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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P.O.W. in my own reality

I have been medically diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.  I have been asked to visit a neurologist regularly, get annual MRI scans of my brain, and do a monthly infusion of an MS treatment to hopefully slow the progression.  “You have to do this,” they tell me, “or you will be in a wheelchair.”  So I do it.  This is me.  The sick girl who spends half her income on medical expenses.

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And then I come home, and I forget that I was ever there.  I think there has GOT to be more to life, more to me, than this.  This does not define me.  Maybe I can find a better way.  So I go to homeopathic docs seeking answers and I leave with this:

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Having to take a bazillion pills a day doesn’t make me see myself in a more positive light, free and unattached to medical necessity.  So I agree to join a fitness challenge group with my sister and a dozen other healthy people.  I exercise every single day and attempt to eat meticulously healthy.  But I don’t feel any better or worse and I think what is the point of all this?  What am I actually trying to achieve or change about “me”?

Now I ask myself, who am I really?  What is reality?  Is it what is tangible and provable?  Or is it what things appear to be in my own unconscious mind?  Am I a sick person because doctors say so or a healthy person because…well…look at what I’m doing!  And why does it even matter what is real?  Doesn’t it only matter what feels real to ME?

Almost a decade ago my dad gave me a book recommendation.  One of the things that stuck with me about this book was the following idea:

Nothing others do is because of you.  What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream.  When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering (concept from Miguel Ruiz’s book The Four Agreements).

I thought this was so interesting.  And maybe also too much to wrap my mind around.  I don’t do well with subjectivity.  I like black and white, yes and no, I think within a verifiable frame of mind.  For this reason I have a major preoccupation with being right all the time.  I’d like for every doctor to be able to look at me and say, “Now here is a healthy person.  You just do what you’re doing.  You’re on the right track.”  Here’s another idea to try to wrap my mind around:

I lived in Heaven before I came to Earth.  My body and mind were perfectly healthy, my relationships had a purpose, my perspective was Eternal.  Then my Father in Heaven said, “I’m going to send you to Earth for a short time so you can learn some stuff and when you come back to me you’ll be even better than you are now!”  I’m sure that’s how he talks.  And then he said, “The only catch is that your body won’t be quite so perfectly healthy, you may struggle in your relationships, and you won’t be exactly sure who you are or why you’re doing anything that you’re doing.  And no one will be able to give you answers to these things because everyone will be in disagreement about why they’re there.  You up for that?”  For some reason I agreed.  And here we are.

This Earth life is so confusing!  There is a war going on, both inside me and in the world in general, about what matters and what doesn’t.  Do I want my quality of life while I’m here to be good?  Of course.  Do I want to go back to Heaven? Definitely!  Am I doing so many unnecessary things in my journey to achieve happiness and exaltation that I’m losing sight of what is really important?  Yes…maybe?…I guess that depends on what really matters.  So, in MY OWN REALITY, what matters and what doesn’t?  Let’s give it some objective thought.

Things that NEVER matter:

•Which Salvatore brother Elena chooses today, whether or not Mitch and Cam’s wedding turns out the way they want, How exactly Ted did meet their mother, or who is next on Emily’s list of people to take out.

•That I wasn’t invited to whatever girls night, play group, or exercise club was going on yesterday.

•How many people come to events that I plan (“Don’t take it personally” says Ruiz)

•If today I eat a non-organic salad vs. an organic one, and tonight I have a cookie containing gluten and sugar instead of gf oats and agave.

•Whether or not I post on this blog or Facebook or anywhere else on a daily basis, or what I say when I do post.

Things that ALWAYS matter:

•My family
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•My friends
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•My health
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And most importantly, that I’m doing my best where these things are concerned.  If I were to break down my reality to its most essential components, I would be removing most of the “stuff” I spend my time doing and worrying about daily.  Now take a breath.  Life really isn’t that complicated.

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Empty-nester List

There’s a recurring theme in my life right now.  Everything around me is telling me to slow down and simplify.  I am even telling myself that, but I’m not really listening.

Last Sunday at church I learned three lessons:

  1. Talking too much is exhausting; being quiet conserves energy
  2. No matter our circumstance, we can make it a peaceful one
  3. There is great power in a Christ-centered home

These 3 lessons remind me of one thing: there are too many things in my life that I think are the end of the world.  I want to briefly relay the stories in the lessons that helped to teach me this one thing.

•Several weeks ago, a woman ran a 5K with her young daughter.  At the start of the race the mother decided that it would be helpful to her daughter if she gave her something to keep her mind off the distance.  She began to tell stories, set goals, and explain ways to conserve energy.  Eventually, the little girl said “Mom, talking doesn’t conserve energy”.  Lesson learned.

“Why are we embarassed by silence?  What comfort do we find in all the noise?” -Mitch Albom, Tuesdays with Morrie

•174 years ago, a man was persecuted and arrested for his religious beliefs.  After several months in jail with seemingly no hope of relief, this man pleads to his Heavenly Father in prayer asking how long he will be asked to suffer this awful oppression.  God speaks peace to his heart, ensuring him that this will be such a short time but will benefit so many.  His name was Joseph Smith.  Perhaps we have to be placed in lonely and difficult circumstances in order to force us to find a minute to listen.

•An apostle for my church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints), Elder Richard G. Scott, said in a talk:

Many voices from the world in which we live tell us we should live at a frantic pace. There is always more to do and more to accomplish. Yet deep inside each of us is a need to have a place of refuge where peace and serenity prevail, a place where we can reset, regroup, and re-energize to prepare for future pressures.

He explains that we can achieve this by teaching our children to be trustworthy, accountable, loving members of our family and of society, and reminds us that there is a season for everything and that we don’t need to simultaneously do all things at once.

I can’t imagine that someone lives at a more frantic pace than I do.  When people ask how I stay so skinny my auto-response is always “Well I don’t ever sit down and I don’t have time to eat”.  Even just thinking about having a “place of refuge where peace and serenity prevail” gives me a calm feeling.  So in order to achieve that, I’ve decided to make a list (I love lists!).  And not a “bucket list” like I mentioned in the last post, but a list of things I want to accomplish while I have my children here with me.  As much as I hate to admit it, people are dead on when they tell me this season will go by so fast and I should enjoy every moment.  I want to enjoy this season.  I need to have goals, things that make me excited to get up in the morning.

Goal #1: Go out with my husband more.  I think I’ll start today.  Thanks in advance to my mother-in-law for watching the little ones.