Emotional Health

Things I Want Today

I have been so encouraged to have so many people respond in various ways to my recent posts. I am saddened that so many of my sweet friends share these feelings of frustration, of failure, of purposelessness. But at the same time, I am encouraged by the knowledge that I am not alone and that none of you are alone. It’s so much scarier when I think that everyone else has it all figured out and I am the only one who’s missed it. I may not know exactly what the reason for all of this is, but it seems pretty clear that if so many of us experience this at some time in our lives, there must be something we are supposed to learn through the process.

A few weeks ago I had a phone conversation with my mom where I despairingly told her, “I don’t like where I am and what I am doing with my life right now, but honestly, there’s nothing else that I specifically want to do either. I can think of plenty of things I wouldn’t mind doing, but not a single one that really excites me.”

She said to me, “You’ve told yourself no so many times and you have tired yourself out so much that you’ve stopped dreaming altogether.” Astute observation, Mother. Touche.

On one level, I am very much a dreamer. At least, I’ve always had  a vibrant imagination. Watching the summer Olympics when I was 8 or so, I was convinced I would become an Olympic gymnast. I took tumbling lessons. I even competed in tumbling meets. I remember the meet where I finally took home the gold. I stood alone on the platform, medal hanging proundly around my neck, my purple leotard showing off my muscular physique.  If only I’d known, the reason I was standing there alone was because I had been the only tumbler competing in my divison, my purple leotard made me look like a giant grape, and the only part of my physique that was being shown off was a little too much of my butt as the leotard worked it’s way farther and farther up it. Same song different verse with being an actress, Miss America, a singer, Anne of Green Gables, a soccer player, poet, princess, even (really) a marine biologist.

Despite the fact that my pursuit of most of these ambitions ended poorly, I was never discouraged from moving on to the next thing. As I grew up however, another side of me developed, a side that is intensely practical. A side that says, “You can’t.” Oddly enough, it doesn’t apply to other people, only to myself. If my husband or a friend suggests that they want to visit Mars or make a movie or own an elephant my response is genuinely, “You should totally do that!” But if I want to do anything that seems the least bit impractical, my response is, “I can’t.” I want to travel Europe, but I can’t. I want to write a novel, but I can’t. I want to learn to bake like a pastry chef, but I can’t. Too much time, too much money, I’m not talented enough, there are more important things for me to do, I’m to selfish…and on and on and on.

At the end of the conversation with my mom she gave me some advice. “When you think of things that you like or want, even just things you want for today, write them down. Then practice saying yes to things you can say yes to.” Although we had that conversation several weeks ago, I haven’t actually done that, but I have been thinking about it and I’ve been thinking about where it’s coming from.

My mother is probably the most selfless person I have ever known, in spite of having lived a fairly difficult life. She was married at 18 and had my brother days before she turned 20. She has been a mother for all of her adult life, and an amazing one at that. She gave up many dreams in order to give us ours. And now, for the first time in her adult life, she is finding the freedom to pursue her own. Instead of continuing to tell herself all the things she can’t do, she has started to say, “Why not?” and it has opened up the world for her. This spring, she started taking classes at the local communtiy college, working towards getting her Bachelor’s degree. She’s started talking about a Master’s in Social Work somewehre down the line. I admire her so much and am so excited for all that she’s discovering.

So, I say all of that to say…maybe she has a point. Maybe I should learn to enjoy and to cherish all that is and can be “yes” in my life instead of wallowing in what is “no.” Or worse yet, speaking no where it doesn’t even need to be spoken. So…these are things I want today:

To cuddle with my husband

To take a hot bath while reading a book

A new nightgown–Nightgowns make me feel pretty.

To watch Anastasia

Soup bowls for the soup I’m making for dinner

So…I bought 4 cheap soup bowls from Target. When I get home from work I plan to spend at least 30 minutes sitting on the couch talking to Jonathan and cuddling with him. Before I go to sleep tonight I am going to take a bath. I am going to make a plan to watch Anastasia (rented from the library) in the next few days. And tomorrow I am shopping for a (cheap!) nightgown that makes me feel pretty.

Your turn to make a list. Things you want today. Please share. 🙂

Burn Out

I think I have finally reached the point of total and complete burnout as far as my job is concerned. After months of struggling with a sense of purpose in what I’m doing and some frustration with the monotony of it, I’ve finally reached a point where even the weekends aren’t enough recuperation and nothing seems to encourage me. While I genuinely do love the kids I am with, I am tired all of the time and I am bored out of my mind. I am completely out of patience and feel that I cannot answer one more question. Except for naptime in the afternoon, I spend 7-8 hours a day entertaining and verbally responding to a preschooler and a toddler and half of that is correcting, cajoling, convincing, rebuking, or coming up with creative and interesting things for them to do. I’m worn out. I’m committed to this job until the end of May. Intellectually, I know that’s not forever. But right now, it feels like forever. And every morning when my alarm goes off everything in me screams, “NO!”

Jonathan and I continue to wait for good news from the schools he’s applied to, but so far there hasn’t been any. We’ve begun to discuss where we’ll go and what we’ll do if school isn’t on the table for next year. It’s somewhat exciting to think about moving somewhere new based on nothing more than an interest in the location, but it can also be overwhelming and frightening. Mostly though I am frustrated and feel defeated. I am so tremendously proud of my husband for applying to these programs that are highly selective and are evaluating your creative work which is often so deeply personal. I think he is so brave for pursuing something like this and it took a lot for him to even allow himself to pursue it simply because he felt it was impractical. I am frustrated with God because I don’t understand why he would have given him this dream and given him the courage to pursue it if it isn’t even going to work out.  And I feel completely at a loss as to how to encourage him in the midst of this. I don’t know how to make him believe that whatever the outcome, he is tremendously talented and gifted and that I respect and admire what he’s done so much. Just saying the words doesn’t seem to be enough.

I also had a tremendously selfish conversation with my husband in the midst of all of this where I whined about not being seen as a writer or taken seriously for my writing. It was juvenile and pathetic and the truth remains that I have not produced anything new creatively in almost a year. This is my own fault. No one sees me as a writer because, well, I don’t write.

So friends, this isn’t a witty, endearing, or uplifting blog post, but it is an honest post. I feel like I am failing. I am failing as a nanny. I am failing at being an encouraging, supportive wife. I am failing as a writer. I feel empty. Like I have nothing left to give. But this one promise keeps echoing through my mind. A voice that says, “My grace is sufficient for you. My strength is made perfect in your weakness.”

Wake-up Call

One of our kittens, Bart,  is developing a very nasty habit of sitting outside our bedroom door at 6 am and howling while clawing the carpet to bits in an attempt to get us to wake up and come out or at least let him into the bedroom. The first time he did this was last Saturday morning, our greatly-anticipated chance to sleep in. Not only was he loud and obnoxious, but I obviously didn’t want him tearing up the carpet, so my husband got up and put him into the bathroom and closed the door. Our apartment is very small and the bathroom door is directly across a narrow hallway from our bedroom door. Bart then began to hurl his body repeatedly against the bathroom door, making more noise than he had been before. After a few minutes of that we had to let him out of the bathroom where he became so emotionally distraught that he threw up on the carpet.  Needless to say, we did not get to sleep in. In fact, Bart’s ridiculous behavior inexplicably launched me into a complete emotional meltdown.

I found myself lying in bed, sobbing in frustration at this stupid little kitten who just wouldn’t shut up and let me sleep. And after I started crying, I found that I couldn’t stop. As I sobbed my way through the morning, I thought, “Why am I being so emotional? Am I going crazy?” followed quickly by, “Am I pregnant?!” which launched me into further, gut-wrenching sobs–If the cat waking me up caused this kind of trauma, imagine my response to a baby doing it every night for like 6 months straight!

I kept trying to figure out what the problem was…clearly I was not really that emotionally distraught over the cat. Annoyed and frustrated, yes, but not overwhelmed with emotion. I came up with a few things that I had been upset about over the past week or so, but really none of them mattered that much to me. I kept trying and trying to verbalize something I didn’t even understand. My sweet husband sat with me, let me cry, and tried to encourage me until I had finally worn myself out, still not really knowing what the problem was.

It took me until yesterday, 4 days later, to figure it out. Last Friday (the day before my meltdown) we had heard a rumor that Ohio State would be notifying the applicants who were accepted into their MFA program that evening. Both my husband and I are beyond ready to find out where he will be accepted and where we might end up next year. The Ohio State program was the first one to notify and if he were accepted into it we would be able to relax a little knowing we had at least one option. As Friday passed we both grew more and more anxious. By Friday evening we were both so restless we decided to go out. We went to dinner and then a movie and didn’t hear anything. By the time we went to bed we were both feeling a bit of a letdown from all of the expectation.

I was frustrated. I was frustrated that we didn’t hear anything and disappointed that the rumors had apparently been false. If I’m going to be honest though, I was more frustrated that I couldn’t control it. There was not a single thing I could do that would change the situation. I couldn’t make any of those schools make the decision I wanted. I couldn’t control how soon they made the decision or when they told us about it. We have to wait and no matter how much I hate that, I can’t do anything about it. And Saturday morning when Bart was intent on waking us up at 6 I hated it, and yet was powerless to stop him. And I couldn’t stand the feeling anymore. I exploded.

One of the things I am constantly reminding Sami of when I’m nannying is that she is not in charge. Whether she’s bossing Dylan around or trying to assert her opinion about whether or not it’s time to clean up, she’s needs to be reminded that she is not in charge. It isn’t something she likes being reminded of and sometimes when I ask her, “Sami, who’s in charge?” she will smile mischievously and say, “Me.” But no matter how much she wants it to be true, I am still the one who decides what we are having for lunch and when. I decide when it’s naptime and what activities we are going to do that day. When we go to the library, Sami chooses books and then I read through all of them and decide which ones we’ll take home with us.

It’s so silly to me when Sami tries to assert that she is in charge, contrary to all evidence. And yet, I see a great deal of myself in her. In my own, perhaps more subtle way, I have also been trying to assert control over things that I am simply not in control of and was never meant to be. And I wonder if God looks at me the way I look at Sami–smiling to himself a little at how silly this little girl is being, who thinks she can control things by sheer willpower in spite of the fact that all of her days are held in his hand.

This morning when Bart woke me up at (thank goodness!) 7:30 I was greeted by a stunning visual reminder of a simple, powerful truth. Outside my window were snowdrifts from last night’s blizzard piled up 4 feet high against the glass and I thought, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.”