Fighting Isolation

“No man is an island, entire of itself.” – John Donne

As introverts, we need alone time to function, but that doesn’t mean that we’re immune from the devastation of loneliness, and it doesn’t mean that we should isolate ourselves.

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been struggling more than usual to balance socializing with taking time to be alone. I just started a new semester at college, and because of BYU-Idaho’s track system and other factors, I’m basically starting over socially. It’s a little overwhelming, and honestly, it’s been incredibly tempting to come home after class and shut myself in my room for the rest of the day.

But, naturally, God has other plans.

On Tuesday, at the first BYU-I devotional of the semester, President Henry J. and Sister Kelly Eyring delivered a powerful message about friendship and kindness that has inspired me to stretch myself a little.

Sister Eyring in particular said something that felt like it could have been meant just for me: “Of course, we all need some personal time during the day, time to reflect and plan and relax privately. That time might include listening to music, watching a movie, or playing a video game. But it is spiritually dangerous to establish a pattern of choosing to go to your ‘own place’ when all around you are potential friends to lift and be lifted by.”

I love that she acknowledged the need for alone time, but the rest of her message also rang true. Too much of anything can be dangerous, and that’s definitely true with alone time. I know from experience that too much can lead to isolation and loneliness, which hurts us and the people we could have lifted with our friendship.

So I’ve been trying to find little ways to fight isolation while still taking the time I need for solitude. I’ve been trying to go out more, keep my door open, make calls to family members, and spend time with my roommates. While I don’t think I’ve found the perfect balance yet (I’m suffering from an “introvert hangover” today, and I’m pretty sure I’ve been significantly more awkward than normal as a result), I’m really enjoying the relationships that I’ve been starting and strengthening, and I know it will all be worth it.

If you are struggling with even a hint of loneliness or feelings of isolation, I challenge you to make an effort to put yourself out there more, even if it’s just a little bit at a time. As much as we like to think so sometimes, we are not islands. We are not complete on our own.

Advertisements

One Song, Many Voices

There is room for individuality in the Gospel.

I think we forget that sometimes. We get caught in a funky cultural mindset that there is only one type of person that fits into the perfect model of a saint.

And often, we think we are outside that perfect model.

I know I’ve felt that way.  It’s not uncommon for me to have thoughts that start with: I don’t fit into the church because…

And end with things like:

I’m an introvert.

I’m not outgoing enough.

I’m not good with Primary children.

I’m single.

I make mistakes.

I know it’s silly, but this mindset was so deeply ingrained in me that I was afraid to get a pixie cut for a long time (even though I really wanted one) because I was afraid I wouldn’t look like a “normal” Mormon girl.

This way of thinking is damaging. It prevents people from feeling loved, accepted, and welcome. It excludes people. It makes us set priorities based on what others think of us rather than our relationship with God and our Savior.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland gave an incredible talk in General Conference this weekend that completely changed my thinking about “fitting in” at church.

In his talk, Elder Holland compared the Gospel to a choir, and I thought it was a beautiful analogy. In the church, we should all be singing the same, joyful song. “The song of redeeming love,” Elder Holland says.

But our voices are all different, and that’s the way it should be. We’re not supposed to compare ourselves to other singers in the choir or try to conform to the point where we lose everything that is unique about us.

Elder Holland emphasizes the fact that there is room for everyone in this choir who wants to sing. This includes people who are different, people who don’t match our internalized picture of what a member of the church should be.

It even includes sinners. Thank goodness! It would be a pretty quiet choir otherwise. Pretty much silent, in fact. Holland urges us to “come as (we) are,” no matter how much we have sinned, then be prepared to work on changing with Christ’s help.

We need our individuality, and I hope we can start recognizing and embracing that more. No one should be excluded from the choir who has a desire to sing with us. We all fit in, and our unique experiences and gifts bring us strength and power as a whole.

The Beauty in Us All

“In each of us, two natures are at war – the good and the evil. All our lives the fight goes on between them, and one of them must conquer. But in our own hands lies the power to choose – what we want most to be we are.”
– Robert Louis Stevenson
*Caution: potential spoilers for Beauty and the Beast ahead.

A few days ago, I sat in a movie theater and cried for two hours straight as I watched the beautiful live action remake of one of my childhood favorites.

I absolutely loved Beauty and the Beast. I loved the music. I loved the costumes. I loved the cast. I loved how it managed to stay true to the heart of the original while going much deeper into the story and characters. (Also, it was 100% worth seeing just to hear Dan Stevens’ gorgeous voice, but that’s another story.)

The day after I saw the movie, I ran across a profound review by a Christian mom who took two of her children to see it and challenged them to “watch it with God in mind”. As soon as I finished reading the post, I immediately started thinking of where saw God in the film. One quote stood out.

“I am not a beast.”

This moment comes before the curse is broken, when the Beast has the chance to kill Gaston but chooses to let him go instead.

Thinking back on this, I realized something. The Beast does not become a “beast” when the enchantress casts the spell, and he does not stop being one when the spell is broken.

He changes when Belle teaches him to embrace the humanity that was already inside him. I would say that the change really takes hold as soon as he lets her go.

I always thought of Beauty and the Beast as a romance between a beautiful young woman and a prince turned into a monster, but I don’t really think that’s what it’s about.

I think it’s really about the good and the evil, the beauty and the beast, inside each of us. I think it’s about seeing and embracing the beauty in ourselves and others and allowing the good within us to overcome the evil. This struggle within each of us is truly a “tale as old as time.”

In 2 Nephi 2:11 we read, “For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so…righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility.”

meme-moroni-spirit-1231781-gallery
Credit: LDS Media Library

Opposition has been part of the plan since the beginning. Ever since Adam and Eve partook of the forbidden fruit, everyone who comes to earth has to engage in their own personal battle between good and evil.

We are all like the rose that is central to Beauty and the Beast. We are flowers with thorns. No one is perfectly good, and no one is all bad. As Robert Louis Stevenson said, “In our own hands lies the power to choose.”

That’s something I want to try to remember, especially when I’m tempted to judge others. We are all fighting our own battles, and it is never too late for us to choose to let the atonement into our lives and let good triumph in our lives.

I hope you enjoyed my musings about Beauty and the Beast and our inner battles between good and evil. I’d love to hear your thoughts about the film or this topic in the comments!

“Me Time” Isn’t Selfish; It’s Necessary

If you’re an introvert, you probably know that you need alone time to be at your best.

If you’re an extrovert, you probably know that you need to go out and socialize to be at yours.

Whatever your personality type is, you need time for yourself. Time to do the things you enjoy, time to recharge, time to take care of your physical and mental health, time to think, time to develop your talents, time to strengthen your personal relationship with God.

How many of us actually take that time?

Last Sunday, after a crazy week of work, projects, and social events, I sat down to write a blog post and found myself drawing a complete blank. I had ideas, but as soon as I started trying to work on one,  I couldn’t write anything I was satisfied with. Frustrated, I tried making progress on several other drafts I’d started, but my own mind thwarted me. Again.

When it came down to it, I was exhausted and not at all in the mood to write. But I needed to! I needed to share something inspiring in case someone needed it. I needed to be consistent with my posts. I needed to get over my selfishness and get this done.

But actually…

How could I inspire anyone when I was feeling so uninspired? Was it worth it to be consistent even though I wasn’t feeling it?

I closed my laptop, watched a movie, and went to bed early. I started the new week feeling refreshed and ready to fulfill my responsibilities, and I had the whole week to find inspiration for this post.

It turned out that what I really needed was some time to unwind, and there was nothing selfish about that.

This wasn’t the first time I had to go through the process of realizing that I needed some “me time,” but I still had to justify the decision to take the time I needed for myself. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has experienced this.

meme-mosiah-1238331-gallery
Credit: LDS Media Library

We’re taught to abandon selfishness and to think of others first, and those are great principles to live by, but, like everything else, they can be taken to an unhealthy extreme. “Think of others first” does not mean that you should never think about yourself.

In fact, we’re told many times in the scriptures to think of our own well-being. Matthew 7:3 asks the familiar question, “And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?” And Mosiah 4:27 cautions us to “…see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order.”

Both of these scriptures exhort us to pay attention to how we’re doing and take care of our own needs. Additionally, the church’s page on mental health encourages us to “practice self-care” and even links to a playlist of TED Talks on self-care.

We need to take time out of our busy schedules to care for ourselves. We cannot give of ourselves if we’re running on empty. If you can’t find the time, I encourage you to make it. It can be hard to cancel things that feel important to have occasional “me time,” but it’s possible.

And it’s necessary.