The past month or so has seemed like a big, long, drawn out, stressful trial for me. It started before Christmas, and is on-going, and I have been feeling this undercurrent of sadness that seems to always be just below the surface, eager to rise up and swallow any positive feelings I have if I'll let it. I'm thinking that's probably why I was drawn to the Happiness Project book when I saw it on the shelf. Something about the idea of working towards happiness -- and the concept that it DOES actually require WORK to be happy -- appealed to me. The author, Gretchen Rubin, begins her project by working on her energy, and I decided that it seemed a logical place for me to start also. Specifically, I want to work on eating healthier, getting more rest, and clearing away the clutter from my house to improve the atmosphere and energy in my home.
I realized rather quickly that my three babies have obviously not read The Happiness Project, and were definitely NOT on board with these resolutions I've made. In fact, after a week of trying to work on the resolutions, I've come to realize that maybe at this point in my life, these are not the most attainable or realistic goals I could have chosen. I mean, come on...MORE REST??!! SERIOUSLY?? Who am I kidding? Immediately upon making this resolution, both of my girls came down with ear infections. Which, in turn, resulted in lots and lots and lots and LOTS of cranky screaming at all hours of the day and night. You can probably guess that this is not the most effective sleep aid. And because they've been super needy, Ovaka, OF COURSE, has been like a human suction cup that doesn't want to let me go ANYWHERE alone, because CLEARLY if the other two are crying and want to be held, it only makes sense that he should cry and want me to hold him, too, right? So, these little curve balls coupled with the fact that I had already been feeling down about some other non-baby-related issues created a kind of energy-vacuum that seemed to suck what little energy I was previously able to muster right out of me.
But, my epiphany that it's ok to be sad came not because of the personal stress I've been feeling, but rather as a result of my contemplating the struggles of my loved ones. This has been a truly heartwrenching week for several of the people I care about, and I've been super sad for/concerned about many of my friends or family members who are struggling under much greater weight than the burdens I've been carrying. I have become aware of multiple friends who were/are pregnant and received devastating news about their unborn children, had both friends and family members lose close loved ones, and had friends or family members of friends suffer serious, life altering injuries. The trials of my loved ones have been weighing heavily on my mind, and last night as I thought of these people that I care so much about, I wondered how feeling sad because they were hurting fit into the grand scheme of my resolutions to be happier.
As I was turning this idea over in my mind and trying to reconcile the ideas of pursuing happiness vs feeling sorrow because of my own trials as well as the trials of my friends and family, a bunch of Bible and Book of Mormon verses started coming to my mind. It's funny, because it seems like the more I pursue happiness, the more open my mind is to spiritual ideology. Well, I guess that's not actually all that funny. Or surprising. It only makes sense that if "men are that they might have joy," (2 Nephi 2:25) and I am seeking to be happy and joyful, then greater spiritual awareness would be the natural consequence of striving to do something that God wants me to do. Anyway, most of the biblical verses that came to my mind were from the epistles of Paul. Oh, how I love Paul! I took a New Testament class at BYU that turned me into a big Paul superfan. I love his steadfastness. I love his unwavering resolve. I love that he threw himself wholeheartedly into the cause of whatever he believed to be right, and that he had the humility to recognize when he was wrong and change his course. His conversion brings to mind a saying that I've heard Oprah say many times. It is something along the lines of, "we do the best we can with what we know, and when we know better, we do better." Now that I think of it, I'm pretty sure she was quoting Maya Angelou. But don't quote me on that. ;) At any rate, there were several little nuggets of wisdom that Paul imparted to the Galatians and the Romans that bubbled up in my mind as I was thinking last night.
I was thinking about my Aunt Sue and my cousin Adam, who this weekend had to put their dog to sleep that had been their companion for the past 16 years. I was thinking how silly it seemed that I had been crying over a stupid dog that I didn't even particularly care for, and wondering why I was such a big crybaby. As I was tearing up YET AGAIN just thinking about how sad Sue looked when I saw her, a verse from Romans 12 (ok, ok, I had to look up the scripture...I am admittedly not a Biblical scholar, but I DID know that it was in the Pauline epistles!) came to my mind. In verse 15, Paul encourages the Romans to "rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep." AHA! This is the first part of my "it's ok to feel sad" epiphany. If we are instructed to "weep with them that weep," then obviously some sadness is acceptable. I had unwittingly been feeling guilty about the fact that my happiness project hadn't magically transformed my life into one big happy shiny never ending broadway musical, but this short passage eased my mind a little bit and allowed me to feel ok about being sad. Conversely, it also had the beneficial effect of making me feel HAPPY about my crybaby-ness, as I realized that we are commanded by a prophet to cry with those who are crying. (I come by it very naturally -- my mom is quite possibly the biggest crybaby I know. Not in a bad way. In an I'm-sad-because-you're-sad kind of way. Ok, maybe I'M the biggest crybaby I know. She would definitely be a close second, though. Whatever. Moving on...)
The second part of my epiphony is found in Galatians 6, where Paul instructs the Galatians, saying, "bear ye one anothers burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ...And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap , if we faint not. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men..." I realized that by crying with/for those of my friends who have been struggling, I was doing my part to "bear another's burdens." I think, also, I realized that by sharing in the burdens of another, we are sometimes able to find meaning in our own struggles. I've been thinking a lot about one of my friends who miscarried last week, and her current trial brought back feelings I had when I miscarried. I think that although the pain and sadness of my experience will always be there, it has made me more sensitive to and empathetic of the needs of others who have had a similar experience. But this morning as I was pondering the passage in Galatians, I realized that just sharing a common experience isn't enough. The rest of Galatians 6 is what really brought everything together for me. "Let us not be weary in well doing...and if we have opportunity, let us do good unto all men." I think this is the key to my epiphony that it's ok to be sad. Yes, I've been feeling sad. And, quite honestly, weary describes the mood of my entire week (ok, MONTH) quite nicely. However, although it is ok to be sad, that sadness should move me to ACTION. In order to "bear the burdens" of those that I've been mourning with, I need to take the trials as an opportunity to "do good." So, that is my new resolution for the month of February. If I can't find a way to get more sleep or keep my house clean because I have three screaming banshees hollering in my ear, I resolve to at least generate more positive energy by taking the sadness I've felt over the struggles of my loved ones and using it as an opportunity to do good. I will bear the burdens of my friends and family and "faint not," and I will ACT so that they know that I love them and I am thinking about them. It's not enough just to feel sad. The important part is choosing to ACT. So, there you have it...my epiphany. It's ok to feel sad.
I hope this post didn't thoroughly depress you. In an effort to bring more happiness to your life as well as to mine, I will leave you with a few pictures of my funny little munchkins, and bid you all a good day!
|Another picture of my cutie pie Ovaka|
|Funny little sleeping girls with cute flowers on their butts|
|Oh, how I love my sweet helper Ilaiasi. Such a good big brother!|
|Elva Kalea minutes after getting 3 immunizations. Definitely NOT HAPPY. (but still cute)|