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.


Gustogirl said...

I loved your post today. I think being like Pollyanna is a great goal!! I need to be more like her too. I have lost a lot of hope in the past few years and it has drained me spiritually and emotionally. Enjoying the journey and seeking the light are essential. Thanks for the reminder!

Sue said...

Great post. Thanks!

Thelissa said...

Thanks for your post. We can all use this kind of uplift! Thanks

shawn said...

a month ago, a friend lost her job and was struggling to find her way ... she reached out to me with the words - "you're one of the only people to understand what I'm feeling ..." Today she phoned to tell me she found a new job and things were getting better ...

Then as I hung up I found your posting ...

Joy is in the journey ... even in the darkest moments we hear the words of the psalmist - "yea, thou I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I shall fear no evil, for thou art with me"!!!

You've reminded us ALL Shauna that joy comes as we continue to journey from the darkness to the light ... and your words proclaim the GLORY of that transition.

Thank you ... you've spoken words of hope, faith and most of all JOY !!!

Blessings to you on your continuing journey !!!

Carrie Wilson Link said...

Love it! And I know you can do it. Totally. Joy is a choice, I agree, and I know you make good choices.

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful post. Thank you for having the courage to state your convictions and share.

Ma Fitz said...

Way to go, Shauna! You ARE choosing joy, and that will make all the difference. Life is a fabulous ride, and we can either enjoy it or hate it, it's totally up to us.

BTW, you look fabulous. You're doing great on many levels!

Rhonda Barnes said...

Shauna yes I too loved the prophets closing words and thought I can seek for a better day, a happier journey and we have so much to live for....loved your post! Love you! mom

Anonymous said...

Amazing and beautiful post Shawna.
I agree with every single word you said, happiness and joy is a choice. Hope is always there, life is about lessons from the good and bad. We can take those lessons and turn them into pure happiness. The trying, difficult times is when we need to do this more. I'm trying, I slip, but I keep going because I so believe in the journey.
Blessings and love!

jen said...

Great post!! I loved it and the inspiration it brought. joy in the journey.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, your sis Denise