(True happiness comes during pumpkin season)
A few posts ago I wrote about steering our minds towards happiness and focusing on the good rather then the bad around us. After I wrote it, I started thinking of experiences in my life when I tried to do this but felt terribly discouraged because I couldn’t. These were special moments in my life when the world came crashing down but also taught me empathy.
What made them special is difficult initially to explain, but I will do my best.
First off, the concept for this post came from one of my favorite series Fruits Basket by Natsuki Takaya. In the first volume there comes a moment Tohru, the story’s heroine, is with Kyo going back to live with him and others at their house.
Frustrated he asks why she didn’t say aything about wanting to stay with them or how sad she was about leaving. He then told her something which has resonated with me especially these last few months.
It would be okay to complain, be selfish, and say what you want every once in awhile. It’s okay to let yourself be sad.
This idea is what helped me overcome a lot of anxiety and hopelessness I carried throughout my childhood. My mother and father can attest how deeply I buried all my feelings of loneliness and sorrow as a child and as an adult. This usually resulted in other feelings bursting out when I couldn’t contain it anymore. Usually it manifested through FEAR and ANGER.
Lately, I understand better the concept pixar writers tried to convey in their film Inside Out (2015). When I saw the film in theaters I didn’t like it. But now, I think differently. Though the characters lacked depth individually, as a whole they portrayed an important lesson on understanding ourselves.
Lately I have thought of how hard Riley tried to bury her sadness. This resulted in her inadvertantly abandoning happiness and being ruled by her other emotions. It also meant healing coming later when she accepted her sadness and voiced what she truly felt.
Like Riley, so much of my life I spent trying to never have problems. I thought by always projecting happiness and hiding my other emotions I could help my family and parents as they faced others trials going on.
Since then, I have had to remember this truth. It is not wrong to voice or acknowledge how we truly feel.
It is also not wrong to feel sad. To cry. To be deeply hurt. To be struggling. It is only damaging to let these feelings rule our lives. If we are not careful they can become our identity.
I think of my Grandma Engler and one account from her life my mother told me. She outlived all her siblings, friends, and guardians. A great portion of them, including her mother, two of her sisters and Godparents died suddenly and prematurely while she was very young. One day many years after they passed, my grandfather found her curled in a ball sobbing. When asked what was wrong she named all those people she had lost. It had been years since their deaths. But the grief still lay raw in her heart.
She had never given herself time because of her children, the ongoing war and surviving family members to grieve. And it all hit her at once. I marvel at my grandma’s ability to carry her suffering and enjoy life. However, I wish I could tell her younger self it is okay to be sad and long for those we have lost.
I remember a time while on my mission where I felt true, overwhelming sadness. I left an area which I truly loved and an elder who I had grown to really care for. How do I even begin to describe the heartache which encased me at that time? From the outside it seemed truly illogical and I hated myself for how weak I felt. I hated the tears, the weight always in my chest and the thoughts which swarmed me.
The heartache was so bad I could barely bring myself around people . But there was a stubborn part of me which refused to stay home in the dark. For a week I sludged through these feelings on my own, fighting to look deep at myself and face what was happening.
But there came one of those special moments. I even remember the dress I wore and room I sat in. As I sat pondering, it was like a voice told me, “Aubrey, its okay to let yourself be sad.” I gave in so to say and I finally understood the third verse from the hymn “How Firm a Foundation.”
Fear not I am with thee, O be not dismayed. For I am thy God and will still give thee aide. I’ll strengthen thee, help thee and cause thee to stand. Upheld by my righteous omnipotent hand.
In my sorrow I held in my mind the image of me crushed down to the ground unable to move. But in that moment of sadness I also felt peace and a distinct feeling I was not alone. I then imagined pressing my hand to the ground and lifting myself up. Reaching my hand to Christ kneeling next to me. At first it was just my head, then I came to my knees, further to my feet and finally step after promising step I went forward.
But I did not do it alone. After this episode in my life passed I thought often of these scriptures in Matthew 11.
28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
In my ward Jan Herriford, my bishop’s wife said, “Because of the Savior we can suffer less.” It is through our sorrows we can truly find God.
As I have faced my sorrows and trials the last few years I can honestly say I have found newfound peace in my life. One, because I realized I must allow myself to feel and face my sadness. Two, because I know I can always turn to God and my Savior as I do so.
I love how in Avatar the Last Airbender when Aang faces his grief, his guide tells him two important truths. Here is how I phrased it in my Chakra post several years ago. The truths are these:
1. It is important to remember that love is a form of energy and still binds us to those we have lost. 2. It also means it recreates itself in the form of new love.
In extension, our griefs and sorrows have the power to help us recreate ourselves. But we must experience these feelings to truly benefit from them. Without hardship there is not even the opportunity for spiritually and mentally growth and maturity. This is because we can not grow muscle by pumping pillows. Also, by understanding grief we come to understand love.
Those heartrending moments will inevitably come. But it does no good to bury our hurt and stay locked in a standstill waiting for happiness to come back. It takes great courage to face our sadness and further fortitude to learn from it.
Viktor Frankl once said in his book Man’s Search for Meaning, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
I hope this post may help someone facing hard times in their own life. Remember it is okay to let yourself be sad. Face yourself and in so doing may you find joy.