Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Dealing With Heartbreak

Many associate heartbreak with romance but the truth is that lots of things and people can break our hearts.  Anytime we open our heart to anything, there is the possibility of it breaking.  The human heart is incredibly vulnerable.  It is perhaps the only organ that can hurt physically from both physical and emotional triggers.  Those triggers can come from anywhere.  Unfortunately, the actions of the people we love tend to hurt us the most.  Grim circumstances and the trials of life can cause our hearts to break.  Our hearts can break for others going through rough times.  We can even break our own hearts at times.  In fact, heartbreak makes up a major part of our lives.

However, something that can experience such sorrow can also experience the other extreme: joy.  When sorrow and heartbreak rule such major parts of our lives, how do we overcome them?  How do we make ourselves see the silver lining?  How do we find joy in a journey that is difficult and arduous most of the time?

I still consider myself to be a young woman but even at just 25 years of age, I am no stranger to heartbreak.  I've experienced rejection in both the work place and in relationships.  My heart has ached for friends and family members who struggle to rectify mistakes they've made or to overcome trials that came upon them through no fault of their own.  I've experienced the loneliness that comes with being single and seeing all of your friends get married and have families.  I've felt a physical hurt in my heart when I've lost friends or missed someone hundreds of miles away.  I've felt sadness in the realization that I am a human being with too many weaknesses to count.  In the midst of all this sadness, how do we find the strength to carry on?  How do we maintain hope when the future doesn't seem all that bright?

I've tried a lot of things to make myself feel better after heartbreak.  Shoveling ice cream down your throat doesn't make you feel better.  Making a playlist on Spotify entitled Stupid Boys just makes you more bitter.  Gossiping about people and putting others down doesn't lift you any higher.  While I'm sure I've only just scratched the surface of what true heartbreak really is, I've found that these are the things that bring me real hope and give me the strength to keep pressing forward:

1)  Reading the scriptures / Following the prophet.
During my last year in Provo, I was in, what Anne Shirley might call, the depths of despair.  If I had gone to see a doctor, I think I might have been told that I was clinically depressed.  I cried a lot.  Small things set me off on an emotional roller coaster.  I was easily offended.  So much of my own value hinged on achieving academic success and my ability to work that, when I graduated from college and was one of the many unemployed Americans, I had no idea what I was supposed to do or be.  During this time of heartache and self-loathing, I began to really delve into the scriptures.  I was looking for words of comfort and encouragement and strength.  And you know what?  I found them.  I found Ether 12:4 which says, "Wherefore, whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, which hope cometh of faith, maketh an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast."  I found Mosiah 24:14 which reads, "And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions." I listened to General Conference more intently and heard the words of modern day prophets.  President Uchtdorf said, "No matter how bleak the chapter of our lives may look today, because of the life and sacrifice of Jesus Christ, we may hope and be assured that the ending of the book of our lives will exceed our grandest expectations." The scriptures and listening to Church leaders taught me to separate my self-worth from my circumstances.  In hindsight, I see how much I learned and grew during that year of hardship.  I learned my capability to deal with the troubles and tests of life and I found out that I can draw upon the strength of my Savior, Jesus Christ.  The burdens we shoulder in life may not go away immediately but our ability to cope with them will be strengthened as we learn to rely on the Atonement of Jesus Christ.  I absolutely LOVE the scriptures!  They have given me peace in a turbulent world and the strength and faith necessary to keep moving forward even in the darkest of times.

2)  Learning to accept the Atonement in your life as well as trusting that the Atonement can work for others.
Psalm 37:23-24 reads, "The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and he delighteth in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholdeth him with his hand."  Elder Jeffrey R. Holland expounded on the psalm.  "Note that this psalm speaks of 'a good man' whose steps are sanctioned by heaven and pleasing to all.  And yet even he (or she), as well as the habitual sinner, may have a moment of falling from safety and sure footing.  Surely a most encouraging truth in the gospel of Jesus Christ is contained in the thought that though any man fall--good or bad--'he shall not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholdeth him with his hand.'  That is the essence of the 'good news' Jesus came to declare.  Mistakes can be overcome, sins can be forgiven, death is not the victor, and hell is not our destiny.  Everything that Christ and the prophets taught comes back to this truth that through desire and obedience all can be forgiven of sins.  Everything that could have been can yet be--and more."  Each one of us was born with certain weaknesses.  These weaknesses help us turn to the Father and Jesus Christ instead of relying solely on our own limited power.  We are told in Ether 12:27, that as we humble ourselves and have faith, the Lord will "make weak things become strong unto them."  As we acknowledge our own weaknesses, we need to realize that the people around us are struggling with weaknesses, too.  We need to accept that the Savior's Atonement was meant for everyone.  Christ didn't just suffer for my sins, weaknesses, and sorrows but for everyone's.  When the people we love make mistakes and hurt our feelings, we need to recognize that the Atonement applies to their lives just as much as it does to ours.

3)  Serving others.
When you are stuck in the mire of your own burdens and hard times, reaching out and helping those in need will really change your perspective on life.  Not only do you focus less on your own problems, you start to see the problems and trials that other people experience and realize that perhaps life isn't as horrible as you thought it was.  There is also a built-in sense of accomplishment and boost to your self-esteem when performing service.  You see the good in others as well as the good in yourself.

4)  Being Grateful.
Bing Crosby sings a song in the movie White Christmas that goes something like this:
When I'm worried and I can't sleep, 
I count my blessings instead of sheep 
and I fall asleep counting my blessings.  
When my bank roll is getting small, 
I think of when I had none at all 
and I fall asleep counting my blessings.
In the hymn entitled Count Your Blessings, we are told that,
When upon life's billows you are tempest-tossed, 
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost, 
Count your many blessings; name them one by one, 
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.
So amid the conflict, whether great or small,
Do not be discouraged; God is over all.
Count your many blessing; angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey's end.
No one can deny that life is difficult sometimes.  All of us have to struggle through the storms of life.  The trick is to find the silver lining in each difficulty.  In the movie Pollyanna, the titular character is an optimistic and positive girl who travels to a very negative and cynical town after the death of her parents.  She tells everyone that, even when times are hard, there is always something to be glad about. By the end of the movie, she has transformed the town of Harrington by simply pointing out the positive.  Members of the community even put up a sign at the entrance to the city that says, "Harrington:  The Glad Town."  What could the change be attributed to?  The people's circumstances didn't change.  There were still just as many problems as there was before.  The difference was in their attitude.  They developed an attitude of gratitude and recognized that God was blessing them through their struggles.  We just have to be mindful enough to notice.

5)  Taking time to remember the things you like about yourself.
Human beings have a tendency to get down on themselves.  We see our failures in one arena of our lives and then extend that failure to all the other arenas we're involved in.  Sometimes we fall but as the Mickey Guyton song says, "Sometimes we've gotta fall to find out we're unbreakable."  You are much more than your failures.  Sometimes you need to sit down, have a moment of introspection, and just make a list of all the things you do well and the gifts and talents you've been given.  Trust me.  You'll feel empowered.  You just have to remember that, blended alongside the weaknesses, there are so many strengths.  For example, I like that I love vegetables.  I find joy in my musical abilities.  I like that I get excited over subjects like history.  I like that I love to read.  I love to play sports and I'm not horrible at all of them.  I like my hair and my eyes and that I see beauty in sunsets and flowers.  I like the fact that I give people the benefit of the doubt and second chances.  I like that I have ambition and dreams.  See!  I feel better already!

6)  Reading Good Literature.
Pieces of literature are like windows into the soul and into the entire human experience.  Most stories draw upon the authors' personal experiences.  As we read about a character's struggle to overcome a conflict, we begin to see the strength and the will-power of the human family in overcoming obstacles.  There is power in unity; understanding that you are not the only one that has had to face difficulties and that others have felt exactly the same way you do is extremely empowering.  We see that there is beauty in struggle.  Life is a refiner's fire.  The conflict is what makes the protagonist of any story into a hero.  If we just keep pushing forward and doing the things we know to be right, things will work out in the end.  Here are a couple of my favorite messages of hope from literature:

"There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tower high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach." - J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King

“Hope” is the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words -
And never stops - at all -

And sweetest - in the Gale - is heard -
And sore must be the storm -
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm -

I’ve heard it in the chillest land -
And on the strangest Sea -
Yet - never - in Extremity,
It asked a crumb - of me.

- Emily Dickinson

Elder Holland said, "Someone wrote once that God apparently loves - and turns to our benefit - broken things.  It takes broken clouds to nourish the earth, it takes broken earth to grow grain, it takes broken grain to make bread, it takes broken bread to nourish us, and so are the cycles of life.  This divine sequence is akin to the Savior's parable that no kernel of corn can grow to fruition until it is the first thrown away and, in effect, lost in the earth before its bounty can come back to us...Christ, the Great Healer, will make recompense for us in time and in eternity.  By His grace and the goodness of God, all broken vessels are fully repaired."  God loves us.  He did not send us here to fail, nor did he send us here to be miserable.  There is always something to be glad about.  As we rely on the arm of the Savior, we will find that we have become stronger than we ever thought possible.  Our broken hearts can be mended and we can find joy in the journey.