Friday, September 22, 2017

Mental Ruminations Upon Experience, Mothering Stages (Sort of), Agency, Time, and Earning Wisdom

I used to write about everything that came to my mind, the detailed minutia of my every-day life as a stay-at-home-mother. For years, I did this. At first, I think it was an outlet for my situation --a virtual picket-fence, if you will. I was one of the first in a wave of mommy bloggers that swept the nation in the mid-to-late 2000's, and if I'm honest with myself (and you, dear reader), I think the writing helped save me. Mentally, I mean. I had an instant community of people that loved me (and several that did, in fact, hate me), and I ended up finding some of my greatest friends through that endeavor. 

I was a mom with 3 small children, prayerfully hoping for more. At the peak of my blogging-ness, I was a busy mom of 5, trying to eradicate depression by being over-busy, and learned (quite tragically --well, tragically is an exaggeration, but it felt really epic to me!) that over-busy fed my depression, most fervently. 

It's been a few years, now, when I'm at my healthiest emotionally and mentally, that I find I don't need to blog nearly as much. Blogging communities are almost void, anyway (at least single blogs. Community blogs, themselves, are still going strong). Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have all but destroyed blogging. (Who wants to read an essay when 15 words will do the trick? Especially my long essays?!) Blogs just aren't as popular, anymore. 

It seem appropriate, since I simply don't write as much as I used to, anyway. I thought this was simply due to my lack of interest, but the truth is this: 
1. I don't really have a lot of time
2. I don't really have much to gain from it, anymore

My life is busy, again. I don't feel it is over-busy (I could be wrong, of course), but it is busy. The truth is, I feel busier now, with teenagers down to toddler, than I ever did with 4 kids under the age of 6. And yet, I feel I can handle it better. Perhaps it's just the nature of growing up, too --I mean, honestly, let's be real, 4 kids under 6 yrs old is brutal. BRU. TAL. I don't think I'd ever want to go back... but I think the main reason it was so dang hard was because I was just new to it. Having gained some mothering perspective and experience, I guarantee if I was to go back, I'd do it a bit differently, and probably a whole lot better! Which is kind of only half-true, because if I hadn't gone through that experience, I wouldn't have the knowledge I have now... Right? Isn't that how wisdom is earned? Through the experience of not having it? 

Anyway, time. I am up by 5:30AM and I usually don't fall asleep until after 10:30PM. Not bad, eh? I'm actually getting more sleep now than I did for the past 16 years, dear reader. This is because I don't have a baby and I am not pregnant! It really makes a big difference (I've written about this before? Oh, well, it's still true). But my days are packed. 

From 5:30AM to 8AM I am in getting-kids-ready-for school mode. Then baby girl and I have the day until 3PM, that is also filled with all tiny details it takes to run a household. From 3PM until 10:30PM, I'm running and running. Teaching piano lessons, running kids to lessons, practices, after-school activity pick-ups, dinner, evening activities, homework, and put-them-all-to-bed. Wash, rinse, repeat. Brandon is an imperative part of this equation, of course (he does football pick-up and cooks on my long teaching days and runs errands as needed), and my older kids are really great about being flexible. It all works. 

The biggest difference, though, between this busy and my used-to-be-busy (when I imploded all those years ago) is that I am capable of making choices. 

I am motivated. 
I make choices. 
I own them, too. I don't resent our schedule, or my life. I don't complain (much?) like I used to.

I'm living a very deliberate life, I think, one that I've wanted for a long time. But I think that for so long, I felt that I had to do it on my own and I had to do it perfectly, or else I was a big fat failure --as a mom, as a wife, and as a Christian. It took me years of therapy, books, mentors, and slow learning to realize that I am not supposed to be perfect. I'm not supposed to do it on my own! I've written about this before, but I came to realize that I was practicing the worst kind of pride --the pride that said I don't need Jesus Christ. 

Oh, I professed I needed Him. I claimed it all the time. I believed in Him, I trusted my religion, I prayed, read, I was very active in the church... but I never really trusted Christ. I didn't really believe Him or His gospel. I was believing Satan's lies that I needed to do everything all alone. Remember (I've said this so often), Satan doesn't care how he gets us away from the Atonement of Jesus Christ --he just cares that he gets us away from it. And I had let him. 

How arrogant can one be to assume they didn't need Christ? 

Thankfully, when I finally recognized this, I was able to change course rather quickly. I came to see my mistakes as blessings. I came to realize, like this song teaches, that every trial, every sin, every mistake brings me to my Savior (if I let it) and that is the goal. I could use my mistakes to feel shame, or I could use them to ask for help, lean on Christ, and try again. 

I tell my piano students that my studio is a safe place --I expect them to make mistakes! In fact, I want them to make mistakes. It is through the mistakes that we learn! If my students never made a mistake, then what in the world are they doing needing me? My place is to guide and teach them, but if they're already a perfect piano player, then they don't need me, do they? 

It's the same with Jesus (not that I'm comparing myself to Him! It's just a good metaphor.)

Anyway... where was I? Oh, the over-busy stuff. Yes, I'm deliberate in my choices now, dear reader. I've learned, through all my mistakes, and through all the same things that brought me to a better understanding of my Savior, that agency is probably the biggest mis-used gift we have as humans. 

Being able to make choices, whether they are big (should we move to Kansas?) or small (should I have toast or eggs?) is a gift from God. Agency is everything. The ability to make choices is something we fought for before we ever came here! Knowing this, I now see choices as a great sense of power. How could I not? Choices are power! Having the ability to choose makes me powerful! I can't choose all the consequences for my choices, but when I use my energy to make the best choices, the consequences tend to be pretty great. 

Practicing making deliberate choices has been hard for me, though. Depression made it hard. But overcoming depression? Making choices was a part of the remedy. Practicing motivation. Practicing choosing. Practicing aligning choices with goals. It takes hard work! But it is so powerful when it begins working for you, rather than against you. 

Every once in a while, I totally mess up. I choose to engage in a debate with someone who is willfully misunderstanding me, or I choose to use mean words instead of an improved argument. I choose to eat the cookies, even though I know I really want the apple. I choose to waste time on social media instead of folding the laundry. I choose to say mean things to my husband instead of thanking him for his help. Sometimes, I choose to say awful things to myself, even though I would never speak that way to someone I loved. 

But a lot of the time, I'm able to make good choices, like reading my scriptures, attending Institute, exercising, eating healthy, growing my piano studio, helping a friend, fulfilling my church calling, helping my kids, baking good food, and telling myself that I am awesome (it's true! I am! So are you!). Most of the time, I really do make the best choices. Small choices. Small, important choices that eventually add up to a very beautiful life!

When I fail, though, I know it's not final. I used to think it would be. But now I know it's not, because I have failed a lot. Like... a lot. And I'm still here. And I'm still learning! 

I sometimes think back to when blogging was my life and I used it to connect. I think I was just desperate to find others who found mothering to be as hard as I did and I needed a way to be me outside of mothering, too. I find it ironic that now that I'm deep into the nitty-gritty of all stages of motherhood, I don't find the need to connect outside of my family nearly as much, anymore. Is this because I've finally found my place? I think so.

I know what I need to be happy. I need my music, a semblance of order, my herbal tea, my books, fun, the word of God, friends, and my husband. I need my kids, I need to write, and I need to look at beautiful things. I need days off. I need, every once in a while, to thrive in chaos. And then other times, I need a perfectly clean house. 

With all the time that I don't have, I'm amazed --absolutely amazed --at what can be done in the midst of it all. When I am able to put God first, allow Him to help me, make deliberate choices, and be okay with the consequences, time just... becomes... possible. Don't get me wrong --I still get stressed out from time to time, and I certainly get impatient with people and situations. But I don't feel this overwhelming patterns of drowning. I'm not panicking. I'm... at peace. That's it, really! I'm at peace. I have hope (something depression takes from me) and I have peace that things will be just fine (something anxiety took from me) --notice the difference? I still struggle with the hopelessness far more than the fear... 

Last thoughts: When I see new mothers, the ones with the younger kids, the ones with a lot of little kids, I'm reminded of who I was at that age. I realize that I can't really do very much for them, either. I can be a friend and offer advice; I can listen. But they're going to have to experience life, like I did. They're going to have to navigate the trenches of motherhood and find their identity. Like I did. These women, if they stay close to God, keep an eternal perspective, keep faith in their family, and work hard, will get through it (like I did!). And they will all be the wiser for it. 

I can't give them what experience will give them. So, mostly, I just watch, nod my head, smile, and hope that they don't feel too lost. I hope they know that no matter how much advice I give them, it's no substitute for their own journey. 

Anyway, I'm not sure what the point is of this incredibly long blog post. I'm kind of just rambling about my life. I should probably stop, now! But thanks for reading (if you even got this far! Ha!). 

Look! A meme! 

1 comment:

Anne Marie said...

I always love reading what you have to write. I am SO glad that you are in a peaceful place. It sounds like you have been doing some incredible work.