Thursday, November 8, 2012

You're a Good Man Charlie Brown

In the 3rd grade I loved music class. Once or twice a week my wiggly com padres and I would be lined up and marched down the hall to a room filled with tambourines, bongos, and recorders. It was one of my favorite times of the school day, when we would sing and clap and dance. One of the songs that our teacher taught us was a song from a Charlie Brown special called Happiness Is…

I loved that song. I sang it all the time. I identified completely with Charlie Brown. Honestly, there was a kid who called me Charlie Brown for years because I had a “big head”. I was awkward, bigger and stronger than most of the others including the boys. This made me self-conscious and I felt like an outsider.  I was constantly sticking my foot in my mouth and was terribly insecure. I found that the one way I could relate to other people was by telling them funny stories. Made up stories, real stories, anything I could think of that would get a laugh.

As a teen this morphed into sarcasm. I was still making people laugh so they would accept me and it allowed my pessimistic outlook on life to peek through as well. It was the best of both worlds. My pessimism came from a turbulent childhood; I didn’t believe the future would hold much happiness because up to that point the past hadn’t shown me much of it. I believed that life was unfair and you couldn’t control that, might as well just become cynical and accepting of the fact that you were going to be miserable.

And yet, somewhere deep down my soul was still singing. “Happiness is finding a pencil, pizza with sausage, telling the time.” Simple things made me happy even though I didn’t want to admit it. Despite all of my self-loathing and quivering insecurities there was a fire burning somewhere down deep that kept telling me that the elusive happiness I had given up on was all around me if I could just open my eyes.

Once out from under the rules of my parents’ house my pent up rebellion and pessimism exploded onto the scene. God obviously didn’t care about me and I was going to do anything I wanted. Living the commandments had not fixed my life. They hadn’t made my problems disappear; trying hard to follow the Gospel had not made people stop acting in hurtful ways and so I decided to try to find happiness elsewhere.

Elsewhere included all kinds of idiotic behaviors and temporarily it numbed all the thoughts and feelings I had been trying to get away from for so long. But it didn’t last. I soon found myself in a black hole of miasmic night. All the light had gone out of my life and I was truly wretched. It was so dark and desperate that there were times I felt it would be easier to just not exist anymore.

One night when I felt like I was being consumed by the darkness my mind caught hold of a thought. “It doesn’t have to be this way. You are not alone.”

That flash of hope started me on a path that led to a loving bishop’s office. That bishop helped me to begin a very long and trying repentance process. It took years of trying, faltering, and trying again to get me back to where I knew I was where God wanted me to be. 

As arduous as that path was, and as many times as I fell down, I slowly came to realize that the Savior really did love me. I found that after each struggle I could look back and see that He had been patiently helping me along and that I was a bit stronger. He had not made it easy but He had made it possible. And He had helped me to see His love expressed in a rainbow, or a good friend, in silly things my kids said, relationships with my family, words of the scriptures, in the lyrics of a song, and everywhere I looked if I had my eyes open.  

Life is still difficult. There have been moments that brought me spiritually and literally to my knees. There has been pain and stress and from time to time wavering on my part. The difference between now and my early life is that as I live the commandments the best I can and keep trying to improve; I have a peace inside and know that eventually all will be well. I have also learned to recognize the love that is all around me, even when things are as bad as they can get. I really can find happiness and comfort in something as simple as “a warm blanket”.

I think that part of the Savior’s plea for us to become “like a little child” may in part be asking us to seek for the ability see His love in little achievements and everyday wonders. Flowers on the side of the road, a hug from a five year old, a good joke, a rain storm.

Happiness is… feeling God’s love for us. That is what makes this messy, difficult life bearable. People will fail us, problems will come, we will be hurt, and lonely, and scared but please know that God is there and He is telling you He loves you in a million ways. Just open your eyes.



P.S. After reading this a day later I realize that I made my childhood sound like a dour, terrible experience and that is not totally accurate. Although some of it was no picnic I was blessed wonderful and loving people who were a major influence on me for good. My mother who was unflinchingly faithful in the face of overwhelming adversity, my dad who by the end of his life was a shining example of the transformation that can take place in a person when they take hold of the atonement and allow it to work in their life, and many others.

I know for a fact that the experiences of my life and the people in it have made me who I am today and I'm grateful for it and wouldn't trade it with anyone.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you. I needed this today. I think you are just grand.


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