Part 1, Part 2, Part 3
This section, which I anticipate will be the last, has certainly been the hardest to write. I’ve sat down several times and nothing I’ve written seems right. I suspect it’s because I’m in the midst of it. Some days when I sit down I’m hopeful and eager while other days are more discouraging.
I’ve been seeing a counselor at the MIT medical center for the last 7 or 8 weeks. It’s free here which gave me the will to finally pick up the phone and call someone for help. I can't tell you how much I’ve appreciated having someone to talk to about my situation who isn’t really invested in the outcome. With my counselor, I’ve talked a lot about my support network and have realized just how much I need friends to talk to, people to appreciate me, and time to myself.
However, what I really long for is the ability to be at peace with my current situation, and I mean that in a moment-to-moment way, and not just in a big-picture way (though that would be nice, too). I’ve been wanting to learn some tools to let go of the frustration and anger that seem to haunt my interactions with my children, and the self-deprecating internal dialogue that tells me I’m not good enough. We’ve spent a little time talking about this, but I remember expressing this desire to her and her response was, “Isn’t that what we all want?” with the tone of “Sorry, can't help you there.”
But unlike my therapist, I know this kind of peace and contentment is possible because of grace. Paul said, “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (Philippians 4:11-13) Isn’t that beautiful? Through times of struggle and times of power, through emptiness and fullness, through abundance and want, we can find contentment through the grace of Jesus Christ. It is a gift freely given that I must learn to accept.
The Savior has promised me that if I will seek His help, He has the power to change me. He promised, “And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.” (Ether 12:27) Though finding peace is now my weakness, it can become my strength. I will be able to share that peace with others, especially my children, all through grace.
But how do I find that grace? How do I let it permeate my thoughts to forgive rather than to punish myself? How do I stand firm through the waves of abundance and emptiness, joy and loneliness? It will not be easy. It may even be the hardest thing I ever do. D. Todd Christofferson said, “It would mock the Savior’s suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross for us to expect that He should transform us into angelic beings with no real effort on our part. Rather, we seek His grace to complement and reward our most diligent efforts (see 2 Nephi 25:23). Perhaps as much as praying for mercy, we should pray for time and opportunity to work and strive and overcome. Surely the Lord smiles upon one who desires to come to judgment worthily, who resolutely labors day by day to replace weakness with strength. … real change may require repeated attempts, but there is something refining and holy in such striving. Divine forgiveness and healing flow quite naturally to such a soul, for indeed “virtue loveth virtue; light cleaveth unto light; [and] mercy hath compassion on mercy and claimeth her own” (D&C 88:40).”
I am ready to be diligent. I have been praying for the strength to strive and overcome. I have fasted and prayed. Today, after these efforts, I was given a place to start. Paul wrote, “Be careful for nothing (meaning, don’t worry so much); but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7) Through prayer and gratitude, I will begin to seek the peace of God. I will not and can not understand it, but it will keep my heart and mind grounded in my Savior instead of in my worry and self-doubt.
I want to finish this with something I wrote in my journal a few months ago. It’s back to the topic of motherhood and finding myself within it:
“Motherhood is the most important aspect of my life. Everything I do for the rest of my life will be affected by the fact that I am a mother. I would guess that any woman who has been a mother—even just for a few minutes—would agree that motherhood changes everything in your life. Even things that seemingly have nothing to do with my role as a mother are affected by what I have learned as a mother. Motherhood changes you. It makes you stronger and weaker, more confident and more vulnerable; it plays with time, stretching and compressing it; it brightens and darkens the world around you. When you become a mother you are given new eyes, new hands, and a new heart which you can never trade back.
And yet they are still my eyes, my hands, and my heart. Though motherhood will always be a defining part of my life, it will not define my life. I am more than a mother, and that more part of me makes me a better mother.”
What I’m working and hoping and praying for is that while I seek that more part of myself, I will be given the peace to share the joys that I find with my children. I hope that they will see my love for myself and know that my love for them is simply an extension of that since they are part of who I am. I hope they will learn how to accept their mistakes, forgive themselves, and try again as they watch me struggle to make this change.
Tonight, thankfully, I’m feeling hopeful. That serene feeling that washed over me in a tiny kickboxing class in the basement is here again, and I’m hoping it will stay.