Thoughts on Blurred Vision and First Vision

The First Vision
What Causes Blurred Vision | iCare Vision Center

Yesterday I felt an anxious load, so Matt drove me up the canyon and we went on a walk. I tried to talk it out so I could identify what was making me feel overwhelmed. My kids’ schools are in flux because of varying levels of COVID status. I had just dropped one off at an activity that had felt safe when I signed him up, but now I felt less sure. I read a Facebook post by the school district and started feeling sick when I saw all the angry fighting in the comments. My fears turned to our collective ability to get along and support one another rather than cling to ideologies at the cost of relationships and civility and a little bit of humility.

We walked in the mountains and tried to make sense of it. I told Matt that I rewatched a news clip recently where Elder Christofferson participated in a discussion about ethics in the media, and a moderator pointed out that 78% of Americans, when they disagree on issues, don’t just disagree on the policies, they disagree on the very facts. I mentioned how that makes it feel impossible to come to an understanding of the truth. I’m sure I don’t have to explain this to anyone reading; we’ve all been dumbfounded by people sharing and embracing contrary “facts.” I feel this pressing responsibility to protect my family and make wise choices, and President Nelson once said that “Good information leads to good inspiration,” so I know I need to be informed, but when the information is so overwhelming and changing and confusing . . . ? Anyway, we had a good conversation about remembering what I can and cannot control, focusing on what I can reasonably do, and trying to move forward in faith. The exercise, the air, the talking all helped me to feel a little better, and back down the mountain we went to reenter real life.

Then this morning I read the talk “Shall We Not Go On in So Great a Cause” by Elder M. Russell Ballard. I was just trying to do my goal of reviewing all the talks before October conference and didn’t expect to get a lot of insight from a message about the Restoration, but something jumped out at me. It’s an obvious message that comes from the Joseph Smith story, one that I’ve taught myself many times, but today I saw it in a new light because of current events.

Joseph recorded: “During this time of great [religious] excitement my mind was called up to serious reflection and great uneasiness; but though my feelings were deep and often poignant, still I kept myself aloof from all these parties, though I attended their several meetings as often as occasion would permit.

So here’s me thinking through this: great excitement, yes–not about religion, but masks, race, riots, politics, elections, social distancing, etc… Serious reflection and great uneasiness? Check. I feel the pull to be aloof too. I don’t want to be caught up in all the fervor, but I am trying to read and study and understand different points of view…

… [Yet] so great were the confusion and strife among the different denominations, that it was impossible for a person young as I was, and so unacquainted with men and things, to come to any certain conclusion who was right and who was wrong.”3

It is impossible to know what information is totally accurate; I have sources I trust, but I still don’t know what information is missing, not being considered, etc …

Joseph turned to the Bible to find answers to his questions and read James 1:5: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.”4

And it struck me that I need to trust God more. Those familiar with Joseph’s story know that his prayer led to a revelatory experience with God and His Son and opened up a new era of restoration of His gospel. I don’t think God needs me to open up any new eras of anything, but he can help me filter mass confusion into some peace and certainty… even if it’s just for me and my family. (It’s ok that different people feel and act differently. So frustrating, but ok.) I don’t think I have enough information to get complete inspiration (It’s likely I won’t be blessed with a corona-cure or the secret to unlocking the social injustice for all mankind), but I can get the information I need to take next steps. Elder Ballard pointed out that this did not make everything easy for Joseph and his family (Spoiler alert: he was killed.), but I crave the peace of knowing I’m doing the right thing despite the noise around me, and Joseph stated that when he had his answers, he was “filled with love, and … could rejoice with great joy.” Plus I loved Elder Ballard’s reminder that “Because the family was united, they survived these challenges,” and that “it may be that they came to know God through their suffering in ways that could not have happened without it.”

So that’s my wish right now. To get to know God better (without wishing suffering on myself or anyone else) and let Him walk me through this, to stay a little more aloof of all the fervor and a little more plugged in to what He wants me to do. Maybe you find fault with this strategy; heaven knows we’re all coping the best way we know how, but today, this was a message that gave me some personal hope.


Agency and other things that make me angry

Today I walked past my living room and saw this scene.

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I feel like it is a metaphor for parenting. See that orange towel on the left? I found an old towel, cut it in half, and sewed it together to create a mat where the cat can rest and not shed on the furniture. I laid it out on the chair where she usually sleeps. So what happens? She chooses the other chair, and it makes me crazy. I can pick her up and put her on the towel, but when I walk away she’ll move back.

This whole quarantine, I have tried to do the work to create some productive and meaningful options for my kids. I made charts and lists of ideas. I’ve tried to build in purposeful pursuits and avoid mindless activities that just waste time. I’ve invited and adjusted and renegotiated and tried again. But I have three teenagers, and my kids are like my cat: No thanks, I’ll just do what I want instead. Even though it is dumb. Even though there’s a perfectly good option sitting right there on the chair. It is maddening, not only because it feels like constant rejection and disappointment, but because it happens to be pretty much the only kind of human interaction I’ve experienced for almost 70 days. Add on top of that the energy it takes to just stay safe and healthy and navigate all the varying opinions and politics and ambiguous information, and it has felt a little bit relentless.

I don’t have a cute lesson to tie this up with a bow. I’m just saying that for me, parenting in lockdown is hard and frustrating. I feel powerless to bring about the kinds of results that are in line with my own priorities and values. Maybe it’s only me. I’ve seen a lot of posts about people and families doing amazing things while they’re in lockdown–being resourceful and united and determined. It’s the first time I’ve experienced the feeling less that is supposedly one of the big dangers of social media. Because, metaphorically, I can’t get the stupid cat to sleep on the orange towel I made. It makes me wonder how frustrating it is for Heavenly Father when He presents us with so many opportunities for growth and service and learning, and we say, “No thanks, I’m good,” and we choose stuff that really is not as good for us. And yet, He is patient. He keeps extending invitations and forgives us our mistakes. I’m not there yet. Not even close. I imagine He’s more worried about my anger than He is about how much time my kids are on Playstation. So I’m working on it, but it’s a struggle. And that’s what I’ve been thinking about lately. #leastinspirationalpostever

On Brain Theft and Consent

Empty Your Inner TrashIn our hyper-media world, we (and our children) are bombarded constantly with in-your-face digital messages and images. Remember that catchphrase “garbage in, garbage out” from the earliest days of computer programming? Well, it seems that a large percentage of our media outlets are determined to put as much garbage in as possible. And we, the consumers, have almost lost control of what we get to consume. An article over at WIRED, (which is ironically surrounded by many of the flashy advertisements it denounces) makes a case for attention theft– when our brains are assaulted and literally used without our consent by content we don’t want and in time we don’t choose to give away.  Check out this bold claim:

As suggested, the key word here is “consent.”  There’s a big difference between leafing through a magazine, reading articles and advertising by choice, and being blasted at by a screen when you have no place to go. Indeed, consent is the usual way access to the body is conditioned. The brain is a pretty intimate part of your body, from which it follows that your permission ought be asked before having your synapses groped by a stranger.

I just want to go on record that I AGREE, and this trend is so annoying. If my son wants to look up a vocabulary definition on my phone at a doctor’s office, he shouldn’t be assaulted with an auto-played Carl’s Jr. ad that’s both raunchy and unwanted. Equally as annoying is the fact that we too often just let it happen without complaining or fighting back. Of course, in the name of free speech and free press and freedom of expression, others can say and create what they (legally) want to say and create, but we, in the name of free to do and be and see and hear whatever the heck we (legally) want, should not have to consume it all. Sure, we can put filters in place (already a grueling and exhausting process that all mothers of tech-savvy children loathe), but many cyber spaces don’t give the option of consumer-controlled filters or settings.

For example, my friend Amy recently posted on Amazon’s Facebook page about a problem she has with her Amazon TV viewing. Despite tight parental controls in the settings, there was still a lot of content showing up on the browsing pages, or suggested viewing, or sidebar ads. She asked them, “…When my parental controls clearly show I have no interest, why will you not allow me to completely block that content from view? I don’t need my 7 year old scrolling past ‘American Playboy’ each time he wants to watch a cartoon. Please seriously consider allowing those of us who don’t want Mature content in our homes the ability to completely block it out.” Can you see that this is an example of them forcing consumption of an image or idea without consent–in fact, violating the customer’s established consent? If you want to go like or comment on Amy’s post and offer support for consumer-controlled content filtering at Amazon, go here.

As for myself, I’m going to try to be more aware of this brain theft concept and speak up when companies and websites and media services keep feeding my family garbage without my consent. I say garbage out.