I can't forget to have breakfast today. Yesterday, I forgot to have lunch. For my growing baby, these are not good habits to adopt. For my already obese body, unintentionally cutting a few calories won't hurt me. Or my growing daughter, for that matter. The ultrasound is tomorrow and I pray they will only find good things.
Sickness is finally leaving our home; I spent the weekend bedridden with a virus that threatened all of my mental faculties. It attached itself to others, and my husband slept most of yesterday fighting it off. I cannot hear out of my left ear --I'm hoping to get rid of the blockage before it becomes an infection. I still can't breathe well, but asthma does that to a person, regardless of illness.
Yesterday, after school, I was reminded again about the difficulty of managing a large family. Each one needs me and I only have one voice and two hands. It's a delicate dance. I answered questions while reading to the Kindergartner and I signed forms as I reminded others of math worksheets. In my weakened state, I gave out chore assignments and felt only a flicker of guilt when dinner was delivered pizza.
I read a lot. All day long, I'm reading novels for me, children's books for them, articles in the news, articles on parenting, I grab a speech or talk from Prophets and Apostles and listen as I make meals or clean rooms. Most of what I read is good. I am careful to weed out the vulgar, the depressing, the sensational, the gossip, or the overly-political. I search for knowledge, but only truth. When I read opinions, I am open to their thoughts, and as I attempt to refrain from criticizing, I find myself thinking, "this has all been said before. And it will be said again." (insert laugh, here)
I am months behind on organization and deep-cleaning. The feral monster, Nesting, is clawing at the doors and will be let in soon for more than just a temporary afternoon. Frustration fills me as I rest, trying to recover from my illness, but I know I need patience.
Ha! Patience! That ever-present need and teacher, the one who wraps me and folds me into a suffocating cocoon, gently trying to remind me that no matter how much I struggle, the answers won't come right away, the decisions to be made won't happen overnight, and God, although aware of every fiber of my soul, won't just give the truth to me without effort on my part. I attempt to relax against the natural woman who is pounding at the door, begging to let things be easier, to let life be less exhausting, to have the answers and joy and everything just finally given to her on a beautiful plate of English bone china. And even as my natural woman knocks and knocks and pounds and pounds, there is that spark of illumination that tells me, "If you would calm down, you might find what you are looking for."
My kids yell and fight and I know it is a result of my yelling and fighting. Where do they learn these words? These phrases? These horrible sentences uttered in anger and frustration and impatience? Ah, that would be me. I see memes and quotes and articles on the necessity of being a good example to children. I read about successful mothers who have eradicated all yelling and spanking and have happier children and homes. As I read them I feel the tug of depression and despair because I try their methods and I fail. One. Right. After. The. Other. Failure is a constant in my life. I hear, "apply the Atonement of Christ!" and I try. I try. I pray and I give and I attempt silence and soft speech and I do my best. And then I fail again. And again. Who are these women who eradicate sin so easily and access the Atonement as if it were an item they could pick up and examine with all-seeing eyes?
I am reminded of faith. Faith is my rock and my anchor, and faith has steadied me through all of these years of failure and pain. I have faith in Christ, I have faith in His love for me. I have faith that patience and perfection will come; but I worry that my faith in the process wavers constantly. Do I have enough faith to see it through? To get through this rough time? To conquer the demons that would so easily beset me and overcome me with their darkness and evil glee?
There is always something to conquer and to overcome. As I age, I feel I am adding to the list more and more. Time is not my friend, and with each passing year, I feel the urgency to adjust my sail and get back on course. Physical health, mental health, emotional health, spiritual health... each one is needed, each one is slightly ignored in order to placate another; balance is a constant struggle. In some ways, a battle.
I remember once, last year, before conceiving the baby (another act of faith), wondering what it would feel like to let the physical go. To give up. To decide that obesity was for me. For two seconds, I felt relief, and then after those seconds were over, I realized it was not an option. To continue on the path of physical self-destruction I had created for myself was to end up more afraid, more sick, more immobile, more incapable of doing all of the things that need to be done --as a mother, as a wife, as Cheryl. I have climbed mountains! I have swam in oceans! I have hiked through valleys and deserts and forests! I have carried children in my womb and on my back. I have nursed their stomachs and their souls. My body needs to be in a state of health so I can carry my grandchildren. So I can hike mountains with my husband. So I can swim in oceans until I am weathered and white. [But let's go back to those two seconds when I felt relief. In those seconds, I also learned something great about myself: I have moved past the myth that my worth is dictated by my appearance and my size. I am worthy of joy, intimacy, love, friendship, kindness, respect, admiration, and comfort, no matter my physical appearance.]
The truth is, I do not have to run marathons or win races or model or have perfect skin in order to have a healthy body capable of what I desire. I only need to put in some effort.
And there's the operative word again. Effort. Diligence. Try. Work. Elbow grease. Yes, Grace covers what I cannot accomplish --but that doesn't mean I get to sit around and do nothing. Learn nothing. Experience nothing. I still need to create effort, for how else can I learn?
Baby steps, dear reader. I have been an optimist all of my life. The last few years have threatened to derail that part of my personality and I refuse to give it up. I face big struggles, many which I make public, some which I do not. All together, it means life is not simple, nor was it meant to be. But I do know one thing: even as I struggle with my understanding of the Atonement and even though I keep banging against these crosses I have been asked to carry, I have my faith. And my faith is strong. And my faith has always seen me through. Fear and Fools may mock, but they will learn: Faith in Christ is the only thing that will get me through all of this, through my life, through the pain. And yes, sometimes He says, "take some asthma and depression meds, woman!" and so I do. Sometimes He says, "give up your outside desires and focus on your family" and so I do. And sometimes, He even says, "you need to carry this for a while. But I'll be next to you the whole time." I know this, that no matter what comes my way, no matter what new things I'm asked to face, He is always there for me and only a sigh away. He is only a step between despair and joy.
And I love Him for it all.