ten years old and this girl never came. Eventually, her strong presence faded and the space in the family dinner table filled in as children’s bodies grew into teenagehood. The absence was accepted —
Until the dream was dreamed…when the gaping hole opened up and I fell in with a deep enough love that can crumble a body.
Is it possible to love someone who never was?
Can we still love the absent father? the ignoring mother? Can we love the friend who sets the appointment but never arrives? How about the man you were “supposed” to marry who never appeared on the scene? Can we love through the letter that never came? the waited-for apology? the boy whose car never pulled into the driveway? Can we love the husband who forgets again the birthday or anniversary? the past-curfew teenager who we wait for in the dark? the answer to a prayer that never seemed to be heard? the child who chose not to be born? Perhaps the answer can be found in another question: Can we love our dearest friends who sleep on while pain racks our body so that we bleed onto the garden floor?
The heart is a resilient thing. Tell us your story of how you loved the person who never was or the thing that never showed up.
Some cakes I can bang out in under 3 minutes: measure, dump, stir, oil tin, whack in oven. But pavlovas tend to be a more meditative experience. Incredibly simple, only 2 ingredients for the actual pav (and really, you should call it a pav, it’s what we Aussies call it and it’s our unofficial dessert*), but with 2 double handfuls of opportunity to drift off into hushed dreams and gentle musings. Even when I’m in a rush to make one, I’m always side-tracked by the odd thought as I make the gorgeous meringue deliciousness.
Pavs are astoundingly easy to make, and hugely impressive as a dessert. The fact that they are a luscious confound of sweet, light, chewy and melting, let along the ability to dress up elegant or slouch for a casual event, makes it even more worth the simple (and wonderfully hands free) process. The meditation/daydreaming is an extra delight.
You can make pav with a handheld mixer, but a stand mixer is best, with a whisk attachment. You will need 4 egg whites (make sure there’s no egg yolk lurking in there), 1 cup of fine sugar (not confectioners or icing sugar – caster or white sugar’s fine, brown sugar is a lovely choice too) and that’s it for the actual pav. Seriously, just those ingredients. The decoration on top comes later and is totally up to your own preferences.
So, toss the egg whites into the stand mixer or bowl, and start whipping on medium speed. When they start to thicken just enough to see the beater marks left behind, add in a quarter cup of sugar. Meditation prompt: How on earth is this going to make a decent dessert? Think about other messes that turned out well. Mmmm, good desserts… remember great desserts of stomachs past. Continue reading
I sit next to the bathtub with an auger, trying to get out what is shaping up to be a phenomenal clog. It’s gross enough trying to get my own family’s hair out of the drain, but here I am working on a clog at someone else’s house. It is a tub belonging to a woman in my ward. As I twist the auger, I think to myself, “I’m just earning a few extra rooms in my mansion in Heaven.” I probably should be happy to do service for service’s sake, but no. I’m pretty nice, but not that nice.
The scriptures are full of promises of what will happen if we stay true and good during our lifetimes. It’s quite a popular topic at my house: what Heaven will be like. We’ll live in mansions, of course. Although everyone’s idea of their perfect house is different, so that should make things pretty interesting.
My children like to ask if there will be food in Heaven. I have to imagine so, because eating is so important in this mortal life. But maybe it will be eating just for pleasure’s sake, not for nutition, since our resurrected bodies won’t need that. Or maybe we’ll have something way more pleasurable than eating by that time. Or maybe we just won’t care. But it’s hard to imagine Heaven without warm chocolate chip cookies.