A while back, my dear friend called for advice. She said that she was struggling with negative thoughts and feelings and asked how to get over them. I was flattered and gave her lots of inspiring counsel—for which I am now apologizing!!! You see, recently I have been having some struggles of my own and I realize that my advice to her was simplistic and dismissive. There is much more depth and nuance in our response to trials than can be addressed with a simple call to positive thinking.
My paradigm for life IS positive; nonetheless, I have been struggling to work through the negative thoughts and emotions associated with discouragement and disappointment. Built into life are experiences that take us to the threshold of our capabilities and without these experiences, we could not see miracles in our lives and we could not reach our potential.
There is a certain feeling that accompanies these experiences that I can only describe as distress and discomfort —the feeling is generally unpleasant and can be downright excruciating.
I use a metaphor from childbirth for obvious reasons. Most of you probably know that the most painful part of the childbirth experience is the transition phase of labor. The word transition means the process or period of changing from one state to another. In labor, transition is the final period wherein the body becomes fully prepared to give birth, and in my experience it is NOT pleasant.
For me transition does not last long, but I nevertheless had the same feeling each time I was in the middle of it, and that feeling was:
“I CANNOT DO THIS!”
Somewhere between this feeling and a newborn baby in my arms, a miracle occurs.
These same kinds of miracles occur around us continuously. We do all we can do, we give all we can give, we literally reach the threshold of our capability and then a miracle takes place in our lives.
This reminds me of the miracle of the loaves and the fishes. The Savior multiplied what the disciples brought to the table, but he asked them to bring all they had. Sometimes the miracles in our lives go unnoticed because they are not awe-inspiring in magnitude, but are simple things like survival and progression.
One of my earliest memories is of walking home from school when I was five or six years old. I was holding a half-sheet of paper with the sight-words that I was supposed to practice that week. I distinctly remember looking at that paper and having a childlike feeling of distress and discomfort. The words were too difficult for me. I could not do it. But a miracle occurred and somehow I learned to read.
As I have gotten older, the stakes have gotten higher–and the intensity of the distress and discomfort of transition has magnified. Sadly I have not been fully conscious of the miracles taking place in my life. With hindsight I can see that each time I felt that I was being stretched to the threshold of my capabilities, each time I felt to cry out “I cannot do this,” a miracle was taking place in my life. I was in the midst of metamorphosis.
So today I am rewriting that simplistic and dismissive advice I gave to my friend (who by the way has long since advanced from her period of struggle, and continues to be an example of awesomeness to me). What I said about positive thinking was true. How and what we think defines who we are and what we become. But sometimes it makes as much sense to advise someone about positive thinking in the midst of life’s transition as it does in the midst of childbirth’s transition.
Life has some inherently painful experiences. Perhaps the most appropriate attitude in the midst of life’s trials is one of anticipation, wherein we look forward to the miracle about to take place in our lives and we marvel at the person the Lord is making out of us. I am going to work on having this attitude as I continue in my current struggle. It will be one of the lessons from childbirth that stuck with me. And my new explanation for those days I can’t hold it together is going to be, “I’m just in transition!”