Do You Believe in Magic?

Do you believe in magic? Of course you don’t. You did as a kid, until your parents told you the truth about Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny and fairies and that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow—and crushed your happy, innocent bubble of a magical world. But you know what? I still believe in magic. I’ve felt it swirling through the air of Joe’s Valley, caught between long rays at dusk on golden cliffs. I’ve seen it in the reflection of sunlight on towering pines at Kolob Canyon. I wrote this poem once called Kolob’s Gift.

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Shimmering gold grabs my eyes.
Mesmerized.

Individual needles of pinyon pine
reflecting the streaming sunlight
against the brilliant blue sky.
A treasure worth more than all the jewels
I could ever buy.

 

Magic. I also experienced it once at Bryce Canyon. Most people would probably call me crazy. I call what happened a gift. Let me take you back with me.

In high school I was different—different, weird, an outcast—a freak. Most of the time I was fine with that. I didn’t want to be like everyone else, and I proudly walked around in my tie-dye and bell bottoms, not caring what anyone else thought. But some of the time it did affect me. Some of the time I hated being different, hated knowing that people thought I was a freak. And it made me feel bad about myself. Low self-esteem is a common side-effect of depression. I hated looking at myself in the mirror. I was ugly. I was worthless. I was different. I was a freak. And I hated myself.

The summer between my junior and senior years of high school, we took a family trip to Bryce Canyon. I loved being there. I was a nature girl, a desert girl, a red-earth and green-pines girl. But I was also a very depressed girl, feeling so worthless and alone, feeling like my life didn’t matter.

Our last day at Bryce we took a shuttle ride. It stopped at certain lookouts long enough for everyone to get off, take a few pictures, get back on, then drive to the next stop. The main road comes to an end at a large parking lot with several lookouts so this stop was longer than the rest. Everyone shuffled out of the hot, muggy shuttle and took out their cameras. I noticed a trail disappearing into a cluster of pines and took it, wanting to be alone. It led to a lookout called Yovimpa Point.

I stood there at the edge, next to the wooden fence separating me from a long, steep dive down, and took in the breathtaking view of red sandstone, white earth and deep green pines. A good place to take my last breath. All I had to do was climb over the fence and jump. I could end my worthless life and die in my beautiful nature. All problems solved.

I had just put my foot on the fence when I heard voices nearing me, speaking French—a group of tourists who had been on the same shuttle. I stepped back, suddenly nervous about letting these strangers watch me commit suicide. Not long after, my family wandered down the trail, as well. Plan foiled. Now, I can look back and say I’m glad it was.

When I got home from Bryce I talked to my best friend about what had happened. She gave the generic answers any Latter-day Saint person would give about how I was of great worth to my Father in Heaven and that He and Jesus Christ wanted me to live. It did help—enough for me to decide that killing myself wasn’t the answer.

Halfway through my senior year of high school I decided I was sick of being depressed. I remember this one day, sitting by myself in the dark in one of the practice rooms in the band room, thinking how I didn’t want to be depressed anymore. I wanted to be happy. So I told myself I’d be happy. And I was. I know it sounds simple and easy, and, well, it was. That’s not always how it goes, that’s not always how it’s gone at other times in my life, but that time it did. It was amazing how easy it was to make myself be happy after that. It’s not that life was easy. I still had challenges and faced difficult trials, but it was easier getting through them because I had a better attitude, and I wouldn’t let anything get me down.

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Okay, now let’s fast forward to my second year of college. Some roommates and friends and I decided to go to Bryce Canyon over spring break. One day, we drove to the big parking lot at the end of the road. I quickly took off away from everyone else and walked the trail to Yovimpa Point. I stood alone, looking out at the same scene, though painted white from several feet of snow. After a short time I noticed movement from the corner of my eye. I turned to look, thinking maybe one of my roommates had come down the trail, but no one was there. Odd. I turned, looked out at the scene before me, again, and again, out of the corner of my eye I saw movement. I saw someone. I turned, but no one was there. As soon as I turned back, I saw the person again. But this time I didn’t turn to look because I knew who it was. I knew who was there—it was me. I saw myself—the past me, the one who stood there, thinking about jumping. And in this rush of memory I thought about how much I had changed and grown and evolved in the last two and a half years, since the last time I was here. The most incredible sense of peace, calm, and quiet satisfaction settled over me—just like the pure, white snow settled over the land. A gift to remind me that we don’t have to stand still in this life. We can become more than what we were, more than what we are. And it’s okay to falter, it’s okay to be weak. It only means we have some place to go, that we can make ourselves strong.

So, did I really see myself that day? I will always believe that I did. Was it magic? Am I just crazy? Just different? Just a freak? Well, whatever anyone else may think, I’m grateful—will always be grateful—for that experience and what it meant to me. What it taught me. What have your experiences in life taught you?

The Power of Gratitude

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I’m going to be cliché today and write about gratitude. The fact that Thanksgiving is this week is a complete coincidence! Actually, this has been on my mind recently, partly because it was the subject of a lesson I substituted for in my daughter’s primary class at church. Thanksgiving being in a couple of days just makes it more appropriate!

Many years ago someone told me about a gratitude journal—a journal you kept where every day you wrote three things you were grateful for. Gratitude/thankfulness is something we talk a lot about in my church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We’re taught to be grateful for all of the blessings Heavenly Father has given us. But gratitude isn’t just a spiritual concept. It’s part of the field of Positive Psychology. Dr. Randy Kamen wrote an article for the HuffPost about it:

What we have learned is that cultivating personal attributes fortifies us during times of adversity and emotional turmoil and leads to greater happiness and resilience. Moreover, of all the attributes one can develop, gratitude is most strongly associated with mental health.

You can read her full article here.

So I decided to start my own gratitude journal. At the time I was still struggling with the aftermath of my severe postpartum depression which never went away. Finding things to be grateful for during times like that can be a struggle, so I decided to start out writing just one thing each day I was grateful for. Sometimes my entries were of a silly or whimsical nature. I’m grateful for chocolate. (I really, truly am!) I’m grateful for rain in the summer and for cute, little frogs hopping around. (We used to have a bunch of them, and my kids loved finding them in our grass.) I’m grateful for gourmet donuts. [My daughter] and I shared an Oreo donut, and it was so good. (I miss those donuts they used to have at the local grocery store!)

Sometimes I wrote about temporal things. I’m grateful for good people who do good things. (I don’t even remember who I was thinking of when I wrote this, but I am still grateful for the many people in my life who do good things.) I’m grateful for shelter, for a place to live. (This is especially true now with all the disasters going on throughout the world.) I’m grateful for my children. I wish they didn’t grow up so fast.(My baby boy just turned six, and I still wish they didn’t grow up so fast.)

Often times, my entries were of a more personal or spiritual nature. I’m thankful for The Book of Mormon and the peace, comfort and happiness it gives me. I’m grateful for the Spirit that’s with me when I read it. (Something I still feel the same way about.) I’m grateful for the gift of beauty the Sonoran Desert has shown me. (Right about now, I’m really missing it—those warm, beautiful winters and springs.) I’m grateful for love and forgiveness. (Yes and yes.) I’m grateful for words. I’m grateful for the words inside of me. They are my soul. (Something I think about often and am still grateful God helped me to see.) I’m grateful for my Savior. (Something I will always, always be grateful for.)

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Keeping a gratitude journal didn’t take away my mental illness, but it did make my life a bit lighter and happier. I would find myself actively thinking about things I was grateful for each day, so I would be able to write something in my notebook. Focusing on those blessings helped keep negative, self-depreciating thoughts at bay. And as time went by I found it easier to write more than one thing I was grateful for—and still have plenty more to add to the next day.

There have been lulls in my writing. The last time I wrote something was over three years ago, but I would like to start doing this again. I talked to my children about it last night, and we decided that each night before we go to bed, we will each say something we are grateful for. I’m going to write it in my journal as well. I challenge everyone reading this to do the same. Start a gratitude journal or at least spend some time each day thinking of what you have to be thankful for. I guarantee it will make a difference in your life!