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Saturday, April 1, 2017

The Other End of the Tunnel

Nearly six months have passed since I broke my heart (again) over a good man. In the weeks immediately following I was alright, looking for the positive and assuring myself that it wasn't the end. I didn't even realize I was falling until I hit the ground. And my goodness, it broke almost everything in me. The next four months would be some of the darkest moments in my 26 years of life. It was as if I was dropped into a deep tunnel and left to navigate the impenetrable darkness alone. Emotional and mental anguish soon became physical health issues like internal bleeding, anemia, insomnia, lack of appetite and memory loss. Debilitating depression alternately caused excruciating pain and dangerous numbness. Seeking help, I got put on hold when I called the Suicide Prevention Hotline. I took some days one hour at a time, picking just one thing to hold onto, to look forward to, or commit to.

Today I came out the other end of the tunnel.


For me, it was the peace and hope offered through General Conference that pulled me out of the abyss. For you, it will probably be something different. I'm writing today not simply to document my saga or keep my friends updated, but because this crucible has taught me some lessons so I pray that in being vulnerable I can reach and help others still down in their own tunnels. I'm going to stick with my tunnel metaphor as opposed to the normal obstacle course that is life to emphasize the heavy darkness that accompanied this particular journey.

I didn't panic right off- after all, I've been in dark places and tight spots before. I had a go-to list of what I needed to do: talk with my friends, let myself cry, pray, study the scriptures, go to the temple, volunteer, listen to conference talks, magnify my calling, keep a gratitude journal, do family history and indexing, seek medical and professional help as needed, etc. And I set to the task of pressing forward with faith. Maybe the tunnel was longer than any previous trial I'd endured or the smothering weight of the darkness heavier than I was prepared for, but after a few months the insidious doubts set in. Perhaps I wasn't being faithful enough, or maybe I had unresolved sin or pride that was preventing me from feeling the peace and hope that I know the gospel brings. My dear friends, whatever you are going through, don't stop acting in faith regardless of the feelings that may or may not come. I specifically remember pleading to the Lord while in the temple just to feel His love and no reassurance was forthcoming. I know, I know, with my whole soul that there is no darkness that the light of the Savior cannot penetrate, but I couldn't find it. Build your testimony and conversion on the confirmation the Spirit has whispered to your soul time and time again, but do not hang your faith on always feeling those feelings. Keep connecting to the the Lord through prayer, scripture study, and faithful Sabbath day worship, but don't do it for what you hope to get in return- instead hold onto your testimony that it is the commandment of the Lord. Trials do not always come due to lack of faith and they do not always depart with increased faithfulness.

During this ordeal, there were a few flashes of light as some friends attempted to illuminate my path. Instead of helping, these flashes were blinding and disorienting. Whatever wisdom or assurance they offered, while well-meaning and loving, it would send me on wild goose chases down dead ends. I would  throw myself into correcting something they suggested in the vain attempt to dig my way out while I had a flash of light. But when the flash was gone, the darkness would be worse than before and cripple my morale. Hopefully you will have friends who will love you through your darkest tunnels, but keep in mind that how they love you might not solve the problem or even ease the ache. Don't be mad at them if they don't quite understand. One of the worst aspects of any heartbreaking experience is that you will feel alone and misunderstood and the adversary will prey off that pain. Every force will combine to isolate you and cause you to withdraw from those who love you most. Some people need to talk through their tunnel, others need...not to talk. Communicate as well as you can to your friends and family that though the darkness may choke you, you love and need them.

To some degree I knew this next one, but I've gained a new depth and perspective on allowing myself to feel and experience every stage of the journey. This personal tunnel of mine was not like a train tunnel, rather a rabbit hole and a long twisted jungle. Some days were angry, some were sad, others hopeless and still others were numb. I was so hard on myself, frustrated that I couldn't just acknowledge all these feelings, give them to God, and move on. I tried, I really did. Sometimes the Lord does not lighten a load because He is teaching you what you can carry. The saying goes that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, but sometimes it just kills off a portion- your hope, your perspective, your vision. The pain and darkness are going to change you, but sometimes you can consciously decide what to let go of. Pride, control, anger. My heart-wrenching experience became the vehicle for refining my soul and humbling me before the Lord and I cannot begin to express my joy and excitement when I realized that I had finally emerged. But if you are reading this in the midst of your own tunnel no matter if it's six months or six years, press forward in faith, be kind to yourself, and hold onto the lifeline that you are not alone.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Black Holes and Broken Hearts

I have this theory. Today when I went to the Science Center, I saw the incredible planetarium show which ended with the host showing us a funny music video about black holes. Just a random clip at the end of a beautiful astronomy lesson. But I came up with a theory which is that all the black holes are women's broken hearts. 

NASA says that "A black hole is a place in space where gravity pulls so much that even light can not get out. The gravity is so strong because matter has been squeezed into a tiny space. This can happen when a star is dying. Because no light can get out, people can't see black holes. They are invisible." Sound familiar?

At the center of every black hole, there is a time space singularity- the moment of impact, the breaking point when everything stopped as it all crumbled. The gravity of that singlarity and it's implications affects the very fabric of life. Not even your light can get out of the prison walls that once was your heart. Everything that mattered is squeezed into a tiny space, that space between no one notices and no one cares. This can happen when a woman is dying. Because her light can't get out, people can't see her. They are invisible. 


Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Celebrate A New Year

Leading up to New Year's, I thought a lot about how I needed to improve and redirect. Those thoughts, as per usual, included my lovely Relief Society sisters. This was the email I felt inspired to write and send to my girls on New Year's Eve. And even ten days into 2017, I know this message is still relevant so I'm sharing it again:

Dear sisters, ladies, women whom I count as dear friends, 

I have been thinking about all of you a lot this week. I hope you all had a very merry Christmas and were able to enjoy time with loved ones and took time to express gratitude and love for the Savior. I know He is the reason for the season! My thoughts have turned towards the new year, both ones of eager anticipation and disappointment. Disappointment because there were things I worked towards this past year that just didn't work out, goals I made that I fell short of, and expectations of myself that could have been better. And if you are anything like me, I'm sure you can reflect on where you could have improved this last year. That reflection is only useful if we will use it to propel us forward, to inspire us to change and to be a little better. Which is where the eager anticipation comes in. We have a whole new year- 365 fresh starts and new beginnings. As Anne Shirley once said, "Tomorrow is always fresh, with no mistakes in it." I hope you will take a minute today or in this next week to let go of some of the things you are carrying around that don't need to ring in the new year with you. Things like disgust or shame, feeling not good enough, bitterness or a grudge. Let go of anything that doesn't serve you, that isn't teaching you, and that doesn't draw you closer to the Lord. Be aware that feelings of guilt or sadness can sometimes be tools in our process of repentance or healing and are not necessarily your enemy unless you choose to ignore them.

With the space you make in your life with all the things you are going to let go ( I know, yes you can sing the song if it helps :), my dearest wish is that you will fill it with things of beauty and power. We often talk of making resolutions to celebrate a New Year- the word resolution meaning "the firm decision to do or not do something; the action of solving a problem". After a few days or weeks the jokes start about how we've already broken our resolutions, forgetting already that every day is a new chance to try again. Sisters, I encourage you instead to set goals and make plans to accomplish them. Set goals that you can measure, that you can break down into steps. If the goal is a rather large one, set several smaller ones to specifically identify how you will accomplish it. Write them down and post them where you see them often. Hold yourself accountable and find someone else who will do the same. A friend, a roommate, a family member, or your Relief Society president if needed. Believe in yourself. Believe that you can really do what you are striving for. I believe in each of you and the incredible wonderful women that you are. You are divine daughters of a infinite Father- nurture those seeds of your divine nature. Elder Richard G. Scott once said, "Our Heavenly Father did not put us on this earth to fail, but to succeed gloriously." As you are setting these goals I pray you will be fearless, that you will set goals that honor yourself, ones that push you just beyond your comfort zones, ones that serve others, ones that draw you closer to the gospel and to our Savior. Please pray about your goals- our loving Father in heaven is interested in your lives and not just the spiritual aspect. He cares about your job and your education, about your relationships and your health. And as you push forward, know that sometimes you will slip, sometimes you will fall down or back a little. Every day is a new day. And if you need help to get back up, well, that's why I'm here, why we are together as sisters in Relief Society. None of us can do it alone, but we can do it. Wishing you a wonderful New Year's Eve and all the fantastic, incredible things we can create in 2017!

All my love, 
Kristi Koerner

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Not Okay

Last night I was sitting at the kitchen table eating stew with my roommate when suddenly I couldn't put the spoon in my mouth and take the bite I had so casually scooped up. The tears were flowing too thick and I was choking on all these words that I keep trying to say but never seem to fully express. I'm not okay. At various times you could call it broken, heartbroken, depressed, sad, angry, whatever. But for right now I'll just stick with the fact that I'm not okay. I have this feeling that I might not be okay for awhile. And I'm trying to be alright with that and not make apologies and not get mad at people who are trying to be helpful and supportive or throw blame where it doesn't belong, but I might do all of those right here because it's all mixed in.


It always comes down to relationships, doesn't it? Nothing else matters, or hurts, as much.

I didn't plan on this.

I never thought I would get the miracle of love three times, but I did and each and every time it has changed me. Irrevocably, inexplicably, and forever. That's how I knew it was the real deal- everything shifted, everything changed. I changed. As Gerry in P.S. I Love You said, "Watch out for that signal, when life as you know it ends."

We were friends. Solid good friends. And over the last two years I have been more vulnerable and open and raw with him than anyone else, maybe ever. Even I was surprised when I realized that my feelings for him had bypassed desire, skipped through affection, ran over caring, and were speeding out of control into love. So when I told him that my heart had transferred possession, I did so willingly and openly, as a gift. And he said no thank you. Ok, that's alright. But then I go back to repair any damage done internally and find that I had given away all my pieces to him somehow. Not all at once, but gradually through those 3am conversations and laughter and all the unspoken things transferred in glances and shared smiles. I found I didn't have a reserve for this kind of heartbreak. I thought after loving and being shattered, after loving again and becoming numb, that I was strong enough to love without being destroyed- that I could love as a gift without expectations. Maybe a part of me could and did, but now that part is swept away with the other ashes of my heart. My heart broke and I bled. Literally. For nine days I hemorrhaged blood until I thought I would die from loss of blood, until I wanted to because it seemed like a peaceful way to go. Believe what you will, but I know my body didn't know how else to handle the excruciating pain my heart and soul were/are experiencing.

Loving after love is both harder and easier. Easier because if you can love like that- like gravity depends on you, in a love that soothes the mind and awakens the soul, in a way that makes you both strong and brave- then I believe you are far more likely to be able to love like that again. Differently, but again. But it's also harder. No matter how much you learn and grow and heal from a heartbreak, it becomes part of you, part of the very fabric you now weave your dreams with and the lens through which you see the world. And to consciously choose to bare your soul, to expose all the brokenness you've survived and the times it killed a piece of you, is perhaps the bravest kind of love there is. But brave or not, it's still agony. I know I've been spilling little bits of this pain out in various ways over the last two months, but I have more. More thoughts, more pain, more tears. Somewhere too there is more hope and light and love waiting for their turn on center stage, waiting for me to call for the end of the act, but maybe I can't do that until I can fully verbalize the former ones.

He made me feel so worthless. So incredibly, humiliatingly worthless. Here I am- an independent 25 year old teacher and healer and business owner, who allowed myself to feel utterly worthless because of his feelings or lack thereof. But to give myself the benefit of the doubt, I had just bared my entire soul to this man, revealed all kinds of scars and triumphs, and he didn't even bother to hand back my heart- he threw it out the window while the car was going 70 mph. They say "follow your heart" but if your heart is in a million pieces which piece do you follow?

I want to be fair and tell you that he's a good man. Because he is. He is honest and decent and hard-working and funny and thoughtful. It's true. Just because someone breaks your heart doesn't make them a terrible person, perhaps short-sighted or blind or whatever it is that keeps them from seeing your incredibleness, but not terrible. As good of a man as he is, he broke me so damn much that the cracks in my heart are visible through my eyes.

It's not the kind of sadness where you cry all the time, but more of the sadness that overwhelms your entire body and leaves your heart aching and your stomach empty, making you feel weak and tired and yet you can't even sleep because the sadness is in your dreams too. It's almost a sadness you can't escape.

I have this nagging fear that I'm never going to be able to move on or forget him. The way his brown eyes light up or his silly smile that always made my heart beat ten times faster. And what hurts the most is that he was never mine to begin with. But I fell so hopelessly in love and even now, after everything, I wake up in the middle of the night and I think of him. And it makes me sick to my stomach and I can't breathe because I don't want to love him anymore. I don't want this struggle for air every time I hear his name or when he walks in the room. I'm working on having good moments but before I know it I'm curled up in my bed with tears pouring down my face and my mind screaming at me to forget him.

One day he'll be a story I'll tell my teenage daughter when she's sobbing over the shards of her broken heart. When she can't get out of bed and all she drinks are tears, I'll pull her into my lap and brush him out of her hair. And I'll tell her this story of a man who was my friend, my confidante, and who destroyed me almost beyond recognition. Who hurt me so badly my body detached from the pain and bled, if not from every pore, then at least from almost every orifice. I'll tell her that he broke me on every level and every way possible, that I had to rearrange my body, my mind, and my heart in a twisted jigsaw puzzle game. And how I put up the Great Wall of China up around my heart to keep out any possible future sharpshooters. Then I'll tell her how it got better. How it stopped bleeding and how the pain slowly faded. How I was able to smile again and crawl out of bed. I'll tell her that eventually I could laugh and hope and dream again. But I might wait just a while after before I tell her that even now I wake up from nightmares, and how I'm sometimes seized with a panic when I see someone who looks like him. Sometimes words can describe a journey, but not the painful daily details.

It doesn't just go away- this love that I have for you. Sure it's combined now with pain and the wishing for you to be happy, and I know one day it will shift and not be the blinding terror it is now, but it doesn't go away. It doesn't hurt that you choose her. She's beautiful and sexy, she's smart and kind, she's not broken like me. Her laugh is like your favorite song on the radio, her eyes the depth of the forest you want to get lost in, and her smile is bright like the sun. She's your favorite book and I'm just a footnote in it. She's really the obvious choice. I'm happy for you, honestly. I've seen the way you look at her like she's your reason for breathing and the way you smile at her when she's not paying attention like you're thanking God for allowing you to be near her. I'm glad you found love. No, it doesn't hurt that you choose her, but you want to know what does hurt? Having all this love inside me for you and wanting you to be so happy while I have to sit back and watch her not love you the way you deserve.  It hurts having all this love bottled up inside with seemingly no place to put it. It hurts knowing that I will cry and grieve over your struggles and heartaches for years to come, but that you will forget my name the moment you look in her direction.

Romantic atheism is the easy way out- to just stop believing in love and the power of relationships. But I just don't have that in my chemical makeup. Every cell in me screams to keep hoping, keep wishing, to keep loving as hard and deep and profound as ever. And I will. I promise myself that I will. Just not right now. I may be broken but I won't stay here. I am devastated but I will keep moving. I'm not okay but I pray and hope that one day, someday, I will be.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Reverse Love Story

September 24
Dearest,
Sometimes I feel like I’m living a love story in reverse. I mourn your absence, longing for one day with you, holding onto the snippets and feelings. With faith and hope in every heartbeat, I pray that our time together will begin soon and last until my last breath (before continuing onto the next phase). Because I don’t know what space and time without you could possibly be like after finally finding you. In romances, the “before” involves a certain naivety to the all-consuming love on the horizon, a sense of self separate from this great love. That simply doesn’t follow our saga. My mind and heart are not capable of erasing you from my being, not even under the pressure of age or illness. So if the typical ending or loss of love is but the prelude to ours, what can I expect to follow? Instead of a string of life, I can see how it wraps together forming an infinite circle. A merging so complete between two souls that there is no beginning, no meet cute, no hesitant tiptoe into love just as there is no ending, no true separation, no extinguishing the eternal flame that burns so brightly. And if time is removed from the equation, it both simplifies and complicates our love. Any separation is jarring, incongruent with our nature and our life together is the summation of every force for good- a lifetime in every shared moment. If we remove distance from the equation, no matter our physical location, our souls will reach out to reassure, connect, and love. A love without limitations.
Forever Yours,
Kristi
To be opened on our wedding day

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Grief Sinks In


Love and her little sibling, Grief, leave deep impression on the soul. The deeper the former, the more profound the latter. In the first months, tear-streaked cheeks and haphazard hairstyles are the tell-tale signs, but as time goes on grief begins to sink in like a stone in a pond- the ripples on the surface eventually smooth while under the water the motion continues. Just as Love often gradually permeates our very souls, Grief follows those footprints. Soon those traitorous eyes that leaked at every opportunity are replaced by dry, but hauntingly empty eyes. Tangled hair neglected in grief is tamed and changed into a new style- one that doesn't remind you of Before. Blubbering and spilling it all out soon dries up until the words are cautiously meted out while swallowing the rest. As if we really told others that beyond a predetermined amount of time that we still ache and bleed and cry that it would somehow make it worse.The further the grief sinks in- into our stomach, our bones, and habits, the more the other siblings like Anger and Guilt pay visits. Angry at ourselves for moving on too quickly or slowly, guilty that we can move on at all. Desperately holding on to the grief as the last shred of evidence that we loved at all. Like water carving a canyon, the depth of the change is not evident until the water finally runs it's course. Sometimes it has swept you away until you can finally move on your own while other times it has rocked you into stillness. Either way, when it's gone the final product is fundamentally changed, shaped, carved, and molded into something new. And then the process repeats. Is it worth it? This loss and journey towards transformation? Do the joys of love outweigh the shattering of grief? When love and grief have reshaped our very being, we are forced to relearn the world through those empty eyes and freshly cobbled hearts.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Top Ten Things I Wish I'd Known When I Started Family History

So as many of you know, I have a slight family history/genealogy addiction. 


I am currently in the process of being released from my stake family history calling as I now have other responsibilities and opportunities to serve in Relief Society. However, several friends both within and outside my stake recently were blessed with a family history calling. Yay! Welcome to the wonderful world of family history! A few friends asked for help getting started and asked for a list like this. Though I'm sure I can go into more depth, more explanation type things, this is more mental concepts I wish I'd understood. So here goes, my top ten things I wish I'd known/done when I got started way back when. (This is written from a LDS family history perspective and opinions are solely my own)

1.) Start by throwing out preconceived ideas about how much work has been done/is available in your family tree. Don't limit yourself. 
2.) It's alright to start with what you have and add more details later ( if you only know where they were born, or the month, etc- it's okay)
3.) You do not have to prove everything with a document. Sources are important and good and wonderful, but if you have a first person ("my mother told me", "grandmother wrote this", etc) source that works too. 
4.) The difference between Familysearch & Ancestry- FamilySearch is a universal tree so everyone could be editing it- Ancestry has private trees that only you can edit. Using both creates good check and balance of data. Start with one and then transfer over to back up your work. 
5.) You can EDIT. If you make a mistake, it's not written in stone- all errors can be corrected. So just do your best. 
6.) A Record Hint icon (the blue one) is just as exciting as a Green Temple- lots of possibilities and opportunities to find new people who need their ordinances completed. 
7.) Find an organization or pattern that works for you (i.e. Cleaning up one line at a time, working one generation at a time across all lines,etc) as you start researching and keep notes on where you are working- it will eliminate redundancy.
8.) Stick to standardized formats- Capitalization, punctuation, place names and dates,full name (if you only know the married  last name start there,) etc. 
9.) After all your efforts to be as accurate and complete as possible, turn it over to the Lord. He knows His children perfectly and will make up the difference. 
10.) This is a SPIRITUAL WORK in which technology is a tool. Not the other way around. Listen to the Spirit first and foremost.