Celebrating the Day That Changed My Life

Today I have the good fortune of celebrating one of the most important days in my life, if not in all of history. But we’ll get to that in a moment.

What days define a person’s life? The birth of a child? Certainly. Graduating college? Maybe. The day they are baptized? Most definitely. The death of a close friend or immediate family member? Without doubt.

But what of the days that change our lives without us being aware of their existence that the time?

Today celebrates on of those days. 

When I was a young lad, there was an unremarkable hospital in Omaha, but on this day 30 years ago, an amazing couple welcomed their 4th child into the world. This event started a chain reaction that altered eternity.

We met a decade and a half later at the birthday party of a mutual friend (that wonderful friend has since passed on, herself and her parents being killed  by a drunk driver before she’d even had the chance to graduate high school.) being the smooth operator that I was, I used my unskilled pickup lines on her and her friend. It was only later that I discovered her to be the sister of one of my coworkers.

Being a bit defensive of his little sister, Brett was relentlessly teased by many of our friends: threatening to try to date his sister as soon as he left on his mission, which was short years away. I chose to refrain from the teasing, not because his sister wasn’t ‘hot,’ but because teasing is t really my thing so much as dry and sardonic humor. Ironically, I was the only one of those guys to ever date his sister…. And the only one (so far as I understand) that wouldn’t have riled him to do so.

  

It was later still that she and I began carpooling, with my heist friend and hers (who happened to be dating). Every morning we’d all carpool together to our zero hour choir class.

It was about this time that Julie knew that she and I were going to get married…. but she wisely never mentioned that to me, or else it would have never happened. After all, despite becoming good friends, we weren’t dating. Our relationship, while flirtatious, was not really romantic.

As high school continued, it became apparent to me that she valued our friendship in a different way than I did. Oh, she never threw herself at me or anything, she’s always had better sense than that. But while we shared a deep and important friendship, her feelings for me were not yet reciprocated.

As high school came to a close (for me) that started to change. Having an awkward social code, we didn’t really date, though we did go on a lot of dates. I also dated a lot of other girls, be use my rule was that I wouldn’t steady date before my mission (in retrospect it was both a silly and wise choice). Between my senior year and hers, we went together to 3 formal dances and some non-fomals, but I can’t remember how many.

By the time I’d left on my mission, the romance was mutual, but careful. I told her that I didn’t want her to wait for me to come home, as I would make no promise other than that if she was still single when I got home we’d give it a shot, no strings attached. 

When I was visited my ecclesiastical leader to have hands laid on my head and become a missionary, she was the only non-family person invited.

She wrote me while I served the people of Detroit as a missionary, but her letters were nothing but proper and uplifting. She dated a bit while I was gone, and started college.

When I got home, the first non-family member I saw was Julie. I drove 50 miles to her town to surprise her with a visit. If any recently returned missionary thinks to do this: don’t. It’s neither a fun surprise, nor is it anything but akward. I’d spent two years as a full time missionary, spending nor having any time alone with any of the fairer sex: it was… uncomfortable.

As I left that afternoon, I had settled in my mind that we’d given it a no-strings-attached fair shot: and we’d missed. I’d go on to college in a different town, and we’d remain just friends.

She had determined the same thing.

But she had a wise roommate who recommend That she call me and tell me how nice it was to see me, that she’d like to see me again.

Thanks, Whitney, because that phone call set us on a second chance recovering from the awkwardness.

I was still counting in mission transfers when I proposed to her 1 transfer (6 weeks) after being home. It was a week or so later that we decided to be exclusive and not date anyone else. And following Paul’s council, we were married when I’d been home only 3 transfers (18 weeks).

We’ve shared some amazing times together. She suffered through my indecisiveness in college as I initially isn’t dead to go into nursing before discovering that I don’t have the attention span to be a good student (ADHD, anyone? Seriously, though, not diagnosed… But… Seriously).

She was patient as I studied the Deaf culture and ASL and the , again failing to focus on my generals (though doing well enough in the classes that actually interested me). Finally set,I got on a trade school in law enforcement. She supported me through my grueling top secret background check with the FBI, as I began my law enforcement career. She supported me as we were forced to move in with family (thanks to her mom and dad) as I graduated and waited for a police department to hire me. She supported me as that career fell apart: forcing me to choose to be a good husband and father or to be a good cop: I couldn’t do both.

All this time, she got to work her dream: to be a stay at home mother, raising our children.

She supported me through the excruciating hours of restaurant management, and was kind despite my significant weight gain (I’m a good cook… and a better eater…)

She didn’t hesitate as my failing health require me to take work farther and farther from home. Never complaining despite the fact that the first 8 years of our married life had endured 25% of it with us living in different cities.

As my health continued to fail, she didn’t complain as she had to give up her dream of being a stay at home mother, entering the work force and becoming the sole breadwinner.

You see, on this day 29 years ago and holding, the greatest woman in the world was born. Her patience and judgment is impeccable (except perhaps her judgment in men, but I can’t complain about this lapse).

Julie is the love of my life, but she was first my friend, and that friendship has held us together when the love has struggled. She has a, seemingly, infinite compassion and patience. 

I married up, and no one cand doubt it.

This year we celebrate the 10th anniverserary of my best decision, but today, we celebrate the important date that made my decision possible: Julie’s birthday.

Happy birthday to the love of my life.

Quality vs Worth: The Value of Life

Lately, I’ve had some questions from some readers, they are usually variations of this: “Jared, how do you stay so positive with all that is going on that is negative?” 

Sometimes they’re closer to “how do you do it? I don’t think I could keep going if I had ‘x,'” but I assume that, rather than suggesting I should off myself, these questions fit in with the first.

So I want to take a minute to address this question.
First, as is the nature of social media, you don’t often see the lows, if for no other reason than that when I’m really struggling, the last thing I want to do is to write. This is normal, by the way, which is why if we look through the Facebook pages of our high school classmates, we can reasonably assume that every one of them is financially successful, purely joyful, and traveling the world on peace missions, in short, that everyone but ourselves have found the key to happiness. And maybe some have, but I expect that a poll of those people would show that most of them feel like the world is in various stages of collapsing around them, while everyone else has it together. This is the lie of Facebook.

You, as the reader, don’t see nights I spend silently weeping to myself because I’m exhausted to the point of collapse, but am kept awake by the intense pain in my back and or nerves. I try to hide those low moments, even from my wife.  You, as the reader, don’t see me desperately, but without success, try to wake myself up once I’ve finally fallen asleep because the drug induced, hallucination like night terrors. You, as the reader, don’t see me curled up in a ball desperately wondering what the point of it all is. You don’t see the state of my house (that’s no accident…) because I can’t keep up with my chores.

So what is the point of it all? How do I stay positive? Well, the short answer is that I’m not always positive. I’m often angry and bitter about my lot in life (it’s not a lot, but it’s a life… Yuk yuk yuk). But it’s critical to understand the end goal. Life is not made to live from one moment of temporary excitement or high to the next: life is is about happiness, not excitement. But more importantly, life is meant to be a trying test.

This may not really answer the questions, in truth, the thought isn’t really well developed. I don’t struggle with the bitterness of depression, so I can’t speak to the power that it holds over the sound of its victims… Except I have felt that depression. My first buy of advise for those of you dealing with overwhelming depression, or depression that never goes Away (maybe it waxes and wanes, but is always present… Like a stupid song in the back of your mind….) first things first: speak to your doctor. I’ve found it helpful to write down my thoughts before a doctor’s visit (and I have lots of the ) – this helps me not forgot anything. Depressive disorder is crippling, but it’s also not just you: it’s a real medical condition and it can be treated. Please, if I’m describing you here, never free of the blues, call your doctor and schedule an appointment. It can be better.

But assuming that one’s chemistry is under control, we have to look at some of the other causes of misery: at the risk of sounding like a preacher, often we feel like bad people because, well… we are…. if we are living our lives free of the bother of moral compass, we might (or should) feel bad about ourselves. That’s not depression, it’s conscience. When I have not been right with my wife, or with my kids, or with my Lord, I have not been more than temporarily happy. It’s a feeling that I can’t shake, and no matter how great I may feel for a moment, it always fades back to a disappointing base. So we spent last week preparing for Resurrection Sunday – we repented of our sins, and we sought  to make amends to those whom we have wronged. If you didn’t follow us on that journey, it’s not too late: begin the process of being right with God. If you don’t believe, then at least make sure that you are right with everyone else (not quite the same, but a big first step).  

Next, forgiveness is critical. Again, I’m sure, I sound like a preacher, but not without cause. Once we’ve repented of our sins, we need to move on. We need to trust God that He has forgiven them. Sometimes the memory of that sin can come back to bite us a long time later- especially if it was particularly egregious, but trust isn’t a one off type of thing: I don’t just trust my wife once: I trust her always. The same is true with our heavenly relationships: we don’t just trust God to forgive us once, we must actively work toward the trust that He continually forgives us.  Sometimes the people that we have wronged don’t forgive us, even when we have truly repented. I’d love to say “move on, they aren’t worth your time anyway.” But I’d be lying… At least with some people. Unlike the Father, we are not perfect, and being forgiven isn’t guaranteed with our fellow man like it is with Him. If we have really repented, however, we recognize and accept that their non-forgiveness may be a consequence of our actions. We just move on the best we can. And finally, we need to accept and forgive ourselves. I’ve found that no one holds a grudge against me like I do. I find myself loathing actions from decades ago: “couldn’t I be a little kinder?” “Couldn’t I have responded better.” – but moving on with our lives means that we have to forgive ourselves, after we have done everything we can to correct the problem. 

If we have are chemically balanced correctly, we have a clean conscience, and we have accepted the forgiveness of God, sought the forgiveness of others (and accepted whichever response they chose) and forgiven ourselves; once we have done all of those things, then we can tackle the rest:

Life sucks. There. I said it. Life is full of pain, misery, sorrow, weakness, impossible choices, dirty laundry, and burned dinners. All of those things happen even if we have been forgiven, are making righteous decisions, and aren’t depressed. So what’s the point?

I wanted it share an analogy complete with home video. I even found the old 30 second clip in all it’s 144p glory (from my first camera phone…) but sadly the sound is corrupted, and without my shrieks of agony, you’d never be able to see from the video only that you were watching me get tazed (oops, spilled the beans on that one.)

But how do we answer the point of this life? Simply put, just as I willingly was tazed because I needed to understand the power of the tool, we willingly agreed to this life so we could have the experience of it: dirty socks and all.

How the do I stay positive despite being in constant physical pain? How do I sit in my chair (I’ve been unable to sleep more than an hour of three in a bed for years), shivering because I have the window open to the sleeting cold in order to counteract the sweats of the medicine and leather of my chair? How do I find joy despite being unable to move for a great portion of the day? How do I feel whole despite being broken in every significant measurable physical measure (and many mental measurements)? How do I live when living is without… Wait, turning off the country music station on Pandora… Okay, better: how do I have a sense of humor despite… Well… Everything?

I agreed to this. Well, maybe not the dirty laundered or the damnable spiders, the laundry is just par for the course, and the spiders are the tools of the devil… But the rest, I agreed to. I stood with the he host of heaven and trusted my Father when He told me about His plan: I cheered when he told me that I could come to earth, obtain a body, learn, live, marry, and have children. I cherished the opportunity to be like Him. And whether you believe it or not, whether you know it or not, heck, whether you know me or not; so did you.

We knew what challenges would face us, maybe not in detail, but how do you really understand something without experiencing it? I might have had a different opinion had they told me about the spiders (“I’ll just stay here, okay?”), and had I known about the laundry, my cheers might have been a bit less exuberant… 

But we also knew we would sin. We knew that we would fall short of the perfection needed to live with God in His Glory. We knew we would damn ourselves (auto correct just put that to ‘dang ourselves,’ you think it knows I’m a Mormon?) and most importantly, we accepted all of that risk and pain because we trusted the Father’s plan: we trusted His Son and the promised atonement which would cleanse us of our sins.

So how do I keep on? I simply do it because I always have. I started out a long time ago trusting God. I started out a long time ago with the end goal in mind: Salvation and Eternal Progression with my loving Father in Heaven. I began this journey a long time ago, and while I hadn’t yet experienced the misery of dirty underwear, I knew that all the laundry in the world was worth the prize.

And do you know what? So did you.

So despite my aching legs and churning stomach tonight, I want to share with you my joy. Life isn’t always great, but it is always worth it. If you ever doubt that, please reach out to someone for help. Be chase while we knew that we’d have a lot of muck to slog through, we never have to slog alone. Your family loves you. Your friends love you. I love you, even if we’ve never met. And with the greatest love of all, our Savior and our Father love you.

Life is always hard, but it is always worth it.