Thursday, October 09, 2008
Hope for Me, Thanks
I’ve joked about being Worst Case Scenario Mama. It seems a funny thing, a natural thing –something that prepares me for the worst possible outcome of a situation so that we are fully braced for all that is bad, ugly, and painful. I’ve done it for years to the point that it’s become as natural as breathing. Unfortunately, it has also made my life miserable. All that bracing is exhausting; it’s taken a toll on my spirit, making it difficult to embrace the good in life and celebrate joy.
I don’t talk about my beliefs much. When I first started blogging, it was simply an opportunity to tell my family about the crazy experiences I was having as a mother without calling them up, one by one, to share what they might consider the blathering of just another giddy mommy. But it soon evolved to be more than that, bracing me against the harsh edges of separation and then divorce, and then, encouraging me through the strange land that is single-motherhood.
But now I’d like to share another faucet of my life that I hope will grow to consume my experience, and that is JOY, something that I find inseparable from my beliefs as a Latter Day Saint (a Mormon).
Life is hard. I get that. I’ve braced for it, experienced it, and survived it (so far). I’ve learned a lot from difficulty. But life is also a blessed experience that should be full of hope and happiness. As I’ve thought about that idea, read lots of inspiring books and listened to the amazing leaders of my church, I’ve discovered (as many of you have probably already realized) that happiness is a choice.
This past weekend our church held its semi-annual general conference, where our leaders (men and women alike) shared powerful messages intended to inspire members to serve others, endure struggles, and capture joy.
Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf’s, second counselor to our prophet, shared a message (Saturday Morning Session) that was life-changing for me. He spoke of the infinite power of hope and how it has the ability to fill our lives with joy. The antithesis of hope is despair, which, as Worst Case Scenario Mama, I have often experienced. He explained, “Despair drains from us all that is vibrant, and joyful, and leaves behind the empty remnants of what life was meant to be. Despair kills ambition, advances sickness, pollutes the soul and deadens the heart. Despair can seem like a staircase that leads only and forever downward.”
“Hope, on the other hand, is like the beam of sunlight rising up and above the horizon of our present circumstances. It pierces the darkness with a brilliant dawn. …Hope upholds us. Hope raises our resolve. The brighter our hope, the stronger our faith.”
When I was in graduate school I despised the Pollyanna’s of the world, those stricken with a sickening optimism that seemed, to me, to have nothing to do with the realities of life—hardships, struggles, disabling disappointments. Now, however, I want to become a Pollyanna. Because, really, who enjoys life more? The Pollyanna’s of this world or the Negative Nellies? After years of being a Negative Nelly I say, take me to the bright side, the sickeningly sweet side, the side where I can smile at my children more and worry about the unknown future less.
In reading Marriane Williamson’s book, The Gift of Change, she talks about how we’re given opportunities to learn through joy. We encounter experiences and opportunities that enable us to learn, with grace and ease. If we refuse that opportunity, perhaps because we feel too busy, overwhelmed, or just not up to the task, it will pass and then return again. Each time it returns, it takes on an element of difficulty, forcing us to turn our attention to the curriculum God intends for us to master.
She explains, “It’s not up to us what we learn, only whether we learn through joy or through pain. But if we don’t yet trust that every situation is a lesson, we don’t bother to ask ourselves what the lesson is. And unless we do, our chances of learning it are nil. Then the lesson will reappear—with even higher stakes—until we learn it. We may as well learn it the first time, when the chance to learn through joy is still available.”
I can see that this lesson of HOPE has been returning to me again and again. I intend to learn the lesson this time and release the fear, the despair, and the darkness that has often suffocated me. It will require effort and intention, but it will come.
The last talk of general conference (Sunday Afternoon Session) was given by our beloved prophet, President Thomas S. Monson. He spoke of finding joy in the journey. For me there couldn’t have been a better message with which to close.
So while in the past I have easily spotted the storms, I intend to seek out the light, the uplifting and the hopeful more and more every day. I’m finding myself inspired by many who are doing the same and with them I will try harder to choose JOY.