Why Do I Feel Like I’ve Lost Myself?


It’s no secret that moving has been one of the hardest things I’ve had to do in my life, possibly the hardest.  Through this experience I’ve almost felt like I lost myself. It’s really weird actually. I’ll look in the mirror and almost not recognize myself. Like most people, I had kind of mapped out my life in my head and had somewhat of an idea of what life would look like for me. That lifestyle that I had created in my head was who I was, it was part of my makeup and when I left that all behind I was completely broken. For the first few months I honestly went through the 4 stages of grief and not just once, but multiple times over again, never getting to that fifth stage of grief (acceptance). I remember just feeling absolute shock and denial when first moving to Mesa then after a while I was so angry. I was angry at Levi, angry at God, angry at everyone around me (especially the people that loved it here) and I just didn’t understand why I had to have the rug pulled from under my feet.  I had never felt such rage inside of me. Every day felt like an intense struggle within. I’ve never been an angry person so it was a very foreign feeling for me and I hated the way that I was acting. I started to bargain with God, I pleaded with him to figure out a way to send us back. I promised Him that if we could just go back to Utah that I would be better, I would give up anything to be back with my family and back where I’m comfortable. I even started bargaining with Levi. I would beg him to bargain with his bosses. I kept making up scenarios in my head where we could bargain our way back to our old life and every time those scenarios got shut down I felt so defeated. That defeat, of course, led me to days of depression.  Let me clarify that through out this process I did have good days and did have bad days. The first four stages of grief all seemed to be entangled together, continually cycling until I just felt like a crazy person. I just did not feel like myself anymore and I hated feeling this way.

Identifying the Cause of Suffering 

While on a trip back in Utah for Clair’s birthday, I was talking with a friend who recommended a podcast called Secular Buddhism, which focuses completely on Buddhist philosophies, not so much on the religious aspect of Buddhism. He mentioned how the podcast had really helped him to look at life differently, almost through a new set of lenses. I decided to check it out and found some of the most enlightening wisdom in listening. There is one particular philosophy that I want to focus on, which has truly helped me to finally fall into that last stage of grief, which is of course, acceptance. This philosophy is referred to as the nature of human suffering. Simply explained, this philosophy states that when we crave for life to be anything other than it is, we experience suffering. The host, Noah Rasheta, talked about how we often times create these expectations in our life, yet the only constant thing in our lives is change. Change can’t conform to those expectations in our lives; unfortunately it just doesn’t work that way. So here we are creating these beliefs about how life is supposed to turn out and change comes along and ruins everything!! The only thing to blame for our unhappiness then, would have to be the thing that changed in our life right? What else would be causing our unhappiness and our anguish? The change came and it made my life different than expected, so it must be the fault of the change, right? Not so.

Here’s a quote from Noah that really turns this way of thinking around:

Square Pegs (2)

A light bulb literally shattered inside of my head when I heard this quote. Ok, not literally, metaphorically shattered inside my head.  It was a very enlightening and painful experience. It felt extremely liberating and horrifically dreadful all at the same time. Liberating because I could finally begin to shift my paradigm and dreadful because I couldn’t blame my circumstance anymore. It was like holding the formula for happiness in my hands but not knowing if I really wanted happiness after all. I don’t know if that makes sense to anyone, but for those of you that have experienced a chronic dose of suffering, as much as you wish that feeling away, it’s also become a part of you and the thought of giving that up is a frightening one.

So here I am, listening to this podcast and realizing that it wasn’t the event of moving to Arizona that was causing my suffering, it was the way I was choosing to interpret and perceive moving to Arizona that was causing my suffering. Because I blamed my circumstance and interpreted moving to Arizona as something hard and bad, I felt that unless this circumstance ended or changed I would always be suffering. It was in the yearning for my suffering to end that the more acute my suffering became. So what am I really saying here? The more we wish our circumstance to change, the more suffering will occur.

Noah Rasheta (3)
So back to my light bulb shattering analogy, it was super painful to realize that in order to feel happiness again in my life, I needed to be ok with letting go of all the blaming and all of the excuses. That is a hard pill to swallow, and an even harder pill to digest. I wasn’t even sure if learning to live by this philosophy was even valid. Could I really learn to be happy living in my current situation, 118-degree weather and all?

Poison in My Bloodstream

Noah Rasheta explains that in order to shift our paradigm we have to understand, what the Buddhists call, the three poisons, which lead to suffering. The three poisons look something along these lines:

  1. Greed: The things that we want or crave in life, ‘if I could just have this…’ type of mindset.
  2. Anger/Aversion: The things we don’t want in life, ‘if I could just avoid this happening, life will be good,’ type of mindset.
  3. Ignorance: Being ignorant of the greedy and angry mindsets that keep us prisoner.

As I learned about these three poisons, I could identify several greedy and aversion-like thoughts already running through my head on a daily basis. Those thoughts were already becoming a huge part of my decision making.

‘If I could only live where it wasn’t so hot, then I would be happy.’

‘If I could just live in my own house…’

‘If I could lose 10 more pounds…’ 

‘If I could just work from home then I’d be happier…’

‘If I could just graduate from school, then I’d be able to feel more accomplished.’

‘If I could just avoid conversations like (blank) then I wouldn’t be so upset at church’

‘If I could just avoid getting a headache then I’d be happy.’

‘As long as I don’t end up in Arizona, I’ll be ok.’

‘If only I lived by family, I’d be happy all the time.’

Because these thoughts have been a part of my beliefs about what my life should look like, I have been living my life around them. As if they were some sorts of truth or standard to be lived against. Where did they even come from? Why can’t I just be happy with where I’m at right now? Why am I always trying to make up some excuse as to why I’m not happy?

How did I ever let this poison in without knowing it was poison? I felt like Vizzini drinking from a goblet laced with the tasteless, odorless Iocane Powder. It was inconceivable to me that my thoughts were actually poisoning my mind. (Hopefully someone is catching this reference…) And the thing about these thoughts is that I honestly thought that I was doing the right thing in trying to figure out what I was ‘missing’ in my life. I thought I was problem solving. I thought I was taking control over my life. I thought I was trying to make a plan to create happiness in my life, as if happiness is circumstantial.

I thought I was trying to make a plan to create happiness in my life, as if happiness is circumstantial.

These thoughts have been extremely limiting and extremely false because the truth is, all conditions are bound to change. In other words, I can’t control everything about my circumstance, despite how hard I might try. Change will come into my life and the more I try to idealize my life, the harder it will be to accept those ‘curve balls’ that are thrown to me.

Change is the only constant in our lives.  The way to find true happiness and to essentially end our suffering is to accept these conditions of change. When you find yourself able to accept change, in all its forms, it’s not like the suffering ends but that our fixation to end our suffering ends. The craving and fixation to change our current circumstance or create a different scenario ends. We are finally living in the moment, accepting of each moment, grateful for each experience. Instead of constantly dreading certain things that might come into our lives or wishing we could change things, acceptance and contentment will fill our hearts and minds.

I do wish to clarify that I do believe it’s ok to want to change things in our lives. However, the intention of our hearts with seeking change is key. What I am beginning to learn, and what this podcast has helped me to see, is that when I am seeking to change things to further my own happiness, it will most likely lead to suffering because at what end does that seeking come to? At what point will I feel ‘happy?’ Will that thirst ever be quenched? The cycle of greed and aversion will begin and those poisons will start to feed into my bloodstream, slowly killing my happiness.   If my intention for change was to make the world a better place, or to better my marriage, or to serve someone in need, I think then, a desire for change is appropriate and helpful, but again, make sure those intentions aren’t falling into the 3 poison categories.

Sarah the Square

Through coming to understand this philosophy I’ve, in turn, been able to answer my own question of ‘how did I come to lose myself?’ Well, I’ve lost myself because I’ve only known the idea of Sarah, not the real Sarah. I’ve spent so much time making decisions based on this idea instead of allowing myself to be. So sure, I’ve lost the idea of Sarah, and that’s been painful, but I haven’t lost Sarah because she’s never been found. I’m not sure if I’ve even met her. I think maybe, as a child, I had to have known her but I’ve forgotten that girl. I am not a lost cause; I am a cause that hasn’t been discovered yet. 

I hope I can get to a point where the idea of a ‘curve ball’ being thrown in my life doesn’t exist. I hope I can get to the point where I can abandon my ideas of how life should be and instead just let it be. Maybe the Beatles truly did understand these words of wisdom. Wow, that song suddenly has a much more deepened meaning for me. But seriously, my hope is that I can start to develop an awareness of how things truly are instead of how they should be, according to Sarah. I love how Noah describes his view of us as human beings in saying,

Square Pegs

Simply put, our idea of who we are, is not who we are. There is the idea of Sarah and then there is Sarah. My goal is to unlearn my beliefs about Sarah and to unlearn my beliefs about what Sarah’s life is supposed to look like. I think the first step to take in unlearning these beliefs will be to ask myself the ‘why’ behind everything I hold as truth. For example, and I shared this story in a past post, I used to believe that I could only be beautiful if I had blonde hair, not my strawberry hair. This belief took such great hold on me that I bleached my hair for 10 years. It wasn’t until I married Levi and he helped me to finally ask myself why I believed that, that I was able to unlearn that belief and make steps towards accepting my natural hair color. I know that there are so many beliefs just like the example I shared, lingering inside of me and silently crippling me. I think this process of unlearning will be a life long process, but along this process I know that I will experience liberation, freedom and happiness. Not only all of those things, but I will learn to be content in whatever circumstance life throws my way. I won’t be shocked or completely destroyed through change because I wasn’t expecting life to be anything other than the unexpected.

So, this blog post is sort of my opening statement to the beginning of a long journey. My hope is that as I begin to look at the way I see things, the way I see things will change and I’ll be able to be Sarah instead of constantly seeking to become this made up idea of who Sarah should be. When that day comes, it will be a beautiful, beautiful day indeed.




Thoughts on Grace

Lately there have been a lot of changes going on in my life, motherhood being a big one. But there is something super big happening in less than month (stay posted for a HUGE announcement), which has had a rippling effect on a lot of other things in my life. My first reaction to this huge change was excitement, which then turned to anxiety, which is now complete doubt and almost anger. Because of all of these emotions I’ve started to almost question God’s hand in my life and wonder the reason for this big change in my life. I think it’s safe to say that a good chunk of humans come to believe that “everything happens for a reason,” and I’m definitely  one of those humans. However, I think we do need to acknowledge that if we believe things happen for a reason, then that must mean that someone, other than ourself, is responsible for that reason. That someone must somehow know things that we don’t understand and is therefore making things happen in our lives to perhaps improve them or to help us grow in certain ways. Now who would have this all knowing power and ability to make things change and happen in our lives? I can only think of one person.

Most of us always end up acknowledging God as the reason for the changes in our life. Although this can be a good thing when something really awesome is happening in our life, for example, meeting a future spouse, it can also become a bad thing when it turns to a blame game. An example of this would be a death in the family and suddenly turning on God and blaming him for taking away that family member. It’s like we either see God as our gift giver or our punisher. He must be responsible for everything since He knows and understands everything, right? Maybe. But last night I read something that helped me to look at the changes in my life in different light and perspective and hopefully it can help you too. 

In Doctrine & Covenants 93, John is testifying of Christ’s life, and Christ is speaking about his character and how we can become like him, which is becoming like God. There are two particular verses that struck a chord with me. They read:

12  And I, John, saw that he received not of the fulness at the first, but received grace for grace.

20  For if you keep my commandments you shall receive of his fulness, and be glorified in me as I am in the Father; therefore, I say unto you, you shall receive grace for grace.

From these two verse we can a few things, firstly that  fulness comes grace for grace. From verse 20 I’m thinking that fulness means becoming like God, being perfect, overcoming all of our weaknesses etc. Secondly, Christ didn’t have a fulness at first, he too had to receive grace for grace. If Christ had to go through a process of receiving things grace for grace, than I’m guessing we must go through that process too.

The Meaning of Grace

So what does that phrase even mean then? Grace for grace. If that is the process that we are going through in our lives to becoming whole and full, I think it’s pretty important that we understand what grace means. In the Bible Dictionary grace is defined as a gift from God given through Jesus Christ. It is an enabling power and spiritual healing offered through the mercy and love of Jesus Christ. The grace of God helps us every day to do good works that we would otherwise be unable to do. Those specific words used were all pointing to a gift or opportunity that God gives us to be able to become a better person. So if we put everything together that we’ve learned so far we have learned that:

  1. God has a fulness.
  2. Christ also has a fulness through God and wants to offer us a fulness through Him.
  3. We gain a fulness by receiving grace for grace.
  4. Grace is a gift of enabling power so that we can change.
  5. God gives us gifts to provide opportunities for us to change and become more full.

Looking at everything in this way, I have started to see that every single change in my life should be looked as as a grace from God. And as we have learned above, grace cannot be a negative or bad thing since it is a gift from God right? So even things in my life that I thought were punishments from God need to be looked at differently because God doesn’t punish me, he gifts me.

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A Change in Perspective

Realizing this has helped me to start reflecting on my life to truly see the grace for grace that I have received thus far. Some of the things that I used to view as negative have somehow shifted to being seen as a grace. Like the time when I was 17 years old and was told that I had a heart defect that had been with me since I was born and I needed immediate open-heart surgery. I had always thought that was a scary and somewhat negative experience in my life. I probably wouldn’t have every seen it as a grace in my life.But looking at it now I see the grace in that experience. After the surgery I was completely dependent on other people to move me, shower me, feed me etc.. Through that dependence I came to understand just how loving and selfless the people around me were. My heart was changed seeing the compassion that others felt for me, and I can see now that I grew into a better person from that experience. I have compassion and empathy for anyone that is going through major health challenges. I understand pain in a way that other people might not understand.I am grateful for my life in a way that I wasn’t before. I realized that time goes quickly and life can end in a matter of seconds. I realized that life cannot be wasted and that the only things that truly matter in life are the relationships you have built with other people. All of these things that I have gained from the experience are truly a grace or gift from God.

Now, I’m not saying that everything bad in our life is secretly a gift from God. Honestly I believe that some things truly just happen to us because we live in a fallen and imperfect world. But what I am saying is that ANYTHING bad that happens to us can turn into a grace from God, if we let it. Again, some things that happen to us are direct gifts from God, but sometimes things happen to us that God didn’t give to us, but we can still allow Him to help turn the experience into a grace. For example, a few years back I had a cousin that I was really close to, take his own life. His death was a really hard time for me and my family. I felt so heartbroken and unable to heal from the gaping hole it left in our family. I do not believe that it was God that took him away from us, it was obviously his choice to take his own life.  But what I do believe is that God took that experience and turned it into a grace in my life. He took my broken heart and helped me to turn outward  to others that were suffering from loss in their life. I gained a stronger faith in God because I hoped more than anything that I would see my cousin again. I saw my relationships with my family as sacred and fragile and have tried to treat them with more urgency. Graces happened because of that experience.

Looking to the Savior’s life we see the same pattern. It wasn’t necessarily a grace that he was spit upon, blindfolded, slapped upon the face, scourged with a whip, even crucified. But his redemptive power made it a grace for not only himself, being resurrected and perfected, but for all mankind and that redemptive power can reach all of mankind.

It wasn’t a grace for Joseph Smith when he was dragged from his home by a mob, tarred and feathered, poisoned, beaten. It wasn’t a grace when we was taken from his family, thrown into Liberty jail. But the Saviors grace made that experience a grace and shaped his character. From that experience we gain some of the most precious scripture in modern revelation in sections 121-123 in the Doctrine and Covenants, which is therefore a grace for all of us.

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Changes to Come

I think another really important thing to remember about grace is that we almost always refer to something as a “grace” in our lives when we have been so desperate for help from God or our life situation has gotten super hard and we finally receive relief. The aspect of grace is important to remember because without those desperate times we wouldn’t recognize grace for what it truly is. The hard times in our lives are equally important, if not more important than the good times in our lives. Those hard times, those hard changes, force us to look to God for help. They force us to recognize that there are things happening that we cannot control and it is only through God that we can learn to see the good and change for the better because of them. Change or trial or whatever you want to call it, goes hand in hand with grace. Something that is hard is really just something that is out of our control and it is in those moments that we need grace from God, and it is through those moments that we receive grace from God

Maybe that’s what is meant when the Savior invites us to take up our cross and follow Him. Maybe that’s what is mean when He invites us to leave our nets and follow Him so he can make us something better. He will make us glorious beings. He will make us whole. He is grace.

Looking now to my current situation and the changes that I am facing, I am trying to see them as a grace from God. I am trying to embrace them humbly and gratefully. I will admit that I haven’t been doing the best job. I have felt anger and frustration at the things that I have to give up. I am feeling stressed and exhausted. I am second guessing everything and am not wanting to go through with the changes. But at the end of the day I know that this big change is a grace from God and will become a grace in my life. I know that the Savior is trying to help me grow and help me become a more glorious being. I know that even though this is going to be super hard, grace will help me through it, for this is the whole point and purpose of life. For didn’t the Savior say that it was life eternal to know God and to know Jesus Christ? (John 17:3) We cannot come to know them without going through our “grace for grace” experiences. This change in my life is a beautiful and wonderful grace in my life and I am striving to see it as such.


Photography Credit: Rachel Benson