Monday, December 5, 2016

Welcome to 30

Dear Lindsey,

Your birthday is burned into my head.  And I like that because it precedes mine and gets me thinking about what it means to be one year older.  This year really is significant.  This year, I have learned so much about transitions.  And turning 30 is another one for both of us.  The decade between turning 20 and 30 has been full of transitions.  And with every transition there is a death.  Even this turning is the death of the 20's.  When I think back on the 20's and all of your transitions, it makes me hope that you can find a moment to really reflect on the woman you have become.  The first transition was from teen to adult.  From sister to aunt.  Then from student to graduate to employee.  From maiden to wife.  Then from wife to mother.  That is the crazy thing about the 20's.  SO MUCH HAPPENS!  With each of those changes, some part of us dies.

Without too much research, I have learned some rituals regarding transitions.  Women of the Navajo tribe  perform a ritual when a woman goes through a transition like the ones you have been through.  Some versions include washing the feet, or lighting sage, setting new intentions, and preserving the memory of the transition by means of a physical object--like a bead.  The cleansing helps make way for the new life to come.

My friend in hospice told me how both in pregnancy and before death, people can be filled with the energy to make way for that new life.  In expecting mothers, this might be called "nesting."  She says she has seen many clients suddenly have energy to tie up loose ends of their lives and settle affairs.  Birth and death are two sides of the same coin called life.  The energy is part of intuition that tells us there is more to come.

As you celebrate the end of your 20's and make room for all the will come with this new decade, I hope you can feel the magnitude of the journey you have made and the fullness of joy that comes with recognizing it.  And if it feels right, a little memory of the identities you have carried and those you have left behind.

Happy Birthday!

Love,

m. jean
(fine you can say it--Magster the Hamster)

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Silent Dating: Can you connect?

Social Dating Hypothesis: I can communicate non-verbally and my date and I can feel an increase in connection and fun.

METHODS

Participant criteria:

Male, 25-46, social acquaintance, voluntary status, knows my name.

Recruitment: 

I had two men in mind.  I had met both of these men on a weekend cabin trip and had only spent time with them 1-2 times after that.  I was recently reminded of both--one I randomly ran into at Target and was so delighted to see him that I temporarily forgot my vow of silence.  The other had spontaneously instigated a hilarious snowball version of the hunger games and forced us to play till there was one person left standing while he, the game maker, recorded and commentated.  I sent a Facebook message describing my goal to go on a date in silence and my hope for their company.   Both responded to the private message with what seemed a genuine willingness.

Materials:

I made cards with words chosen from a google search for the 100 high frequency word lists.



I also made a few question cards that had blanks in the sentences so they could be used for more than one subject.

I selected 10 items from the Barrett-Lennard Relationship Inventory and adapted the scoring techniques to my 10 item version.

I also had blank pieces of paper and pens in case of the need to write something.

Study design: 

One of my dates voluntarily opted to be silent on the date as well.  This provided opportunity for a test and control  The control, Brett, would remain verbal for the date.  The test, Mike, would only use non-verbal communication methods.  All participants, myself included, would do the survey before and after the date.  For the mutually silent date, we selected bowling.  For the control date, we opted for rainy day gelato (and to my delight, I was able to convince him that we needed to go to dinner too because my favorite Italian restaurant was right next door--HUZZAH for spontaneity).

RESULTS

Control Scores: 
Participant
Pre-date
Post-date
Megan
16
19
Brett
16
18

Test Scores: 

Participant
Pre-date
Post-date
Megan
13
26
Mike
18
19

DISCUSSION

The scores do not show a significant increase in connection as measured by the Barrett-Lennard Relationship inventory.  This could be for many reasons.  The validity of the inventory may have been jeopardized by the exclusion of 54 other items . . . like I just took out a lot.  Also, the nature of the items were trying to get a score for how you feel you are perceived by the other person which is kind of confusing.

The only score that shows a significant increase is my score on the test date.  It could be that I, as the principle investigator, demonstrated a high bias in taking the survey.  I think I scored lower in the beginning because he had taken some days to get back to me.  One of those deep, dark, pits of despair/anger that I can get sucked into is feeling ignored.  I hate it.  Also, I am extra sensitive to this because I am usually the one instigating a date and in this phallocentric culture it is ingrained in women that "if a man is interested in you he will make something happen."  I could scream how anti-egalitarian this attitude is and how it completely keeps men in power and women as subservient hopefuls, reinforces that women had better do everything in their power to attract a male even if it is degrading because they don't have the option to pursue, etc.  all day.  But I won't.  So at this point, I feel like I have gotten really good at staying away from the dark pits and allow people room for error or just let it roll off my back and move on.  But I had a dream--we should all know by now how I feel about dreams--that Mike sent back an email that said "YIKES! This is moving too fast!"  Haha, so even though his messages after were super cool and totally reasonable regarding a late response, I may have had residual "walls up" feelings walking into the date.

Yet, through miming and getting extremely creative in our communication together, the genuine good time we had melted those walls and I felt such a genuine kindness from this man and an appreciation for him.  We talked about books, dreams, recent experiences, and other things like Bora Bora or Spain. I told him my hypothesis and this is what he said:







With Brett, perhaps my scores were only slightly altered because I felt like I already had an accurate understanding of how he perceived me, mostly because he offered observations on his response to the Facebook invitation (e.g.
"I'm laughing just thinking about it." "with you I think it will be fun.") that had already put me at ease and told me I was perceived as "fun". Therefore, I walked into that date feeling more confident and relaxed. We found a lot about how our personalities are similar in some ways, but totally different in others. I laughed so hard when one of our conversations points led to me saying "I tend to value the spirit of things over the letter (i.e. personal interpretation vs. rules) and he didn't even finish reading the sentence before he was like, "Well yeah I could have guess that." I also liked when I told him how traveling alone is amazing in a lot of ways but when I really reach a moment of amazement, I instinctively look around to find someone to share it. He said, "Yeah, I get that. I have experienced that snowboarding. Sometimes it is nice to just go down the mountain, but when you really have a good crash it is kind of sad when no one sees it." While laughing, I also found the truth in this that we desire people to witness our pain as much as we desire them to witness our joy.



What started as an experiment/meet my go-on-a-date-this-quarter quota ended up as not one, but TWO of the best dates I have ever been on. I learned a lot about both of these men and was literally charmed by both--which doesn't happen very often (e.g. found out Brett has been volunteering for a while as a civics teacher for refugees which made me so full of heart melting judgements about him that seem accurate as his care and passion was evident). To have gone on both of these dates and experience zero stress and such total willingness left me with this word:  

REAL.
 

They were both the most REAL dating experiences I have ever had. So while the data may not have reflected an increase, I feel like not speaking was an adventure instead of a barrier. I think the silence gave us a rare opportunity to have to attend to each other. We had to show up to the conversation. There were no last second nods to pretend like we were listening. There was no small talk to get in the way.

In therapy, there are a lot of reflecting statements. The purpose of reflecting is to demonstrate that you are understanding the person or at least attempting to. It also just sends the message that the person has your full attention. With Mike, we were in it together to make the conversation quality. So while there weren't verbal reflections, there was a lot of dedication and teamwork to communicate--which is super cool (e.g. Mike asked me what had happened in the last dream I could remember which is kind of already an abstract concept--but we did it! I think . . . I understood that in his dream he had almost quit his job because his BOSS boss had come in and was being awful). With Brett, most of what he did was reflection! IT FELT SO NICE!! I have a tendency to mistrust words--I want to be understood so badly that I will use every word I possibly know to try to make my meaning unmistakable. Brett showed so much interest in getting to know me and had to reflect back to me what he understood so I could confirm it. I don't think I give people that opportunity very often.

Who knew that silence would help me trust?

Anyways, I kind of feel weird talking about real people and my real experience with them side by side and publicly, mostly because I may come across as indifferent to them when that is the opposite of how I feel. I really value both of them for their unique qualities and personalities. There is something about this that I think is really important and should be shared.  

Also, I want both Brett and Mike to know that I will hands down go out again/be game for any eccentric or unique ideas you have--and I guess normal ones too/ remember this experience and be grateful I shared it with you. And I totally wrote it on my gratitude dresser.  


P.S.  I think there was only one instant in this process that I told Mike if he preferred me silent I would hate him forever . . . I am not entirely compliant to this state of being . . .

Monday, April 25, 2016

If your dreams don't scare you, they aren't big enough

I borrowed the title from my friend Debbie's blog.  I know I promised a silent date follow up but then today happened.  Despite my desire to not add feelings of pressure to my friends who have seen many of our cohort pass the stupidly scary test for new MSW graduates, I don't think I can hold it back.

The last time I had to take a test that scared me was in Florence, Italy.  I had just spent 4 months in a deepening depression as I tried to figure out what I was doing as an Au Pair in Italy and why it wasn't feeling right etc.  The last month of it had been spent on my friend's futon as an urchin who had been given a home after I moved out of the family's house.  It was also the darkest month of my life.  I had never experienced the weight of depression like that, nor have I since.  I shudder to think about it.  I assure you, the girl you know today would have been unrecognizable in that girl.

Through moving to Florence, poetically the city of the renaissance--of rebirth,  I was learning what it would to be myself again.  I could talk forever about that process and how every moment was so difficult.  In each millisecond, I had to decide what to believe.  Did I believe that things would work out or would the darkness just take me?  It was exhausting.  But, slowly, I started becoming myself again.  By the end of my training program in Florence, I felt so close to that rebirth and the only thing that stood between me and new life was a stupid test.

I have never failed anything academic in my life.  I don't think I am particularly brilliant, I think I am just good at people pleasing so I knew how to pass tests and get A's.  The way this 50 question grammar scared me would cause you to think that it was organic chemistry or something.

I remember the room when they told me I passed.  Two teachers and I were crowded around a small table in a tiny room with a paper cutter and staplers.  I started crying and they let me talk about how anxious I had been.

Flash forward 5 years and the remnants of that experience both strengthened me and terrified me.  Every time I got nervous, I just remembered that room and the relief it held.  I remembered my dream that had comforted me when I was unsure if I would get into the MSW program. I have been feeling like my life was too good to be true right now.  The only thing standing between me and this new life was a stupid test.

I had a really good study plan.  I did a practice test every day at the same time my exam was scheduled.  I did all the methods people taught me--the tricks to passing.  I learned stuff they had never talked about in school.  Counted down the days.

But if you know me, you know I don't really stick to plans.

The anxiety built up and I reached out to people I trusted for their wisdom and blessing.  My friend, one of the wisest of all, told me this:  "I learned something about birth and death today.  Women who are pregnant go through a period of nesting.  They just feel urged and energized to make room for this new life.  In death, people sometimes get a burst of energy before and tie up loose ends or spend time with important people in their life.  This is the same for you right now, Megan.  Trust your body.  You know exactly how to tie up the end of this experience and how to make room for the next."

Nothing calmed me more than that.  She was so right!  So I listened to my gut and abandoned all my plans and methods and just did what felt right to me.  I moved up the date of my test and totally took it at the opposite time of the practices I had done.  I actually kept one of my own secrets for the first time in my life and didn't tell anyone when it was (don't worry, I can keep your secrets).  I did yoga, chanted (in my mind), asked the women spirits who are always with me to help, prayed, had a nice chat with God where I encouraged him (I laughed at myself for that one but I really do know that he has got this whole eternal progression thing and felt impressed to say it), I listened to music that was in my soul, and then I went and took the test.  Right before I submitted it, I did a mindfulness technique that involves calming down.

The two part exercise shows me what I fear the most, what I think I can control, and what I tell myself about the outcome.  The second half always shows me the truth.

First: What if I fail?  Is there anything else I can do--anything I can change to make me pass this test?  I feel sick.  I hate this.

Second:  The only way is forward.  

Pass or fail, new life or setbacks, the only way is forward.

Results:  PASS

I can't help but think about how our souls truly know what we need.  If we let it, it can guide us to the exact right amount of heartbreak and the right door to joy.  I could not have designed my experience in Italy to be the exact transforming moment I would need to remember to get through this dream of school.  All we can do is follow our hearts forward.  Somehow, in the midst of that authenticity, we also build safety nets for ourselves, memories and experiences that are powerful enough to give us hope to get through the next hardest thing.  So don't think about the pass or the fail.  Think about living.  And go forward.

Italy:


Today:


 (I am cutting the advent calendar that I made while trying not to procrastinate any more . . . I will let you work the counter-productivity of that one out . . .)




ON TO THE NEXT:

Friday, April 22, 2016

Silence

To catch you up:

I have had some vocal problems for a while now.  Through overuse and misuse I ended up with a vocal hemorrhage!  The only solution is voice rest.  Gentle therapy has also been helping it heal.  Luckily, I haven't been working and I only had school once a week so I didn't need to talk by the time I went to the doctor.  So I have been silent for 2 weeks now and am meant to continue for another week until my job starts.  Then I am supposed to talk as little as possible.  

A lot of people have been asking me about my experience (since we all know I am a talker). 

The biggest surprise is that it isn't as hard for me as a lot of us might think.  I think for me, the hardest part was not talking to strangers.  Like the grocery store cashiers when they make friendly chatter and I just silently had thoughts.  Or the girl who had a really cute skirt: instead of saying, "I love your skirt, it gives this really cool mermaid aura" she just thought I was checking her out.

When I do speak, it is quiet and people start whispering.

Soul friend goes silent in solidarity for the first hour or so when hanging out with each other post injury.

Nieces that are looking forward to aunt time call in desperation saying, "Megan, where your voice go?"  "Maybe the bank has her voice.  Or maybe there!"  I think Sofia even got mad when she found out.  She wasn't sure coming to my house would be fun.  Singing is a big part of our time together.  We even have a special chant/song.  (Umm, they loved it.  We had so much fun.) 

Something I loved was being alone with my quiet friends.  In particular, I loved being with Sarah the Lionheart.  We talk so much and it is such a big part of our friendship that not talking was weird for both of us.  I often launch into long monologues as I try to process something and she just listens.  She will have those moments too, but she usually takes comfort in knowing that I might fill the spaces with talk.  I asked her (via text-to-voice technology) if it was weird to be the talkative one.  She nodded and indicated it was a little awkward and different.  But I liked it.  I liked hearing her chatter more and talk more nonsense and wisdom--she literally is wisdom.

We spent an evening with our soul friend Kate and it was so fun how we used the app to talk.  I noticed I had to be quick if I wanted to say anything and I sometimes had to interrupt the flow to say a comment.  I even sang her happy birthday!  

video


The next night I went to my other friend's birthday to hang out with my framily.  It was wild!  I had so much fun.  I told them I would say the prayer.  It went something like this.

The rest of the night was SOO much fun because my friends are hilarious.  Luckily, hilariousness makes me silent laugh.  We played a game on our phones . . . together.  It is called Psych (kind of like balderdash).  I continued using the app to talk and felt like I was a part of the group, even though it was different for all of us.  I think I heard my friend Heather say, "even though it was a computer voice, I felt like I was hearing Megan's voice." 

Ironically, I saw this video that day about a boy with autism who uses his iPad to talk.  I think by nature I refuse to be disconnected from people, but I also think that working with kids with autism has taught me that there are thousands of ways to build relationships with others.  All it takes is creativity, willingness to listen, and courage to reach out unashamed.  

This made me revisit an idea I had a long time ago to go on a silent date.  (I have so many date ideas.  I loved the eat-in-the-dark date and I can't wait to play 1st date bingo with someone.)  With most of my ideas, it is usually best if I just forget about them.  If I try too hard to make it happen, it gets weird.  But, when I forget about them, my body tunes in and manipulates space with the pure desires of my heart and the ideas resurface in as natural of a way as possible.  

So.  This is the silent date idea resurfacing.  

Stay tuned to see how it went!  

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Mormon Women: Please keep serving . . . and consider expanding your definition of "refugee"

I just feel the need to get this out.

Please keep serving refugees.  Good job Mormon women (oh and the countless professionals and volunteers that have been serving this community for years).  Way to look into it.  Please keep reaching out to your fellow human sisters and brothers in love and service.

And please think carefully about who you consider a refugee.

Because chances are your neighbor is seeking refuge from something.

Chances are the newly labeled "apostate" gay couple that you know is seeking refuge from something--it might even be from the political decisions of your religious institution.

Chances are the undocumented immigrants whose children go to school with your children just might have left their country fleeing the same violence as official refugees.  They just might not have had the chance to seek asylum.

Chances are the person you see with food stamps and their nails done still might be in need of your kindness instead of your judgement.

Chances are that what Sister Burton was saying was to look EVERY human in the eye and ask yourself, "what if their story was my story?"

If you don't have a center for refugees near you--don't fret.  There are plenty of refugees of every kind surrounding you.

I loved Elder Kearon's talk in conference.  It was mind blowing and so well done with heart and truth.  His words that spoke most to me were the following:

"Being a refugee may be a defining moment in the lives of those who are refugees, but being a refugee does not define them. Like countless thousands before them, this will be a period—we hope a short period—in their lives. Some of them will go on to be Nobel laureates, public servants, physicians, scientists, musicians, artists, religious leaders, and contributors in other fields. Indeed, many of them were these things before they lost everything. This moment does not define them, but our response will help define us."

What I heard in that is everyone's story.  One piece of someone's identity system or their circumstance does not define them.

How are you defining you?

Sunday, July 19, 2015

It started with a life, manifested in a death.

I can't believe it has been four years since my grandpa died.  I wanted to share a part of my journal that sums up what July 19 means to me now and forever.  Maybe, it was mostly important for me to type it out and revisit each word.  It isn't even really about my grandpa dying.  It is just to mark and celebrate 4 years of post experience learning.

I still remember being in Italy and debating when it was time to go home and say goodbye to him.  I woke up one day knowing.  I went home and remembered the promise I had made to myself when I spent hours with a 99 year old woman named Helen.  I told myself if I ever got the chance, I would take care of my grandparents in this same way.  I got to take care of him for a few weeks; about 1 1/2 months.  One promise usually leads to another.

July 19, 2012
Exactly one year ago today, at 7:30 p.m. LaVerle M. Bingham died in his home, in his bed.  He died the way he probably dreamed of dying, surrounded by family with all of his living children present.  I saw him die.  The air was still in the last few moments of his life.  It was quiet.  we all listened to his gasps that began after my grandmother had whispered at his bedside, "I will be all right."  After weeks of taking care of him, I watched him let out one final breath, and with it his spirit.  I looked at the frame of him.  Curled in the fetal position and on his side, he laid in his final resting form.  His mouth was open with his jaw slackened crookedly.  It was a Tuesday.  

That was a moment that changed my life.  As I contemplated it over the next hours I came to understand that it was the greatest lesson my grandpa could teach me.  His lesson, taught by his life and presented by his death was that all the blessings of the heavens and the earth were actually attainable.  I know this because I believe he succeeded in attaining them.  He was a simple farmer, a social butterfly, a father.  HE watched movies and got grumpy.  He has some of the worst penmanship I had ever seen.  He was an average guy.  But I believe now he is becoming a god.  This event that caused me to understand is now one of the most significant in my life.  

Today is a Thursday.  Today I went through the Twin Falls temple to become endowed with power from on high.  I wear the symbolic garment of the priesthood as I will do for the remainder of my life.  The beauty of ancient rituals, symbols, covenants, and truths alleviate my need to understand them today.  It was an eternally important day for me.  I chose the day my grandpa died because I wanted to sanctify the day he taught me the greatest lesson.  I didn't want to remember his passing with sorrow, for it was one of the most spiritual experiences of my life.  It seems so natural to me to celebrate that in the temple.  

Love,
Megan 




Thursday, December 4, 2014

Fraudulent Memories--but oh so happy

I had this idea that the whole world would share their favorite memory of Lindsey.  Then I thought, what is mine?  Then I was like, "Don't we always talk about the same old memories even though they remain funny forever?"  Then I thought, "What I really wish is that we had tons of new memories."  Then I got sad, but then I thought, "I basically assume she is here all the time anyways."  So then I thought, "I should just make up a bunch of fake memories to celebrate because they probably happened in some alternate universe anyways."  Did you love hearing that entire thought process???

So here we go.  A trip down fake memory lane.   


Do you remember that one time with the canoes?  There we were canoeing around the river bend with peaceful strokes when suddenly we heard a cry for help.  we looked around and OH MY GOSH!!! It just so happened to be Lindsey, Rosie, Trevor, and Smiley stranded on a log!  I was like "HEY YOOOOOOOUUUUU GUUUUUUYYYYYYSSS!"  And you said, "Megan Megan, this ain't the kind of place you go to the bathroom in.  Dead things MEGAN DEAD THINGS."  Phew.  Good thing we saved you guys.  That was a good time.  I don't even know how you came to be stranded in Utah.


Then there was that other time that I ALMOST pushed you off of a cliff when Schmoopy kisses got OUT OF HAND.  



Then there was that time when we all had that party at the Randall's cabin.  Everyone was way cool and chill until a pigmy version of Trevor dressed as a zombie and tried to go all Walking Dead on us.  At which point Lindsey rolled her eyes and got all introverted and went to write that hit song "Alone In My Principles"  


Basically, Happy Birthday.  I always wish you were here because it would make my group of friends that much more amazing.  Love you too much.  #istillwantyoursongtabs  & #irecognizethisasmydudyearbutidon'tfeelbadbecauseiwarnedyoulastyearthatthismighthappen