I am looking at the sun just coming up over the mountain.
Years ago our family decided to climb a trail up a mountain. It was a long trail, up some pretty difficult rocky areas, with several dangerous potential falls. It was not a trip for little ones. It demanded our best physical effort, and several of us (okay, me) needed to stop and rest whenever that was an option. For some insane reason, we carried a watermelon with us. Our original thought had been that the watermelon would provide us with a delicious reward at the end of our journey. But really–what kind of craziness caused us to think it would be fun to carry a huge, heavy watermelon up a mountain? In retrospect, it seemed ridiculous. I laugh about it now, thinking of how we started out, with each member of the family carrying the watermelon for a ways until passing it off to someone else. For a time, the person carrying the melon was quite proud of his prowess, declaring audibly how buff they were and how far they could carry it. Later, the pass-offs were done discreetly, in muffled silence, when the melon carrier had literally exhausted himself or herself and needed someone to take over. Eventually even I had a turn. Step after labored step, up, and up and up and up. Muscles began to tire; started to shake. Breathing became ragged and difficult. Conversation slowed to the barest essentials needed to communicate. Gone were the laughing, silly comments along the way.
We became focused on one thing–getting there. Not having been to our destination before, we kept wondering which turn would reveal the vistas we had been promised. We kept hoping the next one would be it. But alas, it was not. More muscle work, muscles aching now. More pauses to catch our breath. And then there was the watermelon….
Suddenly, incredibly, we arrived at the top.
The sun was shining.
The sky was brilliant blue.
From our vantage point we gazed over incredible, vibrant fields of flowers and jewel-like lakes below. Our view was a fabulous mosaic of colors, of sounds of birds singing, and we felt blissful peace, cool breezes, and inner triumph. We had made it! And then there was the watermelon…. Yes! We had made it, carrying the watermelon all the way. We smashed it against some rocks and dug our hands into the ripe melon, plucking out chunks of juicy, cool sweetness, savoring a kind of primal sense of joy and pleasure at our treat. We cleaned the melon out, wiping our sticky hands on our jeans, and began the descent, feeling renewed and victorious.
As I tell you about this experience, it is just starting to be light, and the first birds of the morning are chirping outside. It is yet dark, but they are singing in anticipation of the light to come. They bring back my memories of that long, dusty, rugged, grueling hike, and the joy that came at the top. Lately, my thoughts have turned to life and the burdens that come along with it. So many of us struggle with day-to-day challenges or sense of our own personal worth. I have thought of many things I could compare challenges to, such as sculpting a masterpiece out of stone, or concocting a gourmet meal for a crowd of 1000 with no recipe to go by. There are many applicable analogies, but for some reason, the watermelon story came to mind. I decided to tie my philosophical concepts of life and my watermelon story to another concept about our worth, and our worthiness.
We could have given up midway up the mountain. We could have sat down on some outcroppings of rock, stared at the trail ahead, and decided that we had made it thus far and we would eat our watermelon and go back. We could have left the watermelon somewhere and picked it up and eaten it on the way back. We could have left those that we had lagging behind and gone on ahead with those that were more physically fit. We could have given up entirely and gone home, pretending that we had made it to the top. But no, we really couldn’t. There was something to be learned in the pain, struggle, and empty, labored footfalls of the climb. That something–that amazing discovery–was the gift that came only with our mutual commitment to complete the climb, and to do it together. Once we got our “second wind,’ we began to enjoy the climb. Then, and only then, came the rewarding vistas, the sense of peace and accomplishment. Then, and only then, was the celebratory feast worthy of the effort.
One of the lessons we learned on our hike was that we had to share the burden. Much as each of the boys (and the girls) wanted to prove their invincibility, no one of us could carry the load the whole time. As we became more united and more committed in our journey to the top, we became more sensitive to the melon carriers. Were they keeping up? How were they breathing? Were they stumbling? Were they discouraged? When would it be my turn to carry the load? Later, my sister and I were talking and she made a comment to me that stuck: “People that try to sidestep adversity miss out on great things.” We forget–or maybe we never know–that the joy comes after the commitment, and the labored perseverance, even when the climb is demanding more of us than we know we have. Even when the burden is one of great grief, or sorrow that overwhelm us, we can feel tremendous joy in knowing we have successfully borne the burden, until it is time to let it go.
Thomas S. Monson said, “Life is full of difficulties, some minor and others of a more serious nature. There seems to be an unending supply of challenges for one and all. Our problem is that we often expect instantaneous solutions to such challenges, forgetting that frequently the heavenly virtue of patience is required.”
Sometimes, in our uncharitable self-evaluations, we equate worthiness with our worth, our value. I believe that each of us is precious, both to our Heavenly family and to each other. I think of our climb up that long and demanding mountain. We found that encouragement voiced to each other gave us the energy and focus we needed to take that next step, and the next one, and the next one. Our initial pride at doing the best job carrying the melon, or being buff, or walking the fastest, or excelling to a greater degree than the others, faded when the commitment to climb was refocused on the journey together. Competition was relegated to the state of meaningless triviality. Creation and commitment and encouragement overtook any thoughts of another’s seeming inferiority. What if one of us had discouraged another on the climb? What if we had been so focused on ourselves that we failed to notice another’s shaking muscles, another’s tearstreaked face? What if we had spoken unkindly to each other, distracting their focus, mocking efforts to climb, discouraging motivation, minimizing the sense of accomplishment? The top of the climb would not have been sweet. It would have been tainted with regret. In getting to the top, we would have climbed over the confidence of those with us. Our team would have become fragmented. The value of what we achieved would have been lost. Such a victory is a failure.
Gordon B. Hinckley said, ” “None of us will become perfect in a day or a month or a year. We will not accomplish it in a lifetime, but we can begin now, starting with our more obvious weaknesses and gradually converting them to strengths as we go forward with our lives. This quest may be a long one: in fact, it will be lifelong. It may be fraught with many mistakes, with falling down and getting back up again. And it will take much effort. But we must not sell ourselves short. We must make a little extra effort. We would be wise to kneel before our God in supplication. He will help us. He will bless us. He will comfort and sustain us. He will help us to do more, and be more, than we can ever accomplish or be on our own.”
In climbing, and in parenting, and in friendships, and in marriage…in fact, in all of our relationships with others, triumphs and victories come through building each other. We can choose to build or diminish. Words and feelings of love and encouragement give life. Words and feelings of judgment and criticism kill. It is as simple, and as significant as that. So what do we do when we discover that we are being our own worst critic? Lisa Hayes said, “Be careful how you are talking to yourself because you are listening.” The inner dialog we have with ourselves is so important to observe.
We can change our outcome by creating the messages our soul craves: messages of encouragement, hope, confidence, growth, enthusiasm, joy, love, dreams come true. We are, after all, mere infants in terms of understanding all there is about life and our purpose here. It’s like trying to navigate a narrow path up a mountain, not knowing what lies ahead. Thankfully, God has given us an incredible gift: the ability to create our desired outcome. It may not come immediately, and it may not be easy. We may realize that what was initially so very important to us turns out to be not important at all. We learn that our relationships are what bring the greatest riches, the most satisfying success.
If you find yourself in a self-critical slump, take some time to meditate and focus on five things you are grateful for. Write them down and FEEL the gratitude. When you have done that, if you’re still wrestling with your self-sabotage, write down five more, and keep at it until you start to observe everything around you–even your burdens–with gratitude. Where would you be if you had not kept trying to get up and walk as a baby? What if you had quit with your first feeble effort to balance on a bicycle? What if you judged everyone around you as harshly as you judge yourself? If you’ve messed up with exercise or diet or any number of other commitments you planned on keeping, each new minute, every new hour, and every new day bring you a chance to turn that around.
Ninmar said, “Stop beating yourself up. You are a work in progress; which means you get there a little at a time, not all at once. Put down that bat and pick up a feather, give yourself a break.” If you had a friend who spoke to you the way that you sometimes speak to yourself, how long would you allow that person to be your friend?
My wonderful husband is a medical doctor who has seen many diseases that have their roots in unresolved emotional issues. In his lectures, he frequently says, “We are supposed to walk through the valley of the shadow of death, not pitch a tent and camp there.”
Release the pain.
Let others help you carry your burden.
If no one around you is willing or able to do that, give it to God. In fact, first give it to God.
Forgive the mistakes in yourself and others.
Be patient with yourself and others.
Recognize the Law of Polarity working in your life. Just as the tides come in and go out, the sun rises and sets, a difficult day will be followed by a great day.
Find gratitude in every experience. We are here to learn. And then we are here to patiently teach.
Make time to visualize your very highest and best self. You can do it in pictures and words, and dream all the dreams that are inside you, wanting to manifest!
Indulge in re-creation every time that you find yourself headed a direction that doesn’t serve you. Get away into nature and take paper and pen with you. Sit on a rock by a flowing stream and pray. Recreate the life you want to live in your mind and write it down.
As Rabbi Harold Kushner said, “If you concentrate on finding whatever is good in every situation, you will discover that your life will suddenly be filled with gratitude, a feeling that nurtures the soul.”
Remember: Your life is all about learning, growing, and experiencing the joy all around you. Let it seep in, let your heart embrace it and your mind and eyes feast on it. Fill your heart with gratitude that you have the chance to experience this, and that you have people in your life to love and learn from. And no matter how busy you are, take a minute to make a difference. And savor the perfection in every precious moment, easy or hard, burdened or light.
Cristie Gardner, "Miracle Activator," is a podcaster, author, and coach who has mastered the art of consulting with businesses and with her personal
coaching clients to help them take their next step from The Comfort
Zone to the Miracle Zone.
You can find her at https://cristiegardner.com/
Listen to her podcasts here: https://cristiegardner.com/podcasts/
You can also connect with her on her Cristie Gardner Facebook page, or join her FB group, https://www.facebook.com/groups/483302665899315/
Step Into Your Miracle Zone.