Monday, October 14, 2013

Finding Peace During Troubled Times

As was mentioned repeatedly during this last session of General Conference, we live during troubled times. And as President Monson pointed out--there have always been troubled times. Since this life is basically a testing ground--a chance for us to develop our character and prove ourselves, there will be challenging trials.

I'll admit, however, that it is a bit disconcerting when one's country takes a nose-dive. These are uncertain moments and none of us quite know what to expect. When scary episodes take place during this journey we call "life," there is a formula we can follow to survive. I know this because I have survived a few perilous tests during my own mortal adventure.

Take the year, 1983. (Yes, as my children point out, I'm aging by the minute.) Several challenging events surfaced in my life. For starters, my pancreas finally gave up the ghost, and I went on insulin permanently. yay. This was a challenge, since my blood sugar levels tended to bounce everywhere but where they were supposed to be. I went from the 40 range up into the 400's at the drop of a hat, or so it seemed. (Normal people tend to bounce between about 80-120.) It didn't help that my husband and I discovered that I was expecting our first child during that tempestuous time. Needless to say, it was a challenging pregnancy--but prayers were answered and we survived. After nine challenging months, I gave birth to a healthy baby boy.

Just as it seemed as though we had passed that life test with flying colors, I developed blood clots in the main vein in my left leg--the one that takes blood to the heart. The largest clot was the size of a golf ball. Nice. So my newborn son went home without me as I endured 10 more exciting days in the hospital. This time the challenge was to stay alive, since everyone feared that the largest clot would dislodge and hit my heart. Good times. ;)

I survived yet again, beating the odds, and I returned home on crutches. Just as I began thinking the worst was over, my father, who had been enduring health challenges of his own, took his own life. My entire world seemed to implode. It took my family many years to pick up the pieces of that heart-rending challenge.

How did we get through all of that? I can look back now and see a pattern, since it's one I have clung to during other character-building moments. The most important thing is to keep breathing. Oxygen is our friend and we need it to keep going forward. So, take a few deep breaths when disasters descend, but don't hyperventilate. ;)

Keep your spiritual batteries charged. This can be done in a variety of ways, such as: prayer, studying the scriptures, hitting the temple, and reading through the inspirational talks given by our church leaders (hint: General Conference talks especially contain the tidbits of spiritual wisdom we need to continue our mortal journey.) Find what works for you, and do it daily. This is crucial.

Write out what you're feeling. During the nights when I couldn't sleep, I felt prompted to write out what was killing me inside. Then I shredded those pages into the garbage bin. It always made me feel lighter inside, and it hooked me on writing. This led to all kinds of interesting adventures, like eventually getting published.

Learn to take life one day at a time. And, as my mother has often pointed out, sometimes you can only deal with one minute at a time. After my father's death, she would wake up each morning and think, "All I have to do is to get up and get in the shower." Then that morphed into: "All I have to do now, is get dressed." Etc. and so forth. Take life in bits and pieces for a while. Don't let the big picture scare you into a non-functioning abyss.

Vent to a good friend. Sometimes it helps to simply share the fears inside your heart. This is an important release and it helps you make sense of challenges that often don't. There are times when all we need is a listening ear to sort through tribulation.

Make time for physical activity. There were times when I simply needed to go for a brisk walk to clear my head, or to play an aggressive game of racquetball. It helped me get rid of negative emotions that were tearing me apart.

And I can't emphasize this last suggestion enough: DO ACTS OF SERVICE!!!! I found that whenever I did something for someone else, it chipped away at the pain I was carrying around inside my troubled heart. The more I did for others, the better I felt.

As you can see, these are simple things, and yet they are huge when it comes to surviving distressing times. I find that I always return to this formula when mountainous obstacles block the path of my mortal journey. We can learn to climb those mountains, one step at a time--and along the way we learn that we are never as alone as we sometimes think we are. The veil is thin and there are numerous loved ones from the other side who are constantly cheering us on our way. We are indeed children of Heavenly Parents who are also cheering for us as we move forward past stumbling blocks. With their help, we can learn to turn those blocks into stepping stones along our path.