Monday, April 20, 2009

On Being Good.

All my life, I've worshiped characters that were good. My favorite Little Woman isn't the heroine Jo, but the saintly Beth. It's always been her.

I'm a huge fan of the "Little House" books. (You know, the ones that inspired the 70's television show?) These books made my childhood. I reread the one where Laura and Almanzo fall in love, These Happy Golden Years about once a year. In it, Laura has a friend, Ida Brown. Ida's not even a huge character in it, but she's always been my favorite, even above the plucky Laura. Why? Ida was good.

We're not talking regular good. We're talking saintly, upstanding, blameless. These are the characters I really idolize, but mostly in secret. All my life, I've wanted to be like them. All my life, I've tried to be long-suffering.

I'm having more health problems. This is something I don't publicize a lot. Maybe it's not a big deal. My doctors think I have a rare and serious auto-immune disease, Relapsing Polychondritis. Last Thursday I woke up aching all over and found a blackish-purple splotch on my ear. My rheumatolgist (I may be the youngest person ever to have one) is baffled and I think, a little freaked out by me. With the appropriate medicine, the ear splotch has gone, but I still feel exhausted and yes, sick.

I've had outbreaks before. It's possible I'll continue to have them, for who knows how long. This scares me, but there was something especially significant in this episode for me. It was the first time I felt like this could be something I'll deal with for an extended period of time.

All the "good" characters are long-suffering. Beth was based on Louisa May Alcott's real sister, who suffered years of pain before leaving earth, saintliness intact. Ida Brown was a real person (as was everyone in Laura Ingalls Wilder's books) who suffered a harsh life, finding little affection along the way. Both characters have happy endings, in their unique ways. Beth dies, with faith intact, never having to face the world she feared. Ida marries and starts a pointedly impoverished life. Both exit their stories as beacons, examples to follow.

I watched Little Women on Thursday, mostly as an excuse to cry. All I could think during it was, "I don't want to be Beth. I don't want to be Beth." I don't want to be a lesson for somebody else. I want to be healthy and average. I'll forgo my dignity, I'll scream and fight. I don't want people to speak of Jeff and mention his sick wife. I want to wear sweats to Walmart. I want to sweep dirt behind the fridge. I want to argue with teachers at parent teacher conferences. I want to do everything mundane and human and mediocre.

I don't want to be sick. I don't want to be Beth.

Does this mean I don't want to be good?

12 comments:

Jeff said...

There's nothing that says you can't be good and healthy. You already are more good and more healthy than most. Also, most saintly characters don't die. They do have certain traits that causes their toil (and possibly death) to resound particularly deeply with us as readers striving also for good. I think the lesson Beth would want for her readers to learn, though, is not to be good in the face of trials, but to be good no matter what, just like she was before she got sick, and just like you are now.

Gillian said...

Sarah, Your husband is wise. You are in my prayers my dear internet friend.

The Weights said...

I agree with Jeff -- though I sympathize that sometimes physical ailment or just not being able to do what you wish can really test our resolve not to get frustrated. Something I struggle with is wondering if I do not have enough faith to get out of certain trials -- till I had this experience with my gallbladder and passing stones, I thought: "if I just exercise enough faith, God will take this away" and then I tried my best, but agony remained. The thought that came to me was: "Sometimes you have to pass the stone". God's ability to do miracles has not diminished, but sometimes He leaves us in liberty jail, in pain, with ailments that are grating. Why? For our experience. The thing here which I think you can take courage in, is I think a lot of suffering experiences are so God can help us see how good we already are or can become. I wondered for a long time why Jenny had to have cancer -- she was good to me. I naively hoped I could take the cancer upon myself to spare her -- but ultimately, she was the strong and good one that could bear up under such a trial. I think offering Issac was for Abraham...God already knew Abraham's obedience and what he'd do...but Abraham had to learn that in despair and difficulty he would still choose the right. Though I sympathize that this is tough (I have no idea how tough - only Christ could) if it's any comfort, maybe you are entrusted with such a trial because God already knows you're good and what type of capacity resides in you...but this is an opportunity for you to discover your own strength.

Tiffany said...

Sarah,
As I have had (had is the keyword here) my own auto-immune disease,(Crohn's) I can relate (a little). I have to tell you that for me the BIGGEST life AND health change that helped me to overcome this was diet change. My belief is that ANY auto-immune disease can be cured! You just have to know how to fix your immune system. I believe food plays a huge role in this. I would be MORE than happy to help you! I also have an amazing Dr. who practices homeopathy as well as traditional medicine. That way you get the best of both worlds. This would help also!

AnneMarie said...

Sarah, you are such a good person. I'm sorry that you are sick. I think you deserve the best of everything!

B.G. Sanford said...

I love the article and your site. The comments were good also.I'm generally regarded by my friends as be good but no one could mistake me as saintly.
If I may, I'd like to take a moment and shamelessly promote my new book, "Beth, Love Along The Way....by B.G.Sanford," and just released by Eloquent Books. It's the story of one woman finding a deep love during some of the darkest times of her life. Because of it's very substance, it can't be considered "light weight" by any stretch of the imagination. I hope you have the opportunity to read it. It's a story not soon forgotten.

B.G. Sanford said...

(addendum to post directly above)

I would like to leave a link if I may to where one may purchase my new book, "Beth:Love Along The Way....by B.G.Sanford.
All my best to you.
B.G.Sanford
www.eloquentbooks.com/BethLoveAlongTheWay.html

Anonymous said...

Sarah,
Jeff and Christina both made excellent points. My prayers are with you. I'll put you name in the temple every time I go.
You might want to reread your patriarchal blessing. There is much good for you to do and I think you'll even be able to argue with teachers at parent-teacher conferences.
love,

Mom

Riley and Cassie said...

You are a good person, and a strong one. I'm so sorry you have health problems- those are not fun. If you ever need anything feel free to give me a call girl!

The Kims said...

Ya know....I think that you're already a good person. A great person in fact! You always want to help everyone with their trials, you're kind, and will always lend your shoulder to cry on. I don't know how long you'll have this sickness, but we all have to have our trials and they are meant for us individually, for whatever reason. They are here to HELP us. You'll learn something from it. Remember the the Priesthood is in your home. You can't go wrong with that! I promise, that one day, you'll know why you have this trial. Don't let it hold you back.
Love you.

Marni said...

All I have to say is you are not Beth. You are more Meg-ish. Perhaps with a dash of Amy. But just a dash.

Marni said...

But of course not the dash like chop-chop, lickety-split. Or as you say, run.