I am moving across the country in two weeks, so June, my best friend of 30 years, drove 300 miles to visit me this week. She took two unpaid vacation days to do it. We had to pack in quite a lot of memorable activity and talk in just a short day and a half, so we headed up the Columbia River Gorge to get started. The first day’s plan was: 1) hike, 2) soak in the mineral water at Carson Hot Springs, 3) eat at Skamania Lodge, 4) sit in the adirondack chairs at Skamania and talk till the moon came up over the gorge. Continue reading
Life is really good right now. And so I feel guilty.
When I scan the faces in the Relief Society room or the neighborhood playgroup or the overcrowded grocery store, I see a lot of suffering. Too much heartache. An abundance of stress, anxiety, dissatisfaction.
One friend struggles with both infertility and an abusive marriage. Another is unemployed and down to her last pennies as she cares for family members with extreme health problems. Some wonder if they’ll ever get past the loneliness that can come with being unmarried. One mother lives with grief every day after the recent loss of her sweet baby.
Then there’s my too-good life: Almost five years in, my marriage is ideal. My toddler is wonderfully content and easy going — tantrums, somehow, are nonexistent in our house. The part-time hours I spend working are fulfilling and enjoyable. And my main gig, as a mostly stay-at-home mom, is full of fun — library outings and strawberry picking and even Costco trips are a blast with my kid. We live in an amazing city and are financially stable enough to live comfortably. My church calling stretches me immensely, and my faith is currently quite solid.
Sure, I have moments where I’m not smiling. I complain about my fair share of #firstworldproblems. I’ve experienced a miscarriage, the loss of a loved job, spoiled relationships. But, for the most part, I’m relishing this good life. It does manage to bring up a whole host of questions and concerns and guilt, though. For example:
– When we read that men are that they might have joy, what does the word “might” mean? Is it possible that joy will remain just just out of reach for some faithful saints?
– Why have I been dealt such an easy hand?
– Is it OK to feel this content when so many in my circles are lacking all the wonderful things I enjoy?
– Are my trials less severe than others’ because God knows I’m not strong enough to handle the hard stuff?
– Is it enough to spend a few hours a week serving the less fortunate, so I can then come home and get back to my perfect life?
– Since things are so good now, is some awful misfortune in my future?
So now, I’ll put it to you: Are these questions simply unanswerable? Have you ever felt the guilt of happiness? Or, if you’re on the other end of the spectrum and in the midst of suffering, how do you view those who are living so happily?
A few years ago, in December, I was wrapping gifts and– with the melancholy that sometimes visits during the holidays– letting tears slip down my cheeks as I mourned things that hadn’t happened that year, carefully crafted plans come to naught (primarily, a baby). I continued to wrap and cry, grumbling a bit that I wasn’t getting the gift I really wanted, when I remembered the friend who’d handed me tickets to a Christmas concert the week before. One by one, I began thinking of all the good things in the past year that happened without my planning, without my goal-setting. Joys, successes, new friends, small victories…handed to me with no effort on my part, wrapped up beautifully and tied with a bow. I ripped a piece of wrapping paper, turned it over and wrote down everything that had surprised or delighted me in the previous months. Continue reading
Dear Little Blue,
You don’t really need this letter, because you’ll eventually figure all these things out on your own, but if I could share a few insights with you, I’d let you know that even though it feels like there’s not a soul on earth who’d really care if you ceased to exist, in just a little while that will change. Some angels will appear in your life, in the form of a school teacher, a church leader, and various acquaintances. Their kindness will carry you through the next few years, and you will start to feel what it’s like to be nurtured and cared for.
Your sense of your identity is going to evolve, too. You don’t know yet that you’re not utterly worthless, or that that’s even how you think of yourself, but soon you’ll start to notice some of the internal beliefs you have, and question them. This is good. Examining everything we believe is an important exercise in life, and requisite for growth. You’ll start to feel something inside–called resonance–when things are true for you. If you honor that, you’ll be led and directed in ways that will be good for you.
Not everyone is guileless.
It’s going to take decades, but someday you’ll forgive your parents and older sibling. They probably won’t ever be a part of your life, but you’ll eventually find peace with that situation.
You’re going to learn the most from the hard stuff you go through, so I’m not going to tell you much, but you might just want to turn and walk the other way when you meet a dude named Kevin.
The cure for anything is saltwater: sweat, tears, or the sea.
A lot of the people you love most will lose their faith in God and leave the church. You’ll struggle for a long time with your faith, too, and part of it will be the shock that this even happens to people. Now you know, so just remember to trust what rings true within you, prove ALL things, and hold fast to the good. Proving requires righteous living. Be fastidiously honest with yourself, regardless of what other people believe. Eventually you’ll find your own, bona fide faith, and it will be worth the effort.
Don’t judge others who are doing anything differently than you. They get to. Love them for where they are at, no matter what.
There’s something called Healthy Boundaries. Life would probably be easier if you learned about them before your forties. Just sayin’.
When you’re 18 years old, you’ll meet a boy who will be nice to you and care for you and accept you loose ends and all. You’ll learn to love each other and provide a safe harbor for each other to heal, evolve, and grow for a long long time. Despite all that, he’ll break your heart little by little, and you’ll break his. But you’ll become fantastic individuals, and raise completely fabulous children together. I don’t know the end of this story, so we’ll have to find out together.
You won’t believe this now, but you are not going to be lonely. There are loads of unbelievably wonderful people in your future, and you will be overwhelmed with gratitude for the goodness and love in your life. You’re going to discover some things about yourself that will surprise and delight you, and this world will be a better place for having had you in it. So hang in there, kid. Remember, we’re all just winging it in life, and none of us is here very long. The journey is the reward, and it’s a wonderful journey.
Older, slightly wiser Blue
What experiences and lessons have most surprised you in your life. Do you have any advice for your younger self? Are there any kids in your life (especially non-related) who could use some care and nurture…who you could make a difference for?
Yesterday, as the sun waned but evening still seemed a mystery of the future, I pulled baby eggplant and perfectly sized (thank heavens I didn’t check a day/minute/second later) zucchini from the garden, and filled a mixing bowl with warm basil leaves that torn, filled the air around me with their peppery fragrance. I took them into the kitchen, and the Olympics on in the family room, the baby around in just a diaper and pink cheeks from an afternoon in the water, the children lazy on the sectional and content, I washed the basil, made pesto, sliced the vegetables, rolled out a floury pizza dough against the cold countertop, and called life good.
I think the prophet told us to plant gardens because he wanted us to be happy. And I wonder, mid-summer, if anything is as satisfying as this—a simple dinner plucked and harvested from a small garden.
A while ago, I sat back against the rush in a chair, across a dinner table laden with empty dishes from two cute boys (technically men, but they’ll always be boys to me) in identical chairs as mine, but with eyes heavy as their hearts. They were watching our children and lamenting their lot: that they wouldn’t ever have a legacy of their own. That, though they were in love with one another and though they felt committed, their lifestyle didn’t leave room for posterity— in other words, they could adopt lap dogs to spoil but they could never have children. At least logistically. One boy/man said something to me with shark eyes, black and round: “It’s a selfish lifestyle for me, and at the end of the day I know I will be alone.”
I thought instantly of The Family A Proclamation to the World where marriage between a man and a woman is delineated and I had a prick of something in that moment as I stared at them: larger (or smaller) than the argument of homosexuality being an abomination, maybe as a practical application we are counseled against those feelings of same-gender attraction because living them can never make us happy.
Could it be as simple as this? I know that keeping commandments and covenants, we are promised happiness in the hereafter, but truthfully, I am grateful for the daily happiness that sits with me simply by doing what I should be doing, when I should be doing it.
Do you have any experiences of immediate happiness from following a prophet’s counsel?