On Mental Illness, Revisited.

RobinThe world lost a great man yesterday, to an illness that is great in its scope and power. I am acquainted with that illness and some of the frightening thoughts that come, though I am less acquainted with what makes some persons suffering from those thoughts act on them so completely.

My very first Exponent post was on the differences between mental and physical illness. I feel impressed to share it again, here, with a few additions and thoughts. Near the end of the original piece, I mentioned mostly being better and feeling better, but that there were still moments. There were and are. I am very bravely and very vulnerably going to be honest about them here, because I believe in the power of honesty, and in the power of bringing dark things to light.

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Blessed Be the Mentors

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Saturday was a special day. It was the day Claudia Bushman was celebrated via the Mormon Women’s History Initiative Symposium. I was not able to attend, but I was able to sit in a seminar with Claudia and her husband, Richard, almost every day for six weeks, just a tiny bit earlier this summer through BYU’s Maxwell Institute. It was a deeply enriching experience, as I thought it might be.

Claudia added her wisdom and knowledge, her strong and honest voice, and her pleas to tell our own stories, as well as precious bits from her own. Once she shared the price of her gold wedding band ($5!). Another time she pinpointed a doctrine (magnifying your calling) that she perceived to be pernicious, with quite good, and quite funny reasons. My favorite (class) moment of all occurred after we discussed the significance of Eliza’s hymn, “O My Father.” Claudia quipped that we should all write poems about Heavenly Mother, because then they can become theology.

My favorite non-class moments were different. They were about the fact that I was in an intensive class, while caring for a (still nursing) infant in a state far away from where I live, and where my husband would be. 

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Relief Society Lesson 14: The Gift of the Holy Ghost

Gift of the Holy GhostLe don du Saint-Esprit / 

Click for French Translation/Traduction en français

Near the beginning of this lesson, President Joseph Fielding Smith explained that “every faithful member of the Church ‘has a right to receive the revelations that are expedient and necessary for his [or her] guidance individually.’” He tried to receive this individual revelation himself, particularly in his endeavors to guide his children.

The Holy Ghost has many names: Comforter, Holy Spirit of Promise, Holy Spirit, The Spirit of God, and so forth. The Holy Ghost has many roles. Just one is to bear record of God, Christ, and “all truth.” If teaching, I might ask class members to share how they have personally experienced the Holy Ghost as these names and roles. Women’s voices are essential, and in this case, rather than seeking them out from Church leaders, I would let the women present speak their truths and experiences. Then I would go on.

As a member of the Godhead, the Holy Ghost “partakes of the things of the Father and the Son and reveals them to those who serve the Lord in faithfulness.”

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Book Review: Letters to a Young Mormon

Letters

I read Adam Miller’s Letters to a Young Mormon a bit ago, to the youngest Mormon I know well. (I think that she was six months, then.) I have been meaning to write a review since that time, but it is difficult to write well (or really, at all) about something so small that means something so big.

Because it is a personal book, perhaps I can begin personally: my Mormon heart has felt broken lately–by PR letter after PR letter, and the poor welcoming of women and men who should not have to fight to belong to the body of Christ. Miller’s words are some of the first to help unbreak it, because they are a reminder of everything good and beautiful in Mormonism. I am sincerely glad that my daughter has heard them, as I sincerely hope that she will hear them again, when she is young and old enough to take them in.

As the title suggests, the book is at least loosely inspired by Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet. It is made up of twelve letters: Agency, Work, Sin, Faith, Scripture, Prayer, History, Science, Hunger, Sex, Temples, and Eternal Life. Each one begins, “Dear S.,” and ends, “Love, A.” Each is written to his daughter.

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Poetry Sundays: Pablo Neruda

Births

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Births

We will never remember dying.
We were so patient
about being,
noting down
the numbers, the days,
the years and the months,
the hair, the mouths we kissed,
but that moment of dying:
we surrender it without a note,
we give it to others as remembrance
or we give it simply to water,
to water, to air, to time.
Nor do we keep
the memory of our birth,
though being born was important and fresh:
and now you don’t even remember one detail,
you haven’t kept even a branch
of the first light.
It’s well known that we are born.
It’s well known that in the room
or in the woods
or in the hut in the fisherman’s district
or in the crackling canefields
there is a very unusual silence,
a moment solemn as wood,
and a woman gets ready to give birth.
It’s well known that we were born.
But of the profound jolt
from not being to existing, to having hands,
to seeing, to having eyes,
to eating and crying and overflowing
and loving and loving and suffering and suffering,
of that transition or shudder
of the electric essence that takes on
one more body like a living cup,
and of that disinhabited woman,
the mother who is left there with her blood
and her torn fullness
and her end and beginning, and the disorder
that troubles the pulse, the floor, the blankets,
until everything gathers and adds
one more knot to the thread of life:
nothing, there is nothing left in your memory
of the fierce sea that lifted like a wave
and knocked down a dark apple from the tree.
The only thing you remember is your life.
–Pablo Neruda

I have loved the poetry of Pablo Neruda for a long time, but this one is 8 months new to me. A friend read it to me, when my belly was big with child. The line that struck me fiercely then was, “It’s well known that we are born,” and this likely because I used to stare amazed at every New Yorker I saw in the hot summer subway, thinking twin thoughts: “You were born, and you!” and, “It is is possible to give birth.”

Now I am struck by what we will remember and what we won’t. We will not remember our death, as we do not remember our birth. “The only thing you remember is your life.” This fills me with a desire to remember for others–their deaths and births–which could also be called remembering others. I can do this for my daughter, and for dear ones close to me. It also fills me with a desire to remember my life, in writing, in photographs, in stories, and moments shared. I want to create a life I want to remember.

Lastly, I am struck by Neruda’s title, Births plural. It may be about death as a birth, but it may also be about life as a birth. What do you think?

What strikes you about this poem, or other’s by Neruda?

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