Waiting For Someone to Flip a Switch

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I live in a small concrete room.  It has one narrow window with bars across it.  The soundproof glass is dusty and finger-printed but from the outside so there’s nothing I can do to clean it.

Inside the room there is a thermostat on the ceiling.  The temperature reads 50 degrees but I can’t reach it to control it.  Once in a while the temperature will readjust itself to 67, or 95, and back to 50.  I just angrily watch it shift without my permission.

Every once in a while someone enters the room.  They seem not to notice I am there.  I speak to them but when they finally speak back, its in a different language.  I repeat the same sentence over and over to them, getting more and more frustrated at their baffled expression.  It makes perfect sense to me.  As they conclude that we will never understand one another, they leave the room from where they came.  I wish I knew how to unlock the door.

Later, the same person returns but with a train of people following.  Each looks at me sympathetically but does nothing to help me and then exits the room as a group.  I’m confused about their purpose as I’m left standing in this room alone.

Outside the window there is a stage.  Throughout the day people enter the stage.  I can see people on the outside watching them happily, clapping occasionally, and then moving on.  I wish I could be on that stage.

Without warning, someone will appear and announce to me plainly, in my own language, that they need something from me.  My mind becomes clear and I feel a breeze coming through the window that is usually sealed shut.  I have a purpose.  I ask them what they need, and they lead me out of the room and to the stage.  While I’m on that stage I forget where I came from or who led me there.  People are watching me.  Really seeing me.  This is where I belong.

It ends as quickly as it began and I find myself looking out the barred window at someone who looks just like me, only she’s smiling and there are people surrounding her.  I think maybe that person is the real me, and the person in this room is only dreaming.  I wish she would look at me so I can give her some kind of sign that I need her help.

I watch the smiling girl and take note of her mannerisms, wondering if they’re real or if she came from a room just like mine.  I try not to judge and just enjoy watching “myself” be happy.  The thought comes to me that maybe one day I can be just like her all the time.  If that is the truth, can I handle this small concrete room with the dirty, barred window for a while longer knowing what I have to look forward to?

Yes, I think, I can.

But what happens when the sun goes down and I can’t see the stage, or the girl?

After what seems like an eternity of silence and darkness the door opens, letting in a flood of light, and someone comes in.  They look familiar.  They’re smiling and greet me warmly.  I should be as happy to see them as they are to see me.  I bury my face in my hands as they embrace me.  When I look up and scan my surroundings, the person is gone, but I’m standing outside.  I can hear birds and laughter.  I’m not alone, in fact I’m holding the hand of a young child who is gazing up at me.  She tells me that she loves me.  I take a deep breath.

Mother

Even if you know me well, you may still not know that I struggle with depression and anxiety.  The anxiety part is a little more obvious.  The depression part is much better concealed.

I couldn’t tell you exactly when it started, but what I do know is that until I had children I had many more things to distract me from how I really felt deep down.  I was rarely alone; I had great friends and a supportive family, lots of activities and goals that consumed every waking (and non-waking) thought.

For the first year Aaron and I were married, I worked as part-time faculty in the dance department of the college I graduated from, followed by a short stint as a secretary in the hospital ER.  Both jobs were somewhat fulfilling, but as I only worked part-time I spent a lot of time home alone while Aaron was at work.  I had no roommates, and now that we had moved to a new town I had no friends.

When my daughter was born, I decided not to go back to work.  And I have been not working ever since.  For 7 years, I have been in my house.  Alone.  I still have difficulty making friends as close as the ones I had in college.  The decision to go back to work is always there, but this is where the anxiety kicks in.  Where do I take my kids?  What qualifications do I have?  Is there actually a job I would enjoy enough to make up for the guilt I feel about not being a stay-at-home mom?

I wrote the above short-story last week — I was having a very bad day — to try to put into words how it feels to be depressed and anxious.  It was the over-analyzer in me trying to make sense of my brain.  It was therapeutic to write it, but I worried about how people I care about would take it.  So I had my sister and my husband read it for me.

I don’t think they got it.  At least not Aaron, bless his Mr. Rogers heart.  And as I tried to explain myself I felt less and less validated that my feelings were real and uncontrollable.

But it is real.  I have spent many years feeling trapped and alone.  My prayers (when I have the energy and courage to say them) consist of anything from begging for a miracle to admitting that I give up.  I feel forgotten and usually angry when I think that my prayers don’t change anything.

Today I saw this video.

When I got to the part in my story about what would happen when the sun goes down, I felt very hopeless and had no idea what to write from there.  Suddenly, as if someone was putting thoughts in my head, I started typing and what came out was that someone who cares about me, who knows me, entered into my lonely room and gave me peace when I least expected it.  I didn’t know what to think of that.  A part of me thought of Aaron and his support for me even during my most difficult times.

But as I watched this video today, the very strong realization came over me that no matter how lost I feel and that no one is listening or understanding, my Heavenly Father is watching over me and has his hand in my life.  But his timing is different from mine and he knows best when to interfere and when to let things play their course.  In the mean time, he needs me on his side.  Today.

I loved the end of this video: It is part of our condition as Mortals to sometimes feel as though we are surrounded by darkness.  But even though we may feel lost, God promises to illuminate the way before us…no matter how long it takes.

Spiritual light rarely comes to those who merely sit in darkness, waiting for someone to flip a switch.  It takes an act of faith to open our eyes to the light of Christ.

Twenty years later, I still don’t know everything, but I now know who I am.  And I know who God is.

I have a feeling that there will be no Mary Poppins that shows up on my door step to take care of my kids, clean my house, get me my dream job, all the while singing happy songs.  But there will be a day when a feeling of peace comes over me.  When I feel as if someone is hugging me.  When I feel as if I am home.

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A little regret and a lot of perspective

This weekend has brought with it a lot of reflection, as well as a handful of stories via blog-surfing, that really knocked some sense into my hard head.

For the last two days I’ve been listening to the General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  Since college, I’ve always really looked forward to this weekend twice a year and have made a huge effort to watch all 8 hours of it.  Since 2007 it has gotten progressively more difficult to listen with full intent, but I do my best because every time, without a doubt, it redirects my focus down the right path.  And one day I hope all my babies will be teenagers who really look forward to and benefit from this weekend as well.

As I come close to the end of this conference, my head is spinning with confusion about how certain things can seem so important one moment and totally insignificant the next.

Before I forget precisely why I am posting this, I want to admit that my resentment towards people who don’t care about Zumba was entirely misdirected.  In fact, I had a friend stop me in the grocery store yesterday and explain why she hasn’t been able to come the last couple of weeks.  She told me she had been so sad to have to miss it because it is the highlight of her week.  And not only that, her 5 year old daughter was so sad to miss it because she loves to come play with the other kids!  My response — “Oh, don’t worry about it!  I completely understand.  I missed you!” — sounded sort of forced coming out of my mouth after what I posted the previous day.  But I realized it was actually more true than I thought.  Why did I start doing it again anyway?  Not for the praise of people around me, but to hopefully build closer relationships with people I didn’t usually spend time with, and show them a way to be healthy in the process…if they were interested.  Mission accomplished.  If anything, my resentment should have been directed at myself for being disappointed that I couldn’t stick to my original purpose.

So what I said Friday was exactly what I said it was…venting.  I had a strong emotion that somehow I needed to release, and it came out as anger towards people who I’m sure all had very logical reasons.  I’m over it, hopefully for good.  And I owe apologies to the innocent victims of my anger.

Now in the process of coming to this conclusion, I also came across two stories that just made me want to punch myself in the stomach for being so self-absorbed.  One was this one about a little boy who survived drowning a couple of years ago.  The other was this story about a mother of 5 children whose husband was shot in Boise, ID a few years ago by the husband of the woman he was having an affair with!  Okay, I can’t think of very many things worse than either of those two scenarios.  Except for maybe this one where the child didn’t survive the drowning.  Or the story of the father whose car was was hit by a drunk driver, ending the life of two of his children and his wife who was 6 months pregnant.  And of course the Nielsen family’s story is both tragic and inspiring.  Don’t click on any of these links unless you’re ready and willing to invest a significant amount of time retracing the steps of their tragic stories as you mourn with them.  You have been warned.

At this very moment, I have a good friend who is at Primary Children’s hospital with her 2 year old daughter who is undergoing a clinical trial for a very rare form of leukemia.  While they were very blessed to have caught it when they did and to have made it into this trial (she was #75 in a trial that only had room for 75!), they have a very long road ahead.  And not only that, but she has a pre-teen daughter with autism who she had to leave at home with friends and family.

All of these stories are incredible examples of faith and forgiveness.  Today as I look at my life it almost seems unfair that I’ve had it so easy.  And it scares me what could lie ahead in order for me to learn these principles.  Maybe you’ve heard the concept that if everyone were to put their trials into a pile in the middle of a room, you’d be quick to pick your own back up?

No, Multiple Sclerosis is not fantastic, but would I choose it over cancer?  Yes, of course.

Yes, having 4 kids within 5 years has been very physically and emotionally demanding.  But would I prefer to not be able to have children?  Or would I have chosen a career instead if I could go back?  Definitely not.

I understand that my Father in Heaven knows and loves me and has designed my life, with all its joys and challenges, specifically with my potential and progression in mind.  I’m really trying to find joy in MY journey and not envy someone else’s journey.  I’d love to constantly have an “attitude of gratitude” not only for my blessings and times of ease, but for the hard times that make me stronger.

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Do you have some sort of business woman special?

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I haven’t been this excited (or this nerdy) about something in a very, VERY long time.

Today I registered for an online training course to become a digital legal transcriptionist.  Yes, its a real thing, even though as I typed the word “transcriptionist” it was automatically underlined in red as a misspelled word.  I do NOT misspell words.  That is why this is the perfect job for me.

Let me tell you how I came to find this potential career of mine.

After a long fight with myself, I finally decided that it would be best if I visited a therapist.  My emotions have been so up and down for a while but around Thanksgiving is when it got really bad.  I was feeling hopeless and useless and just ready to throw in the towel.  It scared me because I’d never felt THAT bad before.  So I made an appointment.  I owed it to my family to try to find some sanity in this crazy season of my life.

So far I’ve been to visit him 3 times now and during the last visit we talked about the importance of me finding something in my life that could give me a little perspective.  He suggested getting a part time job and asked me what my skills were and what I may like to do.  Hmm…well let me think.  I worked as a hostess at 4 different restaurants, a line cook at a Subway-style Mexican restaurant (“Welcome to Moe’s!”), a checker at a grocery store, and then I started having kids.  And kept having kids.  Do I want to go back to work with a bunch of teenagers who may or may not have dropped out of high school yet as a 30 year old woman?  Let’s keep thinking.

This week I racked my brain for something I could put to good use (besides dance) and suddenly as we were binge watching the show Suits, it hit me.  I need to be a Court Reporter.  I love typing and drama.  The next day I called an attorney friend of mine and clumsily asked him if he had an opening like that.  He explained that they didn’t actually employ their own reporter but gave me the name of someone to call.  Well, to be brief, the 7th Judicial district (the court district that I live in) houses 10 counties and employs ONE court reporter.  But that’s beside the point.  To be a Certified Court Reporter, I’d need to be CERTIFIED.  So I started looking into it.

In my search I came across a job opening that was hiring for Legal Transcriptionists who want to work from home, can type 70+ wpm (oh please, I’ve got this in the bag), and have an AAERT certificate.  Huh?

I looked up AAERT: American Association of Electronic Reporters and Transcribers.  Apparently there is a whole association of nerds like me.  I contacted their membership liaison, Sherry, and had a very nice conversation with her about the joys of a career in the field legal and medical transcription, which she’s been a part of for over 30 years.  After learning about my “situation” she encouraged me to check out a certain website that offered a great training course to prepare you to take the AAERT’s certification exam.

And here we are.  I am now enrolled in the International Institute for Transcribers and Court Reporters’ Legal Transcriptionist course.  For the next 6 weeks, I will be learning all about secure, organized file storage, homonyms, ei vs ie words and their exceptions, the proper uses of the comma, colon, semicolon, hyphen, italics, and dashes, as well as medical and legal terminology and so much more.  I just want to say, you had me at organized file storage.

Is it possible that thinking about learning more about the proper use of the English language and then getting to type it out really fast is actually make me love my children more?  I feel like a real adult!  I may not be able to sleep tonight thinking about my foot pedal and headset arriving in the mail next week.  Maybe my shrink was right about getting some perspective.

Two Weeks Notice

Dear Employer,

I apologize that I have not done the job I was hired to do.  I know you thought I was capable but I guess I should have read the job description a little bit closer and not embellished my proficiency.  This is definitely not a job I can do any longer, and to be honest I’m not sure anyone is cut out for this job.  The pay is terrible, there are no vacation days, I don’t get a lunch break, I work WAY over 40 hours a week to the point that I’m pretty sure its not legal (I mean who works full time and still has to be on call for the graveyard shift 7 days a week??), I didn’t receive any training prior to my first day, my employees are disrespectful, and most days I feel that I haven’t made a friend since I’ve been here.  It really is the hardest job anyone could ever have.  So thank you for the chance to give it a try, but I am putting in my notice now.  I hope the workplace doesn’t fall apart without me, considering I am the only one in charge of almost everything here.

Sincerely,

Your {soon to be ex} disgruntled employee

This, of course, is not a real letter.  But if I could quit my job today, this is what I would say.  I have just spend the last full two hours rocking a hysterically screaming baby while a two year old cried in the next room and there was nothing I could do for either one of them.  I haven’t showered or had lunch yet so I feel and look much like a zombie, but I put blogging first because I still hear some rustling sounds coming from the baby room and I’m not sure I have time to shower now.

The terrible thing is that when I think that maybe I should get a job, I have no idea what job I would do that would be worth leaving my home for.  I’m not qualified for any job besides working at the grocery store or a restaurant.  I’ve always wanted to be a professional dancer (something else I thought I’d post about today so maybe later) but I live in a small country town and that is clearly not an option.  I’ve tried for 6 years to be successful at teaching some sort of dance but it almost always ends up backfiring.  And now the position that I thought was meant for me has been taken over by a middle aged man who has never danced before (no offense if you happen to be reading this, you really are great).  Note to self: Don’t take maternity leave and expect things to not change while you’re gone.

So maybe I shouldn’t quit my day job.  They say that one day I’ll look back and cherish these memories.  Maybe I should just go on strike seeking higher pay.

UPDATE. 1 HOUR LATER:

After writing this and feeling pretty proud of my observations about the difficulties of motherhood, someones words sort of fell into my lap.  And I need to share because while it doesn’t change anything it does put things into perspective.  So if you’re reading my words with your fist pumping in the air and feeling validated like I did that your job is so tough and you deserve praise, you also need to read these words.