Tuesday, September 30, 2014

On love: What the heck even is it, though?

Part Two of Two

So, I wrote a few days ago about love, and how you have a choice regarding what you do with the
love that happens to you. The blog entry actually started by me trying to define love, but I never got around to an actual answer. As I was writing, I got to a certain point, and it just felt like the end of the blog entry. So I had to do a "Part Two." Because I think defining love can be empowering. I think when we better learn what love is, we can better learn how to love. And as cheesy as it sounds, I believe the more love there is in the world, the better the world is. So, despite Eliot's warning to avoid examining love too closely, here it is, "fixed and sprawling on a pin."

First of all, a disclaimer. I don't claim to be any kind of "love expert." At all. My only claim to knowing anything about love is the fact that I've experienced it and the fact that I looked up definitions online. But as I've been thinking about the whole idea of love, a few things I've found have been particularly enlightening to me, so I thought I'd share them here. Save you a little bit of research time and all that. It's all a bit academic, but also awesome. Let's start with the ancient Greeks, shall we?

So the ancient Greeks had a list of a few different kinds of love. They recognized that the love between friends and the love between lovers wasn't exactly the same, so they kind of split it all up. Here's how they defined love:

This is the steamy passion between lovers. It's closely tied to sexual attraction. It's powerful and intoxicating and usually a little bit irrational. It's also what we usually think of first when someone says "romance."

Deep friendship. This is the camaraderie that exists between people who have known each other for a while. It's the sisterhood among women, and the brotherhood among men. It has to do with loyalty and sacrifice and shared experiences and/or emotions.

Playful or flirtatious love. It's the combination of this kind of love and eros that makes starting a romantic relationship so exciting. But this kind of "fun" love isn't limited to romance...this is also what you feel when bantering with friends or laughing with others over dinner.

Love for all mankind. Also known as charity, compassion, or Christ-like love. This is the altruistic kind of empathy that leads us to serve others.

Deep understanding that develops between long-together couples. This is the kind of quiet and beautiful connection people have when they've been together for a long time. It's based on patience and sacrifice and a determination to make a relationship work. This is what EROS has the potential to develop into.

Love of self. This kind of love is a double-edged sword. It can be a healthy respect of oneself and valuing your own contribution to the world. It can also be narcissism and pride and self-obsession.

Honorary Mention: MANIA
Crazy jealous dangerous love. This probably shouldn't even qualify as a type of "love," but it's what EROS can develop into, and we might as well give it a name. This is the kind of obsessive "love" that leads to stalking or harm of self or others. It can be characterized either by mild obsession or by crazy assassination attempts.

And of course, all of these kinds of love are related. You can feel ludos and eros and pragma for someone all at the same time. The kinds of love you feel, and the amounts you feel it in, are constantly shifting and changing.

In modern times, there are all kinds of psychologists who have defined love in different ways. I'm a big fan of Robert Sternberg's "Triangular Theory of Love." (Sounds hot, right?) Here was his deal:

This Sternberg fellow said that there are three main components to love: Intimacy, Commitment, and Passion. Consummate love (or ideal love) is made up of all three. I like this model because it covers all the different kinds of love that can happen within a romantic relationship, but still includes friendship, too (companionate love). And, just like with the Greeks, you can move around on this triangle over time.

Here's where all this falls short for me, though. While all of this gives awesome insight into how we love each other, none of this defines the love one can have for things or worlds or activities. I love theatre, and I love nature, and I love the Gospel, and I love art. But none of these words or models give me much insight on what that means. I know those things give me pleasure and that I'm willing to sacrifice for them. But I haven't yet found a word that covers all that. (Anyone have any suggestions?)

But still, knowing all of this and thinking about it has helped me make choices about love in just the few days I've been learning about it. I hope it guides you too.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

On love: The choice

Part One of Two

(This is kind of a long post, so I'd recommend grabbing a cream soda or something. Also, I'm kind of baring my soul here. Again. So get back on Facebook or whatever if you're not into that kind of thing.)

I've been thinking a lot about love lately. Sometimes there are ideas that are just on your radar, and for the past year or so, love has been on mine.

Okay, I confess, it's been on my radar for like, most of my life. But as I grow older, my understanding of love keeps growing and changing, and I've just been thinking a lot about it.

Here's one thing I know for sure: It takes courage to love. I also know it's worth it to love. That goes for loving people, loving things, loving in general.

A little while ago, I blogged about gratitude, and how I think that gratitude is both a choice AND something that can happen to you. And I'm beginning to think the same thing about love. The romantic world of books and movies and love songs would have us believe that love is only something that happens to you, but I don't think that's completely true. It can't be. You have to be able to choose whom or what you love, to some extent. At the very least, you've got to be able to choose what to do with the love that happens to you.

Maybe that's the moment that takes courage. Between love happening to you and choosing what to do with it. Because sometimes the thing that takes the most courage is to say, "Yes. I choose this, I choose us, I want to take this leap." But sometimes the most courageous thing is to say, "No. This is not the right thing, and I know we will both be better and more full and more complete if we walk away." I don't think either choice is always right or always wrong for every person in every situation. I've watched friends and family make both choices, for better or for worse. And all I know is that both choices are terrifying.

When I was in high school, we went on this Kiwanis Key Club Convention thing, where they didn't EVER feed us and where we went to a workshop called "Don't Call It Love." It was a guy talking about teen sexuality and relationships. (Yay Oregon!) He defined LOVE as "choosing the highest good for another person." And for a long time, I really believed that to be the best definition. But...I dunno, I feel like my definition has grown to include more than that.

I took kind of an informal survey among a few friends while I was thinking about all this, and asked them what they thought the definition of love was. One friend quoted T.S. Eliot in her reply, saying, "We should not over examine love, not seek to place it fixed and sprawling on a pin. Love just is, and thank God for that." I'm grateful for that perspective, and I think it's wise. But at the same time, I want to learn how to love better, and I'm interested in the question of what love is so that I can do that. A lot of the answers that people gave me had to do with selflessness. One friend said that love leaves you better than it found you. Several other friends pointed out that there are different kinds of love--romantic love and sexual love and friendship love.

I thought a lot about the idea that love leaves you better than it found you. I think about the people I've loved, and the ways that I've loved them. And the truth is, to quote Nazareth, that sometimes, love hurts. Not just when it leaves you, but sometimes loving someone you know you can't have hurts. It hurts to feel love for someone and to know that you can't ever be together, or that you would actually not make a great couple, or that they will never love you back in the same way. It can make you mean and scared and jealous and maybe even kind of crazy. It can also make you brave and strong and patient. I've been all of those things at some point or another, for better or for worse. For the most part, I've been blessed enough to rebuild any bridges I burned by being mean or scared or jealous or crazy. (Thank goodness for the perspective of time, the patience of friends, and the beauty of forgiveness.) So maybe, eventually, even the kind of love that hurts can leave you better than it found you, if you choose to let it.

Because here's the other thing I think about love. And this is true of friendship love or romantic love. The choice of what to do with the love that comes into your life is a daily one. There have been times in my life when I prayed to stop loving someone, because it hurt, for whatever reason. And there have been times in my life when I've prayed for help in loving someone more, or even at all. And I think I did that because I thought that love was only something that happened to me, and that I had to change what was going on inside of me, what I was feeling. But it never worked. Because feelings happen. They come, they go, they stay. Choices are where we can be brave, or jealous, or patient, or crazy, or strong.

Sometimes it's hard to know what the right choice is, to know what the best thing to do with the love we feel is. Romantic love is especially complicated. But when it comes to love in general, at the tender and wise age of twenty-nine, I'm beginning to think (and understand) that we have nothing to lose in following kind impulses. We have nothing to lose in selfless love. We have nothing to lose in lifting others up. I sometimes get caught up in thinking that each of us only has a certain amount of love that we can give or experience, and that we have to "spend" it wisely. But it's not true. The more you choose to let love make you brave and strong and patient, to more you choose to lift up the hands that hang down or write a quick note of encouragement or give a compliment or just listen to someone, the more your ability to love grows.

And as that love grows, you have more to give. And in the times when you feel depleted and empty of love, people will show up to give you the love that you need to keep going. And then once your own ability to love has brushed itself off and stood up again, you can be that person for someone else.

And that's a pretty beautiful part of being human.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Tech Week

It's a little after midnight, and I'm not even sure why I'm writing this blog entry. Maybe I need the post-rehearsal "decompression" time or something. All I know is that I have enough energy to write a blog entry (while eating an entire kaiser roll, plain), but not enough energy to clean my house.

Having done tech weeks as both an actor and as a technician, I will say that they are WAY more work for the technicians. It's a hard week for EVERYONE, just because everything about it takes a lot of energy. But I still feel kinda bad using tech week as an excuse to not do anything else, when I'm an actor.

Here are the things that I have NOT done this week, and which I anticipate will remain undone until Saturday or so:

1. The dishes. I've started using Tupperware for bowls (and their lids as plates). We're going to run out of clean Tupperware soon, though.

2. Put away the laundry. I did DO the laundry. But I think it will probably live in the laundry basket in the living room for a few more days.

3. Cleaned the bathroom. That needs to be done soon.

4. Made any kind of decent meal for myself or anyone else. Unless you count the fried egg sandwich I made the other day, which I ate off a Tupperware lid.

5. Dusted. Vacuumed. Swept.

6. Gone to bed at a decent hour.

The really ridiculous thing is that Jacob and I have managed to watch almost an entire season of 30 Rock in the last few days or so.

So the reality is that I totally HAVE time to do all this stuff, I'm just not doing it. But it's TECH WEEK! So I just keep telling myself that I'm "too tired" and "too busy" to do all that stuff. And the other reality is this: I love tech week just because I love what I do. I love acting, and getting into costumes, and doing mic checks, and having private dance parties backstage, and touching up lipstick. I love seeing a show come to life as each layer of tech is added. Yes, it's exhausting. Yes, it can be frustrating. Yes, it's hard to keep track of last-minute changes. But I'm so grateful to be a part of this. I'm so grateful that this is my JOB, and this is what I get to do, and this is who I get to be. The cast and crew of "Damn Yankees" are all so amazing, and I'm so excited to share what we've created with others.

Dressing room selfie. I love my job. 

Friday, September 12, 2014

9 Things While 29

It's that time of year! Time for my birthday report on my goals, and my new list of goals. 6 out of 8 isn't too bad.

Every year, instead of doing New Year's resolutions, I do resolutions on my birthday, in September. The number of resolutions/goals changes depending on how old I am. This last year, I had 8 goals for while I was 28 (even though that sign says 28 things...) This year I've got 9 (age 29), and when I'm 30, I'll have 10. Then it starts over with just 1 goal (age 31). 

1. Save up $1000 for a car. 
The goal is to be vehicle owners by April.
DONE!!!! It feels amazing to look at these numbers! Pay your tithing, people, because looking at this progress, I don't even really know where this money came from. Pretty awesome. We essentially saved $1000 in about a month and a half. Which is awesome. 
$165.06 as of November 30
$265.06 as of December 13
$255.06 as of December 20
$305.06 as of December 21
$380.06 as of December 26
$680.06 as of January 3
$840.06 as of January 8
$1000.00 as of January 10!!!
(And we got a car!)

2. Go an entire month without paying for eating out once. 
Eating out is one of my biggest weaknesses, and I'd like to slow down. And if we want to pay off debt, I'll have to. Notice, however, I just said without "paying" for eating out. If someone else wants to take me out to eat, that doesn't count.
DONE! Ugh. That was the WORST. January was the month I tackled this goal. Here were my thoughts as it happened: 
January 5th: It's already been tough, but it's gratifying to learn that you can do tough things...like writing a draft of a novel in a month, or completing a jigsaw puzzle, or getting money into savings. So I know I can do this, too.  
January 13th: Omigosh this is actually really hard.
January 24th: I hate this. I did this in an effort to prove to myself that I can live without eating out, which I can, but I hate it. I don't think my eating out habits will change very drastically as a result of this experience. 
January 28th: So close. Getting so close. I can make it.  
February 1st: Omigosh. Ugh. Never again. I'll probably eat out LESS than I used to, but ugh. 

3. Face a fear. 
This is a hard one to measure, and I have a few in mind, but it's something I want to do. I originally wanted to "overcome a fear," but that's a lot of pressure to put on yourself within just a year, and how do you know when you've actually "overcome" it? So I'll just face one down this year, and if I also "overcome" it, more power to me.
DONE! I want to continue to do this throughout the year and I have a few other fears in mind to face, but check this out. I've never in memory had blood drawn without passing out. Partly out of anxiety and partly out of having weak veins. But this fall, I was at the doctor's for a possible kidney infection. They told me they needed to draw blood and I freaked out a little. But I didn't want to call Jacob to have him hold my hand...that would only reiterate that this was something to be afraid of. I did cry for about 20 seconds before pulling myself together. I asked if one of the nurses would be willing to just talk to me or distract me during the draw. And I did it! Didn't pass out! Didn't freak out! Woot! 

4. Do a paid voiceover, television, or film gig. 
The time has come, people. I've done plenty of live theatre, and it's time to expand my horizons a bit more.
DONE! I was cast in a website geared towards kids, with a secret agent theme. I play the matriarch of the spy family in the interactive videos. Principal photography wrapped in April, and it was a ton of fun and I learned so much. It's in post-production right now, and should be ready by the end of the summer. Visit the website for more info. (Also, done again! I was a paid extra for a production in Salt Lake City called "Under the Bed." It was kind of a big deal. Maybe I'll blog about it sometime.)

5. Do a "photo-a-day" or "video-a-day" project to document one month of my life. 
Maybe it's a little self-centered, but it's always seemed like a cool project. So I'll do it.
DONE! During November. I was totally inspired by this video. Watch my own version of a similar concept here

6. Visit someplace new in Yellowstone Park.
We spent the ENTIRE summer right next door to this amazing park, and I didn't explore it nearly as much as I wanted to. I did discover a few new spots, but whether we live next door to the park or not this summer, I want to discover something new there this year.  
Not so much. But in my defense, our move to Provo got bumped to mid-July, when we were originally planning on moving in September. So we lost a month and a half of time being near Yellowstone. 

7. Save up $1000 for our next adventure. 
We don't really have a plan for fall of 2014, but whatever it is, we'll need a little cash for moving costs, housing deposits, etc. Even if we end up staying in Rexburg this fall, I'd love to have that cash on reserve for when we DO move.
DONE! It was a little tough there for a while...we had to keep taking stuff back OUT of savings for other things. But by golly, we did it! 
$20.06 as of January 14th
$70.06 as of January 16th
$25.00 as of January 26th (we had to use a little for our car purchase)
$125.06 as of January 28th (back on track!)
$225.06 as of January 31st
$125.07 as of February 12th (sigh--we'll get there!)
$0.00 as of February 19th (dammit)
$400.00 as of March 2nd (on our way again!)
$1000 as of March 7th!

8. Visit an art museum. 
I've been having a love affair with art lately, like...even more so than usual. So I'd like to spend some time among some art.
Also a fail. And this one I have no real excuse for. Some other time! 

Whew! Good year, I'd say. And I'm looking forward to 29. Here are 9 things I want to do this year:

1. Write thank you letters to 10 people who have influenced me for good.
I've always been a believer in giving compliments. There's this quote that kind of drives my philosophy on this: Don't say "I love you" unless you mean it, but if you mean it, you should say it. And I've been really aware of the good people in my life lately, so they deserve to know it.

2. Complete all of the required Value Experiences for each of the Young Women Values in the Personal Progress program.
A few weeks ago, I was thinking, "I wish there was some sort of spiritual program for personal development in the Church, that's really specific." And then I realized that there is one! I completed Personal Progress over 10 years ago, but the program has changed since then and I'm excited to give it a go, and see what new things I can learn and experience.

3. Get $3000 into savings.
This is about 2 months worth of living expenses. One thing I'm learning as we plunge into the world of professional acting is that while the money can be decent, it's not often consistent. Having some money in savings to help through the lean times is a good idea no matter what, but ESPECIALLY if you're acting for a living.

4. Some sort of work out goal. 
Okay, I know I'm being vague, which is lame sauce. I just don't know exactly what kind of work out goal I want to pursue yet. I'll update you as soon as I decide.

5. Do 3 PBS Art Assignments.
The Art Assignment is a weekly youtube show through PBS, hosted by Sarah Green. It highlights different contemporary artists and their work, and then they give you an "assignment" to participate in art inspired by their own work. You can post responses on youtube, or just enjoy the experience.

6. Finish editing my YA novel and submit it for publication
Uuuugggghhhhh I don't want to. I want to work on my NEXT story. But I'm almost done editing the YA novel I wrote for NaNoWriMo, and then I want to send it out into the world. Ideally, I want to have a final draft before this November, so I can do NaNoWriMo again without having TWO stories running around my head.

7. Poem a day for a month
I'm a big believer that regular practice will improve your skills in something more than anything else. I haven't been writing a whole lot of poetry for the last couple of years, so I want to give this a shot. I know that some of the poems will not be great. But that's not the point. The point is to just do it!

8. Take a community class in something (fencing, aerial silks, painting, etc)
I live in a place with community classes available! So I want to take advantage of them!

9. Pose nude for an art class
This is something that's been on my bucket list for a long time. And I debated for a really long time about it. As a member of the LDS Church, I wasn't sure how "okay" this was. But after doing a lot of thinking and researching and reasoning, here's why I want to do it. I want to experience the vulnerability of it. I want to use it as an exercise in courage. But I also want to do it because art students need bodies, and I've got one. And here's why it's okay. Figure drawing classes are not about sexuality. And as much as the media begs to differ, the naked body is not purely sexual. I'm not posing for pornography. I trust the men and women in any figure drawing class to be focused on their art. And I believe it's important for artists to learn figure drawing from the nude body...it's an important skill in creating good art. (For a great perspective on the LDS Gospel and nudity in art, check out this blog entry from an LDS artist.)

Here's to a great 29th year!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Months before Thanksgiving

Hello everyone.

I'm 29! I'm going to do an update post about my 8 Goals While 28, and share my new goals for this coming year, but first I want to talk about gratitude. Because I've got a lot of it, lately.

I used to think gratitude was a choice. Like, that you would be happier if you consciously chose to be grateful for things. I still think that's true, but I'm also starting to believe that gratitude is something that can happen TO you. It's something that can fill you up, suddenly and unexpectedly. I feel like that's been happening to me a lot lately.

There is so much uncertainty in Jacob and I's lives right now. We live paycheck to paycheck, and every audition and query letter and submission and substitute teaching job is another leap off another cliff. But while I'm leaping, the view is beautiful. Here are just some of the bright and peaceful moments that have been shimmering in my heart lately:

The early morning sunlight on the mountains as I drive to school in the mornings, the clouds slowly burning away as everything grows brighter.

The cast of "Damn Yankees" singing "Happy birthday" to me at rehearsal, accompaniment at all, while I sat feeling so shy but so full, grinning from ear to ear.

Jacob sitting in the living room, playing the songs he writes, singing words that are so beautiful and so true.

Driving through Provo in the rain, listening to romantic music.

Sitting in a Wendy's in Orem, while ideas for a story pour into me, and writing them messily down in a notebook.

Watching a woman at an audition write the word "YES" in capital letters on the top of my audition sheet.

Standing around the piano at Melany's house at 11:30 at night, Marshall's hands flying over the keys, and Daniel and Taylor and I all taking turns singing.

Good talks with new friends while driving to and from rehearsal.

Getting up early one morning and eating cereal on the front porch in the cool morning air, watching the world wake up around me.

Maybe it's because I'm sort of forced into "living in the moment" nowadays, but I just feel more present in my life than I have in a while. I suspect these moments have always been here, and I've just been too busy "planning ahead" to notice them. And life still isn't perfect. It isn't easy. The bathroom roof leaks and public school students always misbehave for the substitute teacher and I had to buy off-brand cheese last week. But I've got all these good and beautiful moments that give me the strength to deal with the not-so-good moments. I'm so so so blessed, and it would simply be unreasonable to go on without acknowledging that fact.

So I'm starting off my 29th year of life by feeling grateful.

photo via

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Keep saying funny things, everyone. You're golden.

It's finished! I'm officially on Volume #5 of the Quotebook.

So in celebration, here are a few gems from the last pages. This batch is pretty Jacob-heavy, but I do hang out with him ALL THE TIME.

Liz: Man, I had weird dreams last night.
Jacob: So did I.
Liz: Did you have a make out dream about Jason Sudeikis, too?!

"Nothing glamorous can ever be by a Papa John's." -- Isha

(Brigham, Riley, and Marshall sing an amazing harmony in rehearsal) 
Marshall: Yes! That was awesome! I'm all...hot and bothered now!
Riley: Really?
Marshall: It doesn't take much, with musicals.

"Most of my childhood was spent in pursuit of feeling like I was flying." -- Jacob

"What the heck even are pugs?! They're nothing but booty and smooshed faces." -- Laura

"I HATE math! I'm better at POOPING than I am at math!" -- Jacob

"#1 reason to live in conservative cities. Awesome books are donated to the thrift store." -- Carrie

"No more hitchhikers! The last one had diabetes!" -- Anonymous, said during an improv scene

"I've spent the last few years trying to think of things other than Star Wars." -- Jacob

Liz: Brandilyn's an old soul, for sure.
Brandilyn: I'm the oldest soul. It really shines through in my butt jokes.

"So...I've been thinking. And...I can't come up with anything." -- Jacob, out of the blue