Saturday, December 14, 2013

Nightmares and Prayers

"Mommy, last night I had a nightmare because I forgot to say a prayer," Harper whispered solemnly as I lay beside her in bed.

The cynic in me wanted to explain that we don't always get what we pray for, that prayer isn't a magic equation for happiness, and that often God doesn't have the same plan for us as we have for ourselves, even if that means being scared sometimes. I wanted to save her imminent disappointment and tell her that fear, pain and suffering are a part of life, with or without the presence of prayer.

Instead, I squeezed her tightly and said "Well, it's a good thing you said a prayer tonight, isn't it?"

She smiled sweetly and drifted peacefully to sleep, completely enveloped in the comfort of unadulterated faith.

As I lay next to her, I longed to feel the simplicity of childhood, before earnest belief was tainted by experience, intelligence and skepticism. I lamented the days of "good guys" and "bad guys", of happiness without complexity or the inevitable reality of sadness. I yearned to believe without the ominous heaviness of doubt that a prayer could exact precisely what was intended.

We tend to see "growing up" as a positive event; that shedding our naivety and ignorance for critical thinking and realism is a step forward. We spend years in school being taught to deconstruct and analyze, to not accept anything at face value. We are encouraged to scrutinize facts with suspicion until proven with viable evidence.

And then we are expected to compartmentalize "faith" in a safe little box separate from analysis, criticism and deconstruction. We intend for our faith to be unaffected by our new, "mature" perspectives. But how?

I thought about these things as I watched Harper sleep, cuddling the seven stuffed animals she had chosen for that night's slumber. I wondered whether "growing up" was all it is cracked up to be. Is it really progression to have wonder, awe and perfect faith erode like a trickle of water that slowly creates a chasm over the years? Is it truly advancement to allow reality and faith adopt-to an extent- an inverse relationship?

Laying beside her, I was consumed with the maternally universal desire to keep my child in a box, as though to preserve her innocence and purity, pickled in a vat of love, happiness and rainbows (and probably horny toads and Batman, for these are a few of her favorite things.) I had never before felt this desire so strongly. Because I had always idealized intellect and intelligence, I assumed I would want my daughter to strive for acumen and genius.

Now I just want her to believe that Batman altruistically catches "the bad guys" and puts them in jail, that California is on the other side of "Planet Earth", that five is just about the largest denomination fathomable, and that prayers are a repellent force field for fear and sadness.

It's not that I think brilliance and faith are mutually exclusive. But after tonight, if I had to choose between the two for my young daughter, I would hope that she maintains her perfect faith rather than become an intellectual powerhouse.

Now I'll go and check on her, rearrange her seven stuffed animals and make sure she's warm and tucked-in.

And I bet she won't have nightmares tonight.





Monday, November 4, 2013

"Are You A Liberal Mormon?" : an open letter to Joni Hilton

Dear Joni Hilton,

You recently wrote an article entitled "Are You A Liberal Mormon?" If your essay's title was a sincere question, then I can sincerely answer that, based on the definition you so kindly ascribed to the aforementioned religio-political group, no, I am not a Liberal Mormon.

In your article, you defined Liberal Mormons as those who "decided which aspects of our faith to accept or reject, from honoring the Sabbath to wearing less than modest clothing." According to you, Liberal Mormons (or Jack Mormons, which you have declared a suitable synonym) "do not attend the temple, they do not show up to help someone move, and they do not Home Teach or Visit Teach with regularity."

I can tell you with utmost candor that I have not merely "decided" which aspects of gospel doctrine to accept or reject. You wrote that "living in the grey -the fringe- takes little effort." You ascertained that this liberal life in the grey is a result of "laziness." I promise you that I wrestle with the incongruousness of my political and religious beliefs on a daily basis. If it had been a decision, I would have chosen to "accept" or "reject" and let my mind, heart and soul have a sojourn from turmoil. It would be great to relinquish my ambivalent thoughts to laziness. And besides, honoring the Sabbath and modest dress are not intellectual conundrums but rather simple tasks of obedience. I don't grapple with the existential appropriateness of wearing booty shorts to the beach.

I was married in the temple. I'll admit that I should attend the temple more frequently, but I'm willing to bet that most of the LDS populace could say the same, "liberal" or not. I have been known to show up to help people move from time to time, although I was unaware that this was an indicator of religious devotion. I assume you were using this as an example for charity work in general-and you've got me there. I could definitely be more charitable, and I could probably work on getting my Visiting Teaching up to 100%. How about you?

Look, Joni. I know you have received a lot of criticism for your article. I know that the online magazine wherein it was originally published has since deleted it from its website. I see that you have issued a public apology for the insensitivity of your words, and I'm sure that although you still believe in what you have written, you probably wish you hadn't displayed it in such a public format.

You see, Joni, I am actually on your side. When you wrote about "Liberal Mormons", you must not have understood the political connotation the term has adopted. Nowadays, a "Liberal Mormon" is one who identifies with a more liberal political ideology. They can also be known as Mormon Democrats or Mormon Liberals. This group of "fringe" Mormons may believe in things like a more universal health care system, less foreign intervention for self-interest and even (oh me oh my) the right for gay people to marry civilly. They may take issue with some cultural aspect of the church, such as delegating Jell-O a food group or thinking beards are unholy, but they do a pretty good job of separating these worldly laws from eternal principles. They are very different from "Jack Mormons".

I think you've been gravely misunderstood as a result of semantics. You've offended the non-conservative community of Mormons who identify with a different political worldview by equating "Jack Mormons" with "Liberals". I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that you were not thinking politically at all. You couldn't have been, based on your article's definition of Liberal Mormons.

Lucky for you, being a Mormon Liberal has nothing to do with watching R-rated movies, drinking "tasty" iced tea, or wearing bikinis to the beach. It is not an "admittance of weakness" but an acceptance of the universality of God's love regardless of political standing. Having a non-conservative worldview is not "playing right into Satan's hands" by feeling "proud and superior". It's understanding vulnerability to Satan's power and fighting for our faith despite others telling us that we're unworthy.

You wrote that being a faithful member of the LDS religion means to "embrace every part of it," but I ask you who do you know that doesn't struggle, in some way? Isn't the focal point of our religion - of Christ's message- to recognize our imperfections while continually striving to be better?

I don't think it's a "twist on faith" to believe that God doesn't expect us to understand every part of His plan. And I really don't think you do either, Joni.

We should all help people move more often. We should all attend the temple more regularly. We should all be more submissive and humble before God.

Even you, Joni.

After all, no one is perfect, right?

Sincerely,

Steph C., a Mormon Liberal

https://ia601904.us.archive.org/24/items/MeridianMagazineAreYouALiberalMormonMeridianMagazineLDSMormonAndLatterDaySaintNewsAndViews/Meridian-Magazine-Are-You-a-Liberal-Mormon-Meridian-Magazine-LDS-Mormon-and-Latter-day-Saint-News-and-Views.pdf

Thursday, September 12, 2013

I Often Think I'm Right

I often think I'm right.

I spent 5 years studying conflict narratives, exploring mediation, pondering reconciliation and theorizing about relativity.

I have two degrees that attest to my alleged expertise on the topic of conflict and its resolution.

I've taught multiple eight-hour seminars on effectively navigating interpersonal conflict.

But still, when I'm entrenched in my own personal conflicts, I often think I'm right.

It feels like a sickness- to be so obscured by the irrationality of rage and emotion that another person is found to be so intrinsically 'wrong'. The cliched adage "There are two sides to every story" is quickly eroded and the other person's story is dispelled as erroneous in order to solidify the veracity of my own. And the more 'right' I am in my narrative and my arguments, the more "wrong" the other person must become.

Even when I see truth in the other's explanation, I rapidly dismiss it and begin reinforcing my fortress of argumentative ammunition to obscure the cracks in my own story. In the truest sense, I see weakness and vulnerability as admitting defeat.

In the heat of the moment, I see conflict as zero-sum, and I must win at every cost. I justify my words and actions like a ruthless crusader unable to relinquish the dream of victory.

But it doesn't have to be that way.

After the heat of the argument has abated- after I have hurled hurtful words like a lance through my opponent's core- I remember. I remember that in almost every conflict-no matter how 'right' I think I am- I have contributed in some way to dissonance. Despite my immovable stance, I remember that by engaging in conflict, I am equally culpable as my adversary. I remember that there are so few instances where conflict has a clear "right" and "wrong". I remember that the other person is feeling as hurt- but also as 'right' as I am.

Of course there are 'right' and 'wrong' actions, and I am not a moral relativist. I absolutely believe that some deeds are inherently 'good' and appositely 'bad'. Still, when two people are engaged in conflict, they have more than likely both contributed to disharmony in some way, as hard as it is to see amidst the fog of anger and justification. But when we recognize our own accountability in conflict, we begin to understand the other's position, and can better understand our own.

Unfortunately, it is only after the argument has erupted and subsided that I think to ask "in what ways have I contributed to the other person's hardships? To what extent have I escalated this conflict? How have I hurt them, as I feel they have hurt me?"

These are difficult questions to ask, especially when entrenched in the stoicism of "right". They signify vulnerability and coax out the cracks in my arguments- the ones in which I feel so undeniably justified. But these are the questions that need to be asked if true conflict transformation is to occur. The facts, logistics and 'rights' and 'wrongs' of the argument may be important, but not as critical as understanding and accepting how I have hurt the other person.

How great would it be if I could stop myself mid-verbal assault and evaluate my role in a given conflict. How much more peaceful would life be if I could have the forethought to remember in the heat of battle that I'm not right, and that's okay. How humbling would it be if I remembered that conflict isn't truly resolved by divvying up land, or the redistribution of tasks, or by bowing out and admitting defeat. Conflict resolution- in its truest sense- is achieved when two people, or parties, or groups, or countries understand how they have wronged each other, and learn to love again.





Thursday, August 15, 2013

On Time

Lately I've been thinking a lot about time; how we try to condense it, stretch it, pause it, fast-forward and erase it. I've been thinking about how we try to control it and make it ours, or fight it, or ignore it, or wrap it with a bow and bestow it as a gift that isn't ours to give. I've been thinking about how much energy we exert on trying to bend something so immalleable, and why we relentlessly toil in a task so futile. Time is both short and inexorable, coveted and dispelled, treasured and wasted, fleeting and tangible. Time is our most valued currency, but it can't be bartered, bought or sold. Time is quite an elusively peculiar creature, and the more I think about it, the more difficult it becomes to define and understand.

Harper had her first day of Preschool on Monday. On Sunday night, I packed her backpack with sunscreen, a change of clothes and a water bottle as her teacher had instructed. I laid out the grey leggings and blue unicorn T-shirt she had picked out at Target. I put Goldfish and dried mangos in her Ninja Turtles snackbox, then sat at the kitchen table and cried. For months I had been waiting for this time. I had been looking forward to the nine hours each week I could spend doing whatever I pleased. For so long, I had wanted time to speed up so that I could have a little to myself. But the night before sending my only daughter off to school, I was crying at the kitchen table, begging time to keep my child a baby forever.

The next day I picked Harper up from preschool and sat down with her for lunch. We ate grilled cheese sandwiches and made funny faces with each other. I listened to her guttural laugh and smiled sitting at the table I had cried on the night before. I looked at her laughing face and wondered if I had ever been happier. It was a moment of pure elation, one that I wanted to pause and repeat over and over like a scene from my favorite movie.

I've been thinking a lot about that simple lunch, wondering why it brought such deep joy. I dissected the events trying to isolate the happiness variable; grilled cheese, carrots, hummus, funny faces, laughter. No factor had any intrinsic connection to happiness. I finally realized that the joy came from being entirely immersed in that moment in time. I wasn't thinking about what to make for dinner, or how the bathroom needed to be cleaned, or when Rivers needed the car. My only concern was the sound of Harper's laughter, the way her eyes turned to slits when she smiled just like her dad, and how perfectly wild she was. I realized how seldom I find myself truly immersed in time. For all of the ways I try to change time, or spend it, or make it go away, I very rarely appreciate what time has brought me.

When Harper was a newborn, I couldn't wait for her to smile, babble and crawl. When she was mobile, I thought about how fun it would be when she could walk. When she ran, I was excited for her to talk. Now that she's talking (incessantly), I sometimes wish she was a newborn again so that I could cuddle her and bask in her innocence. I've enjoyed every stage of her existence, but like with most things in life, I've looked forward to the next phase or relished the past more than I've lived in the present.

It seems only when time is threatened to be taken away from me that I truly appreciate it. How much more enriched would my life be if I chose to live fully in every moment? I exert so much energy on trying to control, fix and trap time, but when it's finally in my hands, do I truly appreciate it?

I'm writing this blog to remember that grilled cheese lunch of laughter, the one when I wasn't looking at the clock or the dirty dishes or the unfolded laundry. The lunch that I wasn't carrying on a half-interested conversation with Harper while writing a grocery list, or To Do list, or planning the afternoon's activities in my head. I'm writing this blog to remember that all the planning, scheduling and organization means nothing if I don't make the most of my time when I'm in it. I don't want to have another Dr. Seussian moment of "How did it get so late so soon?" as I did crying on the kitchen table lamenting the loss of Harper's babyhood.

I want to live in the amber of the moment, and not ask why.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

DOMA and Prop 8: Ambivalence at its Best

After months of hearings and deliberation, yesterday the Supreme Court overturned Proposition 8 and deemed DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) unconstitutional. Since the court's hearing, I've seen Facebook riddled with both jubilant rejoicing and apocalyptic innuendos. I've heard the terms "Prop 8" and "DOMA" mentioned with nostalgic reverence and vehement disdain. If you have been following my blog, it will come as no surprise to you that I was elated to hear about the Supreme Court's ruling. It was the conclusion I had been waiting for. But as with many things in my life, this happiness was not devoid of conflict and introspection.

For those who have heard the epitaphs but are unsure of the terms' political or social significance, let me break it down for you. I've had to do my own research to be sure that I know what I'm talking about before making bold statements on the subject...

Proposition 8 was a 2008 majority-supported ballot that amended state constitution, deeming that "only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California". The ballot won by a small margin in November 2008, and overturned the Supreme Court's May 2008 ruling that same-sex couples had a constitutional right to marry. While many celebrated Prop 8 as a victory, the amendment was viciously battled, resulting in civil and government lawsuits which conjectured the amendment unconstitutional under the US Constitution's 5th amendment. On June 26th 2013, California state government refused to defend Prop 8 in the Supreme Court hearings and the amendment was overturned.

DOMA was a bill signed in 1996 by Bill Clinton as a federal law allowing individual states the right to refuse recognition of same-sex marriages. The law outlined a federal definition of "spouse" as being derived from a heterosexual couple, thus denying same-sex couples' federal spousal benefits, such as Social Security, retirement, filing joint taxes, immigration or hospital visitation rights, regardless of their states' stance on same-sex marriage. In 2010, Edith Windsor filed a lawsuit against the United States District Court after her wife, Thea Spyer, passed away and left her entire estate to Windsor. The marriage between Windsor and Spyer was recognized by their home state of New York, but Windsor was denied a federal estate tax exemption for surviving spouses and was made to pay $363,000 in estate taxes because the tax exemption did not apply to same-sex marriages. On June 26th 2013 the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Windsor, finding DOMA unconstitutional "as a deprivation of the equal liberty of persons that is protected by the Fifth Amendment." This does not automatically make same-sex marriages legal throughout the United States, but it forces the federal government to issue spousal benefits to same-sex couples residing in states where gay marriage is legal.

Ever since I've "come out" as a Mormon liberal, other members of my faith have asked with earnest intentions how I reconcile my belief in modern-day prophetic revelation with my ardent belief in gay rights. It is no secret that in 2008, the presidency of the LDS church issued a statement that urged Californian Mormons to support Prop 8. The short but honest answer is this: I don't. I can't. These two beliefs- the beliefs who make me who I am- are incongruent. They are irreconcilable. If I have faith that the LDS prophet is the direct mouthpiece of God, then I must believe that God does not (nor will he ever) support Gay marriage. This is not to say that God/Mormons hate gay people, as many slanderous liberal advocates suggest, but it is to recognize that God has an eternal order, and part of this order is procreation and the union between man and woman. If I believe in everyone's equal right to agency and support civil rights to the core (as I do), then I automatically relinquish my right to say I wholly follow the Prophet. You see- I don't just advocate for gay rights as a political or social opinion. I can't accept that God would be so exclusive to deny anyone the right to love.

In late night, hours-long conversations with friends I have debated and wrestled with my paradoxical creedence. How could it be that I believe so ardently in two implacable ideas? Is it due to a lack of faith in my religion, or is my trial in life to continually grapple with these two irreconcilable ideologies?

A good friend once told me to remember the times where I've felt the spirit attest to the Gospel's truthfulness, and that should negate any existential questions I hold about the LDS church. The truth is that my faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ is unwavering- Jesus never mentioned the subject of homosexuality. My problem is that I cannot accept the Prophet's stark stance on homosexuality, and so I am told that I do not believe in modern-day revelation. It seems a very "all-or-nothing" notion, and this brings more turmoil than you know.

Another friend told me that if I do everything I'm taught-pray earnestly, read scriptures with real intent, keep my temple covenants- then the truthfulness of the LDS religion and all its tenets (including modern-day revelation) will be apparent and my other temporal grapplings will become less important.

"She's right", I thought. "Maybe I'm not doing enough. Maybe if I pray harder, maybe if I sing louder and listen more intently in church I'll be able to reconcile these two sides of me that have created a schism in my mind and heart."

But I've done all those things, I DO all those things to the best of my mortal ability, but my belief in gay rights is not quelled. There seems to be no reconciliation, as much as I fight for it. There is an eternal order to things that I must choose to believe, or reject.

And so my optimistic, maybe idealist conclusion is this: I will continue to pray. I will continue to ask God for answers. I will continue to follow the Prophet. I have felt for myself the truthfulness of the LDS church, and though it would sometimes be easier to deny it, I believe. But I will also continue to believe in gay rights. I can't accept that two people loving each other is wrong. I just can't. I will allow myself this discretion and not be too hard on myself. There is no spiritual or rational way to defend or explain my disparaging beliefs and I just have to accept it. You may think that I'm choosing the best of both worlds, and you may be right. But I promise you that trying to balance these two conflicting worldviews is anything but "best". It's difficult, and taxing, and tumultuous. But what else can I do in my ambivalence?

Monday, June 24, 2013

Memoirs Part II (oops there's an F word in here)

I was seventeen when I was sent to live with my sister in Los Angeles. We pretended the move was in my best interest, but we all knew that my mother couldn't handle my in-your-face attitude of defiance and was worried about my future. She had handled my dad's death with stoicism and without a hint of self-pity. She came to our swim meets, packed our lunches and mowed the lawn without ever unraveling into a mournful mess. She took over my father's finances and started working as a nurse's aid for terminally ill people dying at home. Muffins and juice were still waiting on the kitchen table when we came home from school. The grief she could hide, but the sadness of watching her children turn from everything she had taught- faith and obedience- lay bare.

“I cried myself to sleep last night” was all she said when she found a six pack of beer hiding in my closet after the neighbors informed her of the house party I had hosted while my mother was visiting her sister in England.

“It's not a big deal, Mom. Don't be such a fascist. I'm sick of you trying to control everything I do. Just back off me. It's my life” I yelled like the a phonogram for one of my punk CDs, more to hide the way my heart was breaking for my mother than out of anger.

She looked at me with the same anguish I had seen when she gripped the metal railing of my father's bed before pulling a sheet over his face, telling us that he was now with his parents and no longer in pain. But that night she said nothing to me, and instead returned to the kitchen to finish making sticky chicken for dinner. I longed for her to berate me- to yell and be upset so I could feel justified in the rage I felt toward her. Her meekness and silence made me even more upset.

I was wearing an oversized white T-shirt and black leggings when I ran out of our house and into the snow-covered street. I thought about grabbing a jacket before leaving, but I wanted to be sure my mother would worry about me, and so I purposefully left the coat behind. I ran down the frozen suburban roads that had once been a happy safe haven, before the pain of losing my father had coursed through my veins and overflowed into these quiet and quaint streets. I ran down Fletcher road where I used to play street hockey with my brothers, remembering how we would dangerously wait until the last minute to yell “car!” before picking up the goal nets and skating to the side of the street to let traffic pass. I ran up Walpole street and thought about biking to get penny candy at the corner store with Marisa DiTrapani after searching our couches for pennies and dimes. I ran up Montrose drive and thought about how I used to take the shortcut through the woods to get to swim team practice with Rosanna Tomiuk in the summers, even though our parents told us not to. These were happy memories but they made me upset because they were reminders of a time before the hollowness of death and grief had bore its ruthless hole in my chest. I wished I had no memories of such happy times because I thought they would never return.

I inhaled anger with every breath as I ran, although I wasn't sure what to be angry about. I only knew that anger was a more survivable emotion than sorrow because it allowed blame rather than introspection. I thought about the war in Iraq. That made me mad. I thought about Capitalism. That made me mad. I thought about McDonalds cutting down the rainforest. That made me mad. I thought about my mother, and she made me mad for no real reason other than the fact that she made me think of my dad. I didn't want to think about him. And so I thought about bombs being dropped over Bagdhad until I reached a frozen payphone at our neighborhood liquor store.

I had left my house with no agenda or plan other than to make my mother upset, although I didn't know why. I picked up the cold, black phone and it stuck to my hand like a warm tongue sticking to an icy metal pole. I didn't care. I lifted my other hand and slowly dialed a collect call to my boyfriend who lived in Tennessee with an index finger too numb to shake.

My mother hated my boyfriend in Tennessee, and that's probably why I called him. He was a punk rocker, with PUNX tattooed to his knuckles and a full sleeve tattoo devoted entirely to me. I felt guilt for allowing him to design and undergo the intricate shrine on his left arm because I knew that I wouldn't love him forever, as he assumed would be the case. But it felt nice to be loved so purposefully, and so I had held his hand and smiled as he sat in the tattoo parlor chair, whispering “I love you” into his ear with forced sincerity.

“I hate my mum, Dan. Can you come get me?” I cried angrily into the payphone when he picked up, as though he lived down the street and not across the continent. Dan said he would leave that night. After we hung up I didn't know where to go and so I sat on the icy ground and thought about Baghdad.

A kind police officer found me huddled against the liquor store walls a few hours later, and beckoned for me to come over to his car.

“Were you looking for me?” I asked as I sat in the front passenger seat, submitted to the fact that I was going home after only having been a runaway for less than 6 hours, not even meriting a seat in the back of the cop car.

“I was on the lookout for a jacket-less teenage girl wandering the winter streets. Your mother is worried about you,” he said in a gentle tone.

I wished he was mean so I could yell “Fuck police brutality” and jump out of the car. But he was so kind, and my eyes welled with tears as I told him that I didn't really know why I ran away, I was just really upset about the war in Iraq.

“Well, maybe you should try again in the summer-or at least wear a jacket next time”, he replied with a wink and dropped me off in front of my blue and white house that looked so cold and uninviting under the blanket of ice and snow.

“Your mother loves you,” he said as I got out of the car, and I nodded because I knew it was true.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Everybody Hurts, Sometimes

My initial response to hardship is anger. This is a recent realization, although in retrospect I can see that anger has coursed through my veins for years, pulsing with purpose whenever life lets me down. It makes me a perplexing anomaly, since I generally think myself to be a positive, easy-going and happy person. But when life hands me lemons, my first response is not to make lemonade, but rather to load those lemons into a baseball pitching machine and catapult them straight back in life's face while yelling offensive expletives. My anger is a dormant beast awaken very seldom, but when it's lanced with disappointment the beast is ruthless and full of spite. In this regard, I have come to find it more difficult to identify and harness my reactionary anger because it is masked so purposefully by a blanket of happiness. While tragedy has left me raw and self-aware, I am slowly realizing that in some ways, I am moored in a port of adolescent bitterness.

I recently endured an early miscarriage. I was only 8 weeks pregnant-so early that I almost feel silly for having such an emotional attachment to the blueberry-sized sea monkey. I had always been somewhat apathetic towards women who experienced an early loss of pregnancy. After all, I thought, the fetus was still just an amassment of cells and not yet a decipherable human baby. What I didn't take into account was the excitement that inevitably follows a positive pregnancy test- wondering whether it will be a boy or a girl, thinking up possible names, giddily whispering the new secret to your family and closest friends, imagining its face and dreaming about holding its tiny, warm body in your arms. Those thoughts are what bind us to the tiny bean growing in our bellies, regardless of its negligible size or inhuman appearance. Those thoughts cannot be rationalized away with biological explanations of its unachievable future. And then in an instant, those thoughts are purged from your body and you're left with an empty feeling in your stomach where the excitement of new life once lived.

When I realized I was miscarrying, my immediate reaction was not sorrow, but anger. I berated myself, because surely there was something I could have done to avoid this. I was angry at my husband for not having to endure the physical cycle of wholeness and emptiness in his gut. I was angry at the tiny baby for not keeping its heart beating. But mostly, I was angry at God.

It wasn't a logical anger, because had I viewed things rationally I would have understood that 30% of pregnancies are miscarried and my situation was no different from the millions of other women who suffer early miscarriages. But somehow, I felt it was a personal vendetta against me. "Make me grow up watching my little brother suffer through leukemia, then let me watch my father die a slow death, then take away my new future child," I thought as I yelled into my pillow. I was angry at God for allowing bad things to happen, when all I should have been doing was asking him for comfort. But I didn't, and the pain and rage endured.

The sadness came later, as did the realization of my misplaced anger and the knowledge that I have a lot to work on.

In my sporadic moments of anger, I forget that everything good in my life has come from God. I turn my back on him in an instant and persecute him for not making my life perfect. I hate him for allowing me to endure pain. I forget that the greatest lessons I have learned in life- that my growing compassion for others and budding self-awareness- have all been the result of enduring trials. I refuse to see that God has a plan for me, and enduring pain and suffering is ultimately part of life's beauty.

I want my father to be alive. I want to erase the memories of watching my little brother suffer when he was so young. I wish I had never felt the hollow hopelessness of depression. I want the baby back in my body. But to be honest, I wouldn't retract any of the invaluable lessons I have learned from abiding through those difficult times. That is what I need to remind myself whenever I want to punch a wall and curse God for letting life run its course. That is what I must remember when I feel the angry beast stirring in my breast.

In the end, life's beauty is only felt when we know what it means to hurt. And I guess that will make my next baby all the more cherishable.