I used to be a dreamer. I had so many dreams when I was in high school—dreams that couldn’t happen where I was. I couldn’t wait to graduate and move away to college because that is where my dreams were going to come true. So I moved away to college and expected all the things that couldn’t happen before to happen. I expected the people to be different. I expected my dreams to come true. But they didn’t. None of the things I had planned, expected or dreamed happened. And I became extremely depressed. So depressed that I decided to take a semester off and move back home.
I remember there was this one day, as I was trying to figure things out, that I finally realized it wasn’t the place, it was me. I just needed to change my perspective and my attitude. So I resolved to go back to the same college with no expectations other than to have fun and be happy. And you know what? That’s exactly what I did. I had fun, and I was happy—very happy!
I recently found this quote by Eckhart Tolle in his book Stillness Speaks that says, “You find peace not by rearranging the circumstances of your life, but by realizing who you are at the deepest level.” Sometimes we think changing our circumstances, like I did with moving, is what will bring us the happiness we’ve been wanting for so long. We think that is what will make all our dreams come true, but I have found that the greatest peace and happiness you can have is by understanding who you truly are and acting according to that—and you can do that no matter where you are.
Life is full of unknowns, the unexpected. Sometimes those unknowns and unexpected things are good, sometimes they’re bad, sometimes they’re exciting and sometimes they’re scary. I had one of those scary experiences recently—when I found out I might have cancer. It was probably the scariest thing I’ve ever experienced—especially since my mind automatically started playing out the worst-case scenario over and over in my head. I kept seeing the doctor telling me I only had so long to live. Waiting to go back to the doctor, waiting for the biopsy, waiting for the results of the biopsy was agonizing. Excruciating. It was so hard to focus, so hard to be present. I kept obsessing about how I would tell my kids, what I would want my ex to know with raising the kids on his own. I couldn’t stop wondering how it would affect my relationship with my boyfriend—a man I love, want to marry and spend the rest of my life with—a life that could be cut short. There were times the fear and panic took over, and I’d find myself sobbing on the floor, feeling so alone. But there were also times of incredible peace and comfort as I chose to turn to my Father in Heaven and my Savior, Jesus Christ. That is a huge part of how I have survived mental illness for so many years. As difficult as mental illness is, as much as I wish I could just be completely free of it, I’m also grateful for what it has taught me and how it has prepared me for other hard things in life.
Some people ask, “Why?” when hit with one of those hard, difficult unknowns. Anytime I hear someone ask, “Why me?” or, “Why them?” I ask, “Why not you? Why not them? What makes you so special that you shouldn’t have to suffer the way everyone else does. Because everyone suffers.” It’s true. Every single person in this world suffers and struggles, and who are we to say that our suffering or our struggles are greater than someone else’s? During my own time of uncertainty I never asked why. Instead I turned to another lesson learned from living with mental illness. I told myself to look for the things I could learn from this. And beyond that, I told myself that if I did have cancer I was going to make sure my kids saw the beauty in life, the things to be grateful for. I would want them to learn from the experience, to grow, to discover how it could help them rather than ask why or blame God.
As scary and agonizing as it was to wait and wonder it was even more relieving and exciting to find out the biopsy came back negative—to find out I didn’t have cancer. But I’ve been trying to keep those lessons and moments of peace I had with me. Sometimes it’s hard. Everyday life can get so busy and distracting. That’s one reason I write—to remember. To look back and remember what I’ve learned. To look back and remember what to be grateful for. To look back and remember the hard times, but also the beautiful ones.
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.
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.