I haven't written very much the last year. Its not that I haven't tried. But I sit down at the keyboard or with a notebook, and everything gets so jumbled--the exact opposite of what my brain's reaction to a fresh page has always been. Most of the challenges of the last year or two haven't been able to knock me off my feet--with a few rare, momentary exceptions, I've been on a pretty even keel, and usually have remained overall quite optimistic. It never escapes me that whatever challenges we have, we have too many blessings to count, and so we ought to be happy--not complacent in our circumstances, but faithfully cheerful.
But Doug has been unemployed for over a year now. There are things that we genuinely need that keep getting put off. No clear employment prospects are ahead of us, and we still haven't entirely figured out how to make our long-term desires doable, let alone meet immediate needs. I'm grateful that we've been so well taken care of. I'm grateful to be in Montana and with my family, but at the same time I miss my friends so terribly much. Having my phone break on the way here has been a challenge--I've had almost no communication with my friends since we left. The other day, there was something funny I wanted to text message to Emily and I couldn't, and I got a little bummed out. Moving hasn't entirely broken the habit of reading the local news for Tulare county, and disappointments continue to abound.
Its been a strange time for us, emotionally, as some relationships have ended (burying a couple of grandparents), some have had progress being reestablished after long estrangement, and others are (at least temporarily) suspended due to confusion, disappointment or hurt. I hate those kind of self-imposed boundaries, and yet sometimes in life they are necessary for everybody's health and sanity.
The other day, I finally had a mini breakdown. I'm not an overly-emotional person; I don't cry a lot, I don't throw tantrums much, and I'm not really much of a brooder. But I had thought of the third thing-we-need-but-really-can't-afford that day, and then something small went a bit awry (so itty bitty that now I can't even remember what it was) and I started to cry. For about five minutes, I just cried really hard and I wasn't even entirely sure why until I heard myself say, "I just need a break from my life!" (I said this to myself, apparently, as I was alone). I started mumbling about how I hated being the calm one, the balanced one, the chore-accomplishing one, the baths-and-school-and-homework-and-groceries one. The mom.
And when I got to that moment, I pulled myself together and stopped whining. I'm the mom. This is my job. There are people counting on me. I willingly and intentionally took this responsibility on myself when I decided to be a mom. Of course, I didn't know all the details of what that would mean, and no one does, but I knew it wouldn't be easy. For goodness sake, if childbirth doesn't clue you into the fact that motherhood is going to be hard, you're probably a bit too slow to be raising children very well.
I suddenly remembered a conversation a few years ago, where I had said something to Doug about how sometimes I hate the talks that General Authorities give about motherhood, because it just ends up feeling like the whole world is on our shoulders as women, and he smiled wryly and immediately responded, "Well, it is." After I laughed, he added, "But not just yours." We have a Father who loves us, and ultimately he shape us and direct us for good. I am not the last line of defense for my family, and it is always such a relief for very imperfect, flawed and impatient little me to remember that. It changes my focus.
I remember that I am needed by others. That I have made certain covenants, and that those covenants involve a whole lot of responsibility to those around me--first and foremost my husband and children. I haven't been the best wife and mother lately--I can do better. I haven't been the best friend or sister lately--I can be better.
Whatever our troubles, our children our well-fed, well-dressed and have a warm home to come back to at the end of the day. That is so much more than most people in circumstances such as ours can say. And those are not our only blessings, not by a long shot. I need to stop and look around more often and really look. Keilana and Dylan have each grown about an inch and a half in the last couple of months. Keira is starting to walk and saying a few words. Kylie has developed whole new big-word repertoires to converse and entertain with. Life keeps moving, no matter what I do, so its best to jump in and enjoy the little moments. Too often we let life's stresses wrap us up in ourselves, so that we look all day at our loved ones and all the rest of the good folks around us and never see them.
Its a new year, a good a time as any to refocus my energies. What needs have I missed in others because I was so wrapped up in my own little troubles? What have I not seen because I spent so much time worrying about me?
Have I done any good in the world today?