Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The Song I Could Not Sing

I was recently very touched by a talk by Jeffery R Holland about a song called "There is Sunshine in My Soul Today". In this song there is a line that says "And Jesus listening can hear the songs I cannot sing." He spoke of how there are times in our lives when there are songs we feel we cannot sing. Sometimes this is caused by mental illness, physical illness, poverty, or other difficult circumstances. I had never thought of this song this way and it struck a chord with me.
I would like to share my experience of a song I could not sing for a time in the hopes that it will bring someone hope for a better day. The song I could not sing for about five years is the song of happiness. Sometime about five years ago I fell into a depression. I do not remember a specific experience or circumstance that caused this depression, but into it I fell. I say fell because it felt very much like a fall that wouldn't stop. Slowly and suddenly at the same time, I found myself in some dark days. Some days I cried almost uncontrollably for no reason. Other nights I lay awake crying to myself in loneliness and despair. Other days seemed completely normal. At least to others I seemed completely normal. The truth is that during those days I could not sing the song of happiness. I could not feel happiness.
During this time I felt hope, love, occasionally joy, and many other positive feelings. I believed the Gospel of Jesus Christ with all of my heart and I lived it the best that I could. I believed in a loving Father in Heaven and was and still am eternally grateful for Him and all that He has done for me. I prayed daily asking for help and I read scriptures to find peace. Sometimes reading the scriptures was the only thing that could stop my incessant tears.
Eventually the relentless crying stopped. I spent a lot of time talking with my Mom trying to figure out my life and why I didn't feel happy. In her angelic way she helped me climb out of the pit I had fallen into. I was okay. I no longer spent days crying. I no longer lay awake at night crying to myself. Mom helped me heal so that I was okay.
To almost everyone I seemed fine. I lived life as I had always lived. I acted excited during "exciting" moments and gave off a general demeanor of contentedness. But still, I could not sing the song of happiness. And the hardest part was that I did not know why.
I spent a lot of time trying to figure out where the happiness had gone. Was there something I did that took it away? Did I need to come to peace with something in my life? Did I need to repent of something I had done terribly wrong?
I had several spiritual experiences during this time where God let me know that He wanted me to be happy. He wanted to remind me that happiness was possible and that I should strive for it. I had a goal, but I did not have a path. So I would ask and time after time I received only the answer "I love you". God was always there. He and my Savior Jesus Christ walked with me every step of the way.
I attended Relief Society lessons about happiness. I listened intently hoping to find something I could try that I had not already tried. I was told, happiness is a choice. Make a conscience effort every day to be happy. Start a gratitude journal, gratitude helps us become happy. Read your scriptures and pray daily. Have faith. All wonderful ideas! I tried each of them diligently. "This has to be it!" I thought to myself. "One of these days I'm going to find that I'm happy. Then I'll bear testimony in Relief Society too!" Unfortunately, this was not true. I tried everything! If it sounded like it could help with happiness even a little bit I tried it. But still, I felt this emptiness. I could not sing the song of happiness. It started to make me a little bitter. Instead of feeling hopeful during happiness lessons at church I felt upset and discouraged.
I do not know if I was clinically depressed. I never went to a psychologist, although maybe I should have.  I did not know what was wrong. I did know that God loves me. My life felt like The Piano Guys song "Holding On" .
Some days the swelling part near the end was hope in my life. Some days it felt like anger. Some days it felt like disappointment. There was a lot of emotion. But it was beautiful and I felt grateful to have emotions. Always, it renewed my faith in my Savior Jesus Christ. I knew that someday He would help it all be okay.
I spent time talking with friends. I spent a lot of time walking and thinking to myself. I was trying to figure out what to do to bring back the happiness. Slowly I discovered things that I was not at peace with and tried hard to figure out how to be okay with them. But still the happiness was gone.
One day in early February I went to a Relief Society lesson where several women shared their experiences of feeling angry or depressed and what they did about it. What I pulled out was to pray for happiness. That was something  I had tried before. So I felt to pray for happiness and the belief that I could feel happy. I also felt that it was time. It was going to work this time.
So I tried it. Almost immediately did I feel the results of my prayer for happiness! I was feeling happy! After five years I was feeling happiness! It was being impeded by anger though, so I began to pray to feel less angry. That worked too! I was happy! It felt as if a switch had flipped in my brain. There was a literal physical change. My brain was different. The world suddenly looked different. All within a week. I did not fully comprehend why, but I liked it a lot. I felt free! I felt happy.
I do not tell you this for a road map for those of you who feel depressed or in a similar state where there is a song you cannot sing. The path that I took is certainly not the best and I don't think I even know what the full path consists of. But I do hope that you feel hope that some day you will make it through. Jesus could hear the song I could not sing. He knew I would make it through and He could hear my joy on the other side. The song I now sing was fully audible to Him. He knew there was a lot for me to learn and there still is a lot for me to learn, but He helped me on the way. His love was always there. On days when I felt angry and disappointed His love was there. As I cried His love was there. On days when I felt "blah" His love was there. It was always there and it encouraged me at every step.
Others do not see the change that has happened in my life. To them I look the same way I have always looked and act the same way I have always acted. That was hard at first. I wanted to shake friends and shout for joy. "I'm happy! Can't you see?! I'm happy!" Surely they had to see that the world was completely different! They had to see that things had changed! But, it was a joy and change that happened completely within myself. Fortunately there is a place to turn for that kind of joy. To our Savior. He has felt everything we have felt. That includes when a blanket is taken off our minds and we feel happiness for the first time in years. I rejoiced with Him.
So if there is a song you cannot sing at this time please know that it is temporary. I do not know how long it will last. Perhaps it will endure throughout your entire life. Perhaps it will endure only a week. But it is temporary. Hold on to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Know that He loves you more than you can know. Pray. Read. Attend Church. Attend Family Home Evening. LIVE the Gospel. I promise it is worth it.
"And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away." Revelations 21:4.

Monday, January 16, 2017

The "Truth" About Dating

               
                I am not a dating expert. I don’t have a degree in psychology. I haven’t even read a single research book on relationships. What I do have is friends and experiences. With these, I would like to help you (whoever you are) understand the truth about what is happening to dating.
                This weekend I had the opportunity to ask an institute instructor about what he thinks we, as millennials, can do to help with our commitment issues. This has been a topic of interest where I live lately and I have heard many interesting reflections and ideas. I was not prepared for this institute instructor’s response. At first he rolled his eyes and told us to “give up” (probably because he’s tired of trying to fix something he probably can’t). Then he realized we (a room full of millennials) needed more of a response than that. So he stood up and gave it to us. Here’s what he said: “There’s a reason I don’t teach the marriage classes. Because your generation has ruined dating.” This was said with so much passion that you could physically feel the disappointment and frustration. And none of us dared deny it, because we knew that he was right. He went on to explain more about how we have ruined dating, but it’s likely that if you’re reading this you already understand what he means.
              As a woman I talk to a lot of other women my age. I hear many experiences and struggles. I see a lot of pain. I see loneliness, lack of hope, self-hate, and tears upon tears that weigh heavily on many minds and hearts. Each woman’s experience is different from the next, but each is heavy. It hurts every time I hear another story. Not all of these stories are related to dating, but the most frequent ones are and I hope I can help you understand a little bit about this pain I wish so ardently that I could fix.
                Now I would like to share some of my observations from my life and the lives around me. I have read several dating blog posts and articles. Each has fair points and brings up interesting things to think about. They center around things to do and not do on a date, how to act in a relationship, and how to stand or flip your hair to get a guy to notice you. I think many of these can be useful in a variety of circumstances and I’m grateful to learn a little bit more (although I’m not 100% certain I want to be on a date with a guy who asked me out solely because I flipped my hair correctly). None of these address the issue I really see in the “dating culture”.
                I recently sat with some friends and as often happens, the topic turned to dating. There was only one guy in the room and he told us some of the things he found annoying about dating girls. Everything he said was something we had heard before. What he had not realized though is that although we (the girls in the room) may know many do’s and don’ts of dating, we rarely have occasion to practice. In fact, he mentioned that he believed each of us had been on a date in the past week or two. I was sitting in the presence of three other amazing girls. We had varying personalities, shapes, sizes, education, experiences, etc. Each of us expressed that we feel lucky if we go on 2 or 3 dates in a year. Not a week, or a month, but a year. This shocked the man we were talking with. He tries to date quite frequently. He believes he has tried to date a variety of girls, but he had no idea that most girls date so infrequently.
                “Truth” about dating #1: 10% of the girls go on 80% of the dates. We didn’t do a study to find this out. I have no numbers to back it up. It’s probably a few percentage points off. But I do have experiences. And most girls I talk to would agree with these percentages if they are being honest. Maybe we’re cynical. Maybe we’re just complaining. That doesn’t change the fact that I know amazing women who haven’t been on a date for five years. It doesn’t change the fact that if on Friday you invite your friend over to watch a movie and she says she has a date everyone around gets really excited. “You have a date! That’s so great! Who is it with?” We don’t even care who it’s with. It’s exciting that you have a date! When you get back from the date and tell us about it we get excited and want to hear everything. But, we don’t want to get you too excited so that you start thinking that after one date he must be the one (even though we’ve already planned your wedding, what your children will look like, and where you will most likely live after you get married in our heads while you were gone). What an exciting event. However, this is not true for all girls. I know a few girls who tend to date quite a bit. In fact, I know one who every week asks herself how many dates she wants to go on that week and then in one day she has each of them arranged (the boys did the asking too). The rest of us notice that these girls have specific looks, habits, and personalities. Sometimes we try to duplicate them in an effort to date more, but it’s not successful very often. 10% of the girls go on 80% of the dates.
"Truth" about dating #2: Men should do the asking for a first date. After the first date, the girl can ask or the guy can ask, it doesn’t matter. But for a first date, it should be the guy. There are quite a few people who will disagree with me on this one. I believe that on the rare occasion it can turn out successful. I have even heard of a couple getting married after she asked him out for the first time. However, this should be the exception, not the rule. Men and women have different roles. This is one for the men. There is one major thing women are worried about when it comes to asking guys out for a first date. What if this is the way the entire relationship will go? What if I always have to do the asking and take the lead? These may be unfair questions, but they are none the less valid. It feels like we’re taking away the “man card” and in an age where feminism is threatening men from every angle, we would really prefer not to do that. So please, don’t make us ask you out on a first date.
"Truth" about dating #3: Men are afraid and unconfident. This one has been true from the beginning of time. I’ve called someone up and asked them on a date. It’s terrifying! The entire time, you just want the conversation to be over. I completely understand that. What if she rejects you? What if she doesn’t reject you? Isn’t it better to just stay home and play video games on Friday night instead of subject yourself to that kind of psychological stress? We women are scary. Especially if you ask out the one who has a date every night of the week. She’s going to be hard on you. It’s self-defense for her. She doesn’t want to end up in situations she’s been in before with some not so nice “gentlemen”. However, if you ask out my friend who I invited over to watch a movie and to my surprise she has a date then she will probably be just as nervous as you. As long as you are a gentleman then she will be a lady. She will be kind, considerate, and give you a chance. She will make mistakes and so will you. You might not end up marrying her, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go on a date. Men have always been afraid to ask a girl on date. It’s scary. But your father did it and you can to. Evolution says this is how it has worked for thousands of years. You can do it! I really do believe that you can.
"Truth" about dating #4: Dates don’t have to be expensive. I went on one date in the past year and we went on a walk, then drank hot chocolate at my house. This costs about a quarter for the person who bought the hot chocolate mix. I got to know my date. We talked, connected, spent about an hour together, and then we parted. I learned about him and he learned about me. I thought it was a great date! I don’t need a fancy dinner at Olive Garden or to go skydiving. I want to get to know you. That can be accomplished through very inexpensive activities.
"Truth" about dating #5: We don’t get reminded about dating as often as we should. Whenever someone gives a formal talk or speech about dating they start with something like “I don’t want to beat the fish on the head again, but I’m talking about dating today.” You aren’t killing it. We are. This isn’t just one of those side notes to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. A central purpose to the gospel is to help FAMILIES return to our Heavenly Father. It’s all about family. We are each part of a family, but we are also here to get married and raise children. It’s important! It’s so important that we need to hear it more often. Sometimes we become complacent. “I tried to do the dating thing, but it just didn’t work.” Is that going to hold up at the judgement day? “I’m sorry Heavenly Father, I tried to get married, but it just wasn’t in the cards.” No! I hear about dating in an official circumstance about twice a year. Don’t apologize for admonishing a single adult to date. It’s kind of the most important thing they should be doing with their lives right now.
                This may have sounded a bit like a rant and maybe it is. What I do know is that we are all frustrated with dating. The institute instructor was correct; we killed it and we’re not doing enough to revive it. If I were the adversary and I wanted to destroy families I would start with dating. And here we are.
                I wanted to write this because I want people to understand. That single adult you know who isn’t married, it’s probably not because they’re picky. It’s probably not because they haven’t found the right person yet. It’s because they’re not dating. Your relationship advice isn’t useful yet because they’re not in a relationship. If your dating advice starts after the first date then it’s not really helpful.
                If you are a single woman, please look presentable, be kind/friendly, and don’t assume that because he asked you out he wants to marry you. If you are a single man, pick up your phone choose a girl and give her a call. Then pick up your phone again, choose another girl and give her a call. Try someone new. Please try to branch outside of the 10%. If you don’t know what that means in terms of the girls you know then ask your closest Relief Society President who she thinks you should ask out. She probably has a whole list of girls who could use a break from the loneliness and you will probably enjoy their company too.

              We can bring it back to life! I know we can! 

Saturday, March 26, 2016

I Don't Want to Do Hard Things Today

Several years ago I discovered the phrase "I can do hard things!" It's a bit of a motto for my life. I wake up in the morning and sometimes think of the things I have to do and think they sound not so fun. But then I tell myself "I can do hard things!" (It works best if you yell it to yourself in your brain... or out loud, but be aware that people may give you strange looks.)When I am working on a difficult problem (normally math or physics) and I'm not sure what to do I tell myself "I can do hard things!" It's to the point where when people hear someone say they can do hard things some of my friends think of me. I write it on chalkboards, mumble it, repeat it while jumping up and down, etc. It generally helps me a lot. But not today.

Today I woke up and thought of the things I need to do. Run 6 miles, finish an impossible homework assignment, do my laundry, go grocery shopping, go to the Women's Conference, and clean up around the apartment. It would also be nice if I could set up a program on my computer, shop for an outfit for a wedding in two weeks, study for a stats test this week, hem my new pants, and buy inserts for my shoes so my feet don't fall asleep while I run. My next thought was that I didn't want to do any of it. I want to play ultimate Frisbee with some friends, go on a long walk, watch a movie, go home and spend time with my parents, and study the gospel on my own. I don't want to do hard things today. 

I got out of bed anyway and worked on my homework. It's coming along. It's still pretty impossible, but I made some progress (whatever that means in terms of impossible). I finished my roommate's laundry so that I could do my laundry. I made breakfast and did some more homework. Then it was time for me to try running. I put on all of my running stuff and got ready to go. I had zero motivation to run, but I want to run a marathon in September and I have to work hard so that I actually can. Cheered on by a roommate I left to run. I did not run 6 miles. I did not run 2 miles. I think I ran 1.5 miles and walked 1.5 miles before I came back home. I don't want to do hard things today.

That brings me to a question. What do you do when you don't want to do hard things? Honestly, I want to take a shower, put on sweatpants and lay in bed all day. I want to neglect all of the things I'm suppose to do and do what I WANT to do (which apparently consists of being sad?). 

That's when I remembered what today is. Today is the day before Easter. It's Easter Eve. What does that mean? It means that Friday has hit (as Elder Wirthlin would say https://www.lds.org/ensign/2006/11/sunday-will-come.p1?lang=eng). It means that the Son of God was crucified. It means that everyone who loved him and cared for him cried and despaired. It means that the heavens wept in sorrow for the loss of such a precious soul and for the lack of love mankind had shown him. But Sunday will come! Sunday will bring joy and peace. It will bring hope! The Son of God was crucified, but then he conquered death! He rose again! He allows you and me and everyone on the planet to rise again! Death has no power. Jesus Christ is our Savior!

So what does that mean for me in terms of not wanting to do hard things? Christ did so much more than just rise from the dead that Easter morning. It was a symbol of all of the other truths he proclaimed. He is filled with grace. The Bible Dictionary defines grace as a "divine means of help or strength, given through the bounteous mercy and love of Jesus Christ." Help or strength. Not just any help or strength, but a divine help or strength. That means that if I try my best. If I give it all I can that Christ will fill in the gaps. When I finish all of the things I need to do today and I feel like I just want to sit in a ball and cry because it was hard and I'm tired then He will be there. He does not leave us alone. It also means that he will help me accomplish hard things and if I try hard things and I fail because I'm not ready to accomplish that hard thing then he is there to help me feel okay about it. He loves me! He loves you! He is wonderful!

I don't want to do hard things today, but I will anyway. I will do all that I can. I will work hard and finish what I can. At the end of the day I may feel like crying and giving up, but I know my Savior will be there. How do I know? Because he has been there before. Life isn't perfect and it won't ever be. But that's ok because we have a Savior, Jesus Christ. 

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Freshly Cut Grass and Other Days

Note: This blog is a continuation of the motivation of ordinary days blog I created years ago, but then forgot the password to the email address. Consequently I can just look at that blog and wish that I could post more. Hence, People Who Live Life was created.

Life is an interesting thing. Everyday we wake up, do the things we do and then we go to sleep at night. There are people in our lives who affect us and there are things that seem to bring us to life. I love freshly cut grass. It makes me very happy and sometimes when I'm lying in bed at night I think about freshly cut grass and the wonderful smell it produces. Mmmmmm. Isn't it wonderful!

But life isn't always freshly cut grass. In fact, sometimes it feels as if you are as far from freshly cut grass as possible. Some days we wake up and life has a different plan for us than what we thought would happen. We are picked up, thrown on the ground, and then rubbed around in the mud until we may begin to believe that we will never smell freshly cut grass again. We begin to believe the lies that are whispered and shouted at us from that great serpent, Lucifer, every day of our lives. "I'll never be good enough," "You know nothing," "There's no reason to keep trying". Listening to this we know deep inside it's not true, but we still wonder. What if there is a touch of truth to this? These are terrible days. They seem as if they will never end no matter what we do.

Motivation hey? That's what she says this is about? Well, yes. The motivation of an ordinary day comes on any day. The days where life is so blissfully happy that we don't know how it could be better. The days where life seems to be spirally forever downward. The days where life is just hum drum. Motivation comes on the everyday.

To tell you about today's motivation I would like to tell you a story. This story comes from when I played soccer in High School. I played on a team that was down right terrible. We lost every game. Not just that, we lost by a landslide most of the time. This didn't stop us though. We just loved to play! Rain or shine, hot or cold, tired or not. We played. One time we were playing a team that always beat us. They did a good job of it too. The situation seemed hopeless. I was having one of those days when the grass didn't seem like it would be cut to produce that glorious smell. I was playing that way too. I remember running up and down the field wondering why I was playing anyway. We don't win. It was pointless. I looked to the sideline near the middle of the game and I saw my coach talking with my teammate. He actually wasn't really talking, he was scolding her, telling her that she needed to work harder. I remember thinking, "Oh no. She must be having a day like I'm having and now he's upset with her. I hope he doesn't scold me like that. It seems terrible." Before I knew it my teammate was back in the game playing her heart out. Who went off the field? That would be me. I grabbed my water bottle and heard my coach call me over. "Oh no. Here it comes. I know I'm doing terribly! Please don't be upset." As I stood on the sideline and talked with him I realized how well he knew me. He did not speak to me the same way he had spoken with my teammate. He asked me if I was ok. He asked me why I wasn't giving my all in this game. He spoke very gently. Then he explained that he needed me in this game. He wanted me to go out and leave it all on the field. Don't come off the field with anything but a knowledge that I had done my best. You know what happened after that? I did exactly what he said. I went out and worked hard. I played hard. I gave it all that I had. I noticed that my teammate was doing the same. We worked hard together with the other members of our team.

So why do I tell you this story? Because my coach knew his team. He knew how to speak to us. He knew how to motivate us. What worked for me would not have worked for my teammate. We are different people and require different things. So here is my motivation for an ordinary day: God knows you. He knows everything about you. He knows how to speak to you and what will help you the most. He knows how you struggle and He knows when you are having hard days. He knows when you are having good days. Most of all, God loves you! Today was a hard day, but you know what happened? God sent a message just for me! It was the kind that I know wouldn't have affect those around me as much as it did me. This message came and I was overcome with gratitude for a loving Father in Heaven. I realized that these messages come all the time. On good days and bad ones. Why? Because He loves us! Simple as that. He loves us! He always will and He will try to let us know in a way tailored specifically for us. This is what motivates me today.

Don't believe the lies that Lucifer whispers and shouts at you. You are worth more than you could ever imagine. Just look for that love from an all knowing and all loving Father in Heaven. It is there and it is real. I promise.