Experiences and the Full Spectrum

The first day of Ancient World Civ my sophomore year of high school, my teacher, Mr. Dau, told us we were programmed. Of course there was an uproar of disagreement, but he persisted. He said we would have a discussion on it later. He told us to go home, talk to our parents, our seminary teachers (a religion class for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), our Bishops and other religious leaders. We had our discussion without a single person agreeing with Mr. Dau. Later in the year, I wished so much that I could go back to that first day so I could be the only one to side with him. See, the experiences I’d gone through suffering from severe depression had changed my perspective.

The word “programmed” has a negative connotation when applied to people. But I don’t think it should. I do think we are programmed. That programming comes from various sources—parents, culture, place, religion, socioeconomic status, etc. Some people may like the words “mold” or “shape” better, but it’s all the same to me. It doesn’t mean we don’t have choices, it just means those choices are based very heavily on our programming. However, as we get older, and especially as we go out on our own, who we are becomes more about our experiences than our programming. We outgrow the program, I guess you could say. Our choices, our perspective and perception of things and who we are as individuals is born through the individual experiences we have. That means we will all vary on those things because we all have different experiences.

Take the world today—dealing with this virus and quarantine. Some parents are struggling being with their kids 24/7 while I’m loving the extra time with mine! Some are struggling to help their kids with their schoolwork, while others aren’t because they’ve been homeschooling their kids for years. Some people, like me, are struggling with the isolation, while others are realizing nothing much has changed because they aren’t very social anyway. This time means something different to everyone based on our different experiences.

Mental illness is the same way. I’ve said before that the things that help with mental illness are different for everyone—because everyone is different. Some people have great experiences with medication while others don’t. I’ve had both! For some, therapy is the greatest thing ever. Others swear by natural remedies or changing their diet and lifestyle. It saddens me when I see people acting like what works for them is the only thing that works and trying anything else is stupid. I’ve seen people condemning medication and those who use it. I’ve seen people making fun of those who go to therapy. Just because your perspective is that therapy doesn’t work because it didn’t work for you, doesn’t mean it’s not going to work for someone else.

We can support and encourage what works for us while at the same time supporting what works for others. Just because medication didn’t work for you doesn’t mean I’m lying when I say it worked for me. Just because I’m loving the extra time with my kids during this quarantine doesn’t mean you’re lying or faking it when you have to take your own time out from your kids to keep from going completely insane! It simply means we are different because we have different experiences in life that have shaped our different perspectives.

Another thing to remember is that our perspective can change as our experiences change—just like mine did in high school. My perspective as a mother has changed through the years, as well. I’ve often told people that when I was married and was a stay-at-home mom it was all about getting time away from the kids. But now that I’m a working single mom it’s all about getting time with my kids. I hate the weekends my kids are away. I absolutely hate it. I hate the silence. I hate being alone. I hate missing them. The way my life has changed has changed the way I look at things, the way I handle things, the way I react to things. I think it’s important to realize that just because you believe something now, just because you feel something now, doesn’t mean you always will. Or it could mean that what you believe and feel will be strengthened even more. I always loved being a mom, but it means even more to me now because of being a single mom and because of this quarantine.

I’m grateful for my experiences in life. But I also want to do better at remembering that they are my experiences, not everyone else’s, and that’s okay. It makes it a whole lot easier to love and support each other when we can take off those narrow-minded goggles so many of us wear—when we can see the full spectrum of colors rather than just black or white.

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Another Perspective

We’re having a rare summer storm. Summer storms in the high desert generally consist of light rain that doesn’t last long and wind. I’ve been sitting on my couch, looking out the window at the globe willow in my front yard, blowing in the wind. It got me thinking, but I’ll come back to that.

Are you the kind of person who sometimes has a hard time keeping your mouth shut? Or, in this day and age, your fingers from typing responses on social media? It’s something I sometimes struggle with, mostly when it comes to hypocrisy or judgements or narrow, limited perspectives. I tend to be okay at first, to just ignore it, but when I’m constantly barraged with it it finally begins to wear, and I give in. I get annoyed, and I give in, and I write a response. Generally speaking, it never goes well. My experience has been that most people enjoy living in their bubbles, their tunnels, and don’t want to hear alternate opinions or be given the opportunity to see things from other perspectives. That’s not always the case, but it has been most of the time. Maybe the reason I struggle with that is because I’m not like that.

See, I enjoy things that make me think. I tend to get disturbed easily. Some books that have disturbed me greatly are Lord of the Flies, Into Thin Air and The Heretic’s Daughter. And yet, I LOVE those books! Why? Because they made me think. Because they opened me up to new perspectives. I never just dismiss something simply because it’s not what I believe or because it’s different than my own opinion.

Not too long ago, a friend posted a political article on Facebook. For the most part we have polar opposite beliefs when it comes to politics. But I read the article anyway. And I laughed my head off! It was the most ridiculous, hypocritical thing I’d ever read. However, I didn’t stop with giggling and move on, I decided to dissect it and see if there were any valid points to it. I like to be challenged. I like to think. In the end, I continued to think it was ridiculous, hypocritical and just downright funny, but it did give me the opportunity to think about why I believe what I do and only strengthened that belief even more. Out of it, I found even more reasons to believe what I do and validity for my own opinion. I’m grateful I didn’t reject it outright or dismiss it as stupid without actually trying to look at it from another perspective. And sometimes, taking that opportunity might change our beliefs or it at least might allow us to be more understanding and compassionate toward others. But not everyone sees that, and for some stupid reason I feel like I have be the one to show them, even though it rarely does anyone any good.

So back to the tree. I was thinking about how the tree blows in the wind. The trunk and the branches move, arc, bend, but they don’t snap or break. The roots of the tree hold it firm even in the midst of turmoil. It might be really annoyed at the wind for pushing it and making it so it can’t stand up straight like it wants to, but it doesn’t give in. So I want to be more like that tree. When those winds blow, tempting me to do something I know won’t make a difference, and will probably just make things worse, I’m going to attempt to think of my tree. Move, arc, bend, but don’t snap. Just hold firm.

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