Recent Happenings

Listening to the Holy Ghost is definitely the best advice I could give anyone.  Even if what is asked of you seems completely stupid, it’s totally worth following through on.  A couple of weeks ago I was really, really struggling through life.  I felt that the whole world was falling down.  All elements were against me and sought to destroy my very existence.  Or in a less dramatic sense, my class of sixth graders hated me and I didn’t know how to handle it.  Or so I thought.

As stated in my first post, I really struggle with having integrity of body, mind, and spirit.  The key to increasing one’s integrity is to increase one’s intuition.  Essentially it requires one to contemplate and meditate quite a bit.  The great thing about being single and living alone is that I have a lot of time to do this.  My mind sometimes is my greatest friend.  We have great daily conversations.  In one of my daily conversations that probably started along the lines of, “Why did I take on this job?  I still get paid almost next to nothing.  The kids all hate me.  I have no idea what I am doing.  I don’t have the energy for this.  So and so is absolutely terrible and I am doing everything I can.  If only he/she would just get their act together.  I extremely dislike Mr. so and so (their previous teacher).  He didn’t teach them anything and they hate me because I actually make them work.  It’s his fault that this transition is so difficult.  Why am I doing this?”  I stopped and realized that I was thinking about this all wrong.  Now it may have taken a wiser person a shorter period of time to realize the problem with my thinking, but for the ‘still learning’ like me it took about two and a half weeks.  I realized that morning (which I believe was this Monday), I had been blaming my situation, the students and previous faculty for my increased anxiety, stress and binge eating.  In reality it wasn’t anything or anyone causing this.  It was me and my fears.  I wanted so badly to be a good 6th grade teacher.  There were high expectations placed on me when I agreed to step-in and take over the position until the end of the year.  I wanted to impress, no, to meet the high expectations I felt were placed on me, but in addition I had even higher expectations for myself.  I wanted to be seen as a competent teacher.  I could manage/whip into shape a group of rowdy teenagers.  I could teach them everything they needed to learn.  The students would increase in their performance and I would be deemed the best first year teacher ever.  So when the students were misbehaving on a daily basis, and even the smart kids were failing on their math exit tickets, I felt like I was failing in every way.  But it wasn’t the kids that made me feel this way, it was me.  I was the cause and the solution to my problems.  The blaming of others could not help to ease the situation because they weren’t the source of the problem.  I realized that in order to become successful, I needed to leave the blaming by the wayside and instead embrace my inner soul.  I needed to change my approach and let go of the high unachievable expectations.

“I must stop this *whole* thing! Why, for fifty-three years I’ve put up with it now. I must stop Christmas from coming… but how? ”  –The Grinch

“But how?”  Well this is where the spirit of God is pretty much the greatest gift we’ve been given from God (well other than eternal life and families [though there are days when eternity sounds absolutely exhausting and more like a curse than a blessing!]).  In response to my dilemmas I was first told by the spirit to clean, clean, clean.  I have spent the entirety of the past two Saturdays and Sundays cleaning my apartment (it really was that messy).  I went to Trader Joe’s and got myself some flowers and loaded up on produce at Aldi’s, I got some cute new dishes, and silverware, and gave my kitchen altogether a facelift.  There is no way to express how I felt afterwards.  It was like a HUGE boulder had been removed from my path.   It had been there impending my progress, and then like that, it was gone.  It felt so great that I never wanted to let the apartment get even remotely messy again.  For the entirety of this week I’ve been an anal clean freak.  I never knew I had it in me!  I make my bed every morning right after I wake up, clean up my dishes almost immediately after I use them, and everything is put away in its place by the end of the night (as I’m writing this I have last night’s and today’s dishes sitting out on my table! ha! Still a work in progress).  It still is astonishing as to how much of a difference a clean house can have on one’s psyche.  Even though all of the problems were still very much a problem, I had at least one thing in control.  One thing was right.  My problems could begin and end at school.  I now had created a sanctuary for myself, a place free of stressors.

I believe that it was my clean home that allowed me to be ready to receive the realization that I did; “I was the cause and the solution to my problems.”  I had a clean house now which helped to ease the stressors from home, but nothing had changed at school.  I stumbled upon one part of the solution purely on accident.  As I mentioned, my sister-in-law and I have been training for a marathon that is to take place at the end of April.  A little over a month ago I really hurt my achilles.  I’ve been surviving my runs by taking ridiculous amounts of ibuprofen and tylenol.  This last Saturday I had a running evaluation with a physical therapist.  After analyzing my running I was informed that I needed to stop.  I could run 2 miles every other day, and if I wanted to try for the marathon still I would have to make up the miles by cross training on a bike.  Consequently I decided to go to one of the early morning cycling classes this week before school as taking a class before and after school would be the only way I could successfully make up for the lost running. The time change was absolutely killer.  I wasn’t able to get up to go Monday (it also, consequently, was the worst day at school); however, Tuesday was a success.  Even with a morning headache I made it out to West St. Paul’s YMCA.  Not only was I filled with all those great endorphins, but I also was greatly entertained by the two old men who occupied the cycles next to me who frequently made jokes or complemented me.  Got to love old men!  The cycling really helped me to break up my morning so I wasn’t waking up and going directly to work, and it just did absolute wonders to my overall demeanor and my interactions with the students.  I was much more patient, I gave less obtrusive verbal corrections and opted for more effective silent corrections/proximity.  I smiled more, and the students, the students were angelic!  Yes, I still had to kick out a few students, I am sure.  But, it wasn’t as negative in the classroom.  Now, this also may have been due to the fact that parent-teacher conferences were also that night, but I like to think that it was me.  ha!

So what did I learn about integrity?  To have greater integrity you need to be in tune with your intuition and the Holy Ghost.  A clean home (for me) helps me greatly to set my mind and body into a state that I can be more intuitive.  Intuition helps me to strengthen the connection between me and my body, and as that strengthens the greater integrity I will be able to maintain.

I could go on, and on, and on about the lessons of integrity I learned this week–pride and how it keeps one from being true to their original intent–fear and how it increases my need to be judgmental and potentially destroy healthy relationships–etc.

All in all I am just so grateful for the journey I am on and for the people and experiences that are being thrown my way that are challenging me, but also are the helping hands that bolster me up continually.

God is good.

P.S. Had a thought last week that would not leave me alone, “ONLINE DATE!” Ummm gross.  Against all morales (which is funny since I’m working on Integrity and this was definitely against my personal beliefs on relationships), I signed up on an LDS singles website.  Sunday afternoon Michelle enjoyed online dating for me as I graded papers.  She happened to stumble on this guy that we couldn’t tell was cute or not.  You know–when they post pictures that are just kind of hard to see because they’re not clear or their from far away (or they’re not even them which we ran into once haha).  Even though his looks were questionable he mentioned liking a lot of books I love and some of the sports I love as well.  What the heck!  What did I have to lose?  Friends would be great!  Or if not that, then at least I’d have someone to talk to for a night who could geek out on Brandon Sanderson books with me.  Yeah, well was I surprised when this boy turned out to be some super star.  We talk everyday now and play games online, watch movies together, etc.  all while he lives in Nevada and I live here.  It’s one of the strangest things I’ve ever done, and honestly there is no telling what will happen, but I just think it’s crazy how so much change that is good can happen so immediately.  I’m really learning a lot about how God works.  The closer we get to him the greater the blessings we receive because we are open for them, we notice them, and we express gratitude for them.  This all adds up to increased amounts of joy which opens our mind even more, and increases our gratitude, and joy.  It’s like this great upward cycling chain.  I look back to where I was just over a year ago, and even to where I was just a month ago or even a few weeks ago.  It is almost like all of that has gone away.  I’ve been blessed greatly.

 

 

 

Confession

I. Am. Stressed. And I definitely am the worst at maintaining my integrity. Can I just say, “will power ain’t my thang.” I am probably also one of the most inconsistent people ever. Lemme just introduce you to my week and you will know what I mean. I’m pretty eccentric so I don’t know if anyone will relate to my “crazy” thoughts, but maybe? Okay, here goes.

This week I started teaching sixth grade. I went into it feeling like SUPER WOMAN! I am not sure why I thought I could ever take something like this on again when it went so incredibly awful last year. The honest truth is that I was feeling pretty solid in my life. I have a couple of friends here in Minnesota who I see frequently and in whom laughter is never scarce to be shared. I was also doing as well as could be expected toward my training for my marathon. If at any time in my life this last year I was more prepared for teaching, it would be now. The other truth is, the co-teacher I work with does all of the preparation work. All I have to do is pretty much show up and try and teach the material she has prepared for me. Easy right?

Let’s go back to Saturday. Or better yet Friday. Friday was the last day of the current 6th grade teacher I was about to replace. It was also probably one of the better days I have had this year thus far. I spent the school day in the back of the classroom cutting this or that and laminating like a boss (I love laminators). I felt nervous, but I was pretty confident that if I had a great system that instilled a lot of structure into the classroom (which previously there had not been any…at all. We’re talking about kids running around the classroom, throwing balls around, and playing games about every 20 minutes or so for about 20 minutes) everything would be, as the saying goes, “smooth sailing.” That afternoon I got to go on probably the easiest 8 mile run I’ve experienced as running with Sara (that’s not really her name) is nothing but laughter, and smiles. I left the school day and the run feeling higher than high. I remember exclaiming to myself how amazing and lucky I was in my life. God truly was blessing my life with so much good. Maybe he was trying to tell me to go into elementary education after all? After the run I went straight to the school and set up the class with the help of my wonderful parents. We got all of the students’ previous work organized and set up their tables, and table jobs (my room is scuba diving themed–“Dive in to Learn”–and every table has an assigned fish I saw down in Curacao [Squirrel Fish, Drum Fish, Blue Parrot Fish, Honey-Combed Cow Fish, and Striped Butterfly Fish] and their jobs are titled shop keeper [aka cleaner], Deck Hand [aka gatherer] and Dive Master [aka table boss who does nothing but have a sweet name and bask in doing nothing]. By the end of the night I seriously felt like I was on the top of the world–though admittedly the stress was already kicking in. I tried desperately to tell myself that I was A-O-K. FALSE. Never, ever try to convince your body it’s wrong. It fights back–and doesn’t play fair.

Saturday I woke up with a craving. A craving for a very specific brand of gluten-free cookie dough ice cream for breakfast. Saturday, I knew before waking, was going to be one big, and daunting day. I had the task of cleaning the classroom (which was still a complete disaster even after 3.5 hrs of tackling it with my parents). I also had a list of things to do around the house a mile high AND I had the ever daunting task of running farther than I ever had in all my life–14 miles. Before I began to tackle the beast of “To-Dos” I wanted/had to have that gluten-free cookie dough ice cream. To be straight, it wasn’t like getting this ice cream was some easy, quick, mindless task. It’s not like the idea just popped into my head and I mindlessly ran to the grocery store 5 minutes down the road, bought the thing, and then stuffed my face with it. No. The only grocery store that carried this particular brand and flavor I craved in fact was over 15 minutes away and completely out of the way. I laid in bed for over an hour trying to come up with a list of justifications as to why I should get this ice cream or why I deserved it and why a 30 minute detour to procure it was 100% reasonable: “You’re about to start teaching. This is your last weekend of freedom. Live a little!” “You worked hard last night and you’re going to run 14 miles tonight anyways. You’ll work off that pint in no time.” “It’s therapeutic. So, it’s okay.” “I don’t need to worry about what goes into my body–ice cream for breakfast is totally FINE and on occasion…healthy. Yeah, healthy.” I’m not kidding when I say I did this for over an hour. Well not quite the whole hour as with all good self-justification sessions you need good rebuttals in order to push you to coming up with the winning justification that will get you to the prize you want (I’m a master at self manipulation when I really want something). My rebuttals were the intentions I had set the few days previous: Listen to and respond to your body’s natural cues for thirst. Differentiate between hunger cues, and cues for thirst. Eat until satisfied. Essentially I was trying really hard to do what the month of March was supposed to be all about: integrity to the body. Listening to, and treating well the temple God gave me. Ice cream for breakfast definitely did not fit this bill–in case your wondering–the winning justification was….drum roll….”While you should ‘most’ of the time listen to your body and feed it the way it wants to be fed, sometimes it’s okay to just feed your spirit and not worry too much about it all.” (I totally live by this, by the way, in everything–queen at exceptions and living loosely).

After eating my pint (which in all actuality was not an enjoyable experience as I had to eat it with a fork and the only part I really wanted was the cookie dough which there were only 7 pieces the size of my pinky tip in the whole darn thing), and cleaning the classroom with some fellow teachers, I ventured on completing my 14 miles. Again I was confronted with the irony: I was trying to study integrity of the body and yet I was about to venture at running 14 miles with tendinitis in my ankle and deep aches over the entire body. My only hope at getting through this run was to dope up on Tylenol Extra Strength and Ibuprofen. In addition I had my sister come with me on my bike with music for a backup. I made sure to have many distractions so that I could do anything and everything BUT listen to my body which screamed the entire way.

IMG_2399
Lake of the Isles: Mile 5/6

By the end of my run (turned out I ran 15 miles…ooops. Yup. That’s what I was doing on my phone all of church–mapping my run) my legs couldn’t move, I had pain in every bone in my legs. They felt hollow. The bottoms of my feet bellowed in agony. Everything wanted attention all at once, and all I wanted to do was stuff my face. Which I did–very well I might say. Thank You Chino Latino. While I was totally okay by this point to eat whatever it was my body wanted as I had just run more than I would’ve liked, I also felt very in-tune with my body. I ate what it needed and it felt great.

It wasn’t until Sunday really that I realized that this stress thing could maybe really by well, REAL. Let’s just say I had two dinners almost one right after the other and then over a half dozen double chocolate cookies which I don’t even really like.

Then Monday hit and honestly I don’t even know what happened. I felt pretty okay in the morning and jokingly took some pictures of myself freaking out because why not? I really felt like I could do this. I was Confident with a capital C.

That was until the kids all started hating me because I wasn’t their old teacher, and none of the kids were getting their Math, and I couldn’t get everything in that I was scheduled to teach even though I felt like I was speeding through just about everything. AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!

CANDY, A WHOLE PAN OF RICE KRISPIES, AN ENTIRE BAG OF TORTILLA CHIPS, MORE CANDY, AND I DON’T EVEN KNOW WHAT ELSE! I find that the irony is chilling. I was trying to learn to listen to my body better–made it a goal as I truly wanted to be “at one” with my body, to be whole body, mind, spirit–and yet the first thing to go is my connection with my body as the inner stress I had ignored or maybe didn’t fully recognize began to take over. Tonight ended in tears and me subsequently writing this post as for the first time this week I actually felt like writing. I’m all about only doing that which I feel like. For instance, I was “supposed” to run 7 miles for my training tonight. I didn’t feel like it–so I didn’t go. A.k.A I felt like eating rice krispies, chicken, tortilla salad, and a whole half of a watermelon more than going running. 😉

The whole “integrity and the body” hasn’t been on my mind alone. I’ve also thought a lot about just being true to myself. Amidst all the teaching and new responsibilities, I have often wondered about how true of a representation I am putting across to others. Because of the need to be strict and maintain structure in the classroom this week I’ve found it hard to connect with the students. My smiles often are fake. When a student even mentions the name of their previous teacher I respond automatically with anger, and I have zero patience for the students who could probably use more of my love than wrath. I’ve sent one of my students out of the room everyday this week. It’s gotten to the point where even I am questioning if I am picking on him, just because I can. The question is brought up: can you always be true to yourself in all situations and still be successful? Can I truly teach these kids structure, organization, and implement a completely new way of doing education without being strict. In the teaching world there is the saying, “start of strict and tight. You can always loosen up and have fun later.” One of my own teachers told us essentially that it is better to be feared than to be loved at first. The love and fun are secondary. I can see the reasoning behind these statements and admittedly am practicing these very principles, yet my true me is fighting the whole idea and every time I talk about how bad the kids in the class are, or I yell at one of the kids, or I go from one subject to another with very few breaks and very little true engagement, a piece of me questions, “Is this right?” The answer is always, “No. But this is what I must do.” I’m glad I’m not God. I don’t think I could do what he does.  “I WANT ALWAYSIMG_2318 TO BE A BOY AND TO HAVE FUN”–Peter Pan.

I think I’ve run out of juice.

Being true to one’s self and being complete/whole in spirit, mind, and body is so difficult. There are so many temptations out there to keep us from reaching high, and succeeding by OUR standards. Finding and then becoming our true, higher selves, our soul, free from ego and carnal desires is so difficult but I believe it is not out of reach. It lies most definitely in the realm of possibility. Perhaps reaching out to God a bit more–or like what we talked about as a Relief Society at church last Sunday–if I listen and act on the answers he has already given me, maybe some of the barriers keeping me from having greater integrity to self will dissipate, or decrease in size. AKA I need to clean up all of my dishes in my kitchen, clean my bathroom, and organize my life in such a way that my home life is stable and without questions while my work life remains to be hectic. Friday Date Night With Self, here I come. Peace. Love. and Happiness.

Brevity really is not my forte. I apologize.

It All Begins and Ends in Your Mind

“It all begins

and ends in

your mind. What

you give power

to, has power

over you, if

you allow it.”

 

The Inspiration:

As a temporary solution to my current life dilemma (WHAT AM I DOING WITH MY LIFE???!!) I’ve been substitute teaching for schools in the St. Paul metro area. A few weeks ago I found myself in a kindergarten classroom doing flash cards with the kids.

Cue Teacher: Generosity, friendship, kindness, fairness.

Cue Students: Justice!

Cue Teacher: Virtue

Cue Students: A good habit. The way we act time and time again.

I continued flipping the cards giving or receiving the definitions for Temperance, Fortitude, Wisdom and Prudence. While it may seem silly, I was very taken aback by these children and what they were learning. Yes, it’s crazy for adults to truly think kids will understand these words. What really surprised me, however, was throughout the remainder of that day and the few days following I found myself probing my very innards for traces of these very same values these kindergarteners were learning about. I found my life was severely lacking the guidance of values such as these.

I let the idea sit and stored it deep into the subconscious intending to one day explore the idea again–but to be quite honest I wasn’t really in a place where I could confront myself and begin the process of change. “I need some more time” I thought, as we usually think when faced with something unpleasant. But, also like usual, God has got a different plan and it wasn’t but a short while later at a church activity held for the 12-18 year old young women that I was again reminded of what I needed to do. The greatest thing about all this is that I wasn’t even supposed to go, I invited myself so that I could knit but also say I was spending quality time with my mother.  Funny how things work out sometimes.  The activity night was called, “Value Night.” During the meeting the girls, their mothers and their leaders talked about and shared experiences they had while completing their value projects. These are 10hr projects accompanied by other activities (kind of like a marit badges for Boy Scouts) that help the young women develop values such as Faith, Divine Nature, Individual Worth, Knowledge, Choice & Accountability, Good Works, Integrity, and Virtue.

Again, I found myself probing and again came to the same realization. I needed to do something. Originally, like I tend to do, I came up with grandiose plans on how I wanted to accomplish this.  Fairly quickly things got out of hand.  My mom likes to tell me I just like to dream big–but when things got so complex and complicated (kind of like this post ;)) that the very thought of beginning was absolutely paralyzingly, a new approach needed to be taken.  Simplicity, just like brevity, are my greatest assets.

  
The Project: To utilize brevity–it wasn’t too difficult for me to pick out the value that seemed to be the apple that rotted the barrel, the gluten that spoiled the cookie, the weak root that caused a timber, or more plainly the one massive cloud that ruins a perfectly sunny day at the beach.  Can you guess the value?  Ding ding ding!  Integrity.  Betcha didn’t see that coming.  And yet–how many of us really struggle with maintaining integrity?  The state of being whole and undivided, honest and true to the upholding of strong moral principles. If you are trying to convince yourself you do not fall into this category–stop fighting the battle and give in.  Let me give you my definition first before you write it off: To me integrity is staying true to the person you are and the truths that you know at all times, in all things and with all people (if you’re Mormon I bet you thought I’d say places there didn’t ya?! Non-Mormons excuse for making a dumb inside joke…sorry to Mormons too).

As stated in the opening quote, which all credit naturally goes to the spiritual guru anonymous, we get to choose to whom or in what we give our power. When we give up our power we allow other ideas, things, and people to dictate how we  react, live, speak, etc. (This is how most of us choose to live on many occasions–touch on that in a future post).  On the flip side we can give ourselves back the power and live lives full of hope, potential, peace, confidence, wisdom, grace, all those things through strengthening our ability to live with integrity.  As a Yogi would maybe put it (that’s a big maybe): Integrity is a fight against our ego, our worst, self-serving self.  

The next few posts will be digging deeper into this idea.  I’m hoping to find scriptures and secular studies to help better understand the barriers as well as the natural motivators than can help at least myself to live with greater integrity. While these posts aren’t really intended for an audience (though accordingly it is I suppose as this is a blog and not my long forgotten hard-copy journal) I’m not really interested in seeing my own already formed ideas on paper. I am much more interested in studying and allowing my ideas to form and grow. Subsequently I liked to see how I in this process am growing and changing as a person as far as my actions, reactions, thoughts, feelings and overall demeanor.  It all starts in the mind.

As an awkward ending remark: I’m all about learning–So for heavens sake–don’t keep your thoughts in! Comment below and let’s start some conversations going. If you have articles, scriptures, quotes, anything really that you think are enlightening–SHARE! Next week’s topic will be “Integrity and the Body.” This will be the topic for the entire month of March. In anticipation for April, the topic will be “Integrity in Confrontation.” Or should we flip them? Let me know what you think. Mwauh💋

  

The Person Behind the Mind

  

The Long-Winded Introduction:
This year I got this crazy idea–“START A BLOG!” My mind would not give it a rest. “But,” I’d try to reason, “I have nothing to write!” So is the common dilemma of most writers. To be honest, “I have nothing to write!” is a subpar cop out. It isn’t that I don’t have material, I have too much! My mind is this endless chasm of thoughts that connect and intertwine with one another. My emotions run deep and latch onto these ideas which are then subsequently encompassed in ill-used logic. I have loads to write! It just may be nothing others would ever care to even indulge. If I have learned anything in my last 24 years of life it is this: I have two very prominent strengths. Persistence, and Brevity (brevity is obvs a joke). The mind won in the end.
The Invitation:

If you’re in for the joy ride of your life, this blog probably isn’t for you. On the other hand, if you’re up to looking at life through a different lens on occasion, I may have something to offer. My name is Ashley Burdge. I am a woman, a teacher (by default), an eating disorder boxing champion, and a pretty dang proud Minnesotan Mormon who happens to have a borderline personality disorder. Woot. Bottom Line: Life is rough. But there are endless lessons to be learned and many perspectives to be had. There is such a thing as hope.
Caution: Now entering my mind. You’re Welcome.