Wednesday, August 3, 2016

When Life Hands You Lemons, Try Not to Squirt them in your Eyes

My life has changed - and will continue to change - quite drastically. The last six months have been some of the most excruciating of my life, and I am ready to share a lesson I have learned:

Lemons and human eyeballs are NOT FRIENDS.

I know, I know - life is not meant to be easy and all that jazz, and I thoroughly understand the saying "No pain, no gain."

...but does it have to hurt THIS BAD?

When I started this blog ten years ago I could never have foreseen the things that would be happening in my life today. That Holly that I was ten years ago, trying desperately to keep things together, had no idea that I would endure two more high-risk pregnancies, miscarry a twin, have a son diagnosed with Autism and another son with Type 1 Diabetes, and now this-

Becoming a single mother.

I feel I am a pretty tough cookie. I can do hard things. However, in the still of the night when my Father in Heaven draws close, I still weep. Often.

This blog is quickly evolving into a form of therapy for me. I am a writer, through and through, and have always kept journals.  I figured that all of these private, heartfelt thoughts were meant for those pages and, out of respect for myself and for others, should remain there and only there.

I was wrong.

As I have gone through a painful divorce I can say firsthand how healing it has been to connect with and read the words of others who have been there before. Who have been brave enough to share whatever tender shreds are left of their hearts. This doesn't mean I will be specifically pointing others out, blaming them, etc. It is possible to share experience in general terms while still respecting the privacy of others.

And while I am on the topic of others, can I just say -

What in the world is happening out there?!

It seems that as I have confided my struggles and worries to others that women with the same heartbreaking experiences have been coming out of the woodwork to share their stories. Amazing women, trying their best to live the gospel and raise their children while clinging to their marriages which are plagued by porn, video gaming, and other addictions; emotional, verbal and physical abuse; infidelity and more.

Disclaimer - I will be the first to say that I know not all men fall into this category, and that there are many wonderful priesthood holders out there who do all they can to keep their covenants and treat their families with love and respect. I will also be the first to say that, sadly, these wonderful men seem to be fewer and farther between than ever before.

I have had six - count 'em, SIX - friends in the last week who have come to me with their spirits broken and torn over the words and actions of their husbands. Women who, like me, wanted nothing more than to be married happily and raise their children, and who now must worry over things like:

Do I leave him?

Do I stay?

What will people think of me?

How will this affect my children?

How will I be able to support myself?

Do I stay for the money?

How can I finish school and take care of my children?

How many times do I forgive before it is just too many?

How can I tell if he is sincere this time?

Why is this happening?!

It also seems as though a great plague of narcissism is sweeping over the earth, with story after story of disturbing and selfish episodes about both men AND women mistreating those whom they should be holding the most dear....but dare I say it? Mostly men.

I am not a feminist in the traditional sense of the word. I am not at all a man hater. I think there is nothing more wonderful in the world than a righteous, kind man who treats his family with love and respect. I'm just starting to wonder more and more...

Where are you guys?

Maybe this is less of a post about what the women have been experiencing and more a CALL TO THE GOOD MEN OF THE WORLD TO STEP UP their example and encourage those around them to rise to a higher standard of manhood.

How would the tides turn if good men everywhere began sharing their insights and feelings about marriage and family? What kind of influence could these good men have on both society and also their children as they watch their father happily devote his life to them and their mother? How much good could be done by choosing to not be silent when that degrading joke is told at work, or that inappropriate picture is shared? What if these good men decided to say "Hey - I love my wife and I don't appreciate that kind of language," or asked their coworkers what they have done to surprise their wife recently.  Or found offhand opportunities to share their testimony about family and it's blessings, and the joy it brings to them.

Women can do this as well, of course - but I am just thinking out loud here.

What can we do to change society's idea of men and fathers from this:

To this:

I see things like this for sale:

And we all are supposed to laugh at it, but my heart aches at what this could really mean:

A very lonely wife trying to do her very best to stay positive while her husband spends his days focused on a screen.

This isn't a joke.

This isn't funny.

This is what society has come to accept as okay, as normal, as...EXPECTED even.

How very, very sad.

So... back to those lemons....

We all know that life isn't about constant good times and happiness. We go through hard things and sorrow so that we can know and experience for ourselves the good in comparison with the bad - or else everything would feel the same.

We also know these trials are what make us stronger and help us become better people, if we let them. Lemons are not only sour to the taste, but they are also a natural disinfectant. So, to carry the analogy further, my trials are sour and not fun, but they serve to clean my heart and soul, if I let them. I can take all of that sourness and either focus on it, or put it to good use, cleaning my countertops and making my house smell amazing.

I know. A bit far-fetched.

But I find it incredibly interesting and symbolic that lemons are not only known for their sourness, but also for their incredible energizing scent. Is there anything more divine than walking past the fresh lemonade booth at the farmer's Market? How is it that this one fruit, depending on which way you look at it, is both disagreeable AND uplifting? Are our trials the same way?

I mean, I don't know of anyone who can say that dealing with emotional abuse is hard, but if only they had an "emotional abuse" scented Yankee candle, they would be all over that.

Our Heavenly Father is the one who knows how to take the trials that have been given to us, and then shape them for our good. He is the one who can take the reamer and squeeze that trial, mash us to a pulp, but then bring us at the end to a dessert table that surpasses our wildest dreams. The dessert table will be in the next life, of course, but I believe he gives us little taste tests along the way.

In the October 2015 General Women's Meeting, Linda S. Reeves said this:

Recently I talked to an old friend who has gone through two divorces due to the addictions and unfaithfulness of her husbands. She and her three children have suffered greatly. She pleaded, “I have tried so hard to live righteously. Why have I had so many trials? What have I done wrong? What does Heavenly Father want me to do? I pray and read my scriptures, help my children, and go to the temple often.”

As I listened to this sister, I felt like shouting out, “You are doing it! You are doing all that Heavenly Father wants and hopes you will do!”
Understandably, many have expressed that our Father’s promised blessings are just “way too far away,” particularly when our lives are overflowing with challenges. But Amulek taught that “this life is the time … to prepare to meet God.”8 It is not the time to receive all of our blessings. President Packer explained, “‘And they all lived happily ever after’ is never written into the second act. That line belongs in the third act, when the mysteries are solved and everything is put right.”9 However, a vision of our Father’s incredible promised blessings must be the central focus before our eyes every day—as well as an awareness “of the multitude of his tender mercies”10 that we experience on a daily basis.
And then she said this, which has sustained me through many a tear-filled night:

Sisters, I do not know why we have the many trials that we have, but it is my personal feeling that the reward is so great, so eternal and everlasting, so joyful and beyond our understanding that in that day of reward, we may feel to say to our merciful, loving Father, “Was that all that was required?” I believe that if we could daily remember and recognize the depth of that love our Heavenly Father and our Savior have for us, we would be willing to do anything to be back in Their presence again, surrounded by Their love eternally. What will it matter, dear sisters, what we suffered here if, in the end, those trials are the very things which qualify us for eternal life and exaltation in the kingdom of God with our Father and Savior?

I guess what I am saying, and I am not even close to done saying it, is that WOMEN ARE AMAZING and that as we honestly and lovingly share our experiences with others we will find that not one of us is alone in our trials, and that through sharing them and growing friendships much joy will be brought into our lives as a result.

Look around you. Tell the mom in the grocery store with a screaming child that you believe in her and that she can do this.  When you hear of a hardship in another woman's life, don't hesitate, wondering what to say - pick up the phone. Immediately. Text her. Message her. Reach out to her.  Notice the eyes of your friends. Really LOOK in them and ask, "Are you doing okay?" and then listen, really LISTEN to their answer.

What have you noticed about the way media and society portray men and women?

How have you been blessed by another's willingness to share their experiences with you?

As women, what can we do to better support one another?

I always love hearing from you. This post is just the beginning of my journey to healing.


Thursday, June 16, 2016

I'll Tell You What You Want, What You Really, REALLY Want

I had somewhat of an epiphany this week. An enlightenment of sorts. 

And the thing I realized is this:

Every {free} human being on this lovely planet is doing EXACTLY WHAT THEY WANT TO. 

(I made the {free} distinction above in order to allow for the horrible reality that there are some of Heavenly Father's children on this earth who suffer greatly at the hand of others, whether through abuse, government control or a myriad of other unfair and undeserved realities.)

DISGRUNTLED BLOG SURFER:  Hey - wait, wait WAIT just a second. Are you saying that I actually WANT to be working the dead-end job I am working?

ME: {nods head}

DBS: WHAT? You are crazy. I will tell you what I REALLY want. I want to go backpacking through Europe.

ME: Then...go.

DBS: Oh, yeah - like it's that easy!  

ME: It is.

DBS: *pshaw* In order to do that, I'd have to save up all of this money and then quit my job.

ME: {nods head}

DBS: {laughing} Who DOES that?!

ME: People who actually want to.  

If we really WANT something - not dream about or think about - but totally truly, fully WANT something,...

we DO it.

 This applies not only to the big decisions, but the daily little ones as well.  

I may say that I want to get fit, but when I spend my free time doing things other than working out, I am showing I actually do NOT want to get fit. I think getting fit and healthy would be nice, or I think that I SHOULD get fit, but I don't really WANT to do all that it entails, all of the effort required is simply not something I want to do.

Even as a young mom, there may be plenty of things that I want to do - but as I work on my goals little by little, my daily choices still come down to what I WANT to do.

I want to be the best mom I can be - and although I may really like the idea of spending all day doing what I think I want to do, that reality would mean sweet babies left hungry and lonely. That would not be okay with me. So, I do what I can here and there, but what I REALLY WANT is to take care of my kids. That want is stronger than my other wants, so it comes first in the WANT priority line.

The following is from a BYU Devotional given by Tad R. Callister on Nov 4, 2014, titled "Tenacity":

"Not long ago I was sitting in my office and the phone rang. President Dieter F. Uchtdorf was calling. As we spoke, President Uchtdorf told me that he was pondering a word in English. The word was tenacity President Uchtdorf’s command of the English language is remarkable. In our conversation he defined tenacity as the ability to stick to a task, even when obstacles arise, and he indicated that this word includes in its meaning an absolute determination to accomplish the work or task that has been undertaken. He noted that tenacity is a quality worth developing, especially in our youth and young single adults. It is the opposite of what he sometimes observes when some people meet adversity. Those without tenacity may strive halfheartedly against an obstacle, only to give up and quit when it becomes too difficult; others quit before they have even begun because their task seems insurmountable.
"One online dictionary defines tenacity as “persistence, perseverance, and stubborn determination” and states that “tenacity is the quality displayed by someone who just won’t quit—who keeps trying until they reach their goal.”1
"I agree with President Uchtdorf. Tenacity is required to become true disciples of the Savior and to achieve those truly good goals—to become a great missionary, to complete your education, to find an eternal companion, and to start a family—that our Heavenly Father knows we need to achieve in this life to prepare for eternity. Our ability to be tenacious in all good things will determine whether we become the sons and daughters of God that He knows we can and must become."
I really, really like this quote from another BYU Devotional titled "The Thoughts of our Hearts - or- Why We Do What We Do", given by John C. Lewis on March 4, 2003:
"As a freshman at BYU, I remember going to bed that first Saturday night in my ultracompact Helaman Halls room and realizing that I could decide whether or not to get up for nine o’clock church the next morning. Mom and Dad were in California and would have no idea whether I went or not.
"The decision to get up on Sunday morning was strictly up to me, dictated by the internal desires of my heart. It is really the same with every choice we make. People around us see the choice itself, but only we know why we made that choice. In contrast to our childhood years, when many of our choices were made with little thought or were based on some external motivator—such as our parents or teachers or maybe a best friend—the more mature and independent we become, the more personal responsibility we have for our choices and the more those choices are governed by the motives that lie within our own hearts. Although external forces will always lean on our behavior, they become more and more subservient to the personal, heartfelt desires we carry inside of us." {emphasis added}
2 Nephi 2:25-26 reads:
25 Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.
 26 And the Messiah cometh in the fulness of time, that he may redeem the children of men from the fall. And because that they are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon, save it be by the punishment of the law at the great and last day, according to the commandments which God hath given.
I love this scripture. We were created to experience joy. Heavenly Father wants us to achieve all of the good things in life, wants us to fully "act for {our}selves" and give full expression to our goals and dreams. 
So here is an exercise for us all. I have done this, and it is brutal. For one week, keep track of your activities. Don't fool yourself. Don't suddenly go all crazy motivated in order to prove something to yourself. Live life the way you have for years, and, without judgement, record what you do and the amount of time you spent doing it. You can be as detailed as you want in this. 
If you are anything like me, you will end up simultaneously laughing and crying at how much time you have to do the things you want to do. And you do them. It may be eye opening to see how much time I want to spend on Facebook. 
I am writing this post not as a guilt-tripping device, but more as a freeing agent, if you will. Let us all give ourselves permission to LET GO of those things we have hanging over our head that we say we want to do. You may find when you think about it that you have always said that you want to write a novel, but when you really consider what that means, you actually have no desire to inflict that level of self-torture. So LET IT GO. 
Don't keep saying you want to do things that you really don't want to do.
Then, find out what you really WANT to do, and DO it. Even if what you want is to continue living exactly as you currently are. Then embrace that, and LIVE it with full purpose and let go of all of the other expectations. My guess is that very few of us will find ourselves in that boat because, as children of our Heavenly Father and Mother, we have a divine nature and a natural aspiration to better ourselves. 
I'll end with a quote from James E. Faust:
We must at times search our own souls and discover what we really are. Our real character, much as we would wish, cannot be hidden. It shines from within us transparently. Attempts to deceive others only deceive ourselves. [James E. Faust, “Search Me, O God, and Know My Heart,” Ensign, May 1998, 18]