Thursday, February 4, 2010

Self, Soup, Shots, Steering, and Success

Due to a recent bout of car screaming, I hooked a plastic mirror to the head rest in front of Grant's seat in the car, and it has worked like a charm! He stares at himself, waves, makes faces, laughs as if he's with an old buddy, and when he's mad he screams and then peeks open his eyes to see if his buddy is doing the same thing.  In fact, sometimes it seems to have worked a little too well. I've begun to feel like I'm the third wheel, to be quite honest, as if he and his reflection are conspiring against me. He started crying yesterday and I started sticking out my tongue in the rearview mirror with hopes he would pick up on it. He heard me, and without even giving me a second glance, he started sharing his new trick with the mirror buddy as if he'd come up with it on his own. The nice grocer gave us a Smarties, so when Grant screamed later on I handed one back to him--again, he snatched it right up without tearing his eyes off of himself. If I sing or clap, he shares that moment with himself.

I'm not in the least sad or concerned about all of this self-infatuation. It is expected at this time of life! As a one-year-old, Grant's entire world is centered on himself and his needs and wants. Toddlers seem to thrive on the same thing, and as frustrating as it is, at least we can know that they've only had a few short years of life and don't know how to look past themselves. Teenagers often haven't moved out of this phase of life, and even some young adults are stuck there. I think all of us have experiences that help us to grow up, to spend more time with humans than in front of the mirror, and to notice people other than ourselves. For me it has been a decade of church callings, my marriage, and especially motherhood that have helped pull me outside of myself--and who'd've thought reaching out would actually make me feel more fulfilled in life?

"The Good Shepherd said, 'Feed my lambs.' So a woman feeds her loved ones, providing succor and sustenance just as the Savior would do. Her divine gift is to nurture, to help the young, to care for the poor, to lift the brokenhearted....To help another human being reach one's celestial potential is part of the divine mission of woman. As mother, teacher, or nurturing saint, she molds living clay to the shape of her hopes. In partnership with God, her divine mission is to help spirits live and souls be lifted. This is the measure of her creation. It is ennobling, edifying, and exalting." [Elder Russell M. Nelson, Ensign (CR), November 1989, 22]

Along these same lines is another thought I've had recently. I remember when I was a child and my mom would tell me if I looked at the bowl of soup I was carrying, it would be more likely to spill than if I focused ahead of me at the table (something I wish Grant could learn since he loves drinking from a cup). I was taught in Drivers Ed that I had to go against my natural impulse to stare right in front of the car, and to look quite a ways in the distance. And I, like nearly everyone on the planet, have a phobia of needles, so when I get a shot I have to look at and direct all my focus toward something next to me, like the strange hairline of the cartoon teenager posted on the wall.

All together, these remind me that my instincts might cause preoccupation with myself (as Grant has proven), but true success comes when I focus beyond that narrow mark. The next example isn't of motherhood, but it has helped me make sense of all of this.

When I was younger I had a difficult time prioritizing things in life. I had a lot on my plate (more than I probably should have allowed), and I'm a perfectionist and absolutely could not conceive of not giving my all to every single one of those things. I knew I needed to put God first in my life (through reading my scriptures, praying, visiting teaching, etc.), but I knew that I needed to study, too, or someone else would get the better grades or scholarships. Or that I needed to rehearse during every waking moment or someone else would get the part in the show I wanted. Or perhaps that I needed to get even a few hours of sleep or I wouldn't be able to function the next day. Sometimes I did the right thing, but sometimes I let all the other things overtake the things of God simply because there wasn't time for everything. It didn't take me very long to learn, however, that if I would focus on God instead of myself, everything else fell into place. Even though I had less time to spend on everything else, my grades were better. My performing opportunities were better. My relationships were better. I found even more time to sleep. It often has seemed counterintuitive, since we are self-loving creatures, but it has never failed me. If I focus on Him first, I always succeed in the areas I need to.

So right now I let little Grant have a bawl with his reflection in the mirror, but one day I hope to be able to teach him that self becomes more complete when you take time to add others and God.

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