Saturday, November 14, 2009

Don't Believe Everything You Think

There have been moments in my life when I thought I was going to die. Maybe one day I will think that, and it will happen, but it will probably happen when I am not thinking it.

I have learned from experience that the stock market does not go up because I think it will. I also know that thinking you look fat doesn't mean that everyone else thinks so. Just because you think you are a wimp when it comes to cramps, so labor will be unbearable, doesn't mean that this is sound logic. Thinking the sky is falling... okay you get it. What most of these things have in common is fear.

I had an intense and crazy-making conversation with a friend this week who has already lost the best and most beautiful thing that has ever happened to him--in the form of true love. I should mention that he is 36--it has been a long time coming. He found out there was a small metaphorical crack left open in the door if he could only seize it, but instead of acting on this small chance and kicking open the door and holding on for dear life, he sits around thinking and believing what he thinks. He tells me he can't embrace his true love because she has a child with someone else and that someone else is a real troublemaker. He is worried that the outside influence of that person will negatively affect the perfect family he wants to create with his true love. Essentially, fear of future outside influences and an irrational clinging to the nuclear family myth is keeping him from a chance at lasting happiness.

First, I want to address the future-thinking. As a professional oral historian and memoirist, I have lived at least 60 vicarious lifetimes. What almost everyone with 50+ years experience will tell you is this: if you can think of it, it's not likely to happen. This is especially true with marriage and children. The things you think will be your biggest issues when you first set sail, end up being no more than a small whitecap on the horizon. It is the things you could never think of, like a Bengal tiger in the life raft--that will be your major trials. (However, it will probably not be a Bengal tiger since I just thought of it.)

My friend E.B. once joked that she needed a self-help book for coping with imaginary stress. That is what this other friend of mine needs. Like him, many of us may be living in an imaginary, stressed-out future, instead of embracing the now and leaving the unknowns where they belong--in the future. Embracing unknowns is another form of surrender. Moving forward despite unknowns is also an act of faith--faith that the sun will rise again, that your children will grow up, that you will be able to feed your family, that God is all knowing.

Nephi is a great example of this: In 1 Nephi 9, he says: "Wherefore, the Lord hath commanded me to make these plates for a wise purpose in him, which purpose I know not. But the Lord knoweth all things from the beginning..."

In addition to His being wise, He is also loving, and so tells us the blessings associated with keeping His commandments. Hartman Rector Jr. said in a 1973 General Conference:
The Lord gives no commandments to his children that are not calculated to make them happy and…successful. Therefore, he has added to the basic commandment of ‘be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth,’ the reason for so doing: that you may have joy and rejoicing in your posterity.”

I'd now like to confront the nuclear family myth. My friend Anna, whose family tree, if she drew it, would look like a Picasso, says with a shrug, "life is messy." The nuclear family myth is called a myth for a reason. It doesn't exist. I spent a year or two post college in therapy just trying to accept this and went again a few years ago for the same reason. The nagging thing about myths, however, is that they originated from somewhere. There is a yearning that people everywhere, no matter their religious or cultural background, can't seem to get out of their systems. Why? Perhaps it is because families are so central to God's plan. Perhaps because we once lived with our Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother in a nuclear spirit family in the pre-earth life, and on some core level we remember it and are in withdrawals for it.

That's my bet, but I'm not an authority and I don't believe everything I think. What I do know is that in this life--sorry to break the news--nobody is perfect. (Even Jesus's Earth family did not fit the parameters of the myth.) Yet, we have to find a way, despite this glitch, to walk with another person and allow ourselves and our children to find happiness in imperfect situations. It is not easy. But as Rilke says so perfectly in his famous and beloved Letters to a Young Poet, we must trust in what is difficult.

"Most people have (with the help of conventions) turned their solutions toward what is easy and toward the easiest side of what is easy; but it is clear that we must trust in what is difficult; everything alive trusts in it....
"It is good to love: because love is difficult. For one human being to love another human being: that is perhaps the most difficult task that has been entrusted to us, the ultimate task, the final test and proof, the work for which all other work is merely preparation."

Full disclosure: this post was inspired out of frustration and love--the very coexistence of these emotions proves, once again, that life is messy. The people we love frustrate us. They fill us up and and use us up at the same time. They can cause us the most pain and the most joy. But this is part of the plan of existence. Our first mother, Eve, made the choice that allowed us to come, understanding that it would be better for us to pass through sorrow that we may know joy. But I won't digress into a lesson about opposition.

So, to my friend who will never read this, I have to say this: Don't believe everything you think--instead of doubting your faith, doubt your doubts. Trust in a tomorrow you can't see. You are a child of God. It is human to grieve for the nuclear family. If you need to do it in therapy, do it so that you can someday find happiness.

I am thinking of a scripture that says something about how we cannot even imagine a small part of all the good things that God wants to give us--which would tie back to the title, be the other side of my earlier if-you-can-think-of-it-it-wont-happen spiel and put a nice bow on the end of this post--but I can't find it. So, this one will have to do instead: Matt 7:11

"If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father who is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?"


  1. I feel sorry for your friend.

    Those blasted fears and doubts are always messing everything up.

  2. I married a man with 3 children from a previous marriage. 3! His ex-wife has various mental illnesses and definitely complicates our life, although to her credit it most of the time fairly good to deal with these days. I sometimes mourn for the nuclear family that I could have if he hadn't been married before or if I had married someone else. But then I wouldn't have him. I can't change the past anymore than I can fret about the future. I chose this life and I am making the best of it. It was most definitely a leap of faith. And it has brought me more joy than I could have imagined.

    I hope your friend will let go of his fears and go after his love.



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