More on Trauma

Dear babies,

How can I explain briefly what it took years to learn about trauma? It’s so important to understand the layers. There are so many layers. When you peel back one, you think you’re done, but you’re not. Honestly, I don’t know if there is an end, but peeling off each layer is like taking off a sweatshirt on an afternoon you weren’t expecting to be so warm. That moment of cool air, feeling slightly better.

The good of trauma is it prepares you for your next trauma. It’s like, I’ve done this before, maybe/probably I can do it again. The bad is the familiarity of it pulls you back to your past trauma (PTSD).

It took me a second to realize how much I am mourning during a worldwide pandemic. Mourning comes in layers too. I could talk about the many complicated feelings but I want to talk about just one. I am literally trying to stall as I write this, because it’s hard to face, but here we go.

In the capital T Trauma I’ve had in my life I’ve had to face something very hard for me. And that’s the temporary loss of myself, or rather, how I define myself.

I put my worth in being a person who is passionate, vibrant, and an instigator. Someone empathetic who connects with and inspires people. Someone who is strong and brave. Someone with endless ideas and creativity. Someone who never stops making jokes. Someone who can trust people.

But when I’m in survival mode I am not those things. It turns into distrust, neediness, lack of motivation, physical illness, apathy, and, because I can see it happening, it makes me feel broken. It makes me feel less-than. It makes me feel like a failure. Because if I don’t have myself what do I have?

One of my favorite scriptures (and songs) that comes to mind is from Ecclesiastes (and the Byrds):

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven. A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted. A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up. A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing. A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away. A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak. A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

I have been very lucky in my life and have not had many things that rocked my world. But when they happen, my world is very much rocked. And the pain lasts. But we don’t get to go through life without these seasons of hardship. How would that be fair when everyone who has come before us has? My grandparents lived through so much. My grandma’s family were immigrants, she was abandoned with three kids, my grandpa served in the war, worked hard his whole life. My other grandma lost her husband too soon. Hardship is not unique to our generation, or any generation. It won’t be unique to yours either.

I think we could learn a lot from nature and the seasons. Animals hibernate, plants go dormant, and the come back from that more glorious than ever. We wouldn’t have the excitement of Spring without the lack of color of Winter.

There’s the whole butterfly thing too, are any of us mad that they spend time in a cocoon? No, I don’t even think about it, I just think about how beautiful they are as butterflies. We don’t question the processes of nature but we are always questioning ourselves. We are organic matter, we’re part of nature, not exempt from it.

A wise woman and physical therapist told me, “You can’t heal in survival mode.” They are two different modes. Many of us are in a different mode right now. Our culture asks too much and values productivity too much. We are perfectionists, whether the pressure comes from our culture, our workplace, our family, ourselves, or somewhere else. It’s there.

My heart is broken into a million pieces right now. It’s broken for the world, our country, my community, my industry, my family and friends, and myself. In small and big ways we’ve lost the things that matter most to us.

In the middle of a pandemic are everyday complications and sadness too. And lots and lots of invalidation. I’m already feeling like a lamer version of myself and then have to go through rounds of people/institutions invalidating my feelings. My life is very good, I am very lucky, but I am still a human with feelings.

So back to the song (scripture). I think a time to dance and a time to mourn can be just minutes from each other. I passionately performed my five-minute version of Little Shop of Horrors for my Instagram followers and collapsed on my bed after. I’ve made jokes online, while crying behind the screen. Our season doesn’t have to be month after month of mourning, it’s sprinkled in. There are quiet moments of calm and brilliance and inspiration during the storm, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t still a storm raging.

So like some of the memes going around say, don’t expect yourself to be amazingly brilliant all the time. It wouldn’t make you human.

But we have to hope. Whether you are religious or just someone who has seen Hunger Games, you know how hope is the key. Today. in a General Conference address. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said, “We can hope, we should hope, even when facing the most insurmountable odds.” “Hope, it is the only thing stronger than fear.” -Bad Guy in Hunger Games.

There are lots of ways to have hope, but it still isn’t easy. One I like is to develop our individual strengths (key word here being our–not just trying to do what everyone else is). We’re always trying to eliminate our weaknesses, but I think we should take time to lean into our strengths. It’s empowering to think about what you can do rather than what you can’t.

And if you can’t feel it now, try to summon trust and hope that there will be time that you will feel yourself again. My hope comes from my faith in Jesus Christ and his Atonement (Happy Palm Sunday). And it also comes from the goodness I see in people and the kindness they extend toward me. It comes from the connection I feel to God and the earth when I’m in nature. From the power I know I have in myself to do good. It comes from the love I feel for people and animals even when they bug me. It comes from the healing I’ve seen in my life and others, both physically and emotionally when it doesn’t seem possible.

There were times I felt broken beyond repair, and they still happen, but I know there are good days, good minutes, too. But we don’t get to hoard only perfect memories. Stop being a hoarder. And go watch Inside Out on Disney+.


Dear Babies,

As you grow up the search for romantic love is going to be very appealing. I get it. It’s all over in movies and television and Valentine’s Day cards. Starting in about seventh grade, I “had a crush on every boy.” The butterflies in the stomach are fun and so are sparkly eyes and first dates and “I like you”s. However, there’s a lot of investment in someone that’s going to be gone from your life in a matter of months.

Cultivate friendships because these are some of the best, most selfless relationships. They want nothing more than to be your friend. They want to be with no sense of obligation. They choose you over and over even after they know what a weirdo you are.

Cultivate friendships because your friends are the ones to pick up the pieces when your romantic hopes don’t pan out.

Cultivate friendships because it’s good to build relationships with people without expecting anything in return.

If you’re always chasing after love interests you’re going to miss all the wonderful people who are around you and ready to enrich your life. Let them in. Be good to them. Cherish them. If you do this you’ll never be lonely.



Dear Children,

It’s ok to be a polite dissenter. In fact, please, PLEASE, be a polite dissenter. I never realized that until this year of my life, actually.

I always assumed that if I deeply respected or loved someone I should obviously align myself to their views, tastes, politics, world-view, favorite Spice Girl, etc. Turns out, you can still be a friend to someone and a decent human being and still be a free-thinker.

I urge you to search your feelings, straight-up Darth Vader style, and ask yourself why some things might not be sitting right with you. Sometimes, sure, it could be pride; resisting something that is “right” or “true” simply because you’ve chosen it or it’s all you’ve ever known. But also, remember that quite often if it smells like a duck, quacks like a duck, eats your stale Wendy’s fries like a duck, then it’s probably a duck.

In recent years, if I find that popular opinion on an issue nags at me, I do my best to investigate until I’ve gotten to the very bottom of it, and often I will find that popular opinion is wrong and then I investigate why. Sometimes it’s flat-out wrong. Maybe it’s the empath in me (and oh boy, am I) but I find that life’s grey areas seem to draw me in, as I’m constantly trying to avoid the outrage of both sides, trying to get to the gooey center; the why.

I think for me it always comes down to knowing in my heart that God loves us all and doesn’t have a team. Sure, He wants evil to lose in the end, and would prefer it if we all weren’t doing evil things, but deep down in His heart, He just wants us, loves us and wants us to be good, good people. I assume this about God because it has been true of me as a mother, and seems to be true of my parents, and their parents, and their parents, forever and ever, amen.

Basically, assume that about everyone, assume that about God, assume that about the person who is aggravating the snot out of you with their ridiculous and sometimes even hate-filled social media posts. By the way, is there still social media where you are? If the apocalypse has already arrived and there is peace on earth, and the lamb and the lion are lying down together without any ire, please disregard.

I love you,

(Courtney Morrill)

Dear Daughter,

I can’t wait until you’re old enough to watch my favorite comedies with you. Some of my favorite memories are watching things my parents love with them. I’m sure I’ll annoyingly quote them as we’re watching and ruin the delivery of the actors for you.

I also hope you’ll share your favorite things with me. It’s okay if it’s too inappropriate. I made my mom watch Life of the Party with me and she was like, “That’s kind of inappropriate” after, but she also laughed while we were watching it. As moms we have to say stuff like that just so we seem like good moms. But that was one of my favorite moments with my mom. I think laughing with people is the best. I hope your life is full of laughter and I’ll do my best to make sure it is. We have to cry sometimes too, but it’s best to laugh as much as you can.

I’ll try to not show you too much inappropriate stuff before you’re ready. I hope you stay young and innocent as long as possible. I hope for a while we watch things and the jokes go over your head. I hope you don’t learn too many weird things from the kids at school. Just remember they’re probably idiots who don’t actually know what they’re talking about.

You can ask me about anything. Please do. It’ll be weird, but better if you hear stuff from me. My mom was a nurse and I learned way too much about my body from her, but I still wish I had asked more questions. I hope we have the kind of relationship where we can ask each other anything.

Dear Daughter,

If you inherit even part of my brain you’re going to be obsessed with boys. My apologies in advance. I fall for them so easily. It’s embarrassing. Almost as embarrassing as the fact I never spell embarrassing right the first time. There are two R’s. Back to boys. Good gosh. They’ll get you with their good smell or their deep voice or their oh-so-casual but heart melting half-smiles. You know those many things that make the biology kick in and say, this person will give you strong offspring, go to them. 

And while I want to say, avoid boys, they’re trouble. They’re also really great. For kissing or for friendship, they can really be quite useful. There have been some very, very good men in my life from the very beginning. Your grandpa, of course, because, as he always told me, he’s been the only boy I can count on. But also the boys that have come and gone in my life have shaped me into who I am and provided me with some great stories.

Honestly, baby, at this point, I’m not sure you’ll even have a father. I’m not doing so well on the whole finding and keeping a man thing. I’ve made some poor choices in men and I’ve also not been able to hold onto some good choices. And some were a combination of both those things.

Every relationship with a boy is a lesson be it romantic, platonic, or a combination of both. Thanks to boys I’ve learned a lot of things. No fewer than three boys tried to teach me how to drive a stick-shift. Boys have held me when I cried, even when I didn’t want them to know I was crying. Boys have helped me fix things around the house. Helped me buy a car. Boys have helped me make movies and write musicals.

At some point in your life, you’ll probably lose all faith in men. Your friends will tell you of things that happen to them or you’ll hear things on the news. You’ll have your own experiences. But I promise they aren’t all bad. I promise you that you won’t regret loving them. I promise that for everyone that hurts you or hurts the people around you, there are so many good ones. 

Oh, Baby,

I hope you never get assaulted. And if you do, I hope people believe you. This is something I can’t protect you against, and I wish I could. I’m going to teach you to be strong and confident, but if something happens it’s not because you weren’t strong enough or confident enough. And if people don’t believe you, it’s not because you aren’t eloquent, it’s not because you aren’t telling the truth. It’s because sometimes people don’t believe things that feel too hard to believe. It’s hard to believe that people who are good can also do bad things. But I’ll believe you. And if for some reason I don’t, remind me that I promised to always believe you.