Sunday, January 17, 2016

A Thank You

Today by no means marks the end of one of the hardest trials in my life. But it does mark the passing of one year since the unforgettable realization that my life, and the lives of my friends, had been saved by the grace of a loving Heavenly Father.

The year was full of darkness and uncertainty. And though it may have been hard to see, there was at times a glimpse of light and a guiding hand.

This is not a post to tell of those events. This is a post to show my gratitude – to you.

In the October 2015 General Conference for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, there was one talk that seemed to be specifically for me. You always here of those experiences, where someone hears something said in one of the talks and they just know it was meant for them, but it never seems to happen to you. I was blessed to have this experience when Elder Vern P. Stanfill gave his talk, entitled “Choose the Light.” His whole talk was for me. 

He gives us a little bit of background about his experience being a seasoned bike rider. And then he tells the story of how he went with his wife and some friends on a bike trail which included a long, dark tunnel. He was warned of the deep darkness he would encounter, and soon found the light he brought was not strong enough to get him through the tunnel. He became confused disoriented, and anxious. He felt like he was riding a bike for the first time.  

When he expressed his discomfort, he was invited to draw closer to his friend for what felt like hours while he used his friend’s light to make it through the tunnel. When he finally started to see the pinpoint of light at the end of the tunnel, he grew gradually more capable of using his own light.

Elder Stanfill used this story as an analogy for when we go through trials in our lives.

“While we are struggling in the darkness, there is nothing wrong with relying temporarily upon the light of those who love us and have our best interests at heart,” he said.

He does go on to say that we can’t live on borrowed light forever. That I know. I’m getting there. I don’t know that I can truly say I see the end of my trial, or the pinpoint of light at the end of the tunnel. There are many more milestones I will need to conquer. But I do feel my own light becoming stronger.

It is becoming stronger thanks to you.

I am grateful for friends and family that have been selfless enough as to show me their light and to let me borrow some of it. The thing with light is, if you share it with someone else, you don’t lose any of it. You just both get to enjoy what the light offers. Sometimes you don't even know you're sharing it, but you both come closer to God.

Towards the end of his talk, Elder Stanfill said, “There is no darkness so dense, so menacing, or so difficult that it cannot be overcome by light.”

Though it may take some time, you can count on the truthfulness of that statement. At least, I'm choosing to believe that.

So … thank you for letting me borrow your light.  

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Brutally Honest Truth

There are those who will find this post annoying. But that’s just because they don’t understand. I don’t expect them to. However, I need to write this for my own sanity—or lack thereof.

This sometimes keeps me up at night, hence why I am writing this at 1 a.m.

I won’t go into detail for legal reasons. But putting words down has always been a good source of therapy for me. So here it goes.


Tyler Knott Gregson is quoted as saying, “Oh, what we could be if we stopped carrying the remains of who we were.”

This is something I have been trying to grasp and apply to my life recently. Why?  For 26 years, with the help of my loving family, friends, teachers, and of course, my Heavenly Father, I had built my character and habits into something I was proud of. I knew who I was, I knew where I was going, and I was ready to take on the world.

Then, it all came crashing down.


There’s a life-threatening danger common enough that you’ve heard of it. But uncommon enough that most doctors don’t know much about it; they don’t know how to diagnose it, let alone treat it. It’s known as the silent killer—a deadly gas that you can’t smell, taste, or see. It’s carbon monoxide poisoning.  And if you happen to survive, it can be life changing.

What you are reading are the muddled thoughts of a survivor—a physical survivor who is still fighting to survive emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. This may not make sense to you in various ways. But that goes to show just how far reaching this poison can be.

I, along with the roommates I had at the time of our CO incident, feel and recognize within ourselves, the mental, emotional, neurological, and physical symptoms this poison has caused. For some people, the symptoms eventually go away. For others, they will follow you your whole life. I don’t know which one is in store for us. But either way, there’s a lot of healing that needs to take place.

When I say I don’t feel like myself, I mean it.  And my doctors can back it all up. I’ve never had a problem with depression before. I can’t always organize my thoughts or words. I can’t handle stress the way I used to. I can’t multitask. I have to take the daily stresses and responsibilities in life really slow—like, if I accomplish one daily task outside of normal work hours, that’s a huge accomplishment. I can get pretty irritated with people really quickly. I have to use different tactics to remember little things. I need new ways to keep myself organized, which I have yet to figure out.

Then, there are the physical symptoms. There have been quite a few. The symptoms most constant and less sporadic are hand tremors, headaches, muscle weakness, and general tiredness.

With all of those symptoms, have also come spiritual ones. About a year and a half ago, I came home from Brazil on a spiritual high that I have never experienced before. It was wonderful. When I compare myself now to who I was then, I get even more sad that I’m not that person anymore. It’s not that I doubt my faith or beliefs. I know what’s right and what’s wrong. I know who I am in the spiritual sense and where I need to go. But in my heart, I don’t always feel it.

That spiritual fire is not there. That’s what I miss. That’s what I need to get back. This general apathy towards life—which for me includes my faith—was something I’ve never felt before. I don’t like it. I need to get back to a true spiritual commitment. But I won't get there the same way as before. I’m a different person now. I am slowly relearning how to connect with God in different ways through new eyes and a broken soul.

I know this may sound crazy to you. I don’t blame you. I can barely wrap my mind around it all. And it's all so dang frustrating. Not being able to understand myself or manage myself, or as you can tell, explain myself to other people. But I try. 

If you’ve made it this far through my post, please, educate yourself on the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning. Get a CO alarm! There’s not much they can do to cure it, as extensive research is lacking. Preventive measures are the best. It will save you from physical pain, but it will also save you a lot of mental and emotional grief. 

I guess what I’m trying to say is, it’s hard to not be something you always thought you would be, and it's hard to be something you never thought you would be. It’s hard to take the memories of who you once were, as you fight to learn who you are now. 

Now comes the inevitable question, do I try and pick up the pieces? Or, do I try and emerge a new person? I don’t want this to define me, but I do want it to shape me for the better.

I think that’s what Mr. Gregson meant when he told us to not dwell on what we may have been at one point, but to look forward to what you can become.

It’s going to be a fight. It’s going to be a struggle. But I have to find out who this new person is and what she can become.

Monday, June 16, 2014

"Saudades" (On Life and Unknown Dreams)

I am obviously losing that brilliant tan
I had really fast. Saudades! ;)

I've returned to the blogging world!

I don't even know where to start. My mission was awesome. The best thing I've ever done. And for the past two months I have been with my family and friends, and that has been just great. But there are other things about being a return missionary that are just, well, hard.

There's a Portuguese word that I think describes exactly what I am feeling. It is "saudade." It basically means you have a strong longing for someone or something or some time that marked you. It means that you truly feel the absence of this thing from your life; a thing that once became a part of you, is now missing from you.

I mean, going from being a full-time (as in 24/7, not just 40 hours a week) missionary to being what sometimes may feel like a nobody, is like I said, hard. In just an instant, you are released from the great responsibilities and worries of being someone you've wanted to be your whole life. You're released from all the emotions of pouring your whole heart, soul, time and energy into the work and ordinances of salvation for others. All of a sudden your life changes. But that change comes way quicker than our minds or hearts are ready for.

Lots of people have asked how I am adjusting. "Pretty well," or "better than I thought I'd be," is usually how I answer. And yes, I am doing "pretty well" but a lot of the time, I am sad about it, or if I want to be brutally honest, depressed about it.

Sundays are the hardest – they are the days that leave the most “saudades.” At least they've been that way for me. Sundays were always the best days on the mission. They usually included the baptisms or confirmations or seeing the people you've been teaching walk into the chapel and seeing them feel the peace in the Lord's house. Now, I feel that I just go to church to go to church. With no responsibility to fulfill (besides that of a member missionary – I mean, not even as a visiting teacher) is quite a drastic change.

It's hard going to church as a "normal member." That may sound funny. But it is. It's just different. And you hear all the time about missionary work and you see the missionaries at church, and it just kind of hurts.

I feel this way – the “saudades” – about many things. The mission. The areas I served in. The people I worked with. The people I met. The culture. The love.

Not only about mission things, but I think it's a good word to describe how I feel about my life. Life sure is changing for the Villaroman household. All good changes, but changes that leave me with "saudades."

With all these longing feelings of times passed, I guess that just means I have had so many wonderful blessings and opportunities to be thankful for. There are so many wonderful memories I have and so many goals that I can cross off my list – including that of a full-time mission which was for me a life-long goal.

Well, I need to continue to make new plans and new goals to accompany me as I head into the mid-twenties (wait, am I having a quarter-life crisis? Haha! This is why I like writing – answers just come to me).

Here’s to new plans and new goals! Here’s to quickly arriving new adventures that will inevitably be so great as to one day leave me with “saudades.”