It is a calling. My Temple photography is a calling given to me by God. Why else do I spend a ton of time every mission transfer preparing photo prints and writing personalized letters on the backs of them for my missionary friends? Why else am I willing to be late to church over not getting my Temple photos posted on social media? Why else have I printed off thousands of photos and spent hundreds of dollars in printing costs only to never make a dime from any of my Temple photos (so far at least)?
Updating my social media after shooting the Phoenix Arizona Temple – July 28, 2017
Photo by Alan Fullmer
My Temple photography and me being at the Mesa Temple grounds are my true callings. When people ask me if I served a mission, I used to say no because I joined the Church after the age of serving a full-time mission. Now I say that I am on one. My mission is right here (the Mesa Temple grounds). I have touched the lives of way too many people to count. My friends Alan and Rory got a glimpse of what I can do and how I can touch the lives of even random strangers when we were at Temple Square in Salt Lake City a month ago.
Salt Lake Temple – June 21, 2017
There are no coincidences. This all began one day in March of 2014 when I felt the impression to take some photos of the Mesa Temple and have them printed out for one of the missionaries (Sister Hamstead). Then I did it for another missionary. Then I did it for three more. This month marks three years that every single missionary from the Mesa Temple Visitors’ Center has gone home with at least one Mesa Temple photo from me.
Mesa Arizona Temple – March 22, 2014
The way their eyes light up when they see my photos. The way they tell me later on how much the photos mean to them. This evening I had just said goodbye to Sister Mecham. Over a year ago I gave her a 4×6 photo of the Mesa Temple. Since then she had that photo taped to the back of her iPad. The tape is a bit worn, but it’s still hanging in there. For over a year this representative of Jesus Christ carried my photo with her every single place she went.
Mesa Arizona Temple – March 11, 2016
That’s when you know the work is real.
Thank you for following my Temple photography journey!
Today I am grateful that I am vulnerable. Even though many people would rather not be vulnerable and see it as a sign of weakness, I am. I see it as a sign of strength. I see it as a sign of power. I see it as a sign that I will not let my mistakes, weaknesses, and insecurities hold me back.
I do it for me. I do it for you. I do it for me because being vulnerable makes me strong. It allows me to move on from my past. It takes that power away from others so I become too powerful for them to use my past against me to hurt me. I can choose to forgive myself and move on. I do it for you because I want to be an example to you and others in my life. I want you to see that it can be done. I want you to see that by being vulnerable you can have deep, meaningful relationships. I want you to have that deep, emotional connection with others. We crave connection. We are social beings. We need to feel loved by others.
By being vulnerable I can tell my story. By telling my story I can process the things that have happened in my life. When traumatic things happen our mind “heals” itself by erasing the memories, but that just makes things worse and more hurtful. When I tell my story I can take those traumatic things, make them real, and allow my mind to process those thoughts and be okay with them. When I tell my story I can help you understand that you are not the only one going through this. By telling my story you realize you have someone in me to talk to about what you’re going through. By telling my story I help to strengthen our relationships. By telling my story I become a better person. For that I am grateful.
I have been blessed in more ways than I could ever count. I have been given many gifts. Although many of them can be used to help me, they are by far primary there to help others and bless their lives. So many times I have heard people tell me, “Jimmy, I needed to hear that!” It’s crazy how I can have the answers to the problems of so many people, including people I am just meeting for the first time. In the moment it can be such a rush. Honestly, I would not trade these gifts for anything. However, at times, they can be overwhelming.
2007 – Me at the top of Squaw Peak at sunset
There are some downsides to my gifts. Oftentimes I give up a lot of things I want to do for myself because I know someone else needs me. Sometimes I don’t even know who needs me or for what reason. I just know I need to be there; it always works out in the end. However, sometimes my gifts can become overwhelming. Sometimes I even start worrying about people that mistreat me or stop replying to me. Most people would just say to forget them and move on, but that’s very hard for me to do.
Discovering That I’m an Empath
Although I have known about my special talents for at least two years, I just found out there’s a name for my gift. I am an empath. The site themindunleashed.org explains what an empath is:
Being an empath is when you are affected by other people’s energies, and have an innate ability to intuitively feel and perceive others. Your life is unconsciously influenced by others’ desires, wishes, thoughts, and moods. Being an empath is much more than being highly sensitive and it’s not just limited to emotions.
October 10, 2015 – View from the steps of the Mesa Arizona Temple just after Sunset
Sometimes I can feel others. Really. Even while watching movies or when someone’s telling me a dramatic story about his / her life, I can feel the emotions of the characters or of the person telling me the story. Tonight I watched a movie called The Road Within. It’s about three young adults living in a residential psychological treatment facility. The majority of the movie centers around these people stealing the therapist’s car and going on a roadtrip. At the end of the movie, the main character Vincent leaves his girlfriend Marie behind because she needs a lot of medical care, and her neglecting her medical needs (anorexia) is killing her. Furthermore, I presume it’s weighing him down to the point that he has to let her go so her conditions don’t drag him down with her. At the end he did hand her a piece of paper with something written on it that would lead her back to him once she was better.
As Vincent walked away from Marie while she was lying in the hospital bed, my heart sank. Really. It ached. You see, I can’t turn off what I feel. I can feel the anguish she felt as she watched the guy she fell in love with walk away from when she needed him the most. I felt the pain he must have felt as he did something he didn’t want to do but had to.
Feeling Others from Afar
This reminds me of my ability to feel others, even when I am not near them. Sometimes I just feel so connected to certain people that I just know that something is wrong with them. I can call or text them and ask them what’s going on, and of course they are surprised that I am able to know. However, the worst part of this gift is when those people sometimes distance themselves from me. Maybe they need to walk down this dark path alone to learn some sort of life lesson. Maybe our roles in each others’ lives has reached the end, and it’s time to go in separate directions. Still, just like how Vincent had to walk away from Marie in that movie, sadly I have had to walk away from others in my life.
I want to take every single person I meet and make them alright. I want to heal their wounds. I want to hug them and take away their pains. I want to make every one of them smile. Seriously. In rare moments I feel like a failure that I could not help some of these people in my life. It is very hard to just walk away and accept that I still did a ton for them and blessed them in so many ways.
Still a Blessing!
No matter what, I would not trade this or any gift for anything. Yes, I will admit it. I’ve actually screamed at Heavenly Father a few times. When the responsibilities associated with my spiritual gifts became too much for me to handle, I have asked Him to just take all of them away. I know, this sounds silly. During our roughest moments, we sometimes say things we really don’t mean. I can proudly say that 99.9% of the time I would not trade these gifts for anything. Not ever.
I have been able to bless the lives of so many people. I wish I was diligent with my journaling. I wish I had a record of every person I have helped, whether it was a good friend who called me out of desperation or some stranger I met on the Temple grounds. My inherent ability to know what people need to hear is a gift given to me by Heavenly Father. I have to walk away from each situation knowing that I am blessed, loved, and entrusted to help His people in their greatest times of need. Even though my gifts sometimes weigh me down, I would never do anything to risk losing them!
Thank you for letting me be a blessing in your life!
Today I am grateful that I don’t give up. Seriously, I just don’t know how to give up. If not for the Gospel I would not have the strength to get through my days. Days like today I would love to just give up. I hate to sound like a Debbie Downer, but my perspective on my life is so screwed up. I don’t appreciate the good things I have in my life. I don’t appreciate my talents and gifts, even the spiritual gifts I have been given to bless the lives of others. I don’t appreciate all the times where I have touched the lives of others. I really don’t know why I keep going. All I can think about are the things and people I don’t have in my life.
In recent times I struggle to do basic things. Things that used to come so easy to me now seem almost impossible. I have been at my job for five years. You would think that after being there this long I would be an expert at what I do. Even though I thoroughly love my job and the type of work I do, every morning I dread coming to work. I am filled with anxiety. I am fearful of failing. My mind has become obsessed with the fear of failure. That obsession leaves little or no room for the confidence I once had or the intense focus that made me so successful in the past.
All too often I have felt like a failure in recent times. I’ve burnt myself out. I know that there’s no question that I thrive off of the positive energy of others. The best way I’ve found to be around positive energy is to create it yourself. I’m REALLY good at that. However, just like when going on a cross-country roadtrip and you need to fill up your gas tank, on this marathon of life, I’ve forgotten to take care of me. It became so easy to put the needs and desires of others before my own, because I loved the rush I felt when I made others smile. Making others smile made me smile. During that process I forgot how to make myself smile… just because. Just because I am awesome. Just because I am worthy of love. Just because I am wholehearted. Just because… I am Jimmy freakin’ Paderta.
Through all of this I refuse to give up. I don’t know why. My earthly heart is done with all the failures. However, my spirit inside of me is much stronger. Something won’t let me stop. Al Carraway once told me, “Jimmy, do not let giving up be an option!” One thing that fills me with gratitude is that I have the courage to share this moment of weakness with 596 of you. I know that all of you have moments like this. There’s no reason to feel like there’s something wrong with you or that you are the only one feeling this way. Last night I read in my book by Brené Brown, “Shame hates it when we reach out and tell our story. It hates having words wrapped around it–it can’t survive being shared.” I guess I could end this post by telling shame to stick it where the sun don’t shine. I’m strong, even in my greatest moments of weakness, and I refuse to go down without a fight!!!
I had been drinking since about the age of 17, and I had been a lover of craft beer for many years. I had stopped getting drunk in early 2007, but I still continued enjoying my beers here and there. I didn’t mind getting buzzed, but I didn’t like the feeling of losing control over myself, even a little bit. I began going to the LDS (Mormon) Church in summer of 2010. In church they’d talk about The Word of Wisdom, which is the counsel given to us to but I would keep telling myself that I would still secretly drink my craft beer after I got baptized. I mean, seriously; no one had to know! I thought it was foolish that some church was going to tell me what I could drink.
Mill Avenue Block Party – December 31, 2008
Mill Avenue in Tempe – February 6, 2010
In early 2012 I had discovered TED Talks, and I quickly found Brené Brown’s talk about vulnerability. I loved what she had to talk about, but it didn’t hit me at first. Then in May, 2012 I watched that same talk again. Then it hit me. About 15:00 into the talk she says this:
The problem is — and I learned this from the research — that you cannot selectively numb emotion. You can’t say, here’s the bad stuff. Here’s vulnerability, here’s grief, here’s shame, here’s fear, here’s disappointment. I don’t want to feel these. I’m going to have a couple of beers and a banana nut muffin. . . . You can’t numb those hard feelings without numbing the other affects, our emotions. You cannot selectively numb. So when we numb those, we numb joy, we numb gratitude, we numb happiness. And then, we are miserable, and we are looking for purpose and meaning, and then we feel vulnerable, so then we have a couple of beers and a banana nut muffin. And it becomes this dangerous cycle.
It was there that I decided I was done. I didn’t want that crutch in my life. I wanted to experience all that life had to offer me. I had decided I could no longer have fun if I couldn’t remember the night before. I didn’t do this because I had some church leader telling me I needed to do this. This is 100% all me. I made this decision on my own, and I couldn’t imagine myself ever going back. Ever. Except for two times where I unknowingly consumed small amounts of alcohol, I haven’t touched it since. I didn’t have anything to worry about when it came time for me to be baptized. Being free from that drug, even though I never really had an addiction to it, is such a liberating feeling!
Yeah, I’m a nutjob. I tell people over and over that they will never meet anyone else like. Ever. I honestly think that I go out of my way to achieve this goal. Although I’m not doing these things because I’m lonely and need attention, there is a specific purpose in mind. I want to be happy. Yeah, that’s such a foreign concept.
Selfie taken on June 27, 2015 at Canyon Lake
For example, let’s look at the way I dress. On Sundays when I go to church, pretty much all the guys / boys wear white dress shirts to Sunday services.
Then… there’s… um… me.
Photo taken on January 26, 2014 by my friend Hollie Beatty
Many times I have preached my love for Brené Brown. Her TED Talks on Vulnerability and Shame have profoundly changed my life. After going through some major trials a few years ago, I allowed myself to be someone that wasn’t me. My intentions were for me to be wholehearted, but I wasn’t truly letting myself come out. I had reduced myself to being a fraction of who I could be. In recent times, I mixed a whole bunch of things together. I began with some philosophies about social dynamics I once learned years ago. Then I mixed in the teachings from Brené Brown. Wrapping things up, I have been adding a lot of my own recent leanings from my constant observations of life of what works and what doesn’t.
I don’t go out of my way to impress you, the guy down the street, or anyone else for that matter. I do everything because it makes me happy. If in the process I put a smile on the faces of a crapload of people, then I’m even happier. However, I don’t put any effort in impressing anyone; that’s called supplication. I learned the hard way to no longer chase people. The right people will go out of their way to be in your life. Don’t get me wrong. If you screw up and hurt someone’s feelings, you better humble yourself, apologize, and ask that person for forgiveness. However, if someone just doesn’t like you, well that’s okay. Move on. As soon as you can close yesterday’s door the sooner you can open tomorrow’s door.
When I drive around I got the windows down, the music cranked, and I’m jamming out to the songs that make me happy. I sing along to my favorite songs. I jam on the steering wheel to the drum parts (man I miss playing my drums). I bounce around to the music as if I were dancing. I have no shame. I don’t worry if the person next to me thinks I’m a weirdo. My best friend growing up, Mike Schoewe, taught me many invaluable lessons. I’ll never forget one memory in particular. I don’t remember where we were or what we were doing. He was being loud and obnoxious (or otherwise super-goofy). I remember saying something like, “Mike, people are going to think you are crazy.” I will never forget his response. He said, “F*** them! We’ll never see them again!” How true that is! I mean, don’t ever go out of your way to be rude or an annoyance to others
Stop for a moment and just think about that. Every single time you hold back and don’t do something that would make you happy, you are surrendering a little piece of your soul. In that moment you are giving your power to someone else. In that moment you would rather please someone else (and avoid judgement) instead of making yourself happy. It may sound completely irrational, but I promise you that this is entirely true. Why do we do this? What stops us from being happy? Why are we afraid of letting people see our screw-ups and other things that make us less cool than the guy down the street? Why are we so worried about what someone else thinks about us?
Acceptance. Let’s revisit my favorite researcher:
“Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.” ―Brené Brown, Daring Greatly
We all crave connection. Without it we feel void. We don’t feel human. Life is not meant to be lived alone. Because of the way others may perceive our being different, it is just so easy to sit on the sidelines and be “safe.” Seriously, though. How exciting was your day when you last played it safe? It’s so easy, convenient, and almost romantic to just sit by and watch others live out their dreams, which should really be your dreams. We do it all the time. We sit at home watching reality television or SportsCenter. We cheer on our favorite celebrities and athletes. We search the world over looking for our heroes. Foolishly look past our heroes in reality – our parents, our bosses, our best friends, and our spouses. This song by my favorite band, Metallica, is about this exact subject:
Again, sticking out like a sore thumb, I can proudly say that my heroes are those who surround me. My sisters, my best friends, my missionaries, and sometimes strangers that I meet only once can be those who most influence me. Each person teaches me a little something more. Each person teaches me what not to do. Each person, however, also introduces me to a little special secret every now and then. I compile all those little gems, in conjunction with the things that already make me awesome, and put it all into making me the best Jimmy possible.
While others are sitting on the sidelines, watching what I do, finding fault in my actions, using anything they can get their hands on to paint me a weirdo, fraud, jerk, insensitive, or whatever their favor of the day might be, I am out making myself happy. After all of this reading you may be convinced that I am a very self-centered jerk. On the other hand, there is a perfect reason for it all. The happier I am, the stronger I am. The stronger I am, the better I can help others.
I have been told hundreds of times that I touch the lives of others every day. I know I serve as an example to others. I give them hope. I show them that it can be done. I help others smile. I show them that they can overcome their trials. I show them that they too can be happy. I show them that they can use all their trials to bless the lives of others. Had I not stuck out like a sore thumb, none of this would be possible. Thank you for reading.
I have been very lazy with my writing. Not only have I not been writing much for my blog this year, I have barely touched the brand new journal that I bought to get that going again. Just now I watched this video. It totally woke me up. Gone were the “I’ll add that to my list of things to someday blog about” remarks I would tell myself. I knew right away I had to get typing, so here we go. First, let’s watch this video:
Our priorities are messed up! Seriously. Please don’t think that I am sitting on my throne up above with the right to judge others. I have many times stopped, reflected on life, and come to some pretty solid conclusions. Maybe you want to disagree with me that getting that awesome new car (paid with credit, of course), getting a ton of fancy new clothes, or getting some other material things mean more than finding peace and happiness and sharing it with others. That’s okay. I am not here to change anyone; I just want to inspire all who read this post to find true peace and happiness.
What is a RAK? It stands for random acts of kindness. I first learned about RAKs when I first found The Chive Community. I could not think of anything better to do with my time. Yes, I have to take care of myself first before I can help anyone else. If you think I am being selfish, think back to the last time you traveled by airplane. The flight attendants tell you that should you travel with a child, the cabin pressure drops, the oxygen masks drop from the ceiling, and you put yours on first. Then you put a mask on your child. If you’re passed out from oxygen deprivation, you’re going to do a really poor job of saving your kid. True story.
Once you find strength inside, go out. Find someone to serve. You know, when I first started learning about my church, I thought that members were pressured into serving others. Then I learned it first-hand; there is nothing else in life that makes you feel better than doing good for others. Be sure to leave your selfish motives at the door. If you expect anything in return, then you’re making things worse. You create a false sense of love for the recipient. Then you feel let down when the recipient is not willing to or unable to reciprocate.
About a year ago I was dealing with loneliness and depression. I can tell you that the best cure for that is to go out and do good for others. Here’s a perfect example. Last night I was on the grounds of the Mesa Arizona Temple after closing. For some reason the gates were not yet locked. I saw this young lady sitting down by myself. Something inside said I needed to talk to her.
After she told me why she was there and what was troubling her, I right away shared with her my thoughts coming from a positive perspective. My ability to add comfort to the conversation got her opening up. Even though I am quite the talker, I just shut my mouth. I know from my past that sometimes I just need to get things off my chest, regardless who the listener is. It is how we process our thoughts. So much clarity can come just from talking to someone. I know that just being a total stranger, willing to listen to someone who was feeling down, can be one of the best blessings one can receive.
I do this because others have been there for me. Others have listened to me go on and on for hours about my problems. Others have taken me in when I needed a place to stay for a week. Others have helped me move. Others have loaned me money. Others have complimented me. Others have made me smile. Others have made me feel loved. Others have made me feel important. Others have, through their faith in me, given me the confidence to know I can do this. Others have held me when I needed to cry. Others have taught me what I need to know. Others have taught me what not to do. I could go on and on. You get the idea. Now what?
You have two choices. You can take, take, and take. You can also give. Early on in my growth process I tried to give back to those who helped me. All the time they would say no. They did these favors for me out of love or friendship, and they wanted nothing in return. Also, they were already doing well, which is why they were able to do good for me. They inspired me so much. One person who has been my greatest inspiration in empathy is my friend Jeff. He has done so much for me, and he has never wanted anything in return. What a great example!
Then I started doing nice things for others without being asked. I felt the same joy that my friends and family members must had felt. Then it hit me. When you are feeling grateful, pay it forward. Do good for those who need something. Giving to others means a few things. Yes, you might have a little less when all is done. However, the other person has something he / she didn’t have before. Most important, you will realize that you were able to give because you had an abundance! Because of your abundance, you are blessed. When you feel blessed, you should feel grateful. Gratitude is the source of happiness.
No one can take that happiness from you. Not me. Not your boss. Not your significant other. Not your parents. Not your children. Not the person picking on you. Not the person saying mean things to you. No one. It is your happiness to keep forever.
Get out there. Find something good to do. Visit an older relative. Say hi to that lonely person down the street. Ask that one coworker you never talk to how his / her day has been. I am not going to list every idea I can come up with. There are plenty of websites out there to get you started. Here are a few to get you started:
Thank you for taking the time to read this. I hope I was able to inspire you to do good in this world. It does not matter if not everyone is nice to you. In fact, the people who are the meanest to you are the ones who need the most love. Think about it. If you do good, tell the world about it. You can use the social media hashtag of #RAK. Maybe you’ll inspire someone else to do the same!
July 3, 2014 – Today I am grateful for the 15 years, 10 months, 19 days that I had to live on this Earth with the most important woman in my life. Therese Mary Paderta touched me in ways that no one else since has ever been able to. I pass on Her legacy each day that I live. I am the person I am because of Her. Mom’s mild temper, sweet spirit, and loving heart have influenced me in becoming the person that I am today and the person I am still becoming.
All too often people remind me of how wonderful She was. I am even told how She influenced them. I had the pleasure of knowing Her better than most people. I got to be influenced and taught in Her ways. She was not perfect, but She inspires me to someday be a parent just like Her.
Happy 80th birthday, Mom!!! I will honor You today by spreading Your love to all those that I touch. Thank You for everything You had done for me while on this Earth. More importantly, thank You for teaching me how to still see all the blessings You have given me in the past 21 years since our loving Heavenly Father called You home to share Your love with those on the other side of the Veil.
Today I am grateful for being confident in knowing my purpose in life. No, I am not trying to brag or harvest any pity. Just like all of you, I have gone through a lot of struggles in life. During those moments life was so hard. No one wants to live through the loss of loved ones, being unemployed, working bad jobs, or the end of relationships.
Those “hardships” were really blessings. The toughest of those, losing Mom and Dad, have been some of the best things to happen in my life. As I had to process those changes in life, I had to figure out how to make my way back to happiness. Even though I still have bad days and sometimes want to not deal with this stuff, I know that by now I got this all figured out.
The purpose of my life is to come to this Earth, be challenged with struggles, overcome them and make sense of *why* I had to go through them (and the lessons I was supposed to learn from each), and then to share my experiences with others. Everything up unto this point is preparation for the next person I talk to today. All too often I find myself listening to others. It goes like this. I recognize the struggles in them that I faced, share with them how it felt (so they don’t feel alone), and share with them how I found peace and happiness in the end. I am grateful to know that my purpose in life is to give others hope and direction. NOTHING else brings me more joy than to serve those that I meet! The best thing anyone can ever tell me is, “Jimmy, I needed to hear that!”
Today I am grateful for having such an amazing Father!!! Of course I would have never felt this way when I was younger; it all depends on your perspective. If you’re not grateful for the things you have and you’re asking for more, what makes you think you’ll be grateful if you get the things you are asking for? He didn’t love me the way I wanted to be loved; I was too young and immature to understand Dad’s way of loving me.
Comiskey Park – June 27, 1987
No, he wasn’t the warmest guy. This photo was from just under 27 years ago today – June 27, 1987. We didn’t always do a lot of things together, but at least we hit up seven White Sox games; those were probably my best memories with him. He had a short temper. He yelled and screamed like a two-year-old to get what he wanted at times. He gave me a hard time about using the car, even if it was going to otherwise sit in the garage each night. He was sometimes controlling about the phone. Enough of the negativity; I am just as imperfect as him.
Brookfield Zoo – Summer, 1999
When you see things through a different set of eyes, you see so much love. The guy taught me everything I will ever need to know about being an unwavering husband. The guy did EVERYTHING to give us what we needed. Since he wasn’t a Harvard (or even a high school) graduate, he had to work a crappy job. Even in his old age, he did laborious work outside in weather from blizzards to humid summer days in the sun. He did the best he could given his existing circumstances. He raised us the best he could with barely knowing his own Father before he also passed. Dad taught me to be strong and persistent; for that, I am forever grateful!