Lately I've been thinking about the different lines that I straddle. I breastfeed and bottle-feed. I work, but I still spend most of my time at home. Sometimes I'm awake all night, and sometimes I'm awake all night and all day. (Kidding.) (Except not really.)
I started thinking about high school, and how I always hung out with lots of different groups. And college, and how I changed my major seven times and spent six years full time in college (piano, sociology, French, English, psychology, neuroscience, nursing. I managed to finish the last two).
And then I started to think about my life right now, and all the things I want. I want to play with my children and have a clean house. I want to spend time with my husband and go to bed early. I want to read the four books I'm in the middle of so I can start four more, and I want to play the piano more and start playing guitar again, and I want to exercise, and I want to cook a fancy dinner every night, and I really should start meditating and get back to yoga. I want to take a long bubble bath and actually put lotion on afterward. I want to listen to music and podcasts and catch up on my shows on Netflix. I want to become a lactation consultant and have time to write for a few hours a day and maybe become a certified nurse midwife, because why not?
I want too much, and I don't know what to choose. When I wrote about simplicity a few posts back, I wasn't sure what exactly it was that I was craving, but I think it was this -- to know what I want, and be able to pursue it. To have enough wants to fill the day and no more.
I know about priorities, and putting first things first. My husband and children have to be first, my relationship with God second, and honestly, there isn't much time left for anything else, and if there was, it would probably need to be sleep.
But my soul is so, so hungry. I feel like the buffet of life is before me and my plate is already piled high. I have the main course, I have the vegetables, but I want some dessert. Don't get me wrong -- family is what I would choose, and what I have chosen. It brings me joy as it fills my day, but it also pulls me from some of the other things that bring me joy. I guess that is the test of motherhood -- becoming unselfish, learning to subjugate all those other desires and caring for a family. Part of me feels guilty for wanting something apart from it and in addition to it. The other part of me is squeaking Sophie in N.'s face and typing as fast as I can.
I read an essay a few years ago by a woman in "the tired thirties" who wanted to write but couldn't stay awake long enough to do it. There was always more laundry to fold, more places to drive her kids, more meals to cook, more fires to put out. She finds a moment of stillness and revels in it, and then describes her gratitude for her exhaustion and the fullness of her life.
I'm not there yet. I'd like to be, but right now it is so hard to keep my eyes open, so hard sometimes to keep a smile on my face, to show up for my family again and again while my well is empty. Right now, I feel like Sisyphus, rolling my boulder up the mountain and watching it fall to the valley again as soon as I turn my back.
I am surrounded by women who graciously care for their families without complaint. I'm not so naive as to believe that they haven't given anything up, that they haven't also experienced the soul hunger I have. So my question is -- how do you transcend it? How do you make peace with the fatigue and the dinners thrown on the floor and the worry, the inability to get even fifteen minutes in the shower before someone is crying for you? Is this one of those things where I have to take care of myself so I can take care of others (but where does the time come from?) or am I just horrifically selfish for wanting things in addition to my family life?
Wednesday, February 3, 2016
I read an article by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf today that really spoke to me. He is one of the most inspiring people I have ever heard speak. He is also a pilot, which is why he is in this awesome picture with Han Solo... um, Harrison Ford, and the Berlin Candy Bomber, and why he frequently uses aeronautical metaphors when he speaks and writes.
This particular article is about landing safely in turbulence. President Uchtdorf states that when a pilot experiences turbulence and needs to land his aircraft, he or she doesn't focus on the gusts of wind and air pockets that are causing the turbulence. Instead, the pilot should focus on the runway, where they hope to land. He describes the way the pilot can't possibly control the wind or the dangerous situations outside the plane, but he or she can control the way they handle the airplane, and they shouldn't fear just because the flight isn't always smooth. He then applies it to mortal trials:
This was such a perfect reality check for me. I have been so overwhelmed -- and frequently, overwrought -- by the difficulties I have been facing. I know that I am so blessed and have so much to be grateful for, but the stresses of day to day life often overwhelm me in this trying period of trying to stay afloat with a husband in graduate school, working night shift, and managing two adorable but uncontrollable little boys -- all without ever getting a full night's sleep. I find myself looking at all the things that are difficult and questioning my ability to ever get through it in one piece. I catalogue my failures and shortcomings and completely lose faith that I can navigate through the fog.
Obviously, I haven't been focused on the Savior and His ability to redeem me from my sins and shortcomings, as well as His strength to bear me through the problems I have that are beyond my control. I have felt like I am drowning, and I have felt like there is no escape, and this is possibly true. I am flying the aircraft that I have -- in this mortal life there are things that will never be perfect. My "aircraft" has a mental illness to overcome, and needs a certain (as of right now, unattainable) amount of sleep to function at its best, and only has so many hours in a day. Things are not going to be perfect. But if I focus on where I am going and who is leading me instead of how my "airplane" isn't in optimal condition, the flight will be smoother. President Uchtdorf says at one point, "Trust the potential of your airplane. Ride the turbulence out."
So today, I am looking forward, focusing on the Savior instead of the madness around me. I'm sure I'll continue to need reminders every day, but hopefully as I practice I will steer a straighter course.