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!
A SIGN OF GRACE
I took this picture during a lunar eclipse on February 21, 2008 from the balcony of my home in Washington. 2008 was the last year my former wife and I were together.
As I look back on the night that moon appeared, I am reminded of a couple of things. Even when our circumstances are difficult, there is beauty in our world. We can gaze on it in wonder and focus on what we have been given. The things we choose to focus on become bigger in our minds and manifest in our lives. I don't know if that beautiful moon had that meaning for me at the time. I just thought it was cool and was trying to capture it on camera. With the wisdom of another decade of life, I can see that a loving father in Heaven gave me an opportunity to see that He still loved me and was blessing me with the radiant beauty of His creation.
I think this picture also reminds me of the elegant order in our galaxy. No matter what is happening in our lives and relationships, the sun will still come out in the morning and the moon will rise when the sun sets. An eclipse like the one in this picture is predictable and follows the rules given by the creator. All of His creation obeys him (except sometimes His children).
In Section 88 of the Doctrine and Covenants, the Prophet Joseph Smith refers to the Moon as female -- as it is referred to in many ancient mythologies such as the Toltec and the Egyptians. Could it be that God had that glorious moon shining down on me that night with a message that he would be sending a beautiful woman into my life at the proper time? There are times and seasons for everything in life, and for some our permanent and loving marriage comes later than for others.
I have a friend who went through a very bad divorce who sometimes cynically refers to life as a "big juicy peach" whenever someone else is trying to be optimistic. But maybe the appearance of this moon during a very difficult time in my life could have reminded me that life is, indeed, a big juicy peach. It is full of blessings and opportunities and joys if we know where to look.
Miraculous events only have the meaning we allow them to have. Alma the younger and the sons of Mosiah saw angels and it changed their lives completely. Laman and Lemuel saw angels and pretty soon went back to murmuring and being bitter. Why? Because "they knew not the dealings of that God who had created them." (1 Nephi 2:12.) They missed the point because they did not know (or seek) the divine meaning in the events of their lives. They had totally blinded themselves to it.
When we are weighed down with sorrow, our view can become very myopic. It is hard to see beyond the crisis of the moment, and that crisis grows in proportion to the rest of the world. We can become very narrow-minded without even meaning to. This causes us to focus on suffering and suffer more.
If you are still suffering from the loss of a spouse to death or divorce, consider when might be the time to refocus on the opportunities and blessings that can still be yours in this life, and even in the life to come. I think the scriptural injunction, "seek and ye shall find" profoundly applies to finding the divine meaning in the world around us. So next time you see a sign of grace in the heavens, don't forget to notice and contemplate God's eternal love, and His promises to those that love Him.
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
I remember a talk given in a singles ward about "spreading it to the edges." It referred to sandwiches, or toast such as this that I made for my son this morning, as a metaphor for spreading goodness to the edges of our lives, to make our life experience as delicious as possible.
Since then, I have learned about the law of attraction and how what we put our focus on we get more of. If we will intentionally focus on and spread the good, our world becomes better.
ABOUT GRATITUDE. Yesterday Cathy
and I went to lunch as part of celebrating our third anniversary. I remarked to her that one of the advantages of being a divorcee is that I take our marriage less for granted.
I got married the first time when I was 26 years old. We had a child 11 months later. To some degree, I was going through the motions of what American Latter-day Saints do. I graduated from high school, served a mission, went to college, and got married when I was in graduate school. It's kind of the life plan we all expect to follow. I loved my first wife and my family, but I think I kind of just expected it would always be there for me. I took it too much for granted. Perhaps I thought what I was doing and the way I was living was just normal. But normal isn't special.
Having a lengthy marriage and then getting divorced woke me up to the fact that we are not simply entitled to marriage. Our spouses ALWAYS have choices. Even if you feel really solid with someone, that is partly a result of their devotion and conscious choice to be with you. That is a great blessing and a high honor. We should really never take it for granted. We should celebrate it every day, and not just on anniversaries.
Cathy and I dated for a good chunk of 2016 and were "just friends" for all of 2017. At the end of that year (literally the last day of the year) I wrote her a letter and asked her to date me for marriage. I didn't know it at the time, but she was dating two good men, who both had serious intentions, and trying to decide between them. So I complicated her life. Even with the great options she had and even though we had stopped dating a year prior, Cathy chose me. I don't take that for granted. She could have chosen otherwise. So I consider it a great blessing that she chose me.
Before I even met Cathy, I learned that we can only enjoy something to the extent that we are grateful for it. Our enjoyment is directly proportional to our gratitude. I enjoy my marriage and the love that we share so much because I am deeply grateful for it. I am grateful for another chance at life and happiness in marriage. I am grateful for someone to love everyday in a special way. I am grateful for the kind of family life that I once took for granted as being "just normal." Because I feel abundantly blessed, I feel abundantly happy. That is the secret my friends.
Be grateful for what you have. Be happy for others when good things happen to them. Be enthusiastic and embrace your life for its possibilities. Life is not merely to be endured. It is to be lived. So take chances, have adventures, love deeply, and live it well.
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!!!
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.