Our internet has been nonexistent since Thursday night. We are told that the internet company has shut down service to protest some injustice or other. Ah, the joys of living in revolution-happy Tunisia. And Tony woke up yesterday morning with his right pinky toe swollen to double its normal size and an angry red rash all over the lower half of his body. Apparently, he picked up something nasty during his last Hammam visit. Fortunately, our landlord and next-door neighbor is a doctor. He looked at it right away, and then wrote up some prescriptions. Alistair kindly provided a lift to the Pharmacy. Now Tony is taking an antifungal, antibiotics, and painkillers. And sleeping a lot. It has also been raining all week. My teeth are throbbing from clenching them in the night, even with a night-guard. And I’m supposed to be making a leg of lamb for the Easter potluck tomorrow, for which I haven’t even yet gone shopping. I’ll keep the complaining to a paragraph. You’ve probably gotten the picture.
I have this little piece of paper stuck on my refrigerator. In fact, this is now the eighth house in which it’s been on my refrigerator. I first got it in Carmel Valley, my favorite posh suburb of San Diego. Relief Society (our church’s women’s organization) in Carmel Valley was full of beautiful, put-together women. They had lovely, immaculate houses with professionally landscaped yards. Their children were cute and smart. Their husbands were all doctors and lawyers. And many of them also had successful full- or part-time careers themselves. I was a young mom with a toddler and a baby, fresh home from Italy and suffering from severe reverse-culture shock, struggling with my husband to hold together an increasingly intractable business, and ready to throw both our blackberry phones out the window.
One day, I was sitting in a meeting of the above-mentioned Relief Society with my baby in my lap, half of my brain listening to the lesson, and the other half wondering idly why I couldn’t fit in better with that seemingly perfect world. Gradually, I became more focused on the speaker. She was describing a time early in her marriage when things had been very difficult. She had just suffered a traumatic late-term miscarriage. Her husband was starting a business. He was gone a lot. Money was tight. The details may have been slightly different from my life, but the feelings she expressed were the same as mine. She had been exhausted, depressed, and overwhelmed with her problems. In the midst of that time, she had read this quote somewhere, and then taped it up on her refrigerator. Things did not get better immediately, but reading those words every day helped her hold on until they did. And now, ten years later, she could look back on that time and see the truth of the words she had once read only in hope.
At the end of her lesson, she handed us each a copy of the neatly printed quotation, glued onto a piece of decorative card stock. She forgot to put his name on it, but the author was Gordon B. Hinckley, then the prophet and president of our church. If I could have used one word to describe him, it would have been “optimist.” He seemed never to have a gloomy moment, never to feel down, never to wonder if things would really work out. I had assumed that he just had a naturally sunny personality, or that it was part of his prophetic gift. I had never before considered that perhaps he had worked hard to cultivate that unfailing optimism. I pictured him telling himself every morning that it would all work out, and it gave me a new appreciation for his character.
I took home the quote and put it up on my refrigerator. Things didn’t get better right away. In fact, they got a lot worse. Our business failed. Our marriage almost fell apart. We kept running out of money. I had lingering health problems. We went through several jobs that didn’t work out. That paper followed me from house to house, and crisis to crisis. Sometimes I didn’t really believe it, but I read it anyway, and I never took it down. It became a sort of personal touchstone for me. If I could read that quote and give it a few minutes thought every time I noticed it on my fridge, then everything somehow really would all eventually work out.
I’m still waiting for things to “all work out.” We’ve been in a sort of limbo for so long now that it would seem almost normal if it didn’t feel so unsettlingly abnormal. But I still believe that things will all work out. And I’m developing a more consistent habit of putting my trust in God and moving forward with faith and confidence in the future. So in case you find yourself at a time in your life when it might help, I offer this quote as my gift today for you. If you need it, go ahead and put it up on your refrigerator.