Sunday, March 15, 2015

Travel Wish List

Occasionally I check the map app I have at the bottom of my blog, as it's fun to see where in the world my blog has been read. Tonight I opened it up and discovered that someone had visited my blog from Casablanca, Morocco! Let me just tell you - Morocco has been near the top of my travel to-do list for many years now, for no particular reason really. I just want to go! That's how it was with New Zealand while I was growing up, and it turned in to the best trip I could have imagined when I went in 2009. So, since I spent the next several moments daydreaming about travel, I thought I'd post the places highest on my travel to-do list.

1. The Mediterranean - Greece, Turkey, Spain, Egypt, Morocco. There are a few more countries nearby that I wouldn't mind seeing as well, but these countries are the main draw for me.

2. Alaska - I think I'd prefer a cruise with maybe a couple of days in a row on land. I need to go in winter to see the northern lights, but don't want to completely freeze my butt off.

3. Oregon and Washington - In the fall to see the leaves change near the coast. I also need to stay in a tree house motel. This is non-negotiable.

Okay, I thought I would be making a bigger list of top contenders here, but as I continue to ponder I realize that these three are really the trips that would be my priority if I had the means to up and go right now. Everywhere else I can think of all fall at the same level of desire for the moment. I'm sure they will make their way up the list when I get the chance to check others off one day. So, in no particular order, here are a few more places that are milling around waiting for their time in the spotlight:

India, Australia (hiking Uluru would be cool), somewhere in Africa (I can't decide if I'm intrigued or petrified by the Congo, or if I want to see the bigger cities down south or go on a safari, etc. SO many options), Buenos Aires, Sweden (for their summer festivals), the rest of the 50 states I've never been to, Central America (Costa Rica, Belize and Panama), Peru, New Caledonia.

Now everyone wish for a bunch of money to fall in my lap so I can make it all happen! Ha - right. I'll be happy if I can save enough to see even a few of these places.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Surviving "Fridays"

My bad sleep pattern has continued throughout the week. It didn't help that I checked out new books to read from the library, started a new puzzle, and attempted to binge watch everything on my Netflix queue that was on their March 1st removal list. I may or may not have tried participating in all 3 activities at once.

Last night I was looking for some additional material for my part of the Relief Society (women's organization) lesson I helped teach in church today. I got started later in the evening after attending a friend's game night and didn't think it would take me long to find the type of information I wanted; I had the basics of my lesson but wanted to add a personal touch - a story or thought that would make the subject of the lesson resonate a little better. During my search I pulled a thick binder from my bookshelf full of letters that I received during the 16 months I lived in Uruguay while serving a full-time mission for my church. I started flipping through the pages scanning here and there, and quickly found what I was looking for. I jotted down my notes, connected my disjointed thoughts on the paper by drawing arrows between paragraphs and underlining certain points I wanted to make sure I highlighted, and felt content that I had enough bullet points to complete my task the next day.

The binder was still sitting open on my bed and I continued to look through its pages. I quickly noticed from the beginning that the vast majority of letters I had received from friends and family all included happy messages meant to lift me up; they talked about how they knew I would be a great missionary and that they knew I'd have a lot of success, and how they knew that I would return feeling blessed and happy at the end of it all. They knew. Or maybe that's just what you say to someone who suddenly moves away from everything familiar to them for a year and a half, and you expect them to probably encounter a few difficulties along the way. A few words of encouragement. They sounded so sure that I would come home with nothing but love for the country and people I served, and a few handfuls of nothing-but-awesome experiences. I wish they had been right.

I then came upon the letter I received about six months after I had arrived in the country that flipped my entire experience upside down. I remember the day I opened it after our weekly planning meeting. I remember my vision fading to shades of black and white and tunneling in as I read what was written, stumbling backward until my knees hit a bench and buckled, collapsing me onto its seat and quite possibly saving me from a concussion had I hit the ground. I'm not ready to talk about the exact contents of the letter or the details of what had happened in such a public place, but I remember feeling like everything I had been working for was a waste. I felt my efforts were hurting rather than helping people find joy and happiness. I struggled with those thoughts, doubts, and guilt for the remainder of my time abroad; I have struggled with them since I have been home. Over time I have slowly gained some understanding and some peace about the situation, but that's not to say those feelings and thoughts are completely gone. They occasionally resurface, and rereading the letter last night sent me back through a wave of those emotions.

I couldn't bring myself to get through many more letters after that; I was now both physically and emotionally wiped out. However, one last letter from a friend serving a mission in Cambodia caught my eye as I cleared the binder off of my bed. He referenced a talk given by an apostle of our church; one which I had heard before, but couldn't quite remember it's take away. I pulled it up on my computer and read through its message, and was amazed by the timing in which the letter had been sent to me. My friend knew nothing of my current situation; letters we wrote to each other took over a month to reach their destination. I'm pretty sure the message helped in the moment, and it was a great reminder for me last night as well. My favorite part:

"Each of us will have our own Fridays - those days when the universe itself seems shattered and the shards of our world lie littered about us in pieces. We all will experience those broken times when it seems we can never be put together again. We will all have our Fridays.

"But I testify to you in the name of the One who conquered death - Sunday will come. In the darkness of our sorrow, Sunday will come.

"No matter our desperation, no matter our grief, Sunday will come. In this life or the next, Sunday will come."

-Joseph B. Wirthlin

Life gets tough at times. Reading letters at 3:30am that bring up bad memories doesn't help. Hang in there, take things one step at a time and we'll get through our "Fridays." Even if it doesn't seem like it right now.