Understanding Afterwards

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Hello from the acre,

This past week was a whirlwind of events, places, thoughts, and emotions. I imagine each week is actually the same, but when we are in our same routine, we have a tendency to overlook for we fail to notice those things. The point of routine is security, perhaps productivity, but it can also lull us into complacency or a sense of auto-pilot. Too many times in my life I think I have been willing to be lulled into this sense of security. Too many times I have wanted to believe in the honesty of another, wanted to believe that what I saw, felt, or experienced provided something that I was perhaps lacking. What I am realizing is sometimes we are not blessed with or allowed to have some things in our lives. That is not necessarily a lacking, it is our own particular reality. It is what we must learn to accept and manage.

There are a variety of topics I would like to touch upon in this post, but whether I do them justice or not is something quite different. First, there is the remembrance of my younger sister, Kristina. She would have turned 58 yesterday. She had an incredibly kind heart, in spite of the abuse she endured throughout her life. In additional, she was unbelievably intelligent; she was a ponderer. She was continually questioning the why of things (I think I am just realizing that similarity between us). Yet, regardless her talents, she struggled mightily because of her demons and her subsequent choices. In spite of those things, I have always asserted she was much smarter than I was, or am. I hope she knows from wherever she is that I respect her so much for how smart she was and for the kind heart she had in caring for those less fortunate. I know there are things that happened in both of our lives that have had long-term consequences and somehow I was able to move beyond some of the things she was not, or at least move beyond them to the extent I was able to continue farther down the path than she.

This past week or two I have had the chance to ponder myself and wonder what I believe I might consider the impending end to a year to have accomplished, or more accurately what I have accomplished during the year. I am hoping that before the year is out, I will have one particular accomplishment, but when that happens, and if it does, I will surely note it here in my blog. It has been a year where I have learned a great deal about myself and my strengths and weaknesses. I have realized that I am more capable in managing some things than I expected. I have been more fragile than I wished I was, but I have also recovered and I have gotten tougher. I have learned that I am too willing to give and then give again, but I have also gotten more discerning in that area of my life too. I am not as willing to be treated poorly and act as if it is, or was, my fault, regardless of whether the disrespect was unintentional or not. I am also not as willing to merely jump into things. If you have been reading this blog, you know that I have been the recipient of some amazing gifts (in terms of people as well as things). I had the amazing gift of others who were willing to share their lives with me. I am fortunate for those times and for what I have learned through them. Both the experiences and the people have helped me face what I know to be coming hopefully with more grace than I might have.

Some of those changes are because of things that have occurred over a period of time (perhaps even decades) and some of it has been because of things which are certainly more recent. It does not really matter how long or how quickly it takes someone to learn something; what matters is that “afterwards” the learning, however much or whatever sort has occurred, stays with him or her. I have been much too wiling to have received a lesson and then ignore it, left to endure the consequences. Sometimes that failure is because I have been stubborn; sometimes it was because I simply did not understand. I think it is because I have been afraid of losing something or someone. I think as I look both reflectively and imagine the future, I am aware that my being alone is not something I should fear. There is a certain freedom in solitude. There is a certain giftedness in deciding to live somewhat reclusively. Maybe Lydia was, or is, wiser that I realized. I am pretty sure that my solitude is something that helps me focus on what is yet to come.

I think we are too often willing to allow others to influence our decisions to such an extreme that we lose ourselves. I am still attempting to wrap my brain around the idea that love will take care of everything. I have heard it in church as a young person; I know the commandment; and I have listened to it being espoused again this past year. I only wish I could believe it. What does it mean to love someone? Really love him or her? The belief that love is truly present in my life has caused me to cry on more than one occasion, especially this year, but I am still not convinced our imperfect attempts to love are all that efficacious. I guess I am also not saying we should disregard that part or aspect of our life nor the people who provide that unparalleled sense of hope (I do believe love can provide or offer hope). Perhaps what I am feeling is a certain guardedness which causes me to wonder if our imperfect attempts to love create more damage than benefit. I know that I am probably too willing to believe that the presence of others in our lives can provide some sense of love or compassion. However, exactly what do we benefit from those situations? That is part of my pondering at the moment. I know I have a romantic side to me, one which hoped for the head-over-heels kind of love, but I am not sure it is possible. I am not sure it has actually ever happened to me. I know there is a person who has stunned me and still does, but there are so many things that would need to happen. I am quite sure if it does exist, it is not common. I also think that giving love to someone is not the same as loving them. At least that is what I am presently inclined to believe. Of course, this is because I am pondering the “afterwards”. Experience is such a harsh teacher, but also a valuable one.

I have been putting (or at least trying to do so) a calendar together for the remainder of the semester and for the break. I am already trying to figure out logistics and feeling a bit overwhelmed. I am not clear on dates for some specific things and a couple of additional things might create even more opportunities. I am not sure which state, country, or even continent I might be on. I guess options are always exciting. As I finish up the weekend, it was a good weekend for seeing or being around people. Dinner at Seasons on Friday with colleagues and running into other colleagues (thanks John and Janet) was delightful. Finally catching up with Ronnie and having dinner was great fun. Attending a stake meeting with the Deckers and hearing Grace speak was quite the gift.

This next week, I will have visitors from Iowa, from home. They actually arrive next Sunday and will be here until Thanksgiving. I also have a small dinner party for former students on Friday or Saturday (I need to check my calendar). I have a photo of the two of them gracing a space in my living room. I think of the third and wonder what he is up too. He is another example of my learning about and expecting more from someone than I should. The third student that night is a former student, but not one I ever had in class. She worked in the dean’s office. She is the most inspiring person. She is willing to take me back to a country I “visited” long ago as a Marine. I have a colleague who has been there and I have often wondered what it would be like to be there again. Well, until next time . . .

Thanks for reading.

Dr. Martin

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