Roads

Last night reminded me of how much I love roads. Driving in my car, listening to Reuben and the Dark, watching the lights of the city pass by. There’s something intriguing about roads, especially at night. In high school I worked at this sandwich shop. On my break I would always sit at a table facing Main Street so I could watch the cars passing by. Part of what interested or intrigued me was thinking of the people in those cars. I’m a writer and I’ve always had a pretty active—or overactive—imagination. I’d wonder who was in each car, where they were going and why.

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I used to dream about the road leading to the Grand Canyon. I went there for the first time when I was fifteen. It was a journey of self-discovery, when I began to realize and understand who I really was and just how much music and nature meant to me, were a part of me and my soul. Sometime my sophomore year of high school I started planning an escape. I was going to run away—to the Grand Canyon. I had all sorts of things planned out—what I’d take with me, how I’d get there, how I’d get money. Looking back now, it seems pretty ridiculous! I’m sure I wouldn’t have lasted more than a week, maybe less. But I was so depressed, so alone, so ready to leave a life that felt like a prison. I couldn’t wait to get on the road—a road I thought would lead to something better. Of course now I know that it really wouldn’t have solved anything—running away.

Is that all roads are, though? A tool to take us away? Roads aren’t just physical, though. I think of Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken. Using roads to represent decisions in life. I suppose a road is really just a thing that takes us from one place to another—both physical and metaphorical. And sometimes they take us nowhere. I’ve always loved driving, especially before I was married or had kids. When I was at college, I’d often get in my car, crank my music and just drive. Sometimes I’d have a destination, but most of the time it was just about the freedom the road represented.

I feel the road calling to me again. Reuben and the Dark’s song, The River, talks about a road and a light leading home. Now that I’m older, hopefully smarter and more mature, responsible—I’m a mother now—I can see the difference between running away and moving on. Choosing a road—a road that doesn’t take me from home, but leads me to it. Physical, metaphorical, both—I may be on the road again. Lights, life passing by, along with all the other people choosing where the road will take them.

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Hurt

A friend recently shared Johnny Cash’s song, Hurt, with me. I couldn’t believe I’d never heard it before. It was me. It’s the theme song of my life. It seems that no matter how hard I try, hurting myself, whether physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually, is the only thing I really know how to do. Any time I start making progress I do something stupid that puts me back at square one. Maybe even before square one. And then I have to work my way up, only to slide back again. It’s a constant game of Chutes and Ladders, only I never make it to the finish. And that’s all on me.

Taking a Closer Look

The first time I heard the song Come a Little Closer by Cage the Elephant (LOVE them!) it spoke to me—mostly because it reminded me of an experience I had many years ago. It was an incredibly painful experience, but one that also taught me an incredibly valuable lesson.

The chorus of the song speaks of how things aren’t always what they seem to be when you take a closer look. Snowflakes are a perfect example of this.

From a distance, it’s just a uniform sheet of white, but when you put one under a microscope you see its true intricate beauty. Life is the same way. From a distance it may seem to be one way, but upon closer inspection, you may find something completely different.

I had a friend in college. Yes, that’s saying something! I will be the first to admit that I was a really hard person to get along with back then, and I’ve often wondered if most of the people who called themselves my friends were just saying it. If I could go back in time and meet my past self, I probably wouldn’t be able to stand myself! There were, however, a couple of people who saw past the cocky, loudly opinionated person that I was and somehow liked me anyway.

This one particular friend and I stayed in touch even after college, and our friendship grew despite our lives going in different directions. I got married, had a baby and became a stay-at-home mom while she continued her education and had a career. It seemed as though she was always off on some grand adventure while I had my own mini-adventures close to home. The differences didn’t matter to me. She was my friend, someone I cared about and was happy for, someone I knew cared about me. So imagine my shock when one day she told me that she could no longer be my friend because seeing me with my perfect life as a wife and mother, with the perfect husband made her too jealous because it was the life she had always wanted and dreamed of since she was a young girl. And that was it. That was the end. She wouldn’t talk to me again.

Part of the reason this hurt me so much was because my life was so far from that perfect world she had so falsely dreamed up. My marriage was in shambles. It was so bad I knew I had three options—get a divorce, get some serious help to save my marriage or take my own life. Yes, that’s how bad it was. It was the worst hell I’d been through up to that point in my life. All I could see was darkness, and there were times I didn’t know if I could make it through. The ironic part is that I had actually been thinking of telling my friend about what was going on. I felt like I could trust her because I knew she cared about me and would be there for me no matter what—because that’s what friends do, right?

Besides my shattering marriage, I had also gone through severe postpartum depression after having my daughter and it never really went away. While I loved being a mom and was grateful I could be one, I had quickly learned that motherhood doesn’t equal a state of constant happiness and bliss like she apparently thought it did.

It hurt. I hurt. I thought about telling her what was going on, but I knew it wouldn’t get through. She was too closed off to anything other than what she wanted to believe, and I didn’t want to make her feel bad—because I valued her as a person and someone who had been one of my closest friends. Despite the hurt, as I looked at and analyzed what had happened, I learned a very important lesson which I’m still grateful for. It taught me never to make assumptions. It’s so easy to look at someone else and think they have it made, think they have the perfect spouse, the perfect kids, the perfect house, the perfect job. The perfect life. But it’s not true! Everyone has problems, everyone struggles, and when you make an assumption like that it takes away opportunities for you to serve. If you can just take the time to truly get to know someone and get a glimpse into their life, you often find that you’re more alike that you think and that perhaps you can help or strengthen them in their times of difficulty.

Now, it would have been nice if I had learned this lesson without the painful experience to go along with it. But pain and hurt are a part of life, and one of the greatest things I’ve found is the ability to look back and see what you have learned and can learn from those times—just like I did with this experience.

*As a side note, this experience was several years ago. My ex-husband and I did get help that did save our marriage. But life goes on, things change, people change, and we did end up divorced anyway. The fact that we didn’t go through a completely bitter and hate-filled divorce, the fact that we remain friends and still care about each other doesn’t mean it was some picture-perfect divorce. It was an incredibly difficult experience for both of us and the most alone I have ever felt in my life. I am grateful for the friends I had, who stuck with me through it and allowed me to cry and vent and shared in my pain with me. I’m also grateful for the friends and neighbors I have now who have shown so much love and support to both me and my ex-husband.

Live For These Moments

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This is Happiness!

Not the best picture of me since I didn’t bother to put on makeup this morning, but that’s not what it’s about. Normally, I hate gray, clouded days in the winter – because most days are gray and clouded and gloomy. But today it was somehow enticing, inspiring, so I went out for a walk. It was down-right balmy in the mid-forties for this time of year in Utah! The clouds, the lighting, the snow on the mountains and listening to Renegades by X Ambassadors and Second Chance by Shinedown (yes, I may have sung out loud some of the time because I’m that sort of a person) were exactly what I needed. Nature and music are two constants in my life, things I know I can always count on to lift my spirt and renew my soul. For someone with mental illness and terrible Seasonal Affective Disorder right in the middle of winter, life is all about living for these moments to help take you through to the next.

 

Silence

I hate silence. I suppose you could say it’s ironic considering that’s what my name means. I could have written so many things this last week. I had all this time because my kids spent most of the week at their dad’s. But the silence was too oppressive. It felt like a weight pressing into my chest, slowly getting heavier and heavier, about to crush my sternum at any second. So I’d watch TV or turn on loud music to distract myself from the lack of noise, from the fact that I was alone . . . feeling so lonely and empty. I thought about writing, but I couldn’t do it. Even now, I want to keep typing. Any time the click of the keys stops the silence threatens to suffocate me.

There have been many times in church I’ve heard people talk about the necessity of silence, of finding time to block out all the noise and listen for the whisperings of the Spirit. This doesn’t work for me. The Spirit doesn’t speak to me in the silence of my room. Obsessive thoughts come in the silence—that’s why I hate it. Without any noise, my mind can’t help but run over all those worst-case-scenarios I sometimes fear or replay all of my obsessive thoughts that threaten to consume me. So I can’t be one of those people who goes into my room to escape the noise. I need the noise.

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Nature is a place that brings me comfort, peace, the ability to tune in to the Spirit. It is quiet in nature, but rarely ever silent. This afternoon I drove out to Antelope Island, on the Great Salt Lake, and experienced one of these needed moments of solitude where I, yet, didn’t feel alone. It was quiet, but not silent. A father spoke to his children, tall grasses rustled in the breeze, a hawk called to another. Distraction was lifted from my mind, loneliness forgotten.

Music is a necessity in my life. I have found answers to many prayers through music. I have felt peace, comfort, understanding—the Spirit—through music. The most spiritual and personally sacred experience of my life happened one day while I was out in Nature listening to a song by Live. It is an experience seared into my memory and my heart, one so personal I have only shared it with a couple of people.

Some people crave the silence. For some it is useful, helpful, needed. I am not one of those people. I will take the quiet stillness of nature, but I will also take the loud beating of drums and the chatter of my children.

Hendrix Helps, Too

I was feeling a bit sad this morning, thinking of someone who hurt me, still confused as to why it all happened. So I turned on some Jimi Hendrix. There’s just something about Hendrix, about his music, that stirs my soul. It’s pretty much impossible to be depressed when rocking out to Jimi!

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God Speaks to Us

I’ve had numerous experiences that have taught me that God is aware of us, He knows us, and He speaks to us in ways we will hear Him. Those ways can be different for everyone.

I never doubted my religion, as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, even in the midst of my depression. Back in high school it was hard to always live it, to always do what I was supposed to, but I still believed it was true. I just felt so worthless, like I was such a bad, horrible person that I didn’t believe I deserved a relationship with God. But God was still there for me. He still spoke to me, reassured me, comforted me and gave me answers to questions I sought. One of the ways He did this was through music.

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My sophomore year of high school I discovered Classic Rock. It’s one of the things that turned me into a hippie! The music of these incredible artists spoke to me in a way no other music ever had. Led Zeppelin, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, Rush, Janis Joplin, The Who, Jefferson Airplane, Eric Clapton, Traffic, The Doors. The list could go on, but I’ll stop there. I listened to this music a lot because I felt a connection to it. When you’re a depressed teenager, feeling so alone in life, having a connection like that means everything. And God used this as a way to communicate with me. I’m sure there are some people out there who might think it’s blasphemous or just ridiculous, but there were times I got answers to prayers through lyrics in a rock ‘n’ roll song.

I remember this one night, getting home from work, but I didn’t get out of the car right away. I sat there and stared up at the gibbous moon above the mountains to the east, feeling lost and alone. I asked this totally general question. “God, what do I do?” And then Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Simple Man came on the radio. And I knew, I knew, that was God’s answer to me—that I needed to live life more simply. I was an emotional, dramatic teenage girl, and that made for a complicated life, but I was filled with such peace and contentment in that moment, knowing that I could take steps to simplify my life—that doing so would help me. It was God’s way of answering my prayer.

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There were also times I received comfort in the midst of absolute darkness and despair through the heavy chords of an electric guitar. And there were times I finally understood things about myself, others, the world—things I needed to know—through this music.

God knew what the music meant to me. He knew He could get through to me with it, so He used it. That sounds very believable to me. And it sounds like a God who truly cares about us as individuals. How has God spoken to you? Yes, I really want to know. Please, leave comments on my Comment page or Contact me here with your story if you would like me to share it in one of my next posts. Remember, we are all in this together, we can all help each other.

Despair and Hope

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I couldn’t say my positive affirmations today. I knew they’d be a lie. I’m not strong. I’m not confident. I’m not special. Today I felt just how un-special I am. How worthless. I thought of my kids, how they are my anchor at times like this. If not for them, I may have given into this dark despair. A part of me wanted to just end it all. I knew I couldn’t, though, for them—my kids.

While it is good to have that anchor, we need more. We need to believe it ourselves. At the same time I was feeling so lost, alone, depressed I also felt strength, first coming to me in the form of a song by Audiomachine, called No Matter What. Fitting, isn’t it? I thought about how, for most of my life, I’ve felt as if God meant for me to be alone. I’ve been alone so much of my life, as I am now. Listening to the music, looking at the mountains, I decided to embrace it. If God does mean for me to walk this life alone, then I will do it. I will do whatever He wants or needs me to. But the thing I realized is that I’m never truly alone. I have my thoughts, my imagination, Nature and my Father in Heaven. I know He is always there, and I know I can always draw on the peace of Christ’s atonement. While those thoughts of worthlessness continued to swirl around I also felt this sort of fire forging some kind of strength inside of me. God’s fire, God’s forge, God’s strength. And as I looked at the leaves on the trees, changing color, falling to the earth, I thought of how things don’t stay the same. Change happens. Things may be this way now, but that doesn’t mean they will remain this way forever.

In my last post I spoke of a conference the LDS church holds twice a year. An address from this last conference a couple of weeks ago that really stood out to me, that really spoke to me was by W. Christopher Waddell, second counselor in the presiding bishopric. He spoke of unexpected changes that happen in our lives and how we don’t have absolute control over everything, but that we do have control over how we respond. I have seen people who live their lives playing the part of a martyr or constantly throw pity parties because of all they have suffered. It is a life full of negativity. I don’t want to be that way. I will acknowledge that I have mental illness, I can admit that I struggle, and I will absolutely agree that I am far from perfect, but I will do my best to choose the strength God gives me to carry on.

I’ve spoken a lot about hope on this blog. It’s one of those intangible things that can be a double-edged sword. Almost one year ago I wrote of hope in my journal:

Hope is the thing with feathers* –  that flies away with my imagination and leaves me alone, bound in cold, dark reality.

It can be hard to have hope when everything you hope for seems to shatter around you. And yet I still cling to it—no matter what. Sometimes hope is all I have. So I hope, and I keep going.

*From poem 254 by Emily Dickinson