Saturday, January 16, 2010

Living a Lie

I have debated whether I should write this blog post for a couple of days.  However, it has been on my mind a lot and I think it would be worthwhile to share it.  If nothing else, this blog is our family journal and this is a big deal to me and therefore important to document.  And maybe - just maybe - some of you can relate.

Over the past few months I have been struggling off and on with some emotions that I have ignored for a very long time.  Without going into too much personal detail, let me say that I have struggled with poor self-esteem and feelings on inadequacy for most of my life.  Recently I have gotten to a point where it hurts more to stay where I am than it does to change.  Although I have identified things that have gotten me to this point, I haven't really been able to figure out why I have been struggling so much (and crying so much).  I have even had good friends of mine suggest getting some counseling to try to resolve some of this. 

In desperation this past week I went in to see my bishop at church to get a referral for an LDS Family Services counselor.  The bishop gave me a copy of a talk to read that was given by Hyrum W. Smith in 2002 at the funeral of a friend that had committed suicide.  In one section of this talk he addresses the difference between pessimists, optimists, and realists.  He refers to observations made by Admiral Stockdale who was a POW in the North Vietnamese prison camps for over 6 years.

"The pessimists saw the brutal facts around them and quit.  The optimists had boundless faith and ignored the brutal facts.  The realists saw the brutal facts and had faith that they could be dealt with... The interesting thing about these three groups is that the first two groups of people died in the camps in Vietnam."

"I understood why the pessimists didn't make it... The second group stunned me!  The optimists died as well!  How come the optimists died?  Because the optimists had boundless faith but were not willing to look at the brutal facts.  And they said to each other, 'You know we'll be out of here by Christmas.  We'll be out of here by Valentine's Day.'  Every rustle in the bush was the marines coming to save them.  And when every rustle of the bush wasn't the marines coming to save them, and when they weren't out by Christmas and they weren't out by Valentine's Day, they died.  They gave up and died."

"The optimists ignore the facts - put on smiley faces and pretend it didn't happen.  However, the optimists live a lie." (Emphasis added)

As I read this I cried all over again, because I realized this is the root of my problem.  I have been living a lie.  What's the lie?  What are the "brutal facts"?  I could say that it was my tough childhood or the drama that happened with my dad, or the result of poor decisions I made growing up.  But you know what?  It doesn't really matter how I got to this place.  The brutal fact is that mortality hurts.  And I can't avoid it.  That's what being mortal means.  The problem is that, as an "optimist", I have been relying on my faith and expecting things to be fine.  And when I have to face the fact that they aren't always fine I feel like a failure, and like nothing I ever do will be good enough.

With this realization has come the ability to change.  The only way that I can truly love myself and know my worth is to come to see myself as God sees me.  And a week ago I didn't want to know how God saw me, because no matter what my mind knew about God's love, my heart was afraid that I just wasn't good enough.  But God doesn't love people based on whether or not they are "good".  He loves us because we are his children. 

Now I can start moving forward again.  Change still won't come easy, and I still need to retrain my heart to be a realist instead of an optimist, but the walls are starting to come down.  Because I did not learn a father's love from my own father, I am immensely grateful for the constancy of my husband's love.  He shows his love for me every day, and it heals me.  Granted, he doesn't understand what I'm talking about half the time when I get all analytical and introspective at times like these, but he loves me and supports me anyway.  And that is more than enough.


*Jess* said...

I used to call myself an optimist as well, until I met Brian. He is definitely a realist (at some times, pessimistic as well) and has opened me up to facing life how it really is. I kinda like being realistic better. Yeah, life is not all fluffy white clouds and roses, but its nice not having to pretend that it is.

Good luck on your journey to self-discovery, Anita. I'll be thinking of you along the way.

This is only one time in many that I've wished we lived closer to each other. (hug)

Amy said...

Thanks so much for sharing this! I love getting to know you better as you unfold your heart and life here. Can I still call myself an optimistic realist (without thinking I'll die in a prison camp)? I see the "reality" of things, but I just have to smile and hope that it all fits into the Master plan and if I do my very best at coping with the reality, the optimistic future is still what I'm getting.

And I can promise you, Anita, that Heavenly Father loves you exactly like you are today because you are pretty amazing!!

the mrs. said...

Anita-you are an incredible woman!
I find the timing of these soul-stretching experiences just amazing. It's hard, but all for the good. Just wait till you get to the other side of this, I promise it's better.
And Amen to everything Amy said.
And remember the Atonement-that's how I got through.
Love you!

Anonymous said...

Lots to think about here! I see myself as an optimistic person with a realistic view of life. It's hard to be peppy and upbeat and hopeful all the time when we see people dying and suffering in Haiti and Darfur (for starters) or when a loved one is dying or when a child is killed....and yet I always remember what President Hinckley used to say, "Things will work out." Even if it's not in this life, things will work out. I've got tons more I could say on this but will save them for later. Right now I'll just mention that being a positive realist might be a good option.

Becky said...

Don't ever stop thinking that tomorrow will be better than today. It may not be as much better as we'd like, but you can always look back and see that you've really come farther than you think. You and I have had to travel a long way to get to where things are merely OK. Don't judge yourself for not being where someone else is who started the race way ahead of you. And aren't those husbands something else? How would we know we were worthy to be loved if we did not have them to demonstrate?

SCNONI said...

You have such good and wise friends. Listen and cry and hug and cry and read and cry. Crying is like the relief valve on a pressure cooker. I love having you as a daughter-in-law. But you don't have to be up-beat all the time. We love you no matter what mood you are in.

Wendi said...

I followed the link from Good News! I'm so thankful for all the things Sherrie has taught me about Living in Truth. I have a Dad that is an optimist and he is a great example to me. But I have always struggled with it because I have a bipolar disorder and OCD that I've had to deal with since I was young. It is very hard to be an optimist when you deal with these disorders. So, I've learned to be a realist as well. And Living in Truth is the best way to be a realist. Thanks for sharing this. It really helped me. :)