Friday, May 28, 2010

Sorrow and Happines

So, most of my stuff this year has been pretty heavy. I think most of my jokes end up on twitter (@damiandayton), facebook, or popecat these days. I think this is may be a place for more serious stuff. Deal with it.

or don't ('cause this might get kind of long, and preachy)

So I am going to get to the point. It's been a great year, it's been a tough year. You can probably say that about most years, but this year, and the last four months probably more so. I've often said that any year where you can't get your heart broke isn't really a year worth living, and I think I have had a lot of living in this year. So I when I got asked to speak in Church, I asked if I could speak about Happiness. Usually I don't get to churchy around here, but Happiness is a pretty important thing, especially when you are not so happy.

Here are some pictures I have taken recently

I have been extremely happy this year. I've traveled, I've fallen in love, but I have also had my heart broken or at least bruised, my mom's cancer returned, and I needed back surgery, which kept me in bed to think about it all.


The doctrine of Happiness is actually a pretty revolutionary one. The Old testament and New Testament COMBINED mention the world a grand total of zero times. Mormon scripture fairs a little better 1 mention in the Doctrine and Covenants and 1 in the Pearl of Great Price. However, our good ole Book of Mormon mentions the word 17 times. Still not much though, considering that we refer to our Creator's plan for us to be called "The Plan of Happiness".

Early Christians in some sects used self-flagelation (the whipping of self) to use pain as a way to atone. Dan Brown blew this out of proportion in his book about that Ninja Turtle's code, but often people wear their religion like a headache (I stole this phrase from the son of Elder Hollandwho was in my Freshman English class- bragable). Often fundamentalist of many faiths look at this life as a veil of tears to pass through to only find happiness in the great beyond or hereafter AKA cloud city. For that reason, the doctrine of Happiness is really a pretty radical one. Consider this quote:

"Happiness is the object and design of our existence; and will be the end thereof, if we pursue the path that leads to it; and this path is virtue, uprightness, faithfulness, holiness, and keeping all the commandments of God."
(Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Section Five, 1842–43, p. 255).

So wait, religion is supposed to make me HAPPY, like that is the purpose??? or is it just "the end thereof". Do we expect too much of happiness, and if we are not happy do we say it is because we still haven't kept all the commandments?

Most of those 17 scriptures in the Book of Mormon that talk about happiness do so in reference to the fact that "wickedness never was happiness" (you look up the reference, brother lazybones) or a state of "neverending happiness" usually accompanied by a discussion of the afterlife. So what are we to think? We know what happiness is NOT (ie:wickedness, like saying bad swears or eating brownies with sin in them) OR it is just a final state. But get a load of this:
Mosiah 2:41
And moreover, I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness. O remember, remember that these things are true; for the Lord God hath spoken it.

So there is SOME happiness (at least in the life of those that keep the commandments) AND some happiness in the future.
I am kind of not satisfied with this. I am a pretty good fellow, and I know a lot of people a lot more commandmenty than me, and yet they still have sorrow, and often times, deep sorrow.

Here is another really amazing scripture that is unique to Mormondom:
2 Nephi 2: 25
Adam fell that men might be; and men are that they might have joy

Unique to us is the belief that Adam's (and Eve's) decision was NOT a mistake, but a willfull act, without which Men (and women) could not exist at least not as we understand MEN (humans?mortals?) to be and further more with out this certain type of existence, we can now have a joy, that would not have been accessible to us, or mankind for that matter.

We kind of gloss over that scripture sometimes, but check out this companion scripture which can be found in our modern understanding of Genesis, which we call The Pearl of Great Price:
Moses 5:9-10
10 And in that day Adam blessed God and was filled, and began to prophesy concerning all the families of the earth, saying: Blessed be the name of God, for because of my transgression my eyes are opened, and in this life I shall have joy, and again in the flesh I shall see God.

There is some nice stuff in there, but look at this part again "and in this life I shall have joy"

Perhaps one of the first recorded prophesies. IN THIS LIFE, JOY.

so when you don't look at "happiness" joy fairs much better in the scriptures. almost 360 mentions. 98 of those are in the Old Testament (that's the big dusty one with the sad stories). They talk about all types of joy, joyful dancing, joy after victory, and joy in the Lord. There is also a lot of talk about joy through obedience. I am not going to talk about that, because I am pretty obedient, and sometimes I am still sad, and my mom still gets cancer and I still get my heart broken (if you do want to read about joy through obedience I highly recommend this talk by Elder Bednar).

I want to talk about sorrow, sadness and mourning and how it is important for Joy, not just as an opposite but as a necessary component.

Let's be honest (as though everything else has been a lie) for most of hones, even the righteous and faithful, life is hard, life is painful and comes with inevitable sorrows. I think therefore, there is a great paradox that for those that wish to be baptized take a covenant to suffer. Let me clarify. To enter this "plan of happiness" we read the following
Mosiah 18:8-9
And it came to pass that he said unto them: Behold, here are the waters of Mormon (for thus were they called) and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light;
Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the dfirst resurrection, that ye may have eternal life—

I think it is significant that in order to enter this plan, we not only bear each other's burdens, but we really have to "MOURN with those that mourn" we must be sad with them. And as I have had hard times, i realize that it has brought me closer to family and friends, some whom I had grown distant from. Just the outpouring of support from friends and family from my last blog post and on facebook has been incredibly meaningful to me. and because I have been able to weep with my cousin Rachel, and share conversations and a blessing with my good friend Adam, that we are closer, that our joy is more full. not in contrast to the pain, but in some way because of it.
In Jeremiah 31:13-14 the lord promises to turn our "mourning into joy", and I have felt that, but only inasmuch as I have been willing to mourn with others, and to let them mourn with me. I have realized that when I stumble upon someone's sadness I don't need to offer a solution, I just need to weep with them. (Phillipians 2:1-2 indicates that the LORD's joy is full when we become one in this manner).

So today I got some great news. The radiation on the tumors in my Mom's brain has been effective. Her vision has returned, her headaches have gone away, and according to the MRI there are no evidence of the lesions that were there a month ago. We are still waiting for the results of the chemo everywhere else, but today I will have joy, and those that have wept with me will have joy with me. Today in this body in this flesh I may not always be happy, but I can have joy.

It is kind of why we are here.

(all images in this post have been taken in the last two months)

Monday, May 03, 2010

What you want to do.

My Grandma used to say "We find time in life to do the things we want to do". She just turned 100 and there is no doubt what she wanted to do with her life. There is nothing more important to her than family.

My Dad would use that saying when I hadn't practiced the piano, to which I responded, "I know, I don't WANT to practice the piano." But the saying has been a sage one, and begs the question. "What do you want to do? Do your actions show it?"

Are you too busy?

About a week ago our family found out my Mom's cancer returned. She beat breast cancer once before, but it came back and brought friends. Recent tests showed that it isn't in her breast, but there are tumors in the lymph nodes around her lungs, lesions in her liver and in her spine. Today I also found out that there are lesions in her brain.

The thing is this, I can't do anything. So I booked a flight out there to do nothing with her. Fortunately I have an awesome business partner who is willing to shoulder a lot for me. Fortunately flights were inexpensive and most of my work this last week was supposed to be writing. So I was fortunate enough to go out there and do what I really wanted to do. Be with her while she was healthy.

But she isn't that healthy. She breathes heavily after doing her makeup. But she is brave and she doesn't let you know that. She got call after call while I was there and everytime she answered to phone with a smile" This is Susan! ...Me, oh I'm doing fine". When people ask me how I am doing I usually say "Good Enough" or give them a number (7 out of 10 is the average). My mom is doing "great" and she just had the worst news of her life and needs 5 naps just to make it through the day. She has some health issues, but mostly she is just tired.

But of all the women I know, she's got a reason to be tired. She has worn herself out in the service of others. What does she want to do? The answer has always been the same, stay busy, keep moving, and usually in the direction of others. Now listen, she's now saint. She's not perfect, I don't want to get in the business of making someone into someone that there not. But I am going to give my mom this: She's lived a lot more than women twice her age and gotten just about as much done. Here is a short list: Utah State PTA president, President Worldwide Organization for Women, Stake Relief Society President, Board Member of the Network of Religious Communities in Buffalo. 3 of those post she holds right now. But those are the ones that mean much to her. She is the mother of 5 fairly decent men. This is the one that has required the most work by far, and the one that hasn't gotten any easier.

Yet when she fills out a questionnaire she has to put occupation: none.

But then there are the intangibles. She never had any daughters, so instead, she has taken on countless daughters that didn't even know they were getting a new mom. I know it because I heard them calling her last week. Weeping on the phone with her thanking her for being a second mom when they needed one. They are in Iowa, and Los Angeles, and Salt Lake, and St. George and Buffalo. Some don't even speak English that well. For years she taught "Girls Creative Dance" she made enough money to pay for a babysitter for us and for her studio. She did it because she had to. She did it because the kids needed a Miss Susan to show them "hello mr. toes" and how to twirl and twirl and twirl, those little girls were all her daughters too. The girls that have married into this family, they became daughters too. Maybe they were harder, because she didn't choose them and they were taking something that she loved so much. But there is no doubt that that they were her daughters.

And even when it is hard to love, she kept on loving. I don't want to get into stories here, but you know who you are. The inconvenient loves, the loves on the other side of the political fence. Mom does that well. This is starting to sound like a Eulogy, but it isn't, it's about a weekend.

My mom has found the time to do what she wants to do. So I can find some time to do a little of what I want to do, and that's spend time with her.

So I went to Buffalo.

We talked about girls and dating. She gave me advice, some of it unwanted but all of it needed, desperately needed. We watched a little "What not to wear", we took naps on the couch, We went to the doctors, and chemo, and after Chemo and she had some appetite I took her on a date to an Italian restaurant where she let me pay. We went shopping for flowers, we filmed a cooking show so that she can show anyone how to make chocolate roll (a family recipe), we played with little Taylor, we fixed her website, we had a chocolate roll breakfast on the porch in the shade of her trees. We got hot wings, even though she couldn't eat any but because she knew I wanted some, I showed her my iPad and she pretended to care. We prayed together over our food and on the last night there I prayed with my Mom and my Dad and hugged them and told them I loved them and cried.

Now my mom is a fighter, and she is not gone yet, but the Lord knows her days and will take her when her mission is done. But you see, I want her to live a million years and meet my wife and my kids and all that, I want her to teach them "hello mr. toes" and how to twirl and twirl and twirl. I want her to give my wife advice on how to handle a guy like me. but for now, I can just find time to do what I want to do. And that is to do what she always taught, stay busy and keep moving, usually in the direction of other.

Now another wise person once said, "No success can compensate for failure in the home". What does that even mean? what is failure in the home? Is it when your kid grows up to be a ruffian? or a chiropractor? what if he leaves the church? or does something bad? is that a failure? What if he uses WAY too many question-marks?

No, that isn't failure. Those are the kids decisions. Failure in the home is if the kids grow up and don't know right from wrong. If the kids grow up and don't know that they are loved. There is a lot of stuff to figure out in life, especially as a parent. But you get those things right and you have done your job. My Mom does a lot of things that are great, but most importantly she lets us know we are loved, She teaches us right and wrong. Sometimes imperfectly, but she does these things.

I am not going to wait until people are gone to say these things. Today I am going to do the things I want to do. I am going to tell the people that I love, that I love them. I am going to leave work when it's more important to spend time with people. I am going to find beauty and love every day, and I am going to love the people that are difficult to love. I am going to find time to do what I want to do.