When Bryant’s brother’s wife passed away 14 years ago, she left behind four boys, under the age of 5. Brad married Jill a few years later. And when they married, Jill gained three additional families – Brad and his four motherless boys, Brad’s parents and siblings, and Brad’s first wife’s family. Can you imagine? And each family had helped in the raising of those boys, up until that point – they had traditions and expectations and bonds. And Jill was thrown into the mix. And I’ve never heard her complain, ever. But watching her manage these relationships is humbling. I respect her so much. I love her.
At the family reunion in Montana this year, Jill and I would wake up early in the mornings, and a couple times we sat on the deck overlooking the lake together, and studied and talked and laughed and cried together. I want to share today just one of our conversations, on moving through negative emotions without getting stuck in that emotion.
Jill had a friend years ago that she really respected. He’d had a rough life – lots of opportunities to be angry or bitter, but he never was. So she asked him one day for his trick. He said that he knew – he was 100% sure – that he would eventually get through any negative emotion. So he didn’t allow himself to get stressed about whatever emotion he was feeling – he didn’t resist what was, in Brooke Castillo’s words, right? And that practice alone accelerated the process, and let him heal entirely.
So I started thinking.
Ella is becoming an accomplished violinist. And I am her accompanist. I’ve had to worked harder this past year to keep up with her repertoire. When her teacher assigns her a new piece, and I order the accompanist music online, when I finally get it in my hands, I usually feel some overwhelm. The piece looks impossible to play. And it is, at the time. I sit down at the piano and can barely pick through the notes.
But, I can tell you, even looking at that music, with all those notes and all those feelings of overwhelm, I am 100% sure that I will learn the piece. And that the finished product will be beautiful. And it almost feels like magic. I pick through the music, every single day, sometimes several hours a day. And I don’t allow myself to feel anxious or frustrated, and I don’t rush myself. I just sit with it and work at it, and listen to recordings of others who have already mastered the piece, every day. And, again, almost like magic, I learn the piece. My fingers eventually can move in ways that they couldn’t before. And it is beautiful.
I have never not been able to learn a piece of music. Never. And I know that, when I sit down with a new scary piece of music.
Looking back, I have never not been able to get through an emotion, either. What if, when I first sit down with that new and scary emotion – or maybe a not-so-new emotion – what if I look at it and sit with it and allow it to be hard, and work on it every day, knowing full well that I have never not been able to get though a negative emotion.
And, almost like magic, I believe in the phenomenon called beauty for ashes” (Isaiah 61:3).
“The Savior’s atonement is … the healing power not only for sin, it also for carelessness, inadequacies, and all moral bitterness.”Bruce Hafen
And that means bitter feelings.