Monday, November 7, 2016

Sabbath Rest

"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."
Matthew 11:28

It's 6:30 am and I'm awake and dressed.

I feel rested, restored.... finally.

On Wednesday, 24 hours after Trial Number Six began, I had an errand to run. I drove with my hands gripping the steering wheel and crying most of the way like a crazy person. My route took me past our ward building and I felt a strong prompting to go in. 
I knew the weekly Scripture group was meeting and told myself "Heck no, they have their group and no way am I going to go and intrude on what they have going on there and get my crazy all over it."
I did my errand and drove back home, again, going past the church. I could see Scripture Group was still going on and again, I felt the prompting "They love you, they are your friends, go and let them help you."
I shouted at the roof of my car "NO! They do not need this ugliness. They are trying to just have a nice discussion and have something good. Nothing I bring today is good, all I have is ugly and I'm not going to walk in and be the Ward Mess."

I drove for another minute and then I pulled over. 
I knew I needed to go to the church, but I just couldn't do it.
I felt another prompting "then at least call your visiting teacher and ask for help. Reach out to those who want to know how to serve and help."
My visiting teacher is one of my closest friends, but I never call her for help. I never call anyone.
She is a person who understands, who loves me and who has a similar perspective on life as me and she gets it, she gets me and I love her and her family as I do my own- and sometimes, our families have even had some co-trials that we had to work through- she is a Sister to me, but i do not call when I need help.
Pride, fear, stupid- same reasons we all don't ask for help when it's right there.

So, by the side of the road, one block away from the church, I texted her and asked if she had some free time to talk today. 
I knew she was at work and I knew she didn't, but if I wasn't going to listen when the Lord told me to go to Scripture group, I could at least text my friend. 
She called on her lunch break and for 40 minutes, we talked and cried and loved each other. 
The next day, we went on a walk and again shared how hard it is to be a mom and the struggles we face having been through so many hard things already and that we had hoped that if we did all of this big huge suffering and learning the hard way, that maybe our kids would have an easier path.
Not one of them has.
Every single one of our children, we see, is being tested and tried to their limits and while they are all amazing kids and we love them- didn't we already do enough suffering and growing to earn easier lives for our kids? 
That's how mom talk is sometimes when you're scared and so, so tired.
She helped and I was so thankful for her. She did not have one single perfect answer for me and I did not have one single perfect answer for her, but we understood each other and loved each other.
I can look now and ask- why wasn't I okay with letting the Savior do that for me? 
Why was I needing Him to give me the solution and His understanding and love were not helpful from Him in my mind?
 I demanded an answer,  a solution, maybe even a sign.

I had done all I knew to do.
I'd had some difficult conversations, I'd talked to the therapist, I'd prayed, I'd thought things over in my head and run them by my heart, I knew what the next important step was and none of that made the ache in my chest and the fear go away. 
Nothing brought rest.
I was still in panic mode.
If you've never had a panic attack- oh, they're lovely. Sometimes they linger and every minute of every day is painful.
It felt like there was a big purple ball of tension and fear sitting on my chest that was twisting and turning in on itself, that burned and had claws sunk deep in my chest and nothing was making it go away. 
No matter what fears were eased, no mater what good was happening, I felt it, constantly since Tuesday. 

Stupid Trial Number Six.

By Saturday, I told myself that maybe this is the season when I learn to live with a constant panic attack going on, because there was no reason for it to have not loosened it's grip, at least not a little bit.

Sunday morning came and I dragged myself to church. 

As I got ready, I realized that I hadn't been in a while.
There had been 2 conferences, we'd had Comicon and another event that was on a Sunday, we'd had traveling and I'd been sick one week and the one time I did  get to church since September, I had a child have a meltdown and I spent 3 hours in the car of the church parking lot while they cried and screamed. (Oh yeah, that still happens with big kids sometimes.)

I walked in and I knew if anybody even looked at me, I was going to lose it and I shouldn't be there.
 I was not in any sort of state to be around people. 
I sat near the front, because if you start to bawl for no reason in Relief Society, if you're not in the back row, be in the front--then only the teacher will really see you, and you can scoot out of there as everyone goes up to tell her she did a good job before she can get to you and ask you what is wrong. 

The opening hymn started: Hymn 129
Where Can I turn for Peace?

I tried to tighten my face, to think of something else, but the tears started right from the start:

Where can I turn for peace?
Where is my solace
When other sources cease to make me whole?
When with a wounded heart, anger, or malice,
I draw myself apart,
Searching my soul?

I'd tried everything I knew, I'd prayed, I'd turned to the Lord, I'd served, I'd exercised, I'd researched,  I'd worked, I'd talked to a friend, I'd tried to do something creative...all other sources had ceased to make me whole. 

Where, when my aching grows,
Where, when I languish,
Where, in my need to know, where can I run?
Where is the quiet hand to calm my anguish?
Who, who can understand?
He, only One.

I was aching.
 I was physically aching from the pain of my sorrows.
 I wanted to run, I wanted to just run and run and keep running until I had run away from the hurt.  I didn't need the Heavens to understand, I needed them to tell me how to fix it. 
Just make it better or make it go away.

He answers privately,
Reaches my reaching
In my Gethsemane, Savior and Friend.
Gentle the peace he finds for my beseeching.
Constant he is and kind,
Love without end.

And by the time the hymn ended, I knew, I truly knew in every part of my body and soul that it WAS going to be okay. 
He is my friend and peace was finally here.
The knot of anguish lifted a little from my chest and I could breathe and relax a little bit.
My mind stopped racing and stopped trying to solve the problems I already knew I could not solve.

The lesson was one of those that felt as if it had been written just for me.
 How did my Relief Society President know? 
How could she know- that I was in torment and I could not find rest, I could not find peace?
 I believe that when we are in the places we need to be, the Lord gives each of us what we need, and what I needed could not possibly have been what everyone else needed, and I was getting EXACTLY what I needed.
I was given reminders of things I knew, comfort, reminders of the promises that Heavenly Father made to me and ideas- different ideas- on what I could actually do- not to solve  the big trial, but to bring peace and comfort, to have His Spirit dwell in that place that fear and panic had been residing all week. 
Heavenly Father knows what my family is going through, he understands.
All week I could not find him, I could not hear his voice as I was thrown into the midst of suffering and chaos.
 I looked everywhere and could not find Him.
I cried out, I begged and I prayed so much that it made no sense. 
No peace, just the knowledge that I was not going to drown.
Drowning would be easier. 

As Verjean gave her lesson on peace and trials, the message that He is there, He understands and He will bring rest was repeated. 
With each scripture, that was shared, this was confirmed to me.
 I was reminded of what I already knew- that He will carry the heavy yoke that we were carrying before, that it isn't hard for Him- to lay your burdens at His feet, that His yoke is light and He will help you. He promises that if you do this, you will have not only a calm from the storm, but happiness. 
I could feel the truth in those words, in that message. 
I could feel my burdens lifted and I realized that entire ball of anxiety and panic was gone. 
I felt peace. 
Sitting there in the front row, crying and wiping my nose on my sleeve- my burden had been lifted.
My problem as not solved- except..... it wasn't my problem. 
It's The Lord's problem and he WILL solve it in the way that leads to happiness if I will let him, if I will be where He asked me to be and do what he asked me to do.  He wants to keep his end of this bargain, I have to ask and do my part. My part means being in the places where He dwells and Satan an the world cannot. 
I'm not saying the meetinghouse is perfect, but it is a holy place and even in our musty Relief Society room with a bunch of plywood everywhere as they rebuild our ancient mildew filled baptismal font- I was reminded that our meetinghouse is a House of God, same as the temple. 
When I cannot find peace, I need to go to Him, to His places. 

If I can gather up my courage and my strength, if I have to drag myself there, I will go. 

No more excuses or talking myself out of going because something super fun is only happening on Sunday. No more events in the city on Sunday because the crowds are smaller. No more sleeping in because my joints ache or I know the kids are going to fight me about going this week.
I need to be where He is, and if I do that He will fix the problems and He will bring peace.

And my Sisters and Brothers who are there love me, even the ones who don't like me. Every single person there would have felt blessed and lucky to have been someone who could have helped as I drove past the church and shouted "No- this is too ugly!" They would have had things that would have helped, they would have been able and willing to love me and pray for my family as we faced this trial, just as my friend did. 
I belong there.
I belong in church, and I need to be there.

I hadn't realized how much of a wrong turn my heart and soul had taken, the drastic change and the damage that was done simply because we had a number of weeks in a row when it was super inconvenient to go to church and I had a lot of really good reasons not to. I wasn't staying way for any reason, I just wasn't going that week for a very valid reason- that week- and then the next week would present another very valid reason.

No more valid reasons. 
I didn't see it then, but I see it now.
I need to be in the building, every Sunday and if I am there, I will get what I need. 

If you haven't been to church in a long time, because you're busy, because it's boring, because the ward sucks (my ward is the opposite of suck, it's never been that) because you're making some choices in your life that don't go along with what you feel the other members agree with, because your kids are a mess and you can't deal with the perfect happy kids who pass the sacrament and give their younger siblings loving back scratches, because your spouse doesn't go, because the leaders are out of touch with society, because you hurt.....
Get in the building.
Sit down and you can decide that you will bite anyone who comes near you, but bring yourself to church and be in a place where He dwells and let Him sit beside you. Let Him take up your yoke and for three hours, just turn it all over to him and say "Okay Lord, I did my part- I'm freaking here. Will you do your part and please, bless me with what I need?"
Every lesson isn't going to be amazing, speakers are going to say stupid things and someone is gong to ask a question that makes you wonder if they were dropped on their head as a child, but you go so that you can be closer to Heavenly Father, to the Savior, because they are there.
 I believe angels walk the halls of our chapels and if what you need is an angel- you stand a far better chance at finding it at church than you do at home, no matter how much Kenneth Cope you have playing from your ipod and how many conversations  you say to the Lord via the ceiling as you go about your day. 

Get to church, go inside. 
That is where you can turn for peace, that is where you will find rest.
If I found it, in all my rebelliousness, in all my ugly crazy-- it is there.

Last night I slept.
I slept until 6:30 this morning and when I woke up, I was rested. 
I didn't have nightmares, I didn't rip the sheets from the bed, I didn't flail my arms and wake my husband up because I was shouting in my sleep. 
He brought peace. 

And do I know what to do about Trial Number Six?
Not a clue.
But I know this- God knows and God is taking care of it. 
My job is to keep my promises, and my end of the deal. My job is to make better choices and to be where he can dwell and to work to make my house feel more like a place that, like the church, like the temple, feels different from the world. 
There is work for me to do, changes for me to make and happiness for me and for all of my family.
Heavenly Father doesn't cheat anyone and He brings peace and rest. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Trial Number Six

Trial Number Five by Carol Lynn Pearson

Carefully they laid
Out on the table
Trials one, two, three,
Four, five and six.
"Choose one," they said.
"On, any," she cried, with a horror
Born of the best of Halloweens.
"Any but number five.
It would kill me.
I promise you I would not survive.
They thanked her graciously,
Escorted her out,
The gift-wrapped, addressed,
And labeled "Special delivery"
Trial number five-
Sent with love from
Those whose assignment it is
To make sure you know
That you can go
Through trials one, two,
Three, four, ninety-nine,
Or five-
And, incredibly,
Come out alive.

I have always loved this poem and I always knew I had a similar conversation with the Lord before I came to Earth.
Trial number five for me had a name, and it was a thing that you do not speak of, do not name, otherwise maybe the Lord will think you can handle it.

I have some wonky understanding of the gospel, I know, and it is a challenge for me to separate the nature of God from the nature of my Earthly parents. Heaven knows they had a hard time separating  their will and perception from God's.
 It stuck to me in weird ways and I work hard to not see God as someone who is at times, punitive and annoyed by me.
 I've come a long way and I can identify when things aren't right, but I have a ways to go.  It's always work, never what comes naturally.  I wasn't trained to have that come naturally.
I was trained to survive, and survival brings growth, sure, but it's heavy and messy growth.
Trust is tough with me.
 Believing he could love me and He wants me always is tough.
 I'm a lot better than I was before, but it gets tricky when it's about parents- Earthly and Heavenly. 

So anyway- from the start, I have said "not trial number five- please, please please, not trial number five."
And as the years passed  my kids have grown like sunflowers. Sometimes, with their glorious heads turned towards the light and at other times, hanging heavy and sagging towards the ground, unable to lift themselves up because they cannot see the sun.

So far, no trial number five. 
Some near misses, some nights I stayed up all night and prayed and cried and paced the floor and wondered if we'd make it through, but trial number five hasn't happened. 

But oh, trial six.
What a doozy.
Holy crap, each of those trials are so...

So much. 

And I'm glad there is not trial number five in my life, I am thankful for that and I still know I couldn't do it, but these days, I'm not sure I'm going to get through trial number six. 

Being a parent is hard.
It's hard and scary and every screw up you make- you never forget it and you wonder if that is why a bad thing happened, or your kid is broken in some way. If the problems are even obviously not your fault, you still blame yourself. There is always a way to make it your fault. I don't know why human nature needs to do that, it doesn't help and I know it, but by damn- every other thought in my head is that trial number six is something I could have prevented if I'd have just done family scripture every night, or if I'd read more bedtime stories to the kids, if I'd never let them have a playdate with that one friend, if Matt and I had never had that one argument that the kids heard, if I'd said the right things in my prayers and not ever said the F word. 

I don't know how to get through this one. 
I see absolutely no clear path.  
And I know that I am not lost, that God is with us all, that He will help us, but right now-- I don't know what to do and I don't know how to stop being so scared. 

Still I am reminded that it's not trial five,and I said "anything but five" and God didn't give me five. 
But six.
Holy crap, six.

I guess since I'm crumbled to the floor anyway, I might as well try to pull myself up to my knees and pray.
I don't know.

I'm tired and I feel selfish for being tired.
I'm tired of feeling selfish because I can't predict and fix everything. 
Because I made their lives too easy or too hard. 
Because I gave too little but too much. 
Because Family Home Evening didn't keep mental illness from visiting my kids, the same as it visited me, the same as it visited my parents and their parents.  

I don't know what to do, how to fix, how to mend.
I know to love, but I sometimes feel like I'm doing that wrong and I'm just making things worse.
Trail number six, you suck. 

Monday, October 17, 2016

I've Seen That Smile Somewhere Before

Matt and I had a busy week. 
We had a banquet that we attended in the city with the NYC Business Professionals something or other that gave an award to the head of the Catholic Church in NYC, Cardinal Dolan.
It was a fancy night with fancy people and fancy food that I didn't eat because I'm picky and have the refined pallet of a six year old. 
It was a fun night, but a late one.
The next night we had tickets to a play.
It was an off Broadway production that I've been a little obsessed with the soundtrack over called Tick Tick Boom.
Great show, great performances-- but another late night.

Two late nights in a row really reminded us that we are old.

I think I am not an 'old soul.'

I'm still a pleasantly surprised at  things like the sun coming up each morning and seasons happening and time passes so quickly for me a lot of the time. 
There are dark times when it's harder, when it feels like everything is standing still- but I'm still always kind of caught off guard over whatever happens next.

You'd think life would feel...predictable now, that I'd know more of what the heck is going on, but honestly, most of the time- I'm still walking around with my eyes wide, a little startled at what's going on around me, trying to catch up.  My life is still just a series of run-on sentences because I don't really know where one thing stops and the next thing begins. 

That could possibly be in part because of the ADHD, but whatever....

I am not sure that I am going to grow old 'gracefully.'
I suspect I'm going to do it the same way I have 'grown up'-- with noise and a lot of stumbles. I don't plan to fight it, but I'm not setting a metaphorical place at my table for it.  
I don't feel like I'm in my 40's, but my body- especially after late nights in Manhattan- reminds me that I am.
Saturday, Matt and I could not ignore the screams of "YOU ARE OLD" from our bodies and we spent the day just finishing up stuff around the house and watching movies.

One movie we watched was the new version of Saturday's Warrior. 
Have you seen it?
Oh, it's good.
The first 10 minutes make you worry that it is going to be dumb, but then it changes directions and gets much, much better.
It's an actual movie with a plot and real characters with motives instead of a bunch of morons who sing and dance and treat each other like crap like they 1989 movie version. 

As we watched, the early Julie and Tod scenes played and I looked over and Matt and smiled.
We certainly had one of those "I've seen that smile somewhere before...." love stories. 
Matt says he knew the moment he saw me. 
I suspected, but it took me 24 hours to admit it.
I knew I'd seen him before- and not as the handsome guy in wool pants (I will never let you live that down, Babe) on my doorstep that January night. 

It really was a love at first sight situation and even though we are getting older and he snores and I change the thermostat 20 times a day-- we are still super in love. 
I love him and I like him. 
He's the person I knew from Before.
I looked over at my husband, and he smiled at me and I knew we were both happy and thinking the same thing- that the cheesy circle of our love goes on forever. 

I suddenly had a realization that made me so happy.
I said "I can't wait for all of the fun things we're going to do when we are young again."

I am a person who has an irrational fear of my own death. 
Okay- it's a scary thing, period, but one of the awesome things about the Gospel is a knowledge that we live after we die, that Earth life is a super short stop on our eternal journey and it's supposed to be temporary. That knowledge brings most people a lot of comfort and acceptance about the Lord's timing.
It's never done much to help me feel better and ever since I was small, I have been terrified about whatever comes next. As I had kids, it got worse, and I am a person who is scared to trust any of it, to let go and be okay with those things we cannot change- things we agreed to and things we need in order to progress.  
I know it's a big obvious sign that I have things I don't understand and I have big areas where my faith is lacking.
I haven't figured out a way to fix that yet- because I am afraid.
I feel bad that I am afraid. 
And when it comes up, my fears halt my progress and I get stuck, so in order to keep moving forward in life, I just put it all in a place inside of myself that I plan to get to later, when I might better be able to process it. 
Anyway- my point.
For the first time in-- ever---that I can think of, I thought about the life that will be after death and I felt something positive. 
 There are those I love that I have always looked forward to seeing again on the other side, but not enough to say I'd be okay with leaving THIS place for.

Matt and I met when we were in our 30's.
We were just about to start a season of life where age is real. 
As we watch our bodies get older, as things get a little harder, take a little more out of us and we struggle to be okay with the knowledge that we WILL have to settle down one day- I am aware that I have never known my husband as a young man.
He never knew me before I had a body that gave birth to four kids. We never knew each other before we were already showing the wear and tear from time, and from some of the hard things we had been through and choices we had made. 
There have always been responsibilities- responsibilities we welcome and cherish- but he and I will never know that season of being young and carefree and the only thing holding us back is the limits of our imaginations.
Yeah.... we WILL know that.

If I choose the right, if I grow, if I learn what I came here to learn- if Matt does, too- we will spend way more time in our younger, perfect bodies- having whatever adventures we can dream up and we will be able to do that every single day, forever. 

So maybe- just maybe- getting old isn't so bad because it means I am closer to being young again and we are closer to getting to be the people we were before we came to this Earth and I can only imagine the great time Matt and I will have when we don't get tired, when we always look cute (he always does anyway) and when we know that everything is not just okay, but perfect- forever. 
Maybe I can do this, maybe I can start to stop being so afraid.
Maybe I can see those wrinkles as evidence that I'm getting closer to something with Matt that we didn't get to experience on Earth. 
I want to be young again--with him.
I think I understand better now and I am still freaked out and still annoyed that by 10 pm my body says "Yeah, I'm done." 
In less years than have already passed for me on Earth-- I will be in a place where Matt and I can be sweethearts always- and we will be young again. 
That's a real thing and I know it is real.
It's something to look forward to.
I think I am going to let 'old ' happen and even though I will still be constantly caught off guard by life and I will probably never feel as if my legs weren't wobbly underneath me, I am going to be okay with the next season happening.

This blog post was brought to you by The 2016 Great Midlife Crisis of Clarissa Anne.
And the number 9, Yo.