Hello my beautiful readers! I hope y’all are having a magical end to your summer, and if you’ve already returned to school, my heart goes out to you. With the new school year upon us, I thought it would be fitting to talk about the changing seasons, or more specifically, the new season of life that you might be facing. You could be starting high school or going to college for your freshman year or maybe you graduated from college and are now trying to figure out this thing called life. Sometimes all this change in life, leads to a valley. Whatever you’re going through, I know that some of you, like myself, are in a valley. And now, I invite you to relax, pull up a chair, as the dining room proudly presents – your dinner (just kidding, I’m not serving you dinner; I just wanted to see if you got the Beauty and the Beast reference). In all actuality, relax, pull up a chair, as I proudly present: finding comfort in the valleys.
So valleys, they’re not fun (not in the literal terms, actual valleys are quit splendid; I’m talking about the valleys of life). I definitely feel like I’m in a deep, deep valley right now. Maybe you’re experiencing some of the same symptoms that I am: feeling left out or as if you don’t belong, feeling overwhelmed (thanks a lot looming semester), feeling down on yourself for being you and not someone else, feeling as if God has forgotten about you, feeling as if your dreams are unattainable, feeling like everything is crashing around you and God could care less. Sound familiar? Yeah, I thought so. I don’t know if this rings true for all y’all but for me, when I’m in a valley, I notice myself closing off, not asking for help, and most of all, thinking (a lot) about all of the things that are going wrong in my life. I’m assuming that you do at least one (or maybe all three) of these things, as it is human nature. I need encouragement in this season of my life as much as you do, so here are some tips for you (and for me) to help get out of the valley, or at least get comfortable there.
Closing off. It’s so hard not to do it, I know because I experienced the phenomenon a couple days ago. Here’s a little story for ya that will hopefully teach you not to do what I did. I was a complete mess a couple days ago. I don’t want to spill my guts completely and tell you every detail of what I was (and still am) going through, but let’s just say that all I wanted to do was spend the entirety of my day curled up in my room writing in my journal and listening to Disney music. However, I didn’t have the luxury of staying at home all day, because I had an event I had committed to attending months ago. I should have been ecstatic because a large amount of my friends were going, friends that I hadn’t seen for the entire summer. Instead, I closed myself off. I didn’t want to talk to anyone, and if someone did attempt to talk to me, I’d respond with one or two word answers. I had a preconceived notion that the day would be horrible because of what I was going through, and I had no room in my heart to think that the day could actually be fun (gasp!). I soon realized that my friends didn’t deserve to be treated the way I was treating them. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t bad that I was feeling upset and that I was not at all up for the adventures that were in store for the day. However, it was wrong that I wasn’t open to the possibility that the day could be anything but horrible. With my salty attitude, I could have brought my friends down along with me, and wouldn’t it be better to forget about my problems and just live in the moment with them? The answer: it was better to forget about my problems, as I finally did in the afternoon. I put my woes aside and instead, enjoyed the company of my friends. I laughed for the first time that day (so hard that I couldn’t stop), and I sang along when we circled around a campfire singing Taylor Swift songs and Disney hits (which instantly put a smile on my face). So no, closing yourself out from the world happening around you doesn’t help. Instead, embrace those around you with open arms and live in the moment instead of dwelling over what you can’t change.
I never ask for help, especially in a valley. For some reason, whenever I’m going through a really hard season (like now), I figure that I can get through it alone, that unlike the other times, friends and family would not be able to help me in my situation because really, what do they know that I don’t (if you didn’t notice, that was sarcasm people)? I really really REALLY hate asking for help. I absolutely hate being the center of attention, spilling my guts to my friends and family. I hate putting my problems on others because I figure that I can deal with my problems on my own; it’s better than getting them involved. But this constant state of holding in my feelings has led to many emotional explosions. Instead of talking to friends or family about my problems when they happen, I let my problems pile up until I can’t handle it, and then I explode in a huge fit of unattractive sobs (call me if you’re one of the few humans who sobs gracefully; I would love to hear your secret). This time around, I learned, and decided that holding in my fear and frustration and grief wasn’t worth it. So the minute that I was feeling depressed a few days ago, I turned to my family at dinner and spent the night spilling my guts (sobbing might have been included), and later when my friend asked if I was okay, I didn’t say “yeah” like I normally do, but I spilled my guts to her too. I can confidently say, that after talking to them, I did feel better, a lot better in fact. My mom gave me a much needed bear hug that seemed to instantly dry my tears, and my friend gave me helpful advice that I know will always stick with me. Coincidentally, she encouraged me to spill everything to God in adoration. She told me to yell at him and to cry in front of Him and to be mad. She said that a relationship with God should be authentic, and although He does already know how we’re hurting, it means so much more if we tell Him ourselves. So the moral of the story, GET HELP! If you physically can’t muster the courage to spill your guts to your friends or family, spill them to God. You always grow stronger when people (and God) see your vulnerable side.
Last but not least, here’s the kicker, thinking about your problems constantly. I do this so much that it has almost become second nature. All three of these mistakes go hand in hand; closing off leads to think about your problems and same with not asking for help. It’s a vicious cycle, let me tell you. I notice myself thinking about my problems the most when I’m alone at work, where I let my mind wander. The hours that I’m supposed to spend doing data entry, updating emails and addresses and phone numbers, I spend sulking in my own bubble, thinking about how dreadful my life had become. This only makes it worse, and frankly, it ruins my day. What does help though, is getting my mind off my problems. When I was at work one day, I decided to listen to a podcast quietly so I had something to distract me from my thoughts (Helpful Tip: listen to Father Mike Schmitz’s podcast. People, if you haven’t listened to it, do yourself a favor and please do! I didn’t know he had a podcast until recently and seeing that he had one felt as magical as Christmas morning). And on the days that I wasn’t scheduled to work, I learned to start the day with a run to clear my head. Instead of thinking about my problems during the run, I’d either pop in my headphones and blast my Christian music playlist, or I’d pray the rosary. The key here is to not even give your mind the slightest opportunity to wander. Some people might say that it’s unhealthy not to think about our problems. But something my sister told me, that has stuck with me, is this. Always think, do I have anything harming me, any issue in this moment that I can fix right now? The answer will very seldom be "yes", otherwise you can be at peace with God and His will. All you have is the present moment, and if you continue to live in the past, you won’t be able to enjoy blessings as they come your way; you’ll be sleeping through life.
I hope this blog post helped you, in some way, to be content in the valley. If not, just listen to Tauren Well’s song, Hills and Valleys, and that should do the trick. Remember, that God isn’t just with you in the hills, but also in the valleys. He wants to be in your storm with you, just like he was in the storm with the disciples. You will get through this valley, and soon, you’ll find yourself on a hill, and when you reach the top, praise God that He led you to that point.
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