The valleys of discouragement make more beautiful the peaks of achievement. — President Gordon B. Hinckley, Stand A Little Taller, Eagle Gate (2001)
My dad used to say, “You have to have the bad days in order to appreciate the good ones.”
Life is pretty good for me right now. We are empty nesters, and enjoying our time together. It’s a peaceful, quiet life for us. There are a few frustrating days, but all in all life is good. We are fulfilling lifelong dreams we had begun to think would never come to fruition. I personally appreciate this time because it wasn’t always a quiet existence for us.
We raised four children together, with occasional visits from my stepson. We went through a miscarriage, difficult pregnancies, babies born ill, and childhood illnesses together. One by one, we lost our parents and grieved for them. We went without extras and struggled to pay the bills. We both loved being parents, but it was hard—the hardest thing we’ve ever done.
It seemed there was always some crisis or another. The car needed new tires. Teenagers were involved in car accidents. There was an appendectomy. My family went through three different gall bladder surgeries. I fell down the back stairs at work and broke both my ankles. My husband had two cornea transplants. There was always something broken in the house that needed to be repaired or replaced. Raising children was exasperating at times—but that’s a whole article in itself. What am I talking about?! It’s worth a book—or ten. Every day seemed to bring a new trial and something different to worry about.
Looking back, I honestly don’t know how we did it. Those were joyful, but extremely difficult times. We grow up thinking that being an adult will be so easy and give us all this freedom—and then we become an adult and the story plays out quite different from what we had pictured in our minds as children.
There were countless nights we laid awake talking, and even more nights we were just awake separately worrying. Valleys of discouragement? Oh, yes, I know about those.
I have a group of friends of all ages. Several of them are still in the thick of raising children, and their families are much larger than mine. I have such admiration for these women! They trudge along through all the trials and somehow find great joy in their lives. They don’t know it yet, but their lives will be quiet someday, and they will look back with gratitude for the trials they are facing now. They will appreciate their quiet golden years so much more for having gone through the fire of adversity.
Are our dark days in the valleys of discouragement over? Of course they’re not. As we age and our bodies decay, there is more discouragement to come. We’ll be able to deal with that because we’ve faced adversity before. The valleys of discouragement to come will also be easier because we’ve had this peak of achievement. We are at the top of the mountain looking down both sides. We can look down the side of the mountain we just came from and see all that we accomplished on the path, but we can also look down the other side of the mountain and see the rocky decline ahead.
As I stand at the top of this great lookout tower and observe both sides of my life, I am at peace. When I was young, I used to love to hike in the mountains. I learned quickly that going down the mountain can be tricky unless you have sure footing, but it is always easier than the climb up the mountain. The path down the other side always seems faster, especially if you are sliding on your behind. Making that observation, I’m pretty sure that the end of my life is going to seem much quicker than the beginning.
I’m so very grateful for the valleys of discouragement that I’ve walked through. That seems an odd thing to say, but just as President Hinckley said, those valleys of discouragement have made the peaks of achievement so much sweeter. Life is good. I’m happy. I’m having a good time. I’m doing things I had begun to think were not possible for me. I’m appreciating the person who hiked with me. I’m learning to love him in a whole different way having gone through this great experience with him.
The valley of discouragement that lies ahead of us now is different from previous valleys. While we know that aging will be rough, the top of the next mountain has a much bigger lookout tower. Once we reach the bottom of the valley below, the climb up the next mountain will be the easiest climb we’ve ever made because we will have heavenly help. I can’t wait to see the view at the top!
Tudie Rose is a mother of four and grandmother of ten in Sacramento, California. You can find her on Twitter as @TudieRose. She blogs as Tudie Rose at http://potrackrose.wordpress.com. She has written articles for Familius. You will find a Tudie Rose essay in Lessons from My Parents, Michele Robbins, Familius 2013, at http://www.familius.com/lessons-from-my-parents.