Thursday, June 11, 2009

Staying Alive on the Roller Coaster of Life (June 1)

Dear Family and Friends,

I accomplished a lot this week. Monday I finished a mostly polished copy of Watching Cookies in the Oven and felt like a massive weight had been lifted off my shoulders. 15 months of writing… and I can see a light at the end of the tunnel! If any of you are dying to give feedback on the manuscript, just send me an email.

Tuesday we had our first practice for Pirates of Penzance. We rehearse Mon-Thu from 6-9pm and Sat from 10am-2pm. Add in an hour of driving to get there, and my evenings from 5-10 and most of my Saturday is gone! Everyone doesn’t always need to be there, but since I am on stage for almost every number, I am part of almost every practice. I like the other performers – they are really serious about learning their parts and getting it right (a breath of fresh air from school plays and musicals)… and at the same time we laugh a lot and have a great time. They asked us to grow out our hair… but it’s only three more months (I’m hoping that I don’t look terrible). They also asked the pirates to grow facial hair, but I pulled my “I work at the Missionary Training Center” card and the director said, “That’s ok. You’re Frederic anyway – you should probably be different from the rest of the pirates. Keep your clean shave.” Thank heavens for that! Info on our performance schedule and tickets is at the bottom of this email.

Emotionally, this week has been a rollercoaster. Monday I was on top of the world (thanks to finishing my book), and I slowly floated down through the week. But then Friday was absolutely awful. An incredibly strong wave of apathy, gloom, and sorrow washed over me. It seemed like it was trying to choke me… and I didn’t know what to do.

For at least the last ten years, every so often I’ll have instances where I feel like the world should just fall on top of me… like I’m worthless and will never amount to anything. Listing off the good things I’ve done doesn’t help. I can’t concentrate enough to read the scriptures… and I can’t bring myself to even sing. It’s the most intense bad feeling I ever feel – so strong that you are willing to do anything to stop it. I’m really not sure what causes it… but it seems to happen more often in the moments when I’m not actively engaged in a good cause, when I’m not in social settings, and in the wake of major accomplishments. This time, I got out of the house and just started driving. I wanted to find a volleyball or soccer game so I could turn my mind elsewhere, but I couldn’t find one. Eventually, I found myself driving towards the Provo Temple. “Dear Lord,” I began, “I need help.” At that very moment, I felt a wave of love wash over me and I knew that God was with me, at my side, and that, whatever the source of my sorrow, He would help me overcome it. I cried in the Temple parking lot, then exercised (and cried some more), then finally went to another parking lot and wrote in my journal. By then, the clear skies had turned to clouds and the wind raced along the ground. I think that each of us has ways that we know God loves us. When I am struggling, He sends the wind and the rain. Thankfully, the hours of gloom passed and I was again able to smile.

I can see how this experience has changed my life over time. I don’t struggle with the day-to-day issues of chronic depression… but, often enough that I am constantly on guard, I fall into a pit of despair. I know that happiness is the purpose of our existence, which makes the experience all the more painful. In every case, I have had to turn to the Lord for help… often after trying every other thinkable way of diverting my thoughts. Finally, I realize what is happening and I give away my feelings for the love that He has for me.

I don’t think that I am a perfectionist or that I have personal expectations that I will never achieve. I feel like I have conquered my past problems and I am battling my present deficiencies. And I try to take care of my body… so hopefully I don’t have any major chemical imbalances in my brain. Whatever the cause, I have realized that my infrequent dips into intense emotional pain have caused me to reflect on my life and make goals to be a better person. Over the years, I have developed my own understanding of relying on the Lord and learned to better love others.

Each of us will have experiences so painful that we would do anything to escape. The death of a loved one, failure, broken dreams… all these can leave us reeling. Added to the pain of experiences, the rules of darkness would choke our faith and fill us with fear… destroying our ability to do what is right. Yet, it is in these hours of darkness, as happened to the prophet Joseph, that we turn to the Lord and feel His light filling our souls. At the moment of his deepest despair, when he was about to give himself over to pain, depression, and sorrow, he called out to God… and in that moment the darkness fled as a pillar of light descended – a vision of the love of God that would change his life, and ours, forever.

My prayer is that each of us, when faced with pain, will turn to God and place our lives faithfully and optimistically in His hands. He is always with us, every step of the way. He is the motivation behind our greatest accomplishments… and He is the teacher behind the wisdom we gain from our greatest defeats. He loves us – so much that He is willing to let us experience everything necessary to be happy in this life and exalted in the next. Smile. Pray. And help others – go out and be missionaries!

p.s. - The directors finally answered my questions on tickets for Pirates of Penzance; here’s all the information I have:

We are performing at the Off Broadway Theater (272 S. Main Street, Salt Lake). Don’t buy tickets online. You can buy tickets by calling the box office (801-355-4628 - it’s normally open Monday, Friday, and Saturday afternoon) or by going in person.

Always tell them you know David (I’m playing Frederic). If you know an actor all tickets are eight dollars.

We perform July 31st, Aug 1, 7, 8, 10, 14, 15, 17, 21, 22, 24, 28, and 29 at 7:30. There is also a matinee at 2:00 on August 15 and maybe a matinee at 2:00 on August 22. Tickets are already on sale.

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