Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Most Beef Is Tough (Why I place so much value on complaining)

This post as been a long time coming.  It's been on my mind and growing in my thoughts and in my heart for the past several months.  And I'm not sure that tonight is the best time to write it, but I'm gonna go ahead and try.  So, we'll start in the middle.  Because it's hard to say when exactly this whole thing started and I don't know when if or when it will end.

So, my mom reads my blog.  She is probably my #1 most faithful reader and devoted fan.  But, actually, my mom has been my #1 most faithful reader my entire life.  I have a lifetime full of memories of me handing pieces of writing to my mom for her to look over and give me feedback on.  School papers.  Poetry.  Stories.  Anything and everything.  And while she's always very kind, after a lifetime of being my own personal editor, I also trust her to be honest with me.

You probably didn't know this, but every now and then I make really dumb typos on my blog.  And then later that day I'll get an e-mail from my mom saying, "It's actually spelled this way, honey, not that way.  If you spell it that way it means this instead.  Love your writing!  Love you!"  It doesn't hurt my feelings when my mom critiques my writing because I know--as I have always known--that she is only trying to help me be the best writer I can be.  Which, on the flip side, makes her compliments about my writing just that much more gratifying.  Because I know she's not going to tell me, "That was the best thing I've ever read," when it wasn't the best thing she's ever read.  You know?

Well, yesterday I wrote this blabbering post about whatever and mentioned that I sometimes feel like I've been blogging for four years and still don't have much to show for it.  My mom left me a comment calling me "unflinchingly honest" and saying, "As you've evolved from being mostly about crafting and sewing to being mostly about navigating life, I think your content is stronger now than ever." (Thanks, Mom.)

Unflinchingly honest.

I've been rolling it over and over in my mind and carrying it around with me everywhere I go since I read that.  But, actually, I've been thinking about it for months.

For the most part, I like to think that up until January 2012 I stayed away from writing complaining sort of posts on my blog.  I just didn't feel that they were very uplifting and I've always wanted my blog to be a positive place to be.  I wanted my readers to come feeling comfortable and leave feeling happy and inspired. And, anyway, this is a craft and sewing blog, not a lifestyle blog or whatever you'd call a whiny, complaining sort of blog.  I was above such things and proud to be.

Then, in January I miscarried.  It cut a wound so deep in me that, at the time, even in my acutest pain, I didn't fully appreciate what had happened and what it would mean for me in the coming months.  I cried.  I bawled.  I felt humiliated in a way I never had before.  It wasn't just some stupid mistake.  It was life.  And it was my life.  And I had to own up to it and accept it for all that it was.

During the weeks between the doctor telling me that I had probably miscarried and then finding out for sure that I had miscarried, I thought a lot about whether or not I would share it here.  It was personal.  It was so personal.  And yet, there were so many things I wished I could have changed about my own situation and I just couldn't shake the thought, "If I could help someone else by writing about this, it would be worth it.  Even if it just made life easier and a little bit less confusing for one person, it would be worth it."

So, by the time the day came that I knew I had miscarried and that I'd have to decide what to do about it, I found that I was ready to share it with the world.  My grief, my confusion, my humiliation, my broken heart.  I bawled as I wrote that post.  It hurts me now (and makes me tear up) just to think about what I went through writing that post.  It was hard.  But it was worth it.  Because in my mind's eye I could see some fellow sister in the world searching for the same information I had been searching for and feeling just as lost and broken as I had felt.  And I hoped with all my heart that, in that deepest need, she'd find my words and, with them, some solace.

And once you've gone there, there's really no going back.

All of you, my kind, wonderful readers, had come along with me on this roller coaster ride of pain and craziness and I couldn't just dump you all off at the next stop.  I couldn't go back to writing happy little posts about stuff I made and pretend the whole thing had never happened.  So, while I did get back into posting tutorials and other creative stuff, I also did my best to keep everyone updated and share what I could.  But eventually there came a point where I said to myself, "Listen, you're such a whiner.  Enough is enough.  Let's get back to the regular old stuff again."  And I did.

I honestly thought that after a few months had passed I was over the whole thing.  I was tired of hearing people tell me their miscarriage stories and how everything would be okay.  Because it really didn't feel like everything would be okay, but I just wanted to move on with life.  And I thought I had.  But I hadn't.

One of my good friends and I were out on a walk a few weeks ago and we were talking about life and I told her, "I feel like most of the time I'm perfectly fine and then every now and then I just have my crazy days when I can't stand people who are pregnant and nothing feels like it will ever work out and I just need to eat a whole pan of brownies and not see anybody.  And then the next day I wake up and I'm fine.  But, every now and then, I have my crazy days."

Well, if you went back and combed through the archives of my blog, I think you could pinpoint fairly easily when I was having a crazy day.  Because it was on those days (or sometimes a day or two after when I had had some time to reflect a little and not be quite so negative) that I got on and wrote my super whiny posts.  It felt like I was just writing one honest complaint after another and when I finished I'd feel better, like I was free of all that anger and hurt and frustration and confusion.  But, inevitably, the next day (or the next hour) I would feel like such an amazing idiot.

Really?  I just wrote that for the whole world to see?  What a dumb idea.  Nobody wants to read stuff like that.

I think that every single time.  Because the world tells us that nobody likes a complainer.  But you know what?  I think we really do.

Let me be clear, though.  I'm not talking about complaining on and on and never saying anything nice.  No, I don't think anybody enjoys that.  But I think a well placed, "This happened and it sucks," can go a long way in making the world a more livable place.  At least, I know it does for me.

Several of my friends at church were pregnant for the last several months, so pregnancy came up a lot in conversation.  And, yes, sometimes it induced the crazy days.  But what made me crazy wasn't so much the "When are you due?" and the "I really like Dr...." and the "epidural vs. no epidural" debate.  It was the fact that they were all so dang cheerful about it.

And I mean, they should be cheerful.  It's great to get to have a baby.  It's fun to stock up on baby stuff and think about names and feel the baby kick.  Yes, that stuff is fun.  But the rest of pregnancy, for me, was not fun.  In fact, it was so not fun that it took me years to even be able to think about the possibility of having to experience it again.  So to hear all of these women talk about how pregnancy was just the best time of their life made me not only crazy, but it made me feel lonely and inadequate too.  Don't mind me, I'm just the pregnancy hater.  I'll sit in the corner and try not to drip on your fun.

Then one day one of my friends who was pregnant was talking to me and another friend about some random thing and she mentioned off-hand how uncomfortable she was at the moment.  It was one of those, "Yeah, pregnancy sucks" moments.  In my heart, I was so grateful she had said it.  She's always such a happy, optimistic, down-to-earth person and I admire her so much.  So to know that sometimes she didn't enjoy pregnancy either made me suddenly not feel so alone.

Later she realized that she had complained to me about pregnancy when she knew that I had miscarried and was so heartbroken about not being pregnant again yet and she just couldn't apologize enough.  I e-mailed her back telling her how much it meant to me that she had been so honest about what she was going through and how it made me not feel like such an idiot, how it felt validating to not be the only woman in the world who didn't enjoy every single second of pregnancy.  I thanked her for her complaints.  Because I so needed to hear that I wasn't alone.

And I'm not alone.

You readers and friends, you touch my heart.  On almost every single one of my crazy days when I've written posts I regretted shortly after, I get private e-mails from readers and friends telling me about what they've been going through.  Guys, your e-mails break my heart and heal it all at the same time.  Life. Is. Hard.  I read about all the things you tell me and sometimes I just have to set it aside for a day or two before I can even think what to reply.  How do you respond to broken hearts?  There are so many.

And in the same e-mails I've had so many kindred spirits write to me and tell me how much they needed that post that day.  And I can't help but be in awe of the way God works through us, all of us, even in our complaints and on our craziest of days, to help each other.  We all go through so much hurt.  But, somehow, when we can hold hands and walk right through that hurt together, it heals us just a little bit.  Somehow it's enough to make it through the day.  Because you're not alone.  Someone else is having a not-perfect life too. And somehow they're making it through.  And you can too.

Sometimes when we say just how we feel it offends others or hurts their feelings.  I know I've been guilty of that a lot of times.  So, yes, we have to be careful.  But I hope you won't be so careful that you don't ever say what's in your heart.  Because when we speak from the heart--even when we complain from the heart--it bonds us together.  It heals us and makes us stronger.  When you speak from the heart it makes me stronger.

I've been thinking about all this for months.  About the value of complaining and speaking from the heart.  So I hope it's true that I'm "unflinchingly honest."  And I hope you have friends close by who are unflinchingly honest. Who will do their best to stay positive, but who will tell it to you like it is just often enough to help you remember that you're not alone.

Because you're not alone.

And that is important to remember.

I think we all have our crazy days.  Days when things are hard and it kills to get this message that everything in the world ought to be cheery and if it's not then we're not good enough.  Because the idea that everything is always cheery is a myth and it's a dangerous one to believe.  There is a lot of good in this big world and there are a lot of happy things in life.  But if we go through this life believing that everything should be happy all the time, we're just setting ourselves up for some potentially devastating disappointment.

This favorite quote of mine is something that I've carried around in my mind and in my heart for a long time and I think it sums up how I feel about the value of complaining and speaking from the heart.

“Anyone who imagines that bliss is normal is going to waste a lot of time running around shouting that he’s been robbed. The fact is that most putts don’t drop, most beef is tough, most children grow up to just be people, most successful marriages require a high degree of mutual toleration, most jobs are more often dull than otherwise. Life is like an old time rail journey…delays…sidetracks, smoke, dust, cinders and jolts, interspersed only occasionally by beautiful vistas and thrilling burst of speed. The trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride.” 
-Gordon B. Hinckley

May we all be unflinchingly honest about the ride we're on.  And hold each others' hands along the way.


Cassandra said...

Katie, this blog post was beautiful. It reminds me of conversations I have had with my mom, in that I complain about something and she basically just tells me that everything will be fine. Sometimes I have to remind her that sometimes you just want to feel validated. My friend Jen wrote a really beautiful blog post about bearing witness that explores things along the same lines. I think of it often.

Amanda said...

If you could have written a post just for me that would perfectly speak to my feelings lately, this would be it!!!
I have been blessed to get to be a stay at home mom now, and there are some people in my life who wish they were able to stay home too. I've felt like I could never say anything negative about the hard days of being at home alone with a 2 year old and 5 month old because complaining about this blessing would hurt their feelings since it is something they wish they could do. But the truth is, it is hard and some days I have something to complain about. Not going to an outside job didn't solve every negative feeling I've ever had. I am a very positive person overall and I recognize how fortunate I am so I don't want to complain all the time. But I agree with you that there is value in a well placed complaint and the feeling of being heard and understood.
I also agree with your mom. I started following your blog because of the tutorials and crafts, and I liked it. But I love it now and look forward to reading it even more since you are sharing more of your personal life. All my favorite blogs have a good mix of some specialty and their personal life.
Thanks for putting words to my feelings and being so honest! :)

Kathy Haynie said...

I think you nailed the title. I have President Hinckley's quote on my fridge, but I tend to always focus on the part about "the trick is to enjoy the journey." Actually, "most beef is tough" is the real heart of the quote. Thanks...this post blessed my day.

alee said...

So did you mean to have a typo when you were talking about typos to be funny??? Or maybe I am reading it wrong and "you're" is appropriate instead of "your"...? At least I thought it was funny :)

Katie Lewis said...

Uhh... I wasn't trying to be funny. Thanks Alex. It's fixed now.

Sarah said...

Great post, Katie friend. It's of course fun to see the fun things you're doing and the neat-o stuff you make, but it's great to just sit and ponder with you for a little while sometimes.

Sometimes I think people take the "honesty" thing too far - they share every feeling and forgo any mental filters for the sake of being "honest" but at times what is shared is hurtful. I've found that this is something I need to be careful of in my marriage at times - like the grapefruit story in the Ensign a while ago.

But the kind of honesty you are talking about - acknowledging hardship without wallowing - is something that opens us to compassion and understanding and love. That's how prayer works, right? We have to acknowledge the help we need in order to ask for it.

If I go beyond that - when I get to dwelling on my problems - Satan can too easily stir my feelings up to anger or resentment or discouragement. But the acknowledgement of hardship itself isn't evidence of a lack of faith. We definitely connect to God and to our Savior and to each other through our vulnerabilities.

Rebecca said...

Well said. Somehow I missed your miscarriage...probably because we were going through it at the exact same time and I wasn't keeping up on my blog reading. Thank you for your honesty. I can relate to everything you are saying. Thank you for sharing the quote from President Hinkley. I really needed that.