THOUGHTS FROM A CHINESE DISH
In late 2017, I went to China with a delegation of Utah business leaders. At least twice a day during the two weeks we were there, business and political leaders threw huge banquet lunches and dinners for us with the finest foods China has to offer. I have never experienced the "red carpet" treatment like this in any other setting.
At one of these dinners, I saw this orange fish shaped thing coming around the table. It looked made of gelatin. I had no idea what it was and hesitated about trying it. After all, it could be made of fish guts or something. But, as often happens in China, the Chinese business man sitting next to me grabbed the serving spoon and plopped a big helping of this fish shaped thing on my plate. He said, "You will like." Not wanting to be rude, I took a bite . . . and smiled. My host said, "mango pudding." It was delicious.
I was single at the time I took this trip to China. I think trying the fish shaped dish was a little like dating someone new. I saw something unfamiliar and I was leery of it. It could be anything. It could be something unappealing. What if it made me sick? But it didn't. It was mango pudding and it was amazing.
Dating a new person can be a little scary. Jon Harris
has kept us updated on his budding relationship. Remember how nervous he was about getting together and having the first kiss? It seems like that turned out to be mango pudding too. The thing is, you don't know until you pick up a spoon and give it a try.
has compared dating to Bertie Bott's every flavor beans in the Harry Potter novels. You don't know what you have until you try it. Occasionally she got a vomit flavored "date" experience, but most of the time they turned out to be pleasant.
We all tend to gravitate to what is familiar. Our brains tell us it is safer than something unknown. But this doesn't always serve us. It's what keeps people stuck in abusive marriages. It often causes them to find a similar partner the next time. I'm not suggesting that you seek different for difference sake. But be open to trying out a lot of different flavors until you find your favorite. Don't pre-judge it or be too vigilant for "red flags." (I promise, your brain knows how to invent them and conjure up fear from the most innocuous things.)
When you a dating opportunity arises that feels unfamiliar, think "mango pudding."
CLEANING TOILETS ON FATHER'S DAY
Sunday morning, Cathy
remarked that the toilets were looking bad. Without even thinking, I said, "I'll clean them after Church."
Later in the afternoon, as I was actually cleaning the toilets, I started feeling a little resentful and thinking thoughts like, "Why am I cleaning toilets on Father's Day? Isn't it the Sabbath too? How can I keep it holy when I'm focusing on dirty toilets?" I also thought, a little cynically, "Yep, this is fitting for Father's Day. I get to do the do the dirty work that no one else wants to. That's what being a dad is."
Of course, I realized after a short pity party that these were just thoughts--and these thoughts were not serving me very well. What are the plain facts of the situation? (1) It was Sunday, (2) it was Father's Day, (3) I cleaned the toilets, (3) Cathy didn't ask me to clean them--I offered, and (4) I could have refused to do it or offered to do it Monday. Those are the facts.
The stories are what cause us pain. What stories was I telling myself? (1) Dads are not appreciated, (2) I am entitled to be self-indulgent on Father's Day, (3) If my wife and kids cared about me, I wouldn't have been forced to clean the toilets on Father's Day, and (4) I was breaking the Sabbath and my family was to blame for it.
As I realized that I was telling myself stories, I decided to choose different thoughts. (1) Father's Day didn't work out on Sunday this year because my two sons are grown and out of town, Cathy's string quartet had a gig, and my step-kids were with their dad. (2) We celebrated Father's Day Saturday evening by going out for Mexican food with the kids. (3) No one intended to hurt or disrespect me.
As it happens, while Cathy was playing her gig, both of my grown sons called me to say Happy Father's Day. The younger of them, who used to rarely call me at all, calls me almost every day now. My older son also made a post on Facebook saying that he loved me. My step kids are constantly telling me they love me. I chose to focus on the love of my children, rather than my prior interpretation of my own decision to clean toilets. I decided to cook Cathy dinner so she would have a hot meal when she returned home after playing her gig.
After Cathy returned home and we had dinner, we went for a walk. I shared my experience with her, and how I had shifted my thoughts to things that created gratitude, rather than to the self-indulgent and painful thoughts that arose from trauma. By shifting my thoughts, I shifted my mood. Even though I was no longer feeling sorry for myself, Cathy was sympathetic to my former feelings. She put her arm around me and said she was sorry it was such a busy weekend and that she had a gig scheduled on Father's day. She also said she would not have felt good about asking me to clean the toilets, but was grateful that I offered to do it.
We spent a very pleasant evening together, I called my dad and wished him Happy Father's Day, Cathy gave me a couple of little Father's Day gifts before we went to bed, and I went to bed feeling like a blessed man.
I have thought a lot over the past few months that most people are not naturally very good at relationships. We tend to be self-interested and self-indulgent, and we are looking to our partners to validate us in various ways. The truth is, that is not their job. We validate ourselves by showing up in relationships in the way we intentionally choose to, and by cultivating a relationship with God and understanding that we are His children. Most of us uncritically accept the self-defeating and invalidating thoughts that come into our minds, helplessly blame our partners for them, and feel miserable and short changed in our relationships.
If I had pouted and continued to think painful thoughts about what my cleaning toilets on Father's Day "meant," it could have created conflict with Cathy and ill feelings in me. I could have chosen to feel unhappy and let everyone around me know I was unhappy just to make a point. And you know what? That is what most people do. They believe all of the cognitive distortions that come into their minds, which generates hostility and pain regarding their relationships.
What I needed was not to make a point, or for anyone else to feel bad. What I needed was to love and be loved. When I realized that and chose that path, I created that experience and Cathy cooperated. And when I shared my experience, I received empathy and felt validated in my former feelings, even though I no longer felt I needed it. I felt like Cathy cared about me.
There is tremendous power in choosing which of our thoughts to accept into our consciousness, and which to discard. This is the essence of what Father Lehi meant when he said that people are "free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon." (2 Nephi 2:26.) We are often acted upon by our thoughts. We cannot help the fact that certain thoughts come to us or certain events trigger us. But we can help what we do with those thoughts. Do we allow painful thoughts and interpretations to linger? Do we waste our effort trying to get someone else to be different from how they are so that we can be happy?
To act instead of being acted upon means to live with intention. It means governing our relationships with intention rather than emotion. It means choosing the emotions we want to experience, rather than letting the panic of our brains dictate them. We are free to choose for ourselves. But if we don't know we can do this, it's easy to walk through life defensively worrying about the things other people say and do and being miserable about it.
This is an important topic because many of us in this group have failed marriages and other relationships in our history. If we are to learn from them and do better next time, it is imperative that we understand the power of our thoughts to create the experiences we want. This applies just as much in dating and friendships as it does during marriage. Think on it.
Friday morning I woke up with severe conjunctivitis in both eyes. My eyes were so light sensitive that I could not look at my computer screen or phone without searing pain. I took some Benadryl and got a prescription for antibiotic eye drops. Thankfully, by afternoon I was much better . We had tickets to see Les Misérables. Thankfully, I was able to see and the pain was much reduced by the time we left for the show.
This little incident got me thinking. I am just amazed by how much a less than 1% change in my body chemistry could literally incapacitate me and throw off my equilibrium so badly. While my eyes were impaired, I could not practice law. I could not drive my car. I could not watch television. I could not post in this group. I could not see my beautiful wife's face. Thankfully, it was a very temporary kind of impairment. However, I know there are many people who live every day with more serious pain and impairments. I am thankful that I am generally pretty healthy. My little episode with severe conjunctivitis helped me to realize how grateful I am that I have not, thus far, had any severe and permanent kinds of health problems.
The point I want to make with this post is about how much we take for granted. Many mid-singles feel deep disappointment because of how their lives have "turned out." I was one of those for several years -- until I realized that I was still alive and my life had not "turned out" yet. I started to see my single status for the opportunities it presented instead of the challenges. Thankfully, I had skills I could use to start a business, and I had the health to enable me to do the work. I still looked pretty young for my age and I enjoy meeting people, so dating was relatively easy for me. These are all blessings that many people too often take for granted.
One of the most important lessons my mid-single years taught me is that we can enjoy anything only to the extent that we are grateful for it. Otherwise, we are blind to the joy (maybe that's a useful pun, given how I started this post). The time this really dawned on me was when I was living in Texas. I had figured out how to make a decent living doing title work for oil companies. For the first time in several years, I had money enough to pay my bills and treat a lady to dinner once in awhile. I bought a nicer and more reliable car, which I enjoyed driving every minute. I was visiting a lot of interesting places. My oldest son was living with me and preparing to go on a mission. I loved having him around. I was finding plenty of good dating opportunities, albeit long distance. I was learning to see how happy my life could be when I just appreciated each little element of it. It all added up to feeling joy. And joy begat more joy. I got a lot more enthusiastic about my life and all of its possibilities. It was infectious and the people around me started being more positive too. I attracted enthusiastic people who brought opportunities into my life.
The last year I spent in Texas, I had a corporate job. There was a downturn in the oil business and I got laid off -- with my son on his mission. I found some $25 an hour briefing work for a law firm in Washington. It wasn't really enough, but I kept doing it until I had enough other business to quit. In the meantime, I returned to Utah and hung out a shingle again. I had the emotional and spiritual strength and enthusiasm to build a business -- unlike the time I tried doing that after my divorce from my kid's mom. At that time I was emotionally depleted and bereft of energy.
I want you to know that genuine gratitude is empowering. It allows you to truly enjoy the good things in your life and build on them. I also believe it is a good habit. It is a good habit when you are driving your car to think about how grateful you are for such a wonderful and reliable machine that takes you where you want to go in comfort. Over the last week, I have been newly thankful for the proper functioning of my eyes, even though I need glasses to read very much. I am hugely thankful for those glasses that make it possible for me to earn a living and live my life with more joy.
My life has not been all peaches and cream. I have been divorced twice and lost a little brother to cancer when he was only 17. I have had dengue fever and spinal meningitis. I spent several years in depression after my first divorce, partly because I didn't know the things I know today about alleviating it. Notwithstanding these and many more challenges, I have a great life. Without these challenges, I wouldn't have Cathy
. I wouldn't have my two step kids. I wouldn't have the business I have today, or the knowledge to create one. Love in Later Years would not exist. All In all, I think I have a beautiful life.
In my first marriage, I didn't truly understand the power of gratitude. I did what everyone else was doing in their 20s. I got married. We had a couple of kids. It didn't seem special. It seemed just normal. After I got divorced, I remember laying in bed at night feeling lonely sometimes, and thinking about how I had always taken it for granted when I cuddled with my former wife. With Cathy, I don't take that for granted. I realize how wonderful it is to go to bed with my loved one every night and feel her warmth next to me. I will never take that for granted again. During my mid-single years, every time I took my kids to the airport for a custody exchange I cried on the way home. They are both grown now. But I never take for granted the conversations we have. Every time one of them calls or messages me I feel blessed. I love the people they have become and I am grateful to have an adult relationship with them now. I don't take for granted the moments we get with my step kids, because I know how fleeting childhood is and how precious.
If I had to lose my first marriage and go through a lot of emotional pain to understand and appreciate the joy of loving and being loved, it was worth every moment of suffering.
To our mid-single friends, don't take years to learn this lesson like I did. Learn from my mistakes. Love and appreciate all that you have been given and your life will be abundant. That's the secret folks.
PS from Cathy: Les Misérables was such a great production, I'm so happy we were able to enjoy it together after some much needed self-care and medical intervention. I'm amazed at the body's ability to recover so quickly. It's not always that way so I feel very blessed to have experienced this event with Jeff despite the unexpected last minute obstacle. Jeff Teichert
, I'm glad we are intentionally grateful people, it makes life so much better! Such a great LILY Gem you wrote today. Love it and love you!
This fun photo strip was taken at a photo booth set up at a wedding reception for two mid-single friends a couple of weeks ago. We thought it was a great idea. Each guest got a momento of the event and the couple got a picture of everyone who attended their reception.
It always feels joyful to me when I hear about a mid-single couple being engaged or married. It suggests people having the resilience and courage to try again. It suggests hope in the idea that blessings can come to us later in life than we thought and still be joyful. Even before Cathy and I got married, seeing other mid-singles getting married always renewed my hope.
I know that, for some of you, seeing a wedding announcement from a mid-single couple triggers some pain -- particularly when the wedding involves someone you dated or had hoped to date. I feel for you. I know many of you have despairingly asked the question, "Why not me?"
I want to suggest that you ask the question rhetorically and hopefully, "Why not me?" as in "Why not?" Because one day it could be you. One day it will be.
You might have tried over and over and feel like it never works. My friends, it never works until it does. It really only works once right? Then you stop trying with new people. It only HAS to work once! So, if a loving marriage is the desire of your heart, don't give up.
I want to suggest a few important ideas on this subject that I hope might make your search happier:
I give this advice with a little caution. I am not suggesting it because I am assuming there is something wrong with you that needs fixing before you can get married. You are worth marrying right now, just the way you are.
Suggesting personal development will bring more joy into your life independent of getting married, as well as prepare you for marriage. I also believe it will make you a more attractive dating partner. Quality people are drawn to others who are thinking deeply about their purposes and seeking greater joy and fulfillment.
There are so many great resources today! You can listen to the free "gospel library" app reading the scriptures to you while you drive or take a bath. Our LILY Pod podcast is available on the major platforms. Give us a listen and see if it gives you hope and good ideas for your life. It's a resource created for mid-singles and it's FREE with new content being added every week!
You don't need to make your first date in 5 years a helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon. Meet her for a Jamba Juice and see how it goes. And strive to date consistently -- not in flashes. You may need to "try on" a lot of people before you find one that fits you. If you make finding new people to date and regularly dating a part of your life, it won't be very long before you find someone you want to date exclusively and consider marrying. Remember, I am suggesting that dating consistently is a part of your life -- not that it take over your life.
3. Enjoy Your Life Otherwise
Two happy people rarely get together and have a lousy time. If you are a happy person, chances are good that you will be happily married. If you are unhappy and waiting for someone to come along and ease your burdens and otherwise make you happy, you are going to have a harder time getting married and a lower chance of being happily married. Do your best to figure out your life and be happy where you are.
There is a lot more I could say. (Actually, I did. Cathy and I have a 350 page book coming out this fall, so stay tuned!) But I think these few ideas can help. Remember, above all, that happiness is the object and design of our existence, and remain hopeful. Let every wedding of a mid-single couple renew that hope.
Those of us who are "culturally safe" can choose to be spiritually mature, loving, and kind.
We echo what was said in this article, written June 1st. For our LGTBQ+ mid-single members.
This is my Zoom coaching space. I had a great session this morning with one of my awesome clients. It feels so good to connect with and assist mid-singles as they intentionally create the life they desire. It's rewarding and we are so thankful for every opportunity we have to make a positive difference in the lives of those who are ready for positive change through our LILY Coaching program.
If you are interested in booking a free consult with Jeff or Cathy, email us at email@example.com
HaPpY 3rd AnNiVerSaRy JeFf & CaThY!!! For our anniversary this year, we are sharing a new labor of love with our growing Love In Later Years community. This new podcast "LILY Pod" has 8 episodes to start. We will continue adding fresh new content each week.
Here's a link to our website to find out what LILY Pod is all about and where you can find access to it on your favorite podcast platform (including Spotify, Apple, Google, and iHeartRadio). Enjoy!!!
HaPpY StaR WaRs DaY!!! May the force of God's love and the spirit of personnel revelation bless your life today and throughout the year. And HaPpY CiNcO MaYo!!! We enjoy celebrating obscure holidays and this week, we celebrated two-in-one! For Star Wars Day, we watched Return of the Jedi and for Cinco de Mayo, we ate Jeff's mouth-watering carne asada tacos and Emily's amazing guacamole. Watching a Star Wars classic while eating homemade Mexican food is a great combination!
THOUGHTS ABOUT THOUGHTS -- AND MID-SINGLES
What causes you the most pain? When I was 26 years old, I lost my little brother to cancer. The loss I felt was deeply painful. He was only 17. There was some feeling that "it wasn't meant to be this way" because he was so young. But, mainly, it was honestly just feeling the pain of his loss. I also had the thought that some of the light had gone out in my life and that life would never be quite so sunny or hopeful again.
The pain of losing my brother was, in some sense, inevitable. I could, perhaps, choose thoughts that made it go away. But, in a larger sense, I would not have wanted it to go away too soon. As President Nelson said, "The only way to take sorrow out of death is to take love out of life." Who wants to do that? So, we can choose pain when it serves us. I think it serves us to grieve after the death of a loved one. However, the thoughts that I would never feel so sunny or hopeful again did not serve me. Any sense that he was "too young to die" was a judgment about how something went wrong, the cosmos was out of balance, and I was suffering because if it.
Mid-single Latter-day Saints almost universally suffer from deep disappointment over how things turned out for them. During, and for years after, my divorce from my first wife, I was plagued by thoughts that:
It wasn't supposed to be this way.
We were married for time and all eternity, not to separate when things get tough.
I didn't get married to get divorced.
We made Covenants in the house of the Lord before God, angels, and witnesses.
We have two children who are deeply hurt by this.
Whatever benefit this is giving us is not worth the price.
It is not right for me to be deprived of my children as much as I am.
I should not have to pay money to support someone else's unrighteous decisions.
God does not approve of divorce.
Taken together, in some sense, these thoughts all add up to the idea that, "it wasn't supposed to be this way." And that judgment, in all of its forms, will keep us in pain as long as we carry it. It is one thing to feel the pain of loss when your marriage ends. It is quite another to burden those thoughts further with a lot of judgments about things you cannot control. I hope this gives another level of meaning to the truth that, "with what judgment ye judge ye shall be judged." (Matthew 7:2.) This is certainly the truth. Our judgments of our own situation -- about how something is out of place or wrong -- are guaranteed to keep us in pain far longer than if we just allowed ourselves to experience the authentic pain of loss, unladen with the idea that it was supposed to be some other way.
Let's try on a few other thoughts and see how they feel:
Things are as they were supposed to be.
Wherever I am now is perfect for me.
My situation is the starting point for a happier life.
God has a plan for me and does nothing that is not an act of love.
God allowed me to experience this loss to make room for more love in my life.
No other person can permanently deprive me of my joy or of my exaltation.
I love my children and will continue to love them even more actively when they are in pain.
It is a privilege to support and care for my children in whatever ways I can.
God's love is in, around, and through me. There is an endless supply of it available to me whenever I need it.
Can you see how this list of thoughts is elevating, where the former list is heavy and overwhelming? Both lists are thoughts about the same situation, but they are different interpretations. Consider what the Prophet Joseph Smith taught:
”[T]ruth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come; And whatsoever is more or less than this is the spirit of that wicked one who was a liar from the beginning." (D&C 93:24-25.)
Truth is what IS, not what we think should be. It is not the judgments we make about what might be superior or preferable. How we think about our circumstances will determine whether we are happy or miserable. Joseph further taught:
"Behold, here is the agency of man, and here is the condemnation of man; because that which was from the beginning is plainly manifest unto them, and they receive not the light." (D&C 93:31.)
How do we receive any truth? It is through our "agency." We may have physical ordinances like baptism, but they mean nothing if they do not reflect an exercise of "agency," where we receive that truth in our thoughts. Think of that metaphor of light and darkness. "That which is of God is light." (D&C 50:24.) Moses saw the difference between the glory of God and the glory of Satan, and told Satan that his glory "is darkness unto me." (Moses 1:15.)
Light represents thoughts that are elevating. It represents illumination and clarity. It represents hope and vision. What does darkness represent? It represents chaos, confusion, a lack of vision, and being unable to see our way home. It represents fear of whatever danger might be lurking out there that we can't see. Darkness is heavy. Any work performed in darkness requires more effort because we can't see what we are doing.
My plea to you is not to think your way out of all pain. Pain is part of the human experience and sometimes gives meaning to the love we feel. The point is really to keep it in its proper place. Make it authentic pain, and not the result of the judgments we make about something being wrong or out of place. Pain with all sorts of judgments hanging on it will last longer and hurt more deeply and get us stuck and unable to move forward. So my plea is to embrace the light with your thoughts. We have all kinds of thoughts. Not all of them reflect light and truth. Many of them are laden with judgment. Choose to keep the thoughts that are elevating and invite more love into your life and into your heart. That is the way of happiness.
A smile creates high vibrational energy and high vibration leads to smiling easily and effortlessly. It has a synergistic effect. We can share that energy with others just by holding it within ourselves, by focusing on the good in our lives and in the world no matter our circumstances. Gratitude boosts joy and is a great catalyst for natural happy smiles!
As humans, we tend to be hard on ourselves. It's easy to see where we fall short and get overwhelmed by all the things we have left on our to-do lists. We have found that by intentionally recognizing and celebrating what we do well each day, we can celebrate our "wins." It's therapeutic to the soul and leads to more smiles, inside and out. Cheers to intentionally cultivating happy high-vibrational thoughts!