I have Lyme. I’d like to not have it anymore. I also just want cake.
I can’t sleep. So I figured I’d ramble.
“Happiness is letting go of what you think your life is supposed to look like and celebrating it for everything that it is”.
So this topic has been on my mind for a good two months. I’ve had several people recently ask me how it is that I handle my life with the attitude I do, or just plain how I deal with everything and keep going. Which, first of all, I find amusing because I am not the poster child for suffering, comparatively speaking, and second of all, you guys have no idea what my ugly moments look like. But nevertheless, I have wanted to tackle this subject for a while but I had no idea how to even begin, because the answer wasn’t entirely something I could find words for until I stumbled upon that quote I put at the beginning. And at the risk of sounding something like another platitude we all see plastered over social media so much that it no longer produces any sort of effect on us whatsoever, I shared it with you all. Because it doesn’t get more simple than that. And because it’s true. It’s the not so magic answer.
As residents of this earth we are subject to certain laws of nature, obviously. You know things like gravity, entropy, and the fact that electrons bear a specific charge of 1.60 x 10-19. Fun stuff like that. There is this philosophical argument regarding doom vs. failure, but the jist of it is that endeavors that go against known laws of nature are doomed. For example we can’t accelerate a massy object beyond the speed of light. That’s just never going to happen. But we can potentially cure cancer, so until then all of those specific efforts will be failures. But not doomed. That being said, all of the imaginations us humans like to cradle and protect of lives free from toil and pain… ARE doomed. Not failures. Stop and think about that… I hope you find that ultimately freeing. So, because of the laws of entropy, we know that we, as living creatures, are going to peak pretty early and then spend the rest of our lives physically declining. But what gets me is… why are we so surprised when that starts happening in the various ways it happens? Simultaneously, we are made to be social creatures that build elaborate webs of relationships with other imperfect creatures. Ultimately, this makes us vulnerable to hurt. Again, why are we so surprised when imperfect people can’t treat us perfectly? We really love denial and we really love to hold grudges.
Let’s dive into this further. To quote Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, “we are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience”.
The human experience is subject to all that belongs to this fallen world – pain, disease, aging, unfairness, evil, corruption, broken hearts. If we view ourselves as eternal beings experiencing the mortal, instead of mortal beings discovering the spiritual… well, that changes everything. That supposes that you were you before all this mortal messiness happened. But why would you say to God, “yes! I want to be born!”, if there wasn’t something to gain from all of this mess? Why would we look at this world where everything basically starts decaying the moment it is formed and think “sign me up for that!” Why is it necessary our spirits have this seemingly ugly human experience? And is it really so ugly?
“The trials of this life will ultimately lead to joy if we patiently trust in God’s plan and discover how to use adversity to grow stronger.” – Larry Richman
Again, if we are simply having a mortal experience currently, reason suggests there is something after this. The spirit has to exist beyond the human experience else what was the point. And what comes after this must be something that requires more experience from us than if we never came here at all. It is my belief that God looked at you and me and thought “yes, you are full of potential, but you’ll never reach it here where it’s cushy and nice. You need to be put through the ringer. You can be stronger than this. Off to earth you go”.
And so we find ourselves here now, subject to nature’s cruelty du jour, and yet we’re all huffing and mad about it as if we were supposed to be the only living thing exempt from it. God could have made an easier planet for us to come to. I grew up watching a lot of nature shows because I was irrationally obsessed with animals. What those programs taught me at a pretty young age was that nature is cruel and unfair. Cute little baby antelope are the ones usually taken down by prey before they can enjoy the full measure of their creation. A male lion is chased away from his herd and family and all he’s ever known because he grew up and there’s only room for one male in the pride. He spends years looking awfully lonely and skinny as he roams alone looking for a new pride. Few baby turtles even make it to the sea after they hatch. A buffalo injures herself and has to drag that painful leg around until she catches infection and dies a slow and painful death on a snowy and blistering cold landscape as she watches the wolves wait in shadows. This is the planet we live on. And human beings, as smart as we are, have little mastery over the elements and these laws of nature. Gravity still sucks at us from the core of the earth ensuring we can’t escape it. And God made it this way intentionally.
I have this scripture that I like, and it describes this human experience so well when read between the lines. It’s found in the Book of Mormon, which is scripture my church uses as a companion to the Bible. It reads in part: “…and if they endure to the end they shall be lifted up at the last day…” (emphasis added) I don’t know about you but that’s telling me I’m not going to cross this mortal finish line with a spring in my step. This human experience is going to be a doozy. I’m going to be straight up military crawling in a most pathetic way, bruised and broken, tears streaming down my cheeks in the truest of exhaustion, across that finish line. Then He will lift me up back on my feet again. On the last day. That’s how its gonna be. We might as well adjust our expectations now. We can sit here and get angry and throw our fists in the air and hate Him for it, or we can humble ourselves and attempt to learn why this is so. What was His purpose? I promise you that with the right attitude, you will figure that out. He wants you to. It’s perhaps one of the reasons we are here. And when you do, you will embrace all of the constant head winds this human experience brings you and you will find more joy in the happy breaths of fresh air too. And if nothing else, you can hold on. Mortality does end and you will have the most precious of experiences as God himself devotes a loving moment to you, brushes the dirt off you, heals your personal wounds and brokenness, loves you face to face, and puts you back on your feet again. I can hang on for that.
If you’re anything like me, and I know you are, you hear “I’m sorry” a lot as people ask you how you are feeling or just remarking about your illness in general. And I know that is only natural… people don’t really know what to say. We’re conditioned to express sympathy when we each end up falling under the various misfortunes of nature that exist here. But three years into debilitating illness now, and I’m no longer sorry. I wish I could just issue a PSA to all family and friends to say “It’s ok! This was a good thing! Be happy for me!” Because I’ve grown so much. I’ve been tutored. I’ve tasted bitter so I can know the sweet. I appreciate more and have been forced to adopt a more eternal perspective in order not to go crazy. I’m more patient, humble, selfless, aware of others, empathetic, and mindful of God. I’ve had spiritual moments I wouldn’t trade for the world. And life is so much better with that. It’s deeper. I wouldn’t change a thing. Yes, I’m physically uncomfortable. Yes, there are times I want to get out of this rocky boat ride before I’ve reached the destination God wants me to reach. But I’ve accepted it as the price to pay for this human experience. And I guess this is where people get hung up. But once I realized this is my reality and I’m doing all I can to remedy that, I decided I don’t want to be unhappy in the meantime. I don’t want these years to be marred. I’m going to figure this out and find a purpose and adjust. It was a process, but I did. I think my writing reflects that… I used to spend a lot more time calling attention to my suffering than I do now. Overcoming that required a lot more focus on my spirit and less on my body. Eventually, I’m going to leave my body behind… but even then, I have a feeling that as I leave this vessel that brought me so much pain and discomfort, frailties and weaknesses, I’m going to be sad to see it go for a while. Its taught me so much.
Lastly, and if I may speak boldly for a moment. We could all do well to check our privilege a bit. If you can’t be happy with your circumstances, you haven’t exposed yourself enough to humanity! Go watch a few documentaries on Indian orphanages or life in impoverished rural China. Volunteer for just an hour on a children’s cancer ward or befriend a paraplegic. Truly place yourself in the shoes of those who never know if air raids are going to drop explosives on their home that day. There are millions of beautiful people in stations of life far below yours who smile and find joy in the blessings they have. They are embracing the human experience. One of the most liberating things I’ve ever experienced was letting go of what I thought my life would be… what I thought I deserved. I took this story book I had written of my life expectations, erased all of it, and gave all of my blank pages to God. He will write my story and I’m just going to wake up, choose my response, and live it every morning. It was far too frustrating continually trying to make my version happen, quite frankly, against the laws of this natural world. So many of us wake up every day fighting against feeling pain or sadness, disappointment and grief. I’m not saying deny yourselves of those feelings at all, I’m saying embrace them. Then move past them. True joy and gratitude is being able to recognize the divinely designed purposes in this unfair world, in your unfair life, and to appreciate the opportunity to be challenged and grow. Have faith that this human experience was designed purposefully right down to the finest of details. Including spirochetes! I’ve learned how to make spirochetes work for me! (most of the time) One of the biggest fingerprints God has all over this earth full of doomed endeavors is the ability His children have to cultivate spirits that rise above their physical limitations, discover Him anyways, and choose joy. It’s so beautiful to me. It takes the word “doom” and puts it in its place. It’s like all “Hey doom, your totally temporary and I’m not going to live all upset about it”. I’m sure we’re all aware of the movie Life is Beautiful. Such an oxy-moron to title a movie about Jewish concentration camps in that way. But it was a beautiful movie. And we all know why. Can you create that same beauty amidst the to-be-expected-but-also-temporary tragedies in your own life? You can. You can!
Besides, there really is so much to be grateful for. I will preach gratitude even in my worst moments… it is a principle so dear to my heart. Spending five minutes writing ten things you were grateful for each day will change your life. It’s a habit, a practice. It is just as easy to talk yourself into happiness as it is to talk yourself into depression. I know I really emphasized the unfairness of this life in this post, but ultimately I truly believe there is more good than bad. We are more favored than unfavored. We are SO blessed. We are SO privileged. This world, despite its harshness, screams of God’s love if you will have eyes to see it. What an amazing opportunity to be here and learning so much. How much power He’s given us to make it positive! So let go. Sometimes I wonder if we are given so called “doomed” predicaments just so we can develop the skill of not giving up… of just absolute stubborn faith. Recently I watched an acquaintance slowly die from brain cancer… smiling until the bitter end. We underestimate the importance of developing faith while on a sinking ship. Certainly if our spirits exist beyond this sphere, that faith was far more important than surviving the shipwreck. Our adversity is but for a moment, all things considered.
In closing, let’s recap.
The human experience is hard by design. Hardship is a catalyst for growth. Thus the human experience was designed to encourage growth. Acceptance agrees to these conditions and strives to find the personal meanings in each personal challenge. Gratitude is the great antidote to misery. Happiness is celebrating all you do have. Joy is found as we respond to these mortal, human experiences in the ways God hoped we would. The end. Really. Hopefully this made sense and I was able to get across what was in my head. It’s a hard question to answer because you’re only going to get it and internalize it as you practice it. Sorry no magic button was involved. We’re learning to go against human nature’s default here… did you think it wasn’t going to involve work?
Occasionally I have moments where everything just makes sense. This beautiful one at some ice castles up in the Utah mountains a bit ago was one of them.