Marriage took everything out of me

I got married young. And fast.

To some, that’s a bad combination. But it wasn’t to us. I was nearly done with schooling and he was somewhere in the middle, and it would be…well, perfect.

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But then I learned something. The part that romance novels and Hollywood and love gurus don’t talk about when you’re getting ready to be fitted for a dress and testing wedding cake. It was a truth that had me shocked and keeled over in tears when it first hit me. And I remember saying it out loud and watching his face from the bathroom door completely change as I said it.

“This marriage is taking everything out of me!”

Looking back on that night, almost three years ago now, I’m glad I realized it. I’m glad I learned that marriage does, in fact, take it all out of you and it never gives it back.

And you know what? I’m grateful for all those things that it never gives back.

But it took a while to be thankful for it. Because when you first get married you cling to all the things that in reality decays a marriage. The things that are comfortable. The things that make you right. The things that tell you this isn’t the fairytale you thought it would be and this is actually hard work.

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But looking back now, I can’t help but feel thankful for that night when I shouted that it was taking everything I had inside of me. Here I am now, sitting beside an imperfect man who stresses out over nursing exams and keeps his crusty cereal bowl on the nightstand, and I love him more than I ever have. Imperfections and all. And that’s because of the daily process of letting marriage refine us.

Marriage strips you of selfishness.

It robs you of impulsiveness.

It teaches you painful lessons of compromise and scolds you to pick your battles.

It brings you to your knees in prayer when your spouse is hurting and you suddenly realize your own heart hurts too.

It binds blind ambitions and prioritizes what matters. It makes you rethink your dreams and steals the dreams that suddenly hold no more weight in your heart.

It burns down the towers of bad habits and hammers out expectations that disappoint.

It takes it all out of you little by little.

But yet–three years later, and still on the beginning trailhead, I see that it gives back a whole lot more.

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I’m grateful for the woman that marriage made me into. I don’t think the old Kayla would ever allow myself the same grace to have a messy apartment every once in a while in order to take that extra nap I need. But Matt did. So I do.

I’m stronger now and more resilient simply because I chose to stay–to work hard–at something that was difficult. I got up from the bathroom floor and decided I wouldn’t quit this time around like I had quit so many things in the past. That Matt was worth it. And I carried that virtue into every detail of my life, working harder than ever before for things that are worth it.

I bite my tongue more, practicing kindness and love for people who often seem undeserving. I choose to redirect frustrations and calm arguments and we’ve chiseled away at all the rough edges that comes with learning how to work through the meaningless, “But I think I’m right” debacles.

I’ve learned to be a whole lot more spontaneous. From adopting bunnies from cardboard boxes to deciding one day to drive to the ocean “just because”, Matt has taught me to seize life by the reins. No need to pencil it in or be logical about it.

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I’ve learned to love. A lot. When I said “I do” I thought that was the pinnacle of it all. That I had reached the point where I understood what true love is. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Every single day is another lesson in how to love and it’s taught me so far that love isn’t given to you, it’s worked for and chosen.

Love is dirty laundry, two separate blankets on the bed to stop early morning tug-o-wars, netflix, make-upless faces, mascara on his dress shirts, texts to get milk after work, and lots of hugs after a long, bad day. Love is admitting you’re wrong, listening when you’d rather talk, and surrendering when you’d rather say the last word. It’s opening yourself up completely and letting everything fall out, letting your inner being be replaced by something that is refined and smoother and more equipped. Love is a daily choice.

I look back at my wedding pictures and smile.

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Such a beautiful day for so many reasons. It was the first day of the journey toward becoming SO much better together. I see two people who are just about to learn what love actually is. Two people who truly won’t give up, just like their wedding song stated. And I see a girl who eventually let marriage take everything out of her.

That’s all it really takes, after all.

Sure, we have miles to go. Years to go. Lots more lessons to be learned and lots of experiences to be had. We have children and moves and losses and celebrations and milestones up ahead. But I’m thankful we learned a lesson that some people, years and years in, still have yet to grasp. A painful lesson, but a rewarding one at that.

Marriage will beg to take everything out of you.

Let it.

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When the “wings of eagles” aren’t yours: Dealing with mental and physical illness

I write this while flat on my back on the couch.

The World Cup buzzes in the background and I catch myself just staring at it every now and then, almost too weak to type. I’ve been laid up in bed sick for three (maybe four?) days now and it’s close to the sickest I’ve ever been…aside from getting salmonella that one time. *Not fun, by the way.*

It’s been downright depressing. Being held hostage by your body–being completely vulnerable to a stomach that won’t hold anything down, crippling headaches, and a fever that keeps you huddled under a Mt. Everest of blankets is just enough to make the average person’s heart completely weak.

And I’ve wondered–what about the wings of eagles that the scriptures talk about? Aside from my battle with hypothyroidism I’m relatively healthy with little complaints. This illness in particular is temporary. Within a few days probably I’ll be able to continue a normal routine, picking up work right where I left off, writing that book review I’ve had to hold off, and mingling with family and friends who I’ve been quarantined away from this week.

For me, it’s a temporary state of “disability”. But what about the others? The others who write to me about their struggles with mental illness, their battle with autism, their fights with cancer, or Crohn’s disease, or their lives strapped down to wheelchairs or crutches? What about those who have weekly dialysis treatments or have to watch the world go on past them outside hospital windows?

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It’s been a question that’s been hard to shake. I’ve always heard this scripture repeated:

“But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk and not faint.”

But from a young age it was hard to swallow.

At the age of 7 I watched my mom deal with clinical depression–watching as she heaved into paper bags, wrestled demons, contemplated suicide, and spent nights crying out loud for it to stop. Later in life I watched my Dad–a healthy man with a healthy lifestyle–dwindle away little by little every day by cancer. I’ve watched friends drag heavy chains of manic depression or bipolar disease, whispering over the phone that it NEEDS to stop. And I’ve always wondered why these people–people I love–aren’t granted those wings of eagles. Now as I lie here sick in bed, I repeated these questions to myself.

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But the truth of it is clear. None of us, upon coming to earth, were promised to be untouched. On the contrary, actually. We were aware that we were coming to a fallen world with sickness, sadness, brains that could malfunction and chemicals that could go out of whack. We knew we signed up for limbs that could fail us, hearts that would stop beating, and eyes that would grow blurry over the years. We willingly said “Yes, Lord” before coming to a world that promised we would need to “wait” upon our strength and trust and hope in the Almighty before every gaining the strength to get through it and eventually get home.

I’ve begun to unravel–bit by bit–why we would do that. The world often preaches that when you have your health you have everything, but this makes more sense to me: “None of us will escape tragedy and suffering. Each of us will probably react differently. However, if we can recall the Lord’s promise, ‘For I the Lord am with you,’ we will be able to face our problems with dignity and courage. We will find the strength to be of good cheer instead of becoming resentful, critical, or defeated.” That was said by a leader in my church, Elder Marvin J. Ashton of the Quorum of the Twelve in 1986.

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It’s comforting to me that although we don’t have a choice what we face physically–or even mentally–in this life, we do have a choice in who we place our trust in and who we choose to help heal us or hold our hand through the often grueling and painful journey. It’s comforting to me that we don’t ever stand comfortless– and that there is always someone there who has taken it all upon himself, hundreds and thousands of years before we ever took a breath.

Your strength will be renewed within the grand scheme of eternity promised to you.

It might be in this life. It might be in the next. But the promise is clear.

We’ll all mount up with wings as eagles–simply because He is our wings.

And for now, that is enough.

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“Blessed is he that keepeth my commandments, whether in life or in death; and he that is faithful in tribulation, the reward of the same is greater in the kingdom of heaven. …For this cause I have sent you—that you might be obedient, and that your hearts might be prepared to bear testimony of the things which are to come.” (D&C 58:2, 6.)

He knows how it feels to be sixteen

Well, it’s happened.

I knew it would.

Ever since my little sister was born, her perfect little self bundled up in a pink striped blanket and a little hat the size of my 7-year-old hand too-big on her head, I knew it would happen. One day, she’d grow up.

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And since I’m 7 years her senior and get the–honor?–of going through things before she does, I knew that one day she’d get her heart broken. Or that a boy would be mean. Or that someone would make fun of her and it’d be up to me to tell her they’re wrong. I guess I was just in denial that it would happen any time soon *or ever, really* because I just couldn’t handle it.

But yesterday, it did.

It’s a long story so I won’t get into it all (also because that’s her business), but part of it I suppose is my fault. I’m protective of my sister *like too much, maybe* and I saw something going on that was hurting her, and my entire family, as a result. An unhealthy situation, you might say. And now my sister is left with a broken heart. And in her words, “the world is ending”.

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I remember that feeling. You probably do too. Or if you’re a teen–sixteen, seventeen, eighteen maybe–you probably know what that feels like right NOW. And if I’m correct, you feel like it’ll never get better. Life just…sucks. Right? And everyone can tell you that this isn’t your whole life, that time heals all wounds, that as you grow and learn and experience life, those wounds you’re experiencing now will feel like NOTHING ten years down the road. I mean, I tried to tell my sister that. But of course that didn’t work, because right now the world is ending. And how dare anyone say different?

I felt helpless watching my sister go through this yesterday because I love her more than life. But nothing could stop the tears. No one could convince her that she needs to keep herself safe and sometimes being hurt now saves you in the long run. And deep down, I knew nothing would work. After all, nothing worked for me at that age. I had to carry the illusion of the world ending–I had to cry into my teddy bear and write in my journal that I hate my parents. It’s just what happens while you’re growing up. But for us who look back on that time, we helplessly want to CONVINCE those teenagers that they’re wrong–it WILL get better, and it’s not that bad compared to what’s about to come later in life.

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And that’s when my former bishop came over to the house and talked to us and I brought up the subject. His response was simply, “How do you think Heavenly Father feels with US even, when he has a much bigger perspective?”

And right then and there, it hit me. Heavenly Father, our perfect and loving parent, has been through it all. He knows what it’s like to cry over a boy in junior high or feel the stab of rejection at prom. He knows how it feels to lose a job in your twenties or have a spouse cheat. He knows how it feels to lose a parent–or a child– or face a doctor when they tell you it’s cancer. He knows how it feels to get older or weaker or to start forgetting things. He knows how it feels to die. But more importantly–he understands the joy at the end–the growth through the journey– and the reason to all things, simply because he has the bigger picture.

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” -Jeremiah 29:11

And how many times, through scriptures, comfort by the spirit, and revelations does he try to convince us, just like I tried to convince my sister, that everything will work out for our good? And just like my sweet little sister, we fail to believe it. Because we haven’t ever faced something so hard.

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I still go through those times, of course–especially now, while laying beside my dad as his breathing is getting more labored every day, or dealing with financial struggles or hardships at work–where Heavenly Father whispers to me that I will overcome. That he knows my struggles and also knows I’ll conquer them. But like a sixteen year old again curled up in my bed, I sometimes simply can’t believe it.

But I have to trust.

There’s nothing I can say to make my sister feel better right now. Because life is a process you just have to experience for yourself and overcome each day. It’s a small, teeny oh-so-tiny tiny glimpse of what Heavenly Father feels for us and the sorrows he must feel when we shake our heads and say, “No Father, this isn’t fair. It won’t get better.”

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Because it will. And he knows that, just like I know my sister will get better.

He knows our pain and he knows the joys to come.

And he knows, girls *and guys*, exactly how it feels to be sixteen.