Don’t Pity Me. Really. Please Don’t.
(The following isn’t because I’m seeking pity or even sympathy. It’s merely explanatory, to give you context.)
Being a single woman is not easy. I’m not saying I don’t enjoy it, I’m saying it’s not easy. Without even considering all the cultural and societal complexities of being a single woman in a church that focuses on eternal families, I got 99 other problems.
My 99 Problems
When I come home at the end of the day, the only one to greet me is my cat, who is immediately demanding. He’s not there to give love, he’s there to receive it. He flops belly-up directly in my footpath, forcing me to either bend down to pet him, or catch my balance enough to step over him. (That one’s not really bad. It’s pretty cute that he runs out, then flops right in front of me.)
There is no warm meal waiting for me, unless I’ve had the forethought of doing something in the crockpot, which I definitely have not. And that’s because I was too tired the night before to go to the store. So that means that I am likely going to have a PB&J, or try to scrounge something together that’s quick, because I am likely hungry bordering on hangry. Cold cereal, anyone?
That blood sugar drop means that I start feeling melancholy, tired, or in a worst case scenario, downright depressed. And I am not a person who is typically depressed. Nope, I’m the one can generally be counted on to cheer other people up. But darn those chemicals that wreak havoc on a person’s body. It’s a battle between wanting to collapse on the couch and slave over that bowl of Honey Bunches of Oats.
To add injury to insult, two and a half years ago I got a stress fracture on my foot that, while the breakitself technically has healed, due to metabolic issues, the foot has never fully healed. So I’m in a walking boot, again, for the fourth time since late 2014. It’s gotten to the point that this boot is something I consider when I’m buying new outfits, because it has become a semi-permanent part of my life.
I live on the second floor of an apartment building, so every day is an adventure in balance and making sure I don’t trip down or up the stairs. I dread doing laundry because it means dealing with the stairs and an armful of laundry basket and supplies.
My hip on the other leg hurts. A lot. Worse than the leg that’s actually in the boot.
Yeah? So What?
Wah, wah, wah, poor me, right? It sounds like I am griping – a lot – even though I said right at the beginning that that’s not what this about. Put your tiny violin away. It’s perspective time.
The other day I was in the elevator at work with a guy, Dan, who has severe MS. He looked at the boot on my foot and politely inquired after it. He sympathized earnestly, and said, “That must really suck,” before rolling out the door in his mechanized personal vehicle, that is pretty much the only way he can get around.
I shook my head in amazement at his gift of true empathy. And for just a moment, I kicked myself. I hadn’t said anything like “Wo is me,” but I got sympathy from the guy in the wheelchair.
But here’s the deal. Dan has his own set of issues, just like I have mine. And to me, his might look worse. I mean, I’m only in a walking boot, and he relies on a wheelchair.
But while I was busy comparing myself to him, and thinking I had no room to complain because someone else is always going to have worse problems than me, I realized, that’s not how it works. That’s not how the Savior sees us.
The REAL Perspective: Heavy Laden and Rest
Jesus sees Dan in his wheelchair and the frustrations he must surely face at having limited mobility. And Jesus sees me with my weird foot issues and alone-ness single state. He doesn’t ever once look at me and think, “I wish she would stop complaining about her ‘problems.’ If only she would get out of her head and go serve someone, she would feel a lot better.”
Nope, He doesn’t say that, or anything like that, or even think it. What He does say is, “ Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28.)
He doesn’t expect us to try and stuff our problems down and think they don’t matter or are less important than someone else’s customized set of issues. He doesn’t expect that of us for exactly that reason: our set of problems are customized for each individual. We have challenges and obstacles and uncooperative feet and laundry and everything else we have to deal with because they are what are going to help us become like Him.
“Burdens provide opportunities to practice virtues that contribute to eventual perfection.” (L. Whitney Clayton, “That Your Burdens May Be Light,” October 2009 General Conference.)
Customized Problems Are Your Friend
So this set of problems I have – they’re actually there to help me become perfect. That is why Jesus invites us to come to Him – because He knows how to help us through our individual set of circumstance.
As we come to Him, we become like saviors ourselves. “…bearing up under our own burdens can help us develop a reservoir of empathy for the problems others face.” (Elder Clayton.) We are told to become like the Savior, and this is one important tool to progress on that path of discipleship – to learn what it is like to have problems.
The path to true discipleship and becoming like Jesus is clear. Accept that you have challenges. Allow yourself to acknowledge them, even. Do not judge or compare your own to others’. And certainly do not compare others’ to yours. I’ve got problems. Dan has problems. You have problems. And THAT IS OKAY. Turn to the Savior, the source of peace. Ask for help and guidance to bear them well.
“Through it all, the Savior offers us sustaining strength and support, and in His own time and way, He offers deliverance.” (Elder Clayton.)
I Got 99 Problems, But This Ain’t One of ‘Em
“Despite dismal conditions in the world and the personal challenges that come into every life, peace within can be a reality. We can be calm and serene regardless of the swirling turmoil all about us. Attaining harmony within ourselves depends upon our relationship with our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ, and our willingness to emulate him by living the principles he has given us.” (Joseph B. Wirthlin, “Peace Within,” April 1991 General Conference.)