Faith & Fear
There was one night, almost two years ago now, it was stormy. I was living at Sugar Camp Farm in their nice and spacious basement having arrived to Tennessee just a couple weeks before. Lizzie's friend was visiting and we had played a fireman game called "Flash Point" that I had never heard of before until then. Because it was stormy, I had a vague sense that this might mean some bugs might be more inclined to come inside and maybe into the basement. It was only a couple days or so ago I had cleaned out the spider's homes in the window (there weren't that many) and felt like I violated a deal we had — you have your space, I have mine — and that maybe they'd come after me. What if this ended up being that moment?
If you didn't already know from previous posts, I have a small fear of bugs. I was genuinely surprised that I didn't freak out too much overall when I lived on the farm and a wolf spider would casually crawl by as I was pulling out lettuce. I was more inclined to observe it. I owe it to Lizzie that I actually have a better appreciation for bugs. She taught me and showed me how bugs/insects are part of our ecosystem. To this day, it's hard for me to kill them, even inside the house. I try to take them outside whenever possible.
But this night was a little bit different.
After our game, it was time to go to bed. I went downstairs to my room, got ready for bed and read some of a new book I got called "Increase in Learning" (highly recommend) and had left it open to one of the chapters on the opposite corner of the bed as I lay in my covers looking through my phone.
Out of the corner of my eye I noticed a small movement and realized there was a little bug, maybe the size of a gnat or flea on my pillow. I then noticed another one and a third one. I couldn't see any more but the pillow had a busy pattern on it so I got out of bed to check more effectively.
That's when I looked over to the book and noticed a bunch of black dots all over the open pages. Not only were they on the pages, but also on the bed and the wall.
I think I went into shock for about 30 seconds before becoming four years old and feeling like I needed an adult to figure this out for me.
I went upstairs to get Lizzie. When she came downstairs and saw the bugs, she casually started to smoosh them and told me that they were just booklice. Just booklice.
After a flashback to second or third grade when I had head lice, this was not comforting news. Until she said that they are named that because they're often found in books being attracted to the bindings. Even if you had some in your hair she said, it wouldn't be a big deal. You just take them out.
Lizzie and I had just had a talk about trying to be less fearful around bugs, so I really wanted to prove to her it didn't bother me. There wasn't any pesticide or bug killer in the house (organic farm all the way through) so the only solution was killing them one. by. one.
After a bit, she said that if I'd like, I could sleep on the couch upstairs.
But no. This was not going to be an issue. I was not afraid.
I repeated: I was not afraid.
I tried to tell myself that enough until I believed it.
After she left, I just kept wondering if there were more and where they were. I finally called my friend Jen and told her the story. When I told her I wasn't going to sleep on the couch and it was no big deal if I woke up with some in my hair, she stopped me.
"Maddie, in all the years I've known you, I never would have ever thought to hear those words come out of your mouth. You do not need to sleep there tonight. Just go to the couch."
It was like, all of a sudden, I had real permission because she knows me so well and knew I was trying to overcome something in one night that has haunted me for years (I attribute watching Arachnophobia at too young of an age).
So, I got my sweatshirt on, grabbed my non-patterned pillow, and went straight to the couch. Before I fell asleep, I thought of a quote by Mary Anne Radmacher that I had heard our prophet, President Monson, say in one of his talks:
“Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I'll try again tomorrow.”
And the next day, I went downstairs and it was as if nothing had even happened. There was absolutely no sign of any bugs at all. I still washed the sheets just in case.
But that quote and that experience has stayed with me to help me give myself a break once in awhile. And to be ok if I don't always have the courage to be ok.
Before Matt and I got married, I was really struggling. Not in my choice to marry him but to be married at all. I had no idea really what to expect in our marriage. I mean, I felt like it would probably be similar to our dating relationship. But it could be different. And people could tell you all they can about their marriage and what works for them...but would it be like that for us? I've experienced a variety of broken relationships in my past that all started out with the hope that it would work. And some of them have healed and come back together, and those have been huge blessings and miracles. But I think because of the times of turbulence, I can be pretty cynical and skeptical. To me, Matt's the best. But I don't usually see myself that way. What if I'm too selfish or just not loving enough or impatient? I mean there's a million and one ways I could fail to make him feel loved and happy. And also a million and one ways to not receive his love or to make myself miserable.
It was really an awful cycle. I was also scared of all the changes. Of moving out of the house into another one. Of eventually leaving Nashville.
I prayed so much. Sometimes the fear felt debilitating, like I couldn't see through it. I was confused about how I could feel so much stress about something I had continuously felt so much peace about. But at the end of each of those nights I just thought, "I will try again tomorrow."
One night at the temple, after a rough day, I was sitting there, and I had a beautiful moment of clarity. I had a vision that I was washing some dishes, the sunlight was coming through the window, and Matt came home from somewhere. As he came in, he gave me a huge hug and kissed me on the cheek and we both laughed. And I was so happy. I could feel the joy and the peace and the happiness of that moment. It was the simplest but most beautiful thing.
I kept that moment in my heart as I left the temple and through any moments of "what if" because I felt that I finally knew that those thoughts were always leading me down a path I couldn't control, and had no foundation or substance. It was all based on lies anyways. I knew it would all be ok. Better than ok. Happy. Joyful. Loving.
And now, having been married for two and a half months, I can say that there are of course challenges, but there is also a lot of joy. Sometimes I fail at being unselfish, or patient, or not taking things too personally like when he didn't love the way I made asparagus. And on those occasions, we talk about it, we work through it, we say sorry, and I say to myself, "I'll try again tomorrow." And in those tomorrows we both win and we both feel so loved, selfless, happy.
I couldn't imagine spending my life with anyone else.
So if today isn't your day, just keep trying. Have faith that there's always a tomorrow.