Heaven into Hell

Jan 29, 2019 by Renee Linnell
This is long, but worth telling:
I just watched a dear friend turn Heaven into Hell and I learned a powerful lesson in how to not do the same.

All her adult life she wanted a baby. And she struggled to get one. She waited more than ten years for her husband to be ready. Then they tried for years to no avail. Then she and her husband spent tens of thousands of dollars on the process. She wept and pleaded and prayed and begged. And last year, at age 41, she was rewarded with the most magnificent child I have ever met. He is healthy and happy and easy and calm. He eats well and sleeps well and seems content in all places at all times.
Meanwhile, she and her husband are nurses. They have great jobs with a healthy income. They have a short commute. They have many days off. They were able to buy a home on one of the most beautiful private beaches in the world. They can walk to uncrowded perfect surf. They live in Paradise. My friend’s parents are still alive so her mother can visit for months at a time, offering her help and love. My friend’s husband is one of the kindest, smartest, most capable men I have ever met. 

And yet my friend is in hell. All she sees is “wrong.” Her husband can do nothing right. Her mother can do nothing right. I went there to visit for her baby’s first birthday and she yelled at me when I walked into the house on day 4. I didn’t show up on time, even though each time I asked when was a good time to arrive her answer was, “It’s impossible to know with this guy.”
For her, everything needs to be done a particular way and when it’s not done that way, it’s wrong. Which means no one can help her. We can’t fold her laundry because we fold it wrong, we can’t take the baby to the beach because we do it wrong. Set-up for her baby’s first birthday took twice as long because each time we took direction from her husband we had to re-do it all because according to her he told us wrong.
She has created a reality where she is utterly alone with zero help. And when I tried to talk to her she said she was so overwhelmed and no one shows up to help her. She said, “Other new mothers have family that live close or have money.” She is a victim. I pointed out that other new mothers sometimes have zero help: no husband, no family, no money. She didn’t want to hear that. 

My point is this: gratitude. Somewhere along the way she lost gratitude. Somewhere along the way she stopped seeing how amazing her husband is, how amazing her home is, how amazing her job is, how amazing her mother is, how amazing her friends are, and how amazing her child is. For some reason she is blinded. And all she sees is covered in fog. The miracles can no longer find her. The magic is gone. All the love and all the help being offered to her every minute of every day is not noticed. And she’s pushing people away. I began avoiding the house. Her husband and mother stopped trying to help. Her friends stopped showing up. 

The Course in Miracles says, “In every moment there is a choice between a grievance or a miracle” and I witnessed this first hand. My friend had helping hands and loving hearts all around her the week I was there, and she refused to let them in. A shift for her would look like this: What if my husband died today? What if my mother died? What if my baby died? Would I feel better with it all gone? Sit with that for a moment. Let it sink in. It all could be taken away.
What if I let go of my way of doing it all? What if I allowed the laundry to just be done and folded and put away, regardless of how it was folded? I’d have a clean house and clean clothes. Magically done for me by my mother that is yearning to help. What if I allowed my friends to take my baby to the beach and didn’t need to keep running up to the house to get more baby accessories? I’d allow my friends 90 minutes of fun sandy time with my baby and I could go surfing. What if I focused on all the wonderful things my husband does for me and for us? I would suddenly have a partner, an extremely competent partner, helping me instead of having an enemy I was fighting. You can see how she is the problem; how if she would make a shift her life would change.
And the biggest shift of all: what if instead of fighting and struggling and complaining about how difficult and overwhelming it is to have a baby, she just sucked it up and saw it as a Right of Passage, a massive push from adolescence into adulthood? Life is no longer about her; it’s about the baby. What if she just jumped on board with it? Strapped that baby to her chest each morning and walked up and down the beach, to get back in shape, rather than sitting at home complaining about how fat she is and how she has no time for self-care? Stopped overspending online and instead hired a baby-sitter for two hours a day so she could go surf? Worked with her husband instead of against him and as a team figured out home/work/life balance? Found a friend with a child the same age and made surf dates: one watches the kids while the other surfs and vice versa? What if she went from victim to grateful warrior?
The Buddha said, “A wise man walks down a path with an enlightened master on one side of him and a drunkard on the other. He sees both as teachers, he learns from both: how to be and how not to be.” I learned so much on this trip. I learned I never want to complain, and when I catch myself complaining I want to stop mid-sentence. I learned I want to develop the mind muscle that focuses on all I have instead of all I lack. I learned I want to find satisfaction in the present, at all times, rather than complaining and nitpicking about what’s “wrong.” And I learned I want to let go of needing people and things to be a certain way, my way. I would love to be the person that allows things to be as they are, allows people to do things their way. I would love to be a person with softer edges: more grateful, less judgmental, less critical, less self-righteous. I saw in her so much of what I know is inside of me; I saw in her how completely she was in her own way and how easily she could get out of it. I saw in her how she turned her Heaven into Hell. And I vowed to try my hardest to never again do the same.

*Yes, I realize this is probably postpartum depresison and as a non-mother I have no right to judge. I like to believe I am observing and witnessing, rather than judging. I still hold trememdous love for my friend and know she will find her way out of this.