Saturday, January 30, 2010

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Feel, not tell.

One of my best friends recently read a book by Mitch Albom (it was one of his obscure ones, I don't remember which), and expressed to me his slight disappointment with it. To be entirely honest, I’m not a huge fan of Mitch Albom either. I’ve tried to read Tuesdays with Morrie a number of times, but I just can never manage to finish it. (Granted, that is the only Mitch Albom book I've ever tried, so that is probably a slightly unjust statement.) It feels overly sentimental to me, I guess. Don’t get me wrong—I love sentiment and emotion—but over-the-top sentimentality and warm-fuzziness are two things that make me uncomfortable and that I would generally rather do without. Maybe I just need to try it again or read something else by Mitch Albom. 

I just reread that paragraph, and I realized that it makes me sound like a cold, heartless old bat without any imagination or love in her heart. Trust me, I’m not. Let me explain. These are some things that I’ve been learning about myself in the past seven or eight months. I’m discovering in recent months that emotion and feelings are things that are very private and very special to me, so I don’t like to talk about/flaunt them in a showy or especially verbose way. (Besides, I’m verbose enough in other areas to more than make up for my lack of discussion on the very confusing subject of emotion.) I wasn’t always like this—I used to be very dramatic and emotional almost all the time (i.e., when I was about age 14-15 and earlier--just ask my sister and brothers), but then I decided I didn’t want to be like that anymore. So now, I generally keep my deepest emotions hidden, except from those people concerned with said deep emotions. I think that since I’ve learned how to save my display of that kind of feeling for occasions and situations that truly merit it, I’ve learned how to increase my capacity for love and how to feel even more deeply than before. For me, it’s a kind of “don’t cast your pearls before swine” kind of thing—by talking too much about very special, sacred emotions and experiences, it feels like I profane them with the inadequacy of my mortal language. Often, it seems to me that the simplest, most straightforward of language best describes what I’m actually feeling. Rather than attempting to eloquently describe how I feel about the gospel, the Savior, or someone I love very deeply, it seems to make so much more sense to me to just say it in the simplest way possible, and not try to use imperfect words to describe something so large and abstract as human emotion.

I sound like a modernist. Modernism in all art, literature especially, emphasizes man’s inability to use words or art to describe human experience. They called it “the crisis of meaning”—believing that there is so much meaning in human life, experience, and emotion that man’s flawed usage of words and creative art can’t accurately describe it at all. So why try? Well, the modernists replied, trying, even in the simplest of terms, is better than not trying to express that meaning at all. So there you have it. Maybe all of this is the reason that I like songs like “I Feel My Savior’s Love” and “My Heavenly Father Loves Me” so much more than songs like “O Divine Redeemer.” Hm. Anyway, that was a really long and convoluted and abstract way of saying that I don't like some art forms that seem to try too hard to depict emotion—so much that they feel a little bit overdone and “pearls before swine”-ish to me. And maybe a little emotionally manipulative too? I’m not sure about that one. I’d have to take that one case by case, probably, before I cast that aspersion on them all.

Um, I feel a little bit emotionally exposed now, just by explaining all that. I hope it didn’t come out (my fingers, that is) wrong. Because so often, I feel like Moroni—that “when [I] write, I behold [my] weakness and stumble because of the placing of [my] words” (Ether 12:25). Granted, I don’t “fear lest the Gentiles [or you, for that matter] shall mock at [my] words” or anything, but I do often feel my great inadequacies in writing, and that I’m not able to clearly say what I’m trying to. I’m trying to explain things in just the right way so that perhaps through all those words, something came through that actually got at what I meant. Other times, I use a few words as possible with as much meaning packed into each one as I can get, and hopefully it’ll show through at some point.

As I’ve thought more about this idea of keeping emotional displays entirely honest and sacred when necessary, I’ve tried to learn more about how to do like the Savior did. He hid great, precious truths in parables, and then those who were ready for them could accept them, and those who weren’t didn’t even know the difference. I think poetry serves a very similar function. So I’ve been trying my hand at writing poetry on occasion. I’m really, really not very good, but I’m learning just how intentional I can be with my words, how to save them and make every one of them really mean something, and thus, to not be wasteful with my words. I guess in terms of modernist writers, my prose is like Faulkner (verbose and wordy), and my poetry is more in the style of Hemingway (succinct and using very few words to say a lot). But since I’m still trying to figure out the Hemingway side of things, I’m even more insecure about my poetry than my prose. Sigh. Maybe one day I’ll figure it out.

It goes back to honesty, I guess. I just want to be so, so honest. And I guess situations specifically designed to create excessive or contrived emotion just make me a little wary. The fortunate difference is that everyone has different sensitivities to emotionally manipulative situations, and we're all different enough to have unique tolerance levels for that kind of thing. Thank goodness.


Monday, January 25, 2010



I think I write the least when I'm feeling the most. Interesting, because isn't writing supposed to be this cathartic release of all one's emotions? Isn't it by very nature supposed to be a beautiful and liberating process through which I explicate all the complicated, convoluted workings of my inner soul?


But it's not. And I think most people who "like" to write will agree--writing can be wonderfully cathartic, but most of the time, it's not. Most of the time it's just hard work, and the end result is never quite as good as it sounded when you were talking about it with one of your dearest friends for three hours last night. So you feel silly and frustrated, and you delete what you've written and try again to explain it. But you keep on keepin' on, mostly just because you know that sometimes, sometimes you feel like you actually did say what you meant, even if no one actually reads that writing where you said what you meant. And the words worked for once. And that, my friends, is where the liberating beauty comes in. That's when writing serves as purgative source of peace, cleansing out your soul and restoring whatever it was missing in the first place. Or the second place. Or what it never really had and didn't know it needed until now, when your previous misconceptions are gloriously cast aside.

Or, you just write and write whatever thoughts are in your head and you don't even know what you mean by them. Like this.

I made a decision on Saturday that galactically changed my microscopic universe. I'm pretty insignificant, but it was big for me. And this post was originally me trying to write about it, but apparently I can't do that yet, except in exceedingly abstract terms.

I guess I just need more time.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Give a listen...

I rediscovered this song again the other day. And I was re-enchanted all over again...and for those of you who don't know it, SHAME!

It makes me want to dance cheek to cheek with a really handsome man. Which probably won't be happening any time soon, but it's fun to imagine.

Thank you, Etta James.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Book suggestions?

For my secondary ed class, I have to do a project where I do fifteen bazillion lesson plans on a specific novel. (Okay, take off the bazillion, and you'd have it right, but it seems like a lot.) And I can't decide on which book to do. It has to be a book that is commonly taught or could easily be taught in high school or junior high, but I'd prefer it not to be too terribly long (as I have to read it twice in the next month) and something that I've not read several times before (having read it once is okay by me). Both classics and young adult lit are acceptable. So, with that....

Any good recommendations?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Provo, oh, Provo.

Like so many other people posting these days, I'm feeling like a back to school post is in order. Yesterday I thought that my semester wasn't going to turn out to be as hard as I thought it would be. It sure seemed like that yesterday. But upon revisiting at my new and improved schedule, (with English 363 dropped--sad, and Women's Chorus and my Writing Fellows classes added--happy) I realized that there is a seriously large chance that I Will Be Taking Eighteen Credits This Semester. Yikes. And not just eighteen normal credits, ladies and gentlemen. But the eighteen-much-more-work-and-class-time-than-the-actual-amount-of-credits-you-get kind of credits. Plus my job. Yet, I'm strangely not freaked out about it.

The 18th credit of these fell into my lap (figuratively speaking--college credits, unfortunately, do not fall from the sky) last night, when my dear friend Jordan came over, and offered to take a dance class with me, since I ended up having to drop the one I'd signed up for. The trick is, Jordan wants to take Social Dance 280, for which the pre-requisite is Dance 180....which Lisa has not taken. Hm. However, my brother, Will, and several other gentlemanly gentlemen have taught me most of the basics to the dances in the class, along with several other steps only taught in 280, and I've learned dancing in other hopefully that will work out. Technically, I don't even know if they'll let me add it. Hopefully since a boy is coming with me, they will. And hopefully they don't ask if I've taken the pre-req. Or maybe I'll just audit it. We'll see.

On a slightly different note, here are some ponders I have been pondering lately:

I wonder how many times I have been on Facebook on campus when the person whose Facebook profile I was perusing has walked past right behind me. Or worse, I wonder how many times people have been Facebook stalking friends of friends/people they don't know and the not-known person walks by and sees that someone they don't know is creeping their profile. That would be really...disconcerting, I think.

When writing a sentence with parentheses in it that needs a comma on the clause before the parentheses, does the comma go right before the parentheses or after the parentheses, just outside them? I've seen it the second way a number of times (like this is), but I think that's kind of weird looking. Thoughts? (Note: I am an English major, so yes, I do wonder about grammatical placement of commas on occasion.)

For those of you who have taken Dance 280, how hard is it? Is it extremely unadviseable for me to take it without having taken 180, even if I've taken a different 100-level dance class and have done quite a bit of dancing informally with several different friends?

Why is my hair decently curly still, even though I'm back from London and no longer in a humid climate?

Fairly often, I will be looking at someone or something or somewhere that I love very much and have a lot of really good associations with, and I'll feel like kind of surge of feeling for whomever/whatever/wherever I'm looking at. The best way I can think to describe it is that it's this kind of bubbling over of love, just bursting out of me and soaking the other person, thing, or place in love. I'm just really happy lately, I guess, and I'm feeling a lot of love. :) Does everyone get that, or am I just weird?

And, the age-old question...

What should I make for dinner this week?

Oh Provo. I've missed you the past six months. :)