Friday, October 31, 2008

Charity, a miracle drug

I recently read a book called Feelings Buried Alive Never Die. Its thesis is that the root of a lot of unhappiness and most, if not all, unhealthiness in our lives is negative feelings that we have refused to acknowledge and deal with.

I don’t believe it completely, but I’m convinced there is at least some truth to it. I am humbled enough, and tired enough, to really explore what role anxiety and other mysterious and buried emotions might have played in the illness I have suffered with for a few years now. I have been pondering a lot, praying a lot, studying the scriptures a lot, and I am seeing more clearly now that I really have had some bad habits in my life of being too judgmental of myself and others, and having too great a need to be in control. (Yes, I remember my rant about the woman in my ward who was convinced I’m sick because of perfectionism. You don’t have to remind me.)

I can’t say that my illness was caused by anxiety, but I can say that anxiety has played a role in my life and very possibly exacerbated things if it didn’t bring them on. I see that this illness came on at a time when things were just starting to look up for me, really. My kids had moved to a stage of being much more enjoyable to me, needing me less but interesting me more. I found myself with more leisure to pursue things I’d always wanted to. I had some success with my writing and in other areas of my life. All of these things were reasons I used as to why anxiety and other emotional issues could not possibly be affecting my health. Things were better than ever . . . why be sick now? But I see now, especially after the whole novel thing (and then the huge decision to abandon it) that I had been putting a lot of pressure on myself, JUST BECAUSE MY LIFE WAS SO EASY, to prove myself, to find something to succeed at, to have something to show for the fact that life was good and I was so blessed.

I was trying to pay for my blessings, either by becoming God’s gift to the world as a poet or novelist . . .

. . . or by becoming sick.

Screwy, I know.

Anyway, since realizing this, I have begun a quest for serenity in my life, the serenity that comes from accepting myself as I am (imperfect) and refusing to judge anymore, both myself and others. I’m trying abandon my quest for control in my life. And it feels very, very good, and very right. I am learning trust (“cursed is he that putteth his trust in man, or maketh flesh his arm”) in God instead of in myself to solve everything, achieve everything.

It’s amazing to me to discover the connection between charity and peace. “And above all things, clothe yourselves with the bond of charity, as with a mantle, which is the bond of perfectness and peace (D&C 88:125).” If I have true charity for myself and others, I accept them, and all the world, as it is, and feel no need to change it, no need to be anxious for it, no need to take over control of things. Charity is the key to feeling that all is well, both in your mind and body. As it says in my favorite section (D&C 121), “Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men . . . then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God.”

So I am praying for charity, grace to forgive everyone and refrain from judging. And it feels so good! I’ll pray for it for you, too.


Ang said...

This is beautiful, Darlene. I needed to read this today.

Jennifer B. said...


What amazing insight. That must have been very challenging to come by. Your words ring true and I will try to remember them myself.

I'm happy for your peace and continue to pray for your health as well.

Cheri said...

Beautiful, Darlene. I love how you connect charity with letting go control. Just what I needed. I'm trying to come to that with my 14yo boy and homework: to love him exactly as he is and stop believing that it's my responsibility to make him into a good student. I know in my heart that love and acceptance empowers the other person, gives them the space to grow into who they really are, but it's so hard to practice in real life.