“And the Lord, he it is that doth go before thee; he will be with thee, he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed.”

-Deuteronomy 31:8

 

Dating and marriage were failures to add to my ever-growing list of defeats. While deleting all of my dating accounts, I felt a strange feeling of peace. Although, the sense of peace was laced with loneliness. 

The day before my breaking day, I met with Bishop Chase. (I will be eternally thankful for Bishop Chase’s role in my life.) On my way out of his office, I said, “Bishop, I’m done dating. There aren’t any good men left. They are all liars and only want one thing from me. I’m done.” He smiled gently at me and said in his Spanish accent, “Sister Briar, there is a man who is looking for you, and when he finds you, he will take you to the temple.” I laughed as I walked home with every intention of deleting all of my dating site accounts. I would stop dating and focus only on my children, my businesses, and someday my grandchildren. Nothing else would occupy my mind. I was going to learn to be okay with being alone for the rest of my life and try to find joy and happiness in what I had left.

 

Journal Entry: “Yesterday I got a blessing from my dad. He said that Heavenly Father loves me and that He is aware of me and my circumstances. He wants me to weigh the pros and cons of every decision and then decide. After that, He will then help me know if it is right.”

 

Going back more than a year before my visit with Bishop Chase, at my parent’s house in North Carolina, I wrote a list of the pros and cons of dating again. The list of pros for dating was longer than the list of cons for not dating. The final pro was added after I was asked, “Are you ready to be alone for the rest of your life?” This hit me like ice water being thrown in my face. I didn’t want to be alone for the rest of my life! I still had a long life to live, and it seemed a tragedy to be alone until I left this world. I wanted someone to go to church with, talk to, hold hands with, go on a mission with, laugh with, watch movies with… I didn’t want to be alone! I added that to my pros list and put it away, having decided not to be alone. That meant dating!

Since then, I had been through a few good dating experiences. But it was the horrible ones that had made me ultimately change my mind. Walking home from my visit with Bishop Chase I asked myself the same question, “Are you prepared to be alone the rest of your life?” The answer came quickly, “Yes!” I didn’t need to consult the list. I was ready! 

If I could just put my desire not to be alone in that filing cabinet in the dark recesses of my mind I could lock it away and push past the pain. Anytime I felt alone, I would do some big project on my business or spend time with my kids until the feeling passed. It was obvious! I would be alone, and that was the final decision. 

 

Journal Entry: “As of today, I am working two jobs, taking care of the children and the house, paying the bills, shopping, making meals, etc. I have about had it! I am so tired! I just want to crawl in a hole and give up. I need spiritual, physical, and emotional strength, and I don’t get any! I am at a dead end with nowhere to go.”

 

Wiping away my tears I found a new resolve to finish deleting all of my dating site accounts. I even canceled the one that was still paid. It was nice to have my mind off of my loneliness. With every site that was canceled, I felt lighter and stronger. This warm feeling was confirmation that my decision to give up dating was right. Finally on the right path, it was time to find a way to make it work on my own. 

Just as I thought I had deleted every account, another site that I hadn’t even thought about or been on in months came to mind. My profile had been turned off the previous year so it wouldn’t be seen, and no one could message me. When I logged in to delete the account it was reactivated. No one had viewed my profile, and there were no new messages. While looking for where to cancel my account a message popped up that said, “Thanks.” 

“Huh? Thanks for what? Who is this person?”

Looking at the message closer, I saw that he had sent me a winky face just a few seconds before. The system sent him a message back saying, “Thanks for reaching out. If I’m interested, I’ll message you back.” 

“Funny… I didn’t type that! I didn’t even see the winky face,”

Looking at previous messages in my inbox, including the few other winks I had gotten over the last few minutes, none of them had an autoresponder message. Weird… but okay, at least I knew why he had said, “Thanks!”

Even though I had not paid, men could now see my profile, and if they had a paid account, they could message me. I looked to see when and how many times he had looked at my profile. Nothing. He wasn’t on the list of men who had looked as far back as three months before I had turned off my account last year.

His profile name was Drake. Not some weird thing like “Man of Your Dreams” or “Ford Truck Stud” or “Blue Eyed Guy.” I have no idea if these are actual profile names, but this is kind of what I remember seeing most men using as their usernames. The majority of people on these sites didn’t put their real names, so I wondered if this was his.

 

Journal Entry: “I miss having someone around who can hug me, cuddle with me, listen to me, hold me, and all that other loving stuff that makes life easier and better ….”

 

To be perfectly honest, he didn’t look that cute in his photos. I certainly wouldn’t have clicked on his photo…. if I had been looking for someone in the first place. He specifically stated that he was a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, had a temple recommend, and was looking for someone with the same values. He was very strict about that. He was in the military. He was a widower who had been married for 29 years and had five children with two left at home. I also learned that he liked chick flicks, the mountains, and hiking. 

I’m not sure why I decided to message him back, but I did. In my message, I asked if he knew any of my family. Several of my family members had all worked on the camp where he worked at one time or another. Almost everyone who worked there knew them. He said he didn’t. “Humm….” I thought, “Okay… strange, but okay.”

At this point, Drake had a few things going against him. This would have been a hard sell even if I had been looking for a date. 

First, I was done dating and had no intention of going out with anyone. Walking away from the dating world, I was literally moments away from deleting this account. 

Second, he was military and I didn’t want any part of that. He could turn out to be quite bossy and strict. I mean…. I’m used to being my own boss! I didn’t need another person thinking they were in charge of me or my life. Worse, I couldn’t take being abandoned again if he ended up deployed. On top of that, I like men who are goofy, sarcastic, and fun to be around. That wasn’t my experience with a lot of military men.

Third, dating widowers is just too hard. They either hated their wife who had passed, or they still loved her and couldn’t let go. There was no way I could marry a man who had been happily married for that long. If he was a good man, he still loved his wife, and I didn’t want to share. I needed more love than that. I wanted someone who would love me and only me. 

Fourth, it looked like he had lived a fairytale life. I was damaged, and I didn’t think he could handle my past. As a matter of fact, I was sure it would scare him off faster than a lemon will pucker your lips.

 

Journal Entry: “I want to be with someone I can talk to about anything. Someone who will interact in the conversation. Someone who is patient, kind, understanding, interested, and thinks I am the best person for him!”

 

We chatted a bit back and forth on the site, and he quickly asked for my phone number so we could text. Wow! I was surprised. I expected him to be a bit reserved and slow to connect like all of the other men. I figured we could text while I deleted my account. And that’s precisely what I did. After taking a few pictures of his profile, since I knew I wouldn’t have access later, I deleted my account. I was still very serious about being done with dating.

 

* * * * * * * * * *

 

So many things brought me to my breaking day. Three failed marriages and horrible dating experiences made me never want to date or get married again. My heart had been broken so many times I didn’t think it would ever heal. Along with my grieving heart, I battled depression and anxiety for many years. I couldn’t seem to get a hold of life as the trials and struggles seemed never-ending! On my breaking day, everything had built up so much that I knew if I didn’t find a way to make permanent changes, I wouldn’t make it another year. 

 

Journal Entry: “I cannot explain to anyone who has never been in this situation how lonely I am. I’m surrounded by my children all the time, and they are everywhere. I love them, but at night, when they are all asleep, it is almost unbearable. Last night my heart physically hurt.”

 

Like everyone else, my childhood shaped my perspective of God, life, the world, and relationships. Being naive far longer than most people kept me in a happier place. It helped keep bad things out of my mind and prevented them from overtaking me or my thoughts. 

My childhood was primarily happy, but something inside of me struggled. I always felt like I had to fight for everything in my life, from being loved to getting what I thought I needed or wanted. There was a darkness in me that I tried my best to stuff down so no one could see it. At the same time, I wanted someone to know it was there intuitively and help me get rid of it. It seemed that every time something started going my way, there would come a point where things would take a turn for the worse. My entire life has followed this pattern. Peace and joy would start to fill my heart, or at least I thought that was what was happening, then out of nowhere, it would all be taken away. I would be left to start all over again.

 

Journal Entry: “My life is nothing like I wanted it to be. I am striving to change that! I want so much to be righteous and happy!”

 

When I was younger, I loved running and could run forever. When I run, I get into my head and don’t think about anything specific. Running is like mediation. By the time I was a Junior in High School, I was pretty good. The 1600 and 3200 meters were my races of choice. I finished 11th in State my Freshman year and moved to 2nd in State by my Junior year, by a fraction of a second. I was winning both races in almost every track meet through the season by a pretty decent margin. Colleges reached out to offer scholarships if my Senior year went well. 

The 1988 Olympics were the year I would graduate high school. Boy! It would be amazing to run in the Olympics someday! When the track season ended my Junior year, I decided to train myself through to the next season. The only way I could think to make that happen was to run all summer and through the winter. Then I would be in the best shape ever when track season came around my senior year. This was my ticket to a great life! Hopefully, I would earn a full-ride scholarship to college then go on to run in the Olympics!

Six days a week, all summer and into the fall, I ran long and hard. During that summer, I competed in and won a few 10K races. By late October, with it getting colder, I got sick. I was coughing all day and all night, and it continued to get worse. My parents took me to a doctor who determined that I had developed asthma. It took another few months to stop the coughing, and by then I had lost weight and was very weak. 

About the end of January, I was finally well enough to go back to school. Getting in shape for cross country season was my goal. Running was just about all I could think about. The first day meant bringing my massive stack of textbooks back with me. I was super excited to finally be back and nervous since I hadn’t seen anyone for months. 

Leaning back to grab my huge pile of books, I put one foot out of the back door of the 4-door Escort to use as leverage. Suddenly, I felt the car start to move! My father thought I had already gotten out of the car, so he started going. He stopped when my mother and I both started screaming. My foot was pulled under the back tire. Students who saw it happen were horrified, and so were we. The damage was done. My heel had been crushed, and my shoe was torn off, along with layers of skin. Devastated, I knew I wouldn’t be able to run again any time soon. My father felt terrible. But, just like when I was dealing with asthma, he took great care of me. 

By the end of February, I could smell track in the air! Anyone who runs track will tell you that there is a smell in the air right before the season begins. As soon as I could walk on my foot, I got out on the track and started walking. It only took one lap to realize that I wasn’t going to bounce back the way I had hoped. By the time track season started in March, I could barely walk a couple of laps without coughing up a lung, much less try to race. I missed the entire season. 

 

Journal Entry: “I watched the opening ceremonies for the summer Olympics tonight. Boy, what an event in Atlanta, Georgia! Just to watch it on TV was cool. What would it actually be like to be there? What a thrill it would be to be able to go! I can’t believe that at the age of 26, all hope for my ever being able to do something like that is lost. There is almost nothing I can do to become a gold medalist in the Olympics now. I guess I will just enjoy watching them. I don’t know how to put into words the way I feel today. If only… If only… If only…”

 

To make matters worse, I had lost my scholarship offers to college. I wondered if God would ever help me get out of that small town. I wanted more than what I saw around me, but I really had no idea how to get it without the help of scholarships and college. 

There have been countless times when I have almost reached a goal only to find that it wasn’t the right goal, I didn’t have the resources to complete it, someone stood in my way, or I simply wasn’t talented, good enough, or strong enough to finish. 

There is one thing that I could rely on, and that was crying! I’m very good at crying. Anyone who knows me knows that I cry effortlessly. During one of my more difficult divorces, I swear I cried almost constantly. So, I decided that I was done crying. It had to stop! It was interfering with my regular, everyday life. The energy it took was all-consuming, and I needed a break. Determined not to cry anymore, I fought against the sting of my eyes and the tightness in my throat. After a few months of stuffing down my emotions, it got easier and easier, and the crying finally stopped. I didn’t realize that by refusing to cry I would also stop feeling…. anything. The numbness, at first, was comforting. It replaced the pain. 

 

Journal Entry: “I am an emotional person. A few months ago, I decided I wouldn’t cry anymore. I thought I wouldn’t cry so much if I detached myself from life. I got tired of being known as a person who cries a lot. I’ve gotten good at not crying. I know how to immediately stop it before it comes.

I had not noticed until today that by suppressing my emotions and stepping back from my feelings, I have actually hardened my heart. When I read the scriptures about the wicked people hardening their hearts, I imagined something different. 

I know the church is true. I have a testimony. I know Heavenly Father hears and answers our prayers. I know all of these things unwaveringly. But, I have not let myself feel them simply because I don’t want to cry.

When we went to the temple dedication, I found myself not listening closely to the talks and trying not to feel the spirit, just so I wouldn’t cry. I actually pushed away Heavenly Father’s spirit!

As I reflect on this personal revelation, since I know the church is true, I thought it would be okay to push back the spirit just long enough to keep from crying. I did it again today during church. That’s when I realized my mistake!

I desperately want the spirit to return to me. I still don’t want to cry, but I want the spirit more than I don’t want to cry. It’s time to let it back in. 

I can understand why people in the Book of Mormon allowed their hearts to harden. They suffered war, death, and loss. They wanted to stop feeling the pain, just like I had.

I have become casual in my study, prayers, dedication, and living. It’s time to change that! I will trade in my hardened heart for a new soft one that feels the spirit fully, even though it will make me cry. What a silly thing! Crying.… or lack of it…. hardened my heart.”

 

Crying is how I feel all emotions, from love to anger and everything in between. Hardening my heart affected my spirit, my relationships, and especially, my relationship with Heavenly Father. So, instead of pushing it down, I let it come, and I cried! My children noticed, and I apologized to them. But, they said, “It’s okay, mom. Crying is part of who you are. Just let it out.” And, I did! It felt so good and so freeing! Unlike most things in my life, this one was pretty easy. Once I cried that first time, my heart was softened, allowing emotion back in. 

 

Journal Entry: “I felt the spirit there… I can feel it as it comes in and out of my heart. I can tell when I deserve to feel it. I can feel my heart opening up to it. I am trying to feel and listen. I am hearing and feeling things that scare me and make me sad as I realize the mistakes that I have made. I want to feel it. I don’t care if I cry or when or where. I want to feel the total burning in my entire body. I believe in the gospel. I can’t believe that I pushed the spirit away for so long.” 

 

I felt an immense change while my heart was hard, and I decided I would never let that happen again. No longer holding back, I cry anywhere, anytime, anyplace. Plus, I quit caring about how it affects other people because it helps me feel. Through crying, I feel everything! 

If there is an end to the number of tears that a human can produce, I will be the first one to know.

 

Continue Reading…

Start at the beginning of the story

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