Friday, January 02, 2009

Hoping To Find Paradise Even at Home

I opened my google reader just now and I have 308 blog posts to read.

Luckily for me, my new year's resolution involves blog curbing. Or cutting. Doesn't that mean the same thing? Huh. Either way, it's gotta slooooow down.

The last few weeks, for me, have been good. Really good. Soul-searching-gut-wrenching-going-dark kind of good. I apologize to all of those who have tried to reach me via cell phone (I brought it with me to CA, but I never charged it there), email (I checked it a couple of times, but never replied), facebook (I updated my status once in a while), or blogging (haven't read one blog post since Dec. 23rd). I went completely dark and I believe part of going dark is informing nobody of going dark. I didn't do it intentionally, although now that I'm thinking about it, I honestly believe my subconscious knew exactly what it was doing. My subconscious knows me really, really well.

After hosting Christmas Eve (pictures to come later), it was wonderful to pack everything up and take our time driving to CA. I'll give you the synopsis later (for posterity), but suffice it to say our time there was heaven. I spent the majority of my time being a mother (figures, eh?), but the rest of it was spent in quiet contemplation on my life. I enjoyed being outdoors (hiking, walking, porch-sitting in 75 degree weather!) and reading. I read Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, and although I honestly cannot recommend this book to any of my family/friends with high morals about sexuality (I really can't), I would be lying if I said I didn't devour it. I loved it. Which is strange to admit, actually...
I had heard mixed reviews about this book, but when my SIL gave it to me for Christmas, I knew I had to read it. And so I did. I started Monday and finished Wednesday.
As I read it, I did so with an open mind. The skeptic in me was wary; wasn't this just another book about a person's journey to find the "meaning of life?" I have read many memoirs by people who have been on personal spiritual journeys, and each one tended to run/sound the same--the end result, anyway. It goes like this: The author's life stinks; they are in despair. They go looking for happiness/God. They find it after a series of intense soul-searching, more stinky life experiences, and/or both. See? They are all similar.
But maybe that's the point.
For me, I already know the meaning of life. I do! I honestly don't feel the need for a search to find God, because I talk to Him everyday. I know where to find Him. I try to do His will, too. So, reading these books have never given me more than a short pause: "Huh. I'm glad they figured out how to find God and how to be happy in their life."
This is exactly what gave me pause this time with this book. Except! I have truth, right? I have knowledge and experience which has taught me this truth, and I'm still not happy.
I am. Not happy.

Why is this? I believe it has nothing to do with my knowledge or experiences with spiritual matters. I think it has everything to do with my brain and emotions and how I have learned to respond to everything around me. Oh, sure, this will take a lot of therapy (and meds?) to fix it and work it all out, but I'm a willing subject. In fact, I think this is what drew me to this book. The author found herself in the depths of despair, and so she decided to do something about it. She worked hard for it. In the end, she found happiness (and so the cycle goes). But for some reason, this book was different for me than all the rest. Something about it was personal. I like to think it was because my personality was similar to hers (talkative, feels deeply, loves people, loves travel, has guilt, latches onto things/people, needs words of affirmation, etc.), but also because I think I was finally in a place where reading about somebody else's experiences without rejecting them outright ("Well, she just needs the missionaries!") gave me a chance to see myself (and the world?) more objectively. I could take bits and pieces of her experience and see how it could apply to me (without latching onto just her way of thinking).
See, I'm not saying that her path to happiness would ever be my path to happiness. But her words opened my mind to some questions I had been avoiding:
1. When, in my past, have I been the happiest?
2. When, in my past, have I been the most depressed?
3. What are my expectations about my life?
4. Where do I want to see myself in 20 years?
5. What is causing my grief? Besides a chemical imbalance?

Here are the answers:
1. Being sealed to Brandon at our wedding. Giving birth to our children. Laughing with the kids. Being outdoors. Traveling. Reading. Listening to great music. Performing. Being with friends.
2. When I have lost someone I loved. When I feel overwhelmed with responsibility or guilt. When I fight against the Holy Ghost. When my children/Brandon drive me insane.
3. I want to be HAPPY. I want to raise my kids, go back to school, publish books, travel with my husband, and have contentment.
4. I want to be traveling, writing, and enjoying grandchildren.
5. Fear. Sense of entitlement. Giving up. Thrusting my own expectations upon other people.

The answers I received actually surprised me. In fact, if I'm going to be completely honest here, the relief I felt at the answers to my first question was immense. I cannot even begin to describe to you how afraid I was that my greatest happiness would be found doing things alone. In no way do I want to diminish a woman's sense of hopelessness, but I was relieved I didn't want to run away from my husband. Or my children. The desire to be his wife and their mother runs deep and is an intricate part of who I am and who I want to be.
It is very tempting-- even now-- to want to leave my life. Being in California without any solid schedule or responsibility (since I was dark, remember?) was like the food of the gods. I saw myself, for the first time in years, completely void of stress. My life here in Utah was gone for a time; I was completely focused on the present! I had no deadlines, and because of it, I had no reason for procrastination. Getting my kids dressed in the morning so we could enjoy the day was fun! Helping clean up or cook meals wasn't a burden; taking the time to read a book outdoors didn't feel self-indulgent.
It was paradise, man. Pure paradise.

Ah, but there's the rub, dear reader. I'm home now. I can't pretend I don't have responsibility or deadlines. I now have to think about piano lessons, church callings, carpool, dance class, therapy sessions, getting ready for London, etc. I have less than a week to accomplish what I usually do in a month. Even as I type this, I feel the stress creeping in. I'm not worried about getting everything done --I know I can do it. What I'm worried about is not enjoying it; freaking out and giving up because it seems impossible. I'm afraid I will sit in front of this computer and catch up on everybody's lives instead of focusing on my own. All 310 posts of it (2 more posts were just added!).
Hey! We've come full circle. That's a sign of a good essay, right? End with the beginning in mind? Or begin with the ending in mind? Something like that. Anyway, dear reader, if I go dark again for a while, it isn't because I don't need this blog. It isn't because I have suddenly stopped loving my friends, and it definitely isn't because I don't enjoy the blogging world...I guess I just need to figure this all out. I need some time. I need to process what I have learned about myself this last week and I need to focus on me for a little bit. Selfish? Totally. But the irony here is when I ignore all and focus on me for a time, it's my kids that get the reward. And by golly, they deserve it.
Ooh! Now I sound like a broken record. I swear I've said "my kids need me to be healthy" five gazillion times. Figures. But hey, failing a thousand times but still trying equates some kind of success. It's the giving up part I can't do. Fail and try. Fail and try. One of these days, I'll totally suceed.

Happy New Year, dear reader! Here's hoping 2009 rocks the freakin' world...


Cheryl said...

Oh, and I have to mention that there is some language in the book, too --the swearing wasn't in excess, but there were no qualms by the author in using it "as needed." So, for that and the sex, that's why I can't (in good conscience) recommend the book. Even though I personally loved it.
Yeah, I know. Makes no sense, but it is what it is...

Amanda D said...

Take the time you need, Cheryl. We'll still be here when you decide you can devote a little more time to this. Good luck on the journey!

I'm glad you had fun in California and I know that 2009 is going to rock the world!

Julie said...

I'm really hoping for a great 2009, too. For me and for you.

I've missed you, but I am so so so glad you've been doing what you've been doing. I always find it interesting that when you come back from a long blogging break, you always seem to have a renewed sense of hope, vision, and direction. It's really neat.

I love you.

Alison Wonderland said...

So glad to see you back, looking forward to seeing you at the end of the month and if you curb the blogging... we'll miss you but I think we all understand.

Annette Lyon said...

Missed you here, too. I love your insights. I should make a list like that for myself.

Michelle Walker said...

Keep on truckin' girl. Depression, is like an infected wound that needs to be lanced opened and cleaned out before it can properly heal. That what you're doing! The pain and self reflection will pay off. You are brave and different. People don't do this. People all around me live life with these "infections" in their lives, but they won't face their demons and change. You are brave. Just remember, all this soul searching may make you feel worse before you feel better, but it's always darkest before the dawn. I love you.

FluffyChicky said...

London trip?! Oh, SOOOOO unfair! I wanna go too! :)

And if a blogging break is what you need, then go for it. I'll just be obsessively checking to see if you have posted something every. single. day. :)

Summer said...

Welcome back! I took an unintentional break as well and it was also good. Let's both keep working on finding blance, I just know someday we'll manage it.

P.S. - I posted a pic of the wedding cake I made for my sister if you want to see it. :)

m_and_m said...

I love you, girl, and am glad you had such a great trip.

You know I am excited for you and the journey you are on. I agree with whoever above said that many people won't face their lives head-on. Hats off to you for your self-awareness and honesty.

Just remember, it's a process. Be patient and kind with yourself. We all love you bunches.

flip flop mama said...

I loved this post. I love your thoughts and feelings. I hope you can work through everything that's going on and we're here for you!

blogging and bliss~ said...

Thanks for your thoughts. I hope things improve for you this year. Your kids definitely need you more than we do! Love your thoughts though so if you have time.... Have a great trip to London.

Anonymous said...

I read the post. Every word. :)

Mother of the Wild Boys said...

I'm speechless. And amazed. You are so insightful. I love you. :)

Steph @ Diapers and Divinity said...

Can I just say that your little fail and try, fail and try cycle seems to be (in my opinion) what life is about. There are many intermittent successes too, and that keeps us willing to try again, despite the fact that the failure to success ratio seems quite high. I could be wrong on this, but I'm convinced that all our little failures and frustrations are still moving us slowly up and up the "smarter, better, and getting it" scale. We tend to focus on the current failure/frustration and fail to see how darn far we've come. Let's figure out how to embrace that overall-picture part, shall we?

(my word verification is "moodest". I think that's how you describe a cow who doesn't flaunt her udders.)

Amber said...

Geez. The rest of us sat around stuffing our faces over the holidays and you come up with THIS masterpiece? Seriously. You figured a lot out and I know it will help you if you use it as your blueprint in life. That, and patriarchal blessings don't hurt. :-)