Part One: Homemaking Night
So Pinetree has this roommate. He's a nice guy, but he has some questionable taste. Like, for instance this poster that he puts up in their living room. It's all, "Marines: liberators, protectors, warriors." And it shows this marine all gussied up in his killing gear and it looks kinda like this, only nighttime:
And so naturally, Pinetree hates the poster, right? I mean, besides being flagrant propaganda, it's not like it's even a cool picture. Seriously it's lots lamer than the above picture. So anyway, Pinetree comes up with this ingenious plan. We're gonna steal the poster. Only we can't just take it down, because then it will be totally obvious that he did it, because who else cares what posters are up in somebody's house? So Pinetree decides to make up some girls and then we can frame them.
So I borrow some pink and yellow construction papers from Wiggle and write in my stupid-girl handwriting a message that's all, "If you ever want to see your poster again come to apartment 9 tomorrow at 7" or something. And then I cut it up in little puzzle pieces.
Then we decide to make some cookies to sweeten the deal, with a little note that's like, "There's more where this came from." But we also decide to make the cookies really nasty just because that's funny, right?
Well, a few days pass, and before we can get in there to do it we end up at Denny's at midnight with a buncha friends, including Vero Awesome. And she's all, "Time for frivolity, yo." So we're all, yeah, let's go make cookies. And somebody has the sweet idea to just buy some cookies at the store and then frost them with something nasty. So we choose toothpaste. The only problem with toothpaste is it might not be nasty enough, and there's a little note on the box that goes, "If more than the normal amount used for brushing is swallowed, contact a physician or a poison control center immediately." So we're worried they'll be all, "Mmmm, minty cookies" and eat 'em all and totally croak, as opposed to them being all, "Blech! Aquafresh cookies! Angry!" and then we all laugh. So we go to the store, and we open one container to see if it's nasty enough, but it's blue stripes, so before we even try it, we decide to close it back up and put it back on the shelf. But it's not staying closed, see, so we go to the tape aisle and get some tape and tape it shut and put it back. And the tape. We put them both back.
And then we decide on the Pepsodent and it's white, and it's me and Vero and Wiggle and Pinetree, and Wiggle says we need sprinkles to heighten the effect, and she's right of course. S owe get those too, and Vero wants to also give cookies to these two dudes we work with named Ryan and Greg who are roommates, so we get more cookies and we get cards for them. And we sit around in the parking lot, frosting the cookies with ghetto plastic knives I horked from the deli part of the store, even though it was closed and all these break-taking employees were sitting over there looking at me like, "What the? Did that Arabian dude just walk in here and steal plastic knives?" And yes, yes I did.
So we frost the cookies, and the womenfolk sign the cards (which are perfect to begin with because they talk about "more love where these come from" or some crap), and Vero gives us two wonderfully horrible long dyed-red hairs to frost into the cookies (one for each plate). Then we are still a bit worried about, like, what if the guy eats the cookies and is all, "mmm, like thin mints, delish!" and eats them all and dies. After all, the box the paste came in has that little warning on the bottom for a reason, I point out. So Wiggle suggests we just cut that thing out and tape it on the bottom of the plate of cookies. Good thinking, Wiggle! So we do, thus assuaging our guilt in a very legally permissible way.
And we go to Greg and Ryan's first, and Racherella tells us where they keep their key, and I go, but I can't find the key, so I doorbell ditch it and go running out of there like a rabbit from a dog show. But on the way out Vero notices that we got the wrong apartment, so I go back, and fortunately the plate and the card are still sitting there, and we take it to the right apartment and I go in and leave it on their counter and this time sneak out like a mouse at a, um, nother dog show.
And then we go to Pinetree's, and Vero Awesome takes the cookies and the feminine puzzle and comes back out with the poster (remember that's why we did all this in the first place?) and we give it to Dice and we go home and go to bed. It was frickin' awesome, and it reminded me that I can have mischievous fun without getting the police involved.
Part Two: Connections
I have been to see Dr. Robinson four times now. He's incredible. He talks to me for forty-five minutes, asking questions and taking these big long pauses as he considers what to say next. When I speak, he writes everything down, scribble scribble scribble, on his clipboard. He goes through several sheets of paper each time, because I can be quite loquacious. I told him next time I'm bringing a clipboard and writing down everything he says, and then pausing for a few minutes and sighing before responding every time, and see how HE likes it. I don't know if he even understood what I was talking about on that one. After the forty-five minutes he starts telling ME things, and the pieces click together, and I feel like I have been tricked into learning so much.
Anyway, the first time we were together, he taught me something cool that I had thought I already knew about myself and the way brains work.
He gave me an example. He said we take the word "cat." And we take the spelling of the word. He drew this all out for me on paper. He said we can take a baby and teach it that the word means the spelling, and it will learn it. You say the word, the baby will pick out the spelling. He said that we can then take the cat itself and teach the baby that the word means the cat. Then he said that we can also teach these things to animals. A dolphin or a dog or a bird can learn to pick the right one from among misleading choices. You say "cat" and the monkey will point to the cat.
The difference, he said, is that the baby will also automatically learn that the spelling means the word, as well. He will learn it both ways. He will also learn that the cat means the word. And then he will learn that the spelling means the actual cat and vice versa. Humans make six automatic connections where the animals will learn only two. It's what sets us apart as humans, he said. Our ability to make connections. Our minds become a web of connections and it's how we learn and deal with the world.
The cool thing is that I am well aware that my mind forms these connections. I assign everything a color, I spell it out in my head. I alphabetize all items in groups. Like you say "colors," and I start to think "amethyst, apricot, azure, black, blue, brown, burgundy, burnt orange, etc...." And that's just now off the top of my head. The Human mind is amazing. Given a minute or two, we can eventually find a specific link, no matter how feeble between any two given things. For instance, if you had to say how turnips are the opposite of marbles, you could. Or you could find a way in which carpets are the parent of Puff Daddy.
Anyway, the good Dr. R. next drew the word "Rob." That's my dad's name, as well as a variant of my own, since we technically have the same name. So then he wrote "Dad" and draws an arrow between the two. Then he wrote "me" and drew an arrow from "Rob" to "me." Are you picturing this? then he draws all the other arrows, back from "me" to "Rob" and from "Dad to "Rob" and between "me and "Dad" both ways. No wonder I balk at anyone's calling me "Rob," he says. I immediately connect myself to my dad, and his failures. He next wrote "disaster" and drew the arrow from "Dad" to that. And then all kinds of other scary things my dad has done. And all of it connected to me and my dad through arrows.
I'd always known my brain does that, you see. I just had only been paying attention to the aspect of the connection building that helps me to win board games. I wasn't aware that it was also leading to problems in my life.
So the goal is not to break down those connections, but rather to loosen them, and to build up stronger connections that will supersede those other ones.
This last time we talked about prayer, among other things. Dr. Robinson said he has some patients whom he can't cajole into praying, and that he thinks that's a major factor for success. And on the way home (I always walk home so I can process what I've learned), a thought struck me. On my mission I worked very hard to actually "pray always," as Second Nephi suggests. I spent a lot of time studying and pondering how to actually do that. And I learned some helpful methods. One has simply to direct his thoughts, whatever they be about, to God, keeping Him in the forefront of the mind at all times. One can in this way be sure that his actions are in step, as well. It's the idea behind the CTR ring. Every time you see it there on your finger, you remember the good that you need to be doing. On my mission I met a man named Elías, who was trying to quit smoking. This is not a happy mission story where we helped him to quit smoking and he got baptized and is now first counselor in the branch presidency. It's just a time that I learned an important lesson. One day Elías had a piece of string tied around his finger. He said it was to help him remember to not smoke. When asked about the efficacy of the string, he replied that it didn't work because it kept coming off, and he'd forget. So I gave him my CTR ring. I told him that every time he saw it or felt it or noticed it, he was to pray for the strength he'd need to quit smoking. And I promised him that every time I noticed that the ring was gone or my finger felt naked, I'd pray for him as well. And it worked, as far as reminding me went. I didn't need the ring to remember to choose the right. The absence of the ring could serve the exact same function.
So on this walk home from my weekly session with the therapist, I came to realize that praying always was simply a matter of making everything remind me to choose the right. I had to make ALL the connections connect back to God. I looked around me at the mountains and the sun and the long straight stretch of University Avenue and saw gospel symbolism and turned my thoughts to God. But it's easy with roads and mountains. I needed to connect EVERYTHING. Turnips and carpet and cats and Puff Daddy and my own daddy all need to make me think of God and the things with which he has blessed me and the things he requires of me.
And when I do spiritual things, like going to church or the temple or reading my scriptures, I need to relate them back to the rest of my life, so that those connections already exist when I go out into the world. I realized that's why Nephi also tells us to liken the scriptures to ourselves. It's why Christ taught his parables using images from the people's daily lives. Not just because those are the things they could understand, but also because those are the images the people would be seeing every day after Christ was no longer in their presence.
At one point this last week, Dr. Robinson just leaned back, sighed contemplatively, and said, "You're very weird." That has to make you feel great, right? When a guy whose job it is to deal with crazy people tells you you're very weird? Anyway, the week before he'd been telling me I needed to cut out everything gay in my life, because it could become a trigger. But this last time he said he wasn't so sure any more. I could tell he was struggling to reconcile this with his hard fast rules he'd (until then) entertained. At any rate, we both left there wondering what to do, but by the time I got home I knew. I need to consecrate myself a little more. I need to keep saying my prayers throughout the day, every time I need something or am thankful for something or thinking of someone. I need to connect my life and my surroundings to my God, so that all things point more directly toward him, because I owe him, and I love him.