Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Climb Every Mountain

Over the weekend I had some pretty intense conversations with Daniel. This was between all of the bickering over his selfish requests to get his clothes back. We talked about our experience in Palau. And what made it great. And what made it hard. And what made it heartbreaking in the final months.

When I returned from Palau, I felt like my soul was shattered into a million pieces. I was so broken over my terrible falling out with Daniel. I missed people I loved so much. I was traumatized by some of the most challenging things I had ever faced. I was so lost about where my life was headed. Sure, I had a job and a family to come back to. But for the first time in my adult life, I didn't really know to what end I was stepping into the next phase.

I felt really really alone. I feared that my next step was to make perpetual monotony the status quo. To turn my life into an eternal nine-to-five, where I worked toward nothing in particular and did it all by myself.

Never did being single seem so harsh to me as I entered the United States of God Bless America. Before, I had Daniel. Sure, he wasn't my life partner. But he had my back and I had his in a way I had never really experienced with another person. And his friendship and support for so long was a stabilizing force that kept me from coming apart at the seams when life changes felt life-changing.

But he was gone. And not only that, he was gone after I had just experienced the most difficult months of my life. He was gone at a time when I really needed him not to be gone.

Several months before I returned to America, I was totally dragged through the mud and betrayed (not by Daniel, by the way) in ways that continue to affect my life and eat at my spirit. In hind-sight, a lot of this was my own fault. And recognizing that in recent months has done miracles in my quest to heal. But regardless of whose fault it was, it was still painful. The reason I mention it now is to describe for you just how rough of a state I was in when I came back to the U.S.

I recognize and appreciate that my continual refusal to tell you the details of that story from one year ago is probably annoying to some of you. I get it. And I seem like an obnoxious drama-queen and attention-fisher by continually bringing it up like this without dishing out any of the details. I think one day I'll be ready to tell you that whole story. But not now. And I hope you'll be patient with me as I tell my own story in my own way and in my own time. And I hope you'll understand that the reason I've been telling it vaguely and in bits and pieces is because I want to share with you what I feel healthy enough to share and I want to share with you the lessons I'm proud to have learned.

The lesson I'm proud to have learned recently is that it is incredibly liberating to be honest. To be willing to dig deep and recognize the ugliest parts about ourselves. To be insightful enough to notice how the ugly parts are not who we are. And to be brave enough to share them with others in an effort to demonstrate to ourselves that what makes us uncomfortable about who we are doesn't have to make us uncomfortable about who we are.

But what's more, there is something so powerful about digging deep in our quest to do what feels right. There is something so empowering about deciding to play the best game with the deck you've been given and not dream of the game you could play with the deck you wish you had been given. Or the deck you're told you should have been given.

Because here's the thing: we're all going to experience heartache. We're all going to be betrayed and get dragged through the mud every now and then. We're all going to make disappointing mistakes and lose things that matter in the process. And we're all going to suffer shame and frustration and heartache over the cards we've never held. But look. We'll never be able to win the game without having the courage first to recognize the cards we do hold.

I saw the second half of The Sound of Music recently on TV. It started at that part where Maria realizes that she has a mad crush on a man with 200 children and so she does what we would all do in that situation and runs away to the convent.

When she gets to the convent, Mother Superior is all like, "what the hell are you doing here? We thought we got rid of you back when we sang that song about how you're the biggest flake to ever kick it in this abbey."

And Maria is like, "oh Mother Superior! I just had to leave! I just had to!"

And Mother Superior keeps trying to get more info out of Maria because she's not really making any sense. And Maria is like, "I can't go back to that man again!" And Mother Superior holds up a doll and she's all, "now show me on this doll where he touched you."

And Maria is like, "nobody touched anybody!" But then she says with her eyes, "I wish there had been some touching." And that's when Mother Superior is like, "OMG. You're in love with that man, aren't you?!"

And Maria kind of thinks she's going to get in trouble because she thinks she's supposed to devote herself to God by being a nun and NOT by falling in love with a SUPER rich guy with perfect hair. But Mother Superior is like, "that's stupid. We don't even like you around here that much and not everyone is supposed to be a nun. So if you found a hot guy who wants to get jiggy with you, ESPECIALLY IF HE HAS MONEY, run to him."

And this freaks Maria out. And she's like "NO! Please don't make me go back!" Even though deep down she desperately wants to go back and make more clothes out of curtains. And Mother Superior is like, "I know being honest about your feelings and dreams and facing them is scary, but the abbey is not a place for you to hide from things that are scary."

Then Mother Superior sings that whole song about "Climb Every MOUNTAIN!" Which I think is all just one giant innuendo. Because Mother Superior is a little over the whole celibacy thing.

But Maria, in all of that singing, hears this one line that's actually quite powerful. Mother Superior tells her to be willing to climb every mountain and do all of the hard things and self-reflection she needed to do to find her dream, "a dream that will need all the love you can give, every day of your life, for as long as you live."

Maria realizes what her dream is. And she realizes that if she's going to capture that dream and actually be capable of giving all the love she has, every day, for as long as she lives, she's going to have to be brave enough to admit to herself the reality of her situation. And strong enough to do what feels right and true according to her capabilities and life circumstances.

She does just that, running back to the family she knew was her dream, admitting to herself and everyone who she was and what she felt, and embracing the beautiful doors that this opened to her in the process.

I guess you could say that 2014 so far has been a time for me when I have finally, for the first time in my life, started looking inward and recognizing my challenges and inadequacies. It's the first time in my life that I've been open and honest about my fears. It's been the first time in my life I haven't tried to hide what scares me.

And you know the weird thing? 2014 is the first time in my life when I haven't actually felt that scared.

I think this is because I'm finally appreciating who I am and who I am not--even the parts that used to be kind of hard to swallow. And in so doing, I'm finally feeling capable of giving all of the love I can to what matters, every day of my life, for as long as I live.

Climbing every mountain is really hard. It takes courage and bravery and honesty. The gut-wrenching kind of honesty that can only happen when you decide to be totally vulnerable. But good luck finding that dream--that beautiful beautiful dream--without climbing a couple of mountains first.

~It Just Gets Stranger

40 comments:

  1. This is perfect. And just what I needed to read right now as I sit in my apartment contemplating where my life is headed and what I need to do to be where I want to be. Thank you, Eli. :)

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  2. Thank you for reminding me that one of the best parts of having someone you love is sharing who you are with them, even the parts that you aren't very fond of or comfortable with. I think I need to remember that taking risks is liberating and necessary to continue growing.

    Beautifully written, Eli. Thank you again for starting my day with something to think about.

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    1. You just said what I was thinking..... You're both right :-)

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  3. I like your version of The Sound of Music so much better. :)

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  4. Eli, you are a phenomenal writer. I think it comes out in everything you write, but these heart-wrenching serious posts are where it's show-cased best. Really impressive. Thank you.

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  5. Firstly, I never saw The Sound of Music and now I never have to. Secondly, i appreciate your thoughts on introspection and persevering. I needed a little pep talk.

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  6. A. I love The Sound of Music. 2. I get so depressed when Maria goes back to the convent. 3. Listen, this is your damn blog. You get to talk about what you want to talk about, and when you're ready to disclose more, should you ever feel ready, then you have an army of supporters ready to listen. I like that your readers seem to be diverse-- I'd love to know more about the people who follow your blog. I mean, I am assuming they're not all relatives, right? RIGHT? Am I the only Jew on here?

    Sorry. where was I? Oh. Yes. Struggle sucks, but without struggle we remain emotionally stunted little toddlers, and that's no good. Nothing of value comes without fighting for it, I've found. I think Daniel was put into your life for a reason. Feel free to ask me for more generalizations later.

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    1. Thank you E-Slice! for saying something that has been bugging me to no end! It IS Eli's blog. He has sole possession over it. All these people on here demanding that he tell us every single thing about his life, like it's any of their business, is driving me insane. I love the way you write, Eli. I feel privileged to read the snippits of your life that you choose to share. I feel that everything you post, whether it's insightful or funny as all get out, brings more enjoyment to my life and makes me think just a little bit more about what's going on. BTW, just so you know, E-Slice, I'm a married 46-year old heterosexual Methodist mother of adorable 10- and 8- year old Catholic girls. :)

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    2. Thanks, Catherine, nice to meet you... and I agree with you too. We're lucky this guy writes, period. don't get all cocky about it, though, Eli, you may write like an angel, but you need to learn to do laundry, there, Pepper.

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    3. What E-Slice said... both times :-) and Catherine, too.

      Lights and darks go in separate loads and will need different temperatures. Most of the time, darks are cold, and lights are warm, but sometimes even the lights are cold, often your favorite light. If you forget the cleansing agent, you'll end up having to redo/relive the same load. Laundry is never done (there are always dirty clothes) and they don't fold themselves. Sometimes no matter what we try, it still comes out wrinkled. Some stains will require multiple washings and extra treatment. That's just they way life.. er I mean laundry is.

      Although I confess, I still lump all my socks in the draw and expect them to mate themselves.

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    4. Eh don't worry about separating colors and temp... I throw dirtiest stuff in one load and less dirty stuff in one load and always wash on warm/cold and has worked fine so far:) actually "fine" is a stretch because I turned some of my husband's socks a pale pink once.

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  7. I think I need to see Sound of Music again....

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  8. So what you're saying here is, that we should become nuns even if Mother Superior tells us she doesn't love us? Haha! Good post Eli!

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  9. Eli, I don't think you can ever know just how much I needed to hear this today. I laughed and I cried over this post. It really spoke to my soul. Thank you so much for taking the time to make this blog. Thank you so much for putting yourself out there so that others can be touched by your words and wisdom. And I LOVE your version of Sound of Music so much better.

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  10. This. It's what I've been dealing with the past 6 months. I've come to the crashing realization that I've been selfish in my life goals. They were all about me. Sure, I convinced myself that my plans would change the world by bringing it closer together (teaching english in Japan), but it was really all about my wants and desires.
    It took a really bad breakup between my ex and I in order to realize that I have been living for myself and not for others. I've been 'selfishly content' with my life and what I had planned for it. Every one of my goals would benefit me and my desires. I convinced myself that I had the right to do something for myself rather than taking the back seat again. I was dead wrong. Now that I've changed my perspective around after much-needed self-contemplation and introspection, I feel the same way that you do. I'm still not sure exactly where my life is heading, but I know it's going to be heading in a much better direction than before.
    You're not in this alone, Eli. Things will just keep getting stranger.
    Until next time!

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  11. I know I say this a lot, but this is my new favorite thing you've ever written. Thank you so so much.

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  12. If being honest is so liberating... *winkwink-nudge-nudge* ;)

    Ha-ha, okay, no, but being serious, I think you've finally reached puberty. Because all those young adult novels are about teenagers reaching that huge revelation, becoming better, and becoming something great and brilliant in the end that was so much better than the beginning. And as I've read--for a year now, my word!--and gone back into the archives and have enjoyed seeing your world and understanding what you've done, I think it's safe to say you've reached puberty. Unless all those YA books were giving us some blarney.

    ;)

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  13. I think it's in human nature to want to know all the detail of your situation so we can pick a side. But what I hear in your writing is a desire to know there is empathy out there. I've been studying a lot of Brene Brown lately and her research on shame and empathy. Shame can not survive when it's dosed by empathy but thrives by secrecy and judgement. So the simple statement of ME TOO lets you know that I also know the pain and gut wrenching shame of being betrayed. Now I don't know your situation and I don't know Exactly how you feel/felt, but I can relate.
    What I find courageous in what you've written about the situation so far is that you've shared so publicly. We all need "our person", that friend that you'd call to help you move a dead body and wouldn't ask questions or judge. http://youtu.be/U25LlYevsAU
    So I hope you still have your 'person' that does know all the gritty details, but bravo for also making the stranger community partly your 'person' too. :)

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    1. Yes!! I am currently doing her Living Brave course, and I love that you know about her!

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  14. I've never seen The Sound Of Music so this was very enlightening.

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  15. I think everyone can identify with this post if they are truly honest with themselves. It can be suffocating under all those fears, especially when we are afraid of what people with think about us if we let them know our true selves. Something I struggle with each and every day. Thanks for the post.

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  16. I really needed to hear these words today. Thank you.

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  17. You really need to do more movie reviews - they're hilarious :) great hair BTW don't let anyone tell you otherwise...

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  18. First of all great post. you have a real gift of writing. I am sitting here while my students are taking a test really pondering all that you are saying, then I get to part of mother superior and the doll, it was SO hard to to LOL. I held it in like a champ. But serious SO thought provoking, and hiliarious at the same time. You should get a weekend job recapping movies.
    2nd this is your blog you do as you wish and I will be your captive audience.
    Thanks for the insightful words.

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  19. Honestly, I'm just surprised so many people have never seen the Sound of Music! Incredible movie guys, you are all missing out.

    Side story, one of my friends told me that the first (and only) time he watched the Sound of Music, his mother got so bored she started fast forwarding through the songs towards the end of the movie, conveniently RIGHT AS Climb Every Mountain came on. I consider this to be the biggest tragedy of his childhood.

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  20. Really well written.

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  21. Thanks for this post. I've been learning how to face fear lately. It really resonated

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  22. I admire you Eli for not sharing all the details about whatever happened at this time. Most people after being hurt can't wait to trash talk the person who hurt them and get others to validate their feelings and actions by taking sides. I think it takes a big person to share what they have learned and how they have grown from an unfair situation without bashing on another person. We can all learn from this. (And I'm not just saying this cause I'm your sister)

    Love you, Krishelle

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    1. agreed. better to share the lessons than glorify the details. it helps others learn and grow instead of just take up offenses.

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  23. Eli, one thing is for sure....you have a way with words. Have you thought of being a legal advisor/therapist who writes movie synops? That would be entertaining! Whatever you are wrestling with will be ok. One thing is for sure - fear is crippling and holds us back but at the same time don't let others influence you and convince you that you are playing with a different deck of cards than the deck you had in your hand in the first place. Also, Krishelle is right, you don't have to share the details. Sharing what you learned is generous. And, the take on SOM is hilarious and somewhat true.

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  24. I just started reading your blog this month and I think it may have just been so I could read this post. I think the emotions and lessons behind this post are more powerful than any details could be because they are universal. I have also been feeling very alone and "single". I am pursuing a very meaningful career but pondering how I can make my life meaningful outside of the "eternal nine-to-five". No one else seems to quite understand what I'm struggling with but you said it perfectly. I am working to not obsess over the hand I wish I was dealt. And the Sound of Music has never spoken to me in the way you described it before but it makes so much sense. We are all tempted to "run back to the convent" whether that be the safety of our past life or the idea of how we thought life would go. But we have to live in the now and the way Heavenly Father wants us to. It made me think of a CES talk by Elder Holland discussing Lot's wife and how we can not "look back". This post gave me a lot to think about today. Thank you.

    By the way, your hair looks amazing today!

    ;)

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    1. Totally agree with Kelsi. The point of the post was strong and clear and that's what mattered to me.

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  25. I really want to watch the Sound of Music now with my new understanding.

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  26. I need to go re-watch The sound of Music. I don't remember it being that awesome.

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  27. I totally agree with Krishelle's comment. I think the fact that you can share your lessons learned and your painful experiences without bashing someone else takes strength, not weakness.

    I admire you for being able to be so introspective and to face your fears and inadequacies in an attempt to grow from them, rather than just pretending they don't exist.

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  28. Thanks for your open and honest writing.
    Definitely some things that i needed to be reminded about here.

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  29. Some needed inspiration. Thank you.

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