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Several years ago a dear friend, Jonelle, surprised me with an autographed print of Greg Olsen's "O Jerusalem" painting. This majestic piece captures the quiet strength, even the eternal strength of the Savior's character, not to mention the beautiful scenery of the Holy Land countryside (and no, Mr. Olsen isn't paying me to say all that).
But if you look closely, you can see something else on Christ's face. In my youth I almost wondered if it was defeat (after all, he knew his betrayal and crucifixion were near). But now that I'm older I understand the look in Jesus' eyes was something else entirely; it was acceptance. The hint of sorry in his eyes stems from the acceptance that so many people in Jerusalem would not listen to the message of peace and salvation that he desired so deeply to give them.
And as we look forward to this Easter season, I can't help but wonder if that same hint of sorrow still exists in the resurrected Savior's heart.
Let's face it: the LDS midsingles world is a complicated conglomeration of faith and fun, uplifting moments and crushing disappointments. And while there are plenty of jokes to be made, spiritual experiences to share and experiences we love to cherish (and other we can't wait to forget), the truth is that we all have to stick together during this period in our lives.
That being said, some midsingles want to live in the neighborhood of Singlesville a bit too long. The goal of every midsingle should be to move out of this community as soon as possible. And by possible, I include all the no-brainer qualifications: finding a worthy companion who respects you and the Lord and desires to cherish you both through honoring their covenants.
But I digress. We have to laugh at ourselves sometimes as Latter-day Saints and I can't think of a more humor-filled era of this life than the LDS midsingles world. I would know, I've been in it for far too long so based on my years of experience (my dad is shaking his head), here are the 13 Midsingle Articles of Faith. And yes, read this with a large grain of salt and a healthy sense of humor.
“May it be a light to you in dark places, when all other lights go out.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
When I saw The Fellowship of the Ring movie for the first time, those words struck me like a hammer on an anvil. They were spoken to Froddo, the hobbit whose task it was to take the dreaded One Ring to Mount Doom, as encouragement by the Lady Galadriel when she gave him a small crystal phial, filled with the light of Eärendil's star. She knew that dark days lay ahead for Froddo and his companions and in an act of mercy, compassion and support she gave him light for those times when it felt like the darkness is overwhelming, that there was no other source of light.
So, why were those words so powerful for me?
For years now I have been asked by friends, family, counselors, leaders, teammates, advocates and spokespersons to write about faith and mental illness. While the two have been covered in enough written words to fill the Library of Congress, I feel that we have not seen the two discussed together enough and when it is there is far too much clinical writing and not enough first-hand accounts. So, like two awkward teenagers slow dancing for the first time under the lights, faith and mental illness are often seen touching hands, when in reality they should embrace in an intimate setting that can bring hope, light, love, peace and strength that only a strong relationship can.
Let me state right now that I am not a trained therapist nor mental health professional. What I'm going to write is merely my opinion intermixed with my faith and what I have learned through my own journey with mental illness.
Often during the month of November we see "30 Days of Thanksgiving" challenges that push us to develop gratitude for the blessings that we so often overlook and take for granted. And while I love such challenges, they often only require us to declare our thankfulness on social media and nothing more. And that's not enough.
So, here's a challenge that is truly an activity challenge. During my "30 Days of Thankful-ness Giving" you'll have to not only do some soul-searching to discover what you're grateful for, you'll have to do things for others and for yourself to express your gratitude. This challenge will open your heart, deepen your soul, strengthen your relationships and most of all bring peace and joy to your life.
Developing a spirit of gratitude has been shown to improve our immune systems, increase our level of happiness, deep our relationships and build optimism for daily life. So good luck and happy holidays! May this season be full of laughter, love, light and football...I mean, wonder.
Day 1: Life's Experiences - Do you realize how amazing you are? A living, breathing human being! Take a moment and write a list of ten life events that you are grateful occurred to help you be you.
Day 2: Parents - As imperfect as they are, your parents did their best to love and raise you right. Pick up the phone and call your mother or father (or a mentor) to tell them how much you appreciate their influence in your life.
Day 3: Best Friend - Friends are the spice of life, so write your best friend a letter outlining all the reasons you are thankful that they are in your life.
Day 4: Neighbor - "It takes a village" as they say and neighbors are an important part of our lives. Make a taste treat and take it to a neighbor who has been a wonderful friend for you and/or your family.
Day 5: Blessings - Spend a quiet 15-minutes today just thinking about all the blessings that you have in your life and nothing else.
Day 6: Body - Do something active today! Get outside and enjoy the fresh air and give thanks for the body that you have, despite what you think may be its faults or "problem areas".
Day 7: Mind - Spend time reviewing a favorite childhood memory, then think about what you did yesterday, and finally think about a problem in your life and come up with a solution. Lastly, be grateful for a healthy mind that can do all three of those things and spend some time in a good book today to exercise your brain!
One of the most enjoyable things that Jeremy get's to do as a motivational speaker is to give assemblies at schools and visits classrooms all over. From Kindergarten up to 12th Grade, he says it is a true pleasure to meet these bright, inspiring children and teenagers and the incredible teachers and administrators who work so hard to give them a good future.
But as every parent and teacher knows, kids really do say and ask the darndest things. Having spent the past decade as a speaker in just about every type of event you can think of, Jeremy has been asked a wide range of questions. From "Is bobsledding fun?" to "How old are you?", "Did you drive to our school?" to "Can I take your medal home?", you learn very quickly that when you ask, "Are there any questions?" you had better be quick on your toes because you have no idea what inquiries are coming your way.
So we decided to compile a list of some of the best questions that Jeremy has had to answer in front of a crowd for your enjoyment, although not necessarily his!
Ah, kids. Their imaginations are sources of endless creativity!
If you'd like to schedule Jeremy to come speak at your school, please visit this page for more information. Happy almost-Halloween!
As I sit here looking out my office window at a beautiful Salt Lake City, Utah blue sky I can't help but smile. Life is such a marvelous and wonderful gift, and every day that we are alive is a new chance to create a powerful future. As we say in my non-profit organization, The Athlete Outreach Project, "there is always hope."
Yet even as I smile, I cannot help but sigh at the tragedies and darkness that fills this world. As a former journalist I know only too well the number of wars and conflicts that rage around the globe. I just spoke at a suicide prevention event and often study the statistics surrounding those struggling with mental illness. I have participated in countless cancer research fundraisers and visited cancer patients in the hospital on several occasions. I have seen marriages fall apart due to infidelity, abuse or just plain apathy. I have seen lives destroyed through the use of drugs or other addictive substances. I have visited with youth incarcerated for foolish choices and helped save at least one life from ending through an eating disorder.
Even as I write this I'm mentally reviewing the tough circumstances that so many in my own life face. I have one friend who survived a potentially fatal car accident only to have her ex-husband force her and her daughters out of their old home and onto the streets. I have another friend who just got out of the hospital after some major surgeries. I could go on and on and so could you, and that doesn't even include all the struggles we have in our own lives.
As a dear friend of mine reminded me this week, "We all get tired, we all get discouraged, and we all have days where we want to give up. But we can't. Life is too amazing. And we are not alone in it."
Admit it, the title alone intrigued you. "Is he trying to grow a spouse in a jar like this?" No, this is more of a proactive suggestion for all my single friends, although admittedly this project could be good for any healthy couple to try.
Now, I'm not crafty by any means. I love being creative through writing, graphic and web design and advertising/marketing, but I'm probably going to pass on from this life without ever posting some idea to Pinterest. Sorry, Pin-aholics (update: I've given in and joined this Pinside).
That being said, I have had plenty of experience being single and in a moment of 100% honesty I'll admit that yes, I've spent quite a bit of time thinking about my future spouse. Who will she be? What will she be like? What will be her likes, dislikes, hobbies, passions, insecurities, strengths and faith? How will she spend her time, what career path has she followed, what books does she like to read or TV shows does she like to watch? What have been her greatest achievements and her deepest secrets and fears?
When people ask, "Why are you single? You should be married!" it takes a lot of willpower not to shout, "It's not like I don't want to be!" And that's what I've come to realize over the past decade: I do want to be. Sorry all you marriage-haters and "I'm too happy just playing to get tied down again" mid singles; I'm not swimming in your pool.
Public Service Announcement Ahead:
Having spent a few years now in the wonderfully diverse world of LDS Mid Singles, I've learned that there is no such thing as an "average" or "typical" mid single. Sure, many of our challenges are "similar" (kind of like a Ferrari and a Pinto are both "cars"), but our personalities, backgrounds, goals and individual situations in life are as varied as the sands on the seashore.
That being said, I feel like there are some big divides (some intentional, some through ignorance) between mid singles and everyone else in their family wards. And while I say this with love ("bless your hearts"), I have to be honest: it's usually not the mid singles' fault. These problems often come from the members of their family wards themselves.
"We try to include everyone in our ward family!" you cry. Ok, when was the last time you made an effort to reach out to a single person in your ward or neighborhood? If you're in a family ward (indicating the relationship majority) I'm willing to bet that all your activities, lessons and efforts are focused on the traditionally married families. Yes, the family unit is central to God's plan, but have you considered that you could be making the mid singles in your ward feel ostracized, forgotten, belittled and like failures?
Let me put this as lovingly and clearly as possible: please stop making your mid singles neighbors feel like they have a big scarlet letter on their chest. Whether divorced with kids, divorced with no kids, widowed, never married with kids or never married with no kids, here are things you are doing or saying that make mid singles feel UN-welcome.
Bless your hearts.
For all my fellow mid-singles, I hear your pain. You work hard at your job, to raise your kids as a single-parent, to keep your health in top shape and try to generally stay ahead of the wave in life. And when a party comes around, you are ready for a break, to kick back and just have a good time. So you plan your schedule accordingly, get yourself ready, call up your friends and head out to enter the exciting social scene.
And we've all been there right? We love to socialize, meet new people, see old friends and just generally have a good time. But frequently we run into the same types of people at these parties, so I present to you the 10 People You See at Mid-Singles Parties. Take it all in good fun, I've exaggerated some and written others with perfect honesty. I'll led you decide which is which!
1. The A-Teamers
You know who I'm talking about, the group of about a half-dozen guys and girls who show up together with a mission to kill (socially and romantically). They tend to view themselves as the IT crowd and watch each others' backs, laugh at each others' jokes, stay within eye-sight and generally try to turn themselves into the nucleus of the parties social atomic structure. I'm not saying that there is anything wrong with an A-Team (I loved the TV show), but don't be so into your friends that you ignore everyone else around you. Be inclusive, not exclusive.
2. The Pack
You know exactly who I'm talking about here. That group of girls who walk (strut?) into the party and look like they are trying to turn the place into a club. Perfect hair, perfect makeup, perfect clothes and a perfect concept of their magnificence. Now, I'm not judging by appearances because "beauty" is never an indication of the heart. Rather, its what The Pack does that I'm conflicted about. These girls remind me of the movie Mean Girls and kudos to any guy who tries to talk to any girl in this group because he runs the risk of getting torn to shreds. The Pack is on scene to be seen and attention is their drug of choice.
3. The Bros
Simply put, The Bros are the male version of The Pack. The guys greet each other with grunts, high-fives, chest bumps, bro-hugs and loud shouts that remind me of high school jocks yelling at each other in the hall. The Bros dress alike in skin-tight shirts to show off their gym results (probably Affliction or MMA shirts) and top-dollar shoes because everyone looks at your shoes at a party (sarcasm, me?). These guys are there to eat, check out the girls and otherwise try to show that they are the life of the party so the party should center around them. Top shelf substance, these dudes.
Over the past few our hearts have been saddened by the tragic loss of Robin Williams, an incredibly strong and brave soul whose ability to make us laugh endeared him to each and every one of us.
Having spent over half my lifetime living with, investigating, battling, treating and overcoming my own struggles with mental illness in the form of anxiety and depression, I can perhaps better understand what Mr. Williams went through during his impactful life. And as we all remember his wonderful, yet adversity-filled life, some may wonder...how do I help the other Robin Williamses around me? How do I help my spouse, sibling, parent, neighbor, friend, coworker, teammate, etc.?
Here are five ways that you can help that person in your life. While I do not profess to be an expert, these come from personal experience from dear friends, teammates, girlfriends, siblings, counselors and religious leaders who have reached out when I needed help the most.
1. Be Compassionate:
In this world of Facebook statuses, selfies and this-is-my-life social outlets, most people are almost loath to open up about their everyday struggles. Now, add that societal pressure to the far too common stigma surrounding mental illness and you can see why many who struggle with mental illness hide their problems, especially men.
If you have someone in your life who you think is struggling, open your heart and be compassionate enough to ask. Oftentimes those who struggle the most put on a brave face, or in Robin Williams' case laugh the loudest. But that doesn't mean they aren't silently hoping that someone will come to their rescue and help them carry the load. So ask. And keep asking until the truth comes out. "I'm ok" is not an answer you should be satisfied with.
Also, when someone is feeling like they are in a dark place, your love may have to be the light that shows them the way. Yes, someone who is feeling anxious or depressed may not be the chipper life of the party, but they still have infinite value and worth and deserve respect, love and support. Hug them. Hold them. Write them an encouraging note. Make them cookies. Go with them to a support group. Whatever comes to mind, do it. At the most basic level, depression is a thief in the night who steals your loved one's ability to feel, love and enjoy life. So at whatever level you can, shower them with love and support.