Saturday, October 4, 2014

Thanks...I'll Pass

How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard. -- Winnie the Pooh

When things are good, it's easy to be grateful.  When it's someone else's storm, it's really easy to encourage them to be upbeat.  To look for the silver lining.  To find the rainbow.  To have an attitude of gratitude.  Yada yada yada.
When it's your storm, it's hard to see the silver lining when the skies are black and it's night all the time.
 It's hard to find the rainbow when your curtains are drawn and you have no desire to step outside to see if it's even safe to be seen.
 It's hard to have an attitude of gratitude when NOBODY UNDERSTANDS and they are giving you some flippant advice that makes them feel like they've done their part.
It's hard to be grateful when you feel alone and unloved.
What good does it do to count your blessings when you always always always feel like as soon as you truly open your heart up and love a blessing, something else will swoop in and destroy it?
Yes, I'll count my blessings and watch them go away one by one.  If I don't count them, I don't have to see when they are being subtracted.  It's kind of like ignoring the bank statements.  If you don't open them up, you don't see the debits!

I had been watching my family fall apart.  Not in one day, but over years and I had no idea how to stop the trajectory.  I kept secrets, I tried to fix, I tried to control and to be positive. I tried to forgive.  Oh how I tried to forgive and forgive and forgive.  Each time I did, it seemed as if it was just known that I was so nice, you could do just about anything to me and I'd forgive...because that's how nice I was.  Karma would come back around to the nice girl, right? I wore myself out trying to be everything and not to disappoint.  But I always felt as if I had been handed a multiple choice test and even when I was SURE I knew the answer, it changed and I failed.  I felt like I had a sign around my neck that said " I have no idea what I'm doing so please pity me."  My son killed himself so I must have been a terrible mother.  Believe me, I felt it even if no one dared actually say it out loud.
I was so angry that I didn't want to be grateful for anything.  I was used and pitied.  Is there anything worse than people thinking you're pathetic?

I continued to go to church because even though I usually went with a heavy heart and knowing it would make no difference that day, it was my little reprieve from the gloom and heaviness in my house.  It's hard to explain how I craved uplifting words and music, yet despised them at the same time.  One day in Sunday School, we were talking about gratitude and a good discussion started.  Many people were expressing their thoughts on the matter and were trying to speak positively about how being grateful is needed.  One person made a comment to the effect that they looked around at people that have it worse and it reminded them how good they have life.  I had such a hard time not standing up and screaming at everyone.  My pity party was in full swing and I thought, "OK.  So the poor sucker that only has one arm should be grateful that he at least has one arm.  What about the guy that doesn't have any?  Should he be grateful that he's not the guy with no legs?  Is the guy with no arms or legs so grateful he can at least see?  So when it all comes down to it, do we agree that the poor guy with no face finally has something to complain about?"
 What does it mean when someone has it worse?  Isn't everybody's trial real to them?  Who are we to say that your problem isn't bad enough that you have no right to be sad?  I left church that day feeling like a jerk because I wasn't grateful I only lost one kid.  I wasn't grateful that my life was a storm that wouldn't leave.  I wasn't grateful to be there alone, and I wasn't grateful to go back to the house that was unhappy and chaotic.  I wasn't even grateful that I was alive.

It was a very grey winter in Teton Valley.  It seemed to last forever and the more I was inside, the less I wanted to go out.  I remember wanting to shrink and to be forgotten, but I was so happy when I wasn't.  I wanted my parents.  I wanted them to be the adults and to make everything ok.  They didn't know what to do, so they gave me my space, when I really wanted them to rescue me. I wanted to be a child again that didn't have to deal with adult things.  I wanted my grandma to cry with me, to hug me and to tell me everything would work out.  I needed her strength and her experience.
 My sister and brothers were at the house with their spouses and asked if they could help me with anything, so I started looking around and asked them to help me hang pictures.  I just didn't want them to leave, so I would find anything that could drag out their staying.  I was grateful for that.

My friend, Catherine called up one wintry day and asked if I wanted to exercise.  No.  Did I want to go snowshoeing?  No.  Did I want desperately to not feel this way?  Yes, but it kinda feels good to feel so bad too.
She showed up with her snowshoes and said, "Let's just walk in the field behind your house."  So we did.  I didn't have to muster up energy or anything.  We walked around in little loops where I had no chance of running into anybody and I could crawl back in my cave quickly.  I was grateful for that.

My friend Jaci had just moved to another galaxy, it felt like, and she wondered if she could fly back for the funeral.  I told her I didn't want her to spend time here watching me cry, so she didn't come.  She did call me almost every day and she told me funny and irreverent things, gossiped, and didn't treat me like a wounded bird.  I was grateful for that.

Teachers didn't call me up to complain about my kids when they acted up.  Instead, they hugged them and brought dinner or gave them a stuffed animal.  I was so grateful for that.

Living where I do, I also spend a huge time in the car because everything is so far away.  This isn't good for someone that can't escape their thoughts.  Those long drives would quickly bring me to tears and no matter how hard I tried to hide them behind sunglasses or drown them out with music, my kids would notice and just touch my arm or tell me they loved me.  I was grateful for them.

Sometimes, I just got a phone call from someone saying they just felt they needed to call, even though they didn't know what to say, except that they were remembering my little family in their prayers.  I was grateful for that, because I was afraid my Heavenly Father had forgotten that I was down here, floundering.
So, for being so irritated that someone suggest I be grateful, I recognized those little things and realized that I wasn't expected to run around with a smile, giving long lists of all my blessings.  It was a start that I recognized the tiny gifts that were delivered through other people, because God couldn't just come down here and wipe away all my troubles, but he was letting me know that I was very much remembered.

And it came to pass that he said unto them: Behold, here are the waters of Mormon (for thus were they called) and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light;
 Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life
—  Mosiah 18:8-9

Have you ever had somebody that mourned with you?  To comfort you when you stood in need of comfort?  Someone that has borne your burdens? If so, you should count those among your many blessings, and so I did.  I still do, because even after nearly 5 years, God still whispers to people when I need something, and I'm so grateful when they listen, then act.
I stopped allowing bitterness to settle in when other people were counting their blessings, because I knew that if we didn't express them, it was easy to forget them or not recognize them at all, and I realized that was the message people were trying to convey in the first place.
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf is one of my favorite speakers.  He speaks of things that every one of us experiences, and he does it in a way that you know it comes from a place of love and understanding.
In part of his April General Conference talk "Grateful in Any Circumstance":
  When we are grateful to God in our circumstances, we can experience gentle peace in the midst of tribulation. In grief, we can still lift up our hearts in praise. In pain, we can glory in Christ’s Atonement. In the cold of bitter sorrow, we can experience the closeness and warmth of heaven’s embrace.We sometimes think that being grateful is what we do after our problems are solved, but how terribly shortsighted that is. How much of life do we miss by waiting to see the rainbow before thanking God that there is rain?Being grateful in times of distress does not mean that we are pleased with our circumstances. It does mean that through the eyes of faith we look beyond our present-day challenges.This is not a gratitude of the lips but of the soul. It is a gratitude that heals the heart and expands the mind.In any circumstance, our sense of gratitude is nourished by the many and sacred truths we do know: that our Father has given His children the great plan of happiness; that through the Atonement of His Son, Jesus Christ, we can live forever with our loved ones; that in the end, we will have glorious, perfect, and immortal bodies, unburdened by sickness or disability; and that our tears of sadness and loss will be replaced with an abundance of happiness and joy, “good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over.” 
Read his entire wonderful talk here.

I'm pretty sure that in the preexistence I got carried away, checking off all the things I was willing to take on down here.  (This must be where I got the idea that I can't say "no".  If God had really known me, why didn't He step in and say, "Amber! I know you want to help, but trust me, this is a lot, so why don't you erase a couple of things?" Or, "Amber! If you're going to take on this many trials, let me at least make it so you have thin thighs.  you don't need the extra burden of dieting and squats."
Since I can't get a mulligan, I figure I should start now with counting my blessings.  I'll start with the ones that if I woke up tomorrow with only the things I said thanks for tonight, would I be happy?  Yes.  I think I would.

My home

Sunday, July 27, 2014

I'll be what you tell me I am

"Anything boys can do, girls can do better..."

I remember this phrase from when I was a little girl.  I grew up with boy cousins and I liked to play trucks and cars with them.  I tried so hard to make all the truck noises, but I just couldn't get into spit being all over my face just to get the right sound for each different style of truck.  My cousin Nathan, however was a pro.  He is younger than me, and I remember watching in awe as he drove the Tonka trucks, staring at them intently, changing the inflection in his voice.  I wanted to get into it as much as he did, but I never measured up.  To this day, when I try to describe a sound to my hubby, he gets a weird look on his face, and I know that I sound like I'm making a problem up, because he says that there is no way the car would sound like that.
I went out and shot swallows with the boys, and occasionally shot out old car windows.  If my dad or uncles read this... It wasn't my idea!  I made mud pies (and decorated them with flowers!), dug through the junk yard for treasures (stuff to decorate our playhouse with!)  got gravel permanently embedded in my knees from trying dumb things on my bike (I hosed it down later to keep it sparkly!).  I broke my arm playing Tarzan and Jane in the weeping willow tree (I was Jane!), I played with Star Wars, She-Ra, and army men.  I made up dangerous games with my cousins where we threw shovels at each other because we lived out on a farm, and the PC police hadn't caught up with us yet.  Because I grew up on a farm, I was also required to wake up at the unholy hour of 4:30 a.m. to move pipe. I tried really hard to get out of it, but my sister and I went twice a day, worked our guts out and got some pretty big muscles to boot.  When Nathan and I had to go move some lines together, we actually got in a fight over who was going to drive.  He asserted that because he was a boy, it should naturally go to him.  I asserted that since I was older and more responsible, I should be able to.  I was so strong at this point, I think I tried to swing a pipe at his head, but I can't remember for sure.
It was never uncommon at school or anywhere to tell boys how dumb they were and that girls were better at everything boys did.  It infuriated me when the boys got to do something cool, just fueling the desire to prove I was just as good.
I'm ashamed now to admit that in the process, I didn't really have a high opinion of boys or men in general.  I saw them as arrogant, uncaring, they would use anyone they could to get ahead.  I thought most of them were missing the honesty chip, and that they were something to be tolerated instead of loved.  But I was crazy about them at the same time.  Boys, boys, boys were all I thought about.
As I was given the challenge of raising boys, I knew there was something I had to learn from them.  I needed to learn patience, to know that they didn't think and operate the way girls did, and to marvel in the very distinct differences in creation.
I looked at my little boys and knew that they weren't born being manipulative, but instead shaped that way by so many different sources, so if I wanted boys that were different, I needed to figure out how to steer them in a good direction.
I would watch how naturally they were very proud of being naked from the very beginning.  I tried to keep clothes on them, but it's like it wasn't natural for them.  This didn't look good for the future...
  I watched as Aaron, as a 1 year old,  knocked his little friend to the ground and steam rolled her.  She didn't even know what was going on, because she was so mellow and the thought of steam rolling her friend didn't even cross her little mind.
 They liked to climb...and fall.  Then climb it again.  Girls experience something negative so they learn from it.  Boys just think it was bad luck!
They loved slimy, creepy crawlies.  They could take the hook out of a fish's mouth while I was still trying to keep it away from me, and didn't want to make eye contact with it.
 One day, Aaron and Jordan were playing with my sisters' Barbies and James didn't like it.  I told him to watch for just a second...
In no time, a poor, unsuspecting doll was falling from the roof of the playhouse, screaming "Oh Nooooo....." on the way down.  A pile of Barbies lay on the floor.  "See?"  I said.  "Normal."
But before anyone thinks I was trying to raise some psychopaths, you need to know that these same two would lay next to a newborn sibling and rub their perfect faces.  They would talk softly to the baby and sometimes even try to nurse them.  This, by the way, did not work out very well.
Aidan insisted on a baby doll from Target one day, so I bought it for him.  He packed that baby around lovingly, but sometimes by the arm, dragging on the floor, while sucking his thumb.  Sometimes he actually used the baby doll as a weapon to hit his brothers with when they got too close into his space.  I corrected someone when they asked why I let my boy play with a doll.  Because.  I wanted him to grow up to not be afraid of holding babies.  Because he needed to nurture that loving side.  Because he was cuter than heck riding his tricycle with his thumb in his mouth and the baby on his lap.
I watched my little boys with wonder with all the things they were interested in, and how they could forgive me quickly when I was less than stellar.
 I adored (while gagging) when they insisted on feeding me food they already tasted and wanted to share, because they were thoughtful like that.
I secretly laughed when while I would sing a song to them at night, they would add to the ambiance with a fart and hysterical laughing, or even a covered wagon to their sibling.
I laughed so hard I cried when Aaron the Mighty Hunter wanted me to mount a mouse that James killed with a bow and arrow, yet later he would be snuggled up to his dog and best friend, reading him a book.
I realized that although they may not be completely into '80's music... (which begs the question, why not?!) but they had their own unique tastes and likes, and I love that they are all different.

One day when I was giving a lesson in YW about the girls holding up standards for the boys they would date, I realized that for as much time as people spent hammering to girls the message that she was too good for most boys, I was deeply committed to the fact that I wanted my boys to feel that they too deserved the best girls.  Girls that respected them.  Girls that helped them to uphold standards.  Girls that didn't let them run wild with their natural instincts, and act like the boys don't have emotions too.
Boys may not sit around and discuss their feelings with all their friends, but anyone that has ever had prolonged interaction with a boy knows that they are sometimes harder on themselves than anyone else ever could be.  They are disappointed, ecstatic, scared, unsure, self-conscious, and yes, they cry.

I knew that I was raising men.  Men that I wanted to be hard working, considerate, loving, honest, brave, sure.  But how do they achieve that when the world tells them that their successes aren't as valid as a girls?  When they tell them that girls are victims and because he was born a male, he is naturally mean?   What does this do to our girls?  To teach them that males are the enemy?  To teach them that they have to scratch, claw and fight dirty to get  respect or equality?  How does it teach them to have good judgement when dating boys when everything we tell them is that boys are dumb, lazy, undisciplined, and privileged?  And how does this help our boys to not objectify or use girls?  How do they become better people if girls don't expect them to have values or morals?  How does this help them to take care of girls' feelings and understand their sacrifices?
Now we have a society of people that have very little respect for each other.  Men that think achievement is wrong or undeserved, and I think when anyone, male or female, has to hold back their potential, it's wrong.

I'm also raising a woman.  Someone I hope knows her worth, and settles for nothing less than someone else recognizing it too.  I want HER to be hard working, considerate, loving, honest, brave, and sure.  I want her to realize her full potential and work at lifting those around her up, instead of demanding they be less so she can get ahead.  I want her to see the beautiful differences in the opposite sex and see that they are meant to be complimentary, not competition.

My grandma taught me a great deal about dealing with boys.  She taught me that they needed to work and be busy to feel respect for themselves.  Even when they wanted to be lazy and let someone else do the work, when you expected more of them, they usually rose to meet that expectation.  Of course, it's a long process, but as they get older, you see how wise that philosophy is.
They need to feel needed.  It's absolutely amazing how different someone acts when they feel valued and necessary.  And this just isn't for boys.  Girls need it too.  Not false puffing up self esteem, but genuinely, sincerely letting them know how important they are in life.
The only problem is... I wish I had known this so many years earlier.  It's as I watch my kids grow up, move out, and move on that I want to rewind and tell them more. I can know in my heart how vital the other sex is, but once they seek out girlfriends and boyfriends, I hope that other mothers taught them the same thing.  I want my boys to find a girl that holds him to high standards.  That expects him to balance her.  Not dominate, but surely not shrink.  Because no matter how correct we want to get, you can't change biology.  You can't foster respect by belittling.
I can't control whether my kids understand or believe what I think of them, but I can control how much effort I put into it.  My heart has hurt when I think about the times they question, about the times they have denied and rejected my love and affection, but when I see little things that show my efforts aren't all in vain, it gives me hope.  It reminds me of MY worth in someone's life, and I keep going.
I may not have a fancy title, or bring in big money from my job, but I would give up everything else in the world for these people that were sent to me.  I would move Heaven and Earth to help them succeed. but I know I'm not doing it alone, and I know I wouldn't be who I am today if I wasn't teachable, so let's throw the old "better than" saying out the window.
Do a quick search on boy and girl quotes.  There is actually a reference to "Girls better than boys quotes."  It's kind of sad how little value we place on each other.  I find them degrading, and I hope more people stand up and start demanding more from ourselves and each other.
 I for one, know I'm going to try a little harder each day, because before you know it, they're gone, and you just hope the person they find will remind them every day of their worth.
 Plus, you don't get very far when you hit someone with irrigation pipe, so you have to go to Plan B.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Careful... I might bite!

After the last of family had left after Tyler's funeral, the house was quiet. The  phone wasn't constantly ringing, we had nothing pressing to get to, people weren't bumping into each other on my sidewalk.  We shut the door and sat there, and it was scary.  We had had this little bubble surrounding us the past week, taking care of our needs and keeping us busy.  I had plenty of people to cry to, plenty of people caring for us and now it was so quiet.  We had meals in the freezer to get us through busy days or just days that I couldn't get it together, but it was so lonely the weeks following.

I was in an internal war with myself, and I over analyze things.  Our situation was such that I absolutely could not fall apart.  I had 4 confused and angry children.  I already felt like I was on the brink of no return mentally, and I was so afraid that if I gave in, I might never ever return.  I couldn't try to escape reality and in return I was angry with those in my life that chose to.  I felt like it wasn't fair that I had to feel it all and take care of it all.  Why didn't anybody else step up and let me float for awhile when it was obvious I was not going to be able to swim much longer without some emotional rescue?!

I felt so strange.  I was embarrassed to be the center of attention and I was so defensive that I didn't cry openly much.  I'm pretty sure people were a little confused when I would console them instead of the other way around.  
I went to the grocery store for my post funeral debut, and I wasn't fully prepared for that trip.  I know I had expectations that nobody could know or meet, and I got home, exhausted.  Everywhere I turned, there was someone giving their condolences or asking me questions, and after I was able to move to the next section, I would see someone else. Sometimes people asked me about everything BUT the huge meteor that hit my home, and I would think, "Just say it already.  How do you not know that I have a dead kid?  How can you possibly think that I truly care about anything else?  Please stop making small talk and just ask me."    After that, I saw someone that I considered a friend notice me and she hurried to duck down an aisle.  That really hurt.  I completely understand that people don't know how to behave in situations like this.  Obviously, I didn't even stay consistent with what I wanted.  

  If anyone were to judge me on what I displayed openly, they might think that I was unfeeling or that I had rebounded quickly.  
I said that I was afraid of not coming back, and that's the truth.  Was I going to be a happy person?  Would my kids grow up to say that when their brother died, so did their parents?  Would I abandon everything I had struggled for within myself because of grief?  Would my marriage and family survive if we both gave in to our guilt and sadness?  How I wanted to fall and sob out loud these things that ate away at my mental well being and my heart when people asked me how I was doing!  
It didn't take long at all to feel completely squeezed out of my place.  Nobody intentionally did it, but as we were planning the funeral, it was honestly the first time that I felt I had no place in the "family" section.  It was as if I was nothing more than a nanny who was no longer needed, after doing all the grunt work and investing so much into raising a human being.  I felt like all eyes were on me, wondering how I felt like I deserved the right to ache over this loss when I didn't share any blood with him. As if raising him for 15 years didn't mean a thing. 
 I felt so...irrelevant.