Fiery Darts, Heavenly Doves and Soul Sickness

“Would you be willing to teach a mini-class at the upcoming Relief Society conference?” My mom is a counselor in the Stake Relief Society Presidency and had been tasked with asking me.

“Sure, what about?” My answer was more motivated by love for my mom and less by any confidence I might to teach anyone anything.

“Being kind to ourselves.”

Being kind to ourselves.

Why is it so hard for us to do?  And bordering on impossible for some of us?  In my prayers that night, I asked God what needed to be said -what the women in our stake needed to hear.

“Talk about messages,” was the reply.  Messages.  I continued to meditate and pray over the course of a few weeks, and God continued to send hints my way. I was led to scripture passages about Fiery Darts and scriptural references and teachings about Doves.  There was a stark difference between the fiery darts that came from the adversary and the calming gentle messages that were sent in the form of a heavenly dove. I could feel that He wanted me to vulnerably share some of my own story, and I was willing to do it for Him.

I reflected on the years behind me -how many of them I’d spent believing the fiery darts puncturing my soul.

I’m too loud.

I’m a terrible housekeeper.

I’m not enough ________.

I’m too __________________.

I digested them as truth and worked hard to change them.  Maybe if I did Jillian Michaels workouts 3x a week, I’d be loveable.  Maybe when my house was consistently organized, I’d be enough.  At this time in my life, I was going through some heavy trauma in my marriage.  It was completely out of my control, and I handled it by controlling everything else in my life that felt manageable to me: my weight, my home, my kids, how other people perceived me.  It kept me so incredibly busy that I couldn’t feel the trauma and didn’t have to face it.  I was teaching piano lessons, playing piano for the local high school choir, teaching at-home preschool, keeping a craft business going on the side, doing some at-home daycare and working hard in my church calling.  There were nights that I’d literally wake up on my living room floor where I’d just dropped at the end of the evening. On top of it all, my dishes were done. My skinny jeans fit.  There was homemade bread on my counter.  Everyone around me was very validating.

“Alicia, I don’t know how you do it all.  You’re incredible.”  The people who said these things were people I trusted and IF THEY BELIEVED IT, IT MUST BE TRUE.  I worked so hard for that validation.  It kept me going -the fuel that helped me burn the midnight oil.

But, I learned, you can only run so long on borrowed fuel.  The trauma in my marriage caught up with me, and within a few months, I was curled up on the floor of my children’s bathroom crying so hard that my emotional pain morphed into physical pain.  It was my rock bottom -the lowest point of my life.  Everything was out of my control.  My house became increasingly chaotic.  Jillian Michaels gathered dust next to Baby Einstein.  My two diapered children ate cold cereal in front of Netflix while I tried and failed to gather the courage to fold some laundry.  My skinny jeans gradually made their way to the bottom of my pants drawer.  I was lonely and heavily depressed, bursting into tears daily.  I didn’t want to bother God with my petty life, not when He had wars, famines, and tsunamis raging all over the world.   So I ate cookie dough and cried in my home and put mascara on when I went to church.  I had a concerned church leader who helped, but I felt the importance of muscling through on my own without bothering other people with my stuff.  It felt like my responsibility -no one else’s.  But as time wore on, I became weary to the point of despair and began reaching out for help online.  I found a 12-step program and a support group online.  I began reaching out more and more, and slowly, gradually, I began reaching up to God.  I began a journey of discovery: forgetting who I’d been taught God was and discovering for myself who He is.

I began seeing the fiery darts for what they were: lies.  Every time I went to do the dishes and was flooded with thoughts of what a horrible housekeeper I was, I stepped away.  Every time I went to do any form of exercise and was flooded with thoughts of how awful my body looked, I’d stop.  Before I’d hit rock bottom, things in my life looked in order, but my soul was just so sick.  My soul healing was incredibly messy on the outside AND the inside.  I was turning my life over to the care of God, and I found that throughout my life, he’d been sending me messages of His own: heavenly doves in the form of a sunset or a sunrise, a perfectly-time song on Pandora with lyrics I needed to hear, a letter in the mail, a visit from a friend, a phone call, a sweeping feeling of safety in the middle of a trauma trigger.


I began rejecting the fiery darts and accepting the heavenly doves, and then I hit a sort of plateau.  I called of friend of mine who had been through some really rough waters and fairly oozed confidence.  I asked her how she accessed the level of confidence she exuded, and she gave me some unforgettable advice.

“Practice confidence,” she said, “Just strut around with what you have and be proud.  And tell yourself you love yourself.”

TELL myself.  Out loud.

The first time I tried it, I couldn’t even look myself in the eyes in the mirror.  I muttered, “I love you” to a spot on my bathroom floor.

BUT.  I kept going back.  And back. And back.

I began sending myself some heavenly doves in the form of affirmations, telling myself that I was loved and worthy and enough.  As the years wore on and I developed health issues, I continued this practice.  At one point, I was lying on my couch, unable to accomplish anything beyond breathing, and I realized that I loved myself.

I was heavier than I’d ever been, unable to craft or cook or EARN MY OWN LOVE, yet there it was -brighter and more beautiful than it ever had been.  This is one of the greatest miracles of my life: uncovering my divinity and differentiating between the lies and truths sent my way.

My self-love began manifesting in beautiful ways.  I began making my bed because I realized I loved a made bed and not because I felt a need to PROVE THAT I WASN’T A FAILURE OF A HOUSEKEEPER.  Then I bought bedding that I loved and then I bought THE GOOD laundry detergent so my sheets smelled amazing.  I bought new underwear and realized with an ache that I hadn’t bought new underwear in SEVEN YEARS.  I bought dishsoap that reminded me each day of my grandma.  I threw out all 12 of my ragged bath towels and bought just 4 new ones.  Life organically began to simplify as love permeated the surfaces of my soul and home.  I kept a bouquet of fresh flowers on my piano and every day I woke up to a flood of dove-like messages: sweet-smelling sheets, homemade soap in the shower, a thick towel, underwear that fit right, fresh flowers… my breakfasts began looking brighter and my meals shifted from a place fraught with worry to a place filled with loving nourishment.  I went for daily walks and listened to the birds.  I took up a daily meditation practice where I began to deepen my blossoming relationship with God.


Was my house clean?  Some days.  And some days not.

But the important thing is this: my soul was in better shape.

As I finished one of my presentations (I gave the class six times over to rotating groups), one of my friends in the stake raised her hand and said, “Now that you’ve been through all that and have come out the other side… what now?  I mean, what do you think is going to happen NOW?”  I laughed nervously and told her I didn’t know.  The last vibe I’d ever want to put off is that I am done learning, that I’ve got things figured out.  I am now and forevermore a novice to this world, even to my own self.


As I gave my mini-class to the sisters in my stake, I encouraged them to flesh out the heavenly doves in their own lives and strive to drown out the fiery darts with a flood of heavenly doves.

I told them about a statue Russia donated to our country as a token of peace… it represents a scripture in the Bible referencing beating swords (weapons of war) into ploughshares (tools of the harvest).  With Christ, I’ve been able to take the fiery darts in my life and turn them into tools of positivity.

I keep a picture of this statue in my meditation space.


I went home feeling raw with vulnerability, surrendering to God my presentation and how others might perceive me.  I went to my son’s basketball game. I held hands with my husband.  We watched a movie as a family and slept in before church the next day.  After napping in the afternoon and visiting with family in the evening, I changed into my PJs.

And that’s when I found the lump.



Yes We Can, Sir.

What came first, the cancer or the mammogram?  For me, it was just like the movies -though real life rarely ever is.  I found a lump on Sunday, March 11th, as I was getting ready for bed.  Normally the embodiment of anxiety, I felt relatively calm because over the course of my 32 years, I’ve learned that things rarely turn out like they do in the movies.

“Probably a cyst of some kind,” I remarked to my husband, “I’ll call the doctor in the morning.”  And I did.  I was scheduled for Thursday to come in for an exam, and I waited without much anticipation.  It wasn’t cancer, it couldn’t be.  I have no family history of it and buhsides, I have spent so much of my life living in ways that steer me clear of The Cancer Path.  No smoking ever, no drinking ever, no drug use ever.  I cut out gluten and significantly reduced the amount of inflammation in my body.  I meditate daily and was smack dab in the middle of a yoga program.  I hadn’t worn deodorant in 3 years -I’m very fortunate to either not have a huge sweat problem or to have family too polite to mention it.  I eat good food.  I breathe a lot of solid country air.  I laugh.  I’m not lonely.  I have a good attitude and a huge support circle.  Everything points to NOT CANCER.

Everything, that is, except the medical tests.

The doctor confirmed my lump and sent me in for my first mammogram.

“And a follow-up ultrasound, just in case. They might kick you loose after the mammogram, but we always block out time for an ultrasound, again, just in case.”  The mammogram was surprisingly more fascinating than painful.  The images that lit up the screen were mesmerizing, a glowing web of perfectly positioned ducts and nodes: my own personal galaxy.  I waited for the radiologist to look over my images and answered a timely text from my best friend.  Danny sat in the waiting room, not able to come back on account of the privacy of other patients.  I waited for them to kick me loose, like the doctor said.


“Alicia, we’re going to need you back for an ultrasound,” Maggie said.  Maggie is the ultrasound tech and a very lovely person.  I struck up conversation with her, hoping to ease my anxiety and increase my curiosity over the whole situation.

“Is that my lump?” I gazed at the screen.

“Here, at the 9 o’clock position,” she pointed.  We talked about kids and the origin of our names, and then the radiologist came in for a peek.  He nudged the ultrasound wand around my chest and took a deep breath.

“This lump looks suspicious,” he said, “So we’d like to order a biopsy.”

“How soon can I get that?” my voice squeaked out, anxiety again overtaking curiosity.

“Next week sometime,” he washed his hands, “They’re real quick about getting people in.”  Maggie put her wand away but watched me carefully.  She led me back to my dressing room to change and gently called through the accordian dividing door.

“You come tomorrow.  I blocked off my 10 o’clock time slot.  Tell them at the desk.”

The front desk wasn’t thrilled about the scheduling, but they powered through and 24 hours later I was back in the waiting room.  I’d cried most of the drive over and asked God what I was supposed to learn from all of this.

Endurance was the quick and clear response.

Well, damn.

This time, Danny was able to go back with me.  It all felt surreal.  Didn’t OTHER people get biopsies?  Older people who ate more gluten and had a lifetime of sporting aluminum-laced deodorant behind them?

The doctor put a needle into my lump and punched a loud button that released a sort of claw at the end.  It scooped up some of the lump and he brought it out and put it into a prepared cup.  After six rounds of this, I was bandaged up and released back into the wild.  My lump sample was carried carefully to pathology while I tried to wrap my mind around what had just happened.  After my mammogram, Danny and I had gone out for sushi -something we’d planned on as a sort of celebration after enduring my first mammogram.  But as we sat close together in a corner booth with Asian-themed pillows cushioning our backs, we neither of us felt like celebrating or even talking.  Our arms touched -he’s handily left-handed, so this has been working in our favor for 14 years.  I sit on the right, he sits on the left.  We had our phones out and stared blankly at them while absorbing the comforting warmth of each other.  Our menus sat untouched in front of us.

“Made any decisions yet?” Our waiter appeared at the table.  We both slowly lifted our heads and stared at him as if he’d spoken to us in perfect Japanese though he was obviously of Northern European descent.  And just a poor college kid.  We shook our heads.  As he walked away, I thought of all the times I’d judged folks for zoning out on their phones instead of looking at each other and connecting.  But all that washed away in that moment as I realized maybe some people aren’t capable of connecting because maybe a doctor had just said nasty words to them like, “suspicious” and “biopsy.”

“Can I possibly get a menu that doesn’t just say ‘suspicious’ all over it?” I sighed over my menu.  Danny chuckled and between the both of us, we mustered just enough focus to order our lunch.


“So silly,” I shook my head, “It’s not like it’s actually cancer.”

The internet confirmed my opinion -70% of all breast biopsies are not cancer.  So I went cautiously, merrily on my way and did my best to focus on the Easter weekend ahead of me, praising Maggie the Ultrasound Goddess all-the-while for getting me in as fast as possible and relieving me of that burden at least.

Now all we had to do was wait.