Monday, November 16, 2009

Rising from the shadows

I don't feel incredibly well right now. I'm not sick – it's an emotional / mental thing – and it has little to do with what has happened this week. But it, along with exhaustion, is affecting my ability to compose my thoughts clearly.

Looking back, this week has actually been really good. Work has been a little slow, but we're getting ready to pick up a massive project in the next few days. I went on a few dates, all of which went well. Our first preview performance of Savior of the World is Tuesday – and opening night is this coming Friday. Each practice has been a spiritual experience... and I am learning more about symbolism than I expected – from scriptural symbolism to symbolism from the temple to symbolism about everyday life.

Right now I'm fighting strong dualistic tendencies. One part of me wants to simply write about the good things that have happened – to fill my letter with whatever I can to be optimistic and bright. That's the feeling I've followed and, as I've tried, my mood has lightened and the darkness is shifting. On the other hand, I wanted to be truthful – to have my letter reflect what was going on in my head. And so, now that I feel a bit better, I'd like to share the experience I just had... because, perhaps, it may be what you need.

As soon as I returned home from a fireside this evening, I began writing my thoughts. I realized that I needed to better understand what was happening in my mind. I often do that while I'm writing letters – if I have strong thoughts or feelings, I take a detour, write what could be considered a long journal entry, then cut and paste pieces of it to use in my letter. This is part of what I wrote:

“Some days I'm around people who seem to have it all put together – at least in the areas where I lack. I see their talents, their blessings, and the happiness in their lives... and I see the stark contrast to my own life. What I want most seems to come so easily... and it seems as if they almost take it for granted. I look at my life and wonder why I don't have those skills – why I fall so completely behind – and, like demons in the night, everything I've ever done wrong comes back to haunt me. Maybe if I had spent more time engaged as a child... if I had been more dedicated... if I had not made so many horrible mistakes... if I were simply a better person... then the Lord would see fit to bless me. And then I look at the innumerable blessings and talents the Lord has already given me (including those that others want so badly), and I feel like an ungrateful wretch.

I have skills in learning, in teaching, in writing, in singing, in doing whatever I want... but I seem to lack the ability to get close to people. People come into my life and go out like water through my hands. And I do the same in theirs.

I have friends and a great family... and I know that people care about me and I about them. And so I know that this feeling isn't really real. And yet it comes and goes and I wonder if the Lord is simply teaching me that I need to rely on Him and Him alone... that I need to turn to Him for support and have Him be my truest confidant and friend. Through the years, I have developed my ability to communicate with Him and that has come partially true... but when I don't listen to His voice and it goes silent... I feel so completely alone that sometimes I just curl up in a ball and cry.

I guess that makes sense... since one of the greatest things that the Lord has taught me is to listen to His voice. And while I have definitely had friends to turn to, and a family to support me, He is always there for me when no one else knows what is wrong... when no one else can tell the difference. And, I guess I'm grateful for the blessing that He's given me – the utter feelings of helplessness and the requirement to turn to Him for relief. It keeps me humble... and each time that I turn to Him, I learn something more about who I am and who I might someday be.

Today I'm almost wracked with jealousy... Why am I so jealous? I think it's because I haven't yet learned how to be happy. I'm sorry, Father. I guess I should welcome the pain... since I deserve it and hopefully it will help me to be better. I guess I'm not really jealous – only so completely disheartened that I can't seem to make it in what seems so important in life. Sometimes I think that I'm ok – that it's simply an opportunity for me to grow. And perhaps my chance is over and life will go on without me, passing me by. I know that this may not be true, but it's what I feel. It's what aches me and pains me and the fear I have more than anything else in the world – that my mistakes will lead to everlasting sorrow and that I have, somehow, denied myself eternal peace.”

I didn't feel comfortable sending that by itself, especially since it's completely depressing. I didn't want to send it for a few reasons. First, every time I send something remotely desolate, people get concerned about me. I really appreciate it, but I don't want to be an emotional burden. You have enough stress in your life without my problems. Second, I really, really, really wish that I were perfect... and it's hard for me to admit that I struggle in life. So I went into the other room and asked for help to lift my feelings... and I tried to write something uplifting – to count my blessings and to be grateful for what I've received. As I wrote and prayed and thought about the good things in my life, amazingly, it worked. I feel full of peace and hope when before they were gone.

I don't know if each of us goes through times when we feel totally discouraged and alone. Most likely yes – if only so that the Lord can teach us and bless us for turning to Him in our times of need. As I've felt pain (self-inflicted from mistakes or not) and turned to Him, I've learned more than I ever thought possible... and grown so much closer to Him. And, while I won't wish for pain (or fully appreciate it when it inevitably returns), I'm grateful that the Lord has given me the obstacles I need to face on the road to perfection... and the strength to overcome them. My invitation for you – the next time you feel distraught, discouraged, downtrodden, or depressed, collect your thoughts. Write them down or pray aloud... and ask the Lord for help in rising from them. Pray to know that He loves you... and for peace and help in becoming better – no matter what you have done in the past. Count your blessings, engage in the service of others, and give away your sorrow to the Lord. He will give you peace. Go out and be missionaries!

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