22 April 2012

Gratitude and Eternity

I will be the first to admit that I resemble Veruca Salt in far more ways that I would like. I often forget to be grateful. I focus on what I don't have and not what I do have. I often get so focused on not having the job I want now that I forget how blessed I am to be employed at all, and to be able to mostly support myself on the wages from that job. I also have the opportunity to occasionally substitute at a middle school, which is great. But I focus on what I don't have that I want.

Lately, I've had trouble of a different sort. I've started not to be able to celebrate others' successes. I see people moving forward in their lives through a myriad of ways like career advancement, marriage, having children, buying houses, etc. and it is getting increasingly difficult to wish them well in their happiness. Some of it is the envy that Elder Jeffrey R. Holland spoke of in his talk in General Conference this month. Some of it is simply feeling left behind. It has been fifteen years since I graduated from high school, ten since I graduated from BYU. I've watched successive generations of friends move on with their lives that I still haven't. They have careers, families, foundations. I'm still working dead-end jobs that have nothing to do with my degrees, single, and nomadic as ever. I've learned that my friends' successes, while amazing for them, mean a separation for me. Our friendships don't end, but they move on, move forward, move away, move into demanding spheres of responsibility that have less room for me. Our lives simply don't overlap as much. And while their moving forward brings them into contact with a widening social circle, mine seems to shrink and require me to go out and work to build new friendships. None of this is bad, but it is difficult and somewhat lonely. I'm not an extremely social person by nature, so I find the work it takes to build new relationships rather exhausting and not a little unfair.

This is where my Veruca Salt-ness directly confronts my faith. Do I believe in the blessings of eternal life? Most definitely. I'm grateful for it everyday. I'm grateful for it every time I think of my mother, every time I wish I could her on the phone, every time I think of my grandparents and aunts and uncles who are no longer with us. I'm grateful when I think of my brother, when I see my niece's disappearing scar from open heart surgery, when I think of my nephew who will be joining our family this summer. That is not in question. Rather, do I have the faith to endure if all the blessings I want in my life don't come until eternity? I was reading in Isaiah today during the Sacrament and came across this verse in chapter 51:
 For the Lord shall comfort Zion: he will comfort all her waste places; and he will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving, and the voice of melody.
These words are full of comfort to those in midst of figurative and literal waste places, wildernesses, and deserts. They are to inspire hope. As I pondered them, my Veruca Salt-ness came raging back, asking if I was prepared to wander in those waste places, wildernesses or deserts if the blessings I want don't come til eternity. I want to say yes. I want to conquer my inner Veruca. I want to be grateful for everything in my life, not just focused on what I don't have. Yet there are days when I can't help but envision a future of watching my friends and loved ones move forward and, often, away while I am consigned to watch like a starving Dickensian orphan peering through a window at a Christmas feast. And that just seems impossibly hard. 


Katie said...

I love you and I'm sorry you're going through something so hard. I loved that talk by Elder Holland. It applied to me, too.

esperanza said...

I think it is an interesting challenge of life we are in being single longer than others and trying to find ways to make like feel like it continues to progress and have meaning.

WalkConkies said...

Thank you for sharing this. It is a constant battle to have an eternal perspective, but I have definitely found that Heavenly Father does bring peace to our hearts as we seek it and I am so thankful he brought that scripture to you. We all struggle at times with drinking pickle juice and it doesn't help any of us. I felt inspired to look up "happiness" in the Topical Guide (on the computer) Sunday and I think I want to frame what I found and read it every day! It is ironic that this life we are living is just a speck in eternity and yet every day seems like eternity sometimes!!! Hugs from afar!!!

Barlow-centric Laura said...

Our lesson from the Relief Society Presidency this month focused on this talk. The teacher also emphasized the unpleasantness of drinking pickle juice, brought up by the last poster. But it made me think about the fact that pickle juice -- while bitter and unpleasant to drink -- is what elite athletes voluntarily turn to when they need to give their all to the challenge before them, when the elements are fully buffeting them and their bodies need to be re-energized (with lost electrolytes, lost salt, lost water, etc.). That they choose pickle juice over water, gatorade, and gels designed to taste wonderful, at the moment of their greatest challenge was poignant to me in that class. It highlighted the love our Heavenly Father has for us -- knowing that as the painful trials you described buffet you and you struggle to drink the pickle juice, the metaphor also says you are drinking something that will give you the strength to continue in a way that nothing else can do and that no one without those trials will ever have either.

While that doesn't make the pickle juice taste any sweeter, or make the challenge any easier, hopefully it at least changes the perspective.

We've been separated by a decade and a continent, but I still treasure my time at the Barlow Center, and the friendship you were kind enough to offer to me. Thank you for that. Anyone you befriend is lucky to have you in their life.

Scully said...

Laura, I found a copy of the Barlow-Centric Times a while back while sorting through stuff. It was still funny to me. I can't believe it has been 10 years since those days. Crazy. They were good times and I wish we weren't separated by a continent these days. It would make it much easier to keep up!

Missy Anne said...

I am terrible at knowing what to say! Except (corny warning) I love you and your Heavenly Father loves you. And Jesus Loves you. The pickle juice still tastes nasty and bitter, but one day that jar won't be pickle juice but honey!

PS I needed to hear your message too. The bitter pill in my life can sometimes be more than I can swallow too.