MMM note: My daughter Emily keeps a private blog that only a few privileged people have access to. Yesterday she wrote something that I felt was so touching, so beautiful, that I asked her if I could share it with all of you. Even though it is deeply personal, she consented. It is a humbling and wonderful thing to watch your children morph into wise and amazing adults. I love her – you will too.
The older I get the more I realize that everyone has some little internal battle(s) they struggle with throughout their life, whether it’s on display or hidden. Strike that—by little I mean giant and hard and sometimes consuming and, even if miraculously defeated, can return if you’re not careful. Lack of self-worth, addiction, doubt, depression, the inability to be vulnerable, anxiety, fear, etc. etc. etc. These little slivers have the potential to become infected and really just kill this life of ours if we’re not careful.
I’ve been reading all of Brené Brown‘s books. (Sidenote: I LOVE Brené Brown because I feel like her ideas fit seamlessly into my gospel schema.) In Gifts of Imperfection and Daring Greatly, she preaches vulnerability and wholeheartedness and gives strategies for how to make that happen in every area of our lives. As I’ve been reading/listening to these books I’ve felt very validated—I’m great at opening my heart. I’m great at being raw. I’m great at emotional intimacy and empathy. Vulnerability is my JAM.
But I’ve also realized lately (more like re-realized, but this is the toughest one yet) that, when it comes to relationships (whether romantic or friendship) and losing things, I am TERRIBLE at recovery.
I think that my biggest sliver may be dealing with loss.
I’m reading Brown’s Rising Strong right now, and really I feel like it was written for me: “Yes, I agree with Tennyson, who wrote, ”Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.’ But heartbreak knocks the wind out of you, and the feelings of loss and longing can make getting out of bed a monumental task. Learning to trust and lean in to love again can feel impossible.” YES, BRENE! YOU GET ME! So now what?
I am doing everything I can think of and everything ever recommended to anyone to try to heal and move on. I am pouring out my soul in prayer and pondering in the temple and eating up the scriptures. I am throwing myself into work and releasing endorphins at the gym and meditating through yoga and inhaling crazy amounts of books and beginning new hobbies (cycling, here I come!). I am spending time with friends and reconnecting with people and planning trips and saying yes to almost every invite. I’ve gone on some fun dates and some awful dates. I am journaling and reflecting and processing and recognizing why this break up was actually probably in my best interest. I feel moments of clarity and days of peace and optimism (which means I am healing) but then inevitably, some other feeling resurfaces and IT STILL HURTS SO MUCH.
The other day in the temple, I was reading Ether 12, which is a chapter on faith that I have loved for a long time. What I somehow didn’t realize though until this last reading was that faith is hard. While doubt is a huge, painful struggle for some, I’ve been blessed with the spiritual gift of faith as far as the believing part goes. But what is hard for me about faith? Going through all the crap associated with it and trusting that it is really for my benefit (or, I guess, a larger purpose). Having faith doesn’t mean that everything comes naturally! Yes, if we yoke ourselves to the Savior, our burden is light, but figuring out how to work that yoke can sometimes feel tricky. And the purpose of life isn’t just to have an easy-breezy time! The purpose is for us to have joy, but I’m discovering that joy also requires stretching and sorrow and sadness.
Yes, Alma and Amulek “caused the prison to tumble to the earth“—but they were already imprisoned before that happened. That must have sucked, and I’m sure at some point it would’ve been easy to wonder why the Lord didn’t just prevent their arrest in the first place. Yes, the “three disciples obtained a promise that they should not taste of death“—but that also means they are living thousands of years, which really seems miserable to me. It’s not like they’re just kickin’ it, living the good life. Can you imagine them being anything but productive? Yes, the brother of Jared saw God, but he also had to work his butt off and had to leave his original home and journey and build a boat and spiritually lead and provide for all these people, and that sounds HARD and draining and discouraging. But, boy, am I grateful that all these scriptural examples bucked up.
In his book The God Who Weeps (which I also read recently), Terryl Givens eloquently elaborates on the “opposition in all things” idea: “In the Garden story, good and evil are found on the same tree, not in separate orchards. Good and evil give meaning and definition to each other. If God, like us, is susceptible to immense pain, He is, like us, the greater in His capacity for happiness. The presence of such pain serves the larger purpose of God’s master plan, which is to maximize the capacity for joy, or in other words, ‘to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.‘ He can no more foster those ends in the absence of suffering and evil than one could find the traction to run or the breath to sing in the vacuum of space. God does not instigate pain or suffering, but He can weave it into His purposes.”
and this (also Givens):
“God’s power rests not on totalizing omnipotence, but on His ability to alchemize suffering, tragedy, and loss into wisdom, understanding, and joy.” ALCHEMIZE. That is cool. My heart can be changed! I am not okay with just letting this whole thing scar over. I want a better heart! Not a damaged one. The good news that I keep reminding myself of is that I can become a new creature, like Mosiah 27—and the Spirit—tells me. My weak things can be made strong!
But all of this is in vain if I’m just limping along on my own.
So, I’m trying my best to lean in and yoke myself to the Savior, so that maybe my back will be strengthened and my burdens won’t feel as heavy, or because maybe I need to experience that burden for a season. But I think what I’m realizing is that there is power in feeling pain—if I let it change me for good. I’m not sure exactly how it works yet, but I do know that this pain is currently alchemizing my heart. I do know that my heart is going to be beautiful and strong and have an even greater ability to love and rejoice. I do know that the Atonement is real, and for that, I can get up each day and find purpose and some peace and happiness, even though the bruises haven’t healed yet.