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Dealing with Life’s Frustrations

I have not had my typical computer time lately. Largely this is because of my family / work / calling responsibilities, but it is also partially because we have had some internet connection problems on our home computer so I have had limited access. This causes quite a bit of frustration for me, as we have a perfectly good network connection on Ray ?s laptop and the home computer says it is connected with good signal strength. Everything we have tried has not worked to fix this problem. I miss my computer time because that is my current favorite choice for my personal down time, my rejuvenation time! My reaction to this minor glitch in my life ?s ease and comfort has given me pause. Along with some other far more serious and major issues that cause worry and stress, I have been thinking recently about the things in life that seem to throw me ? and many of us ? for a loop.

I am absolutely not the best person to address this topic, as I too often find myself overwhelmed and stressed out with the events of mortality. The only expertise I have is the abundance of opportunities I ?ve been given to try to learn to deal with these situations. However, it has been on my mind a lot lately as I have tried to more actively focus on my blessings, even in the midst of challenges. Delmar ?s recent post about what are we supposed to be learning from this? ? also prompted me to write down my thoughts ? because it resonated so deeply with me.

As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we know that we came to earth to gain a body and to be tested and tried. We knew we would face challenges; we knew it wouldn ?t be easy. But we still chose to come. We chose to follow the plan that included agency as a basic foundational tenet. We wanted to continue to progress and to eventually (hopefully) return to our Father ?s presence.

I have to admit that there have been times, especially over the past four years, when I have wondered just what it was I signed up for ? when I ?ve asked the question Delmar asked (“What are we supposed to be learning from this?”) ? when I ?ve thought enough is enough! ? ? when I couldn ?t help wondering when we would have a break ? just a small breather, please. PLEASE!

Often we find that we are far stronger than we ever thought possible. We truly can survive much that mortality throws our way! Our testimonies are strengthened. Our trust in the Lord is proven, time and again. We have moments of strength and happiness that give us the ability to continue to press forward and hold onto hope and courage. Those are obvious blessings and moments of joy.

But what of those moments when life is a struggle? When it seems that everything is going wrong? Sometimes we bring these situations on ourselves through bad choices. Other times we have no control over the things that happen to us. Either way, we still need to deal with these events. What are some positive methods we can use to combat these times of frustration and obstacles that we all face?

There are many things we can do. Most of them encapsulate what my teenagers and other youth call SMA ?s ? ? Standard Mormon Answers. These include prayer, scripture study, church attendance, family home evening, obedience to commandments, service, faith, hope, love, among many others.

What has helped me the most is having a few close friends who allow me to vent and cry on their shoulders when necessary, having a few favorite scriptures and songs that offer comfort and eternal perspective, reading my patriarchal blessing to remind myself of my potential, using Lamaze breathing for coping strategies (helpful for far more than just childbirth!), attending the temple, blogging about the process of coping with my ups and downs, and exercising just plain stubborn, old-fashioned grit ? I refuse to give up! One of the strategies I have used this year is writing a weekly list of blessings. There are some weeks that I have to check my calendar and actually look for anything good that happened, and some weeks when I see the blessings only in retrospect at the end of the week ? but I am learning to recognize the blessings as they are occurring.

I have found over the years that incorporating one of the great lessons in the Book of Mormon ? that of remembering ? has helped tremendously with my perspective, my attitude, and my ability to continue to endure to the end. Just remembering those times when I have been blessed, when I have received answers to prayers, when I have found peace, helps me regain my balance when I find life difficult and overwhelming. I have also discovered the gift of forgiving myself for those moments when I do struggle with the natural course of mortality, and have realized that enduring well enough for now is really quite acceptable in the arc of my progression.

We will face health, financial, mental, physical, and emotional challenges and frustrations ? it is a natural part of this earth life. We can become bitter and angry, or we can become stronger and more faithful. The difference is in how we choose to handle these situations and how we allow these events to form our views and attitudes. It ?s all about perspective and letting ourselves be molded into the fantastic people our Father created us to be ? and allows us to become, step by incremental step. For me, the biggest frustration is that the process of becoming better ? seems to be so slow! However, I am becoming more grateful for the numerous chances to learn to be more Christ-like, and am beginning to recognize my frustrations and challenges as the learning and strengthening opportunities they can be.

{ 16 comments… add one }

  • Alison Moore Smith August 31, 2008, 7:49 pm

    MIchelle, I have been wondering where you were or if Ray was just monopolizing your connection!

    What a truly wonderful, uplifting article. I have so many thoughts, but don’t have time to post tonight. Suffice it to say that I wish I had been able to read it over a long, difficult period a while back. I sooooo understand the pleading to just have a break to catch your breath from the badness!

    Hugs.

  • Rachel August 31, 2008, 9:08 pm

    Thanks for this, Michelle. I have been struggling with my own frustrations lately, whining nearly constantly to my poor dh, and then I feel horrible for doing so when I read or hear about the struggles of others. (Hugs to Heather with her recent diagnosis–my heart and prayers go out to you!) The fact that my frustrations are small in the grand scheme of things really doesn’t make them any smaller for me when I am feeling miserable, but it really does help to remember there are many things to be thankful for, and that as long as I can endure well enough for now, that is enough.

    I do have to say that today there was a brother in my ward who bore his testimony and mentioned that his sweet wife never complains, and I was terribly ashamed of myself for complaining about trivial things all the time. I haven’t figured out how to struggle without venting–it feels so lonely to suffer and not share the burden with someone who can physically give me a hug and tell me it’s going to be all right. But, someday I hope to be like her.

  • Ray August 31, 2008, 10:08 pm

    Rachel, don’t try to be like her. If you need to complain, complain. Hugs and telling wives it’s going to be all right are part of the job description for husbands.

    I hope that sister never complains because she just isn’t a complainer, not because her husband won’t listen to her when she wants or needs to complain – or she grew up being told not to complain, so instead bottles it all up and causes herself ulcers or high blood pressure. Either way, you aren’t her, so don’t beat yourself up for not being her.

  • facethemusic August 31, 2008, 10:26 pm

    This was a lovely post Michelle. It’s an issue that I think is SOOO necessary for us continually work on. Life is a series of ups and downs and for many, it’s so easy to get caught up in the downs.
    Rachel, I think it’s important to realize that you what the brother was speaking of, may not be the same way you interpreted it. If she has struggles and trials (we all do) and she never talks about them with her husband, never opens up her heart to him and tell him her concerns, her pains or struggles, then I think that’s a very SAD thing. Not something to try and achieve. I can’t help but wonder if the way you interpreted what he was saying, wasn’t what he meant.
    I’ve heard Church leaders say the same kinds of things, and to be honest, I think when they say “she never complains” that what they mean is that they don’t get caught up in the “why me?” kind of thing, or “why do I have to _____” — I don’t think they mean that their wives don’t share their burdens with them, or that they suffer alone without needing comfort from their spouse. What kind of marriage would THAT be?
    I’m sure you’re husband is probably GLAD that you talk to him, that of all the people in the world, you trust HIM with your worries and look to him for comfort and strength, and a shoulder to lean on and sometimes cry on. You’re not SUPPOSE to suffer alone.
    Don’t be so hard on yourself sweety.

  • heather August 31, 2008, 11:13 pm

    Well this post couldn’t have come at a better time for a person such as myself. Thank you! You must have been inspired to write this just for me at this hard time in my life.

    I always cry on my husbands shoulder and ask for preisthood blessings. I constantly cry to him when he should be sleeping, working, or doing important things – But ,one sunday when he bore his testimony, he said I was the bravest and strongest person he ever knew!!! He even mentioned I was his crutch!!! I was so amazed that he still saw me as being strong. Some men/ husbands can have a great level of empathy. How else would they know how to help you emotionally.

  • Alison Moore Smith August 31, 2008, 11:24 pm

    heather, that’s a lovely thing!

  • Michelle D September 1, 2008, 6:42 pm

    Alison, thanks for wondering where I’ve been and for the virtual hugs. That is the type of thing that helps me hold on when life is a little overwhelming. I admit that along with the responsibilities and computer problems that have curtailed my MM addiction, I intentionally stayed out of the firefight on other threads. I read some at the beginning, but I believe I am 50+ comments behind and that works just fine for keeping my blood pressure lowered! :wink: I well know the feeling of wanting a chance to catch my breath – not asking for the challenges to go away necessarily, just ease long enough for me to catch my breath! I hope you have gotten your breather now that you are in your rental house!

    Rachel, I also am one who vents to her hubby. Ray hears it all the time!! I agree with Ray and everyone else who has said not to compare yourself to the woman who doesn’t ever complain to her husband. Situations and definitions could be vastly different!

    Also, I think it’s really important to compare your own challenges to your own past challenges, and how you might be learning to handle them more effectively. I realize that overall my trials are mole hills compared to many; however, in the moment, to me they are mountains, sometimes seemingly insurmountable mountains. So I try not to compare myself to others. It helps to realize that things could be worse, but only if it helps motivate you to positively handle your challenges, not berate yourself for finding them difficult because they are “so easy compared to such-and-such so I shouldn’t find them so hard.”

    Tracy, it is easy to get caught up in the down times. I realized a few years ago how much I was doing that – focusing only on the problems and trials and challenges, and forgetting to recognize how blessed I was to have Ray and my kids and my family and my testimony and the Savior and… to help me through the tough times. I have been working hard to shift my attitude and focus! I can see improvement but I still struggle with this because it is a deeply ingrained aspect of my personality.

    Heather, I was thinking of you and Delmar and others who have been struggling lately when I wrote this post. It is easier to see this perspective when one’s equilibrium is balanced, as mine is right now. However, I just came off a bad, frustrating week so learning this lesson is still fresh on my mind! I sure hope you find some peace and comfort as you learn all you need to do to take care of yourself with all of your health issues! And too often I forget to ask for priesthood blessings to help me deal with the problems of life. Thanks for the reminder of how important that is! What a wonderful thing that your husband sees you as such a strong and courageous woman! I only know you from your comments and post here, but I believe he is correct.

    Thanks to all of you for helping me deal with minor frustrations and fatigue tonight! Your comments and online friendship make a difference! :grouphug:

  • agardner September 2, 2008, 10:49 pm

    Michelle, I really appreciate this article, as it was timely for me as well.

    As I’ve spent the last few days in a shelter evacuating for Gustav it has been really interesting to see how people cope with difficult times in life. On Sunday (before the storm hit), there were lots of tears, nervous looks, forced laughs, “busy-bodying” (I’m sure to avoid thinking about the possibilities), and some who just seemed to be taking it in stride and thinking “what will be, will be”. Now that it’s over, just a huge sigh of relief from everyone!

    I like what you said about comparing our troubles with others. I sure have had times where I have felt really picked on and someone will tell me,”Well, at least such and such didn’t happen!” or “Do you know what so-and-so is going through?”. And other times I’ve probably been the one with trials that others were glad they didn’t have. It’s funny that through some of the very most difficult things, I’ve been at peace with it all – and at seemingly minor things I’ve lost it! I suppose that’s because it’s when going through the really difficult things that I remember to rely on the Lord and to really “buck up” and persevere. Some of those times people will tell me how strong I am, or how well I handled a certain situation, and then I’ll think, “Yeah, but you didn’t see how I totally fell apart when I had a flat tire last week!” The lesson I’ve learned from that is just that we really can’t compare ourselves to others. We don’t know what they are dealing with or how their particular personality or circumstances are going to react to trials.

    I have a cousin (who is also a close friend) right now who is going through a divorce, and she is having a hard time seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. I, on the other hand, am thinking (although not saying!) it’s about time! The guy has really treated her poorly from day one, and yet – her heart is broken. And I’m really reminding myself that it’s just not my place to say she should “get over it” or be relieved that it is the end of a difficult relationship, because for her it’s a really horrible and heartbreaking thing. Very different perceptions of the same situation – and the only response that really matters is the person who is going through it.

    Anyway, I just wanted to say Michelle that I thought this was great and I appreciate your insights.

  • Rachel September 3, 2008, 1:07 pm

    Thanks everyone for your kind thoughts. I realize that it really is okay, and part of a healthy marriage, to share my burdens with my husband. I guess I hadn’t thought about that. But even the sweet, patient man I have is starting to say, “another bad day?” I guess I just wish I held it a bit more close and didn’t whine over every inconvenience or minor frustration, that I could save those moments for the bigger things, and that he could see me as patient and uncomplaining (because it’s no secret that I am not the most patient person).

    Heather, I think it’s awesome that your husband thinks of you so highly, and I’m sure it’s well-deserved.

    Ray, for some reason, your comment affected me the most; probably hearing such a sweet thing from a male perspective. Thank you. After so many discussions here I have no doubt that Michelle is a lucky woman (and you are a lucky man).

  • delmar September 3, 2008, 2:08 pm

    Posted By: RayRachel, don’t try to be like her. If you need to complain, complain. Hugs and telling wives it’s going to be all right are part of the job description for husbands.

    I hope that sister never complains because she just isn’t a complainer, not because her husband won’t listen to her when she wants or needs to complain – or she grew up being told not to complain, so instead bottles it all up and causes herself ulcers or high blood pressure. Either way, you aren’t her, so don’t beat yourself up for not being her.

    Ray, I love you! :whorship:
    Can you be my big brother I never had??? Michelle can be my sister too. Oh wait, we already are brothers & sisters! Woo hoo!

  • delmar September 3, 2008, 2:12 pm

    michelle- thank you so much for this. keeping track of the blessings & good things is such a good idea. just so you know i am now officially following your blog. the links you gave me are awesome. today doesn’t seem so bad.

  • mlinford September 3, 2008, 3:20 pm

    This was lovely.

    I am really learning to try to be patient with myself and life and to figure out how to let the Atonement do more of the work for me. I tend to carry too much on my own — too much of my own weakness, of my frustration, of the pain of my imperfections and others’ — of so much of mortality.

    I am seeking to trust more in the mercy of the Savior in the process of becoming, not just thinking of that as something that comes at the grand end of things…to figure out how to do my best now, or at least what the next step is now, rather than judging myself or my life against the ideal in a vacuum.

    And given the comments, it sounds like it’s a typical mortality thing to learn. :)

  • Michelle D September 4, 2008, 4:15 pm

    Rachel, thanks for your comment. Ray and I are lucky to have each other!

    Delmar, we’d love to be your older sibs! Does that mean we can boss you around?! :tongue: You made my day, saying you were reading my blog.

    Michelle (I feel like I’m commenting to myself when I type that!), You have such phenomenal insights and a way with words. I learn something every time you comment. Thank you for reminding me of the importance of the atonement and the Savior’s mercy in dealing with life’s challenges.

  • mlinford September 5, 2008, 12:30 am

    Thank you for reminding me of the importance of the atonement and the Savior’s mercy in dealing with life’s challenges.

    Ah, Michelle, I write in part to remind myself. I have been going through some of the hardest months of my life in some ways as of late, so trying to capture some of what I think the Lord is wanting me to learn helps me hold onto it more. I’m grateful that my sharing has helped you in some way, though. You know Whom to thank if it has. :)

    (It is weird typing your own name to talk to someone else, isn’t it?) :)

  • Michelle D September 6, 2008, 3:24 pm

    I write in part to remind myself. I have been going through some of the hardest months of my life in some ways as of late, so trying to capture some of what I think the Lord is wanting me to learn helps me hold onto it more.

    This is why I started my personal blog a year ago. I write to remind myself of my blessings (and to vent at times) even when life is hard. And I do remember Whom to thank when someone writes something that helps me. Thanks to Him and to you and to so many others!

  • Sharilee10 September 6, 2008, 7:36 pm

    What a wonderful article, and again, so many insightful comments.

    I want to say ‘Amen’ to the idea of a gratitude list. I highly recommend to everyone that you begin a daily gratitude list where you identify at least 5 things in the day that you are grateful for. While at times you may need to include some of the more generic (albeit REAL and IMPORTANT) blessings like family, books, music, etc. However, I encourage you to try to be as specific as possible. For example, today my gratitude list will include things like Thomas having an opportunity to be the team captain today, the ‘new friends’ I met at the game while walking around the track, an unexpected opportunity to share my positive observations about our Varsity team players with the head coach (who will pass the comments along), some extra time to get caught up on MM articles, a really fun after-the-game moment with my boys, etc. The more specific you can get the more powerful it is.

    This helps in so many ways– 1) it does help you become more aware of the tender mercies that happen in your life each day as you begin to notice in ‘real’ time and think “Oh– I need to put that on my list!”, 2) it helps you to realize that there really area lot of good things happening, even on the difficult days, and 3) it helps keep you focused on the good things in your life rather than the not so good– and what we think about and thank about we bring about. Translation– when we begin to focus on the good things in our lives we will bring MORE of those good things into our lives, leaving less room for the things we don’t want.

    I have so many more thoughts, but I need to run for now. Thank you to everyone for sharing your strength and insights.

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