Endure to Enjoy

An excerpt from my latest book, Learning to S.M.I.L.E. Again: 5 Simple Steps Toward Joy. For more specific examples of how to apply this mental high method, scroll down and enjoy the Endure to Enjoy photo gallery!

I would never want to minimize depression. Or even a bad day. They’re real and they can be excruciating. So please don’t take this chapter the wrong way. I understand how some days, out of nowhere, everything in the universe seems to combine against you. Or at the minimum, maybe it seems like the universe is using you for some comic relief. Sometimes those days stretch out into weeks, months, or even years. Just because your emotional pain or bad day didn’t lead you to feeling suicidal, doesn’t mean your pain is any less valid or real. Just because I’ve suffered from clinical depression doesn’t mean I’ve suffered more. It’s all hard. I know that because since healing from the worst of my depression I still have hard days from the natural speedbumps of life. Whatever the severity of those hard days, I believe the concept of Enduring to Enjoy can still help us handle them.

I remember running on the treadmill in my bedroom one day. It was a tiny room since we had given our two boys the master bedroom so they would have more space for playing. My treadmill was manual. Did you know they even made treadmills that aren’t electric? Well, they do and they are the most frustrating machines I’ve ever had to use. Every physical workout was also an extreme exercise in patience. My treadmill would get stuck regularly, causing me to trip midrun about every 20 seconds. Then I would regain my balance (and composure) and begin running again. The treadmill took up all the walking space in the room and I literally felt like a rat running in a wheel, stuck in a little cage, and going nowhere. It was hot and stuffy and I was tired. This specific day was when my husband was unemployed, our marriage felt weak, and I was 40 pounds heavier than I wanted to be.

Thank heaven for windows.

In that cramped, little room there were two windows. Through one I could look out and see the horizon and beautiful setting sun. Through the other I could see our large, green, growing garden. Even in the suffocating heat on a stuttering treadmill, my mind could enjoy the peaceful scene outside. Between the stops, I could meditate as I looked at the view through each window and let my thoughts take me away from the stuffy, sweaty room.

I started to think about how glad I was that we went through the work of tilling all that soil, raking rows, and planting seeds. It was not easy. It had felt tedious at times. It was tiring to water and weed. There were times I wanted to be doing anything but work in that garden.

But now, a season later, it was almost time to harvest. The zucchini was fat. The corn was taller than me. I could practically taste the tomatoes. I realized we had worked hard and long to enjoy something wonderful together. We had worked to ENJOY. The work itself wasn’t always enjoyable, but the fruits (or in this case, vegetables) of our labors would be.

As the hot July sun set through the other window I considered my marriage. I remembered all the work our marriage had required. It wasn’t like the movies, an effortless romance followed by riding a horse together into the sunset. It felt more like we’d been riding a wild mustang. We’d had some unexpected detours too, through streams, mud, and thorny bushes. In our short time together, we’d endured abundant trials. Neither of us had expected the depression and anxiety that had plagued our marriage or the multiple seasons of underemployment and unemployment.

But we had also enjoyed some glorious good times. We had weeded out issues in our lives that were damaging our relationship. We continued to do so, because weeds never stop growing. But that didn’t mean we weren’t right for each other. Every gorgeous garden still needs weeding. We had also planted new seeds of hope in ourselves and one another. We’d nurtured the growth of our marriage through the selfless acts of patience, forgiveness, and unconditional love.

It was work, but it was worth it. We were making a beautiful family, incredible memories, and a legacy of devotion through every trial. It was a mix of seasons. There was still some planting to do. Other days we watered and weeded. But we were also starting to harvest the fruits of our labors. I could see the joy on my children’s faces when we went to the park as a family. I could sense the peace my husband felt, and I felt it in myself too, when he relaxed on the couch with us after a satisfying day at the office. I could see my children’s confidence grow as they knew they had the united support of both a mother and father. I could feel joy as I fell asleep after a good, long day, knowing we had made some progress, no matter how little, in the right direction— towards eternity. That was why we were trying so hard, working so much, and enduring all things. And that effort was making a difference.

If we hadn’t endured the months of hard work in the garden we would not be enjoying the harvest. If we hadn’t endured the hardships of unemployment, poverty, loss of faith, and depression, we wouldn’t be enjoying the level of hope, faith, and strong love of family now. We had to taste the bitter to value the sweet. Life was still difficult and grueling at times, but it was worth it to know the joy.

I mean that.

I mean it honestly and deeply.

Please really understand what I am saying.

Feeling the burden of every suicidal thought, the excruciating pain when I believed I wasn’t good enough to be my children’s mom or feeling like God had abandoned me because mothering was so difficult for me, all the horrific ideas my mind considered—like climbing into the snowy mountains to die alone where no one could find me or driving my car into the median so my pain would be over—it was all worth it. Why? Because choosing to feel, push, and learn through that burden was the work that led me to the joy I feel now. I endured it well until I was well, so I could be free to feel peace during any circumstance. Now, I have the ability to feel greater joy because I experienced such great pain.

I could have let my past stop me. I could have let my perfectionist-self be weighed down by the low points of my life. I hadn’t planned those moments of anxiety and depression, and I didn’t love that they were part of
my story. Just like on that run, each time I got stuck I could have stepped off and given up. Instead, with my trust in God and His strength enabling me, I kept going. Because of that, I was blessed with some inspiring insights on enduring.

Regarding my previous battle with clinical depression and anxiety, I could have given in and ended my life, like many good people do. My heart breaks for them because a part of me understands why people hurt themselves. Sometimes they feel like they deserve the pain, so they cut themselves or abuse themselves through drugs, medication, or food. Other times they want to numb the pain, so they turn to substances that can distract them for a while. But eventually, some are tired of feeling any pain at all. They just want it to stop.

I’m saying pain can stop eventually, even while you’re enduring it, when you have the knowledge that no season lasts forever. If you keep going, eventually you will be through the challenge. I know it may be hard to believe, because there are extremely tough circumstances that seem to have no clear end in sight. We can’t always give our sick loved ones’ healing. We can’t control other people’s painful choices. We can’t predict the economy, the weather, or even our own health sometimes. However, if you endure whatever comes your way, eventually, you will be able to enjoy life again. You will be able to excel and thrive, even within those circumstances.

But, how do we get there? How do we endure until then? How do we deal with all the pain, uncertainties of life, or feelings of failure we might be facing? For me, a big part of enduring was mentally and verbally repeating the mantra, “This too shall pass.” It’s like getting a shot at the doctor’s. I don’t like needles or the fierce, stabbing pain. I can’t watch while it’s happening. But, it’s easier to tolerate because I know the pain will only last for a few seconds. I might be a little sore afterwards, but the hardest part passes and it’s worth it.

When my kids get their immunizations, it’s really hard for them to face that needle because they don’t have the same life experiences to strengthen them. The nurses speak in silly high-pitched voices as they try to distract them with words like, “Just a little pinch!” There are lollipops and cartoon character band-aids to make it easier too, but I don’t need those to help me handle getting a shot. I have greater knowledge to give me perspective and comfort. I know this pain will only be a moment, will pass soon, and will be for the greater good.

There are many circumstances in life that are just as trying and painful to the soul as that needle is to our poor, fragile flesh. We hurt. We cry. We complain. We aren’t expecting that sharp, jarring emotional pain. I suggest we remind ourselves that these moments too will pass. To everything there is a season (Ecclesiastes 3). There may not be a nurse or parent holding our hand while we feel that surprising sting. But there are angels surrounding us and strengthening us. In the eternal scheme of things, all our challenges will pass and will be for our good. We can feel comfort from that knowledge. We can find peace knowing in the weeks, months, or years to come, the emotional soreness will leave and healing will happen.

Trusting that someday we will feel, “the peace of God, which passeth all understanding,” helps us endure it now, but it takes faith when we’re in the middle of the hurt (Phillippians 4:7). When it’s hard for my mind to look to a future day, beyond my current pain, I remember another experience I had watching the sun set through a window. I was looking at the reflection of the glorious mountains in my rearview mirror. This was after we moved back to Utah again. I completely, passionately, absolutely ADORE Utah’s mountains. I call them “my mountains” because I love them so much, so much that they feel like they must belong to me.

As the brilliant sun set in the west, it cast a rose hue across the tree-covered crests. Snow still kissed the peaks of the mountains, as brilliant greens filled in the lower slopes. The scene was majestic and moving. I had to be careful while I drove because the view captivated me. The beauty through my rear window was truly breathtaking! Then, right in the middle of enjoying this phenomenal showcase of colored light and landscape, a thought came to me.

There are all sorts of poop in those mountains.

Wait, what?

The first voice piped up again. And dead, rotting carcasses too. In a forest there are always dead, rotting carcasses.

Not in my mountains, I thought it, but I knew that critical voice was right. There WAS deer dung on that mountain because beautiful deer lived there. There were also dead, rotting carcasses because that’s part of the circle of life. Animals die and rot. But I didn’t want to think about any of that right now. I was trying to enjoy the moment. The amazing sunset! The lighting and foliage! Why was I thinking about poop and rotting animals?

I think God wanted me to remember a few things. First, again, most things don’t look good zoomed in and put under a microscope. You need perspective to truly see. Focused too closely, the prettiest flowers turn into fuzzy blobs. A masterpiece by Monet becomes a single colored pixel. Even great people become harder to admire if we scrutinize every detail about them, because they’re human. This life, each of us, has imperfections and inconsistencies. Most people, places, and aspects of life are best admired from a more distant, pulled-back perspective.

For example, my efforts as a mother, wife, and developing individual were all easier to appreciate when I considered them from a few steps back. Changing diapers, marital squabbles, and a hidden eating disorder were not glamorous parts of my life. But if I looked beyond those details, at how my life had changed after those challenges, how I had changed, I recognized that those events had given me opportunities for beautiful growth I could not have achieved any other way. This was only clear when I considered my entire life as a whole and saw the big picture, just like that beautiful sunset.

Second, I was reminded that I need to be realistic. This is a mortal, fallen world. There may be moments that are heavenly, but any perceived perfection is usually temporary or just on the surface. There may be moments that feel like they’re from a movie, and we should savor them when they happen, but they won’t fill up every single day. We should certainly aspire to order and peace, but we should not be so silly to think that this world will ever be completely free of disorder or danger. It’s part of the process of life, even if it’s hard sometimes.

It takes falling down to learn how to get back up again. It takes cracking a few eggs to make a cake. These are clichés because they’ve been spoken for decades. That’s because they’re true and timeless. Whatever the source, ugliness and death are part of this life. It can be hard to believe, but it’s better to accept it and recognize its part of creating beauty overall. In this case, what had died was being reused. The earth knows how to do that. What’s dead decomposes and gives way to new life. It creates an environment for growth. New habitats. New plants. New organisms. New beginnings. In other words, even the death in the forest could bring beauty.

This was true for my life too. For instance, the premature death of my father had brought me a greater understanding of our eternal natures and his endless love for me. I still missed him deeply and wished he was alive, but I felt him and his love all the time. I have a beautiful testimony of our ongoing existence now because of his passing. I didn’t expect it, but his death brought new, glorious growth in me.

Third, even with the death, poop, and who-knows-what-else that was hidden under the leaves of those mountains, the view was still breathtaking. It was stunning! With the light of the sun on those Rockies, their regular majesty was multiplied a hundred times over. A little poop or rotting animal back in the distance didn’t take away from that beauty. In the big picture, it didn’t matter.

The same is true in our lives. We might see our past and be tempted to zoom in and focus on the worst parts. We might want to do that for someone else’s life. Don’t. Just stop it. Remember that life is meant to be looked at as a whole. When you do that, when you look at the big picture and stop thinking about the little, less-than-perfect-moments, it’s easier to enjoy the lovely landscape we’re creating. And the more time you allow to pass from those ugly moments in your life, the easier it will be to forget them the way God does when they’re truly behind us. The more distance you put between you and that hardship, the more you will appreciate the beautiful life you’re making now.

As I drove away from those mountains, their magnificence was magnified. There was more picture to look at. More space to enjoy the blend of colors. More majesty to appreciate. The glory of those Rockies wasn’t formed overnight. It had taken centuries of time, volcanic pressure, rebuilding, and replanting after many seasons to develop the scene I now enjoyed. It was only fair that I allow myself more time and distance to appreciate the majesty of my own life’s experiences.

I wrote “Shooting the Moon” to myself. I wrote it from the perspective of my Heavenly Father, imagining His counsel to me during a difficult time in my life. I wrote it the first year after my father passed away. I had helped my mom pack up her things, and brought her to Utah to be closer to me and her grandkids. It was also the year my 34-year-old aunt, who’s BRCA-1+ like me, died from ovarian cancer. She left behind a husband and two young children. There was so much sorrow and pain from the gaps left by these deaths. They were young, vibrant people. It seemed too soon to lose either of them. In time, the hurt healed though. I started to feel safe again and trust God’s plan.

Then, I was surprised by even more challenges in life. I kept thinking I was past certain issues, but triggers would bring them back to the surface again. This made me feel even worse because I thought they’d been resolved, yet they hadn’t. It was like I couldn’t trust my own joy. This cycle of self-doubt had the potential of taking me deeper and deeper into depression again. I was terrified I was going to fall down that endless hole.

Instead, thanks to the advice of a friend, I chose to be gentle with myself. I practiced positivity. I endured and trusted God’s plan for me. I relied on God’s grace and chose to believe I would eventually gain blessings by passing through these challenges. I remembered that He molded me from the elements, meaning I literally have stardust inside me. I’m long-lasting and timeless. I’m His child, so He would never ask more of me than I could handle. It may be hard. I may need help. But it’s always darkest before the dawn. If I did my best to See the Good, Isolate the Issue, and Listen to Loving Thoughts from those around me, I would be able to Endure to Enjoy.

Yes, Make Magic Moments is not in that last sentence because some days were so hard that there wasn’t a lot of energy to make any. When I finally found my motivation and could take a break from my stress, I would Make Magic Moments too. I did it by trying to see things from His perspective and by believing in joy. I didn’t have the energy for big productions. I wasn’t going to be walking downtown for ice cream this time. I needed peace, calm, and time to reflect. I wanted to feel hope again. Hope was the Magic Moment I prayed for, to help me persevere and feel joy again.

It wasn’t easy. There were times I was weaker and less willing to submit my will to His. On those days, it was much harder to endure. I felt lost and empty. Then I would repent, humble myself, and come back to my Heavenly Father again. Every time I did, eventually, feelings of love washed over me again. They weren’t always immediate. Often, I had to try longer than I liked and exert real faith. But when I did, peace came, and I could endure it well (Doctrine and Covenants 121:8). It was possible to feel joy on the days I felt pain, because I knew more joy was inevitable someday.

We can’t see the big picture in this life, not completely. Our window is only so big. We can’t see every reason we must go through the challenges we’re dealt. If we could, life would be too easy and we wouldn’t have any opportunities for our faith to grow. But we can still find joyful moments of mercy when we tell ourselves that, “If God brought me to it, He will bring me through it.” We can keep working, nurturing ourselves, and seeing our gardens grow. We can focus on the good that will, eventually, come after the pain. We can trust that, “This too shall pass.” God knows it. He knows your life will be one to be proud of and grateful for, if you will just keep trying and trusting Him. Those who love you also know it. Just pray, listen, and try to believe. Eventually, you will know it too.

Shooting the Moon © Eva Barnett 2017/www.UpliftingEva.com

I know you wonder if you’re good enough

I hear you say that lately life’s too tough

But you’ve no idea just how much I love

All your imperfections

They’re a little piece of heaven

‘Cause I never expected you

To be flawless at least not according to

What this world says you’re supposed to do

That’s not what I’m looking for because you’re so much more

You literally have stardust inside inside

So don’t try to rush don’t you hide

The growing the setbacks mistakes mistakes

We’re all going through it too each in our own way

So keep shining when it’s dark the world needs your tiny spark

Keep fighting give it all your heart you’ll make it you’ll make it

It’s hard to see it from the start but babe you’re gonna make your mark

Just don’t forget that you’re a star and take it yeah take it

One little step at a time and pretty soon you’ll be shooting the moon

Some prayers take longer than we like

To get answered and we start to lose the fight

But don’t you quit ‘cause I’m holding you so tight

It’s just hard for you to know ‘cause I’ve never let you go

And sometimes we don’t know that we’re brave

‘Till our own fear stares us in the face

And we cry but we still don’t runaway

It’s faith through all your tears that’s real courage dear

We all have to reach down inside inside

So don’t try to rush don’t you hide hide

The seasons the reasons the change

We’re all going through it too each in our own way

So keep shining when it’s dark the world needs your tiny spark

Keep fighting give it all your heart you’ll make it you’ll make it

It’s hard to see it from the start but babe you’re gonna make your mark

Just don’t forget that you’re a star and take it yeah take it

One little step at a time and pretty soon you’ll be shooting the moon

Now let me tuck you in tight

It’s time to sleep close your eyes

Dream about easier times I promise they’ll happen but baby until then

Keep shining when it’s dark the world needs your tiny spark

Keep fighting give it all your heart you’ll make it you’ll make it

It’s hard to see it from the start but babe you’re gonna make your mark

Just don’t forget that you’re a star and take it yeah take it

One little step at a time and pretty soon you’ll be shooting the moon

(To read more order Learning to S.M.I.L.E. Again: 5 Simple Steps Toward Joy by clicking here.)

Endure to Enjoy Photo Gallery


Such. A. Rough. Night. How is that my peaceful afternoon turned into crying and shouting and frustration and anxiety and confusion and a complete loss for solutions? As soon as one storm was calmed, within minutes another started. Mental illness is real and isn’t just a stressed-out-mom-issue. It hits kids too, and they are so much more inept at knowing how to handle the emotions… and it’s heartwrenching. I would write more but I’m too exhausted. I know I’m meant to be the mother in this family. I know it will all be ok… eventually. I know it will make us stronger to work through these weaknesses. I also know I’m not alone in feeling completely clueless or helpless at this parenting gig at times. So if anyone else tonight is in my same shoes, or old slippers, and you’re calling it a night as you wipe away tears, sniffle, and scroll through your phone as you try to distract yourself, please remember how brave you are to keep showing up to this hard job of motherhood each day. Please be patient with yourself and God as He shapes you and your children through harsh trials and realities. Please let go of the pain of today as your head hits your pillow and think instead on the heavenly scenes that make the heartaches worth it. Those peaceful, perfect moments will come again.❤️ 
Sometimes when I do my scripture reading I feel like I should open a certain book to a specific spot, so without looking at the page I go for it! It’s always what I need. This was the message tonight. “How can we become long-suffering if we are never required to suffer for a long time?” I have some specific trials that seem to be going on so much longer than I thought they would. I even asked my husband yesterday, “How much longer is…going to be this way???” But God ALWAYS grants us peace through our trials if we let him. This weekend my enduring has been easier with the companionship of a sniffly son and his snuggly cat. Serving him makes it easier to forget my stress, especially when you’re reading a good book. Truly, like will always have stress but it can also have joy as we bravely endure with the ones we love.
“Don’t let yourself get dumped on.” That’s what I thought when I saw the rain from the broken gutter pouring into this poor potted plant. It’s up to us to not put ourselves in that position of getting overwhelmed! And sometimes it’s our own head doing that negative trash talk.❤ Instead of a mental downpour of worries when life goes waaay differently than planned or when you feel behind on everything, try thinking these thoughts instead: “A woman of faith is confident because she understands the divine plan of our Heavenly Father and her role to bless lives. She is confident that any sacrifice she makes is worth something in an eternal sense. She knows about sacrifice from knowing of the life of the Savior. She knows that her sacrifices may be small by comparison, but she knows that Heavenly Father understands and values what she does to strengthen her home and her family and the world in which she lives. Her confidence grows because she is virtuous and lovely and gracious, which is even better than beautiful.” I know I’ve sacrificed many, many hours for the greater good. I’ve given up my own personal goals and comfort to help save my marriage, support my kids, and take care of others. But the great thing about a sacrifice is that it ALWAYS gives you something better in return. So don’t shame yourself for loving selflessly, giving tirelessly, for forgiving and forging forward! Don’t let yourself feel defeated if your endless sacrifices mean your house is messier than you like or that you’re a few pounds heavier than you want to be. In the eternal scheme, that doesn’t matter like your tireless love does. Truly, seriously, your acts, your faith, and your ways are GLORIOUS.❤ (From A Woman of Faith, October 2002 LDS General Conference, Margaret D. Nadauld) 
This moment was a highlight, no, LIGHTHOUSE, during rough January 2019. On the first day of the year we lost a sweet, dear pet which was heartbreaking for me and the sensitive child who owned him.😖 During the first week of the year our basement flooded at least 3 times with gross sewer water. 😷 Then I seriously threw out my back, at the same time that I was trying to choreograph and prep for dance auditions, and both a hip-hop class and a guitar class I’m teaching this semester. 😵 All this was in addition to the challenging anniversaries of 3 family deaths during this time of year and other crummy personal-fail anniversaries. Day after day I kept trying to turn things around, but it was kind of a 3 steps forward and 2 steps back vibe. So my body gave in and I got to experience a week long headache/migraine with accompanying nausea. Thank goodness for moments like these!!! This is from when, after sledding with great friends for 4 awesome hours and then grocery shopping in wet clothes with all my kids because we REALLY needed groceries, Sam remembered he’d left his gloves on the top of the hill at the park. So as the sun was setting we headed back, and we had some special time with just the two of us. Isn’t that THE BEST? When you can just slow down and enjoy the moment? We had a quick snowball fight, and I snuck a selfie and a kiss…& he tried to also. 😅 Through allll the up and downs, we still had some “ups.” My point is that even though my husband had to vacuum out the basement again last night, there have been beautiful memories during this stressful month too. Remembering the happy times has helped me deal with the hard ones. My headache and stomach cramps have started to subside. Also, I’ve felt closer to my Heavenly Father. I’ve had moments I’ve hit my knees and prayed for guidance and comfort, courage and peace, and I’ve literally felt hands on my shoulders, calming me and my weary soul. I am so grateful for the hope that comes from God when we place our faith in Him, stay close to the loved ones who keep us smiling, and keep putting one foot in front of the other. Thank you for the moments of mercy and the lessons you taught me, January 2019. ❤
This quote is laminated and the crown of my messy desk because OH how I need it.❤️
Depression and anxiety are REAL and exhausting. Sometimes people in my family are like the bright, brilliant buds on these flowers, and sometimes they’re more like the stems, stuck down in the dirt and darkness. But like Elder Neal A Maxwell said, trials can help us that we might “teach (His) people with authenticity.” Through the ups and downs, I do think we are learning and growing in our love for each other. Also, I hope I’m being authentic on social media when I’m sharing our home life. Sometimes I don’t share all the dirt because it’s not mine to share. Sometimes I don’t fling my own mud around because I know it doesn’t help. But I would never want to paint a false reality. It’s just tricky because it’s not always my place to share someone else’s struggles, even when they affect me. So I usually wait, ponder, and regroup when I’m ready to handle things with better grace and beauty, instead of ranting and complaining. Life can always be beautiful in some way, even if it’s just in the growth we’re going through, but we can’t always see it when we’re the ones planted in the mud (or keeping our head down in it). I guess I just wanted to say, hang in there and believe that you are lovely and necessary to this world. Whatever your outlook today, sunny skies or smelly fertilizer, I hope you know you are LOVED, and you are meant to bloom.
Elder David A. Bednar said that spiritual change “does not occur quickly or all at once; it is an ongoing process—not a single event. Line upon line and precept upon precept, gradually and almost imperceptibly, our motives, our thoughts, our words, and our deeds become aligned with the will of God. This phase of the transformation process requires time, persistence, and patience” (“Ye Must Be Born Again,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2007, 21). I can remember holidays where I didn’t even care lived. It still shocks me and overwhelms me with gratitude that I’m here, thanks to a very patient, faithful spouse, inspiring parents, silly sisters, loving kids, fun friends, Holy Spirit, steadfast Savior, and merciful Heavenly Father. Change takes time and patience, but it’s possible with Christ. This photo is from delivering cards on Thanksgiving. Yes, we were tired and we didn’t HAVE to do it. But living with depression has taught me how to push through the exhausted moments to do what matters when you feel prompted to. But it can take time. Be patient with yourself. If it’s a down day, it won’t be like this forever. Keep it “up” and keep going.❤️ Give yourself the time to get better.