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BOXES AND FIRES AND THINGS

March 9, 2016

Boxes. Great for um, boxing things. Less great for putting yourself or others inside. Facts.

Let’s have a good, old-fashioned confession session. Disclaimer: I wrote this solely for myself. Positive spoiler: It somehow ends with a story of how I nearly set my companion on fire as missionary.

SOMETIMES, and maybe this is just an adult-life thing, I feel like I can’t share my thoughts here unless it’s something “worthwhile” or “blog-worthy.” WHAT. A: who even defines worthwhile, this is MY blog, and B: what a terrible limit to put on a place that I made for me! When I first made this blog, I was a rowdy, irreverent ninth-grader, who decided to type my thoughts because it gave me less of a hand cramp than filling my notebooks. I wanted a place to jot insights, save quotes, and mostly wanted to post funny stories somewhere my sister Tori could see them living in the dorms her freshman year at the U.

Then, the tricky thing was, people started READING it. Which isn’t all bad. I started sharing my blog purposefully because I wanted to be more brave about sharing my testimony and my light, because a friend had told me that sitting on my talents is more prideful than it is humble. And WORD UP to that. I want to let my light shine, and expressing my heart is a way I can. Sitting on those thoughts and feelings because I’M scared doesn’t benefit me or anyone else. So I became a lot more brave about sharing my big thoughts, my spiritual experiences. Which is good, right? I love getting those moments down, recorded, and out there. It feels vulnerable and scary and good like my mission did.

But then a weird thing happened. My inhibitions flip-flopped. Over time, I became a lot more inhibited about sharing the rest of it. Weird stories, quotes I like, songs that move me, things I’m working through, or really whatever random thought is in my head at that time. That part has become harder to do. Which is less good. On some level, I had stopped giving myself permission to just be, to remember that those insights are somewhat incomplete if I don’t connect them to the funny stories/cool quotes/good songs/good people that make up the rest of the person that’s HAVING those experiences. I put myself in a box.

Sometimes in that box, I feel like I can’t write about how much I love my husband and what a good friend he is, because I don’t want anyone to think “humble-brag” or *eye-roll.* Sometimes I have flashbacks to unkind things that have been said about me or my blog and I imagine people making those judgments and more over and over. Sometimes I forget that if people feel that way, that’s on them. I don’t need to own what’s not mine. But sometimes, I try.

Sometimes I feel apologetic sharing my heart, because I don’t want to annoy anyone, or have people think I write just for the sake of wanting to be a “blogger,” or that I’m trying to curate some online image. I’m not. I write because I really like to write. And frankly, I want to write MORE. I made this blog first to connect with myself, then with my family. Period. And lucky for me, my family has expanded and expanded, from aunts and cousins, to forever friends, to mission family, to in-laws, to ward members and more. And somewhere along the way, somewhere in my brain, I decided that bigger audience meant smaller box.

This year I have been remembering more and more why I named this blog “It is what it is” and spoiler alert: It’s not just because I was a very sassy ninth grader and thought I was hilarious (although definitely partly). I remember Blogger asking me to pick a name describing my blog, and I just thought, “Well, it is what it is.” It’s not a fashion blog, it’s not really a foodie blog, it’s not strictly for travel photos, it’s not strictly for my big spiritual “AHA!” moments. It just is what it is. It doesn’t have to be anything but mine. Period. I don’t have to write for anybody but me, and especially not to cater to the possibility of someone who might be out there judging me or disliking me. That’s just that aforementioned pride of sitting on pieces of myself out of fear, not out of humility.

So here’s to writing everything I want – still including –  but no longer limited to – my big breakthrough moments and whole-hearted rants. Here’s to just letting go of things that hold us back from being our truest, most complete selves – including the weird, random, and occasionally irreverent corners of ourselves. Because guess what? Those are important bits. They’re part of the whole and a piece of the light.

In CLOSING, this whole thing reminds me of a hilarious day on my mission when I was training my best friend, Lisa (Sister Toone) and nearly melted our faces with a column of fire. But this is actually real. We were having companionship study, and we were talking about the story in Alma where the people are so ready to change and share their light, they buried their weapons of rebellion deep in the earth, so they wouldn’t even be tempted to return to their old selves and old sins.

Backstory: For Christmas, I’d gotten a thoughtful package of tiny candles because candles are my jam. I can literally spend an hour smelling candles for fun because some of them are so good and some of them are just SO bad. Also, the smell of Christmas, am I right? Is there anything better? Probably not. So, as we were talking about this story in Alma, I had one of these little candles burning in a glass bowl (to catch the wax) because our apartment was straight-up STANKY sometimes, and who knew why, though? There were many mysteries in that apartment.

So as we were talking about this story of burying weapons of rebellion, Sister Toone and I started talking about things that we felt were holding us back, from being the best and most complete versions of ourselves so that we could better share light. We started writing them on sticky notes, and (this is where things get janky) we decided that instead of burying them, we would burn them by the light of my little Christmas candle. It’s a quaint idea, no?

So, we’re adding little sticky note after little sticky note to our bowl. Selfishness. Insecurity. Unkindness. Gossip. Grudges. Watching those words just crack, sizzle, and pop away from us. We were feeling AWESOME. By all means, this sounds like a ground-breaking companion study, eh? I can’t lie, it was. What I should lie about, was that the fire was getting surprisingly higher and higher. Like this two inch candle was somehow burning a seven-inch flame. So I said, “Ohhhhh, that flame’s getting a little high, there. Let’s probably stop and put it out, eh?” To which Sister Toone agreed. So I ran to our kitchen and filled a cup with water and came back. To make my companion laugh, I said, “Never fear, Smokey the Bear is here!” in what I assume Smokey’s voice actually sounds like.

WHEN THE WATER HIT THE CANDLE, IT SOMEHOW SHOT UP TO AN EIGHT FOOT COLUMN OF FIRE. I mean, more impressive than the burning-bush column in the old Ten Commandments movie. To this day, I would love for someone to explain the chemistry of this moment to me. It seemed physically impossible. I couldn’t even scream! Everything was in slow motion. Sister Toone, who was wearing a kimono-style shirt she affectionately deemed her “bat-shirt” flopped backwards, looking so dangerously close to a flying squirrel as she squabbled that I questioned her species.

“WHAT DO WE DO?” she shouted.

I, for some reason, was weirdly calm. Too calm. I was also speaking in a monotone shout. “OPEN THE WINDOW,” I ordered, and because this seemed so logical to me, “I’LL PICK UP THE BURNING BOWL AND THROW IT OUT THE WINDOW INTO THE SNOW.”

She scrambled for the blinds, and instead of opening the window, brought the blinds crashing down from their hold on the wall. Just then, the column dropped down from where it had been kissing the ceiling, to a little flame that seemed to race around the puddle inside the bowl, about two inches high, dancing in circle after circle until *POP*, the flame went out and the sides of the bowl broke free from the bottom of the bowl, toppling to their sides and freeing a mixture of ash, hot wax, and water to go rushing into our shag carpet.

Speechless, we stared at each other. Then the phone rang. We jumped higher than Olympic hurdlers, I think. Our caller ID said, “Zone Leaders.” I answered the phone, trying to keep calm. HOW DID THEY KNOW.

“Hey, sisters!” they said cheerfully.

“…Hi,” we responded, pretty certain the ash and guilt were tangible through the phone.
To our relief, they said they wanted to run an idea past us, a sort of spoof on Sports Center, where instead of reporting great plays, the zone leaders would report miracles to encourage other missionaries in the zone. MIRACLE CENTER. They asked us if we had any miracles we’d like to share just to test it out.

I thought, yeah, I can think of a couple. The fact that I still have eyebrows, and fingerprints. 

Instead we said, “Yeah, definitely. Can we call you back?” Because at that moment, we were getting another call. Our caller ID said, “Mission Office.” BUT REALLY, HOW DID THEY KNOW?

Our hearts were pounding out of our chest as we talked to the sweet senior missionary, who in fact didn’t know that we had nearly singed our faces off/opened up a column of HADES in our tiny apartment, but who DID in fact want to schedule a routine cleaning inspection of our apartment… in two days.

Sister Toone and I looked at each other, looked at the brown singed circle on our ceiling, the green, Christmassy wax solidifying in our carpet, and both said, “That sounds great!” at the same time.

(Then we spent the next two days ironing Christmas-scented ash out of our carpet using paper towels and scrubbing the smoke circle from our ceiling. But we passed our cleaning inspection with full marks. But to the very end of my transfers there, I swore when I knelt to pray at night on that spot, the smell of Christmas would come seeping through our shag carpet to taunt me. But I mean. Alls well that ends well, am I right?)

Okay. The end.

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1 comment

Amber Peck March 9, 2016 at 4:58 am

Hmmm

#1–I totally understand that blog paralysis that can seize you when the contents of your brain are less than profound. When's the last time I blogged? I have a box as well apparently.

#2–That story was fantastic! And so vividly told, as well.

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