March 22, 2011

Interview - Charity Tillemann-Dick (Part I)

Charity Tillemann-Dick is an incredible human being. She is an accomplished singer, active member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and a survivor of a terminal illness. At one of the most critical periods in her health crisis, and in less than a year, her father and her grandfather, Congressman and Holocaust survivor Tom Lantos, passed away unexpectedly. Despite the many challenges she's faced, Charity is full of grace, life and sunshine ("Sunshine" is, in fact, her actual middle name). It's a blessing to know Charity and I'm very grateful to her for taking time out for this interview.

Charity recently presented for I'll leave it to her to give the context of her story:

Charity, you really have an amazing story, so inspiring. Oh, thank you I am surrounded by amazing people so I have to do my part! Being surrounded by inspiring people, and seeing what people do that is inspiring, is really important. We are shaped by our world and if we see mediocrity, or if we see pain, or crime, or unkindness, or abuse everyday, it becomes the norm. It is a choice to be inspired by those around us but if we make that choice and focus on the good in people we will find we are able to command more from ourselves.
From my experience working with single women, I think that message is really needed. Far too many women are stuck in a rut and don't feel inspired or don't see it as ok to possibly have a different path than the norm. You know, being a member of the church, there is a worthy focus on family but really I don't know why we let ourselves get so stressed out over it. We're going to be with our eternal companion for freaking ever, which is great, but if it takes you a while to find him thank your lucky stars that you will have some time to invest in you. I don't mean that in a self-centered way, but to be a fulfilled mother and a fulfilled wife you need to be a fulfilled you before you get married. And yes, it is tiresome when a year -- did i just admit that? -- goes by without being asked on a date, but when I was in middle school I learned a really important lesson -- focus on what you can do and be darn grateful for it. Being single isn't a burden. Though we love them and they are cute and sweet and wonderful and we all want them in our lives, men and children are burdens, but wonderful burdens. This is the time when we get to invest, so don't be sad that you have all of this figurative cash to throw around (cash=time). A lot of people would really enjoy having it.
A few more thoughts on dating. Don't faun and make friends. It's our biggest problem in the church: seven beautiful young women crowding around one young man. Let them do the work. It's just lower stress. But be nice when/if they do come knocking. One other thing is we think love is this flash that happens and suddenly you ascend into this world of lilac love paradise. Real love takes time. I usually don't know if I really love a boy until we have really become friends. In the mean time, do something worth loving and serve someone in need of love. It makes everyone a lot happier.
I love that, in this case focusing on what you can do is about using the years well to become more of who you are, to progress personally. Is that always how you approached being single and LDS? You know, Liz I never really think of myself as single and LDS. I just think of how I can live my faith best. I will admit -- especially in the DC congregation I frequent --- there are a LOT of young couples and sometimes, I kind of want to barf. They are all so adorable and perfect, but I have found once I befriend them the veneer comes off and you realize, we're all sisters. At some times, we're closer to this one or that one, but we're in this gig together and sometimes while things look picture perfect life is more revealing. Everyone has their cross infertility, inattentive husbands, restlessness, illness, death, excuse my language, but crap happens to everyone, everyone.
Some people seem to get a bigger helping but as one who, um, I think this is fair, seems to have been dealt a pretty big load, I have also been so richly blessed and sometimes the really bad stuff helps us to see how blessed we are. For example: night before last I had a performance at an Embassy in Washington. I changed afterward but didn't change shoes. The house where I'm staying has these serious, wooden stair cases with oak slabs, four inches thick. As I was descending to my room my heel caught on the stairs and I fell. Hard. I felt my tibia banging against stair after stair and I knew that not only were my legs going to be black and blue, they were going to be broken and I have like 6 performances in the next month. I finally land, my hosts give me ice, I say a prayer begging that my legs won't be injured or bruised (insane, I know) and go to bed. It's an even longer story, but you can read about it in my next week's blog post. So i wake up and guess what? They are not excessively black or blue at all and they are not broken or fractured and I realized I am so blessed not because I can walk -- yes, because I can walk, but not just that but because I know that there is someone watching out for me who is far more powerful than anyone on the White House Social Office's guest list and that, my friend, is awesome. Literally.

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