I hit the ground this weekend.
I went to a place I hadn't been in years. A tough, dark place.
And as I tried to figure out how I got there, I couldn't pinpoint one or two big things. It was a combination of small things that have accumulated over the past months and some over years.
I think of Jack Black in Gulliver's Travels, lying on the beach, tied down by tiny ropes.
That's what things have felt like for me. It wasn't just one big thing that weighed me down. It was a thousand little things. Responsibilities, obligations, job, the needs of others, callings...
But, there were more ropes than those.
Expectations I put on myself. Experiences that didn't turn out like I'd hoped. People not being what I thought they were. Me not being what I thought I should be. Getting hurt. Perceived failures...
A thousand tiny ropes that, in of themselves individually couldn't hold me down, but collectively had the power to take me to the ground.
Over the past couple of weeks I've had a few more ropes added to the bunch. Not big ones, but just enough to give all the ropes the strength to pull me down.
And down I went. Hard.
I could feel myself going down, and I decided I wasn't going down without a fight.
Saturday morning I got up early and went to the temple. Surely I would receive the strength, validation, and perspective I needed there.
But I felt nothing.
I drove home empty and confused.
I talked with my husband that night for a long time. I shared with him all that I was feeling. I talked about each little rope, and he listened patiently and lovingly.
I explained how I was failing at so many things. And how I was hurt by some things. And how I was afraid of some things. And how I really was just so tired of not being enough.
So tired of that.
And what made it worse is that I'm an inspirational writer and speaker.
I'm not supposed to feel this way. I should know better.
I mean, the project I'm working on now is about not believing the lies Satan tells us. So my guilt was even greater. And so was my shame. I know the gospel. I teach it. I shouldn't struggle like this. And yet, I was.
According to my husband, many of the things that troubled me weren't reality, but my perception.
I can see that as a real possibility.
But still, down I went.
I went to church Sunday morning. There were reminders all around me and in my mind of my ropes--of hurts and unmet expectations and my failures by comparison. I managed to make it through Sacrament meeting without tears, but the moment the closing prayer was said, they started to come.
I secured a ride for my girls, then left church early, the tiny ropes all running through my head.
There was no room for anything else. They were consuming. And painful. And suffocating.
I cried and prayed. And cried and prayed.
Still no answers.
That is what has seemed to be the heavenly M.O. for the past few months. Silence.
It was deafening.
Most of my life has been with companionship of the Holy Ghost. I almost always received inspiration on major decisions, peace when I asked for it, direction when I sought it, help when I needed it.
But, for whatever reason, the past few months it's been gone. I've felt very alone.
And Sunday, I plead for it. I plead to feel the Spirit, to feel something. To hear something.
And nothing came.
A thousand tiny ropes and deafening silence.
Out of exhaustion, I feel asleep.
When I awoke, I didn't feel better. No miracle relief. No sudden strength or perspective.
Just heaviness, failure, and pain.
I kept the tears at bay the rest of the day, but my thoughts ran freely.
I had plenty of proof of my failures, my not-enough moments, the rejections...I had real reasons to feel the way I did.
I also had false reasons to feel the way I did, too. My own misinterpretations of God's will, my unrealistic expectations of myself, etc.
I spent the day trying to decode the real from the false. It was exhausting and brought me down further.
So many ropes. And still, so much silence.
Then, that evening, I had to ask myself some questions: If the ropes stayed, and the silence remained, could I still believe? Could I trust in myself when I felt so weak, so not-enough? Could I believe the positive things my husband told me about myself when I had so much proof otherwise? Could I trust in God when the heavens were so quiet for so long? Could I be okay if my circumstances didn't change?
Could I lie beneath a thousand tiny ropes under a silent sky and still be all right?
I realized I could.
But it would have to be a purposeful decision. A choice. My choice.
So, that is what I did.
I chose to be okay.
Now, it hasn't come all at once, the good feelings.
And the bad feelings, the pain, the fear, and all that crap, haven't left all at once.
I still feel hurt from open wounds. I still have some fear. I still feel bad.
BUT- a couple things did change.
First, hope entered in. I will feel better. I always have, and I will again.
Second, my eyes began to look away from the ropes to other things...to other people, people I can help. And that always helps me.
Third, as I awoke and went to work this morning, I realized that the sun did, indeed rise again, and that it will tomorrow and the next day and the next day. And I will be okay.
Fourth, I understand that the Atonement can work in my life if I choose to let it, even if it works in a way I don't recognize or am used to. And I choose to believe it's working in me right now.
I've felt this bad only a few other times in my life. But the significant lesson here was that even if many of the ropes are still there and I haven't felt the Spirit reach out to me, I can choose to try to get up.
I can choose to believe. I can choose to be okay. I can choose to get up.
And I have. At least, I am trying to get up.
I cannot believe I am the only person in the world that has felt this way before. There must be others who have felt suffocated by the weight of a thousand tiny little ropes.
Maybe you're impacted by the deafening silence of heaven right now.
Maybe you have an arsenal of "proof" that you've failed.
Maybe you've been hurt by others.
Or maybe you are simply tired of never being enough.
If you feel this way, I get it. I get you.
But it's not permanent. And it's not all real.
You have the power in you to choose what you will believe.
You have the power to choose to be okay.
And you can.
I am feeling better today. Not 100%. But getting there.
I'm slowly working to recognize and address each little rope.
I'm trying to adjust my life to give myself the space I need to get up again.
And, rather than waiting for the heaven to open up, I am going to open up to the heavens today.
I can't hear God right now, but I choose to believe He hears me.
And man, do I have a lot to say.
Tiny little ropes. Deafening Silence. And a choice.
I'm going to be okay.
And so can you.
It's been a couple of days since I wrote this post. I've had time to reflect on it. I've had moments when I thought I would take it down. I mean, who wants to share their sucky times? Their struggles? Their weaknesses?
But then, I think we are so often willing and eager to share the successes that we begin to think that's what life is made of. And that moments like these, where we struggle or cry or doubt or hurt, that these are the exception.
But not only the exception, a bad exception. An embarrassing exception. A weak exception. A wrong exception.
And we begin to hide our struggles and apologize if they show, embarrassed as if we just accidentally mooned a crowd of tourists.
Now I'm not advocating we all share every pain and fear we feel. There's risk in vulnerability. Not to mention, the deep and tender things of our hearts are sacred.
BUT- we should not feel shame because we hurt or struggle or feel.
WE ALL HAVE TIMES LIKE THESE. It is normal. It is human.
It is healthy and good. A cleaning out of closets of sorts. An inventory and even reckoning.
A cleansing and opportunity for choice and a new chapter.
This is what this experience was for me.
I shared some deep feelings. Not all of them...I kept the very personal, sacred stuff to myself. But I shared enough to worry what readers would do with it.
Would they judge how I felt? Would they judge why I share?
But then, the driving force behind sharing was stronger than the fear of sharing.
We need to know that
- everyone struggles sometimes
- hard emotions--even pain- are not always bad
- we have the ability to sort through rather than stuff
- we have more power than we realize over how we feel
- and we can hurt and struggle, and will still be okay.
I am feeling much better. I knew I would. Optimism helps. Looking back at history helps. Perspective helps. But so does my determination to be happy--my choice to be happy. Even when conditions are not perfect. (Are they ever?)
I really am okay.
No, I am good.
I'm a bit tired. Still hurting a little. Still thinking a lot.
But I feel strong and balanced again. I feel optimistic and hopeful.
I feel happy.
And I hope you are too.